Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Posts tagged ‘Kim Stafford’

Aunt Mar Changes How We See by Kim Stafford

Kim StaffordShe had taken to having naps

most afternoons in the side parlor

while the TV flickered, muttered

brash fuss or hush of snow


as the long hours rounded into dusk,

so dear Mar, when we found her,

lay settled in the easy chair where her

soft light had stepped to the window,


slipped free through the cold clear panes,

passed lively into the buds of cottonwood,

her whispered “Yes” to wind and stars,

her way with folding hands, learned young


by lasting through the thirties, by raising nine

alone, by dealing books to hungry eyes in school,

by feeding us on the stove named Detroit Jewel,

her winsome prayers at times both hard and good


gone deep to the loyal roots of hickory, her calm

to elm reaching over the long prairie road

that joins the there of her

to the here of us, until it all


turns inside out, and through the world

beyond all trouble to core affections, no matter

how far or strange, we now see our days

by the gentle gaze of Mar.

~ Kim Stafford

Kim Stafford is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College, where he has taught writing since 1979, and is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, including The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft and A Thousand Friends of Rain: New & Selected Poems.  His most recent books are 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared, and Wind on the Waves: Stories from the Oregon Coast.

Tyler Sheldon earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, where he taught English Composition and received the 2016 Charles E. Walton Graduate Essay Award. His poems and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, Quiddity International Literary Journal, Thorny Locust, and other journals. Sheldon is a two-time AWP Intro Journals Award nominee, and has appeared on Kansas Public Radio.

41. Blue Brick from the Midwest

After my father collapsed like a bolt of light, toppled without a word,

I was the one to enter his study, find the jagged note to our mother he

scratched as he reeled, the freight train of his departure hurtling

through his heart—

—a sentiment he did not speak in 79 years as tough customer,

affable but stern, inert when grief came, reserved as granite

when my brother died, cracking plaintive jokes when we trembled

in the hospital, mother going under the knife.

His way was trenchant, oblique. He distrusted those who

talk about God, preferring to honor the holy with a glance,

a nod, or silence. Delving deeper, the day he died, we found

in his sock drawer, under that scant set of flimsy raiment, the fetching

photo of the flirt: our mother, coy at the sink, looking back

over her shoulder, dressed only in an apron with a big bow.

No fool like an old fool.

And delving deeper, at the back of the bottom file (the niche

where one would hide the stuff of blackmail) I touched the blue

brick of love letters our mother had sent him when they

courted in the war—brittle leaves kissed snug together

and bound with string, the trove he had carried

in secret through every move since 1943. She knew

them not, nor had his. “Oh, Billy,” she said.

Father, early years taught your way with the heart’s contraband

when the dirty thirties blunted your bravado, tornado snatched

your friends, the war your tenderness, and left you with these secrets

hoarded for us to find when you were gone.

— Kim Stafford

“Blue Brick from the Midwest” is from Prairie Prescription, a chapbook forthcoming from Limberlost Press in 2011. Kim Stafford is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College. He is the author of The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft and Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford.

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