Stephen Meats






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Stephen MeatsStephen Meats
was born in LeRoy, Kansas (March 16, 1944), and raised in Concordia, Kansas.  He graduated from Concordia High School in 1962 and attended Kansas State University for three years before transferring to the University of South Carolina in 1965, where he earned his bachelor’s (1966), master’s (1968), and doctoral degrees in English (1972). 

He has taught at the U. S. Air Force Academy (1968-1972), the University of Tampa (1972-1979), and Pittsburg State University (1979-present), where he is currently University Professor and Chairperson of the Department of English.  Besides scholarly articles, editions, and reviews, Meats has published one book of poems, Looking for the Pale Eagle (Topeka: Woodley Press, 1993). 

His poems and short stories have appeared in numerous journals, including Kansas Quarterly, The Little Balkans Review, Albatross, The Quarterly, The Laurel Review, Blue Unicorn, Tampa Review, Arete: A Journal of Sports Literature, Hurakan, Flint Hills Review, Prairie Poetry, Dos Passos Review, Angel Face, and The Laughing Dog, and in the anthologies, A White Voice Rides a Horse (1979) and Kansas Stories (1989).  Since 1985, he has been poetry editor of The Midwest Quarterly.



Once when I was a child

in the middle of a Kansas blizzard

I looked into my parents’ oil stove

through mica panes in its door

and saw three gray and black birds

with orange eyes

walking in the midst of the fire.


I called my mother to see.


She took a mop handle

and smashed those birds

into piles of ash.


From The Florida Arts Gazette (1978)
and Looking for the Pale Eagle (1993).
Copyright Stephen Meats



All This Moving Apart


It’s easy to see why some find it

hard to believe.  Infinity

compressed into a cube


that could rest in a teaspoon.

And then the rupture,

the unimaginable spattering


—across even more

unimaginable distances—

of galaxies and other wonders


that race away from each other

with ever increasing velocity.

But there it is.


Mathematical calculations,

say the scientists, and the latest

astrophysical observations


lead to conclusions inescapable.

It must be true.  But we two

who watch white crowned sparrows


feeding along the fence row

and feel the frost under our feet

as we walk the winter field


are obliged to ask the question:

How could this unimaginable

sequence of incomprehensible events


lead at last to us?

The wind tumbles a crow

into the upper limbs of a dead elm


that has shed great sleeves

of bark to shatter on the ground.

Our hands find each other


as the crow’s clawed feet find

the naked branch thirty feet above.

It is too improbable.  The mind


cannot encompass the enigma

that stretches across the vast wastes

and deserts of cosmic time


to the crow’s black claws

clasping the dead branch,

to my hand pressing into yours,


to the heat we share

clinging together in all

this cosmic moving apart.


From Angel Face (2005)

Copyright Stephen Meats

My Advice


You say you want to find yourself.  You’ll need

a piece of gravel.  Drive any rocked road

in Kansas and you’ll hear pieces by the dozen


knocking in your wheel wells.  For once, stop

and get out of the car.  Take a minute to look

at the sky—flat bottomed clouds shadowing


the pastures.  You’ll hear the meadowlark

on the fence post before you see him fly.

Pick up your piece of gravel.  If you’re far


off the main route, a handful of chat, or even

road sand will do.  Cup it in your palm while your

tires hum away the miles on the asphalt highway.


Warm it in your pocket as you drink your coffee

at the café counter in the next town, and stay

a while to look at the faces and listen to the talk.


Then take it home with you and right away

put it in your garden or your flower box or drop

it in the driveway.  It doesn’t really matter.


You’ve already got your answer.


From The Dos Passos Review (2005)

Copyright Stephen Meats


If the Inquisition Had Come to Coffee


The coffee was safe in its shaded cups, the grapes

on the plate were snug in their cloudy skins

when the evening sun like an iron bar

levered open the end of the porch

and hung its ruddy beacon where we sat.


With this new light behind you, every word you spoke,

every gesture you made showered sparks

like meteors entering the atmosphere, and I saw

that your head was a planet in her quarter phase

and the moth circling your face was a moon.


If the inquisitorial magistrates had been there to see you

as I saw you then, I think the true relation of sun

to earth and stars might have been revealed to them,

and Galileo with his telescope and Jupiter and the mountains

of the moon could with ease have balanced for the rest of us

the forces of faith and reason in one peaceful orbit.


From The Quarterly (1988)
and Looking for the Pale Eagle (1993).

Copyright The Quarterly and Stephen Meats






















 All poetry on this page
© by
Stephen Meats, 2006


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