April 12, 2016

Monday, June 14, 2010

50 State Tour: Nebraska (Poem & Prompt)

Nebraska, 37th state, is one of those places where Poet Laureate is a lifetime post. William Kloefkorn is only the second P.L. since 1921. Is it me, or does being a poet up your chances of living into your 90s?

(My friend Jennie is a die-hard Nebraska fan. Hope you like the shout-out, Miss Jennie!)

Kloefkorn was a longtime professor before his retirement, has published poetry, memoir and fiction. And he once won first-place in Nebraska's Hog-Calling Championship.

I'm sharing his poem, "August," both because yesterday was end-of-summer hot and muggy and because you MG/YA authors out there will appreciate it.

Kloefkorn writes achingly about the moment when a teen steps into the world of romance and sex, leaving a younger sib behind. Notice the layers that the speaker in the poem expresses. He's aware that something big is taking his sister away, but also aware that -- even if he found her -- he wouldn't understand what has changed her.


by William Kloefkorn

I am not old but old enough to believe
I know what Jimmy Stevens wants
when he invites my sister
into his Model-A. And because

I believe I know where he is going
I follow the car afoot, breathing
dust and exhaust until both
have left me

so far behind I must rely on what
I believe I know to get me
to where I believe they
are going. But I am

wrong. They aren't here,
meaning that wherever they are
I cannot find them, meaning
that whatever they might be doing

I cannot know, cannot put my small,
helpless body between them.
For a long time I sit in weeds
at the side of the road that failed

me, inhaling dryness, looking up
and into the brilliance
of uncountable stars. August,
the month of my birth. I am alone and

not alone, long beans in moonlight
hanging from the limbs
of catalpas, coyotes with their howling
saying something I believe just now

I understand. For a long time I sit
in weeds somewhere between
those most mysterious cousins,
knowing and belief,

my sister somewhere in a Model-A
saying what I cannot hear, touching
what I cannot reach.

Read the rest of the poem at  Verse Daily.

Authors -- let's use this poem as an exercise. 

Prompt: If you have a MG or YA character with siblings in your novel, write a one to two page scene about the moment one sibling has had a sexual/romantic encounter. Who is the first to realize he is leaving (or has been left) behind the other? Whether or not you use the scene, you're sure to make an interesting discovery.

Stop by tomorrow. If you're grieved and angry about the BP Oil disaster, you'll appreciate the Bill Cowee poem I'll be sharing.

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