Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

I do not do hopefully earnest
mornings, the sparrows nesting
on my eaves calling, gentle now,
rain falling. I will not make
a hearty breakfast, biscuits,
cheerfully call the cats
to early bowls of canned
meat and byproducts. I sit sweaty
in the Queen Anne chair, not
asleep, not asleep, not asleep.
I saw neighbors who must
routinely exit driveways 7
a.m. Wet, from gentle rain,
feet wet from sponged yard,
I. I woke to whining, whining
intermittent but unceasing
and the thunder clapping top
of lightning my phone says zero
point zero miles away, and
the dog frantic for out. Since
the 6 a.m. call, in the sort of rain
that makes the meteorologist
who, just got home, for chrissakes,
broadcast in his white tee shirt
knowing this will wake us all, up.
I sleep through anything, thunder
and lightning cracking, anything
but the incessant whine or in
other times the hacking hack
of diabetic cat. I sit sweaty
in the Queen Anne chair, not
asleep, not asleep, not asleep.
I have wrung towels this morning
from the basement floor. I
have Kleenex- wiped and cleaned
and enzyme-sprayed the emergency
dog shit from office floor. Oh,
good morning. I greet you early
today. Pup crated. Gentle
damn rain, backyard flood puddle,
forecast unfavorable. Rain
reported at 9 inches so far. Forecast:
Rain isn’t breaking, and you,
you should stay out of my way.

Photo on 2010-07-13 at 11.40 #3 (1)Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review. Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.

 

Guest Editor Lori Baker Martin is assistant professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), The Little Balkans Review, Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, and The Maine Review. Martin has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Independence Community College, and Pittsburg State University. She has worked as a reader for both The Iowa Review and NPR. Martin has been awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices.  She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Martin is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly and is currently finishing a novel set in pre-Civil War Missouri.

darling they are coming for me you took
a sip of death from my lips

when we first kissed and i tasted the cleandorrittcarroll
unwritten paper of yours

lips that do not have centuries inscribed
in their creases from right to left

lips that do not press together and lock
like the lid of a steamer trunk

when we flee again always running with
the weight of candlesticks and shawls

dangling from a thick strap
that carves a highway

between the twin mountain ranges of our ribs
the satchel at the end

of that strap tangles my legs it slows me down
and i was never fast i hear

my pursuers loping up behind while their teeth
and their weapons click shortly

they will overtake me
while you

Doritt Carroll is a native of Washington, DC.  She received her undergraduate and law degrees from Georgetown University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Main Street Rag, North American Review, Coal City Review, and Eunoia Review, among others. Her collection GLTTL STP was published by Brickhouse Books in 2013. Her chapbook Sorry You Are Not An Instant Winner was published in 2017 by Kattywompus.  She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Guest Editor Lori Baker Martin is assistant professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), The Little Balkans Review, Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, and The Maine Review. Martin has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Independence Community College, and Pittsburg State University. She has worked as a reader for both The Iowa Review and NPR. Martin has been awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices.  She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Martin is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly and is currently finishing a novel set in pre-Civil War Missouri.

Because the gleaming
bone-white bulb sprouts
shoots in the spring.

Because the Bradford pear,klein
like magic,
blossoms overnight.

Because in the space between
two branches: unfolding
Siberian Iris.

Because the great wide emptiness
splayed in the hollow
of my chest now speaks

only of being filled. Let me
list for you the countless
seeds of knowledge

I want to forget. I am ripe
for unlearning.
I am breaking open for it.

Tayler Klein is a writer and teacher from Kansas City, Missouri. She has been published in journals such as Nimrod, The Midwest Quarterly, and Glassworks Magazine. She received her MA in Creative writing from Pittsburg State University, and she now lives with her husband and her dog in Kansas City where she teaches at a Montessori school.

 

Guest Editor Lori Baker Martin is assistant professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), The Little Balkans Review, Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, and The Maine Review. Martin has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Independence Community College, and Pittsburg State University. She has worked as a reader for both The Iowa Review and NPR. Martin has been awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices. She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Martin is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly and is currently finishing a novel set in pre-Civil War Missouri.

When I was nineteen,
he strangled me in his doorway.
Later he called the word “strangle”Melissa-Fite-Johnson_sm
dramatic. You could breathe fine.

