Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

scottLast night I dreamed that young beautiful men danced

around me in my dusty chore clothes. The hems

of their long coats were frayed and spinning.

They worked me over like a choir. Beckoning

“choose me, pick this, why not here?

Why not this?”

Last week during the Sanctus my arms

rose on instinct, a ghosted gunrise

on a rooster pheasant.


Like some screwball charismatic, but

I heard the wingbeats. My life list

of birds grows daily.

But it isn’t a secret anymore. Dun quails whisper

“make some trouble over me. I am

worthy of sacrifice.”

My head is clean. My feet and hands are washed.

I have been here many times and for many times

this will come after.

Bio: Scott McCloud teaches, farms and writes near Walton, Kansas. His chapbook, Tallgrass Prairie Burn Cycle (2011 Full Metal Faith Press) features prairie, farming, sexuality and prayer as intimates. Market gardens, birding, hunting and fishing are touchstones and a childhood of churchly work ruptures his craft. He blogs at http://originalface.tumblr.com  samccloud@gmail.com

Guest Editor 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. dwahto@cox.net

Moonstain by Ronda Miller

RondaMillerBarn doors pushed closed an

indication something worth investigating

was within. It took all my strength to

slide to open, close again.

 

New birth in pungent urgency led

me to the still born calf quite warm. I

nestled into the hay beside it, placed

my arms around its neck.

 

I knew what death was—had

listened to whispers about my

mother’s not long before. I could

hear the mother cow’s loud bawling

from outside the back barn door.

 

I felt the spirit lift from the calf, swirl

around me, disappear. It grew cold;

I felt damp fear.

 

I sat in the caliginous stall

until my sister came, took my

hand, ran with me past my grandmother’s

garden of hollyhocks, iris, strawberries,

rhubarb, past the spot where the

rattler soaked up water from a sprinkler

one August day, past the rotten elm where

winged fire ants swarmed in balls before

they tumbled to the ground.

 

We opened the rusted screen door, tiptoed

to bed where I lay crying, because it

felt so wondrous, because it felt so good,

until the moon’s stain no longer

spread across the floor.

Bio: Ronda Miller enjoys wandering the high plateau of NW Kansas where the Arikaree Breaks whisper late into the sunset and scream into blizzards and t-storms. She lives in Lawrence close to her son and daughter. She is Youth Contest Manager for Kansas Authors Club, District 2 President, and a Life Coach specializing in working with those who have lost someone to homicide. She dances every chance she gets. She has poetry in numerous online and hard copy publications that include The Smithsonian Institute. 

Guest Editor 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. dwahto@cox.net

August by Tyler Sheldon

Tyler Sheldon PhotoSeeds explode like fire against the neighbor’s garage

or hang mortified like bodies

from the sycamore out front.

My father walks with leaden pipe in hand

(dog insurance, he says)

as downstreet the Akita runs his length of iron chain,

hoping it will snap.

 

I am barefoot and fifteen

and the concrete boils before me

as the mail truck pulls away

into the hallucinatory shimmer of the street.

I run out like time,

And life itself hangs in the balance.

Bio: Tyler Sheldon is the Press Manager for Flint Hills Review, and is a Creative Writing student at Emporia State University. His poetry has been published in numerous journals, such as Tulgey Wood, Quivira, Periphery, Thorny Locust, and eleven to seven, and is forthcoming in I-70 Review. The 2012 anthology To The Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices featured his poem “Fall” alongside work by Kansas Poet Laureates Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Denise Low. He has self-published a chapbook, Being (American). tyrsheldon@gmail.com

Guest Editor 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. dwahto@cox.net

Udall, Kansas by Myrne Roe

                                May 25, 1955

The man uneasy left their bed.

His wife sleeping on her back

hands crossed at her neck clutching

a linen sheet as if it might escape.

Air hot and cold weighed heavy

on his chest, stole his breath.

At ten thirty he checked t.v. and radio,

got static for his efforts.

A calico paced up and down stairs,

mewling as if calling lost kittens.

The man and cat were students of storms,

big and not, sent each spring to Kansas.

He couldn’t see out the kitchen door

unless lightening zigged and zagged,

threw bolts that made shadows

of the grain elevator and water tower.

A train whistle blew and blew.

The man feared the engineer

meant a warning because he saw evil drop,

churn earth into debris as it charged toward town.

The news at ten issued all clear

so he had assumed only a thunderstorm.

Now he thought he’d better call his wife,

secure them both beneath the kitchen table.

By then it was ten thirty-five

and the most powerful Kansas tornado ever,

bore down on Udall with whirling, roaring

homicidal winds bent on fostering hell.

Dawn covered the awful result with pale light.

Silence wandered like a ghost

amid uprooted trees planted a hundred years ago,

houses without roofs and doors,

a telephone pole piercing the side of a church,

broken glass filling a bathtub.

Rescuers found death and affliction

in rooms without walls, flattened cars,

fields stripped of crops. flooded spaces.

The calico cat hid under a rain-soaked sofa.

No one found the man or his wife,

their house cleaved into splinters.

Reporters and cameramen hastened into the town

to find their story. Amid the ruins

one of them wrote,  “The little town of Udall

died in its sleep last night.”

Myrne Roe write, “I am a retired editorial writer and syndicated columnist who has been writing poetry for fifteen years. My poems have been published in local and regional publications including ByLine Magazine, Voices of the Heartland, Words Out of the Flatlands and Kansas Voices. I have also published a chapbook, Ironing Out the Wrinkles.” myrne@cox.net

Guest Editor 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. dwahto@cox.net

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.

 

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