Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Posts tagged ‘Dennis Etzel’

Another Mother by Dennis Etzel

 (two excerpts from “Another Mother”)me-insta

 

the new neighbor asks how my aunt is feeling

 

I stop

 

how would she know my aunt, as we never see her

 

and it is my other mother who is sick

 

she questions, as if my mothers are two sisters

 

who live together

 

raise children

 

share a bed

 

not sisters Gertrude Stein says

 

my mother not mother but mother

 

      ***

as one mother is a nurse the other is a counselor

 

a kind of therapy down the middle

 

one for the mind the other for the body

 

I help them sharpen that double-edged axe

 

for gardens for protection

 

each job a work of resistance

 

against grindstones

~ Dennis Etzel

Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and the boys in Topeka, Kansas. He has an MFA from The University of Kansas, and an MA and Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies from Kansas State University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, DIAGRAM, and others. He teaches English at Washburn University, is the Managing Editor of Woodley Press, and volunteers at the YWCA’s Center for Safety and Empowerment.

145. I Carry Three Birds

Their wings rub against my ribcage,

trapped, and each heart pounds fast,

as if I’ve stopped some kind of migration.

 

The cardinal knows when to save with a song,

when to fly and when to nurture.

The second is a robin, for singing during the afternoon

when my thinking can be confusing, when I mistake

the danger of branches for the opportunity of building.

And the last is the crow, for protection,

for remaining when it’s cold.

 

But I confuse which bird I need

with the one I listen to, my mistake

in switching them around.

Sometimes the singing should continue,

but I crow curses instead.

Sometimes when I should let go

to soar, I scamper within the trees.

 

Even then, all three continue

to build a nest out of the ruins,

to nestle in through my winters.

– Dennis Etzel

(previously published in Poetry Midwest)

Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and their two sons in Topeka, Kansas. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Kansas and teaches at Washburn University. He is Co-Managing Editor of Woodley Press, Poetry Editor for seveneightfive, and hosts the Top City Poetry Reading Series. Work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, RATTLE, BlazeVOX, kiosk, Poetry Midwest, Coal City Review, Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, and seveneightfive.

Photo by Kevin Rabas

100. Site Fidelity

We survey the grass blades for seeds, for a place

as my arm wraps around you like thicket

because I fear I’ll lose you through the sumac and tallgrass

tipsy from the wine of bitter Kansas grapes

while my left hand snags your cocklebur hair

the same way men treat the prairie, you say,

the way men pull at its covers until bare,

so we take turns examining the ground for surface scars,

for what was planted, as if our own bodies—the mark

down my back, the one you have but can’t show, and the one

on your hip that the sun sets shadows upon—

as darkness is catching up with the dark that exists,

and you admit you were afraid to come out here

because of coyotes, the animals wild at night,

after I admit I am afraid of night itself,

how it washes the red sky with indigo, with shadows

widening on our faces, on my open arms of hillsides,

and as you trace the backwards question mark

of the lion that only protects the night sky in spring,

you whisper how we are the cardinals

we hear, returning home,

as you close your eyes first, as we slip

into the landscape our lips make

with its tinge of cedar from prairie fires,

the taste of restarting,

of those crimson feathers rising

in rows of birds that migrate back

free, restless, and blazing—

Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and their two sons in Topeka, Kansas. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Kansas and teaches at Washburn University. He is Co-Managing Editor of Woodley Press, Poetry Editor for seveneightfive, and hosts the Top City Poetry Reading Series. Work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, RATTLE, BlazeVOX, kiosk, Poetry Midwest, Coal City Review, Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, and seveneightfive.

Photo by Kevin Rabas

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