Poetry of Kansas

Impressions, June, 1918

I. The Question
The red sun just seen through mists curling up from dark little
Fairy fields, gray green, blue green, opalescent in their enshrouding
Pivoting always upon the onrushing train as a center and sliding
    out of sight,
Hurrying to hide their mystic beauty___the promised bread of the
Country folk early risen___fathers, mothers, and little children with
    sleep still in their eyes,
All borne by the onrushing train to the place of their desire___the
    soldiers' encampment.
A woman all in black whose fingers pray,
And a woman all in black whose fingers knit;
But chiefly a young priest in khaki,
His leather leggings trim, the gold bar on his squared shoulders, on
    his trim collar the cross of gold.
In his veins runs full the blood of those to whom St. Columba
    brought the Book;
On his knee rests the Book, with its cross of gold, its ribbons of red
    and green and purple.
He turns its pages.
Behind him sit young human beings, lads in khaki, going to their
    all but certain death.
Held as in a vise they are by the unaccountable order of things;
Yet they go freely___though with a wistful questioning in the deeps
    of their calm eyes.
The question was already old, old in the days long gone, when St.
    Columba brought the Book.
It was already old when the Book was new.
Yet it has come afresh, or will come to each of these in the onrush-
    ing train___
To those set together in families; to the woman in black, set apart
But chiefly to the lads in khaki, young human creatures upon whom
    in the fulness of life and in the fulness of Earth's
The unaccountable order of things has all at once closed in.
    If a man die, shall he live again?
    What answer, young priest in khaki?
II. Barbed Wire
Who devised you, thing of ugliness?
First I knew you
Marking off the free sweep of the prairies
With your hateful jagged lines.
An interloper you seemed, harsh and hard, above their waving
A foe to cattle and horses,
Taking them unaware in their play or in their fright.
Devilish in cunning to prick and goad them on,
Cutting and tearing ever deeper, the more they struggled against
Now I know you in lands afar
Drawing your sharp length and setting your notched teeth against
    the flesh of men.
Is it not enough ?
When will you cease to torture?
You devised me, O human heart,
Sinning against the free sweep of the prairies.
And now you turn me against human flesh.
How long, do you ask?
Nay, you only can answer.

__Rose Morgan

Contemporary Kansas Poetry
Helen Rhoda Hoopes
pages 88-89
(Kansas City: Joseph D. Havens Company. 1927)

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February 26, 2003 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas / howell@kotn.org

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