Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

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.

When I leave youChris McKinney

I’m happy, ecstatic even

To vanish from the pebbles

I dream are mountains,

And when I do reach those mountains

Flying like Icarus to their tops,

Where I can see an entire new world

I realize I can’t see the place I’ve left.

I spend my days foraging for gems

Among diamonds shining like glass.

I spend my nights among city lights

That blaze like second suns

In comparison to the stars I’ve known.

Sometimes I search for a bed

That happens to be my own.

Soon, all too soon, the magic becomes mundane,

The hyperborean becomes humdrum.

The street dancers with three-feet legs

Become hobnobs on wooden pegs,

And the acrobats become serpents.

Where I had thought myself a green lion eating the sun

I realized I was only eating lies, and vomiting nightlife.

How easy it is to fall in love

With something you can’t comprehend.

So I return home, to the open arms of the familiar

Where I’m met with a me I know, remember, like.

A me that, sometimes, even surprises me –

Because it’s a me that will do it all again,

If only to be that boy again

Wishing on a distant satellite.

~ Chris McKinney

Chris McKinney graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in literature. He works as an IT specialist. Go figure. To the Stars Through Difficulties, the Mind’s Eye 2010, and Coal City Review are just a few of the publications to house his works. When he is not writing he is painting.

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.

Sarah Worrelwhispering metal

dead, black mouse with descending fly

gate creaks

crispy sidewalk worms

birds’ continual chorus

mailbox droppings

insect call

construction echoes

cat camouflaged against mulch

stilled snake

dense gray clouds

sudden shower

tennis shoe squelch

waterlogged denim

cold drops pelting skin

half-hearted or absent

hellos

discarded pen

abandoned plastic cups

so much green it’s tasted

tiger lilies repeated

barberry bushes

purple-leafed plum aka sand cherry

showy splendor of hot pink roses

Sarah Worrel graduated from the University of Kansas, where she had an amazing job at the KU Writing Center. Her current employment includes the roles of paraeducator and AVID tutor. Comma, Splice published her poem called meadowlark in Florida. Her short stories have appeared in Coal City Review and James Gunn’s Ad Astra.

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.

PastedGraphic-1hauling wood to front porch

wheelbarrow circles back

to peach sky behind old

white frame garage

 

brother john shoots basketball

until too dark to see hoop

 

brother steve

sells christmas trees

below bare bulb

 

metal chain keeps perfect time

on steel flagpole

in schoolyard

~ J. T. Knoll

J.T. Knoll, a native of the Republic of Frontenac, Kansas, is a counselor, prize-winning columnist, poet and speaker. His poetry and prose has been published widely across the United States. He lives in Pittsburg, with his wife, Linda, and dog, Arlo the Labradorian.

Al Ortolani’s poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, New Letters, Word Riot, and the New York Quarterly. His fifth collection of poems, Waving Mustard in Surrender, was released in 2014 from New York Quarterly Books. Currently, he is teaching English in the Blue Valley School District and serves on the Board of Directors of the Kansas City Writers Place.

I.Bio pic

The mother of my childhood

is propped up by the vacuum handle.

Her arms disappear at the ends

into filmy sink water.

She scrubs the kitchen floor the hard way,

sponge instead of mop. She’s tired.

 

She won’t stop

my father’s cancer from sweeping

through our tidy lives,

but she is armed

with spray bottles and paper towels.

 

II.

My father’s smoking

transformed the bathroom vent

from flute smooth to caked fireplace ash.

I pictured his lungs changing texture,

his heart no longer a red flame

but the doused black matchstick.

 

I tried hiding his cigarettes.

He always found them. Eventually,

I learned the joy my mother took in controlling

what could be. I polished the vent

with a pretty white cloth,

tenderly as she did her collection of tea spoons.

~ Melissa Fite Johnson

Melissa Fite Johnson teaches English at Pittsburg High School in Kansas. She’s had poetry published in magazines such as Sotto Voce, The Little Balkans Review, and Inscape Magazine, and in a Kansas Notable Book poetry collection To the Stars Through Difficulties. The Little Balkans Press will publish her first book of poetry, While the Kettle’s On, this year. Melissa and her husband, Marc, live in Pittsburg with their dog and several chickens.

Al Ortolani’s poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, New Letters, Word Riot, and the New York Quarterly. His fifth collection of poems, Waving Mustard in Surrender, was released in 2014 from New York Quarterly Books. Currently, he is teaching English in the Blue Valley School District and serves on the Board of Directors of the Kansas City Writers Place.

Sixteen by Laura Lee Washburn

The tramping van made me woman enough.Photo on 2010-07-13 at 11.40 #3 (1)

Carburetor, clutch, hub, window guide, crank

pulley roused me before I knew the other words

of womanhood: snake, bend, flood stop, drop elbow

universal flapper, male and female fittings.

Coming back from the feed lot,

Dad stopped quick for the hippy van,

bread truck, whatever it had been.

We painted it primer black for a mural.

I tossed a mattress in back for a home

on the way to quest. Nothing turns out

how you plan. I should’ve learned body

repair, how to press the smash out of a door,

how to fire glass back to a pane, how loving

sometimes calls you out of your dreams,

how it follows you, even into the prairie grass

bent in November’s sullen winds.

~ Laura Lee Washburn

Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Cavalier Literary Couture, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, Red Rock Review, and Valparaiso Review.  Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has also lived and worked in Arizona and in Missouri.  She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky.


Al Ortolani’s poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, New Letters, Word Riot, and the New York Quarterly. His fifth collection of poems, Waving Mustard in Surrender, was released in 2014 from New York Quarterly Books. Currently, he is teaching English in the Blue Valley School District and serves on the Board of Directors of the Kansas City Writers Place.

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