Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Posts tagged ‘Stephen Meats’

Nachtmusik by Stephen Meats

StephenCrickets and tree frogs

Choir the starlit yard.

Low in the east

a half-moon, opaque

almost as an egg yolk,

backlights the silhouettes of trees

like semiquavers in the score

of the Bach requiem

when a darker shadow

whispering into the branches

of a pin oak drops a pall of silence

into which barred owl chants―

Who dies for me?

Who mourns for the small?

―and every living thing

within sound of the call

is still and alone

with the beat of its heart.

But then the shadow lifts

and mockingbird begins

once more to improvise its

three phrase melody,

and the crickets and tree frogs

again relax their anthems

into the sacred dark.

~ Stephen Meats

Stephen Meats, recently retired from teaching and administration at Pittsburg State University, is the author of a mixed genre collection of poems and stories, Dark Dove Descending and Other Parables (Mammoth Publications 2013), and a book of poems, Looking for the Pale Eage (originally published, 1993; second expanded edition, Mammoth 2014). He has been poetry editor of The Midwest Quarterly since 1985.

Guest editor: Kevin Rabas co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State and co-edits Flint Hills Review. He has four books: Bird’s Horn, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar, also a Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, and Spider Face: stories. He writes, “For my month, I searched for poems that meditate on “time” in its many musical nuances, such as in times a tune jogged your memory, times the music seemed to transport you in time, times you patted your foot or danced to the music’s groove (time), times the music jump-started your heart (internal time), OR meditations on musical elements (such as 4/4 time vs. 6/8 time OR swung vs. straight, rock 2+4 time).”

Bright River by Stephen Meats

It began when I sawStephen

the blackbird

on my father’s face

Black leaves took wing

from the skeletons

of sycamores

Lights began leaping

out of stones

Barking dogs revealed

white seams

in the twilight sky

Street lights dropped

small flames

on the ripples of a lake

A mockingbird’s feathers

created my hands

I felt a fire flicker

in its white wings

I listened for tears

in the fire’s voice

but heard only a bright river

flowing in the wings

that flew from my fingers

~ Stephen Meats

Stephen Meats, in addition to having articles and essays published, has published a mixed genre book of poems and stories, Dark Dove Descending and Other Parables (Mammoth 2013). His poems and stories have appeared in The Laurel Review, Tampa Review, Arete: The Journal of Sport Literature, Hurãkan, Flint Hills Review, Little Balkans Review, Kansas Quarterly, The Quarterly, Cow Creek Review, Prairie Poetry, Dos Passos Review, The Laughing Dog and others. Stephen Meats attended Kansas State Univ. before transferring to the Univ. of South Carolina, where he earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in English. He taught at the Air Force Academy and the Univ. of Tampa and Pittsburg State Univ. (1979-2014). He has been poetry editor of The Midwest Quarterly since 1985. He lives in Pittsburg with his wife, Ann, three Boston Terriers, seven cats, and five hives of bees. This poem is from Looking for the Pale Eagle, $12.00, 114 pages, perfect bound, ISBN: 978-1-939301-91-8. Order online www.mammothpublications.net or by mail, Mammoth Publications, 1916 Stratford, Lawrence, KS 66044. Mention Kansas Time and Place and receive 30% discount.

Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-2009, is author of 25 award-winning books of poetry and prose. She does individual bookconsulting and editing, as well as workshops. She teaches in the Baker University School of Professional and Graduate Studies. Low is co-publisher of Mammoth Publications an independent small literary press specializing in Indigenous and Mid-Plains poetry and prose. Her poetry blog has over 400 entries, and she reviews poetry for the Kansas City Star. For more, see BIOGRAPHY. Her book of poetry Mélange Block, from Red Mountain Press, Santa Fe, assembles a geological continuum of passion, grief, and American Indian and European histories. She launches the book in Albuquerque at Bookworks, June 14, 3 pm; in Santa Fe at the Santa Fe Community Foundation, 501 Halona St. (corner of the Paseo de Peralto), June 15, 2:30 pm and in Lawrence, Ks., the Raven Bookstore, June 25, 7 pm. Recent online publications are from Numero Cinq, Feb. 2014. An interview is in the Feb. 2014 Museum of Americanaliterary journal. North Dakota Q.published a special issue about William Stafford, including Low’s “‘The Way It Is’: Second Sight in William Stafford’s Poetry.”Contact information is at www.deniselow.net

