Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

12552978_10153398709925678_2056471190933144579_nSmall girl wanders amber waves,

eyes pealed,

heart large with acute ache,

scours fields for something of Kansas

that bears a likeness of her.

 

Gold garland of woven wheat,

rests atop head of tight black curls,

she bends to smell rich county soil,

brushes ground with Cupid’s bow mouth—

lips lush in a way that makes earth feel blessed.

 

She creeps up near a bison herd,

smiles at their wooly thick coats

the same deep brown as her skin,

surprises them to scatter with cries

“Hey there, divinely dark, like me!”

 

Cottonwood shade sends invitation

to nap lulled by honeybee buzz,

she dreams of adversity yet to happen,

of places she’ll arrive just shy of stars,

of honorable mentions that bear her name,

of foreshadowed failures that startle her awake.

 

She plans poems about eating a stew

to put meat on her Midwest bones,

broth rendered thick

with Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes

seasoned rich with Gordon Parks, Aaron Douglas,

a hearty meal that leaves her sated

and transformed uppity enough

to demand her home town be

more than good place to grow potatoes—

be good place to grow black girls too.

~ Annette Hope Billings

Annette Hope Billings is an poet/actress/playwright from Topeka, KS, who has written two collections of poetry. In 2015, she stepped away from four decades of nursing to writing full-time and explore where her creative path was leading her. Her most recent collection of poetry, A Net Full of Hope, was published last year and has been well-received, garnering her a readers’ proposed title of “Maya of the Midwest.” For more info about her book:tinyurl.com/anfohbook To view videos of her work: tinyurl.com/anfohvideos To follow her on FaceBook: Facebook.com/anetfullofhope.

Photo of Annette by Stephan Anderson-Story

Enough by Dan Pohl

Dan PohlFor silence, the year saw few warm

Days; they came seldom, as spooky

As honest politicians pop up because

Cold winds moved too much and

Made the clear panes rattle, too near

My bedroom window on the back

Porch sounding gossipy after a time

Unable to rest, pushed into such a

Clacking pitch by blue weather

 

On the roads, gusts skipped light

Cars like stones chatter on water

Nudged to cross the center line

As minnows flash there, surprised

Into oncoming traffic for a quick

Correction to the wheel to decide

To stay home, surrounded by walls

Soft, warm walls and to tape the

Wind chimes to stop their rumors

 

Beyond the bad day for Caesar

The buffeting-cold breathing Ides

Changed people, changed their

Human nature, grounded, delayed

Flightless like pheasants from the

Incessant breeze or, as stoic turkeys

From the chilled winter sliding

Over bare necks in want of heated

Air from the deep ache for good fires

~ Dan Pohl

Dan Pohl instructs English composition at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas. Woodley Press will publish his first book of poetry Autochthonous: Found in Place in late 2013. He lives in Moundridge, Kansas, and writes poems and prose poems. He judged the 2013 Nelson Poetry Book Contest. People can find his work published in two 2013 anthologies: Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems (Woodley Press) and To the Stars through Difficulties (Mammoth Publications), both edited by past Kansas Poet Laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. A sampling of his poems is found online at <kansaspoets.com>.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, guest editor for Dec., is the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, author or editor of 19 books, and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches. More on her here.

the night watchmen fell asleep1622856_3847566204678_1093079812_n

when Albert Einstein dreamed then

mathematically proved the existence

of a greater spiritual power

and after Milton Friedman

replaced myth with timeless truth leaving

the rest of we mere humans

shimmering above the mirage

wondering what happened

to all of our kinetic collective groping

the truth is A is A and

two plus two does equal four

the truth is it is a beautiful morning

and I am going for a walk in the woods

~ 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.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, guest editor for Dec., is the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, author or editor of 19 books, and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches. More on her here.

My son is learning at last everything I never taught him.10885210_10203995076012065_23950373450041338_n

He’s learning to do whatever he’s told by anyone

whose job it is to order up the impossible:

Tomorrow, David, it must not rain.

This Indian, David, he is six inches too tall.

 

He woke up one night standing outside a Best Western motel,

an old woman slapping him with a pillowcase,

scolding him in Spanish with motherly consternation.

He said he needs to learn Spanish.

And carpentry. So many things have to be built.

Difficult things that do not exist. A device for spitting

tobacco into someone’s face, for example.

A house that falls down.

 

He sent me a postcard, he said. Sent his father a postcard. His grandfather a postcard.

To his own mailbox hanging empty at the door of his empty apartment he sent a postcard

of a rampaging mare he found wedged in the mirror in the toilet of a Texaco station

near Cottonwood Falls. It is his calling to find things; his station

in the underground maze where all the circuitry hums.

