Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Heavy heat of the day escapes

on stiff winds across the lake.

Wish-laden catfish lines, like sirens,

draw me away from campfire,

wine, and your whispers.

 

You stand ashore alone,

lantern held high as I push off.

While rowing, you fade

to a lighthouse on a bleak coast.

 

My flashlight finally finds

a tenuous streak of limp line.

Grasping for dreams,

line trembles, tightens

and the lake is fighting back,

bouncing the bow of the boat,

spraying my face with froth.

Dark, churning depths stretch

line toward nightmare.

 

Until the catfish is netted.

A wet grin crosses my face

as I remember your light

beckoning my return.

~ Kelly W. Johnston

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, Sport Literate, 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. His work has received two Pushcart Prize nominations.

A creek flows through me,

Down my arms & right

Out my muddy, wet

Fingertips…

Pulsing warm as blood,

Like the memory of song.

I proclaim my firm premise:

Every child, at some point in youth,

Should befriend or be

Befriended by

A creek.

My own former playmate

Still runs in Kansas; shallow,

Stoney & slow…

It curved playfully

Behind the pink-sided rental

Where we lived when I was but

5 years old.

It was there that I first studied

Aquaculture with diligent

Intensity & full

Wonder.

Learning habitats

Of crawdads, turtles & snails;

Observing lifecycles

Of frogs & toads

…from egg to tadpole

To gone…

The creek was alive.

Moss green covered stones

Sprinkled with small freshwater shellfish,

Stirred by outstretched strider bugs

& darting dragonflies.

Brilliant sun flashed

Backs from countless minnows,

Brushed bare toes, half sunk

In rich, slimy mud.

The creek called to me daily,

& I could not resist.

This creek,

Which once curved

My childhood afternoons,

Still remains in my

Bloodstream.

Now, my own daughters

Need a creek to live

Inside them

As friend & teacher

& a venue for few innocent

Crimes,

Offering

Them permission to explore

A world I can no longer

Easy enter,

& time to experience

Innocence which I can now

Scarcely envision.

They need a creek:

Flowing through their minds,

Down their arms & right

Out their muddy, wet

Fingertips.

~ Elizabeth Perdomo

Elizabeth Perdomo has lived and written in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas these past fourteen years, moving to the region from the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico. Born in Kansas, and raised both there and in Colorado, she has written poetry works since a young teen. Perdomo also lived in the Southeastern USA for a number of years. Her written pieces reflects on local place and culture, ecology and nature, traditions, spirituality and much more.

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, Sport Literate, 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. His work has received two Pushcart Prize nominations.

imageA couple hours of daylight remained

as we navigated dusty Kiowa County roads.

Our destination: a tree lined, stream-fed fishing lake

with a scatter of pools and ponds.

Rod and reel in hand, I tagged along

or, rather, was led to one small pool in particular.

For bait, leftover corn from the supper table.

At this shade-choked spot nearly blind to the face of a west sun

I baited my hook as instructed and, from experience,

trusted to luck.

But, no time at all had passed when they struck.

Again, again and again. Those carp. Catch. Release.

Catch another. Combative. One broke my line.

Demonstrative as born-again mosquitoes.

~ Robert Cory

Robert Cory: Born in Missouri, Robert Cory was raised, schooled and has worked in Kansas most of his life. Dependably wearing out shoe leather, tires, molars and ego trips. His most recent work has appeared. He’s been writing poetry since age fourteen, plays since 1968.

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, Sport Literate, 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. His work has received two Pushcart Prize nominations.

GGeman 270pxKnowing winter’s clear water

will soon be dulled by summer,

the two of us wade

just a ways down

from the old Brock Bridge.

Advance scouts, we’re alert

for yesterday’s ware.

Abandoned bottles, hubcaps,

and other good junk

wait between last night’s coon

tracks melting in the silt

and today’s sun patting

the river’s cool bottom. Friendly,

the current nudges us farther

than we have been before.

We forget and let April’s path

splash above our knees, ignoring

dense mud and scavenging sand

that sucks at and into

our worn canvas shoes.

We stop at Holler’s Bend,

listen—and hearing only

ourselves, imagine

the sound of trees

stretching and buds splitting.

It’s late. Our mothers

will worry. But we

decide we are men

and are never going home, again.

~ Greg German (Previously Published in Wind, 1987, V.17, # 61)

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 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.

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, Sport Literate, 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. His work has received two Pushcart Prize nominations.

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.

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