Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Posts tagged ‘Izzy Wasserstein’

109. Stepping Into The Woods

Turn around. The woods have swallowed

you already. The way in is easier

than the way out. Obey these rules:

 

stay on the path. Do not follow the lights

that flicker on the edge of sight.

Do not eat the bread crumbs,

 

or listen to the voices, though they echo

through you like the promise of home.

Begin to forget that word: it’s only

 

a place you return to and find

no longer exists. Like a cabin

braced with candy canes, lovely

 

to see, dangerous to touch.

You’ll meet strangers on the way.

Speak to them if you must,

 

but give them nothing, tell them nothing.

What sharp teeth they have.

Others have come here

 

before you, but few have left. Curiosity

can consume you. You may think

you see your parents, your lover.

 

Do not run to them. If you come to a cabin

with legs, walk past it. The skittering

behind you may grow distant in time.

 

Try not to dream of what may have been.

Distrust what you see. Remember the tale

of the girl who took the stranger’s

 

generosity, how he dragged her

through the streets in a spiked barrel,

or chewed her bones clean. Learn

 

that trust can kill, and that death

is not the worst thing that can happen

to the young. If you must sleep,

 

do not dream. The woods enfold

you now, thick as blankets. I tell

you the truth: they are patient

 

as wolves, hungry as winter.

– Izzy Wasserstein

Israel Wasserstein was born and raised on the Great Plains and currently teaches at Washburn University in Topeka, KS. He received his MFA from the University of New Mexico in 2006. His poetry and fiction have appeared in Flint Hills Review, Blue Mesa Review, Coal City Review, BorderSenses and elsewhere.

61. Highway 54: Controlled Burn

Eastern Kansas, hills pungent

with controlled burn: my eyes

sting, black clouds rise

 

into angry evening. All about me,

ribbons of flame unspooled

by grim-faced men with rusty

 

pickups. Sunglasses

conceal their eyes

as they watch the sky,

 

the night clear,

free of portentous clouds.

Rain will not come.

 

And if it did, they would still

burn, unwilling to risk

disaster, fires twisting

 

from these fallow

fields those newly planted.

Sharp-lined faces know too well

 

mercy’s cost, destroy

what they must to save

the rest. One man turns

 

his head to watch me pass,

glasses black as his hair

outlined against red flame,

 

orange sky. He nods,

I nod, accelerate

toward home, towards

 

whatever still remains.

– Izzy Wasserstein

Israel Wasserstein was born and raised on the Great Plains and currently teaches at Washburn University in Topeka, KS. He received his MFA from the University of New Mexico in 2006. His poetry and fiction have appeared in Flint Hills Review, Blue Mesa Review, Coal City Review, BorderSenses and elsewhere.

47. A Kansas Native Discusses Natural Disasters

Winner of the Kansas Poetry Month contest, week one: storms (amateur category)

Raised in California, you freeze with each storm warning,

listen for the locomotive roar,

imagine the funnel cloud descending

dark against greenblack dusk.

Strange, I thought. You know

the earth can swallow cars, buildings,

that land can collapse to sea,

that the next Big One is inevitable.

Yet a twister might pass blocks away

and leave us unaware until sirens woke us.

But now I know: you are a child of the land.

Amidst its tremors you brace under doorframes

without fear. I was raised by sky,

its furies as much as its calms.

When the evening chills with the hammer of hail,

the air takes me breathless, tense, home.

– Israel Wasserstein

Israel Wasserstein was born and raised on the Great Plains and currently teaches at Washburn University in Topeka, KS. He received his MFA from the University of New Mexico in 2006. His poetry and fiction have appeared in Flint Hills Review, Blue Mesa Review, Coal City Review, BorderSenses and elsewhere.

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