Tallgrass Prairie Burn Cycle Poems

13 Poems. Newton Kansas.

Advent 2009

The small owl's death at my hand.

Late, last evening, a small dun-red screech owl stooped
North into the passenger window glass of the car door.

The soon to be eaten mouse, rabbit or vole that 
was the pelletted teleos of the owl's formal dive? 

This is always the way to home from work. I stopped
at our end of the drive for the newspapers and the mail.

I went back for the body. Habit, I suppose as I usually
do not leave dead carcasses for the traffic to road out

in the gravel composting and reddish umbers and brackish
Compounds, I do not mean to deny the carrion eater's meal.

Fledging off the meal from the possum's dangerously easy 
flesh-want and dark pleasured table grace was only thought. 

What is the appropriate response to a culture of death? 
This little reddish brown bird didn't  leave a smudge on the window. 

The carcass is in my freezer, wrapped in a towel. I am going 
to need some ritual now  for its departure. It is illegal to 

possess such strong talismans. Raptor flesh is not flesh
to be consumed by man, taboo and interdict say.

The breast feathers would make fine nymphs
and river streamers in spring creek haints,

But this body must not be molested. 
Chickens, gamebirds and cocks are for tying flies.

Perhaps a little finger blood and a sharp blade will annoint this little one. 
Why can I not recite the right prayers over this little corpse? 

It would be too much to tosson the carrion platform in the north pasture. 
The crows and turkey vultures would be frightened and not  return

for the roadkill deer meats.  There is already enough war.
But this creature is not my totem animal. It is not megafauna 

terror in the night. It is not mountain lion, bear, bobcat, 
badger or coyote, with whom I share predation.

Yet, these little owls cache food in the nooks and crannies of trees. 
They makea root cellar of food, they breed late in the winter 

and the tremolo calls will make you weep. Their territories 
are marked with sounds as if poet. Males snap their beaks 

and hop like lunatic gourd dancers  and then sleep 
with as many females as they can.

They have been seen carrying live snakes to their nests
to eat the insects from around their nest cave. 

They are solitary except during breeding. I put on my chore coat, 
and mud boots, Walk to the hedge row in the south wind.

warm at my back. The owl wrapped in my hands will remain 
until I can say a prayer that involves my own death, 

my own hunger for meat, my own hunt for breeding grounds, 
my own gourd dancing for sex. My ability to pray will choose the tree. 

As such, it becomes a green ash.  The crotch is protected.
There isn't any sap this time of year. One week into Advent 

and I give the little one a notch of blood. A kiss is not allowed. 
The words that come are not mine alone.

"Peter, do you love me?" Yes Lord, you know I love you.
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

All Saints Day 2009

Miscalculations of near winter solstice dark and the third 
gin and tonic proffered and refused by the beautiful dark man
in the luxuriant overcoat. The expression of an 
algorithm that is inexorable, and will not stop.

I have perceptions of rites that are sometimes unclear
as dreams and tarot spreads. What is the clockwork
ritual that sews up time and wipes sins clean?

My mind clicks through a catalog of ritual prayers, 
sacrifices, marigold rings and cups of scented wine. A 
chalice n olarger than the carcass of this dead fletcher of angles.

I am desparate to believe in something that pins faith 
to the ground. It is impossible to recognize without the deaths
and spines are broken all around.

Perhaps the syncretic creeds and sacraments of chrism oil,
 washing, and wrapping. The prayer flags somewhere
 in my chest and does not get uttered properly.

Holy Cross Day 2009

I have decided, chosen really, to not hunt this year.
The falcons and bobcats will not compete with me.

Do you think the quail care who gets to eat of their flesh?
Their berry stained breasts? My bloodlust is going to rise

And fall disquised as heat and chill and too much old vine zinfandels.
My dreams are getting full of raped men who wear torn overcoats.

The dogs will ahve to do without waiting for little deaths to bring love
Will I only drink white wine this fall. What meats will have to be abandoned?

