15. Celebrate This Kansas

Celebrate this sky, this land beyond the measured time

that tilts the seasonal light. Dream the return of the stars,

the searing rise of heat or fall of storm crossing through

the secret-holding cedars and witness rocks for thousands of years.

This air we breathe belonged to those who spoke languages forgotten

as the glaciers cusping the ridges. These fields we walk once rushed

in ocean long after, long before what we know as mapped time.

This rain was once a man’s last breath, this heat what warmed

a weathered rock enough for a woman to rest on with her baby,

these fossils once love songs of memory and longing after the beloveds die.

Everything we know of Kansas comes from this: rivers aching east

after scouting out and winding their mark through the horizons of grass,

skies mirroring orange to black, moon to sun, hail to pale breeze,

ready to give everything to us like any true heart.

All we see, the ghost and angel of the land’s lightest touch,

a trail through the prairie, a hard rain in the woods — beyond naming

and yet named Step into where you already are, where once

the grandmothers and grandfathers sang out their stories of

weather and loss, wars and births. The bones of this land and the feathers

of this sky compose this Kansas that knows us better than we know ourselves,

that is always ready with wind, shimmer, falling grasses and stone roots

to show us what it means to live where the earth and stars converge.

— Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, written for the Kansas Susquicentennial Celebration, 1/29/11

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the poet laureate of Kansas, and the author of ten books, including Landed (poetry), The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community and Coming Home to the Body, and the forthcoming An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the State Poets Laureate of America, which she co-edited. She teaches at Goddard College, where she founded the Transformative Language Arts program. She leads writing workshops widely, with singer-songwriter Kelley Hunt, leads writing and singing workshops, writes songs, and performs collaboratively. Visit her blog for daily essays. www.CarynMirriamGoldberg.com


5 thoughts on “15. Celebrate This Kansas

  1. “Mapped time”! I fully intend to steal that phrase without any guilt or misgivings. Of course, I hope you’d absolve me and perhaps even grant permission. Mapped time. How utterly perfect a description for remembered history.

  2. This poem is a great reminder to me that Kansas did not begin on January 29, 1861 but has, in actuality, been around for quite some time. The whole (Kansas) is certainly greater than the sum of its diverse parts.

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