Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Posts tagged ‘Ramona McCallum’

Tempo, Nearly Autumn by Ramona McCallum

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).”

The Ropes by Ramona McCallum

Suddenly Houdini is here in the carbook photo

with us, as I pull into the grocery store

parking lot. You’ve got a library book

in your lap, and he emerges from the realm

of what you didn’t know before.

 

Wow, Mom, look!

 

I can’t find ingredients for supper

and with those pages in front of your face

you keep bumping into the cart.

But you’re making this moment

incredible, stupendous, mystifying

and I can’t bring myself to tell you,

watch where you’re going.

I can’t argue when you announce

in the check out aisle you’ll be

a magician when you grow up.

 

Because you already are—

 

You’ve made a decade disappear

like a rainbow of scarves stuffed

into a hat. Ta-daa!

A dove flies out and we

never see him again.

 

Shortly after your birth, one night I woke up

and wandered through the house, window

to window, searching for the baby

of my womb—until I remembered you

had already been born. I returned

to bed and found a creature breathing,

conjuring life out of hazy autumn air.

 

Three years later, on vacation to Chicago, I leashed

your wrist to mine, but somehow you wriggled loose

and were out of your seat. Up on stage, before

I could grab you, there you were

at the children’s theater, bowing

with the other performers.

 

And now Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

in front of our very eyes, this boy’s face

becomes a young man’s. I watch his jaw

lengthen and set. His eyes reach past me

to a place of his own determination,

 

where my own hands are tied,

my purpose over, having introduced

this death-defying escape artist

to the world.

Ramona McCallum writes and raises six kids in windy Garden City with husband Brian, ceramic sculptor/art teacher. Ramona’s first collection of poetry, Still Life with Dirty Dishes, is forthcoming from Woodley Press

 

 

24. To the Stars Through Difficulty: Ramona McCallum

Right now as you stand, night swirling around you, try to stretch beyond
the fatigue of this drive, let that same wind pull it from you. Roadside: beads of tar
flatten beneath your feet–dark tributaries thread throughout cement like the lines
across palms your ancestors read their futures by. As a child you wondered why
there were no smiles and how come color hadn’t been invented yet
in photos–strangers Dad called family lined up next to what looked like a shed–how
did they live there? What shape would their mouths form, if they could see what we
consider home? Just tonight their stark resemblance showed up in your own face, framed
within the grainy hue of the rear-view mirror–more than shadowy etchings prove
their blood proves itself in you. So you carry them into tomorrow

–Ramona McCallum

70. Night Bloom

In awe we watched the flower exist

in its moonlight–a funnel of petal, white

as paper waiting for a word.

Along its vine, seed pods bulged–

round like my belly, that summer

when the baby inside me slept

no better than his brand new parents

in the humid heat of our little home.
So we walked, seeking breeze, and happened

upon a moment whose essence

became part of our story as much

as the preceding springtime’s wedding

and our son’s birth the following fall.
It’s a page I open to again and catch

a glimpse of us holding hands. A new planet

quivers and swells beneath my t-shirt.

We’re engulfed in a universe, unknown

as yet, and sweltering

when within our dark uncertainty sweeps

cool perfume, like a scented invitation

from God–this life, this intimate elixir

could be ours, so we should respond

if we pleased.

– Ramona McCallum

Ramona McCallum earned her B.A. in Creative Writing and Literature from Kansas State University in 1999. She currently lives in Garden City, Kansas with her husband Brian McCallum, a ceramic artist, and their 6 children. Ramona works as her husband’s editor and artist’s assistant, and she also teaches 7th grade English Communication and Poetry at a local middle school. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Organization and Environment and Zone 3.

36. Equinox

Winter is trying hard to get in a last word, but the calendar

is on my side. So let that gray bastard rant with blustering fists.

I drive home in silence. Grocery sacks spill across the back seat,

frozen vegetables in no danger of thawing in their bags.

Along the street, trees scratch at the sky with skeptical branches–

dates don’t make them forgive. They want to be seduced

by longer, warmer days before they’ll surrender

in succulent bud.

But daffodils present themselves right now, by the front door.

I bring them inside and bundle them into a vase.

Bright faces watch as I fix supper, elegant guests

join me tonight at my table.

– Ramona McCallum

Ramona McCallum earned her B.A. in Creative Writing and Literature from Kansas State University in 1999. She currently lives in Garden City, Kansas with her husband Brian McCallum, a ceramic artist, and their 6 children. Ramona works as her husband’s editor and artist’s assistant, and she also teaches 7th grade English Communication and Poetry at a local middle school. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Organization and Environment and Zone 3.

27. Still Life with Dirty Dishes

The problem is, how to paint this so it looks beautiful—

because I know it must seem like any other sink

full of dishes. Maybe worse.

 

Avocado shells float through the wreckage

of lunch, bright orange macaroni clings to plates

jutting out amid half-hearted suds, and some pale

bloated noodles met their watery grave already

sunken below in a tangle of forks.

 

But you see, these dirty dishes

are the picture of time I didn’t spend

washing them, time spent instead

this afternoon on the couch, arms full

of napping daughters.

 

The three of us, combined like a crayon creature

my toddler would draw—three heads,

three pairs of arms and legs,

sprawling and intertwined.

 

I held my children there for hours

in the stillness of their sleep, wondering

what colors their dreams were.

Iridescent, maybe tropical I guessed

as I watched their eyelids flutter

like the fins of tiny fish.

– Ramona McCallum

Ramona McCallum earned her B.A. in Creative Writing and Literature from Kansas State University in 1999. She currently lives in Garden City, Kansas with her husband Brian McCallum, a ceramic artist, and their 6 children. Ramona works as her husband’s editor and artist’s assistant, and she also teaches 7th grade English Communication and Poetry at a local middle school. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Organization and Environment and Zone 3.

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