Kansas

State Poet Laureate 

In 2004, Kansas established a state poet laureate position, which is currently held by Huascar Medina, who was appointed to a two-year term in 2019. Medina is the author of How to Hang the Moon (Spartan Press, 2017).

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Alone for a Week

I washed a load of clothes
and hung them out to dry.
Then I went up to town
and busied myself all day.
The sleeve of your best shirt
rose ceremonious
when I drove in; our night-
clothes twined and untwined in
a little gust of wind.

For me it was getting late;
for you, where you were, not.
The harvest moon was full
but sparse clouds made its light
not quite reliable.
The bed on your side seemed
as wide and flat as Kansas;
your pillow plump, cool,
and allegorical. . . .

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

 

The coven of bison
          brought here as wishes
                    bore 80 million calves
                              in a year

                              This was the epicenter of the nursery
                              of the palace of the monument
                              of the battlefield
of the resurrection of the biome—

170 million acres aggressively
                                      self-returfing &
            a new state slogan:

                        AD ASTRA
                        THE TALL GRASS
                                 PER ASPERA
                                 ITS REVENGE

The public-private partnership1
          was lesser prairie chickens & very large cats.

Even the sky could hear the wolves returning.
The grasshoppers were strategists. 
The Koch brothers melted plows.

 


1 After decades of contention between park advocates and local agribusiness activists, in 1996 a unique public-private partnership was formed to create a tallgrass prairie preserve in Kansas on one of the few undisturbed patches of tallgrass prairie left in North America. In less than a decade, the park fell onto hard times as the private wing of the mostly private public-private partnership could no longer financially sustain it. The preserve looked like it was going to have to be sold. Then the Nature Conservatory, led by a former managing director of Goldman Sachs and assisted by a $1 million dollar gift from Wichita's Koch brothers, took over. They introduced thirteen bison to the Kansas prairie to unexpected results. The bison quickly returned to their pre-Columbian population. After a controlled burn of the entire great plains in the spring of 2019, the tall grass prairie ecosystem of the U.S. restored itself from tap roots that had lain dormant at the earth’s core since John Deere invented the steel plow in 1838. The interior U.S. radically depopulated as prairie dog colonies caused irreparable damage to the infrastructure of its cities and towns.

Reading Moby-Dick at 30,000 Feet

At this height, Kansas 
is just a concept, 
a checkerboard design of wheat and corn

no larger than the foldout section 
of my neighbor's travel magazine. 
At this stage of the journey

I would estimate the distance 
between myself and my own feelings 
is roughly the same as the mileage

from Seattle to New York, 
so I can lean back into the upholstered interval 
between Muzak and lunch,

a little bored, a little old and strange.
I remember, as a dreamy
backyard kind of kid,

tilting up my head to watch 
those planes engrave the sky 
in lines so steady and so straight

they implied the enormous concentration 
of good men, 
but now my eyes flicker

from the in-flight movie 
to the stewardess's pantyline, 
then back into my book,

where men throw harpoons at something 
much bigger and probably 
better than themselves,

wanting to kill it, 
wanting to see great clouds of blood erupt 
to prove that they exist.

Imagine being born and growing up, 
rushing through the world for sixty years 
at unimaginable speeds.

Imagine a century like a room so large, 
a corridor so long
you could travel for a lifetime

and never find the door, 
until you had forgotten 
that such a thing as doors exist.

Better to be on board the Pequod, 
with a mad one-legged captain 
living for revenge.

Better to feel the salt wind 
spitting in your face, 
to hold your sharpened weapon high,

to see the glisten
of the beast beneath the waves. 
What a relief it would be

to hear someone in the crew 
cry out like a gull, 
Oh Captain, Captain! 
Where are we going now?