Velma West Sykes, Missouri Poet (1893-1976)

Velma West Sykes
Christmas Parable
Late Summer
Modern Farm Boy
Nancy Comes North
The Penitent
Prayer of a Troubled Pastor
Realism for Mortals
Shared Grief Over Prodigals
Subtle Distinction
Twin Snowflakes
Prayer of a Troubled Pastor

Lord, there are times I find no word from you
To guide me in my work, as when today
There was a woman, old and sick, who knew
Her time was short, so sent for me to pray.
The question that she asked -- what could I say?
Her husband died young; she wonders how
He'll recognize her there, so old and gray.
She wants to look like she looked then -- not now.
I told her that since You are always kind
And know the human heart, its foolish pride,
That when they meet again I thought she'd find
He'd see her There as she was when he died.
Forgive me, Lord if I mixed faith with guile
For when I left she wore a peaceful smile.
Potpourri in Poetry
Christmas Parable

The stable boy had finished work that day,
Had filled the manger with new-fragrant hay,
Had fed the beasts, and usually would sleep
Snuggled for warmth among the placid sheep;
But not tonight, for he'd conceived a plan
To join a merchant's camel caravan
And travel to far places. He had heard
Exciting tales of cities, which had stirred
His longing for adventure. He would go
Where things were happening; his friends would know
Why he had gone. He often said to them,
"Oh, nothing ever happens in Bethlehem."
He looked back once, before they traveled far,
And wondered vaguely: Why that brilliant star?
Farm Journal, Hallmark Treasure Books
Late Summer

The locust plies us with his strident song.
The cricket overture is overlong,
While in the grasses lurks the katydid
Who groans monotonously, "She did, she did."

The tasseled corn wears morning-glory frills.
A haze has come to veil free-feathered hills,
While man and bee and squirrel hoard together
The season's bounty, cached for bitter weather.
The Harp, October 1929
Modern Farm Boy

He looks about ten,
Certainly not more than twelve years,
As he guides the steel monster
Over the level fields,
A boy doing a man's work
With mechanical ease.
He glances up at the sky
Where a flight of metal birds
Moves in close formation.
The boy rests his machine
And watches, dreaming
Of the time he, too, can
Take wing.
Saturday Evening Post, 28 April 1956
Nancy Comes North

She had lived south of frost her seven years
And cupped her hands to capture flakes of snow;
Dismayed at their impermanence, her tears
Prefaced her querulous, "where did they go?"
I was not wise enough to tell her where
But told her why and led her by the hand
To see the brook, ice-silenced, and to stare
At tracks the fox made seeking contraband.
As wonder grew and lighted Nancy's face
I saw anew what had seemed commonplace.
Kansas City Star, 1 November 1954
The Penitent

There was once a monk
(So the story goes)
Who was given a penance
To cramp his toes.

He must walk five miles
With beans in his shoes --
To shrive his soul
His feet abuse.

He did his penance
As we might do --
First boiled the beans
He put in each shoe.
The Kansas City Star, 25 March 1971
Realism for Mortals

The only absolute is change,
Growth and decay;
Even the stones (though stubbornly)
This law obey.

And Man, who oftenest rebels,
Learns soon or late
His need to welcome what will be,
Accept fate.
Kansas City Star, 17 October 1959
Shared Grief Over Prodigals

This is an old grief
And a thief
Of parent sleep --
The budding child,
Rebellious, wild,
Grown knowing, not wise,
Who will not keep
Commandments learned,
Now discarded, spurned
As graybeard lies.

This is an old grief
And one, we suppose,
God, also, knows.
Kansas City Times, November 23, 1963
Subtle Distinction

My friend is prejudiced; the law
Should curb him with restrictions,
But leave me free to carry out
My personal convictions.
The Villager, February 1958
Twin Snowflakes

Two snowflakes never are the same,
The scientists agree;
But have they proved what they proclaim?
I watch the myriads that fall
And leave it up to chance,
That here and there among them all
Twin snowflakes dance.

Velma West Sykes, Country GirlDuring a 60-year career she wrote newspaper columns, hosted a radio show, reviewed books, edited a magazine, and wrote plays and poetry is how Jane Fifield Flynn describes Velma West Sykes in Kansas City Women of Independent Minds. Search for Velma West Sykes and Boxoffice Magazine in Missouri Valley Special Collections, The Kansas City Public Library. Potpourri in Poetry, compiled and edited by the poet's daughter Bonnie Sykes Sullivan and published in 1991, is available in most Missouri public libraries.
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