Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

McCallum headshot photoI’m lying awake in this life and listening
to sound tell me something beyond
my bedroom window, three flights high.

It’s four in the morning & tree frogs layer
their song in the backyard, along
with crickets and cicadas. This time

of year, something frantic beats
inside of all of us. So much happens
that we don’t really understand. The bedroom
ceiling fan speeds up with a pull of its cord.
The old refrigerator is ready to die but still
insists on whining to the best of its slow
and slightly-chilled ability.

A few minutes ago, I accidentally
toppled a tower of books onto the wooden floor
from their place on the windowsill, in hopes
of glimpsing the meteor shower
everyone spoke of yesterday.

But I saw bats instead. They slid,
silent through the air the way that wisps
of black paper will rise from a fire, curling
like sheets of concert music into shadow,
that the maestro has no further use for.

And as I slide back into bed I hear them
orchestrate their high-pitched chatter, coming,
I figure now, up-side down from the gaps
between the walls of this apartment.

Does it matter, when I moved in here a year ago,
I thought that was the sound of birds,
building a nest on the roof?

~ Ramona McCallum

McCallum is the author of the poetry collection Still Life with Dirty Dishes (2013, Woodey Press) and is in the second year of her MFA studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she is a Durwood Poetry Fellow. Ramona and her husband Brian McCallum, a ceramic sculptor, and their six children are currently founding a nonprofit organization called PowerHouse Universe whose mission is to recognize and encourage the creative abilities of youth by providing opportunities for positive self-expression in the literary, visual and performance arts.

Guest editor: Kevin Rabas co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State and co-edits Flint Hills Review. He has four books: Bird’s Horn, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar, also a Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, and Spider Face: stories. He writes, “For my month, I searched for poems that meditate on “time” in its many musical nuances, such as in times a tune jogged your memory, times the music seemed to transport you in time, times you patted your foot or danced to the music’s groove (time), times the music jump-started your heart (internal time), OR meditations on musical elements (such as 4/4 time vs. 6/8 time OR swung vs. straight, rock 2+4 time).”

Ryberg photo9:17 in the morning,

naked, drunk and bleeding

like Martin Sheen in that scene

from “Apocalypse Now”

(“Saigon… shit, still in Saigon”),

one eye still pasted shut from sleep,

front and back doors wide open,

every light in the house on,

half-eaten pizza from somewhere

I’ve never even heard of,

three-quarter drained handle of rum,

cocaine contrails, twenty-dollar bill

and someone’s Costco card

in full view on the kitchen counter

next to a Valentine’s card from my mother,

David Allen Coe’s “Long Haired Red Neck”

skipping, loud, on the turn-table

for who knows

how long.

~ Jason Ryberg

Guest editor: Kevin Rabas co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State and co-edits Flint Hills Review. He has four books: Bird’s Horn, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar, also a Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, and Spider Face: stories. He writes, “For my month, I searched for poems that meditate on “time” in its many musical nuances, such as in times a tune jogged your memory, times the music seemed to transport you in time, times you patted your foot or danced to the music’s groove (time), times the music jump-started your heart (internal time), OR meditations on musical elements (such as 4/4 time vs. 6/8 time OR swung vs. straight, rock 2+4 time).”

Song I Dreamed by Leah Sewell

Leah SewellThe week before I lost my way of life

The week when I realized I’d lost you

There was a week I listened only to

Ryan Adams & the Cardinals broken

croons aching out my wide open

car windows in moldy blue night

Slipping moon of when I had you

Morning’s nothing but an empty bag

A bed alive with fleas

Deadline and limp flag

Song like a dream like a dream

~ Leah Sewell

Leah Sewell is an assistant editor at Coconut Poetry, an MFA graduate of the University of Nebraska, and a book designer, poet, and mother. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in [PANK], Midwestern Gothic, Weave Magazine and burntdistrict. Her chapbook, Birth in Storm, was the winner of the 2012 ELJ Publications Chapbook Competition.

Guest editor: Kevin Rabas co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State and co-edits Flint Hills Review. He has four books: Bird’s Horn, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar, also a Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, and Spider Face: stories. He writes, “For my month, I searched for poems that meditate on “time” in its many musical nuances, such as in times a tune jogged your memory, times the music seemed to transport you in time, times you patted your foot or danced to the music’s groove (time), times the music jump-started your heart (internal time), OR meditations on musical elements (such as 4/4 time vs. 6/8 time OR swung vs. straight, rock 2+4 time).”

 

Tyler Sheldon PhotoIf you’re not impressed at first,
Don’t sweat it overly much.
It’s often said that our best scenery is nowhere
Near the ground.

Start slow. No one’ll blame you.
Go drag Main
In a rusted-out car at 2 AM.
Eat fish sandwiches from their soggy wrappers
With no-good tartar sauce;
Throw clove cigarette butts into the street.

Walk our dirt roads because you can;
Search for ruby slippers
Because outsiders say you’ll find them here.
Take in the wagon-wheel mailboxes,
The darkly inviting salt mines.

Throw your lines into the air.
Fish kites and vultures
From a deeply important, endless sky.


Bio: Tyler Sheldon is the Press Manager for Flint Hills Review, and is a Creative Writing student at Emporia State University. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Tulgey Wood, Quivira, Periphery, Thorny Locust, eleven to seven, I-70 Review, Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, and 150 Kansas Poems, and is also featured in the anthology To The Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices (a 2012 Kansas Notable Book). Sheldon’s poetry has been nominated for the AWP Intro Journals Award, and has been featured on Kansas Public Radio.

