Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

10885210_10203995076012065_23950373450041338_n  —Watches and warnings issued. Plains threatened by devastating storms.  (weather.com)

Quick. Open the door. There—in the east—

across the tired grass with its small continents of unmelted snow,

beyond the fence your neighbor built (spoiling late summer evenings

with 70s hard rock and cursing),

on the other side of the lead work tracery of branches—

the sky is pink this morning—an astounding paintbrush pink

that Georgia O’Keefe would have followed out of the desert,

an opera pink—the flush across the top of the soprano’s breasts.

 

And above the pink a blue purer than birth—

that moment of the healthy cry, nothing but hope and possibility.

The blue of standing in a rainstorm, wet denim loving your skin,

the blue of creaking sails nuzzling the horizon, porpoise wheels turning.

 

Today will not bring rain or wind or snow, but sun

and happiness and insanity and desire—a whole mute sky of it.

Look—a pair of cardinals is out there on a branch calling—come

closer, closer.

~ Pat Daneman

Pat Daneman has lived in Lenexa, Kansas since 1986. Recent work appears in Escape Into Life, The Moon City Review, I-70 Review, Bellevue Poetry Review, and The Comstock Review. Her chapbook, Where the World Begins, was published in 2015 by Finishing Line Press.

Maril Crabtree spent her childhood in Memphis and grew up in New Orleans, but married a Kansas boy five decades ago and considers herself a full-bred Kansan by now. She writes poetry and creative nonfiction and her poems have appeared in I-70 Review, DMQ Review, Spank the Carp, and others. Her latest chapbook is Tying the Light (2014); some of her poems can be seen at www.marilcrabtree.com

Snobs everywhere make fun of this landscape,

but while driving up Highway 59 I see the light.

When the light of the late day becomes magic hour

wheat fields shimmer; grain elevators glow.

Monet, Van Gogh: they’d go for this big time.

But what do Impressionistic eyes really see?

 

Coming into Moran there’s a sun-bleached sign by the road:

HOME OF DEBBIE BARNES, MISS AMERICA 1968.

One person who saw this sign

was a basketball star for Ottawa College

who’d drive to Kansas University in Lawrence

and over one spring rape seven women,

all as beautiful as Miss America.

He drove this road, at this time, in this light.

 

Did his imagination do anything with this landscape?

Why couldn’t beauty better him?

Touch him? Uplift him? Stop him?

Or did beauty drive him to grab hold of it before –

like the light of magic hour – it faded?

I drive to Lawrence in heavenly light and wonder

if something like him is part of every landscape.

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.

Maril Crabtree spent her childhood in Memphis and grew up in New Orleans, but married a Kansas boy five decades ago and considers herself a full-bred Kansan by now. She writes poetry and creative nonfiction and her poems have appeared in I-70 Review, DMQ Review, Spank the Carp, and others. Her latest chapbook is Tying the Light (2014); some of her poems can be seen at www.marilcrabtree.com

image001I hear our John Deere tractor,

feel sister Berdie’s hand wash my back,

 

hear echoes of the northbound train,

smell Dad’s bib overalls,

 

hear Tippie bark at the egg man,

see Grandpa walk the cows,

 

hear pigeons coo in the cupola,

feel the bite of winter’s wind,

 

hear Mom sing a Dutch psalm,

taste dust on my lips.

 

Corn crib, tool shed, chicken coop,

hog house, apple orchard, rose garden,

 

water pump, willow tree, windmill –

gone.

 

I walk the old farm,

a barren black-earth story and find

 

a ceramic chip from a plate,

a rusted iron gear, and a broken cup

 

askance in dirt, lost souls waiting.

~ Arlin Buyert

Arlin Buyert was born and raised on an Iowa farm and educated at Macalester College and The University of Minnesota. He has published three books of poetry and his most recent book Oh Say Can You See was a Thorpe Menn Award finalist in 2015. He has also edited two anthologies of inmate poetry entitled Open to the Sky, Volumes 1 and 2). His poems have been published in the Rockhurst Review, Coal City Review, and others. Arlin lives in Leawood, Kansas with his wife Kris Kvam.

Maril Crabtree spent her childhood in Memphis and grew up in New Orleans, but married a Kansas boy five decades ago and considers herself a full-bred Kansan by now. She writes and edits poetry and creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in I-70 Review, DMQ Review, Spank the Carp, Canyon Voices, and others. Her latest chapbook is Tying the Light (2014); some of her work can be seen at www.marilcrabtree.com

Blunt as horse’s breath,GGeman 270px

heat, boiler room hot

laced with diesel smoke,

wraps off the tractor’s engine

and hones the child

from his face. Dust,

settled onto his bare back,

is squeezed into his shoulders

by a fat-bellied sun. Tasteless

now, the water warm, his jug

half empty, everything

is against him; rain clouds

are nowhere. The land evolves

into a battlefield, the plow

a dictator. Each shrunken

round becomes larger

than the last; each minute

is an hour. Red-tail hawks, kites

suspended in the wind, rotate

across a prairie-sized sky.

Introduced to endless,

the farmer’s son is angry,

sacrificed by his father,

taken by the land.

~ Greg German

Previously Published in Wind, 1998, Fall, # 81/82

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.

