Poetry of Place Winners 2008

Paige Hawk

So this is Papillion

The cool, silky breeze of a
Midsummer's night
Catches my hair and tangles it in knots.
The hues of vibrant pink and purple
Caught my eye
Oh so many years ago.
Basketballs bouncing against the pavement.
A mother's constant reminder
All remind me of the resistance of a young child
To go inside
And get ready for bed.
The honking of car horns
Occupied by rebellious teenagers
Has long since faded.
The buzzing of 84th Street
Now lay quiet and sparse.
The red and green traffic lights
Have become tired.
I look once more at the horizon,
The warm glow of the summer sun
Is now gone.
Only fragments of color remain.
As I stand up and turn,
Beginning my steady journey home
I smile and think,
This is why I love Papillion.

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Lindsey Hofer

I'll Have My Memories

The stars have come out
To remind me
Of my race against time,
And curfew
But maybe I'll lie here just a little longer
Here in the arms of the one I love
Maybe all the fights and worries
Will disappear
Maybe you finally got me to believe
That forever yours will be the only heart I hear
Maybe what I've done to you
Won't matter any more
And maybe the world can learn to love each other
Like we do one another
But I know
That when the stars fade
Everything I left at Dusk
Will return with the sun
And all I'll have left
Is my memories

Leaving Me

My heart breaks
As you break me the news
But I'll paint on a smile just for you
Unable to believe you're another I have to lose
You're just one more person
Who has chosen to flee
One more person
Leaving me to be free
Free from those that brought us down
Free from those that would decree
Free from the disappointing looks
Free from...me?
Set in denial
Reassured that you'll never go
That you'll stay forever
Time, passing at anything but slow
A simple hug
A wave good bye
The standard promise to write
And never to cry
'I love you', a single tear
And you're already gone
I'll miss you forever
But forever without you seems so wrong.

My Nebraska

Don't call my Nebraska a desert
Don't call my Nebraska flat
Don't call my Nebraska a waste land
I'll show you a Nebraska that's anything but that
A friendly wave and a smile
Is expected from a man you've never met
As you roll along with the hills
Into an always more beautiful sunset
We are more then just rural conservatives
We have more then just cows and corn rows
We are more then just farmers and hicks
We have heart the never slows
Heart for our friends and family
Heart for our Cornhusker red
Heart for our land and history
Heart that once started as a homestead
Summer days can do us no wrong
A few rain drops will keep us smiling for a week
The constant wind fills or hearts
With snowstorms better then even at the highest peak
So don't call my Nebraska a desert
Don't call my Nebraska flat
Don't call my Nebraska a waste land
I'll show you a Nebraska that's anything but that


Remember growing up together
Moving on
And moving up

Remember me when I'm gone

Remember the nights
Where we stayed up till dawn
And the ambers we watched fade to ash

Remember me when I'm gone

Remember the dumb ideas
The colorful pictures we have drawn
And all the games we never stopped playing

Remember me when I'm gone

Remember the love we felt
The relationships where our hearts were stolen
And why they meant so much to us

Remember me when I'm gone

Remember the carefree summer days
The snowball fighters we would take on
And the leaves we piled together just to ruin

Remember me when I'm gone

Remember the small town
The home we've loved for so long
And all the memories impossible without it

Remember me when I'm gone

Remember the victories
The teammates we came upon
And all the fans that never let us down

Remember me when I'm gone

Remember our dreams
The things we set our hearts on
And the hope we never would let die

Remember me when I'm gone

But most of all
Remember the laughter and the lessons
The people that kept you hanging on
And the good times with good friends
Remember me when I'm gone

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Garrett Janzen

I Remember

I remember the grassy field
Across the street from my front yard
Where I netted garden spiders and toads in the summer.
I remember the white chalky path
That led from the road's dead end
Past the dragon flies' puddle into the cool frost's shade.
I remember the old oak bridge
Over the small winding crick
Finding its way through the mud with the help of my hands.
I remember the high mud walls
Carved by a once great torrent
Roots and rocks jutting from the sides into open air.
I remember the scent of wet grass
The stench of the swampy pone
The dust and the pollen making me sneeze.
I remember glowing pixies at dusk
Floating fireflies in the failing light
No streetlights or headlights, but brilliant moon and stars.
I remember the slime of a leopard frog's back
The burning of peroxide on scraped knees
The feel of pond scum squeezed through your fingers.
I remember the thrill of discovery
A beaver-hewn stick, a possum's jaw
A slug at the water's edge, snails clinging to the rocks.
I remember what it means to find one's home
Among the rocks and trees and living things
To find solace in the sound of rustling leaves high above
To discover someplace as changing and unknowable as yourself
To have a place become a part of your soul
That stays with you long after you have stepped back out into the sunlight.

