Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

A freezing March wind ravaged the plainsPat Latta
Her daddy worried about
the calves
the wheat
the tractor

Her mama worried about her only daughter

A daughter who saw his eyes
in the blue March sky
His sunburned back
in the sunrise
His name in every book she read

She waited for June
and the harvest crew
when he and his cousin and brother
moved north from Texas

Maybe she could bring iced tea
to the crew
Maybe she would touch his hand
Oh Mama, please?

March is cold
on the Kansas plains
And lonely

~ Pat Latta

Pat Latta grew up in a small town in central Texas.  He moved to Wichita in 1983 and lives close to the Little Arkansas River.  He writes with a weekly poetry group.  He appreciates the power of individual words in poetry and strives to express ideas as concisely as possible.

Guest Editor Kelly W. Johnston 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.

Dad’s Fur Coat by

Jenni Gribble PhotoWhat matters now is Dad’s fur coat.

I don’t know where it came from or how he got it,

But he wore it in Kansas winters.

All wrapped up in white and lonely softness.
 

I remember him,

Standing in front of the old buggy.

He had come to play Santa Claus

With a tree and treats.

And when there was snow enough,

He put runners on the wagon box.

And all wrapped up in moonshine,

He rode through the tinsel starlight.

~ Jenni Gribble

Jenni Gribble: I was born in Ottawa, Kansas, and these poems are inspired by stories told by my ancestors, who settled Kansas in the 1800’s. I am a graduate student in English at Morehead State University, Kentucky, and a high school English teacher. My work has appeared in Inscape: Art and Literary Magazine.

Cody Shrum holds both a B.A. and M.A. in Creative Writing from Pittsburg State University with an emphasis in fiction. However, his poetry has appeared in velvet-tail and Kansas Time + Place online literary magazines. Cody plans to pursue his MFA degree in fiction next fall—an adventure he will embark on with his wife, Kylee, and their two dogs, Zoey and Zeus.

Dead Dog by Julie Ramon

It’s been a week now and still eachJulieramon.jpg

day I see you on the side of the highway

serving as a small, black line

connecting Kansas to Missouri.

Bits of your hair are frozen and reflective

against the rising sun. I pass your crushed bones,

asphalt gripping claws and black ears,

that ripple in the wind of passing cars.

 

I tell myself your family came

and gently took your body home and buried

you beneath a sycamore. And, you weren’t drug

away by teeth sunken deep in the folds

of your neck and torn apart leaving nothing

but a smeared trail of what you used to be.

~ 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.

Cody Shrum holds both a B.A. and M.A. in Creative Writing from Pittsburg State University with an emphasis in fiction. However, his poetry has appeared in velvet-tail and Kansas Time + Place online literary magazines. Cody plans to pursue his MFA degree in fiction next fall—an adventure he will embark on with his wife, Kylee, and their two dogs, Zoey and Zeus.

Now by Michael Lasater

Michael LasaterKansasGallery4Largetime turns on point

dancing its one

inexhaustible moment

rewinding shadow

until memory shatters

and all the soft

evenings return

carried on the voices

of old men

(my father’s the deepest)

telling again their stories

told already

some other future time

some moment arrived

only yesterday

all packed up for

its journey

into the night.

~ Michael Lasater

Hutchinson native Michael Lasater is Professor of New Media at Indiana University South Bend. With degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory, Juilliard, and Syracuse University, he has performed with ensembles including the Metropolitan Opera, produced documentaries on writers and literature for PBS distribution, and currently exhibits art video nationally and internationally.

Cody Shrum holds both a B.A. and M.A. in Creative Writing from Pittsburg State University with an emphasis in fiction. However, his poetry has appeared in velvet-tail and Kansas Time + Place online literary magazines. Cody plans to pursue his MFA degree in fiction next fall—an adventure he will embark on with his wife, Kylee, and their two dogs, Zoey and Zeus.

 

I go to a party at which pumpkins are optional.Photo on 2010-07-13 at 11.40 #3 (1)

I don’t bring a pumpkin. I sit in a corner

next to a cat that looks remarkably like the host.

The cat refuses to acknowledge me.

Outside, the host carves a pumpkin. I think,

It is too cold. Later I get hot standing

by an open window near the crock pot chili.

I remove my angora scarf. I stuff it in my pocket.

All day I have had a terrific knot

of pain where my neck and shoulder connect.

The word radiate comes to mind when I think

of my arm also hurting all day. I don’t know why.

At the party, we decide I am not having a heart

attack. After eating a Pillsbury biscuit

“sopapilla” dessert, two squares, I tell stories

in which I am a benign villain. The people laugh.

They have been waiting to laugh for a while.

