Holding on to Hope of Spring
Thear the north winds
blowing icy messages from
high country. Oaks cling to last
year’s leaves. Redbuds
have not purpled. Bluets
have not yet peeked.
Static electricity erupts from my blankets as I reach
for a split of firewood. The winter wood
pile is almost gone. My trailer door
rattles in unison with skeletons of
burnt cedars resisting the wind. Turkey
vultures have returned to resume the
wait. Pulling my boots over worn woolen
socks is a chore. This floor is a glacier.
I weary of reusing old coffee grounds. If my truck
will start, I must journey south for
provisions. Maybe I will find fescue
greening in short grass beside the
road, or henbit taking over winter
wheat. Even a golden dandelion
emerging from the dust, like the sun
from the horizon, would be a sign.
The prairie fire makes
of a grove of red cedar trees,
to ash tallgrass and wildflowers,
forgotten strands of barbed
on the ground like surgical
My chainsaw makes short work of
Splinters and shards scrape
my flesh. Dripping blood
scorched earth and blackened
Like red-winged blackbirds,
Amid the silt of a retreating river, an egret is motionless in the mud. River bottom
grime has stained wing tips and belly down. Spindle legs disappear in the muck. Long
neck and head rotate like radar.
The skinny boy is shirtless, white washboard ribs vivid. He steps off the bank, sinks in
to his ankles, wobbles to gain balance, drags one boot free and steps forward. The
egret watches, trembles, tries again to escape.
The boy whispers like an angel, bends from the waist as his legs are clutched by the
mud, One finger traces a line along the bird’s back, neck and crest then grasps the
beak. The other arm cradles the egret, raises. it out of the mud and into flight –
moonrise from horizon’s misery.
Kelly Johnston is a life-long Kansan. He was born in Lawrence in 1955, and graduated from Wichita State in 1977 as a creative writing major. He has published poems in Mikrokosmos, The I-70 Review, The Flint Hills Review, and The California Quarterly. Kelly’s poem “In The Desert Near White Sands” won Best Overall Poem in the Winfield Kansas Voices Poetry Contest in 2017. Kelly’s chapbook, Kalaska was published by Blue Cedar Press in 2017. Kelly loves to spend time on 70 acres in the Chautauqua Hills near Cross Timbers State Park where most of his poems are inspired.