Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Posts tagged ‘Patricia Traxler’

After a Snowless Winter by Patricia Traxler

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March blizzard; the late snow covers our world

like amnesia. All day our eyes are drawn to windows,

absorbing the endless swath of white beyond the glass

that holds it apart, pristine, like a painting of what’s real.

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I remember when we all were here, how winter warmed

us then. Yes, attrition is a function of time, and we have to

ignore it as far as we can–buy a new address book, forget

the touch that woke our skin, the sweet imperative of meals,

unruly music of children’s voices, words alive in every room.

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Sunday wafer on the tongue, absolution, old miracles we still

crave; love, maybe. And before everything, the words that were

to be believed, that gave us something to fear and love and live

up to; nothing left to chance, except everything that would follow.

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The world is old now, war still abounds, meaning refuses attachment.

Bulbs stir in the ground, regenerate out of habit, away from the light.

I’m yours, I tell the air. The cold makes its way in then, and for hours

snow deepens across the prairie while frost blinds window glass.

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No ideas but in things, he said, and yet the world is clotted with things

and often bereft of ideas. This belated freeze enters the flesh the way

love did–a mercy?–then makes its way into the heart, and stays.

The power to make something necessary, lasting, to place something

new where nothing was–anyone fears the loss of that. And of the need.

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Somewhere underground now a river hurries over itself, blind roots

stirring as it passes, earth darkening around souls muted and stilled,

stones smoothening in the passage of time, while above we wait and

wonder: Is this what we were meant for? Who will tell us what was true?

~ Patricia Traxler

Patricia Traxler, a two-time Bunting Poetry Fellow at Radcliffe, is the author of four poetry collections and a novel, and has edited two anthologies of Kansas memories dating from 1910-1975. Her poetry has appeared widely, including in The Nation, The Boston Review, Agni, Ploughshares, Ms. Magazine, The LA Times, and Best American Poetry. She has read or served as resident poet at many universities, including Ohio State, Harvard University, Kansas University, the University of Montana, Utah State, and the University of California San Diego.

Tyler Sheldon is a graduate student in English at Emporia State University. His poems and articles have appeared in Thorny Locust, I-70 Review, Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, and in the anthology To The Stars Through Difficulties (a 2013 Kansas Notable Book). Sheldon is an AWP Intro Journals Award nominee and has been featured on Kansas Public Radio.

William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas, where he writes and teaches. His work has appeared widely in little magazines and small press anthologies. He has two books, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth), and a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill). He plays bass for the band The Excuses.

20. To the Stars Through Difficulty: Patricia Traxler

A doe comes from the deep woods and stands

alone there at the edge, her amber gaze sweeping

side to side, night’s glittering swath high above her,

unreadable glimmer of semaphore

that commands the human eye, inspiring

our dreams of distant furies and glories

realer than our own. But the doe never looks up

to learn what isn’t told; she already knows

the night like a mother whose darkness enfolds her

as if to protect her from all we’ve learned and made.

         – Patricia Traxler

Note:  strange thing happened as I wrote my 10 lines, and Caryn asked me to describe it: Knowing that this week I would have 3 writing deadlines, I decided to make an early start on my renga piece last week–but in keeping with the answering spirit of this form, first I went back again through all the renga entries from the start to that date, reading it all as one whole. By the time I’d finished reading, there was an image germinating in my head, of a doe coming out of the woods at night and never looking up at the stars above her the way we humans do, yet knowing things that we can’t know, even with all our star-gazing and study. I sat in bed with my iPad late that night and worked on the idea, fiddling with language and lines till I had a rough draft at 8:30 AM; then I fell asleep. When I woke later that day and checked my email I found there’d been a new entry posted–Daniele Cunningham’s. I opened it and literally felt a physical jolt when I read the opening line: “The deer know.” I was even more stunned when I got to the closing line: “What can they know when they don’t look up?” I considered scrapping my 10 lines, but then I thought that if somehow after a close reading of all the existing renga entries had preceded both mine and hers–and we had both arrived at very similar imagery in response–why not keep my lines and let them be a reply of sorts? What could be more in the spirit of renga, no matter how her imagery found its way into my head before I’d read it?

96. Cicadas in August

She weeds the humid green as

August heat leans in, finding milkweed

feebler than its own roots; failing again

and again to unlock the ground around

a milky stem as all around her those cicadas,

 

their love calls gnaw the evening air: It isn’t

fair, the way it ends so soon, a lifetime

of waiting and a hope

that sprouts wings. Nothing

is ever enough. And yet that sound,

 

the pure desire in it is something, is more

than can be had by a woman in hiding;

she knows, and still, daily, she fortifies

her life against that heat, the smell and feel

of invaders. But sometimes

 

in the night something a picture

or a word creeps into her

dreams moves over her bare skin

light as moths something possible

stirs beneath that clay and then

 

vanishes the moment she opens

her eyes. And she moves

through the heat of a new day,

keeping her eyes open, running

her hands over her arms, almost

remembering, thinking she hears it

again in the elms that sway

above her quiet house

in her waking hours.

