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Voices and Verses

National Poetry Month: “In the Wheat Field” By Kevin Prufer

The Houston poet reads a poem that weaves a story from a history book with a childhood memory.



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Poet Kevin Prufer

In this sound portrait, we meet poet Kevin Prufer. He talks about discovering poetry in boarding school, how he gets his ideas for poems, and his writing ritual. He reads his poem, "In the Wheat Field."

Kevin Prufer is the author of seven books of poetry and the editor of numerous anthologies, the most recent of which is How He Loved Them (Four Way Books, 2018). Some of his other collections are Churches (Four Way Books, 2014), In a Beautiful Country (Four Way Books, 2011), and National Anthem (Four Way Books, 2008).

Prufer is a Professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston and the low-residency MFA at Lesley University. His honors include four Pushcart Prizes and multiple Best American Poetry selections, numerous awards from the Poetry Society of America, the Prairie Schooner/Strousse Award, two William Rockhill Nelson awards, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lannan Foundation.

Inprint presents Kevin Prufer on its Margarett Root Brown Reading Series on Monday, April 23, 7:30pm in Rice University's Stude Concert Hall.


In the Wheat Field

"It's your rabbit," the officer told the soldier
who pointed his rifle at the fleeing enemy
child. The child was quick in the wheat,
so it took three shots before he tumbled
into the afterlife. Many years later
I put down my book about the war
and walk under the oaks' black branches
to where the snow has capped all the cars
in the elementary school parking lot.
The rooftops glitter meanly.
I have never killed anything and
look at me. I am like the boss of hell.
In the silent movie, the moon
took a rocket to the face and never
stopped smiling. Tonight its ashes
scatter over the rooftops. No, that's snow.
Of all the people he murdered,
that soldier could not forget how
the child swayed a moment in the wheat
before disappearing under the sea of it.
I once found a bullet casing right here
on this sidewalk and, not far from it,
a stain. How could I not imagine
the rest of that story? The cars
grow cool and dire in the parking lot,
and the sodium lights hum like enormous
insects. The soldier wrote a whole book about
what he had done, but it didn't help.
Come on and snow all over me,
come on and shower me with ash.
The sky is bone. The moon is a hole
in somebody's skull.


"In the Wheat Field" is from How He Loved Them (c) 2018 by Kevin Prufer. Reprinted with permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.

Music used: Prelude in D major, op. 23, no. 4 (excerpt) by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Notturno, op. 54, no. 4 (excerpt) by Edvard Grieg from Timothy Hester: The Classical 91.7 Sessions; The Blowtorch Rondo (excerpt) by Kris Becker from Expansions; wending (excerpt) by Jeffrey Mumford from through a stillness brightening

To learn more about this series, go here.

Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Senior Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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