Churches burn in a kind of Kansas
where all have the likeness of sense.
Titus, attendant, utters phrases from a manual
in a language he does not speak.
Titus—the only ghost in his room—
bears witness to the rapture at Wichita.
Does the room where he sits understand
that the roof above it’s on fire?
This room, its walls coated in encaustic.
Titus follows cracks wandering down the facture.
Cracks become paths through the sibilant grasses
on the plains fired by imaginary rhymes.
The silhouettes of bison texture the horizon—
they rumble a noise in his head.
Their fifty shaggy bulks form a lexicon
each of whose entries fails a name.
Whom was a picture of drawn by
fire that clothes the prairie in gold?
What spells the land sounds of Sunday
like a shout to the untrained ear.
Quakes Titus, rapt in fits of ecstasy,
speaking in tongues in Kansas in flames.
Copyright © John Tipton
Used with the permission of Flood Editions.