53. Driving the Heart

Winner of the Kansas Poetry Month contest: heat and light (professional category)

Of this country

on a day too hot for winter

and too beautiful to die, I watch

geese string across our southern sky

while the radio spools news: new car

bombs, polar caps melting, and west,

snow breaks a little our state’s long drought.

Once a man told his story: why snakes

lack legs and why you and I

must someday die. But, he said,

until we do, we may sit at the head

of this crowded table.

Many carry that tale

to their hearts, a kind of carrion

they can eat, growing fat

but never full, hungering

for a thing they have forgotten.

Robins come early now, and geese

never leave. Our seasons milder,

we have become their south. Doves

winter in the trees behind our house.

Northward, bears swim

searching lost ice. We drive

a narrow road, leaving heavy tracks.

The clouds ride full to our west.

Let us hope for snow.

Other tales tell of naming, a duty

I have often taken to heart, learning

to call the hawks who ride

our rich winds Red Tail, Cooper’s,

Sharp Shinned, as if such things meant

anything. Proud I have been

to own those words.

A cardinal crosses our road,

his red a constant vaunting. The air

waves fill, our leaders’ voices loud,

telling us we have everything to fear

and nothing to fret.

Heavy wind blows up from the south,

and the car pulls toward the ditch

not wanting to be steered.

— William Sheldon

William Sheldon lives with his family in Hutchinson, Kansas where he teaches and writes. His poetry and prose have appeared widely in small press publications, including Columbia, Epoch, Flint Hills Review, Prairie Schooner, and Midwest Quarterly. He is the author of two collections of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley) and the chapbook Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill Press).


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