Kelly W. Johnston, guest editor, is a life-long Kansan, who was born in Lawrence in 1955, and graduated from Wichita State in 1977 with a major in creative writing. He has published poems in Mikrokosmos, The Cottonwood Review, and The Ark River Review. He will publish two poems in the up-coming 2016 issue of The I-70 Review. Kelly loves to spend time on his land in the Chautauqua Hills near Cross Timbers State Park, where many of his poems are inspired.

I work my way along the fence
on the east side of the pasture
where mulberry and pigweeds
keep pressing their needs
against the line of the wires
that set the boundary of grass and grazing.
Unclipped, their green stalks
would short the circuit that is meant
to keep the horse from pressing his way
through the course of wires into the longer grass
that is just past the reach
of twisted neck, extended head.
He could easily run right through
the weave of thin strands of extruded plastic
and micro-thin strands of conductor
that carry the current from solar charger
to the circuit of the field.
But the gelding has generally agreed
to forego free will
and spare himself that momentary pain
that would gain him greater range,
which would also include the highway
only a few seconds away
where pickup trucks with flatbed trailers
and semi’s fully loaded
run by at seventy-miles-an-hour.

He stands near the short silhouette of a scrub oak tree,
sleek hide burnished by evening sun,
tail and mane training toward the north,
soft blades of bluegrass and brome
hanging out both sides of his mouth.

~ Doc Arnett

Doc Arnett teaches Creative Writing and directs Institutional Research at the oldest college in Kansas, Highland Community College. He and his wife of twenty-five years, Randa, live in Doniphan, Kansas. A Kentucky native, Doc enjoys writing, singing, remodeling and watching Randa enjoy her Rocky Mountain Horse, Gospel Ryder’s Lil Journey.


Kelly W. Johnston, guest editor, is a life-long Kansan, who was born in Lawrence in 1955, and graduated from Wichita State in 1977 with a major in creative writing. He has published poems in
Mikrokosmos, The Cottonwood Review, and The Ark River Review. He will publish two poems in the up-coming 2016 issue of The I-70 Review. Kelly loves to spend time on his land in the Chautauqua Hills near Cross Timbers State Park, where many of his poems are inspired.

Womb05_10_1

In pulsings of

Amniotic waves, she kicked in place,

Flipping fins with digits extended.

 

Turtle

Belly down on blue-green

Seaweed tangles of the living room floor,

Like an upturned turtle,

She waited for the tide

To carry her to the sea.

 

River

She points to the rock shaped like a platform

at the promontory tip and lowers goggles

over spot-flecked skin,

above goldfish eyes.

Frog-like, she leaps.

 

Winter

Walking the fencerow over frozen ground,

She tests her arms against the March wind,

One over the other

In a tight front crawl,

Racing for the gate.

 

Meet

Under the surface she becomes

Like the rest something other, a creature

Who senses some ancient tug

In the cells of her hands,

In her lungs.

 

Body

Her body is 70 percent water.

She is a small, compact lake

into which swimmers dive from a bluff

and do laps around the thirty percent island

guarded by a chain-link fence.

 

Prairie

After a swim in the creek,

Running in lush grass cresting above her head

White-capped by wind,

She leaps above waves

as if lunging for air

Before diving below again.

 

Sea

She paddles in a pond

Surrounded by rolling hills,

Once the bed of an ancient inland sea.

In mist, ghost fish

glide above her.

 

Pond

Tethys, Greek goddess of earth’s fresh waters,

Was mother to three thousand daughters.

One now wades ashore

From the blinding surface,

Returning to this life.

~ 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.

Kelly W. Johnston, guest editor, is a life-long Kansan, who was born in Lawrence in 1955, and graduated from Wichita State in 1977 with a major in creative writing. He has published poems in Mikrokosmos, The Cottonwood Review, and The Ark River Review. He will publish two poems in the up-coming 2016 issue of The I-70 Review. Kelly loves to spend time on his land in the Chautauqua Hills near Cross Timbers State Park, where many of his poems are inspired.

the old gray man215770_1020568651506_6725248_n

shuffled along the walk

stopped short at

one lone dandelion locket

dropped his cane

slowly knelt to pick it

stopped by the old woman

fumbled in his pocket

for its shaking handle

sat beside her and

on the painted park bench

placed the yellow present

in her smiling hand

~ William J. Karnowski

William J. Karnowski is the author of seven books of poetry; Pushing the Chain, The Hills of Laclede, Painting the Train, Hardtails and Highways, Catching the Rain, Dispensation, and The Sodhouse Green. He has poetry published in Kansas Voices, The Midwest Quarterly, Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, Kansas Author Club Yearbooks and multiple website locations. Karnowski is the current State President of Kansas Authors Club.

Kelly W. Johnston, guest editor, is a life-long Kansan, who was born in Lawrence in 1955, and graduated from Wichita State in 1977 with a major in creative writing. He has published poems in Mikrokosmos, The Cottonwood Review, and The Ark River Review. He will publish two poems in the up-coming 2016 issue of The I-70 Review. Kelly loves to spend time on his land in the Chautauqua Hills near Cross Timbers State Park, where many of his poems are inspired.

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