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  • Susan Stoderl

Writing Art Songs and Opera to Middle-Grade Fiction | Prairie Girl (2008) Poems V, VI & VII

From Song Cycle "Prairie Girl" Voice/Piano

These poems were written for a song cycle in 2008, Prairie Girl. 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.

V. Peaceable Kingdom

A freshly mown moat surrounds my castle.

My meager fortress smells of aged collie.

Clothespin vertebrae jut from its sagging spine.

Broken chimney parts pinion its four corners.

A poison berry bush marks the Eastern front,

flaunting its orange fruit like Eden’s temptress.

It blocks the passage to a starveling garden,

which hosts the skeletal remains of what was.

On the Northern front is an expanse of rusted iron,

a barrier erected to keep neighbors apart.

It is a foreign country, an enticing land,

filled with grain-bearing tin men and injured tractors.

At the Southern perimeter lies a witch’s cottage,

a repository for children who sass back!

A magical spell protects me from its threat.

The brand-new picnic table blocks its view.

Stiffly guarded by squads of stretchered work pants

lies the Western frontier of my kingdom.

Freshly laundered ghost wings billow in the breeze.

The shirt’s sleeves crisply salute the branch of a tree.

Here I am protected from the marauders of dreams;

safe and whole, heaven’s dome is my shield.

Cottonwood fuzz floats down filtered light.

On my nose,

it tickles.

VI. Dusk on the Trailer Porch

Sprinklers whirl their droplets at dusk.

The glass door remains warm from a day in the sun.

Inside cartoons scream, children fight.

The flickering light of television illumines the dusk.

Cicadas and crickets mourn for the dead kittens

killed by the dogs of bratty boys.

Rustling trees cast dark shadows.

The perfume of rain grows stronger,

ushered in by sparks and flashes in the North.

Metal steps are dangerous in lightning.

Rubber flip-flops are my Savior.

For a few stolen moments,

I will chance lightning and metal.

VII. Sunday at the Movies

Sunday afternoon at three,

warm in winter,

cool in summer.

Longing draped in heavy velvet,

coming attractions of what life can be.

A nickel to spend;

Desires, a dime.


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