The contents of the little bird's gullets will remain unexamined. There will be no seeds fingered and dropped slowly onto frosted ground. My family will just have to do without.

Walking miles in the tall switchgrass and turkeyfoot. (My life list of birds accretes but is no longer secret.) The taste and hanker for blood does not abate. Keeping us saved and sanctified with its purity of purpose. There are coverts of rough dogwoods and sumac with bird flushes that bring tears. Offering themselves, "Choose me!"

We are all words made flesh in the fields of the lord of the hunt. Sometimes
my arms rise on instinct at a wild flush. God hates pointing dogs. We both know

where the birds are going to be. Retrievers are sacred. Do you not want the frisson of the wild flush, the shiver of acapella boys' choirs? The awesome certainty of fear and strange.

My wife is concerned. My priest doesn't know hunting from fishing and does not speak to me. I have lost any purpose I have in being in the south pasture today.

No gun, no retrieve, my slowing boots tripping and always looking down and stumbling.

I came here to pray. I cannot pray. Without prayer, hunting is an evil thing. A culture of death.

A fungus covers my eyes, mouth and ears. Without prayer I am yet again a guise. The quail consent is no more a consubstantiaion of everything sacred. 

The proper response. The proper response to the beautiful dead is awe. Is there anything yet so conclusive? Do you know this? Have you felt the bloodlust rise up. Ten rusty spikes in the dark apple trees?

Are you worth the sapling's measure? How the dry of the feathers is in your hand. The quibbles and wet of the too tender pink is thumbed gently out of the chest. It used to be easy.

I choose careful angles, shooting lanes, knowing the lure of the clean double pull. The wingset of birds flown free, the falcon working beyond the dogs. The midair taking a sort of predatory prayer of bird eating bird. I have to confess to my dogs that I am a liar.They instantly forgive me. Is there anything conclusive about this impotence? 

My wife is very concerned. Friends worry about me and laugh to each other about the foolishness. I still clean their birds for an offering. The dogs howl in their kennels all night. Their dreams of birds becoming young saturine lovers do not comfort them.

Make Special for me

Make special for me
By praying we see

Ornaments and Embellishments for finding
Our voices of authentic submission.

Bonded within my secular temperaments.
I will get rid of my books of belief

I never met God. Close sometimes.
Pleasure has always loved Him.

The deal-making around happy deaths
Priests go to town, drawing balances

Make special for me
By praying we see a new

Everywhere I went I was
I Was confused by the death of Carlos

I am sorry. Look at me.
I am Miserable

Did you pray to her?
No, I prayed that faith gives
dead to the dance?

Make special for me
By praying we speak
ruining my manners

Godic rightly claims that what is lost
Is nothing to what is found.

Watching the heavy frost melt
Saturday in bed after sex and reading

What is the main idea of the world
According to what we draw pictures of.

Oh God. My body craves.
Men and mothers.

I have been lead by zealots.
Led as a precious child by many

I am grooved For zealotry,
utopian schemes are Morphine to me.

Who are they that seduced me with something
Elastic and soon set hard and inevitable.

Zealots who have been educated
To loosen their innocence bound by worship

To make prairie it
Takes clover and bees

Reverence alone
Will do,
if the bees Are Few.

By praying we see
Make special for me

Epiphany 2009

Last night I dreamed that young beautiful men were dancing
in my dusty chore clothes. The hems
of their long coats were frayed.

They worked me over like a choir. Beckoning
"choose me, pick this, why not here?
Why not this?"

Last week during the Sanctus my arms
rose on instinct, a ghosted gunrise
on a rooster pheasant.

Like some screwball charismatic, but
I heard the wingbeats. My life list
of birds grows daily.

But it isn't a secret anymore. Dun quails whisper
"make some trouble over me. I am
worthy of sacrifice."

My head is clean. My feet and hands are washed.
I have been here many times and for many
this will come after.

