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The Alberta Clipper

Alberta Clipper 2/17/15: “A Visit to New England” by Jon Swan

It is easy to get lost in the Midwest mentality – the humility and neighborliness, the passion for a state or sports team, the sense of family and community – and forget that the rest of the country is out there with their own styles and attitudes. In his 1953 poem “A Visit to New England,” Jon Swan emphasizes the pride that follows travelers as they venture away from home and encounter those with predispositions towards their region. February of 1953 in Lincoln was warmer than usual, with an average temperature of 40.5˚ F, while New England suffered the same fate with temperatures in the 30s and 40s. At least New Englanders and Midwesterners have the weather to commiserate about. --Daley Eldorado
Jon Swan
A Visit to New England
When I said I came from Nebraska
She looked at her vague shoes, down her invisible hose,
And smoke rolled from her nose.
She hardly paused but mentioned
(First her open lips on fire,
Then shut tight and pleasant as a wire)
That they sent their old clothes out there.
Oh, yes, Nebraska.
Then for a moment the old buffalo in me arose
Ready, as she crushed her cigarette,
To rush the insubstantial smile
That perished from the cold across her face,
Until I noticed while
She spoke, that she with all her high New England ways
Had brittle hands, a frost is stronger,
Hardly a wrist, and when she pushed to stand
Crumbled upward into shape, and then I knew:
Her clothes must have been rejected; returned too,
For she, without the rolling smoke of her nose,
Without the deception of her hose
Was nearly...but a lamp’s no sun
And there’s no swimming in her living room.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Winter 1953)

Alberta Clipper 2/3/2015: ‘Ford Pickup’ by David Allan Evans

On February 3rd, 1947, the first truck rolled off of the new Highland Park Ford assembly line in Highland Park, Michigan.  At the time, the Highland Park Plant was the only Ford plant to be specifically producing trucks. The truck, Ford’s F-Series, remains North America’s best selling pickup truck to date.

In the winter of 1973, David Allan Evans’ poem “Ford Pickup” was published in Prairie Schooner. On that cool February day the temperature was 48 degrees Fahrenheit, a bit warmer than the monthly average of 40 degrees.--Evan Berry

David Allan Evans
Ford Pickup

call me the Valiant heading west on Fourteen into the frozen
Dakota January sun and the one suddenly ahead the red
Custom Ranger with Texas plates and his woman taking
their time and all of my eye as he sits straight and high
beneath a white Stetson nodding politely over frost heave
and she has my long my black my favorite hair with a ribbon
exactly the color of the pickup and feeling the cab’s air
and now she scoots his way and lays her head on this shoulder
while he adjusts his hat and sways briefly over the yellow line
so then as they talk her hands are a bird’s nest in her lap
to which the knuckles of his loose right hand are always returning

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 47, Issue 4 (Winter 1973)

Alberta Clipper 12/23/14: “As the Snowplows Tear the Streets” by Greg Kuzma

The winters of 1973 and 1974 in Lincoln, NE, were interesting times for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Cornhuskers. Tom Osborne, a familiar name amongst Husker enthusiasts, spent his first year as head coach of the Cornhuskers in 1973. In the following season, Tom Osborne coached the Huskers all the way to the Cotton Bowl, where they played a long-standing rival, Texas, concluding the game with a victory.

The end of December in 1973 also experienced one of the coldest recorded minimum temperatures ever seen in Lincoln, NE, reaching a low of -20° Fahrenheit. In the winter of 1974, snow came particularly late with the earliest recorded precipitation date falling in the middle of December. In Prairie Schooner’s Winter 1973/74 issue, Greg Kuzma’s poem “As the Snowplows Tear the Streets” was published. Greg Kuzma attended Syracuse University and is professor emeritus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Greg Kuzma currently resides in Crete, Nebraska. -Clarissa Siegel-Causey

Greg Kuzma
As the Snowplows Tear the Streets

It is in me to dream of snow falling
into the eyes of the animals, the place is
far back in the branches of the tress
where even the trees do not dream, where
months of afternoons have rung to wood,
and the trunks are deep. Here the snow
is falling without alarms, the sun shines
out of the ground, the animals walk on
the proffered roots of plants, and the
rain and the ghost of the rain
make the same bright sign in the fruit.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 48, No. 4 (Winter 1973)

Alberta Clipper 11/25/2014: “Unpatriotic Art” by Anna Boothe

November 22, 1963 was a day of mourning across American when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Three days later, on Thanksgiving Day, his body was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in northern Virginia.  In “Unpatriotic Art,” through ekphrasis, Anna Boothe discusses a painting of Kennedy that hangs in the Truman Library. Published in Prairie Schooner in the fall of 1970 (a mild season in Lincoln, as the temperature averaged a cool 52 degrees Fahrenheit), Boothe’s poem not only considers the physical act of painting but also remarks on Kennedy’s casualness rather than his presidential air. Boothe’s commentary on Kennedy as a person suggests that he was far more than only a dignitary, leader, or chief. – Evan Berry

Anna Boothe
Unpatriotic Art

I wonder at the daring
of her stroke,
yellow and green
in the face of a president,
hands with a haze of fingers,
a grey body in a green suit.

