Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

 

a hermit’s hovel of many mansions,

 

a shimmering silk kimono billowing

on a clothes line in Central Kansas,

 

a meteorite, suddenly fallen in your backyard,

 

a particularly toxic strain of word virus,

 

a flaring moment of clarity in the middle of a moshpit,

 

a tattered travelogue entry written in hobo code,

 

a series of lies that leads (ultimately)

to (something resembling) the truth,

 

a random, haphazard arrangement

of the 10,000 myriad archetypes of the world,

 

a sum of parts that is actually larger

than its whole,

 

an unexpected arrival at reality

via the unwitting disengagement from it,

 

a Chinese puzzle box or Russian nesting doll,

 

an open-air market bazaar in a lost city,

 

or, perhaps it would help if you thought of this

fragile little contraption of memes as a butterfly

flittering the non-Euclidian geometry

of its flight pattern through a forest of wind-chimes,

still glistening with rain from a brief

morning thunder-shower.

~Jason Ryberg

 

Jason Ryberg is the author of twelve books of poetry, six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders, notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors. He is currently an artist-in-residence at both The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s and the Osage Arts Community, and is an editor and designer at Spartan Books. His latest collections of poems are Head Full of Boogeymen / Belly Full of Snakes (Spartan Press, 2016) and A Secret History of the Nighttime World (39 West Press, 2017). He lives part-time in Kansas City with a rooster named Little Red and a bill goat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also many strange and wonderful woodland critters.

 

Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His collection, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. Ghost Sign, a collaborative work, was released in 2017 from Spartan Press in Kansas City. It was named a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has been featured on the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Ortolani serves on the Board of the Little Balkans Press and Woodley Press. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Place in Kansas City. Recently, he retired after teaching for 43 years in Kansas. He’s sometimes trips going up or down curbs. He once said that if he didn’t laugh at himself, someone else would beat him to it.

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I squat behind the plate.

Cole spits sunflower seeds

into the dirt at Bill Russell field.

 

Catching a lefty is hard.

Sometimes his ball moves

down and in.

 

Other times it’s up and out.

Sometimes I got no fucking idea

where it’s headed.

 

30 pitches in, he asks if

I need a break.

I sure as hell as do, but

I’m not about to tell him that.

~Adam Jameson

 

Born and raised in Southeast Kansas, Adam Jameson played linebacker under Larry Garman and studied poetry under Al Ortolani at Pittsburg High School before going on to graduate with a B.A. in History from Pittsburg State University. Over the years he has worked as a house painter, railroad conductor, UPS supervisor and meter reader. He is currently employed as an Estimator for Westar Energy. His work has appeared in HARPThe Little Balkans Review, and To the Stars through Difficulty. His poetry has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. His most recent work Ghost Sign was selected as a Kansas Notable book for 2017. He currently lives in rural Pittsburg with his wife Meredith and son Cole.

 

Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His collection, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. Ghost Sign, a collaborative work, was released in 2017 from Spartan Press in Kansas City. It was named a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has been featured on the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Ortolani serves on the Board of the Little Balkans Press and Woodley Press. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Place in Kansas City. Recently, he retired after teaching for 43 years in Kansas. He’s sometimes trips going up or down curbs. He once said that if he didn’t laugh at himself, someone else would beat him to it.

     For Tamir Rice, 2002-2014

Beautiful white boy,
freckles like cinnamon,
salutes the camera.
Sign pinned to his shirt:
This boy stands for our flag. 

How can I say

of course he stands,
this morning’s photograph,
whole world his. They kneel for
beautiful black boys,
yesterday’s photographs.

How can I say

if your son played with a toy gun
on his front steps,
a police officer might
call him soldier,
return his salute, drive away.

~Melissa Fite Johnson

Melissa Fite Johnson’s first book of poetry, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Review, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book.  Her poems have appeared in RattleValparaiso Poetry ReviewBroadsided Press, and elsewhere.   Melissa and her husband live with their dog and chickens in Kansas, where she teaches English at her old high school. For more, visit melissafitejohnson.com.

Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His collection, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. Ghost Sign, a collaborative work, was released in 2017 from Spartan Press in Kansas City. It was named a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has been featured on the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Ortolani serves on the Board of the Little Balkans Press and Woodley Press. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Place in Kansas City. Recently, he retired after teaching for 43 years in Kansas. He’s sometimes trips going up or down curbs. He once said that if he didn’t laugh at himself, someone else would beat him to it.

I had a lifetime penchant for clipping and saving whatever suited my fancy from the newspaper, starting at fifteen with my grandmother’s obituary notice. Lately, Tyson biting off a piece of Holyfield’s ear, Clinton’s Whitewater troubles, a beauty shop expanding to a full-service salon, Frontenac High School football games, lots of local wedding and anniversary announcements and, of course, obituaries. While I was living up in Kansas City, I collected song lyrics by jotting them down on scraps of paper at work, then transcribing them longhand into books — 15 all told. You might remember I mixed sodas and malts with Gertie behind the marble counter at Fedell’s Drug Store in the 1950s. For five years before Fedell’s, I took care of my bedridden mother. Once I forgot some anniversary or birthday and told her I was sorry — that I should have bought her some flowers. “You don’t need to buy me no flowers, Margaret,” she said. “You’re my flower.”

~ J. T. Knoll

T. Knoll,a native of the Republic of Frontenac, Kansas, is a counselor, prize-winning newspaper columnist, poet and speaker. Ghost Sign, his recent collaboration with three other Southeast Kansas poets, was selected as a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. He lives in Pittsburg on Euclid’s Curve, with his wife, Linda, and dog, Arlo the Labradorean.

Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His collection, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. Ghost Sign, a collaborative work, was released in 2017 from Spartan Press in Kansas City. It was named a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has been featured on the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Ortolani serves on the Board of the Little Balkans Press and Woodley Press. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Place in Kansas City. Recently, he retired after teaching for 43 years in Kansas. He’s sometimes trips going up or down curbs. He once said that if he didn’t laugh at himself, someone else would beat him to it.

Before she came to America your grandmother served three sisters in a chicken legged cottage in Russia, a dancing cottage that turned and turned among the trees, a woodcutter’s cottage in a clearing in a forest and the woodcutter was never home, a modest cottage that turned and turned with three beautiful sisters inside,

 

Woodsman’s daughters they were and your grandmother was servant to the three sisters and small and capable, and silent and quick, when she plucked a chicken she was a fistful of feathers and the woodcutter was never home, and the three sisters laughed at your grandmother, her clothes and her smell and her manners,

She belonged outside where she was born they said, she smelled like the skin of animals — and the truth of the matter is your grandmother DID spring out of the earth, like a mushroom, near a tree where the cottage pigs dug up roots in summer, and when she walked through the cottage a chill like outdoors followed her from room to room,

And the three sisters were afraid of that and they didn’t like the look in her eyes and called her Baba, as in Baba Yaga, and they called her that right in front of her face, and she said nothing and tended the smoky stove and cleaned things up, she pushed the handle of a broom through straw to chase away mice, when it was necessary,

 

And in the candlelight of evening the cottage danced and the pine forest was silent and watchful, and the silence was terrible and wonderful and enchanted at the same time, and the clatter of chicken bones and metal plates, and in winter the three sisters ate turnip soup and laughed and were very happy,

 

And the woodsman was not there, and the wind shook off the blanket of snow which covered the trees and the animals and the wet straw roof, and your grandmother standing outside the door of the dancing cottage, dreaming of America

~ George Wallace

George Wallace is writer in residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, author of 31 chapbooks of poetry and winner of the Naim Fraisheri grand prize at the International Poetry Festival “Ditët e Naimit.” Editor of Poetrybay and co-editor of Great Weather for Media in New York City he travels regularly to share his work with poetry with writers across the United States and internationally. Recent appearances in Kansas include the Gordon Parks Museum, Pittsburg Library, Prospero‘s Books (2012); and the 2017 Kansas City Poetry Throwdown. An interview with the poet may be heard via ‘The Poet and the Poem,” webcasts & podcasts from the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress.

