Skip to content


Recall the dream you had the other night:

a hodgepodge structure, living room and porch,

people sitting out there in the dark, no light

but moon and stars, the flare of a kitchen match

at the bowl of papaw’s pipe- wasn’t he

a big man!- Prince Albert tobacco smoke, the wind.

The exposed room is full of cousins, see

the silhouettes of aunts and uncles, a friend

from second grade.  Try to read to them, to ease

the voice above the persistent grandfather clock’s

ticking.  Tomatoes, jalapenos, potatoes, peas-

the text has turned to gullion in your hand.

Mamaw, in her rocker in the corner darning socks:

why doesn’t he do something we all can understand.


© philip kimball 2009

first published in I-70 REVIEW, Lawrence, Kansas, 2003


spare time writer, full time family

spare time writer, full time family


philip kimball and jennifer brown at home

philip kimball and jennifer brown at home

it’s not the  tractor in the fog,

the faint percussion in the middle ear, muted and dispersed,

popping johnny’s progeny, john deere’s plowbeam, soil-polished plowshare,

twelvebottom moldboard suited to the plains.

soothing reassurance, stitching air and land, an earthy first fragrance

permeates, loess and loam, gasoline, oiled gunny, sweat and rain.

it’s not the moiled light that intervenes, gleams and saturates

the steel, paint and plastic, the wet windshield glass of toyota, audi,

volvo, suburu, chevy and ford parked along the right of way,

the barbed wire fence row of the old oregon trail, where the heavy wagon box

clatters and twists, the loaded axletree and iron-wrapped wheel,

canvas canopies slap, strain and stutter, travel,

jangled chain over ruts, cattle, an ox, a spotted hog in tow.

it’s not the gravel road that cuts north along the edge across the draw,

the dormant switchgrass and wild rye that grow in the ditch, crinoidal

limestone shards, mollusk matrices, the sunflower stalks

that ravel, rattle and blow, the indifferent bois d’arc hedge

that spreads tangled offspring into the field.

it’s not phlox, sand dropseed, prairie gourd, goldenrod,

mead’s milkweed, the fringed orchid, purple clover, queen anne’s lace,

squirreltail, needle-leaf sedge, pussy toe, redtop and daisy fleabane.

it’s not the distant talkers, the nikon shutter, discussion,

testimony, witness and the awe.  it’s not john brown, jim lane, quantrill,

speculators, sod busters, border ruffians, jayhawkers,

molasses lappers, exodusters, clod hoppers, not

buffalo, fox, antelope, puma, prairie dog,

mastodon, teleoceras and sabertooth cat.

it’s not the kaw.


it’s the phantom self-consciously stripping bluestem spikelets to carry home,

the specter in the mirror, the pucker and fold

around the wary green eyes, the well-fed flesh year round, kumquat,

cantaloupe, kohlrabi, artichoke, brown rice, tofu, lox,

pork chop, bacon, leeks, kale and beans.

the face, the curls, the nod, the wistful grin, the deprecatory frown,

protruding ears, the yellow teeth, dull skin growing taut

about the pale forehead, the cheeks and jaw, the chin, the closed skull bones

underneath.  frail, transitory.  exposed furrow ribs.  change.

shape-shifting, form-folding, glacial till, erratic stones,

orogeny, alluvial deposits eroded and washed,

uplift, thrust and fall, settle and fill.

it’s you, caught up in this inexorable turning.

not the landscape will not survive, the ocean gone, but you

evolving to the dust that swirls from shears and scatters

in the obscure morning mist.

you drifter in the prairie flux, desperate seizer

of an imaginal razor now.

let loose.  you turn the sod.

it’s you who drive the plow.


© philip kimball


ralph waldo emerson walks across

the bare common, the distant edge of winter, cold,

a blue-gray twilight pallor caught in the fold

of blustery clouds pressing down, the mind at a loss

to find any special good fortune, thought, in the dross

of the day.  granulated snowflakes scour, hold

to the tips of fallow grasses and dry foliage rolled

in the wind:  a perfect exhilaration, gladness, close

on the brink of fear.  now reggie jackson strides in

from centerfield, a yankee, mr october,

the straw that stirs the drink, he knows how to win.

a tv sports guy asks:  you’re famous, rich,

but are you really happy?  serious, sober:

man, I don’t know about happy– but I’m one glad son of a bitch.


© philip kimball 2009

published in Coal City Review 26:  2009


She asks you how you’re able to be alone

so much.  You’re good at it, upbringing.  Mama told

you once, remember:  early spring, the cold

sunny, dormant playground, harsh, the moan


and whistle of northwest wind through telephone

wires, sycamore leaves not yet unrolled–

nothing moves, nothing to grab and hold,

the desolate realization the world has grown


boring.  Went to Mama to complain.  She said:

in this life there will be a plenty of times when you

will be on your own.  Get used to it.  Out there like a fox


on pullets!  Get!  And have a good time.  You head

into the open morning.  Nothing to do.

At the monkey bars, hide from the wind in a cardboard box.


©Philip Kimball 2002

first published in Coal City Review #17, Lawrence, KS.  2002


knocking the blues around.  photo:  corinna kimball-brown

knocking the blues around. photo: corinna kimball-brown