The Alberta Clipper
On March 17, 1988—a fairly warm day for Lincoln, NE reaching a high of 43 degrees—Carolyn Kreiter-Kurylo published her first poem in the Prairie Schooner Spring issue titled “Dream: Catching the Air.” In a poem of memories revived while dreaming, Kreiter-Kurylo fondly recalls how “Always before bed, / you read Light In August/ or Les Miserables.”
It was on this same day over in Europe that the world-renowned Les Miserables premiered its first full West End/ Broadway production at the Det Norske Teatret in Oslo, Norway. A production based on the novel written by French poet and novelist Victor Hugo, the play focuses on several characters’ lives, including Jean Valijean, a man working for redemption.
What a stirring, haunting bed-time story!—Alexandria Douglas
Dream: Catching the Air
I watch them lower you.
Each time in the night’s
thin hour, you tremble.
Your face, its gaze
once cold under lamplight,
struggles out of a seizure.
You raise your mouth
and breathe back.
Staying long in my dream,
you breathe air
into the mouth laboring
Out of a tremor,
you move, catching
air on your tongue
as if you might fill
This morning I place iris
on the bedstand, watch
them turn velvet
as first light floods
your room. Our summers
were life this: opening
windows to mountains,
honeysuckle reaching us
through mist. Afternoons
we wrote on the porch
swing. Always before bed,
you read Light in August
or Les Miserables.
“What one man wont do
to another,” you said resting
your head on the bedpost,
your voice steady.
Now each time you speak
To me in a dream, I wake,
my heart opening, and write
down your words.
For years I go on recoding.
This evening shadows
around me flicker, the house
dark. A candle illumines
your picture as a young
girl lying in a bed
of clover. Were you
your mother alive
in sleep? I lean
my head against a chair’s
back and doze off.
In a dream you rise
from the clover. Running
toward you, I extend
my arms, taking you in.
Again a seizure pulls
you down. You struggle
for air while moonlight
pours across the floor.
I wake wondering,
How long can we keep
the dead alive this way?
Until the skies darken,
The stars seem to say.
All these years you have
done it so well.
Prairie Schooner, Vol. 62, No. 1 (Spring 1988)
The winter of 1998 is said to have been one of the worst winters in Nebraska. For example, on this day that year—as Prairie Schooner launched our Spring Issue—it was a balmy 29 degrees in the Nebraskan capitol, and it was snowing. It goes without saying that residents in Lincoln were wistfully thinking about heading south during those cold times. Somewhere nice and warm. A state like Florida. In fact, Florida became a state on this day in 1845. Though some at the time believed that Florida should be split into two different states, West Florida and East Florida, the territory was admitted to the United States as a single state. Congress and President Tyler agreed to welcome Florida and its wonderful weather as the twenty-seventh state of the Union on March 3, 1845.
Nicole Cuddeback’s poem dedicated to the “Sunshine” state was published in Prairie Schooner Spring 1998. Her poem titled Florida creates a collage of images that perfectly express the warmth and all-around daydream worthiness of Florida, the twenty-seventh state. —Dani Kerr
Melaleuca, Brazilian pepper, cabbage palm, Australian pine.
Rock oyster, bleeding tooth, banded tulip, pelican foot, coquina,
lightening whelk. Teeth of tiger and lemon shark, black in the loss
of fifteen million years. Home. Dawn-lit tendrils curling through
the iron mesh of a just-placed garden chair. Stand and sink
in the moist, haired ferns, mud. And there are hills – that don’t quite fit
like cypress knees heartened out like burial mounds, lumps in throats,
brief gashings of azalea through the low dips of wadded magnolias,
the crack in a word thought calm. Water, wind – but inland among
the little Etrurias, Rosewoods, cracked parking lots: something
swells the flat. Dirt’s response to tears? Hot weeds bent above overturned
bowls, giant ghoul bellies of brim. Who accounts for the spilled, swallowed,
for me evolved to this? One finger hung in the warm water, stuck
with knife groves of buzzing and palmetto, molten noons, the swim
on the distant pavement, evenings of lizard’s neon throats cast full,
gone in a wave, and always the heat, even in the foam that won’t
come in, on waves grimy jade ten orange as signs on closed roads,
finally black around the one crease drained by the moon – mounds both steadfast
and shifting: not mine, mine, the shame finger cooling, going out, always pointing off
where the wilderness of the ocean meets the smaller void of the gulf.
Prairie Schooner, Vol. 72, No. 1 (Spring 1998)
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
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)
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
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)
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
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)
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
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.
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)
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
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
his old man
no doubt gave
him a sword
to teethe on,
and a scout
for the Philistine
had him under
the end of
it was a fix;
and who wouldn’t
at the sight
of that arr-
ogant runt with
the sling, who,
for all his
psalms, would later
buy one wife
with a hundred
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)
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
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)
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
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-
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)
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
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.