Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Posts tagged ‘Olive Sullivan’

28. To the Stars Through Difficulty: Olive Sullivan

No one said it would be easy. If they did, they lied, but then don’t they all?
It’s so easy to get discouraged when the prairie wind howls despair.
Some days, though, we wake at dawn and walk south,
through the horse pasture and down to the creek when the air
sparkles with dawn fog and sunlight, yellow flowers lining the well-worn path
our feet remember from childhood, our hearts remember from the time before, an era
when the Osage walked this prairie before the raiders burned it black
and pushed out deer and bobcat, coyote, man, woman, child, horse and dog, bear.
This land of strip malls and dollar stores, trailers and tornado debris
is a barren land, but it has good bones, and in the blackest night, the stars still dare to shine.

– Olive Sullivan

101. Driving West

This isn’t a poem about the blue clouds

like out of focus angels

that we saw just south of Lawrence,

nor about the way we came up

over the rise east of Manhattan

and found the Flint Hills spread before us—

nor the sunset that carried every bit

of grain and speck of dust

into a silver-edged symphony

of gold and neon, and it’s not

the way the dying sun

lit the southwest face

of the grain elevator somewhere past Hays,

exalting it above its workaday self—

not the way the colors feel, the lace border

of black bare branches

backlit by a stripe

of orange sherbet sky,

the lake of blue clouds

like the blue shadows

caught in the drifts of snow

swelling across the prairie.

Instead, this poem is

you and me and Frank and Georgia,

crammed into a

too-small car with too much stuff

arguing the politics of the Civil War

and—politely, mind you—taking turns

to sit in the less crowded front seat,

where we can move our feet

without being snarled in blankets

and book bags and the laptop’s wires,

driving toward invisible mountains.

– Olive Sullivan

 

56. The Seventh Year

That’s how it started —

driving across Kansas on a wave of the blues,

poems working their way to the surface

bearing messages of stone and fern,

soul and bone and dirt.

The seventh year is the one when

everything changes — you’ve seen it coming

like a tornado on the horizon.

The sky turns black and yellow and green,

you run for the storm cellar

and play gin rummy on a rickety card table

next to the canned goods,

then sleep piled on the floor like puppies.

When birds carol the new day,

the sky like a basket of clean cotton towels,

nothing has changed but

everything is new.

– Olive Sullivan
Award-winning writer Olive L. Sullivan grew up in Pittsburg, Kansas. Since then, she has lived in cities, mountains, deserts, two foreign countries, and an island, but she returns to Kansas landscapes for the images in her work. She lives with two big dogs and travels every chance she gets.

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