Two Poems

The Kansas Flash

Roger and I launch kites into the night
from the rugby field: we fly them by feel,
feeding slack to taut strings, rushing breezes
for upsweep when lines become too limp.
We reckon height by hearing: paper flaps
louder in a dive. We duck a lot.

Only Roger, red-haired physics major
very far from Winfield, agrees to join me:
we’ve been tracking reports of large life forms
swimming in the dark above this state.
We’d like to lure one close enough to study,
letting it ram our crafts and snag our lines.

Rumors tell of students who’d been plucked up,
blown above the campus and the town:
most were floated back on beams, asleep,
smiling through walls to their dorm room beds.
But one was found wandering the Flint Hills
minus I.D. and short-term memory.

My kite, string drooping, dies: I listen,
waiting for a crunch that never comes.
My search across the pitch yields nothing,
but a sharper view of Roger’s silhouette,
trim against a quivering row of lights,
Jayhawk Boulevard, beyond the dead ball line.

They spark around his body as he whirls,
shirt and hair billowing, bell-bottoms
flaring out. He spools, unspools, trades tugs
with gusts I’m untouched by. Once he sees me
watching, he stops. His kite string steadies,
stretched into the deep, and he walks it over.


Pellets hiss like sand against tree branches.
Shopkeepers slam and lock their metal gates.
You’re a bundle by the curb. When the bus
wallows up, tires scrunch, wipers scrape.
You grab a greasy handrail, hop on, pay
and ease down the aisle seeking one dry seat
where parts of the Star or tissues aren’t strewn,

finally slumping on a bench in the back.
You shoulder your reflection—until dazzled
when headlights flare through streaks of water.
Tail lights are cooler, richer; you lose yourself
staring into the mesh of their refractions.
More soothing are flows of green from signals,
soft prompts, welcoming, but often brief.

You shuffle uphill, ankle-deep, to your room.
It should be safe to lift the window-shade;
the only tracks on the walk below are yours.
You unlayer and sift through longhand drafts
from folders on your desk: some call for fixes.
Several you read aloud, and feel relieved
to find, for the first time all day, your voice.

Martin Shapiro

Martin Shapiro is the Humanities Librarian at American University in Washington, D.C. He is originally from Kansas City, and has lived in Pittsburgh, PA and New York City. His poems appear in Pilgrimage and in a forthcoming issue of Delmarva Review.