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I'm from red dirt roads
Red brick fireplace
Red with anger when my brother broke my toy.
I'm from praying mantises and horned caterpillars
Neighbor's garden fertilized with turkey manure
Crazy neighbor boy burning G.I. Joes
The crows nest in the tree I used for spying
Now just a stump.
I'm from the bend in the crick
Bend in the elm tree
Bend in bark where I tried to carve my name
The open air and clear skies
Exploring the woods and making them my own
Climbing the dirt walls and bridging the two banks
Possum's jaw bone on the sandbar.
I'm from spaghetti and imitation crab
Chilled chocolate pudding in a frosted glass
I don't know how mom made those cookies so good.
My older brother's a genius,
Big, solid and quiet
My younger brother's social,
Thin, blond and free
And I'm from in between.
I'm from my first bass at the cabin
Caught it with a jig,
From our pet rabbit Hoppy
Dad caught it with his hat in the cornfield,
From my first time down a slope on skis
Wipeout at the bottom, first time off the diving board
Stinging, burning pinpricks on my red stomach.
I'm from a magnifying glass and a newspaper
And a black backyard,
From the orange soda stain on the carpet
Hidden under a pillow,
From corn fights with my brothers
Got a kernel down my ear.
I'm from the garden spider in the window well and the toad who ate him.

Peyton Kauffman

The Memories I'm Made Of

I am from a pile of farm magazines
Sitting next to the Marlboro-scented recliner.
I'm from made up songs sang in made up keys,
Often about the magnificence of boxed potatoes.
I am from weekends planned by the radar.
From praising the rain but cursing the storm.
I'm from Motown Mornings,
From the perfume dance and the hair-curling song,
This Little Piggy and 10 Little Indians.
I'm from trips to the grocery store and a
Stop in the toy aisle.
From green beans and canning prayers,
Corn-on-the-cob and homemade pies.
I'm from the boy with the tabooed middle name,
And the other boy who thought he was Dad.
I am from the sheet-made palace under the stairs,
Where John made threats of Mable Able's ghost.
I'm from nights ling under the Christmas tree
With the Nerf war masters,
From "leftover days" and
Stay out of Mom's Hair.
I am from Beavy Chicky Woman and Dorkster Porkster,
Old Spice hugs and "Oh boy!"
I'm from ping-pong and shuffleboard
And the enormous freezing storage room.
I am from awkward holiday dinners
And matching cow print dresses.
I am from Spesh Presh Profesh and
Finally I have a sister.
From the grown-up five-year-old
And the girl who slapped every boy on the playground.
I'm from recesses filled with games of "house,"
When I always had to be the mom.
I'm from the blessed moments when we're all together
And the memories pour from the back of our minds.
Those memories are of the precious people and places
Which defined me, molded me, made me
Who I am today.

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Morgan Mallory

The Pool

Walking past the gate on June first.
The sizzling sun on my back weighing me down.
A breeze of sunscreen catches my nose.
Laughter and yelling all around.
I lay that old faded towel of the chair.
Slipping off my worn flip-flops, I set my brown sunglasses down.
"No running!" says the burnt auburn lifeguard.
I steadily dip the edge of my tow into the oh-so-lovely ripples.
Holding my breath,
Take one leap and while I'm in the air,
I think one last thought.
Before you know it,
I've plunged into the H20 of a life time.

