Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Posts tagged ‘Greg German’

The Limestone Cowboy Discovers Atlantis

GregGermanIt is August, some late afternoon, and Limestone
and me are idling the back roads, half-gone,
our minds leaned onto a 12-pack of Coors
that sits between us like a best friend. In rhythm
with each beer, we drive deeper into our past,
stare through the hazy windows of our childhood,
or cruise by the abandoned shacks of overheard
stories. Then, just before the last can spins
into the ditch, the cowboy is blessed
with discovery—tells me our ancestors
have been near all along. His Chevy rockets
down the road. My side mirror reflects
the dog, flying in the back, his face streamlined
by the wind, his tongue wet-twisted
to his ears. Dust vortexes across the hot back
of summer, and I am along for the ride.
We stop at the quarry. Limestone gets out slow,
then describes how years ago our grandfather’s
fathers worked here. Explains how someday,
it will be a million. “There ain’t no length to time,”
he lectures. Mystified, the cowboy mumbles
something about Atlantis. Describes how the island
didn’t sink, how the continent of Kansas emerged,
soaked up, flattened out, everything. Surrounded
by fossils, we stand in the pit for what could be ages
listening to the voice of some old ocean. Shuffling
across the pages, Limestone wanders across history.
Rock dust collects on his boots. Briefly, I am abandoned.

- Greg German was born and raised near Glen Elder, in north central Kansas, where he farmed with his family for many years. He currently lives in Kansas City, Kansas, with his wife Regina and son, Alden. He is a private consultant specializing in technical communication, web site development, free-lance writing and photography. He holds a B.A. degree in English/Creative writing and a B.S. in Education from Kansas State University. Previously, Greg has taught high school English and, creative writing at both the high school and college levels. He also developed and maintains www.kansaspoets.com — a website unique to Kansas Poets. Greg’s poetry and personal essays have appeared in over 50 literary journals across the U.S.

- April’s Guest Editor, Roy Beckemeyer, edits scientific journals and writes poetry and essays.  His poetry has recently been accepted by or appeared in The Midwest Quarterly, Nebo, Mikrokosmos, The North Dakota Quarterly, Straylight, and Coal City Review.  He has lived in Wichita, Kansas for nearly 50 years, and has degrees from St. Louis University, Wichita State University and The University of Kansas.

He notes: “In the poem series I have chosen for April, I have  focused on works that define our sense of Time and Place by the people we know, the people we interact with, the people we live with. “

12. To the Stars Through Difficulty: Greg German

Just like the old farmer, who understands
that each breath is a footstep in the one
same direction no matter which way
he walks — the destination
always the same, even before
he knew it, his route plotted
one field to the next. Each morning
sunrise stretches across Kansas
indifferent to young men and boys settling,
unaware, into the crease of old chores.

–Greg German

124. Lunch Time, At Walnut Creek Cemetery

3 miles South, 3½ West, of Glen Elder, KS, September 6, 1978, 7:30 p.m.

We have lunched here for years.  A tradition

chiseled from a landmark of bereavement,

an occurrence fixed by circumstance

and coincidence that we farm just across

the road.  Today, we are doing it again.

When mother arrives with the food,

she stops by the gate.  My brother and I park

our tractors, stretch our backs, and slap

the dust from our hands.  Dad and grandpa

join us.  Blankets unfurl like parachutes

and sink into the shade of evergreen trees.

We arrange ourselves onto the ground.

Then, just before the first bite of sandwich

or drink of iced-tea or lemonade, mother

does the proper thing and invites the dead

to join us.  We discuss her offer and joke

that others might find this odd.  We don’t care;

this place is comfortable, like a storage room

in an out-of-the-way part of the house

where we choose to open a window.

Fresh air accompanies a music of blue sky,

wind, buffalo grass and weeds —

and a few short rows of tombstones,

shelves lined with preserved points of time.

After lunch, we walk where the deceased

once walked, where neighbor ushered neighbor,

farmer after farmer, into the ground.  December 23,

1872—baby daughter.  January 16, 1873—son,

(same family).  August 11, 1891—dearest

mother.  May 3, 1884—loving wife.  March 20,

1880—kind father.  September 6, 1878—husband.

Infants, children, parents, grandparents.

Lifetimes weathered into ghosts

of assumption, their deaths a mystery.

Scarlet fever?  Pneumonia?  Diphtheria?

Influenza?  Childbirth?  The list lingers

with tragedy.  Unearthed, a mirage

of settlers idle around us—pioneers

consumed by a timeless circulation of crops,

plowed fields, and harvests that flow

around these boundaries.  After a while,

we all go back to work.  From a distance,

I continue to notice the dead.  Like long lost

friends, they meander and converse comfortably,

existing on our hospitality, happy

for a momentary taste of resurrection.

– Greg German

Greg German, was born and raised near Glen Elder, Kansas, where he farmed with his family for many years. He has been active within the Kansas literary scene for over 25 years including the development and oversight of http://www.kansaspoets.com. Currently, Greg resides with his family on the Caribbean island of Dominica where, amidst many other things, he is involved with the annual Nature Island Literary Festival. Greg’s poetry, all thematically tied to farming and rural Kansas, has appeared in numerous literary journals.

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