- August Guest Editor: William J. Karnowski is the author of seven books of poetry; Pushing the Chain, The Hills of Laclede, Painting the Train, Hardtails and Highways, Catching the Rain, Dispensation, and The Sodhouse Green. He has poetry published in Kansas Voices, The Midwest Quarterly, Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, Kansas Author Club Yearbooks and multiple website locations. Karnowski is the current State President of Kansas Authors Club.

 

DianePalkaShe rock and rolls through life in a dusty
fuel-efficient car through prairie grass,
cows, wheat, corn, sunflowers.
The naive turtle laughs at prairie tornados
that rock and roll her world.
The doo-wop of her life filled with violin lightning
and piano thunder, now replaced by staccato
of withered leaves that now crush underfoot
scatter in bitter winds.
Her world much older now, yet she feels the same.
Rocking must be more than just a chair.
Care and giver, once two words never used together
drag her into the blue end – cold and deep.
Unable to whirl in the country winds that bound from field
to field, she can’t find sunflowers for all the blue
she struggles to surface
stay afloat.
In her newfound wisdom as a tortoise
she carries them on her back to shelter them.
She plods along the dusty gravel roads in her tiny car
does what she can, not what she wants.
Give her violins, pianos, give her rock and roll
give her doo-wop, let her rock around prairie tornadoes
instead of rocking in a chair
because there isn’t much time left
for sunflowers, thunder or lightning.

Diane Palka is a resident in rural Overbrook. She worked as a secretary/bookkeeper in Lawrence and Kansas City. Diane became interested in poetry as an adult. Now retired, she has turned her attention to writing poetry. She enjoys writing free verse and Japanese forms of poetry, specifically, haiku, senryu, haibun.

- August Guest Editor: William J. Karnowski is the author of seven books of poetry; Pushing the Chain, The Hills of Laclede, Painting the Train, Hardtails and Highways, Catching the Rain, Dispensation, and The Sodhouse Green. He has poetry published in Kansas Voices, The Midwest Quarterly, Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, Kansas Author Club Yearbooks and multiple website locations. Karnowski is the current State President of Kansas Authors Club.

Encore by Roy Beckemeyer

RoyBeckemeyerthe city lights fade behind us
like a second sundown,
a slowly dimming arc
of light born of commerce,
while stars at the edge
of the diminished glow blink,
hopeful of a darkening sky

the sky’s blackness
falls all the way
from the vault of the meridian
to that always receding westward line
of earth and grass -
somewhere there are trees
framing the sky,
but out here things are
unrestrained, wild and arching
and open as your soul

home at last, we stop the car,
get out, let our eyes
go wide – you reach your arms
up and whirl around, never quite
touching those stars,
but I am convinced
your fingers are stirring
the eddies and curls of the Milky Way

the stars glisten, as if the wind
or the wake of your arms
were making them shimmer,
just the way grama grass
comes alive in the breaths
of spring’s quickening

you twirl just as you did
a few hours ago on that sun-bright stage,
but here there is no clapping,
just my breath catching
as I recall that this is where
you first danced, here,
on this prairie stage -
these same stars, once and always
your audience, your footlights,
your first, and constant, inspiration

 

- Roy Beckemeyer edits a scientific journal and writes poetry and finds it curious and satisfying that the two are not mutually exclusive. He is the Vice President of Kansas Authors Club and a member of the Wayward Poets, a small, egalitarian group of Wichita writers who meet weekly to read and write out of a sense of commitment to one another, an effective antidote against writer’s block.

- August Guest Editor: William J. Karnowski is the author of seven books of poetry; Pushing the Chain, The Hills of Laclede, Painting the Train, Hardtails and Highways, Catching the Rain, Dispensation, and The Sodhouse Green. He has poetry published in Kansas Voices, The Midwest Quarterly, Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, Kansas Author Club Yearbooks and multiple website locations. Karnowski is the current State President of Kansas Authors Club.

I know of no one who has livedGregGerman
here. And it has been here forever,
a pivot we cramp machinery around
behind a full-throttled tractor.
The house could have been a corner post
so tight set it made no difference
how taut or in what direction a wire
stretched. The foundation has settled.
Wind has chiseled the excitement
out of the wood, and the sun has left it
grey. Its shingles are receding.
There are no curtains. The front door
is gone, so it must be open. Inside
I mingle with the musty scents eroding
from the crisp millers and mummified mice
hidden behind the layered, pastel paper
wilting from the walls. Children
drift through bedroom doors playing
with antique toys. Screened
by a common farmer face, a man sits
on his kitchen chair. He stares
beyond a woman in a cotton dress
into clouds that might not
be rain. I have done my duty.
And mine are the last boots
to arouse the dusty lull spread
across this cold wood floor.
On the windward side of the house
dad announces there is no better time
than now. I stand back. He lights
a match. Flames lean from windows,
tattered flags at full mast.

—- Previously Published in:
Kansas Quarterly, 1987, V.19, # 1

- Greg German was born and raised near Glen Elder, in north central Kansas, where he farmed with his family for many years. He currently lives in Kansas City, Kansas, with his wife Regina and son, Alden. He is a private consultant specializing in technical communication, web site development, free-lance writing and photography. He holds a B.A. degree in English/Creative writing and a B.S. in Education from Kansas State University. Previously, Greg has taught high school English and, creative writing at both the high school and college levels. He also developed and maintains http://www.kansaspoets.com — a website unique to Kansas Poets. Greg’s poetry and personal essays have appeared in over 50 literary journals across the U.S.

- August Guest Editor: William J. Karnowski is the author of seven books of poetry; Pushing the Chain, The Hills of Laclede, Painting the Train, Hardtails and Highways, Catching the Rain, Dispensation, and The Sodhouse Green. He has poetry published in Kansas Voices, The Midwest Quarterly, Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, Kansas Author Club Yearbooks and multiple website locations. Karnowski is the current State President of Kansas Authors Club.

 

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