As art it pleased me,
the laity of that priestly school,
and my layman’s eye
reposed on his turquoise nose
and rose to a puff of cantaloupe hair
caste carelessly across his head.
Others would have made him stiff and official instead.

But Kennedy was a casual man,
windblown, dapple colored,
burned in sun, his colors run
with outdoor green
and prematurely grey with death.

It’s understanding
that makes the painting,
not the norm.
Patriotism does not command
a grey pose
for a green man.
And image outlasts form.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 44, No. 3 (Fall 1970)

Alberta Clipper 11/11/14: “Let’s Hear it for Goliath” by Jon Dressel

In America’s more aggressive past, there was a time when we thought it fitting to invade Canada and capture Montreal. During the War of 1812, on a cold and raining November 11, 1813, America suffered for it during the Battle of Crysler’s Field, in which our 8000-some troops were sent reeling by a British and Canadian combined force of just 900.
Written by Jon Dressel, “Let’s Hear It for Goliath” was published in the fall 1973 issue of Prairie Schooner, an abnormally wet season for Nebraska with September receiving more than 7 ½ inches and October nearly 5 inches. The poem takes a contrarian approach to the famous underdog story by offering an ode to the 9-feet tall figure “who never asked/to be born/either.” If we take that sentiment to Crysler, maybe there’s empathy to be had for John Armstrong Jr., the United States Secretary of War who devised the battle’s failed plan—a man who never choose to be born the son of an American general—whose father may have also given “him a sword/to teethe on.” —Nathan Sindelar

Jon Dressel
Let’s Hear it for Goliath

who never asked
to be born
either, let alone
grow nine feet

tall and wind
up a metaphor;
fat chance he
had of avoid-

in the shove
from behind;
his old man
no doubt gave

him a sword
to teethe on,
and a scout
for the Philistine

host probably
had him under
contract by
the end of

junior high;
it was a fix;
and who wouldn’t
have cursed

at the sight
of that arr-
ogant runt with
the sling, who,

for all his
psalms, would later
buy one wife
with a hundred

bloody pecker-
skins, and another
with a King’s X
on Uriah; bah,

let’s hear it
for Goliath, a big
boy who got
bad press but

who did his job,
absorbed a flukey
shot, and died
with a thud.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 47, No. 3 (Fall 1973)

Alberta Clipper 10/28/14: “Beauty and the Beast” by Neil Weiss

During the last week of October in 1946, Nebraskans were enjoying the season’s typical weather with temperatures in the mid 50s, only slightly above the average 48°. Meanwhile across the globe, Jean Cocteau’s famous La Belle et la Bête was released. The film, starring Jean Marais and Josette Day, brought to life the popular Beauty and the Beast fairy tale and enchanted audiences with its stunning cinematography.

In a similar fashion, Neil Weiss’s poem “Beauty and the Beast,” published in Prairie Schooner in the fall of 1962, depicted the fairy tale’s last scene. —Emily Burns

Neil Weiss
Beauty and the Beast

She is running to meet me
and I am dying here
by this wretched canal.
It’s the story of my life.

Dear Beast, she cries, don’t die!—
and I smile to myself, all that love
suddenly centered on me,
and I know I will not die.

How will I use it? I will
be beautiful again,
all the rust scraped from my soul,
my face a clear reflection…

But she is running harder,
in a state of terror, afraid
she’s too late with the knowledge
that it is me, me, me

she loves in an overflow
from her heart. I know that overflow,
fully understand it and approve
(damn my consciousness!), and now

I feel my face start to change
as I rise from the ground,
thoughtful, responsible, my mind
heavy with the coming life.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 36, No. 3 (Fall 1962)

Alberta Clipper 10/14/2014: “A Visit to Laugharne” by Rose Rosberg

On October 14, 1913, Senghenydd, Wales witnessed a horrifying mining disaster. A terrible explosion from inside the local coal pits killed 439 miners and one rescuer, making the Senghenydd Colliery Disaster the worst coal mine explosion in the history of the United Kingdom. Coal mining was an early and long-lasting major source of income in Wales, and evidence of mining in the area dates back to the 14th century.

In 1963, Prairie Schooner published a section featuring Welsh poetry in the fall issue. This section explored the rhythm and different sounds represented within Welsh bardic writing forms. The fall of 1963 was a particularly warm one for Lincoln, NE, with 94 percent of the days in October reaching higher-than-average temperatures. This particular fall was not only blistering hot, but October had the clearest skies of the entire year. –Clarissa Siegel-Causey

Rose Rosberg
A Visit to Laugharne

I discovered Dylan’s lane
    of quaint houses sleeping in their nest
        of deceptive peace;

I heard, in turn, after my climb
    the wry counterpoint of those time-
        slanted headstones

which peered through disheveled grass
    down at his sea, a silver-shot mist
        withdrawn from its sands;

curlews fluttered, lost, with a keening
    constant and thin, their clamor high-
        pitched like that of ghosts

above the beach, now idle
    silence waiting on the tide’s clock
        for its lover’s return.