 

He told me a Kiowa girl wrote a poem on his arm with a coyote tooth. A ghost

wrote a song in the dust on the hood of his car. His car wouldn’t start

and Queen Bey stepped down from a red pickup truck, from her parapet

of sixty years and skin like hammered copper and blues

and jazz in all the cities of Europe to touch his face

with a varnished fingernail, give him a Diet Coke and a ride.

 

On an undulating plain at purple dawn he found a cowry shell grimed with ocean salt.

A herd of bison rose like a swarm of locusts to consume a hilltop; beat a cloud

from their hooves that changed the color of the sky.

 

Nothing is lost, but so many things have to be found.

~ Pat Daneman

(Published in Inkwell, Spring 2008)
Pat Daneman has lived in Lenexa, Kansas since 1986. Recent work appears in The Moon City Review, I-70 Review, Bellevue Poetry Review, and The Comstock Review. Her chapbook, Where the World Begins, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. She is poetry co-editor of Kansas City Voices magazine.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, guest editor for Dec., is the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, author or editor of 19 books, and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches. More on her here.

Shivering in crystalline air,

I watch the edge of day creep

east over the Verdigris valley,

expose bone-white pleading arms

of barren birch and sycamore,

listen to the muster call of crow

scouts, search for prey unseen

overnight by owls and coyotes.

 

Molding hands around coffee,

I watch juncos in the road cut

move like a murmur, listen

to mourning doves who let

geese fly south alone,

smell smoke of a range fire

flowing north over far ridge –

gray hair blowing in wind.

 

I must wait for hesitant redbuds

to surge with sap into sun,

 

fight the fire from growing old,

hope to avoid winter

taking me for the boneyard.

~ Kelly W. Johnston

Kelly W. Johnston is a life-long Kansan, who was born in Lawrence in 1955. After graduating from law school in 1979, he put his poetry on the back burner after majoring in creative writing as an undergrad at WSU. About 5 years ago, Kelly began writing again, and in 2011 his poem, “House Sitter”, won 1st place in the Kansas Writers Asso. Poetry contest. In 2014, his poem, “Landmarks”, won 2nd place in the Kansas Authors Club Poetry contest, narrative verse category. And just recently, his poem, “Trails”, won 1st place in the Kansas Authors Club District 5 Poetry contest. Kelly still practices law, but also loves to spend time on his land in the Chautauqua Hills near Cross Timbers State Park, where most of his poetry is inspired.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, guest editor for Dec., is the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, author or editor of 19 books, and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches. More on her here.

Matthew Manning PhotoYou have wild in your chest.

It’s angry, caged, and restless;

beating the bars hard, reminding

the damned of the damnation.

Let these bars turn to sand, I

always wanted this, but I’ve just now

got the heart to scream it.

Deep in the night, where the graves

of this Midwestern Kansas town

spread vast into its own heart

like black pollen, wood rot. Lord

of the plains, regal and wind spun,

allow a small moment of silence.

~ Matthew David Manning

previously published in http://rustandmoth.com/work/arrhythmia/

Matthew David Manning is a poet from Pittsburg, Kansas where he teaches at Pittsburg State University in the Intensive English Program. Matthew holds degrees in creative writing from Arizona State University and Pittsburg State University. Matthew is passionate about educating non-native English speakers about poetry, and recently returned from spending two years in Suzhou, China. www.mattwritenow.com

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, guest editor for Dec., is the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, author or editor of 19 books, and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches. More on her here.

Julieramon.jpg    -after Paul Guest

 

It’s not the you in Kansas that’s always ahead of me

or calling me out on my bullshit.

It’s the you that just ran past my window,

slinking low to stay out of sight,

only looking back once

to see if anyone’s watching before

disappearing like rain into the street

drain.Or, the you, in your old age, that caught

a view of my barely-there underwear

presented by the wind, a gift timidly given.

Another you figured out she doesn’t want

her husband, but to live

alone, drink, and finish the novel

about the boy with the birthmark

who had too much to drink and sat

upside down on the sofa until

there was no difference

between birthmark and skin. A color

that kept changing like forgotten

Eastereggs in white coffee mugs.

No like you who calls me

from a deep sleep in the middle

of the night. Arms stretched, you reach

for me and I for you until you becomes me

with no space in between, just breath.

~ Julie Ramon

Julie Ramon is an English instructor, specializing in English as a second language, at Pittsburg State University in Kansas. She graduated with an M.F.A from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Her poems “Making Tamales” and “Making Tortillas” were recently published in the literary food magazine, Graze. She enjoys baking and selling cakes from home on weekends. She lives in Joplin, Missouri with her husband and son.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, guest editor for Dec., is the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, author or editor of 19 books, and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches. More on her here.

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