Thank you all for the wonderful response. I enjoyed all the entries. I ended up with two categories, professional writers and all others. Professional writers, in my opinion, are those who have published one or more books of poetry with an established press (not self-published). So my favorites are these five, and I hope everyone continues to enter the next round:
William Sheldon, Hutchinson, author of Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley Press)
You step from conditioned air
onto the broiling tarmac
of a gas station—Wakeeney, Oakley,
Colby, somewhere on the western
edge of Kansas—eyes straining,
desiring mountains. “Flat,”
you say, hot wind in your teeth.
Look behind you. You have risen
three thousand feet
since you left Kansas City, more
than you will climb again
by Denver. You have watched for miles
wheat and tumbleweeds.
Two pheasants—their blue
green heads—have shown themselves.
“Kansas,” you think,
but like you, they are visitors,
“Not much to do,” you say
to the attendant, who pushes your change
across the counter. He smiles
his heart a glad riot, rejoicing
in your choice of the interstate.
Robert Stewart, Johnson County, author of Outside Language: Essays (Helicon Nine Editions, 2003) and the poetry collection Plumbers (BkMk Press, 1988)
Pine wilt, spider mites, the city
of Prairie Village
have it in for the eight of us –
seven Scotch pines,
or Austrian (who can tell?)
and me, lined up
between traffic on 75th St.
and our yard, and
did I mention Dog, Sparky?
The facts turn split
level residents to naturalists,
and one gone tree
in this state, in the umber
of rolling grains
and west-rumbling avenues,
seems like a pop-
ulation loss, a ghost town.
We have none
to spare, none. We can’t
spare the hyacinth
the city brush-hogged off
Whatever dries out, wilts,
cracks gets cut,
jobs well done by vested
men or mites alike.
How should we live here
without the grape
buds chinning themself
in the grass? Listen.
Dog wants to chase down
So do I. We sit on a stump
and howl, dog
and me holding his leash.
Joshua Falleaf, Topeka
The April rains that paint the tree-tops green
tire as a fury of heat halts all motion,
curbing the grackle’s toddle, the creek’s warm shush.
The swollen roots of trees now cut its banks,
ten feet high and crumbling. Murky puddles
and brush speckle the creek bed, baking, even
in the still smothering shade of cottonwood limbs.
Without current of water or wind, freed flecks
of white descend from the vaulted arbor,
then linger, suspended, our summer snow
in these searing, humid days and evening burns.
Near one of the remaining pools, beneath
that airy haze of cotton flakes, a flash –
a resolute perch smacks the mud and gasps.
Swelling, then collapse, the perch’s scales flex,
reflecting prism-shades the sun alone
cannot display. But soon, its thirst for breath
fatigues – its luster fades and dulls to gray.
Jefferson County: Nature on the Edge
Wayne White, Oskaloosa
Lift your eyes from the deep gold of late spring grasses
to the coal plumes on the southern horizon.
Face north to avoid the night time glow
that overwhelms the stars.
Feel the scream of the red tail hawk that stirs a primordial urge
until it fades into the drone of an airplane.
Listen to early morning footsteps softly rustle the woodland leaves
as all subtlety is ground out by the commuter’s tires on gravel.
Enjoy the sensation of tongue on snowflakes drifting from the winter sky
and try not to think of the chemical traces they might carry.
Summer Drive Across Western Kansas
Candace Krebs, Western Kansas
The High Plains are not flat.
Nor empty. Nor bland.
They raise rodeo cowboys here
and reliable middle managers, good salesmen,
a few poets who masquerade as teachers,
where you can almost drive off the map,
are tendrils of road that lead back to
some bemused notion of urban civilization.
Meanwhile, blistering thunderheads toss rainbows
over wheat stubble fields of sun-bleached gold
while deep green corn rows rattle, and grow.
Open space opens an ocean only memory and dream can fill.
Evening draws antelope from the river bottom,
fireflies from their nests,
dampness from the earth and grasses,
musky perfume from the sage,
drains the sky of the last of its demons.