Hand over my mouth, he shushed
into my ear. Later he said,

You can’t rape your girlfriend. 
The next morning I cried at Easter service,
quietly so my mother couldn’t hear.
Another bowed chin in a pew.

I imagined the wolf was a wounded bird
dreaming of flight. From a distance,
they’re not so different, his head
a wing puncturing the sky.

At night I lay awake while he slept.
I was nothing but pink flesh.

(Originally published in Rattle, April 2017)

Melissa Fite Johnson’s first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book. She is also the author of A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky, winner of the 2017 Vella Chapbook Award (Paper Nautilus Press, 2018). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Pleiades, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Sidereal, Stirring, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband and dogs in Lawrence, Kansas.

Guest Editor Lori Baker Martin is assistant professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), The Little Balkans Review, Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, and The Maine Review. Martin has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Independence Community College, and Pittsburg State University. She has worked as a reader for both The Iowa Review and NPR. Martin has been awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices. She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Martin is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly and is currently finishing a novel set in pre-Civil War Missouri.

If we are to believe the Bible, all of us came from the dirt of the earth. Can this be why God created so many colors of mud?Deborah Wymbs

1.

Everything present, first mud.
Everyone in place, first mud.

2.

Suddenly,
a dimpling of clouds/a shadow of sunshine
like the farming wife’s farming husband,
the nurse who somehow knows of him,
and their easy way of talking.

3.

A ghost is always in the equation,
near death but not dying,
or a remembered dead, sasha,
or the hunter who went into the forest
and never came out,
zamani, the forgotten dead, 
until his grandson asked,
“What ever happened to Granddaddy?”
and the grandchildren of the great snake
near the bones by the dry stream bed apologized

and venom that took a life, healed it.
Muscle knitted to bone.
Blood vessel attached to muscle.
Layers of skin protected lifelines.

A wind threw itself up.

The man gasped,
sat up,
felt the need to run.

He was able to fly.

When he arrived home,
he held The Artifact of Great Value.
His family lined up to receive it,
and his neighbors, friends, an enemy or two.
He had eyes only for his grandson
and he reached for him,
his hands slipping.

He could not hold weight.

But The Artifact of Great Value was real.
The boy picked it up, placed it to his ear,
heard the digging of the dead.
He went on to be a great healer of The People.

4.

A bridge is necessary most of the time.

5.

Here we only found blonde sand
and over there, sand gray with age and wrinkled.
Elsewhere dried beds of water offered nothing.
Near the quarry, red clay, and under the tree,
rich blackness full of worms and beetle larvae.
In the cave and near an opening, just mud.

6.

When my son digs the pond for his garden,
earth and grass and small branches stain his skin.
The rains come with thunder and brilliance,
the pond fills with water, twig and turtle.
Frogs avoid it, but snakes come to drink,
and the King of Deer leaves its track in the torn grass.
The pond is a great success and water lettuce take root.
Many days he watches an egg become
whole and living and dead. He remembers
many things and keeps neatly printed journals.

7.

My wife studies wood,
a shape to root and decadence,
the forms of men in grain.

What color superman when his strength comes from a tree?
What hunger photosynthesis? Carbon dioxide? Radiant energy?

She sees a man go into the tree,
find a sleeping place safe within its folds,
and she draws him a power over rain,
directions for sun-heat and light-fire,
strength over the movement of root.

8.

My daughter expresses color in algebraic equations.

9.

And my grandson holds his hand out to be cleaned.
Inarticulate, he waves it like a wand,
an incoherence we understand to mean:
“Please, take this mud from my palm.
I only meant to see how it felt,
but now it is a part of me.”

10.

Somewhere ash is running,
Building waters,
A great turbulence underground.

11.

The importance of life
is always in the remembrance of the dead,

not the hell we fall against,
but the blazing heat of the Laplanders,
the fierce fire that cannot go out in Vinland,

a prayer to wood and fresh kindling,
the anger needed to warm a soul,

12.

how mud bakes itself into brick
somehow.  

~ Michael Brownstein

Michael H. Brownstein’s poetry volume, A Slipknot Into Somewhere Else: A Poet’s Journey To The Borderlands Of Dementia, was recently published by Cholla Needles Press (2018).