 

Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His collection, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. Ghost Sign, a collaborative work, was released in 2017 from Spartan Press in Kansas City. It was named a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has been featured on the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Ortolani serves on the Board of the Little Balkans Press and Woodley Press. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Place in Kansas City. Recently, he retired after teaching for 43 years in Kansas. He’s sometimes trips going up or down curbs. He once said that if he didn’t laugh at himself, someone else would beat him to it.

For years a boy will watch his father’s hands

uncross crossed coils before he gets the knack

of never pulling tight, before he gets

his father’s words: Don’t pull until you clear

the nub. In time a boy will learn to make

a nearly perfect cast, to place a plug

between two lily pads or softly by

a rock. A father though won’t always clear

 

the nub, won’t always find the words to say

exactly what he means and by the time

he learns, his doubt has hardened to regret.

A line recalls the worst that it’s been through –

a backlash pulled too soon will tighten up

and leave a kink a thousand casts won’t cure.

~ James Haines

 

Jim Haines lives in Lawrence, Kansas. His poems have appeared most recently in Spank the Carp, Inscape, Naugatuck River Review, Blue Island Review, and The Evening Street Review. Poems are forthcoming in “Measure, A Review of Formal Poetry” and in “The United States of Poetry”, an anthology to be published by the National Geographic Society. He is a lifelong woodworker and is retired from a career in law, business, and teaching.

 

Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His collection, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. Ghost Sign, a collaborative work, was released in 2017 from Spartan Press in Kansas City. It was named a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has been featured on the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Ortolani serves on the Board of the Little Balkans Press and Woodley Press. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Place in Kansas City. Recently, he retired after teaching for 43 years in Kansas. He’s sometimes trips going up or down curbs. He once said that if he didn’t laugh at himself, someone else would beat him to it.

-July-

Since yesterday’s Farm Futures

fell the limit because of rain

in Chicago or K.C.,

and his corn is dry, the farmer

decides he has worked too long

for nothing. He gets up

late, and puts on clean clothes.

He feeds the sows

an extra bucket, because

it is the holiday thing to do.

Unimpressed, because

it’s expected, they fight,

tail-snatching over the last

bite, squealing like tires

on pavement.

With contempt, the farmer

looks at the dirt

blown into the garage.

He cleans his car, then sharpens

the blade on the mower.

Each misplaced

tool finds its place. For lunch

he licks a candy bar

out of its wrapper, while the oil

drains out of his tractor.

He walks 200 yards to pull

one weed out of a field.

Farm magazines stacked

beside his chair, he watches

the weather change. It moves rapidly

across a computerized map

in Wichita. A sun sits

on Illinois, low-pressure

over Nebraska. Because it’s time

the farmer turns out the light,

stares at the dark, and looks

forward to tomorrow’s work,

because it’s expected.

~ Greg German

Originally Published in Kansas Quarterly, 1993 V.24, #4

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 web site development, special project consulting, and photography. (www.limestone9consulting.com) He holds a B.A. degree in English/Creative writing and a B.S. in Education from Kansas State University.  Greg 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.

James Benger is a father, husband and writer. His work has been featured in several publications. He is the author of two fiction ebooks: Flight 776 (2012) and Jack of Diamonds (2013), and two chapbooks of poetry: As I Watch You Fade (EMP 2016) and You’ve Heard It All Before (GigaPoem 2017). He is a member of the Riverfront Readings Committee in Kansas City, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online poetry workshop and is Editor In Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and son.

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