The Alberta Clipper
Thanksgiving of 2007 fell on the 22nd of November. In Lincoln, trace amounts of snow fell on that day; the high was 28°F and the low 12°F. Nebraska turkey growers raise about 4 million turkeys each year and in 2007 alone, those turkeys produced 65 million pounds of turkey meat. The Nebraska Huskers lost to the Colorado Buffaloes on their annual day-after-Thanksgiving rivalry game, and Wendy Mnookin’s “Thanksgiving” was published in the fall issue of Prairie Schooner. - Tory Clower
One glass of wine is good for you,
Mother says. And three are too many.
No one needs to leave the table crying.
Salt takes out the stain.
Or is it sugar?
The cat meows,
Come in. Go out. Outside
The boundaries are clear.
I listen hard to the hiss
of the sun’s longing,
red leaves etched
by that other brilliance, sky.
In the most recent issue of Harper’s Magazine, a story by Joyce Carol Oates has caused much kerfuffle in the literary world. The story, titled “Lovely, Dark, Deep,” tears into the venerable Robert Frost and has drawn flak from many readers upset at the lambasting. In the views of one commenter on washingtonpost.com, “[the recent ‘fiction with real people’ genre] … is just trying to cash in on the association with the real people who are shanghaied into the writer's pirate ship and made to do an embarrassing little jig without a means to ransom himself.” Whatever the opinion, it’s inarguable that Oates is a prolific writer, with 24 pieces published by the Prairie Schooner alone. “Detroit by Daylight” was featured in the summer of 1968, which, with an average temperature of 76.1°, placed in the top half of Lincoln’s warmest summers.
by Tory Clower
Joyce Carol Oates
Detroit by Daylight
Brook and meadow long glazed over, a city of daylight
Pressed hard upon an ancient glacier has become
A kind of elegant mold: Look where there is room,
After centuries, for the bloom of leaf and kite
Spangled against a dusty spring dully bright—
I do not hate our Vapor turned Kingdom
I say no words against what is the sum
Of forty centuries of cold starclear night.
It is no alarm to see hordes of children in the street.
Houses are stuffed away and anyway it seems noon;
But why these shouts, why thunder of fists and feet
Of shifting tumbling sand? Why the savage fleet
Flash of knife? Why this noontime jazzed to murderous heat?
In the spring of 2001, Australian poet John Kinsella was published in the Prairie Schooner. His poem “Sublimated through our thought” mentions both “blokes working the Hundred Acres” and “…the Concorde / break[ing] the sound barrier.” In a strange coincidence, these two things are related outside of Kinsella’s poem.
On October 14th, 1926, Winnie-the-Pooh was first published. Created by A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh and his many friends are denizens of the Hundred Acre Woods, where they live with Christopher Robin, who was based on Milne’s son. On October 14th, 1947—twenty-one years, to the day, after the publication of Winnie—American pilot Chuck Yeager became the first human to break the sound barrier. October 14th also was the date of the Battle of Hastings, fought in 1066, between the Normans and the British; depicted on the famous Bayeux Tapestry, this was the last time Britain was successfully invaded.
As for Lincoln, Nebraska, October 14th has been as toasty as 91°F (in 1897) and as chilly as 24°F (in 2006); its record one-day precipitation took place in 1888, with 0.86 inches of rain.
by Tory Clower
Sublimated through our thought
You reconstruct your past
through ads in weekend liftouts
or the odd Australian novel
that finds its way onto an English shelf,
assuming the subject matter “Australian,”
which is a safe assumption to make.
A warm day, a sharp frost,
a stretch of empty moorland in the North,
might prompt your “memory.”
As farm machinery invests and dissects
the peaty soil of the fens
the reddish clay of the past
turns to dust or puddles like vats
of blood during flood. You pick up
on hearsay in a local pub,
or an aboriginal myth reconstructed
by an educational publisher,
“sublimated through our thought.”
What remains the same
no matter the place, is the gutted sheep,
the dogs among the entrails.
Though the heat intensifies
A cousin rides her horse
out to the blokes working
the Hundred Acres, their tucker
cool in her saddle bags.
Space is expansive and concentrates
her gender. Aborigines stook in families
and one of the white blokes
jokes about wine flagons turning to water,
he thinks his laughter pristine and expansive,
brilliant enough for any locality.
In the fens dialect is lampooned
and a bunch of lads sing karaoke,
forgetting their prejudices.
Somewhere, the Concorde
breaks the sound barrier
and modernity instills itself
as memory, an afterthought.