Something Makes it Happen Chrismas 9 2008

It used to be a kindness, tromping the low fields, choosing
angles and paths cast against the sunrise and the madaloras of wings. Each covey
rise like knots spreading the moveable light. Kestrels and prairie falcons sometimes
take prey far out ahead, using the dogs for their conveniences.

They have all gone home and I am left hunting and praying and weeping; stuck
like cake batter on the side of a bowl. Sweet Mary,
Mother of Christ. What if I can only drink white wine
this winter? What meals go unprepared and gamed recipes abandonded?
What does it mean to do without?

Walking several miles of belly tall grass does not help. I
shoot late on purpose. My doctor signs for
pills that do not help. I take them anyway. Friends offer
birds for the family table and ask about my eyes.
Anyway you slice it, I am ruined as a gun-shy pup. Culled
from long generations of bloodlust
rising and falling, a small green heat fluttering in my
inner ear and wrists like a hangover.

I told my priest that there are coverts of chickasaw plums,
blackberries, quince and smooth sumac
in the little river pasture thick with quail. Last week they
flung themselves at me; a curse,
a blessing, a benediction; and I stumbled and went down
weeping into the sedges and switchgrass. Duke, the big
chocolate lab, worried my face and rolled in the dirt
with me. Till I got up ato see to the rest of my guests.

I had thought my priest would say that god hates pointing dogs and
shorthairs. You shouldn't need to now where
the birds are. But he only shrugged and asked if I am doing
morning and evening prayers, and being diligent
in the Word. Dog, tears, quail, plums, falcons and frost are words.

I thought I would catch the ascent of the quail in my chest.
Wild-flushed, worthy and warrented. Are we not all word
made flesh in a rusty field. A still-point bought and payed for?

In the evening, Mary Anne touches my waist and asks for
a kiss, checking the ripeness of fruit before eating. I think
she gest hints from the dogs because they forgive my
confessions instantly. But, she claims it probably comes
from yoga. Something certain has to happen.

Casting tarot alone in my truck. Making field garlic tapenades,
straining fresh chevre and mortaring pestos while
Juniper scented breasts, rolled with lemongrass
pine seeds and celery roast. Is eating the only proper response?
Forty days from Easter all over again?

Easter 2008
Practical Hermeneutics

Do you wonder how long this banged-up boy from some dark bite of Kansas can keep doing this shit? See how easy it feels. How easy to say that he has to
stop doing this? Get better at something.

Did you hear him telegraphed along the buffalo roots in your backyard? Is that what brings you here, Did you dial the gloam loudspeakered across the pastures and feedlots between this place and Topeka?

Let's see how this one plays out. I know you want to. Our boy Wendell is getting himself ripped like a gravel roadbed by a stomp-rocket bull hauler with a cowbell cock and his favorite Blues for Allah CD.

Is this what brings you? Are you along this northern azimuth by accident?
How many sandburrs, cockleburrs, and creep-stickers are
finding each other in the double folds of your socks? Will these roots broadcast that far back?

Do you see? He's getting ridden like a setter on point,
struck like wheatstraw in the clevis of a plow, planted like tulip bulbs. Pay attention to
steel-toed boots. Notice the slip clay lugged deep in the soles and the careful grease along the tops.

Can you see the crowns of tiny gold stars
splash-inked along the slender calves? Do these signs and wonders get in your nails like an imperfect mold? Embargoed in the taut skin below your tender belly?

Were you hoping for a sweet smelling bible-baptist farmboy in a pressed down shirt? Looking for something more than Wendell jacking rough trade in the stalls?
Did you find something else on this tiny highway? Find
anything to straighten the wayward air?

Do you hear the dense waves freshen the bluestems and drop seed behind the reststop?

How long have you been waiting for pleasure to chant down a day instead of redded rain?

Planing a cellar door on St. Matthew's day

Behind the door are darklost jars of beets and jams, string beans and salsas that ringrattle together at each pull of the plane. New stump chains under the sawhorses darken in the grey light paying out from the cyclone vent.

