2007 Rural Poetry Celebration Winners

The Celebration of Rural Poetry continued at the Nebraska State Capitol Building in Lincoln on May 4. Six of the nine winning student poets were in attendence to read their winning poetry, alongside Nebraska poets Twyla Hansen and Bill Kloefkorn, judges of the poetry competition.


Night and Day

by Jordan Durham

Serenity filled the air as twilight approached the fading day.
The night engulfed and captured what remained of the fragile, swirling, vortex of light with
hands that waited for the morn to release it.
Endeavors ceased as the tranquil song of paradise enveloped the mind like an elixir, lifting its
inhabitants high above the vast ground to devour the senses.
They indeed soared,
           Above the richly plaid mound of fortitude,
                     Above the bountiful fresh foliage of the crisply captivating trees,
                               Above the sweet downy clouds,
           Above anything you can dream or desire until there was no point of return,
Only to be brought swiftly back down to repeat it another day.
Apprehension dazzled the wind as it swept serenity away to fill the awakener's lungs,
The night departed to welcome twilight, as colors swirled the hands let go,
                        To capture the ravishing light again, until the next,
                                    On the flat, roaring plains.

An Old Horse

by Brett Gumb

Way down in the big horn valley
You can see an old horse grazing.

The old horse's hair is long and coarse.
His mane and tail filled with knots.

His breaths are ragged and rough,
And his eyes are cloudy with age.

A coyote sits on a hilltop in the distance.
He can smell the death in the air.

The evenings are getting short and chilly.
Fall is nearly over and snow will fall soon.

The old horse will not make the winter,
But where he will die is where he was born.

A Pair of Cowhands

by Brett Gumb

They come down the road

Stirring up dust behind an old beat up pickup.

Their faces are the color of saddle leather

after days of riding unbroken horses in the sun.

Neither one of them with a tooth in his head

After years of chewing Red Man big spit.

Their blue heeler, Lucky, is hanging over the side of the box

And their bumper hitch horse trailer

Carries the same two nags they rode last year.

They're off to the high country for spring, to brand for the big outfits.

We won't see them until next fall when they come limping back

In torn jeans, full beards, and run-down boots.

Then they will head to their winter cabin to eat cold beans and corn dodgers,

Surviving the cold by playing poker, waiting for next spring's branding.

Sunrise in Nebraska

by Sonya Hayden

Beauty on the sunrise
In Nebraska
The window glimmers
With love and warmth
Awaiting my permission
To make its colorful debut

I sit and drink my juice
Waiting and watching
The many colors
That shines so beautifully
It's like a reflection
Of God's creation

It's like a dream
On the beautiful sunrise
My eyes cannot believe it
Nor my heart can stand
Towards Nebraska's radiance

Great Nebraska Sunset

by Sonya Hayden

Smiles on the face of love
Shining with the brilliant light
Of the setting sun
The warmth on my cheeks
Breathing in the fresh
Nebraska air

Morning comes
I watch the sunrise
It warms my cold body
But is not as great as the
Nebraska sunrise

Finally the sun sets again
Waiting for me to watch
Then begins to go down
Below the lands own line
Always to come again
Oh, Great Nebraska Sunset

Prairie Silence

by Brooke Harris

So quiet
The wreaths of darkness
Overcome the land
And all is

Let us lie
Under the stars together and
Be thankful that we could count
Each pinprick of light
If only we
Had the time

For we are in a place
Where you can actually
See the moon
Effervesce its light
Upon the land

Where in the daylight
The cornstalks bend
Row on row
Bowing glistening leaves to the sun
And hoping moisture will befall their roots

Come with me
Let us go
And yell to the sky
Knowing that only
The two of us and God can hear

We shall watch
The sunrise
And choose a name
For the unending brotherhood
Of hues arraying the atmosphere

And we shall marvel
At the blessed silence
That overcomes
The land

The Ranch

by Christianne Kroeker

After impatient hours in the pickup,
we turned onto Grandpa's ranch,
the camper waiting for another summer in the sandhills.
The pull-out coach and table
transformed into a stiff bed
(we never cared).
So young and far out west,
we hadn't a care in the world

Long journeys through the pasture
riding Brownie and Duke
leading us to Sunflower City and Prairie Dog Town .
The scorching heat unnoticed
with each strong gust of wind,
tall grass forming ocean-like waves.
Trailing close behind,
Grandpa raced the Gator with danger over steep hills,
Grandma frozen with fear
and too angry for words.

On a dusty country road we spied
a farm destroyed by a tornado years ago.
like secret detectives
we investigated every inch of the house,
bedrooms with curling wallpaper
and rusty spring beds,
kitchen stoves and cupboards filled with bird and rat nests,
the great hole in the living room to the basement.
The real treasure was in the barn,
old perfume bottles, still filled to the brim,
scented strong and sweet,
wrinkling my nose,
and a cracked dish set thrown from the house,
our ancient treasures.

"Going once, going twice...SOLD, to number 11!"
Tears blurred my last look at the camper,
our memories the only thing left:
the Loup City swimming pool,
Grandpa's fibs about lions running loose nearby,
gazing from the top of the camper
at the clashing of a thunderstorm with the sunset,
gummy bears at the Cafe,
and laughter as swelling from a bee's sting
blocked all vision from my sister's eye-
these memories roll away with the hills...

