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The Alberta Clipper

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       
Untitled

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.

'Suppose You Never Hit a Home Run' by Milton Speiser

Babe Ruth, or simply “The Babe,” hit his 700th career home run 80 years ago, on July 14th, 1934.  His final record of 714 career home runs, set the next May, lasted for nearly forty years, finally broken by Hank Aaron in 1974; only Aaron and Barry Bonds have bested the Babe in the time since. “Suppose You Never Hit a Home Run” has a more somber tone than this 80th anniversary warrants, but Milton Speiser reminds his readers that even if they aren’t superstars, the world will note their passing nonetheless.  Published in the Spring 1952 issue of the Schooner, “Suppose You Never” came forth into a chilly spring, placing in the cooler third of Lincoln’s historical springs, even though the last snow fell at the beginning of April. –Tory Clower

Milton Speiser
Suppose You Never Hit a Home Run

But suppose you never won the Davis Cup,
Never hit a home run,
Suppose you were never cheered by a crowd, nobody ever asked you for an autograph,
Suppose you were never a champ, but only a fighter in the prelims.

Bowed by boredom, toil and tears,
Wrap your mind in funny papers,
And live your life in ciphers
Down the mean streets of the years.
No retreat from the electric bill, the water-closet in the hall,
From dayspring to sunfall eke hunger,
And in the black hallways, on the fetid streets
Rear the fruit of your one-room loves.
In the clinic,
This your beloved body under the knife,
The last white light bright on the bone,
Pay breath’s last pinched penny
And into the ether cone whisper the last abject farewell.

Wreathe the tenements in black, fold in crepe the gutted brick,
Swathe the basements in black, and the railroad flats,
Spray perfume in the police precinct, strew flowers in the pool parlor, close the beer joints this one day,
And stick a lily in every manhole cover.

But when that hearse passes let some horns blow,
And let a wind take the crepe and rustle the leaves on the wreaths,
Let night fall in the mean streets
And one child cry.

'Small Boys, Three and Four' by Erinn Batekyfer

On June 23rd, 1989, Batman (the first feature-length Batman movie since 1966) opened in theaters. Starring Michael Keaton as playboy millionaire/caped vigilante Bruce Wayne and Jack Nicholson as his Joker nemesis, Batman went on to gross over $400 million in box-office totals worldwide and paved the way for Hollywood’s treatment of superhero movies today.

In the fall of 2008, Erinn Batekyfer’s poem “Small Boys, Three and Four” was published in the Prairie Schooner. That fall’s average temperature was 53.2°F, which was fairly standard; September was warmer than normal but both October and November were both cooler than the average, and September and October netted almost four extra inches of precipitation together. – Tory Clower

Erinn Batekyfer
Small Boys, Three and Four
for Oscar and Ike

Pickers of elaborate latches and locks;
knowers of terrible facts whose faces contort
into the faces of pythons unhinging their jaws
to swallow enormous antelopes whole;
tiers of mind-boggling nets of knots and diggers
of holes in the middle of the backyard;
disdainers of clothing whose Batman underwear
is all that reminds between you and gravity, now,
that force you experiment with like mad scientists;
wearers of yellowing bruises and bumps, proof
of how many chairs you’ve misjudged the leap from
in your frenetic living room lab—forget Newton!—
I see now, as you pile every blanket in the house
at the foot of the stairs and ready yourselves to jump,
that his laws cannot apply here, his equations
did not factor you in as variables, nor this part of you
that will never be sure you can’t fly, making every leap
the leap during which you might.

'Watching Golf on Father’s Day' by Douglas Goetsch

The winter of 1998-1999 stands as Lincoln’s thirteenth-warmest on record, with an average temperature of 30.6*. In fact, that February ranks as Lincoln’s third-warmest February, with a balmy average of 37.3*! The season still managed to net a total of over two feet of snow, although that was a sure respite from the year before, in which nearly twice that amount had blanketed Nebraska for months on end. Douglas Goetsch’s poem “Watching Golf on Father’s Day” provided a reminder that nicer weather was on its way – Lincoln’s June temperatures are typically in the 70s, and many Lincolnites celebrate Father’s Day with a round on one of the 17 golf courses in town. –Tory Clower

Douglas Goetsch
Watching Golf on Father’s Day

All those queer wasp names --
Kirk Triplett, Corey Pavin, Davis Love III --
those British stiffs whispering
ecstatically into the microphone.
They actually called one shot
“courageous.” I hate golf.
I sat alone in my apartment
rooting for Payne Stewart,
the one wearing old-fashioned knickers
who couldn’t get out of the sand trap --
C’mon Payne! Go get ‘em Payne! --
as the shadows grew long as fingers.

