2009 Poetry of Place Winning Poetry
Grace McManaman (fourth grade, Humann Elementary School, Lincoln)
Celie Knudsen (fifth grade, Prairie View Elementary School, Ogallala)
Emme Forsberg (third grade, Sheridan Elementary, Lincoln)
Jordan Nielsen (fourth grade, Wildewood Elementary, Ralston)
Katlynn Leslie Stone (fifth grade, Southwest Elementary, Indianola)
Chase Coggins (fifth grade, Prairie View Elementary, Ogallala)
Kacey Horn (eighth grade, St. Agnes Academy, Alliance)
Jake Moore (sixth grade, Pound Middle School, Lincoln)
Ellie W. (sixth grade, Pound Middle School, Lincoln)
Alyssa V. Olvera (seventh grade, Marrs Middle School/Magnet Center, Omaha)
Julia F. (seventh grade, St. Stephen the Martyr Catholic, Omaha)
Far across the wide lonesome hills,
long, wild grasses play tag with their surrounding neighbors
up on hill I stand and it seems as if the prairie is an ocean
teeming with greens and oranges, reds and burgundies
puffy white clouds whisk around the sun,
deliberately falling through the Western sky
a single white gem gets praised by bullfrogs' moans,
deer's rustle, and owls' fluttering wings
here nor there, but everywhere
the prairie is all around
All around me, rolling grasses, as I step off the road,
Away from the bustle and cars.
Listen, you might hear a Sandhill toad,
Croaking underneath the twinkling stars.
Racing my sisters to the windmill,
I peer into the blue prairie sky.
I see a falcon dive in for the kill,
Or a coyote acting sly.
This is why I love my home so much,
Any other place just feels wrong.
The prairie has the gentle touch
As I listen to the meadow lark's song.
What a state!
It is so great!
I live in a special place,
Ogallala is its name.
A very rural area,
the hills are its frame.
The hills are historical,
Remembrances of the Wild West,
Hills dotted with yucca
These are the best!
Quiet and peaceful,
Free of pollution,
Beautiful and wild,
Nature is our solution.
Big, open skies,
Going miles after miles,
Eagles swooping after prey,
Here in the wild.
This is where my heart
Always longs to be.
I hope I never leave,
Cause this feeling will never leave me.
What a town
The hills are its nightgown.
The richest soil, the yellowest grass,
My horses eating all day.
The wind in my face
As I ride the horse fast as light.
My pink barn in the sunset
Would look better red.
As I go to bed and I lay my head,
I think about the horse, the pasture,
And the little pink barn on the hill.
The dark night sky filled with twinkling stars.
The moon so big and bright.
I look forward miles and miles of golden brown up to my knees,
Tickling my ankles.
It feels as if I'm standing in the middle of an ocean of prairie grass
So soft I wish I could lie down and sleep.
But I have to get home.
Then a brown hill appears in the distance
I go inside, mother is cooking cornbread.
The sweet aroma lures me over to the stove.
I go to my brother,
he is playing dominoes with my sister.
I ask to join
But they won't let me.
I go outside with a blanket,
And let the sounds soothe me to sleep.
A curtsy, a bow,
And a shake of the tree.
Without a bee,
Or a chickadee.
Lighter than a feather
in magnificent weather.
They twist, and twirl,
Whirl, and swirl.
While the light winter breeze
Rushes through the trees,
Away the snow must go.
Away I go
To follow the snow
So very slow indeed.
by Kacey Horn
When I open my eyes
I see the surrounding sandhills,
the brilliant blue sky,
the rolling tumbleweeds.
I see the white-tailed deer
racing through the cornfield,
the cows grazing near a weathered windmill,
the countless birds making formations as they soar.
I see a painter
that's putting oranges, reds, pinks, and purples
around a blazing gold sun
that's getting closer and closer to the horizon.
Even after the sun sets, the colors remain a while longer.
When I listen to all that is around me,
I hear the meadowlarks trilling a golden tune,
the breeze making its way through the cottonwood trees,
the miniature wildlife sprinting across the parched grass.
I hear cars hurrying by,
and tires screeching
when I'm confined by the towering buildings of the city.
I hear only silence
when I'm surrounded by the hay bales and hills of the farmyard.
When I inhale
I smell the hot baking earth,
the gently falling rain,
the vivid wildflowers on the side of the road.
I taste the sunny, warm air in the west
and the summery, humid air in the east.
When I reach out my hand
I feel the scorching sidewalk,
the cotton from the trees floating through the sky,
the frigid snowflakes landing noiselessly on the ground.
I feel the sharp cactus,
the smooth sand from the hills,
the rough bark on the trees.
When I finally become completely aware of all that is around me,
I realize that I'm not in the middle of nowhere as everyone suspects.
Instead, I am in the middle of everywhere.
This is my Nebraska.
Armies of cornstalks stand like frozen soldiers,
protecting the borders of my town.
Students of our college flock to malls
like moths to a light
Slim streets slither through the town like snakes
as dim posts illuminate the small-store windows.
Saturday swings around and my town erupts
with screams and curses
from a sea of red.
couples kiss on the bench.
cars whiz by,
and I watch from my bed.
Because this is Lincoln.
And this is my town.
Standing by the front window,
Smudging the glass as your fingertips tap it,
Trying to count the drops as they land on the glass.
A soft pitter-patter echoes through your mind,
Relaxing you completely.
Kick off your shoes.
Throw open the door,
Bare feet slap the ground,
Splattering mud on your new shirt.
Rain splashes over you.
Drenching your body in peacefulness.
Yard all muddy
No kids playing basketball
No cars rushing by exceeding the speed limit
No roar of lawn mowers
No chatting of adults
No ice cream truck bell ringing
It is completely silent
As if the rain brought a blanket of quietness
My wet neighborhood
Noisy cars passing by
The sirens of the ambulance, police.
