A Kansas Anthem

by

 

The wind and dust blew up the hill,
        the dust from the wind fell down.
And I awoke on the windless side
        all clothed in a fine dust gown.

“Oh see,” said I to a passerby,
        “my suit of Kansas Gray.
Come feel the loft of the down so soft
        our sky has thrown away.”

“I swear,” swore he, “by a cottonwood tree
        run through with a fencing foil,
your Kansas dust smells sharp as rust
        and feels like tractor oil.

“I’ve been to Maine and I’ve been to Spain
        and filled my sight with riches,
but my eyes are filled in Kansas land
        by dirt blown out of ditches.”

Oh hey hum hey for a Kansas day
        when the sky is gray and swirly.
Oh naw de naw for the gritty jaw
        that turns bright strangers surly.

 

First published in Midwest Quarterly.

 

Discussion

I wrote this poem after a small dust storm blew through Lawrence, Kansas. In eastern Kansas it was a rare event and also a wonderful reminder of the nature of the land where we lived.

After centuries of use, the ballad stanza remains a wonderful asset for the poet, especially when the poem has an element of humor. Meter and rhyme are natural choices for those who want to dance with language and life. They contain a magic formula for joy more powerful than any happy pill.

While meter and rhyme work less well in serious poetry today, poetic rhythms (as opposed to meter) and subtle rhymes can create beauty and enhance significance, even for readers accustomed to prose.

But as they sing in the theater, “Tragedy tomorrow, Comedy tonight!”

 

Bernie Smetzer and the chickens

Dad with his Chickens

 

Bernie Smetzer and the chickens 2

Dad and the chickens

Bernie Smetzer reins in the chicken

Dad reins in the chicken

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