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  • Susan Stoderl

From Writing Art Songs and Opera to Middle-Grade Fiction | Prairie Girl (2008)

From Song Cycle "Prairie Girl" Voice/Piano

During my second career, after singing and running a small opera company, I began composing art songs and opera. In 2008, I wrote about my life as a child growing up in a rural county of Kansas sixteen miles from the Colorado border and twenty from Oklahoma. For the next few Friday posts, I will post two or three songs.

I. Boundaries

Highway Fifty,

East. West.

Highway Twenty-Eight,

North. South.

Fifty miles in each direction.

Boundaries of my four years.

East, West, North and South.


faded green parched river,


white winter winds.


gray choking grit,

eternal dust spinning to nowhere.


colored by the exotic and the forbidden.

“Back East,”

where Grandma could have lived,

had a good job, no need for a man.

And if she wanted, go to the opera...

whatever that is.


II. Forbidden Room

A scrap of wood, some old red paint.

Makings of a fine birdhouse,

earning “The Grandma Seal of Disapproval!”

In the dark, grime-encrusted land of boy-dom,

the broken-toothed hag of saw buckles.

Eight years of might, sweats over callous wood.

Vise, wood, saw

crash through to Kingdom Come.

Crossly dragging his leg,

cane in hand, white head shaking,

Gramps sighs wearily at my birdhouse fantasy.

Watery eyes gaze at lost hope.

Pounding harder! Nails bending!

“Damn!” he cries. Finger exchanged for nail.

By alchemy, kerosene, and rust-filled sludge

turn into red-orange smelly drips.

Masterpiece completed.

Misshapen, malodorous, streaked.

Like my boy-dom, imperfect.

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