Movie Theatre

The room where tears are shed and laughter is heard.
The home of a screen fifteen feet tall.
Where a cola is left, to be spilled on the floor.
Lined with those creaky, lumpy seats.
The buzz of the projector fills the room.
I am a place where only your dad could fall asleep.
I always overhear every shush, and kernel pop.
In the front of the room, there is a case filled with caramel candies and taffy galore.
I am the eerie darkness until all is over, or as some people would say,
The end

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Kelsey Maris

A Journey Through Nebraska

Start your journey in the west and just what might you find?
Hills of sand and prairies dotted with cows from time to time.
For some, it seems there's nothing here but dirt and clear blue skies.
For others it's the greatest place, a home seen through their eyes.
Move to the east a little ways and the landscape starts to change.
More fields and houses you will see instead of open range.
On to the east a little more and the range is entirely gone.
You see cities on the horizon at the break of dawn.
Cities are a good sight too, if city life is the life for you.
In Nebraska, you decide just how you want to live.
Wherever you choose to go, you'll find Nebraska has a lot to give.
The choice is yours west, east or anywhere between the two.
Our motto: "The Good Life" will still be holding true.

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Ciara McCormack


The deer had been there,
Too close to the music for comfort
And left the grass bent
As though the fairies had danced there.
There, too, had been the drunkard
Who sat on the broken stump and dropped
the empty bottle as he staggered away,
a green teardrop frozen among the grass.


When I watched the palm trees
into low and gnarled shrubs,
I raised a shee glanket
from the inside
and looked
for inspiration.
I found it
in the red rock that covers the canyons
as though it guards
precious histories
bound within the structure.
I knew it
in the moon
that glowed like the sun
a silver shadow
in a clear black sky.
I felt it
within my voice, which discovered
words to justify distrust
which follows love
because it can.
And when I watched the palm trees
into low and gnarled shrubs
I raised a sheer blanket
From the inside

If you thought it was flat

Those who say Nebraska is flat
Must never have been here,
Or they have come from Colorado, straight
from the Rockies
with the notion that anything less majestic
is bluntly uninspiring.
But Nebraska isn't that place.
Nebraska isn't the bland expanse
of nothing for miles.
And perhaps it only come from living
in this last place on earth
that we begin to understand,
(and only after years)
to finally appreciate each curve in the road
each rise in the prairie grass,
each subtle glimmer from the ponds and streams
formed in the heavy rainfall
or hidden in the rows of cottonwoods
that trace their paths.

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Samantha Menard

The Secret Fishing Hole

Grab your fishing pole
along with a bucket
of dirt-covered night crawlers.

Slip surreptitiously
past parents
recalling stories
of the good old days.

Run through the open field
of uncut blue grass.
Let the wind whirl
ast your face,
carrying the aroma
of burnt out campfires and barbeques.

Make your way around
the lake until you reach
a row of maple trees
guarding a treasure trove
unbeknownst to most.

Crawl under the biggest maple.
The last drop of this morning's dew
falls upon your nose.
Don't stop to brush it off.

Enter into a far off world.
Imagine you're a captain of a pirate ship
trying to catch a ticking crocodile.
A carp splashes water in your face.

Take it as a sign: relax, never grow up.


Twenty years
Since the last rain
The town deserted
Houses in shambles
Without doors or shutters
Rotten, termite infested

Cornfields that once flourished
Have now eroded and blown away
A broken-down tractor
Covered in a bittersweet rust
Sits abandoned and unnoticed

Underneath the lone tire
A blade of grass
Vibrant green
Shoots out, reaching
For the warmth of the sun
Its fate like the others
To shrivel and sink back into the ground

Dirt roads
Cracked and ragged
From years of impoverishment
Covering a soul
Emptied and lifeless
As soon as he walked out the door
Never to return
A shock surges acress the town
Brief but effective
Eradicating anything left over

The sun
A red disc fading away
Sets for the last time
As the lat husk of corn
Flutters across the land
In search of something
Just over the horizon

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Tyler Plugge

Growing City

As the city grows
the cornfields and grassy plains
begin to be eaten up by big corporations and
Shopping malls. The heavy machinery rumbles and billows out heavy
black smoke choking out the suns rays.

Looking left and right
there are signs of big money.
The metal girders and cement spread like a disease
plaguing one field after another caring not what it covers.

The wind that once
cooled our faces now throws
dust into our eyes in disgust. The sun never sets
as the parking lot lights shine through the night standing straight,
mocking the trees that once stood there.

Now instead of grassy plains and creeks full of wildlife,
we are stuck with the seas on concrete and drainage tunnels with
cold metal shopping carts as its only inhabitants

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Nathan Sousek

I know a place

I know a place where the wild flowers still bloom,
And the pollen still floats, reddening the moistening your eyes.
Where the brome grass still rustles in the still free blowing winds
And the trees still bow to the continual rolling Bohemian Alps.

