Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

First cut of last year’s old growthDan Pohl

Shows a maze of field mice runs

Exposed to keen barn owl eyes and

Hungry hawks that leer for any sign

 

Of a sneeze of movement to release

Pandora’s Box of hurt from above

Yet last year’s grass keeps their lives

Near the cemetery, where the dead

 

Have a place outside town, from

Attack while raiding cut maize and

Corn rows for last summer’s forgotten

Grains, dangerous destinations

 

As is the pasture’s pond nearby

So their trails connect by Y’s like

Family trees branch, webs of roads

Roofed by rasping whips when wind

 

Exhales to show tunnels, crooked

As Russian rivers, the paths danced to

Bare earth by quick pads of paws as

If Greek music plays, scurrying beats

Of feet each day to socials, to burrows

While at night they cuddle in warmth

Covered and tucked-in to sleep under

Such grass in order to forget the sun

~ Dan Pohl

Dan Pohl instructs English composition at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas. Woodley Press will publish his first book of poetry Autochthonous: Found in Place in late 2013. He lives in Moundridge, Kansas, and writes poems and prose poems. He judged the 2013 Nelson Poetry Book Contest. People can find his work published in two 2013 anthologies: Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems (Woodley Press) and To the Stars through Difficulties (Mammoth Publications), both edited by past Kansas Poet Laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. A sampling of his poems is found online at <kansaspoets.com>.

Guest Editor: Israel Wasserstein, a Lecturer in English at Washburn University, was born and raised on the Great Plains. His first poetry collection, This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, was a 2013 Kansas Notable Book. His poetry and prose have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Blue Mesa Review, Flint Hills Review, and elsewhere.

 

No one whispers05_10_1

On the way home

After such a loss

The gray frozen road

Cuts like a serpent

Through barren hills.

 

Headlights struggle

Ahead of the rattling bus

Like runners gasping for air.

 

No one wins in these Flint Hills

On a cold January night

Except darkness.

 

Besides numbness,

Players feel only the rising

And falling of glacial drifts.

 

The ebbing and flowing

Of an ancient sea

Inside their chests.

 

Wind rattling windows

Once blew across waves

Writhing with monstrous beasts.

 

Struggling for dominance,

They leaped out of the darkness

And caromed back into spray,

 

Their shrieking death cries

Echoing like thunder

Across the moonless night.

 

One player stirs from sleep

With such a bellowing cry

Rising from his diaphragm

 

But squelches it just in time,

And then turns to the window

And the undulating plains

 

With an uncomprehending gaze,

Unaware of the lesson about loss

Among the endless ravines,

 

That after the struggle ends,

And all memory of victor

And vanquished disappear,

 

Swallowed by darkness,

Only the wind will be left

To remember the sounds.

~ Thomas Reynolds

Thomas Reynolds is an associate English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Review, and Prairie Poetry. Woodley Press of Washburn University published his poetry collection Ghost Town Almanac in 2008. His chapbook The Kansas Hermit Poems was published in 2013.

Guest Editor: Israel Wasserstein, a Lecturer in English at Washburn University, was born and raised on the Great Plains. His first poetry collection, This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, was a 2013 Kansas Notable Book. His poetry and prose have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Blue Mesa Review, Flint Hills Review, and elsewhere.

 

There is nothing here,10885210_10203995076012065_23950373450041338_n

you people who live in cities might say.

No buildings, no bleating herds of taxis,

 

no stampeding crowds.

But stay awhile and you will learn the way

along the yellow paths,

 

feel under your shoes the bones

of white flint, the broad root grid

that spreads each season’s current underground.

 

You will see how many days of stillness

it takes to make the sky move,

how many months of drought

 

to map a riverbed, how many years

of wind hammering to build

an empty skyline.

~ Pat Daneman

Pat Daneman has lived in Lenexa, Kansas since 1986. Recent work appears in The Moon City Review, I-70 Review, Bellevue Poetry Review, and The Comstock Review. Her chapbook, Where the World Begins, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. She is poetry co-editor of Kansas City Voices magazine.

Guest Editor: Israel Wasserstein, a Lecturer in English at Washburn University, was born and raised on the Great Plains. His first poetry collection, This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, was a 2013 Kansas Notable Book. His poetry and prose have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Blue Mesa Review, Flint Hills Review, and elsewhere.

 

Downtown Main Street is stilllisa hase-jackson

mostly the same. The wrought

 

iron benches around the square

have all been repainted glossy black

and folks still ignore business

in favor of conversation. Store front

 

windows are thicker at the bottom

than they used to be, and the Christmas wreath

in the antique mall, thick with wood smoke

and dust, is perennial now.

Flour sacks are still buck a piece

at Koger’s Five and Dime. Yesterday

 

I passed my first

crush on second street. He

didn’t recognize me,

or pretended not to. He

always said he wouldn’t farm,

probably still works for the County

and rides his Harley to the city

on weekends it doesn’t rain. The Burkes’

lost another son

if the church marquee is any indication.

