The Alberta Clipper
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.
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
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” 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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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.