— Patricia Traxler

Author of three poetry collections including Forbidden Words (Missouri), Traxler has published her poetry widely, including in The Nation, Ms. Magazine, Ploughshares, Agni, LA Times Literary Supplement, Slate, The Boston Review, and Best American Poetry. Awards include two Bunting Poetry Fellowships from Radcliffe, Ploughshares’ Cohen Award, and a Pablo Neruda Award from Nimrod.

 

78. Blackberries

For days I’ve waited, watched them ripen

through the hot blue afternoons. This morning

I wake dreaming them, waken to a swell

of greed for their taut bodies, those sweet

explosions between roof of mouth and tongue,

the weight of juice poised in my throat.

I creep outside in daybreak’s haze,

soles of my feet stealing dew from the lawn;

I’m thinking human, temporal, earthly.

A dove rises flapping and keening

from a nest a foot away, defending two pale eggs

on a bed of twigs. Nothing slows me, I pull

berry after berry from the vine, staining fingertips,

filling my mouth, fervid and wanton, certain

that even in paradise nothing could ever be enough.

— Patricia Traxler

Appeared in e: Emily Dickinson Award Anthology, Universities West Press

Author of three poetry collections including Forbidden Words (Missouri), Traxler has published her poetry widely, including in The Nation, Ms. Magazine, Ploughshares, Agni, LA Times Literary Supplement, Slate, The Boston Review, and Best American Poetry. Awards include two Bunting Poetry Fellowships from Radcliffe, Ploughshares’ Cohen Award, and a Pablo Neruda Award from Nimrod.

23. The Call

The harvest is past, the summer

Is ended, and we are not saved.

-Jeremiah 8:20

The morning before it happens

at the rim of the field I wait

for the call: the hard ground,

the lull, and all around, on the verge

the lit houses lie sorted and stored.

And now the sound of arrowheads

without shafts scything through a field

making room for ripe new fruit. A

shudder. Then no sound. Some people

live out their entire lives.

It was hard to imagine when you

came here all you wanted was

his smile. Now you can dance,

busy yourself getting old. So hard to

leave the faded heaven, unwritten letters,

contagions, the lies, hedging possibility,

simple absence, warped miracle.

The morning before it happens

at the rim of the field I wait

for the call: it’s possible

to hear distant apples drop

against the answer of such air, to

follow that sound till you find

no apple and no tree. The flesh

has dissolved into secret;

the bones are in the sea.

— Patricia Traxler

Originally appeared in New Letters

Author of three poetry collections including Forbidden Words (Missouri), Traxler has published her poetry widely, including in The Nation, Ms. Magazine, Ploughshares, Agni, LA Times Literary Supplement, Slate, The Boston Review, and Best American Poetry. Awards include two Bunting Poetry Fellowships from Radcliffe, Ploughshares’ Cohen Award, and a Pablo Neruda Award from Nimrod.

8. First Prairie Winter

Nights I lie down in this Kansas

farm town and allow a distant ocean

to swallow my dreams: running on

the boardwalk, Mission Beach, morning fog

burned off in midday sun, the honk and clatter

of humanity, a childhood fear of palm trees,

the stir and noise of family. Lately

I swallow regret the way I once drank love

That brought me here and fell away. I wade

and wallow in winter’s dark. Days, the sky looms

large and ineluctable and the land lies quiet, flat

beneath it, accepting everything. It seems that

on the plains people learn early on the rule

of inevitability. I still argue with the clouds.

And each day as I watch the snow deepen by degrees

around the house, I know it might take time for me.

This bed is such a winter, white on white, nothing

near on either side. A chill rides all my surfaces,

mere skin can’t shift beyond the reach of Kansas wind.

Sometimes I dream a blizzard that won’t stop, that

grows and swells and covers over brittle windows,

settles high. In this dream I run from room to room,

find every window blocked by smothering snow. And

in the lull that follows I go calm at last, settle in

Amid the simple choices. The Pacific ocean

recedes into memory, and in the dark my eyelids lock

beyond old visions. I lie down then, the hard white

windows standing guard, and sleep wrapped in cool sheets

of amnesia while winter’s hard fist opens

slowly in the earth, palm warming, long fingers

stirring dormant roots that waken to a new life

easily, easily as I never could by trying.

— Patricia Traxler

From Forbidden Words, copyright Patricia Traxler, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, MO.

Author of three poetry collections including Forbidden Words (Missouri), Traxler has published her poetry widely, including in The Nation, Ms. Magazine, Ploughshares, Agni, LA Times Literary Supplement, Slate, The Boston Review, and Best American Poetry. Awards include two Bunting Poetry Fellowships from Radcliffe, Ploughshares’ Cohen Award, and a Pablo Neruda Award from Nimrod.

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