Lost and Found by Stephen Meats

Lost and FoundDriving back from dinner at Josie’s in Scammon we turn north out of Weir and immediately find ourselves on an unfamiliar county road that winds through a low-water ford across a creek and then crosses Highway 400, where we discover a small settlement of houses we’ve never seen before, no sign, no name, and after that a community center, and then every mile or so, one trailer park after another, some merely dilapidated, others abandoned or burned out, and every mile road that crosses our route, whether paved or graveled or sanded, poses the question, “Where might I lead?” and crossing Highway 126 almost unawares we keep going north past abandoned houses and farms with yards crowded with equipment rusting in the weeds and pastures scattered with cattle, always with the sense of Pittsburg somewhere off to the east, until finally, giving in to a pull that’s grown stronger with every mile, we turn right, and it’s then we become aware that we are traversing a large square with home at its center, and going east now we pass through another little settlement, Capaldo the sign says, and then after a jog down 69 Highway past Moore’s Furniture and the car dealerships we take a left on McKay right down the main street of Frontenac, and even though we’ve been here many times before, the spell of the unfamiliar persists, and we see the Catholic Church and Pallucca’s Grocery and the bakery with something of the wonder of tourists, luxuriating so much in this sense of discovery that paints even the familiar with a tint of the new that we don’t turn down Rouse as we normally would but go on east past the ball fields until we come to Free King Highway where we could turn south and end up in a few minutes right at our front door, but we look at each other and wishing still to remain under this spell of the beckoning unknown, with unspoken assent continue east, passing more houses we’ve never seen before with kids shooting hoops in the backyards and men gathered around trucks with their hoods up, then a low-water concrete bridge under a railroad trestle, mile after mile after mile, until the road dead-ends at a private driveway with a gate and a large sign that says in huge red letters, THE BROCK RANCH, but which might as well declare, “We know where we are even if you don’t,” and forced now to turn one way or the other, and again with a glance and unspoken assent, we turn right and define another corner of this big square we’ve been tracing along unfamiliar roads this past hour or more never above 30 mph, as if to say “We’re in no hurry to find our way back,” and going south now but with this turning also knowing that we are no longer resisting the pull of home, we continue to look with a sense of awe at the strip pits, the wooded sloughs and streams, an abandoned farm completely overgrown by brush and trees, the house and barn if they exist at all so totally obscured that only the metal tops of three silos glint among the treetops to indicate what a once thriving enterprise it was, crossing mile roads to who knows where, until finally we emerge at the old boarded up Fisca station on Highway 126, right on the Missouri line, and we linger at the stop sign and look across at the county road that disappears invitingly over a slight rise a quarter mile or so ahead, and almost reluctantly, but again with unspoken assent and even a certain relief, we turn west now, having found what we didn’t even know we were looking for, toward the comfort of old familiar ground and home.

 ~ Stephen Meats

Stephen Meats, born in LeRoy, Kansas, and raised in Concordia, has taught literature and writing at the Air Force Academy, the University of Tampa, and Pittsburg State University. He was poetry editor of The Midwest Quarterly (1985-2012) and has one book of poetry, Looking for the Pale Eagle (1993).

25. To the Stars Through Difficulty: Stephen Meats

Seventeen miles south of Concordia in a small stand of trees off old
Highway 81 there was once a wayside drinking fountain, a single pipe rising
out the ground from which welled up perpetually the coldest clearest water.
It’s long since been effaced by the four-lane, but fifty years ago,
for restless teenagers in town, to drive out to the fountain of a summer night,
to watch the lights of the safe and familiar streets disappear in the rearview mirror,
was to venture close to the edge of a dark yet beckoning unknown, where,
balanced on the very rim of our world, we would tune the car radios to KOMA
in Oklahoma City, and with the Top Forty pouring down from a limitless sky,
drink of the cold artesian flow and dance for our lives.

— Stephen Meats

139. Robins Keep Their Secrets

Suppose for a moment

they do not migrate south

for the winter as everyone assumes

but instead don black hoods

and abandon leaf strewn lawns

for the white freedom of December skies.

Were you to look just so

you might see flocks of them

flashing their fiery badges

where the sun has barely cleared

the tops of distant trees.

And were you walking in the woods,

where ice is just beginning

to skim the creek that’s pooling

behind the fallen sycamores and oaks,

if you listened, you might hear them

scratching in the bracken,

see their shadows mirrored

in the surface of the stream

as they bow to drink

at the swifter narrow sluices.

— Stephen Meats

Stephen Meats has taught literature and creative writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas since 1979.  He has published poems and short stories in various journals, and his book of poems, Looking for the Pale Eagle (1993) was published by Woodley Memorial Press.  He has been poetry editor of The Midwest Quarterly since 1985.

89. Night Sounds

Sounds hang strangely

in the night air, a noisy quiet

that isolates and amplifies.

Breezes tappling in the cottonwoods,

cicadas rasping up and down,

trucks pounding the distant highway,

cars hissing along the street,

a train two miles away picking up speed,

signaling mile crossings,

its receding wall of sound

like background radiation

fading all the way from creation.

A car door slams and signals what—

arrival or departure. Maybe just routine.

Maybe not. Someone’s voice,

a laugh the wind distorts,

cries, miserable, repetitive.

The only voice the old woman

across the street

has left after her stroke.

My Boston terrier hovers

in the shadow of a maple’s trunk,

head up, ears alert.

I’m standing there too, in the dark,

waiting for him to finish his business

when that strange quality of night sounds

catches in my throat: expectancy.

So much waiting to happen,

temperature falling toward the dew point,

sun circling the planet toward morning,

every day working a degree or two

closer to the equator like a string

wound in a spiral around a stick.

Circumstances turning as on a pivot

toward some inevitable

unimaginable what.

— Stephen Meats

Previously published in the Flint Hills Review (2004)

Stephen Meats has taught literature and creative writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas since 1979.  He has published poems and short stories in various journals, and his book of poems, Looking for the Pale Eagle (1993) was published by Woodley Memorial Press.  He has been poetry editor of The Midwest Quarterly since 1985.

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