Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2007

De Soto poet’s world can still be found

February 1, 2007

As a young girl, she lived less than a block from the Wyandotte Street bridge spanning the Kansas River.

She grew to be a significant published poet, an accomplished teacher combining creative work with a regular educational routine. Her contributions to modern educational curricula enabled her to be given a degree to instruct other teachers in the Los Angeles public school system.

Her poetry was published in Kansas City, New York, St. Louis and Fort Worth, among other places.

Frances Coffin Boaz was born May 31, 1882, living most of her adult life in the Fort Worth, Texas, area where she was active in literary societies. She gained fame through sharing poetry with radio audiences.

Her grandfather was Dr. Willoughby Marcks, who practiced in De Soto from 1874 until his death in 1921. Boaz remembered him in the third stanza of "A Beautiful Morman Speaks."

I remember

buggy rides with my grandfather

who was a country doctor, -- Buggy rides past farm houses and fields of grain,

Through woods and leafy arched lanes,

Rides around the bluffs,

Skirted with ferns, violets, sweet Williams

And columbine nodding from the craigs above

The last three lines could be making reference to 82nd Street, known locally as the bluff road and connecting De Soto to Cedar Junction along the edge of the flood plain long before there was an 83rd Street.

I have collected those same species of flowers that continue to populate the wild places overlooked except for the few that find beauty in the flora and the setting.

There is no doubt about the origin of "Summer Night in De Soto."

On a summer night

There is a murmuring among the trees

That back the river;

On the sand-bar

A whip-poor-will

Is calling ... calling ...

The village is vibrant with sound;

The Mexicans are singing

Their plaintive, native songs;

Singing in their box-car homes

Near the water's willow-treed border.

On a summer night,

Over the bridge,

The automobiles hum ...

Automobiles filled with youth

Riotous with laughter!

In the eastern sky

An orange moon is sailing

Over the hills,

Trailing a yellow path

On the river ...

The night wind is crooning

The conquest of an aeroplane zooming

Over the Kaw river,

Over the island;

The aeroplane spins merrily on

Into the moon-dust powdered night . . .

On a summer night

The radio from a farm house

Wafts its pansy-petaled notes

Of song

Along the quiet valley ...

On a summer night,

Will the planet Mars

Send a bizarre airship

Filled with exotic Martians

Who have flown past stars

And peopled-planets

Down to De Soto?

The Mexicans lived in the boxcar homes for workers and families of a Santa Fe Railroad repair crew. When making major repairs in the area, their special railcar homes were spotted on a siding north of Miller Park. The bridge in the poem is the one that spanned the Kansas River from 1910 to 1956. The island was large enough to have a family live on it at one time. It totally eroded away during the flood of 1951.

Francis Coffin Boaz continued finding and sharing beauty until her death in 1974 at 92. More can be learned of Boaz in "De Soto is 100 Years Old" (1957) by Dot Longstreth, and her two books of published poems "If Apollo Listens" (1936) and "Colts of Pegasus" (1936).

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