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita, is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; and a forthcoming book of poetry, How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood through the arts, and consults with businesses and organizations on creativity

The world doesn’t meet anybody half way.

You have to rise up, you have to reach deeply,

You have to search for a witness.

You can’t hide under a blade of grass forever.

Reveal yourself to the redwood, 

embracing the sacred, too immense to 

put your arms around, 

too strong to bend to your will.

Reveal yourself to the ocean, 

waiting to cover your arms and toes 

in an aqueous expanse, the tide rising up 

to the moon, whispering to you its power.

Reveal yourself to the mountain, 

study the shadows, but ask 

for a path forward. Reveal yourself to the sky, 

open to the sun’s warmth, or the shelter of gray skies, 

the mist on your face to awaken you.

Reveal yourself to the prairie, the vastness 

encircles you. Sing to the wide open fields 

and the never ending horizon.

The trees hear you cry out. The ocean feels 

your toes dab at the water’s edge.

The mountain sees you. The sky wraps you in its arms.

The prairie holds you up, your reflection in the sunrise, 

your tenderness in the setting sun.

What is it that makes you, yourself, 

and not anybody else?

In a wild place of last resort, 

breathe into the life that is you.

Give it back for want of nothing.

~ Julie Flora

Julie Flora lives and works in Topeka, KS. She lives with her husband, Vaughn, her cat, Lightin’ and her dog Zenny. Julie has five children and seven grandchildren. Her roots are Southern, but she claims the Prairie as her home. She moved to KS in 2010 to marry the love of her life. She writes, reads, swims and watches biographical documentaries in her free time. 

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita, is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; and a forthcoming book of poetry, How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood through the arts, and consults with businesses and organizations on creativity

She painted the monkey on the wall
years before I was born. But there’s
something in its eyes that makes me
think of me. The way it glances
up and to the right. The way I do
when I don’t know the answer,
but don’t want to say.

Only rarely over the years
did we drive the weeded lane,
to the gray stucco home place,
empty since my birth and Dad’s town job.
We’d survey the outbuildings’ decay,
bending to collect rusted implements
from the patches of dirt and buffalo grass,
gathering fragrant lilacs and pink rhubarb stalks
from the overgrown garden.

One summer night, we lingered at the farm
past sunset. My brother lifted
a torn mattress from the back porch
and pushed it onto the brown dirt.
We flopped down on our backs,
wishing for tiny white stars
to sail across the blanket of night.
I closed my eyes just for an instant,
weary from breathing country air.
“See the shooting star?”
he asked, pointing into the darkness,
to where I had just missed it.

Missed, too, the farm that wasn’t my home.
Vacant now more than five decades,
but for two dead coyotes in its basement,
an assortment of snakes, birds, and rats.
And Mom’s crude murals on the walls. Curious,
fading traces of her dream to be an artist.
To be a mother. To be a decorator,
without money to do it tidy.

Down the dank, ancient stairway, cowboys
cling to the block foundation.
One is masked, a Lone Ranger, pink pistol
on his hip. He rides a curly yellow horse.
Across the room, another cowboy
shoots a pistol into the air,
thrusting high its crooked barrel.

Upstairs, red cuckoo clock on the kitchen wall,
framed by a mosaic of cracked ivory paint,
forever strikes seven. Beneath it,
a metal oven, filled with debris,
is now cold to the touch.

Teddy bear and wolf murals
tend the children’s room.
The little ones would have been tucked in
by seven. My brother’s spanking finished moments ago.
My sister’s brown curls laid across
a feather pillow.

And me, alien to the memories
stored here. I touch the paw of
the monkey on the wall, who
fixes his eyes up and to the right.
He does not know. He cannot say
If the light that shot across the night
Was ever really there.

~ Dawne Leiker

Dawne Leiker is a former journalist, now working in academia. Her news/feature stories have appeared in The Hays Daily News, Lawrence Journal World, and several online publications. Her poetry and short stories have garnered awards in regional and statewide literary competitions. Ms. Leiker’s fiction and poetry often are influenced by her past news story interviews, as she develops and re-imagines fictional characters and situations loosely based on local individuals and events.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita, is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; and a forthcoming book of poetry, How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood through the arts, and consults with businesses and organizations on creativity

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