102. The Perfect Poem

would say only the words

sun and stone, stream and tree

and earth, yet it would explain

what I know of home

standing in late summer’s

hazy evening light, dust rising

and settling on this road,

under the smell of cottonwoods,

the last of the day’s

sun on this heart-shaped

leaf in my hand.


It would say only

the words fire

and flood, wind

and grass, yet

would capture my surprise

each spring at the turning in

of the compost,

last summer’s onion stalks,

cucumber skins, and grass clippings

now dirt. Stirred

in the wet heat

of last August and broken

by worms and coffin cutters,

they have all become again

that which they were,

the perfect poem.

— 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).

One thought on “102. The Perfect Poem

  1. Bill–This is indeed the perfect poem. The movement of the poem captures perfectly the essense of Kansas. I’m excited that you’ll be reading in Wichita.

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