A place where the cows still graze on green grass pastures
And the hogs wallow in pure clay mud.
Where the birds still sing in the mornin'
And the deer still frolic with the least of cares
Where the bugs still buzz at your ears
And the field mice still chitter in the golden corn fields.

A place where ducks still wade on crystal ponds
And the fish still swim to your hook.
Where you can still place your feet in freezing streams
And have the tiny tadpoles nibble your toes.

Were there are clear starry night skies
And the still full moon and gleaming sun still take their shifts.
Where the seasons still change the land throughout the year
And the old cottonwoods still stand.

I know a place

It Still Rains

Whenever it falls from the sky
We still stop and listen to the softness of precipitation
We walk through it letting it soak us slowly to the bone
And moisten our faces forming tiny droplets of water,
As if we were crying after an old friend had passed.

It still trickles down the asphalt with a rhythmic flow
It sloshes down the gutters taking fallen brown leaves with it, boats
in despair.
Still it sends the little critters for cover;
The birds to their nests, the snakes to their holes, the field mice to a
tin can.

It gives the earth a shower, washing worries away,
Leaving a welcomed Springy freshness.

Whenever it falls from the sky,
We still stop and listen to the softness of precipitation
We walk through it letting it soak us slowly to the bone
And moisten our faces, mixing with the tears, totally being touched
from within...

It still rains in Prague, Nebraska.

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Sadie V.

Nebraska Weather

Today it is snowing.
The flakes fly through the air
And land gently on the wet ground
That is wet from the rain the day before.
I turn to see
Out the front door
All you can see is sunshine
For miles on end
"How can this be?" I ask myself,
"One side is gloom and the other glee?"
As I think of a reasonable answer
I figure
It is just Nebraska weather
Unexpectable as can be

Small Town Nebraska

Tractors are not uncommon
Puttering down the main street.
Kids playing basketball at the park,
Or getting itchy after rolling down the hills.
Trucks stopping mid mile to talk about the weather,
And any other gossip the old men have raked up.
The women working on their gardens,
The corn rises above their heads.
A man sits on his porch whittling,
A humming bird out of a piece of pine.
There is a harvest moon.
This is a sign
That crops will be hauled into the town elevator soon.
This is small town Nebraska
Where everyone knows your name.

The Creek

The sun is shining
It is mid summer
Sitting on the bank
Reluctantly taking off our shoes
Rolling up our jeans
And gently slipping our feet
Into the crystal clear water
The cold runs up your spine
The slimy goo slides
Straight through your toes
As your legs submerge
You are almost frozen
The water is not so clear now
As we trudge up the stream
The minnows swim frightened
As you walk even farther
The trees growing straight up
Out of the banks
Roots reach the water
And beavers hide in their shelter
Sitting on a fallen tree you realize
That this is where you want to be
It is growing late
And the amount of sun you soak up is
One big sunburn
Then you realize that you have to make it home
The walk is long
The gravel stings
Trying to walk without stepping too hard
When you make it home
Mom tells me to hose off
So we end up having a water fight
Thus resulting in getting a warm shower to
Get back to body temperature
Mom sees our burn and tells us to get the aloe
This is stored in the fridge
She slathers pumps of it on our backs
These are the memories I have of the creek

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Olivia White

The Old House

Sanctify the slanted house
How the grass is slowly taking over
Wildly whisping in the wind
Crunching under you feet
Tan, like the color of your skin

See the bare bean field
Empty and forgotten
Smells as dirty as harvest season

Sit on the old porch
Stare at the red oak leaves rustling in the wind
Feel the weathering wood
Rough, until you notice the sliver in your finger

Notice the house
How it leans like an old lady
Reminiscing the past
Of children and a family...

So This is Nebraska

Mile by mile, squared
Brown sparrows soar over the patchwork quilt
Fields of green corn, yellow goldenrod, Milo patches of red
Spread out lumpy like Grandpa's feather bed

On each side pivots square dancing
to the tune of motors humming in the distance
Z-man passing by in his rusty red pick-up
lifting one finger from the steering wheel to wave

Windmills harvesting the wind with their muscular arms
their legs reaching out from farmstead to farmstead


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