“Hunters skinning animals in their room should ask for black plastic bag,” read the sign in the motel Ronda decided we best not stay at, and I’m grateful for her decision. Instead, the Poetry Caravan, along with some of Ronda’s family and my son Forest are at the Dusty Farmer’s Motel (sounds like where poets would stay) in St. Francis, Kansas, close to both the Colorado and Nebraska borders. Near where Ronda grew up (on a farm northwest of this town), we’re here to celebrate her first book and read from Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems.
The air is clear and bright, the sky is huge, and the birds are sweet as we gather now at this motel after reading in the big sun-filled band shell. In fact, it was so hot and white-bright that after I read my poetry, I slipped off to lie under the pines while I listened to the music of Nancy’s, Ronda’s, Rick’s, Lee’s, and Karen’s poetry. Forest napped in the Dusty Farmer.
Last night, in Garden City — a mere 178 miles south of here — I read with a marvelous group of local writers, including Ramona McCallum (one of our Begin Again poets) at Garden City Community College. Ramona read a poem about the lion and lamb character of her 7-year-old daughter, Lily, who was so thrilled that her mom was reading about her that she giggled in joy and rushed up afterwards to hug her mother. A young man, injured from football and unable to play on the college team anymore, read a piece about the deep friendship and soul the men on the field find together (a poem that positively changed how I understand football).
Afterwards, a long line of students formed before me, each wanting my autograph on their program. “Is the poet laureate famous?” Lily asked Ramona, who explained Lily was wanting to know why she hadn’t about me like she had about Hannah Montana. “I’m just on another channel,” I told her.
Whatever channel I’m on, there may not be many viewers, but no matter. We’re playing poetry 24/7 in between watching basketball (KU won, another kind of poetry, especially the haunting chants) and driving the poetic curves and expanses of this land. Next up on this channel: fried chicken made special for the Poetry Caravan as we ride our noble cars west just a bit into the sunset over the high plains.