With Lincoln’s second-hottest November on record and only 11.9 inches of snow (the fifth-smallest total snowfall Lincoln has received since 1899), the winter of 1999 ended up as Lincoln’s fifth-warmest winter, with an average temperature of 31.9°F. During this winter, Denise Duhamel’s piece “Ego” was published in the Prairie Schooner; Duhamel has since contributed many pieces to the Schooner and was recently the guest editor for The Best American Poetry 2013.
by Tory Clower
I just didn’t get it –
even with the teacher holding an orange (the earth) in one hand
and a lemon (the moon) in the other,
her favorite student (the sun) standing behind her with a flashlight.
I just couldn’t grasp it –
this whole citrus universe, these bumpy planets revolving so slowly
no one could even see themselves moving.
I used to think if I could only concentrate hard enough
I could be the one person to feel what no one else could,
sense a small tug from the ground, a sky shift, the earth changing gears.
Even though I was only one mini-speck on a speck,
even though I was merely a pinprick in one goosebump on the orange,
I was sure then I was the most specially perceptive, perceptively sensitive.
I was sure then my mother was the only mother to snap –
“The world doesn’t revolve around you!”
The earth was fragile and mostly water
just the way the orange was mostly water if you peeled it
just the way I was mostly water if you peeled me.
Looking back on that third grade science demonstration,
I can understand why some people gave up on fame or religion or cures –
especially people who have an understanding
of the excruciating crawl of the world,
who have a well-developed sense of spatial reasoning
and the tininess that it is to be one of us.
But not me – even now I wouldn’t mind being god, the force
who spins the planets the way I spin a globe, a basketball, a yoyo.
I wouldn’t mind being that teacher who chooses the fruit,
or that favorite kid who gives the moon its glow.
On the morning of September 11th, 2001, shocked Nebraskans convened in Lincoln’s Centennial Mall to grieve together. Over the next several months, vigils and remembrance gatherings were held in the green space spanning the seven blocks between the University of Nebraska’s downtown campus and the Nebraska State Capitol. The Mall, constructed in 1967 to commemorate the state’s centennial, is currently undergoing a revitalization of aesthetics and functionality. September of 2001 in Lincoln was somewhat rainy (two daily record rainfalls) and somewhat warm (a monthly high of 96°), but nothing compared to the catastrophe which had just rocked America. “Metro North at Spuyten Duyvil, 7: 30 a.m. 9/11/01” was published in the Spring 2004 issue of the Prairie Schooner.
by Tory Clower
Metro North at Spuyten Duyvil, 7:30 a.m. 9/11/01
The crash the train makes crossing the bridge
wakes many of them this young morning.
Light reflects off the swells below
and dapples the air of the coach they ride in.
An analyst in her fierce suit drums
her blunt, red nails against the mottled glass.
Opposite, a young trader sleeps on
mouth agape, argyle feet in the aisle.
A foursome, each gray as Nester,
plays hearts with their jackets off.
August 26th is the first day of school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this year. Campus is gradually filling up with professors returning to their classrooms and students returning to their studies: some probably happier about this than others. Rachel Hadas’ “Back to School” epitomizes the combined feelings of dread and rebirth that accompany the start of many school years. Published in the summer of 1984, Hadas’ poem mentions the “last gist of summer,” which, with an average temperature of 76.3°F, places in the top third of Lincoln’s warmest summers; her sky’s “soaking wrap” nods to the combined precipitation of 10.12 inches from June to September.
by Tory Clower
Back to School
Season of mists…
The slimy windows on the bus to Princeton
uncolor everything. Container and contained,
I press my nose against the pane,
returning to the university
and feeling like a larva. Morning mists
sleekly encapsulate us drowsy passengers.
September as the sloughing off of ends.
We pass the Flower Shed
looming out of rime. Its legend boasts
Floral Gifts for All Occasions,
Weddings, Christenings, Confirmations, Funerals –
anthology of initiation rites,
floridly embellished passages
from one state to another. Here we are.
The sky begins to shrug its soaking wrap
off shoulders glowing still with some last gist
of summer. Now to each of us emerging
from the husk (bus, I mean), a tall bouquet
is handed out of air – out of thick air.
The stems leak lymph that glazes our arrival.
Howard Nemerov served as the US Poet Laureate twice: from 1963 to 1964 and from 1988 to 1990. Just one year prior to his second term, the fall 1987 issue of the Prairie Schooner featured his poem “The Revised Version.” During that autumn, Lincoln experienced its 6th-coldest October, but in keeping with the fiery theme of “The Revised Version,” 1987 on the whole ended up as Lincoln’s 7th-hottest year.
by Tory Clower
The Revised Version
The common curse forbidden to the young
When we were young – our grownups got it wrong,
Maybe from reading in a bad translation;
It wasn’t so much a curse as an invitation
To the great world’s permanent floating cocktail bash –
The scent, the smoke, the burning, and the ash.