I expect folks’ll make casseroles and breads

for the funeral reception and the weeks
that follow, help out with planting in the spring

maybe even the harvesting come fall,
being sure to mark their good deed
on the feed-store calendar held
up by the bank magnet

on their refrigerator door.

~ Lisa Hase-Jackson

Lisa Hase-Jackson holds a Master’s Degree from Kansas State University and is pursuing an MFA from Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C. She is the Reviews Editor for South 85 Journal and facilitates two poetry blogs: ZingaraPoet.net and 200 New Mexico Poems. Recently, her poems have appeared in such literary magazines as Sugar Mule, Kansas City Voices, Pilgrimage, and As/Us Journal and anthologized in To The Stars Through Difficulty: A Kansas Renga, and Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku & Haiga.

Guest Editor: Israel Wasserstein, a Lecturer in English at Washburn University, was born and raised on the Great Plains. His first poetry collection, This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, was a 2013 Kansas Notable Book. His poetry and prose have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Blue Mesa Review, Flint Hills Review, and elsewhere.

La Madrugada: calm before sunrise,

unblinking eye at the rim

of day awakening with warblers,

a breeze of first color creeps

over stucco, somnambulant gray

turns powder blue.

Wind chimes stretch, yawn,

tree tops nod yes, yes,

a yipping yorkie wakes two squirrels,

their tails spiral maple bark, argue

and plunge – lawn dolphins –

from darkness into dawn.

A baby’s howl sunbursts shadows.

Buenos dias, noche. Night

forgets we ever dreamed or slept.

~ Alan Robert Proctor

Mr. Proctor’s poetry, fiction, and/or creative non-fiction have appeared in New Letters, Loon, Chautauqua, Kansas City Voices, I-70 Review, Crosstimbers, Off Channel, and Hanging Loose among other journals. Alan was twice a Reader’s Digest national poetry finalist, and a winner in the Whispering Prairie Press 2012 Rex Rogers Formal Poetry Contest. His novel, Adirondack Summer was released in 2013 and his hybrid-memoir, The Sweden File: Memoir of an Expatriate is soon to be published by Westphalia Press.

Guest Editor James Benger is husband and writer. His work has been featured in Coal City Review, Comma,Splice, Hoarding Words, Kansas City Voices, Kiosk, Periphery, Runaway Pony, Thorny Locust and To the Stars Through Difficulties. His ebooks, Flight 776 and Jack of Diamonds are available from most digital retailers. He lives in the Kansas City area with his wife.

Diane WahtoHer shoulders bend over the ironing board. In one hand,

a Coke bottle topped with a metal sprinkler.

In her other hand, the heavy iron, radiating heat.

She lifts clothes, starch-stiff, fresh from the clothesline.

They, empty ghosts, exude sun and spring.

The radio is on.

Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa on drums,

The iron in my mother’s hand moves with the music,

makes intricate patterns across shirts, sheets,

blouses, dresses, trousers. She presses her mark

into each piece. Her mouth a determined line

across the planes of her face.

~ Diane Wahto

Bio: Diane Wahto has an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University. Her poem, “Someone Is Always Watching,” won the American Academy of Poets award. Recently, her poems “The Conspiracy of Coffee” and “After the Storm” were published in Active Aging. She, her husband, and two dogs live in Wichita, Kansas.

Guest Editor James Benger is husband and writer. His work has been featured in Coal City Review, Comma,Splice, Hoarding Words, Kansas City Voices, Kiosk, Periphery, Runaway Pony, Thorny Locust and To the Stars Through Difficulties. His ebooks, Flight 776 and Jack of Diamonds are available from most digital retailers. He lives in the Kansas City area with his wife.

05_10_1It sits in tall weeds

Like a crushed, jagged brain.

No beat or synapse pulses

Where it sits behind the shed.

All is unnaturally calm the way

Operating rooms are after everything

Has been tried, the surgeon has backed

Away and removed her mask, nurses

Disconnect all life-sustaining devices,

All silent except for the clanking of tools

Being placed on trays and wheeled away.

Soon the patient is lifted onto a gurney

To be awaited by mourners, those for whom

The body is all they have and so they can’t let

It go. Not yet. So now he has wheeled this corpse

Into the waving September grass to await eternity.

Only a few birds have cared to mourn. Tree limbs

Lean down to caress the hollowed-out eyes

Which look out unseeing into darkening prairie,

Where wind and sky collide time after time.


Before a raucous crowd of jays.

~ Thomas Reynolds

Bio: Thomas Reynolds is an associate English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Review, and Prairie Poetry. Woodley Press of Washburn University published his poetry collection Ghost Town Almanac in 2008. His chapbook The Kansas Hermit Poems was published in 2013.

Guest Editor James Benger is husband and writer. His work has been featured in Coal City Review, Comma,Splice, Hoarding Words, Kansas City Voices, Kiosk, Periphery, Runaway Pony, Thorny Locust and To the Stars Through Difficulties. His ebooks, Flight 776 and Jack of Diamonds are available from most digital retailers. He lives in the Kansas City area with his wife.

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