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).