Dad would watch all afternoon,
hypnotized, chain-smoking,
right ankle glued to left knee.
When I asked how the ball could roll
so far on grass, he said,
“Those greens are as smooth as your mother’s rump.”
Mom said, “Dear!”
“Shh!” –Jack Nicklaus, “The Golden Bear,”
was getting set to putt. Buried
in the basement lay his gear, rusted
spikes of his shoes, his sand wedge
which could turn your head to jelly
if he teed off on you.

We went golfing, once. I was nineteen.
He was divorced and remarried.
He’d hit it a mile into trees
and say, “Son of a bitch!”
I’d hit grounders to the women’s tee
and say, “Son of a bitch!”
and we laughed, letting everyone
play through. I kept reaching down
to touch the greens. On the last hole
he kicked my ball out of a bunker
so I could make par, so he could say,
“Atta boy!” – the most fatherly
thing he’s ever done.

"Normal Light" by Alicia Ostriker

Alicia Ostriker’s poetry career spans fifty years, thirteen books of poetry (two of which were National Book Award finalists), and poems published in ten separate issues of Prairie Schooner. This year, she will be taking a different role at the Schooner: that of guest editor for the upcoming winter issue.

Her poem “Normal Light” was published in the Schooner’s winter issue of 2003, a season that averaged a temperature of 26.9°F and received a total of 31.7 inches of snow, which is about 25% higher than the norm. –Tory Clower

Alicia Ostriker
Normal Light

Normal light never killed anything.
When I beam my affection at you
Do not duck. It is not bullets.
Do not try to impersonate Superman.
It is not a laser.

What normal light wishes and dreams about
During its flight is how it will encounter
An object: every photon imagines this
The way we imagine gateways, that slowly open
As we fly toward them, into gardens,

The poppies and peonies making their mouths wide.
What actually happens to the light:
Striking a surface, some particles rebound
Like marbles, some are absorbed
And become heat, that’s it.

That’s usually it. But some
Flash on and inward to the curious cave
That is light’s garden, light’s antithesis,
And form an image.

                                    Sometimes an object struck
Where it has eyes, will see.
                                                Light dreams of this.

"Easter Song" by Yvan Goll

In 1966, Easter was celebrated on April 10th. In Lincoln that year, the last measurable snow fell on March 27th, but there was a trace of snow during the month of April. For Lincolnites, it’s about a fifty-fifty split on whether or not they’ll see snow in April; once the calendar moves to May, the chance of snowfall decreases dramatically (since 1900, May snows have only happened three times). That spring, Prairie Schooner published the poem “Easter Song,” written by Yvan Goll and posthumously translated by John Palen. Goll was a poet who wrote in both French and German; he described his ethnicity as “by fate a Jew, by an accident born in France, on paper a German.” – Tory Clower

Yvan Goll
Easter Song

When Easter came around
the grass was new and sweet
and an old daisy sprouted
as innocent as that

and a blond lambkin came
as innocent as that
and had so great a hunger
it ate the daisy neat

and a red butcher came
who never heard of spite
and butchered up the lambkin
for it was his by right

and a black horseman came
who asked not this or that
but simply shot the butcher
and down to mutton sat

and a white winter came
and covered up the spite
the lamb the butcher the horseman
the song and who knows what

Translated by John Palen

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Winter 2002
Winter 2002
Fall 2005
Fall 2005
Spring 1999
Spring 1999
Winter 2002
Winter 2002
Fall 2002
Fall 2002
Fall 2006
Fall 2006
Summer 2003
Summer 2003
Summer 1953
Summer 1953
Fall 1990
Fall 1990
Winter 1946
Winter 1946

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