Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Posts tagged ‘Stephen Meats’

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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