A grownup in my turn I say the spell:
It isn’t Go to Hell, it’s Come to Hell.
The “paperback revolution” in the English-speaking world began on July 30th, 1935, with the publication of the first Penguin book. Inexpensive books with large print runs, “Penguins” sold in unconventional locations such as department stores, railroad stations, and drugstores. Rasma Haidri’s ode to the printed word, “Books,” was published in the spring 1998 issue of Prairie Schooner; this spring followed one of Lincoln’s hardest, snowiest winters, which had netted 44.6 inches of snow. Cooler than average, the mean temperature that spring was 49.8°F, with over a foot of precipitation.
by Tory Clower
Without shame I throw them into the fire.
New Yorkers, APR journals, Esquire,
after each is taken from the knee-high pile in my closet
and read. Still more arrive each week
and the pile increases: magazines, journals,
catalogs of new books, Daedalus remainders,
free offers from QPB, BOM, humble Spring Church selections.
They fill my bookcases and I buy more,
more books, more cases, the library
spilling into all the house. My daughter’s collection
forcing her toys into drawers under the bed.
Books are recycled friend to friend,
mother to daughter, new store to used,
read and reread until ultimately they perish.
Like the small paperback I placed
on the grate last night. Snug and trim as a log,
it took flame. Sucked smoke through curling pages.
My daughter stopped short and wailed –
But I haven’t read that book yet!
No matter that it has no pictures,
no matter that she is five and this
a fitting end for a 1970 marriage manual
called Strike The Original Match.
I take her weeping into my arms.
The moment palpable – how she believed
she would read every book ever written.
Small love, there are so many.
Read, and more will be written.
Consume, and more will be brought forth –
in you, and by ones like you
who love the written word
and would reach for it through fire.
On June 24th, 1993, Dr. David Gelernter became the twelfth victim of the Unabomber. A professor at Yale, Gelernter was critically injured after received a mailbomb sent by Ted Kaczynski. Kaczynski, whose bombs killed three and injured twenty-three, was arrested three years later and is currently serving life in prison without possibility of parole. In Lincoln in 1993, the average temperature for June was 68.8°, with a high of 92° and a low of 42°. This weather was lovely for the attendees of Lincoln’s third-annual free outdoor concert series, Jazz in June, which is now in its 22nd year.
by Tory Clower
Marcia Southwick’s “Ode to Wallace Stevens” was published in the fall of 2009.
Ode to Wallace Stevens
for Landt Dennis
The world is ugly, and the people are sad—
A drainage worker from Coco Beach has just climbed through
spider-filled pipes, strapped a 435-pound manatee to a stretcher
& delivered it in stable condition to Sea World. Is this ugly or
There’s sadness & ugliness of course. McDonald’s is extending
north into the Arctic circle & straddling the international date
spreading all the way to New Zealand and Western Samoa.
A shopkeeper in Lincoln, Montana, sells Home of the Unabomber
t-shirts because Ted Kaczynski had ridden his bicycle daily down
Main Street. The Dahoney Eye & Tissue Bank of Los Angeles
has harvested corneas from the dead without permission from
Robert Penn Warren is the only person to have won Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and poetry; he also served as the US Poet Laureate from 1986-87. His first Pulitzer in poetry was awarded in 1958, just one year before the Prairie Schooner published his poem “In Italian They Call the Bird Civetta” during the cool autumn of 1959. With an average seasonal temperature of 50.7°, 1959 fell in the bottom 10% of Lincoln’s coldest falls.
by Tory Clower
Robert Penn Warren
In Italian They Call the Bird Civetta
The evening drooped toward owl-call,
The small moon slid pale down the sky,
Dark was decisive in cedars
But dust down the lane dreamed pale:
My feet had once stirred that dust there,
But I see that Kentucky scene
Now only behind my shut eyelids
As in this far land I stand
At the selfsame ambiguous hour
In the heart’s ambiguity,
And Time is crumpled like paper
Crushed in my hand, while here
The thin moon slants pale down the pale sky,
And the small owl mourns from the moat.
This small owl calls from the moat now.
That other owl answers him
Across all the years and miles that
Are the only Truth I have learned,
And back from the present owl-call
Burns backward the blaze of day,
And the passage of years, like a tire’s scream,
Fades now while the reply
From the dew-damp and downy lost throat spills
To quaver in that home-dark,
And frame between owl-call and owl-call
Life’s bright parenthesis.
The thin moon slants pale down the pale sky:
The small owl mourns from the moat.