Celebrating rural life in poetry

I am very excited to have a part in a new book called “Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems.” It is part of the celebration of the anniversary of Kansas. The Kansas poet laureate solicited poetry from around the state, and, much to my surprise my poem was accepted. I think that this book would be of interest to anyone with an eye for poetry, or an interest in all things rural. It is available from Woodley Press: Department of English, Washburn University, Topeka Kansas, 66621. The price is $15. But here, for free, is my poem in the book, and I think in the future I will offer a couple of unpublished poems.

Into the Land of the Post Rock

“When we build let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, ‘See! This our father did for us.'” ~ John Ruskin

It looks as if a drill has marred the sides

otherwise so straight and even

seashells imbedded therein

rumors of a long-ago sea.

These are the marks of settlers who upon finding

lots of rock, not su much timber

set about the turn the Greenhorn Limestone

into fence posts in Ellsworth, Westfall, Beverly

towns of grandparents’ past.

The ingenious pioneers drilled holes

filled them with water

and waited for the winter freese to split the rock in two

Then, slinging the 500-pound posts

under horse-drawn wagons, hauled the posts into place.

I’ve seen photos of the laborers –

wearing overalls, hats pushed back, taking their ease at noon,

eating lunches made by their German wives or

posed with an uncomfortable pride around the hewn rocks.

My own grandfather

cut posts in the 1920s,

when he was newly married,

with a family to support.

He went with his father and uncles to cut the rock

working with sledge hammers and wedges

in the winter when the carpentry work

and Irv Elemnan’s blacksmich shop were slow.

Today, we move the posts with a tractor

and sand-blast on names for decoration.

But customers come with admiration for the pioneers

and want ones with wire imbedded still.

With each rock we move, I think,

of the men in the wind-swept winter,

keep moving to sayt warm,

to keep food ont he table;

and thoughts turn to my grandfather –

tacturn, esteemed, indefatigable.

I look for the marks of his hand.

Published on Feb 21, 2012

Grit Magazine

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