Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

T. SheldonThis act may not seem writing
so much as incision
into the limestone of this place,
where you sit alone in dark pre-morning
static while long-necked turbines
stride the paling edge
of sky, blading the ancient clouds
into white rope while the wheat
or Bluestem –sargassum clasping thought—
crashes upon rocks, themselves
grasping fossils in veins of FlorenceW. Sheldon
chert, words newly tied to the page
waiting until next you breathe,
calling them, wind through leaves.

~ Tyler Sheldon and William Sheldon

Tyler Sheldon is a graduate student in English at Emporia State University. His poems and articles have appeared in Thorny Locust, I-70 Review, Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, and in the anthology To The Stars Through Difficulties (a 2013 Kansas Notable Book). Sheldon is an AWP Intro Journals Award nominee and has been featured on Kansas Public Radio.

William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas, where he writes and teaches. His work has appeared widely in little magazines and small press anthologies. He has two books, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth), and a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill). He plays bass for the band The Excuses.

HindThe boy at the wheel has lost

his twin to suicide. His sister

sits between us as he barrels up

the narrow chute of old #36

with his brights on. He passes

a second car as I see the hint

of lights over the crest ahead,

and he is talking about guns, the kind

of gun he would choose to kill a man.

And I am certain he will kill us all

in this old truck he bought with his

brother to throw the morning paper.

He swerves back into our lane as

a car blares past, and I thrill

to the breath passing my lips.

~ Steven Hind

Steven is a retired teacher and part-time farmer whose personal experiences over seventy years in Kansas have inspired efforts at self-expression, often taking the form of poetry. His books include, Familiar Ground (Cottonwood), That Trick of Silence (CKS), In a Place with No Map (CKS/Woodley), and The Loose Change of Wonder (CKS/Woodley).

Tyler Sheldon is a graduate student in English at Emporia State University. His poems and articles have appeared in Thorny Locust, I-70 Review, Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, and in the anthology To The Stars Through Difficulties (a 2013 Kansas Notable Book). Sheldon is an AWP Intro Journals Award nominee and has been featured on Kansas Public Radio.

William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas, where he writes and teaches. His work has appeared widely in little magazines and small press anthologies. He has two books, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth), and a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill). He plays bass for the band The Excuses.

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March blizzard; the late snow covers our world

like amnesia. All day our eyes are drawn to windows,

absorbing the endless swath of white beyond the glass

that holds it apart, pristine, like a painting of what’s real.

1

I remember when we all were here, how winter warmed

us then. Yes, attrition is a function of time, and we have to

ignore it as far as we can–buy a new address book, forget

the touch that woke our skin, the sweet imperative of meals,

unruly music of children’s voices, words alive in every room.

1

Sunday wafer on the tongue, absolution, old miracles we still

crave; love, maybe. And before everything, the words that were

to be believed, that gave us something to fear and love and live

up to; nothing left to chance, except everything that would follow.

1

The world is old now, war still abounds, meaning refuses attachment.

Bulbs stir in the ground, regenerate out of habit, away from the light.

I’m yours, I tell the air. The cold makes its way in then, and for hours

snow deepens across the prairie while frost blinds window glass.

1

No ideas but in things, he said, and yet the world is clotted with things

and often bereft of ideas. This belated freeze enters the flesh the way

love did–a mercy?–then makes its way into the heart, and stays.

The power to make something necessary, lasting, to place something

new where nothing was–anyone fears the loss of that. And of the need.

1

Somewhere underground now a river hurries over itself, blind roots

stirring as it passes, earth darkening around souls muted and stilled,

stones smoothening in the passage of time, while above we wait and

wonder: Is this what we were meant for? Who will tell us what was true?

~ Patricia Traxler

Patricia Traxler, a two-time Bunting Poetry Fellow at Radcliffe, is the author of four poetry collections and a novel, and has edited two anthologies of Kansas memories dating from 1910-1975. Her poetry has appeared widely, including in The Nation, The Boston Review, Agni, Ploughshares, Ms. Magazine, The LA Times, and Best American Poetry. She has read or served as resident poet at many universities, including Ohio State, Harvard University, Kansas University, the University of Montana, Utah State, and the University of California San Diego.

Tyler Sheldon is a graduate student in English at Emporia State University. His poems and articles have appeared in Thorny Locust, I-70 Review, Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, and in the anthology To The Stars Through Difficulties (a 2013 Kansas Notable Book). Sheldon is an AWP Intro Journals Award nominee and has been featured on Kansas Public Radio.

William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas, where he writes and teaches. His work has appeared widely in little magazines and small press anthologies. He has two books, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth), and a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill). He plays bass for the band The Excuses.