Rain After Midnight

by Matt Miller

Listen to the windmill
an innocent silhouette
against red morning twilight
yet an infiltrator
Spilling secrets of your prey's battle plans.

Feel the frigid water
as it flops against your worn waders
submerged smartweed grabs your ankles like a toddler's touch
begging you to go back to the warmth
But you continue.

Converse with the cattails
as they sight in the breeze
beckoning you to keep warm in their leaves
and hide in their stems
They have become your trench.

Study the sky
a vibrant fruit basket of oranges and yellows
speckled with black dots
they use their wings as parachutes
sinking softly into the fruit basket's reflection on the water
You are waiting for them.

Raise your weapon
their iridescent feathers flicker
catching a glimmer from the rising sun
set the scope as they swim towards you
gaze at them through your powerful lens
Slowly squeeze the trigger.

Glance at the prey as your camera spits back its image.
The trophy has been won.

Snow Race

by Celsea Saltus

This dreary snow day stacks a good five inches,
a chilled blanket,
hiding all remains of fall.
The sun reflects off the smooth crystals,
a blinding shimmer.
I take this challenge as an excuse,
proving I am tougher than I look.
I slide open the new glass door,
appreciating nature's perfection.
I force my naked, frail feet into the icy cotton
which only weeks ago hugged lush grass.
It is a frank footprint,
piercing the untouched frost.
A chuckling "Go!" forces Dad and me into the snow.
It hurts so bad I can only laugh.
A rhythmic pattern builds up in my gangly legs like thunder
a repetitive nonsense right now too important to lose.
Dad is my opponent and
my desperation to win stings my feet again.
This isn't a life or death situation,
a mere rivalry to fool myself with pride.
I'm going as far as my numb feet can take me
a tight spin allowing reality to notify me
I still have a full yard back to the house.
I try following my previous footprints,
hoping it will somehow get me back first.
Once numb, now a fierce burn creeps up my ankles,
growing like the loneliness of the last leaf upon a tree.
Inside, hot cocoa and socks welcome me,
The burning subsides.
Dad tousles my ash-tinted hair,
a grimacing smile bluntly boasting his win.
I write 'Hi' upon the recently fogged glass,
allowing myself to admire my work-
footprints too far to see and yards saving my memories.

I Am Not a Country Girl

by Allison Smith

 I am not a country girl.

My father isn't a farmer or a rancher.

Our property consists of our house,

A small front yard,

And a fenced-in back yard.

I don't know the first thing

About horses or cattle,

And my nearest neighbor lives

Less than ten feet away from my house.

I don't know what it feels like

To take a walk with nobody around,

Nobody but me,

Because I'm not a country girl, you see.

I am an expert on barking dogs and stray cats,

And squirrels scurrying on trees and power lines.

For me, grass is fenced in by sidewalks, streets, and driveways,

And the sky is obscured by trees and houses jammed together

In a haphazard fashion.

The stars are blocked by the harsh glare of street lights,

As if that somehow improves

God's miraculous painting of the night sky.

I don't even know the smell of earth.

Such things don't exist where I live.

They are covered in concrete and houses and people,

As if I'm supposed to stay away from them,

As if they're bad, or "redneck," or backward,

They're things I'm not supposed to see,

No, I"m not a country girl,

But I'll tell you a secret–I want to be.

Porch Swing

by Allison Smith

Back and forth, back and forth,
At this moment my entire world
Is a white porch swing, paint peeling
And sticking to my hands and legs.

Back and forth, back and forth,
As the occasional car drives by
And people lazily stroll past.
They have nowhere in particular to go.

Back and forth, back and forth,
I nod and smile at some,
And ignore others,
Lost in my own thoughts,
Or occupied with pushing the cat off my lap,
Or just feeling particularly rude.

Back and forth, back and forth,
My entire world is this swing.
For a few minutes,
My life makes sense,
As the concrete tickles the bare soles of my feet
And the cat rubs up against my arm,
Flicking its tail in my face.

The Farmer

by Nicole Thompson

The sweet aroma of apple pie cooling on the windowsill on a hot summer day, August. Stroll along gravel roads
Kick the rocks underneath your worn out flip-flops
Listen to the faint rumble of the John Deere in the bean field
The moo of Holstein cows echo in the distance

Alongside the wooden barn with the chipped red paint
Knee deep in lilies, dandelions, and butterflies
The old merry-go-round twirls in the soft summer air
Its creeks sing with the whisper of the wind
You feel like swaying in the breeze
Like letting the dry dusty Nebraska air take its toll on you
Like being no more then a brown rusted merry-go-round in the wild flowers
Blowing in the wind, growing with the tomatoes
Spinning in the dusty summer days, Nebraska

Country Girl

by Nicole Thompson

Sundays in the kitchen, baking chocolate chip cookies
Dance class every Saturday
Patchwork quilts on chilly November nights
Baby pictures with tractors and Chevy trucks
Grandpa George's John Deere on harvest mornings
Playing with matches and lighters
Piles of orange, yellow, and brown leaves on October afternoons
Lego's, dress up, and Barbie every Saturday
Rusty jungle gyms on Uncle Les's farm
Twister, Monopoly, and Go Fish on January snow days
Semis hitting highway rumble bars on summer nights
Trains that rattle my windows every morning