Flint Hills, Kansas — by Jemshed Khan

Snowmelt scours the Rockies until the creeks flash.

Gravel and sand wash into Beaver Creek and the Solomon River.

Cows are calving as water sweeps the land.

The jet stream drops from the north like a Cheyenne raid―

Rain slams the high plains, rivers churn,

and spring calves stumble into the drowning snarl

that roars through the Smoky Hills.

Anvil-grey thunderheads rumble the Flint Hills.


Thirty million bison roamed the tall grass prairie

before General Sherman’s final solution to the Indian problem―

kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated.

They shoot them down on foot, horseback, and from trains:

The hides are stacked, hacked, carcasses left to rot―

to starve out the Pawnee and Osage tribes:


Now bison bones still wash into angry creeks,

with mastodon teeth, arrowheads, deer antlers.

The surly boneyard river reminds whose land this was.

Barbed-wire fences bristle and glint in slanting rain,

Angus, Herefords, and yearlings graze on wet bluestem grass.

The drenched bovines munch ancient fodder,

the white settlers keep Sunday clean.

Soon the calfs―fattened under the summer sun―

move to feed lots and holding pens.

When the box chute opens to the kill floor

the cows will know the bison’s fate: kill, skin, sell.

~ Jemshed Khan

Jemshed Khan has published poems in Number One Magazine, Wittenberg Review, #BlackArtMatters (2016), Read Local (2016), Rigorous (2017), NanoText (Medusa’s Laugh Press, 2017). The author is slated for Clockwise Cat, Issue 36 (2017) and I-70 Review

Guest Editor Denise Low: The University of Nebraska Press published Denise Low’s 2017 memoir The Turtle’s Beating Heart, about her grandfather’s Lenape heritage. Other recent books are A Casino Bestiary: Poems (Spartan Press 2017), Mélange Block: Poems (Red Mt. Press), Jackalope (short fiction, Red Mt. Press), and Natural Theologies: Essays (The Backwaters Press). Low is former Kansas poet laureate and past board president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She teaches for Baker University’s School of Professional and Graduate Studies.

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