He pulls fear from a wooden drawer—Denise2014SFbySusanGardner (2)

an Aboriginal witching stone

his uncle collected years ago.
1

As he unwraps flannel swaddling he says,

unflinchingly unsexing me,

“Women should not see this. It is taboo.”
1

We had spent hours drinking medicinal tea

while sorting eucalyptus-bark paintings—

crocodiles, water holes, sparkling dust.
1

Now this stone. He recounts ceremonial rules—

the strict gendered intention for it.

How initiates kill women who intrude.
1

He holds the pecked lodestone to light,

a Gondwandaland lava remnant

at first unremarkable but magnetic.
1

I behold a dizzy white-on-black nebulae

a white hibiscus a frozen river whirl

a desert spring a rosette of labia stretched wide open.

(For Barnaby Ruhe, on the death of Ed Ruhe)

~ Denise Low

Denise Low, second Kansas Poet Laureate, has published over 20 books of award-winning poetry and essays, including Ghost Stories (Woodley) and Natural Theologies, essays about Mid-Plains literature (Backwater Press). Low was visiting professor at the University of Richmond and Kansas University. She taught at Haskell Indian Nation University, where she founded the creative writing program. She served Associated Writing Programs as board president. She and her husband Thomas Pecore Weso publish Mammoth Publications.

Tyler Sheldon is a graduate student in English at Emporia State University. His poems and articles have appeared in Thorny Locust, I-70 Review, Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, and in the anthology To The Stars Through Difficulties (a 2013 Kansas Notable Book). Sheldon is an AWP Intro Journals Award nominee and has been featured on Kansas Public Radio.

William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas, where he writes and teaches. His work has appeared widely in little magazines and small press anthologies. He has two books, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth), and a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill). He plays bass for the band The Excuses.

A butterfly walksElliott

up your cheek

and looks you

in the eye.

1

A stone between

your feet grows

a warm spot

in your hand.

1

Cloud shadows

race over you

peel identity and

drift it away.

1

Birds swarm and

turn in unison

becoming sky

and flashing

back as birds.

1

And yes thunder

is growling

your secret name.

1

In a moment

all the cells of

creation are

bending your way.

~ Harley Elliott

Harley Elliott lives in Salina Kansas. He is the author of ten books of poetry, including Darkness at Each Elbow and Animals That Stand in Dreams (Hanging Loose), and The Monkey of Mulberry Pass and Fugitive Histories (Woodley), as well as a memoir, Loading the Stone (Woodley).

Tyler Sheldon is a graduate student in English at Emporia State University. His poems and articles have appeared in Thorny Locust, I-70 Review, Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, and in the anthology To The Stars Through Difficulties (a 2013 Kansas Notable Book). Sheldon is an AWP Intro Journals Award nominee and has been featured on Kansas Public Radio.

William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas, where he writes and teaches. His work has appeared widely in little magazines and small press anthologies. He has two books, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth), and a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill). He plays bass for the band The Excuses.

at the tank’s blast

the meadow bursts

with white butterflies

*

after the long rain

the telephone pole

begins to bud

*

the root cellar:

with the light from a knothole

bulbs break from boxes

*

hearing the wren,

the old woman sews its song

into her quilt

*

the tornado starts

with the moths swirling at noon

around the streetlight

*

nuclear plant site:

rain brings the bulldozers

to a halt

*

through the Flint Hills:

the wind has stopped

but the trees still lean

*

morning mist fading—

one row at a time

the plowed earth shines

~ Frank Higgins
(some of the above appeared in the Kansas City Star)

Frank Higgins is both a playwright and poet. His play Black Pearl Sings has been one of the most produced in the country over the last few years. His books of poetry include Starting From Ellis Island, Bkmk Press. He teaches playwriting at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Guest editor: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, author or editor of 19 books, and founder of this site.

A comet strews its path with cosmic crumbs,chris o'carroll headshot

Motes, castoff scraps of solar system stuff,

Specks inconsiderable, yet enough

To coruscate. Around our planet comes,

A yearly, fire-eyed impresario

Bent on refashioning each humble grain

Into a drop of incandescent rain,

The star of its own brief but brilliant show.

We snag bits of debris in high, thin air

And frenzy them to glow and disappear.

Some drill our night sky, lunge with white-hot spears,

Others trace threads as fine as baby hair.

Alike to dainty wisp and lancing thrust

We Ahhh! – dust amply entertained by dust.

~ Chris O’Carroll

(originally published in Iambs & Trochees)

Chris O’Carroll is a writer and an actor.  His poems have appeared in 14 by 14, Light, Literary Review, Measure, The Rotary Dial, and other print and online journals, and in the anthologies The Best of the Barefoot Muse and 20 Years at the Cantab Lounge.

Guest editor: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, author or editor of 19 books, and founder of this site.

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