Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Posts tagged ‘H. C. Palmer’

A Season for War by H C Palmer

DSC_0046They had overcome him in the end, tenaciously…taking him down.  Their heavy shots splashed into him…with that courageous passion peculiar to hunters. ~ James Salter

Billy and I pot-shot what we mistook for a duck

back in 7th grade at Santa Fe Lake in Neosho County.

The bird dove, surfaced for air, dove and surfaced again,

forced down by salvos of # 6 bird shot until it floated

and washed to shore.  I presented the bird to my father

like a sinner’s offering to his Priest and remember saying,

If it had flown, it might have lived.  A loon, father said

without taking it.  They don’t often range in Kansas

 

and they’re never in season. Last time I saw Billy was Da Nang.

A forward air controller flying O-1E Bird Dogs, he marked

VC positions with the bright smoke of white phosphorus rockets.

I flew one mission.  Rode the tandem seat.  We packed M-16’s.

He controlled the aircraft by working the stick with his knees—

hands free to fire through pop-open windows.  2 Sampans,

ferrying Vietnamese dressed in black, motored across

the Han River.  Shoot ‘em, he said through my headset.

Ducks on a pond.  I aimed far to the side.  That night,

at an Oceanside bar between chugs of Tiger Beer, Billy teased,

You’re still a lousy shot, Doctor.  Billy stayed another tour,

rigged an M-60 machinegun in place of the tandem seat—

converted his observation plane into an attack aircraft,

so by tilting or turning, they became a lethal weapon

until diving within range of an AK-47 when Billy took a round

in his chest.  He radioed for escort.  Huey gunship pilots

called through their mikes, You’re losing altitude Captain, 

head for the sea.  Billy and his O-1E splashed on the surf,

rode the breakers upright until lifted onto China Beach,

an open spread of sand as fine and white as altar cloth.

~ HC Palmer

Note: China Beach is a recreational area near the Da Nang Air Base used for R and R by American troops during the Vietnam War.

H C Palmer is a retired Medical Doctor, Vietnam War Battalion Surgeon and poet.  He is an assistant poetry editor for Narrative Magazine.  A recent poem in New Letters was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for Best New Poets, 2012. 

104. Flint Hills Patriarch

The old elm suckled from this seep before

cattle drank from the Neosho, when

bison angled trails from water to water

and Kansa were people of the land.

 

It wrestled Southwind,

carried its omnipresent weight,

bowed in submission yet  took strength

from it.  Standing alone in the tall grass

 

like a tilted vase, it reaches

for those who belonged, points

at those who lost faith and inquires

of those who pass by.

– H.C. Palmer

HC Palmer is a physician who was born in Southeast Kansas and spent much of his time growing up in the Flint Hills which is his “anchor” place although he considers the Madison Valley in Montana and the Florida Keys as important places too.  He lives in  Lenexa where he writes poems in his  old age.

76. After Driving Cattle in the Flint Hills

Tallgrass tangled in stirrups.

Cowhands leaning on long shadows.

After all these years,

I am still in love.

– H.C. Palmer

HC Palmer is a physician who was born in Southeast Kansas and spent much of his time growing up in the Flint Hills which is his “anchor” place although he considers the Madison Valley in Montana and the Florida Keys as important places too.  He lives in  Lenexa where he writes poems in his  old age.

35. Crow Speaks His Mind

After you have learned all their secrets

And think the way they do . . . they will

fly away and take you with them.

– Richard Brautigan

 

Crow Maiden

 

 

Crow ascends from the corner hedge

as if Southwind will lift him above

all creation, then, in his usual way, suspends

 

himself over my gap gate crossing the two-track

to summer pasture. He’s made a habit of hanging

around, watching me open this gate.

 

I consider Crow from my pickup,

windows down, radio full blast.  He hovers

through the weather forecast and a seed corn

 

commercial, but, at the top of the hour,

with news of the casualty count, he turns

his back, his black robes caught by the wind,

 

and with a clamor of caws, sails over rimrock

to the bluestem below—where long ago,

he considered my bloody prairie incursion.

 

Where now, he will pretend I never walked.

– H.C. Palmer

HC Palmer is a physician who was born in Southeast Kansas and spent much of his time growing up in the Flint Hills which is his “anchor” place although he considers the Madison Valley in Montana and the Florida Keys as important places too.  He lives in  Lenexa where he writes poems in his  old age.

 

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