THE SCREEN PORCH
Jeanie Wilson (Olathe)
A wicker chair cradles me, rocks me to rhythms
of cicadas and crickets, bull frogs down at the pond.
Two whippoorwills cry around the house.
Night creeps in like a stain.
My great-great grandmother sat on this porch,
looked out across the fields, rested from the day’s heat.
She has passed away along with my grandmother,
grandfather, and my aunt.
I am caught, tangled around by their doings,
their lives—a weaving of threads in the air of this house.
In the darkness, I listen to the sounds of their voices,
watch the parade of faces.
THE HOUSE ON OSAGE STREET
Thomas Reynolds (Overland Park)
In my grandmother’s mind,
The streets were not crooked.
The house where she lived as a child
Stood as resolute as Sander’s Hill.
Sidewalks never cracked,
And mother’s backs were never broken.
The milk truck still pulled up out front,
And bottles waited patiently on steps.
Doors never burst open with anger,
Slamming repeatedly in the August air.
Mothers never cried at midnight,
And fathers, even if so inclined,
Never lost their paychecks in card games,
Wandering the crooked streets until dawn.
Lights were out across town by eleven,
Except for maybe in some upstairs window,
Where one small girl read by candlelight,
And occasionally looked out at the full moon,
Thanking God for the life she was given,
That somehow it would go on forever,
Here with rolling hills as backdrop
And every bad memory erased.
Many Mansions but One for Kansas
Daniel Pohl (Hutchinson)
You must take the tour at Saint
Fidelis to become one of the sixteen
Thousand, yearly, transformed by
Devoted architecture of German
Masters, voted by the people one
Of the eight wonders that live here
On the plains to know it is true.
You need to exit at Victoria from I-70,
From its hurried life, its ego, and the
Mischief it causes, to slow down, to
Listen to the guide explain it, once,
Proclaimed by William Jennings Bryan
As the “Cathedral of the Plains” though
No Bishop ever resided there at the
“Largest Church West of the Mississippi.”
You have to learn about the Biblical
Austrian art, the crafted Italian marble
Altar, the storied windows above it,
Especially on a sunny afternoon that
Will pop the colors to burn memory
Onto the inside of your soul, and
How the eye never is meant to focus
But wander from transit to nave, from
Ceiling to the Stations of the Cross.
Then after, sit, mid-sanctuary, still,
Unmoved, and take the time, because
There is none, and listen to your heart,
To the limestone, to the spirit of the place,
A house big enough to let you know
There is something greater than you.
Judith G. Levy (Lawrence)
It's a 70's home I say,
joking away my longing
for something older,
like my grandmother's arms folding me into sleep.
Yes, I tell a faraway friend,
I'm settling in here,
(but the house sings an unfamiliar
song at night)
And all the while a plump robin
pokes at twigs in my yard
and plucks a perfect one,
nesting without fuss or grief.
House In The Middle Of A Field
Greg German (Kansas City, Ks.)
I know of no one who has lived
here. And it has been here forever,
a pivot we cramp machinery around
behind a full-throttled tractor.
The house could have been a corner post
so tight set it made no difference
how taut or in what direction a wire
stretched. The foundation has settled.
Wind has chiseled the excitement
out of the wood, and the sun has left it
grey. Its shingles are receding.
There are no curtains. The front door
is gone, so it must be open. Inside
I mingle with the musty scents eroding
from the crisp millers and mummified mice
hidden behind the layered, pastel paper
wilting from the walls. Children
drift through bedroom doors playing
with antique toys. Screened
by a common farmer face, a man sits
on his kitchen chair. He stares
beyond a woman in a cotton dress
into clouds that might not
be rain. I have done my duty.
And mine are the last boots
to arouse the dusty lull spread
across this cold wood floor.
On the windward side of the house
dad announces there is no better time
than now. I stand back. He lights
a match. Flames lean from windows,
tattered flags at full mast.