How those cries strained to touch
    the far here—I know too
        how quietness flows

to reach for storm with the blind
    fingers of those curlews’ calls
        over the widowed sands.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 37, No. 3 (Fall 1963)

Alberta Clipper 9/30/2014: ‘On the Death of James Dean’ by Ralph Pomeroy

On September 30, 1955 a young actor died in a car crash at the age of twenty-four, turning him into an icon for many generations to come.  James Dean was that actor.  He only starred in three films, East of Eden, Giant, and, of course, Rebel Without a Cause.  He was the first actor to receive posthumous Oscar nominations. Three years after Dean’s death, Ralph Pomeroy’s “On the Death of James Dean” was published in the Prairie Schooner’s 1958 fall issue.  That fall, the temperature near the end of September was marked with a high of 90°F.  While October was the warmest month with an average temperature of 71°F, making for a relatively pleasant autumn.–Danielle Pringle

Ralph Pomeroy
On the Death of James Dean

How dear, how fair, how prodigal to die.
            And young, while flare
            The lacquered laurels, and stare
The thronged fans, wronged by his going, as I.

Yet here, and there, unaware, the sun unbinds the blinds;
            The May boughs lean on elbows
            Sleeved in rose;
The summit squirrel swings his limit and finds.

In drear, in spare dusk, in a silver Spyder,
            Strumming speed like music-muscles,
            He sped below night’s corpuscles:
The stars; spied, in the dousing dark, pale horse, pale rider.

Could clear, could bare, this wild, wanting world.
            As though through wondering,
            Staring, sparring, sparing, thundering,
Crowds of mug-muddlers could be foiled, be furled.

Mourn near, mourn far, the death of this larky boy
            Who carried and buried wheat;
            Who learned immortality in its feat
Of growing; who yearned for, and earned, the strenuous yoke of joy.

Alberta Clibber 9/16/2014: ‘Untitled’ by Marina Tsvetaeva

The Ukraine Crisis, as it has been termed, has been all over the news for a while now and, despite the controversy with Russia, it is important to remember that great works can come from anywhere. Marina Tsvetaeva was considered one of the great poets from the Silver Age in early twentieth-century Russia. Her poetry didn’t reach international acclaim until after her death in 1941.  Some of her poetry, originally written in 1916, resurfaced in the fall 1996 issue of the Prairie Schooner after having been translated by another Russian poet, Nina Kossman. That September in Lincoln was relatively warm with an average temperature ranging from the low 60s to high 50s before steadily declining in October and November. -Danielle Pringle

Marina Tsvetaeva       

Though a rival, I will come to you
Sometime, on a moonlit night
When frogs wail in the pond
And women are insane from pity.

And, moved by the flutter of your eyelids,
And by your jealous eyelashes,
I will tell you that I’m not a person,
Only a dream that you’re dreaming.

And I will ask of you: Console me,
Someone is driving nails into my heart!
And I will tell you that the wind is freshening,
That the stars are hot over my head…



"Kloster Stefan (near Heidelberg)" by Stephen Crites

“Kloster Stefan” was published in the fall of 1967, an autumn that was relatively chilly. Its average temperature of 52.2°F placed it in the bottom quarter of Lincoln’s autumns, but the September-May snowfall season that year actually ranks as Lincoln’s lowest in recorded history, with only 7.2 inches of snow for the entire winter. In an unrelated Lincoln note, the fall of ’67 saw the passing of Legislative Bill 569, which created a work-release program for inmates at the Lincoln Penitentiary. At the time, the inmates were returned to the prison at night; now, they live in a community residential center where they can work on their education, attend substance abuse counseling, and generally prepare for life outside of prison.

The Alberta Clipper gusted into my life two and a half years ago, when I was just an intern at the Prairie Schooner. Even after graduation, I kept my “pet column” on the Schooner’s website, revisiting campus every other week and catching up with my friends in the English department. Sadly enough, the time has come for me to bid the Clipper a fond “auf wiedersehen,” as my fiancé and I are moving to Heidelberg, Germany to teach elementary-aged kids at an English-speaking international school. At least now I’ll have plenty of poetry- and Nebraska-related trivia to share abroad! –Tory Clower

Stephen Crites
Kloster Stefan
(near Heidelberg)

Weed patch ruin, stones tumbled down
where the hungering men, sweat under gown,
fought the thistle to win the crown.

Five centuries peaked above
the Neckar, they tolled, tilled, moved
among these stones, strove to love

beyond desire – then bells, beads
and men fell. The profligate weeds
spawned in the shell, spreading seed

from pistil in senseless rotation a half
millennium more. Like an unkept grave
the cloister waits the burning of the chaff.


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