And of the firefighters
The whistle of the train crying out
That is how my neighborhood is
Carros pasando siendo ruidosos
Sirenas del ambulancia, policía
Y de los bomberos
El silbato del tren chillando
Así es mi vecindad
I know of a place where the cows roam free.
Forests and woods overflow with so much beauty.
Trees and flowers grow from left to right.
It's gorgeous all around, day to night.
I know of a place where there are plains galore.
There are hills and trees and grass and more.
The creeks flow silently through the forest.
While the birds sit in a tree to sing a chorus.
I know of a place that is full of different colors.
Rain and snow fall as if they were brothers.
In the fall you see leaves of purple, orange, red and yellow.
In the summer heat we run and play in the meadow.
I know of a place where the cows often roam.
Nebraska is this place I talk of, the place I call home.
The black swallow swoops with intimidation
through the corn stalks, past the tree branches
drooping, its wing tips weighted
with mother's instinct to protect the nest.
Across the field, an impermeable laborer,
the gasoline can, its yellow helmet
masked by a coat of oil and dirt
harbors the strength to serve the tractors.
Fillmore County Countryside. A Saturday
night in June. Walking along a
gravel road barefoot, the stars
illuminate the clear twilight.
Along a barricade of hay bales,
disguised by dry weeds, lined fences and posts,
a tractor spits its last wire bailing oats
and returns home to view a moonlit sky.
Embrace nature's beauty: soak in comfort from clouds,
lay atop wet grass, allow the scent
of gasoline to dampen your clothing, be
nothing but a branch on a cottonwood tree.
Chat with raccoons; luxuriate in the succulence of ripe
watermelon or hold a newborn kitten in your arms
while she opens her eyes for the first time looking
for someone to smile.
Smile and breathe in the midnight air.
Wish upon a shooting star for all it's worth.
Continue strolling thoughtlessly
along the shadowed road, the empty fields.
Deep blue and dark black
The darkest black we see
Sense-spiking and hair-raising
Through the window we speculate
Winds whipping, trees crashing,
Shutters blowing, Poles snapping
We gaze yonder and hear the thunder
Of the rumbling storm trampling
Like a herd of buffalo over the Plains
Puddles turn to ponds
Ponds to lakes
Lakes to floods
Next morning the sun shines
On the destruction
Even so, we look forward to
Another summer storm spent In our basement
Saturday Night Slinging
by Nolan Green
All Gathered for one reason.
Calm before the storm.
Dirt slingers be the reason.
The silent countryside,
The drop of the green flag.
Thunder over the valley,
Heard for miles wide.
The cheers of the crowd,
As Modifieds, late models, and sprint cars race by,
Sliding through dirt track corners,
Inches apart, side by side.
A dust cloud forms on a dry arid track.
Flames belch from header pipes,
Feel the Fumble of horsepower untamed,
The screaming of engines and fans alike.
The slight burn of alcohol exhaust in my nose.
The tantalizing scent of popcorn, chicken gizzards, pizza and nachos.
The clash of metal as two cars get together,
Flipping violently down the backstretch.
Silence and tension fills the air,
The journey to the checkered flag halted with a scare.
The drivers step out of cars worth fortunes,
Now reduced to lumps of metal,
Twisted masses of contortion.
Slightly dizzy they stumble to the ambulance.
Whistles and cheers from the crowd they will hear,
Let them know we appreciate their heavy right foot,
For racing without fear.
The race resumes,
The thunder ensues,
The final lap is near.
The checkered flag falls,
Everybody is glad the were here.
An action filled night.
The cardinal rule above all have fun.
Exhausted and dusty the crowd saunters back to their cars.
Under the beautiful Midwestern sky,
And the summer stars.
The valley falls silent yet again,
No thunder heard across the plains.
The lights shut off,
No more action in the store.
Until the dirt slingers of Saturday night return to do battle once more.
The old truck putters to a stop,
And a small boy clamors out
His bronze hair tossed by the breeze.
"IS this it Daddy?" he asks.
"Yes...yes this is it."
The quiet riverbed is so different than the noise of Omaha that is so familiar to the boy.
The rushing and bustling of the cars speeding along the interstate
Are replaced with the slow flow of the Platte River;
The chatter of the thousands
Is replaced by the sweet chirping of a few small birds.
"It's so quiet here daddy."
"Yes...yes it is quiet here."
There is a trail that runs along the Platte.
The boy and his father walk up
The trail that twists and turns in the trees along the riverbed.
They stop to look.
The wide shallow river stretches out before them,
Sand peeking out of the flowing water to see the world above it.
The boy scrambles down the small bank and runs over the sand,
Mud and sand squishing between his toes.
Abruptly he stops and turns to face his father,
His muddy brown eyes filled with confusion.
"Aren't you coming daddy?"
The man takes a deep breath,
But he does not answer.
Instead he stoops down and slowly removes his worn out shoes,
Then steps slowly down placing his foot in the brown sand.
The boy flies back to his father
And takes his hand.
They spend the day there,
The boy splashing around jubilantly
His father slowly following.
The man remembers this place.
It doesn't seem so long ago that he himself,
Freed of the cares of daily living,
Had splashed through the water with his father.
There is freedom here,
A freedom that removes worries for a time,
A freedom that the man breathes in with every breath.
So unlike the imprisoning air of the city.
The man stares at his boy,
So bright, so full of life and laughter.
"It's time to go" He calls reluctantly.
The two turn and walk up the trail and pick up their worn out shoes.
They walk back to the faded red truck,
Hand in hand,
A boy and his father,
An inseparable bond
Renewed by the sand and flow of the lazy Platte River.