Most of them did not bring optional pumpkins

either. We have been talking about feline diet,

which I did not bring up, but which is

one of my safe subjects. Later, before

the conversation turns to brain cancer—brain cancer

is not one of my safe subjects—I explain

teasing my excitable mother about the brown coat

my dad got me hand-me-down, but paid for, from

some guy at work and swore it wasn’t a boy’s coat

(unisex was vogue anyway), but I was twelve

with an Edie Adams salon mutilated Hamill (think wedge)

and waitresses thought I was a boy and old men

followed me into restrooms—well just once—

so why I asked my mom, why, why, did you make me

wear that brown coat?

Someone’s going to Finland

on a Fulbright. I listen for a while, pull the scarf

out of my pocket and go outside

where three pumpkins glow happily, each

having taken the permanent attitude of bemused hilarity.

~ Laura Lee Washburn

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 Cavalier Literary Couture, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, Red Rock Review, and Valparaiso Review.  Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has also lived and worked in Arizona and in Missouri.  She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky.

Cody Shrum holds both a B.A. and M.A. in Creative Writing from Pittsburg State University with an emphasis in fiction. However, his poetry has appeared in velvet-tail and Kansas Time + Place online literary magazines. Cody plans to pursue his MFA degree in fiction next fall—an adventure he will embark on with his wife, Kylee, and their two dogs, Zoey and Zeus.

Ed TatoThe speedometer clocked 65 in a 35,

as I tore away from The Gun Shop.

 

Black ice,

a shudder.
My Roadmaster clips a monument sign.

It caroms and spins. It rolls –

a beast on its back, wheels flailing –

a cockroach stuck to the floor with a pin.
I shimmy out a window,

down an embankment,

over a culvert,

up the embankment’s other side.

I heave my coat over razor wire

and me over my coat.
I see my thumb, gloved

in mud and blood, wagging for a ride,

then two headlights,

two taillights,

a dome-light,

you.
You.
You with warm leather seats

and six speakers of Summertime.

You with a bag of bath towels.
You with new teacups and tea-balls,

with sack of candles,

with Epsom salts,

with a Dead Duck Rubber Ducky.
We accelerate past warehouses

thick with diesel and propane,

past forklifts and overhead cranes and a wet saw

grinding through twelve-inch I-beams.
We crest over cloverleafs,

as weightless as rays spun from headlamps

spidering through every curve of Highway 10.
No moon. No stars.

Only fog.

And Gershwin.

And a smell I can’t quite name

seeping through candle wrappers –
a scent that would make me giddy as you

set candles into chipped tea cups

that chink against the tub

and the bathroom’s white and cherry tile –
a scent that would fill my flat long after you

snuff the candles out and uncoil

the blue bath towel draping your face.

You wrap the towel around my neck,

kiss each eyelid,

then fetch iodine from the cabinet

saying the sting won’t last a moment.

~ Ed Tato

Ed Tato, who lived a spell in Kansas, was born the day airship ZPG-2 took its final flight, terminating the Navy’s dirigible program. That same curious day, Felix The Cat and Friends, hosted by “Uncle Fred” Scott, broadcast one last time, and pitcher Mutt Wilson died. Ed’s been mourning since.

Pat Daneman has lived in Lenexa, Kansas since 1986. Recent work appears on the art and literature website, Escape Into Life, in 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.

Frank_Higgins_PhotoWhile the mare backs down the ramp

and someone opens the corral gate,

cowboys and cowgirls in bright blouses

gather along the top rail like at rodeos.

“Okay, girl,” the mare’s owner says, “shake your tail,”

and he pats her on the rear.

“You say her name’s Kitty?” the stud’s owner says.

“Kitty, meet Luke. Luke’s a good man.”

While Luke the stud stands and snorts

Kitty plays it coy, looks around,

then walks over to get a drink.

“C’mon, ol’ Luke,” a cowboy calls,

“What are you waitin’ for? Buy her a drink.”

A cowgirl says, “First dates are difficult.”

“Tell her you like the way she moves.”

“Ask him what he does for a living.”

“Tell her she’s got pretty eyes.”

“Ask him if he still lives with his mother.”

The older men light up, prop a foot on a rail

and talk weather or feed

until they’re interrupted by the young

who cheer and then clap for Kitty,

who’s gotten down to business,

and Luke, who shows what he’s made of.

 

When it’s over, it’s only a minute till Kitty gets loaded.

“Hey,” a cowgirl says, “Luke didn’t even ask her to stay over.”

“He wants to watch football,” a guy says.

“Or sleep,” another cowgirl says.

The young people head to their trucks as a group,

laughing and joking at first, then become quiet

and start to pair up.

~ Frank Higgins

(appeared in the Flint Hills Review)

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.

Pat Daneman has lived in Lenexa, Kansas since 1986. Recent work appears on the art and literature website, Escape Into Life, in 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.

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