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Winter 2005, Volume 22.2

Poetry

William Kloefkorn

Photo of William Kloefkorn.

Former Nebraska State Poet, William Kloefkorn has published several collections of poetry, among them Dragging Sand Creek for Minnows; Houses and Beyond; Drinking the Tin Cup Dry; and Sergeant Patrick Gass, Chief Carpenter: On the Trail with Lewis & Clark. Two memoirs, This Death by Drowning and Restoring the Burnt Child, were published by the University of Nebraska Press. Emeritus Professor of English at Nebraska Wesleyan University, he lives with his wife Eloise in Lincoln, Nebraska.

See other work by William Kloefkorn published in Weber Studies at: Vol. 6.2Vol. 17.3, and  Vol. 20.1.

 

Maturities

Each time I see a western red cedar
I think of maturity. After
four hundred years the red cedar

achieves it, its maturity extending
more than three thousand
years—if it behaves itself, drinks its juice,

gets plenty of sleep and follows
its mother's advice.
Ma-tur-i-ty. How beautifully it rhymes with

Hu-mil-i-ty. I look up to where a treetop
disappears in a gathering
of clouds. I am an infant trying to behave

himself, trying to drink his juice, trying
to get plenty of sleep
and to follow his mother's advice.

Mother. Who recently at ninety-one
fell to the floor
of her forest to become the mulch

for both saint and sinner to feed on.
Holding hands there-
fore we encircle the largest cedar

in DeVoto Grove. Ring around the rosy,
a pocketful of posies.
Flesh and sap and bark and bone

we all fall down.

 

In a Classroom in Minneapolis, Kansas High School,
Home of the Lions, A Young Girl
Lies on the Carpet,
Sleeping

There is wisdom in our dreaming, too,
isn't there?—lessons
derived from the closed eyelid,
the relaxed fist, the mind wandering
far from its fenced-off field.

Not a young girl, actually, but a young
woman, and perhaps she isn't
asleep, but only resting, with
her eyes closed, giving her ears
their chance to hear whatever

is being said more richly. She lies
on her stomach, palms
down, one side of her face
against a bluish carpet that
others in their seats are resting

the soles of their shoes on. Why
is she so privileged? Because I am
a visitor here, talking about
whatever it is I am saying, probably
I will never know. Is she asleep or

only resting? Asleep or resting,
she is the subject of what I believe
I am talking about, that ancient urn
with its perpetually fixed and un-
fixed configurations. Without moving

she catches the sun. What it is
I am saying must be somebody's
dream, now or later. So don't
disturb her. Let us leave her,
when we leave her,
here.

 

Darkroom

In the darkroom that smelled
not only of fixer and developer
but also of red earth and must,

darkroom that was the cave
we stored our abundance
of canned goods in—jars

and more jars of peaches, beans,
potatoes, row on row
of jams and jellies—I

worked a roll of film up and
down in a magic liquid
until in the reddish glow

of the magic safelight I saw
the negatives evolve, old man
posing serenely in a casket,

and the next day the images
from the printer so sharp
in their eventual glossiness

they brought tears to the eyes
of his wife, Edna, whose
hand-made pies in my

parents' café brought praise
from the mouths
of the customers, so many

lost now in sepia in the
grottos
of the no longer living.

 

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