Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

9. Somewhere Near Abilene

“G. H.” . . .  a Kansas artist . . .  Somewhere near Abilene, 

Took canvas, paint, and strips of wood,

And conjured up a scene

That hangs on our living room wall.

Not every day,

But when I’m in the mood,

That painting takes my eye

Into that Kansas scene,

Somewhere near Abilene.

Does the power lie

In color, form, or texture?

Strips of cedar, glued onto canvas,

For clouds, and trees, and fence—

Then all painted one golden color.

No . . . look closer . . .

It just seems one color,

But the color is what first catches the eye,

Shades of yellow, brown, and gold,

For both Kansas sky and prairie grass,

As if reflecting one another,

Then merging  . . . becoming one . . .

At the horizon.

But in that prairie grass . . . there . . .

See . . . a touch of green.

If the sun were setting just right,

Off there in the distance,

Just below that lost horizon,

Reflecting off of those cedar chip clouds,

It might then imbue everything—

Sky, and trees, and grass—

With its own golden color.

You can imagine such a scene . . .

Somewhere near Abilene.

But aren’t these shapes too surreal?

Trees that cannot be trees,

Strips of wood, glued to canvas.

The large one on the left,

On this side of the fence,

A tree or a cactus plant?

In Kansas . . . it must be a tree . . .

But a strip of wood . . .

Like the fence, like the clouds.
That smaller tree,

Further away, far beyond the fence,

Less distinct in the distance,

May be more believable,

As stylized as the clouds.

Still, I’ve seen those weathered trees . . .

Haven’t I?

Somewhere near Abilene?

The fence may be the secret.

Those strips of wood,

Posts and rails,

Do look like a fence,

A fence that might be found

Somewhere near Abilene,

Running off to the horizon,

Running off into that sunset,

Getting smaller and smaller until it disappears,

Having found another dimension for the spirit

Out there on that open prairie.

That’s what holds my imagination.

I step into that scene,

To lean against that fence,

Contemplate that sunset,

Then walk on down that fence line . . .

Walk out of sight,

Into that other dimension,

Somewhere near Abilene.

– Robert N. Lawson

Published in Inscape, Spring 1992.

Robert Lawson is a retired Professor of English at Washburn University, in Topeka,

Kansas, where he taught for over thirty years, his specialties Shakespeare and

courses in Japanese Literature (with a lot of Freshman Composition in between).

He served as General Editor of The Woodley Press from 1980 to 2000.


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Comments on: "9. Somewhere Near Abilene" (1)

  1. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But you’ve ‘framed’ this one beautifully using only 347…while at the same time wonderfully enhancing the image portrayed.

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