Nodding off in the doorway shavings against the empty frames, hunkered with the dogs and potatoes there's maybe a different plan. I'm going to get slightly drunk and grill a newfresh chicken studded with lemons and garlic. Climbing out

I confess a forgetting of today’s obligations. I want to own a kind of belief spoken through the prophets. There's just so little room between the transom and threshold. The dogs nose around the milk snake molts and dark shavings swept together again the steps.

No one is home to see the last-long stroke. The door will probably not stay shut. The dogs will thank me. Mary Anne will give a sympathy that is gracious and kind all at once. Jesus, what a smooth thin skin rises from and through a sharpened plane.

It's fine breaking down the small hen with short pushes and the garlic and inky pinot are strong, the tiny rouged feathers stick to my wet hands. The gifts of gods for the peoples of gods. Take, eat remember what can last the coming winter.

LIke a Cello

Like a cello his voice stays low and sweet for me
we try to speak of things that are poorly formed,
About warm barn doors left unopened and unlocked.
How river stones are held by running water.

In here we speak of things that are lonely and warm.
How that boy sings hymns while he is sleeping.
About river stones he keeps by his bed,
how his daddy is tired and not yet proud.

This boy sings hymns when he is sleeping.
About his baptism, his feet on a muddy bottom.
His daddy knows that he is light and embarrassed;
The transfiguration went much better than this.

His feet on the muddy bottom
Witnessed by deacons and mothers and brothers.
The initiation of Jesus did not go so well as this.
Seeing his skin wet and brown.

Witnessed by sisters and preachers
Feeling his body small under the white gown
his skin wet and brown, slippery and cold
How river stones are kept by running water

Feeling his body small and heavy
His fathers arms in front and back and around him
How river stones are kept by running water
Low like cello his voice stays with me.

In Paradise, Gently Weeping

Watching you again this morning, still somewhere near dark
lazy and languid with your brothers across the square. Every
day I'm getting jailed with Paul and Silas, bound by

a stark affection. I pray with a rusted-out box of Marys long since
lost to you, you worship only honey colored things. This, my dappled one,
is what hounds wait and listen for. I will wash you with warm water,

get stumpbucket full of mole, mescal and pork chile well
before our hard won second act, slim chance. Carve it
into the big rocks out by the parkway. I am your means of grace.

I know about your pastures full of fine skinned red cattle, I know
how roasted bones cleave and the rooted surfaces of desire
go dyslexic, spun round like so much yarn on a fresh waxed floor.


Near the East Emma larkspur bind a damp curly place,
late in the evening our skin turning wet brown, sienna.
North tower bells at St. Georges find wind and stop here.
Sand plums grow and laugh at our eyes focused on distance.

Late in the evening our skin turning wet brown, sienna,
in land worn smooth as cellar stairs I follow your rising.
Sand plums grow and laugh at our eyes focused on distance,
forged near posts of honeysuckle, supple, warm and hazy.

In land worn smooth as cellar stairs I follow your rising.
North tower bells at St. Georges find wind and stop here.
Forged near posts of honeysuckle supple, warm and hazy.
Near the East Emma larkspur bind a damp curly place.

Advent 2008

“What intangible rewards are given to a man as you?” Words
Are no longer available or useful for frames of redaction.

Elaborate mathematical riddles played out on plaster
and mud forms. Scraped layered things are scalded with intent.

Things are designed to hurt. Relish the thoughtfulness of the very tiny
 and massively complex machinery inside the tender parts of your body.

The usefulness of a penis sheath proves that usefulness trumps aesthetics.
We are mentally unstable enough to begin spastic mistake making.

Forgiveness, healing, exorcism by passing an afflicted man-child through
A hole in a tree, in a rock, in a wall and scraping off the ghost’s pollution.

See the tan man making sex wreck the lightpole daddy. Trapped by a desire
Specifically made to preserve a value. Modifications are not performed.

