Poetry from Steve Brisendine

Motif II: Crash/Landing
(A Semi-Tragedy in Two Acts)

I. On the south side of Liberal, Kansas

For some reason, we all know to gather along the old highway
just north of where it meets the bypass; between them, a wedge
	of dry prairie grass anticipates dawn and something else.

The plane comes in from the south: long, thin, white, unliveried.
(Picture the offspring of a Concorde and a 707, its father’s nose
	and its mother’s wings, and you have it close enough.)

Gear still retracted, it slides in and turns top, three perfect spins
down the field without bending so much as one thin dun blade;
	there is no sound but breaths all drawn in at once.

No flame, no laceration of aluminum skin, not so much as a cloud
of honest Kansas dust; nose pointed back where it came from,
	the plane rests unperturbed, maiden-flight pristine.

From somewhere in the crowd, a Panhandle-tinged twang:
	Well, that ol’ boy done ‘er again, didn’t he? Might
	as well go see what all he brung us this time.

II. Manhattan, Kansas, on the street where Jim Roper lived

Stuffed with burgers (eaten, as ever, standing in the kitchen),
we walk north toward the football stadium, discussing the 
quarterback situation and whether threatened rain will hold off.

Someone – probably Gary – brings up a years-ago summer
solstice party, the honey-haired girl nobody knew who showed
up in a toga and antler-danced with Jim in the living room.

This is routine, ritual, sacrament, not to be disturbed by 
anything like that belly-flopping 747 two blocks ahead, 
plunging into low brick blocks where married students live.

Impact now, an infrabass thump and rumble. A fireball races
to consume families, tricycles, maples, all of us. It is red
and orange and beautiful; I breathe in and am not afraid.


 
Shawnee, Kansas, Which is Not Really Shawnee, Kansas: Dream II

This is another in a long line
of whole-cloth hotel lobbies
on streets which both exist and do not:

a tile-and-Formica spot 
on an off-map stretch of Johnson Drive

(pick dumpy or retro
and either will suit, depending more 
	on you than on the place),

and I’m trying to explain to Larry 
that I did (eventually) recognize

the young Clint Eastwood and the 
older one when I ran into both of 
them at the coffeehouse in Union Station

sitting at a table with either Anthony Hopkins 
or John Wayne – or occasionally but not 
always both, though why the Duke should 
resurrect for three-dollar drip is beyond me –

and for some other unfathomable reason 
James Urbaniak, thin and vaguely dangerous,
who smirked at all of us and left halfway 
	through the conversation.

Larry all the while fiddles with his phone,
poking it with a little screwdriver, 
only making appropriate noises so as 
	to seem engaged,

so I walk out into a half-dawn of
backlit plastic, oddly angled streets
	and lumen-polluted overcast.

I suppose I might eventually find my way
	back to the map and home –

that, or just go upstairs and fall into dream 
within dream, still in my clothes on
forty dollars' worth of rented sheets.

Don't press me for a clear answer; I am and
will be asleep the whole sometime.
 
Bonner Springs, Kansas, Which is Not Really Bonner Springs, Kansas: Dream II

The stakeout is just beginning. I have time to go for coffee.
The town’s heart is only a few blocks south; its buildings 
are taller than I remember, but this bodes well; somewhere
in this tangle of five-story limestone, there must be a place.

The sidewalk spans a ravine, brush-lined, hundreds of feet
deep. There is no handrail, and the walkway is less than a
yard wide. I take no shame in dropping to my knees to cross,
but a man on the other side rolls his eyes and tosses a few
	dead dogwood branches to impede my way. 

No need; I am being called back. We have been made. Our
	target has seen telltale peanuts floating in his gutter.

(He looks like a television character actor of some minor 
note, one who always seems to play a well-meaning but 
largely incompetent foil to the protagonist. I will remember 
his name someday, likely on my deathbed, and my loved ones
	will always wonder why those were my last words.)

We will have to take another tack, so we roll back into the
city along Kaw Drive. I see a coffeehouse, set back among
trees on the north side of the road. We do not stop.

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