“Beyond Kansas” – Prose by Marc Harshman

Tornado Over Kansas - John Steuart Curry, 1929
Tornado Over Kansas – John Steuart Curry, 1929

There’s a storm brewing in “Beyond Kansas,” a powerful piece of short prose from our Winter 2017 issue by West Virginia’s poet laureate Marc Harshman.

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In the U.S., you have to be a deviant or die of boredom.  – William S. Burroughs

AS LONG AS  THERE’S A BREEZE, the uneasy shimmy of shadows persists and, though he pretends not to care, a reckoning is sure to follow.  He’s seen this kind of weather before.  The jay’s screech fails in the monotone of the freeway. It might have been important. You see what I mean, he wants to say. Today is not the worst, but it is worth considering how bad it could get.  He knows that.  Someone is worrying about the banks.  He understands that, too.  Maybe they worry because they know they must worry, like he does, about whether the dog food will hold out.  He can imagine a self-imposed exile from life’s headaches without going so far as a vacation.  Perhaps a concussion is all that’s needed.  Or a break-through in his writing.  “Another round of TV and platitudes.”  He makes up phrases like these all the time, writes them down, then posts them like flags around the bedroom.  They will amount to something some day.  His mother had assured him as much, that he would, amount to something, some day, though he wonders sometimes if it was said parentally, or simply as a rebuttal to her boyfriend who’d kicked him off the couch as he watched Malcolm in the Middle.  It was a weird show. He’d masturbate after every episode.   Was he a deviant?  There are screams out there that knock on the door to come in.  He gets very still; lifts the curtain to see if what happens next will be enough.  He wants it.  He wants life to be real, yet it’s all so scary.  The wind is picking up the shadows and hurling them at the windows.  He should offer to help.  Open the door.  There are so many locks on it.  He wonders if he should add more.  Time falls through his head leaving its great holes.  The storm stops.  It will be useless to try to do anything now.  Did he hit his head?  The doorway is filling with sunshine and leaves.  The door itself is gone, blown back to Kansas.  There is a little dog.  He tries talking to it.  Picks up the single, yellow brick that came through the window.  Feels the lump on his forehead, begins to understand things.  Returns to his study, re-reads his notes, begins writing a letter to his mother, tells her he’s buying her a car and they’ll really go someplace this time, beyond the cemetery, beyond the weather, beyond the beyond.

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harshman-10MARC HARSHMAN’s second full-length poetry collection, Believe What You Can, was published by The Vandalia Press of West Virginia University. His four chapbooks of poetry include Rose of Sharon (Mad River Press). Periodical publications include The Georgia Review, Salamander, 14 Hills, Poetry Salzburg Review, and Gargoyle. His poems have been anthologized by Kent State University, the University of Iowa, University of Georgia, SPM Publications [London], and the University of Arizona. His thirteen children’s books include The Storm, a Smithsonian Notable Book. This spring he was invited to read at the Greenwich Book Festival in London. His monthly show for West Virginia Public Radio, “The Poetry Break,” began airing in January.  He is the seventh poet laureate of West Virginia.

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