So, feeding the beast is an disassociative behavior similar to any hypnotic,
Altered state. How would you treat this? Within ritual locating the body.

I passed his body through the millstone hole. Messy belief is real to me.
What are you willing to give up I asked? For this lifestyle. Name it.

Many names received not of blood. Fullness received grace easily forged.
Each forged record is found out in a strange wayward universe with full lips.

He is an old man with death surrounding his ears. His belief in progress only
A secular version of xtian faith in salvation for all, or atonement.

My child, do not forget my heart, length of life, welfare. We will do faith-
Fullness. Bind your neck to me. Acknowledge and make straight the way.

The gospel of making do, craftiness tells us that if you find a need to kill
A god, you pre-stage a resurrection. Bat as for you, continue to be learned.

Confessions of fortune's obvious child.

When teaching,  I need reminding, to breathe in:  to breath out.
You see, There are these little, not so little, not so happy,  creepy ghosts
that wander wicked and kind within, and in
and around the black and  hollow spaces of my lower brain
as if Chiari named their campground and ancestral grounding.

I guess, and never know why it is
that when; That When,  I walk and wander
that the work that needs to be done is done
 mostly alone and with ugly cookbooks and
bogus textbooks and skanky dictionaries of butchered
saints why are there so few mean spirits to recall
only my many mistakes to count them as cost and

mistakes to pray for an burn. Oh the sweet burning.
 I will say today that I am made of
mistakes. The mistakes that many of my teachers have
paid the price for all of my hasty arrogant performances of
I cannot do this:  I cannot do that: and for finding no more
value in their  jettisoned versions of the pereinnially lost story.

As if. As if these students of mine need any help emptying their bodies
of meaning. They are feeding me like kenotic masters inhabit each of them.
Pods of emotions battle dance within the slippery and graceless
ends that irregular verbs lock into their particular sleek and styleless
notions of defeat. As if  a god's persective never could change. To tell

 the same  old story, twill be a theme in glory to tell the old old story
of Jesus and his love. Young and young and just as
 I am without one plea that that thy blood was shed for me
over to time. Sometimes I am sorry to confess this.

My  systemic allergies are legion and students are
quick and sturdy in the forgiveness of my
excesses. Remember them in your prayers

tonight. Thanks be to God. There are so many ways to feel
picked clean, laundered and lint free. Mary Anne is beginning
a dance I like to watch pretending to be
asleep in my chair. When she freshes the covers

Her arms rise and fall. And with her breasts rising and
falling it is as if  my daily bread rises and falls with
the time. I am grateful to feel more alive than dead
today. Last night she tell me that our priest
reported observing a smile on my face for the first time in a long
time last Lord's  day.  I should be more careful in my defeats

Maybe she will reach out to me and I will not be lonely and
 the still warm parts of her touch is here and here.  There
and there. I dreamt she was getting ready for
work. Her work of washing bodies. Bodies for
funerals and she knows I can only trust the dead.

I have found comfort in pressing earth towards this bird
and turtle rich earth and the wormy asperagus  pushes
graves  into grassy graves. The digging of gardens
reminds me of the sprawl and tangle of this
teaching for a living kind of life. Hold fast to the
 screed of watching my life find its way back to God.


On the ride to school this morning, Brier told
me about the 90 day dope hitch your father started last
night. I must have missed his name in the paper. 
When you got in the car all I said was, "Tita Luna’s tamales were great. Can I buy some more on Saturday?"

On my way to Wichita, I thought how I stoned the same 
8th-grade-pushed-down-panic out of me not 
that long ago. "Take it easy." I told them when they got out,
But it was a too late for a benediction or a blessing.

My father's jailhouse mission is tomorrow night.
I hope Marissa doesn't know about this and that. Fathers' names hold us like wind in the big bluestem pastures this town colonizes freely.

Your parish, my daddy's bank, the county jail are all at 8th and Main.

Forgive me. Novels are written with less.
My prayers flush like quail off the sidewalk as
I walk into the black box of work north of Wichita.

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