~ 2009 ~
Kansas Poetry Month Contest

Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate's, biweekly Contest, through April 2009


Contest #3 Winners, Theme: Kansas Portraits
View Winners, Contest  ► #1   #2   #3   #4   #5   6#  #7   #8


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Thank you all for the wonderful response. I continue to enjoy all the entries. There are two categories, professional writers and all others. Professional writers, in my opinion, are those who have published one or more books of poetry with an established press (not self-published). So my favorites are these five, and I hope everyone continues to enter the next round! -- Denise Low


Congratulations to the Ad Astra Poetry Contest #3 winners: JRobert Day (Luddell) and Kevin Rabas (Emporia), in the professional category; and Kiesa Kay (expat Kansan in Col.) and Diane Wahto (Wichita). All these writers give vivid renderings of the theme, Kansas Portraits.


Eden or Lucas, Kansas
   by Kevin Rabas -- author of Birdís Horn (Coal City Review Press) and End of the Set (Woodley) as told by my uncle, Charles Keller, who gives tours of the place ďYou know where I live? I live right next door to the Garden of Eden. Up the wayís Paradise, and you go down about a half a mile and you end up in Hell Crick.Ē --My grandmother, Bertha (Keller) Rabas

Your fatherís motherís people lived not far
from where old Dinsmoor lies now.
Your grandmother
fed old Dinsmoorís badgers gingersnaps
Sunday mornings while Dinsmoor mixed cement.

Some called it sacrilege,
some sacrament.
But Dinsmoor was 64,
and figured the Lord
would forgive,
knowing he had so few
flexible years left to live.
Already he was stiffening.

Evenings, before turning in,
Dinsmoor worked
backyard aloe balm
into the cracks in his hands,
fearing his fingers just might crumble
under his wifeís pillow during the night.

Heíd spent his whole life
planning the place,
the cabin stacked and mortared
using concrete logs,
the ziggurat for his body
and the body of his wife,
the shed, the garage, the planter,
and Eden above.

Every year,
while Dinsmoor built out back,
we had to borrow
just to put the wheat
back into the ground.

I thought what he built
would last forever.
However, at the start of autumn
when it rains
you can see the faces
of Dinsmoorís statues
erode so slowly
it pricks your own skin
to watch.

No one knows
how to mix the mortar,
no one learned the secret,
so the arms are falling off of Cain,
the legs off Abel,
the breasts of their wives
are crumbling, Adamís cane is crooked,
Eveís hair has fallen,
and the snakeís in need
of complete repair.









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Teal Hunting with Two Old Uncles
     by Robert Day, author of The Last Cattle Drive and
         We Should Have Come by Water, a chapbook of poetry

Septemberís never cold enough for ducks and whiskey.
I shoot in Tee-shirt and moccasins
as green wings hustle from pond to pond
in the yellow morning.

My uncles miss chances, drinking
on the bench deep in the blind
swapping stories about Cheyenne Bottoms
and Snow Geese bigger than the moon.

In the afternoon I work shirtless, laying
strips of sod on the blindís roof,
careful as my mother tiling her kitchen counter.
My uncles sit on campstools whacking at wasps
with rolled up Ducks Unlimited.

That evening I shot two limits: Blue wings
came in low over the decoys. I dropped
a lone Cinnamon at sundown. My uncles
napped on their bench, twitching.
like old hunting dogs loaded with dreams.

Gardner Lake Firefighters
      by Kiesa Kay

Our volunteers couldnít afford a fire truck.
Instead, we had a fire Beetle Ė
an orange VW beetle with blazing red lights
on top. Mr. Reed, the fire chief,
would leap into that Beetle and zoom
to the rescue, sirens blaring.
The one hose didnít work too well, so sometimes
neighbors would form bucket brigades
from the lake to the house aflame.
Once when the lake was frozen six inches deep,
some guys threw snowballs at a burning house
while the other guys tried to crack the ice.
Once when a house hadnít burned too much,
but its owner really needed some money,
the firefighters got together and tore down the porch
before the insurance adjuster got there.

 The Man Who Never Saw the Light of Day
     by Diane Wahto
Early morning he dresses in the kitchen
while his wife brews coffee on the stove
and packs his lunch pail, spreading mayonnaise
across white bread, filling the red thermos.
The girl sits in the corner at the table.
She is six and what he calls work, she calls fear.
He puts his hard hat on and his light
and walks in the dark to the mine.
In the evening the girl waits on the steps
watching until his dirt-black face gleams
through the dusk. He is always out of sorts,
raving about what it means to be a man,
to pour his sweat and blood into this family.
The woman keeps her head down and doesnít answer.
Late at night, her harsh voice penetrates the walls.

Now on spring days my father and I
walk around a town so small
it takes us less than an hour to cross it.
On the west side, we pass a monolith
of eroding concrete and steel,
remains of a worked-out mine.
I knew it was a mistake, your ma and me,
after six weeks, but you were on the way by then.
His voice goes funny and dry.
I catch a whiff of rust,
the seductive decay of long-extracted ore.