Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

for Roy BeckemeyerLindsey

We didn’t think we’d make it—that leap

to a boxcar from gravel limestone

edging tracks on bedrock, their ties locked

in solid links that smell of burnt tar

and metal grinding against steel rods.

 

Jim plans to play a gig there, even

though no one but me knows he’s alive.

Wind twist his hair into knots, and sun-

light ripples across alfalfa fields

to highlight his sweaty back, now black

 

with soot from the engine throbbing churned

coal wile we move past Kanorado–

head east on these tracks from dusty town

to town. Pawnee ghosts hem the horizon,

and a Quivira chases them.

 

Just Jim and I see the warriors.

We pray we earn their blessing while we

wave goodbye to yellow-orange cornstalks.

Sunflowers whiz past, a meadowlark

dashes into flight, and fields turn mauve.

 

While the freight’s whistle echoes stories,

bravado about hippy-nomadic

lives subsides, and we morph from steel

and its hard, cold images of dead

heroes into flesh, pulsing what’s real.

~ Lindsey Martin-Bowen

Lindsey Martin-Bowen, a native Kansan, taught at JCCC. Her Crossing Kansas with Jim Morrison (Paladin Contemporaries 2016) was a semi-finalist (in chapbook form) for QuillsEdge Books 2015-16 contest. A poem in her Inside Virgil’s Garage (chatter House 2013) was nominated for pushcart, and Standing on the Edge of the World (Woodley), was a Top 10 Poetry Books for 2008. New Letters, I-70 Review, Thorny Locust, Coal City Review, Flint Hills Review, Amethyst Arsenic, Bare Root Review, Little Balkans Review, and others have run her poems. She teaches at MCC-Longview.

Ronda Miller enjoys wandering the high plateau of NW Kansas where the Arikaree Breaks whisper late into the sunset and scream into blizzards and thunderstorms. She lives in Lawrence close to her son and daughter. She is a district president and the state vice president for Kansas Authors Club. She is a life coach specializing in working with those who have lost someone to homicide. She dances every chance she gets. She has poetry in numerous online and hard copy publications that include The Smithsonian Institute. Two books of poetry include Going Home: Poems from My Life and MoonStain (Meadowlark Books, May 2015).

Stories by James Benger

James BenderI could tell you about the time

we raced to the top of the water tower,

bare legs and arms pumping up the

wet, cold metal rungs of the ladder,

its white paint coming off in patches,

adhering to our palms or falling to the ground.

Before we got to the top, we imagined

from up there we’d be able to see the

world, or at least the state line, but

no matter where we stood around that

sunbaked tank of drink, all we saw

were fields, trailers and someone’s

lost mangy dog hobbling down the

gravel road that was more dirt than gravel.

 

I could tell you about the time

we jacked the keys to Buddy’s sister’s

Mustang from the kitchen counter

when she wasn’t looking and how we

flew with the wind ripping at our eyes,

all of us too false-macho to ask for the

top to go back up – it was winter, after all.

When the sky went dark and we finally

came back, she was red-faced and spitting,

screaming till she cried and everyone laughed,

but I almost cried along with her,

no one should ever have to feel like she must’ve.

 

I could tell you about the time

I found a lost chick on the side of the road

when I was walking home from fourth grade,

her yellow fuzz still there, scared eyes above

a scraped-up, ravenous beak.

I took her home and hid her under that sink

that no one ever really used.

I named her and fed her dry rice until the end.

 

I could tell you about the time

that we shot our bb guns at anything

that would yield to the tiny balls,

downed leaves and mulberries,

soft moldering wood in the fire pit.

We emptied fast food ketchup packets

into the barrels so that when the bb’s came out,

they’d take the ketchup too, make it

look like blood spray, or a food fight.

 

I could tell you about the time

that that girl who sat behind me in

seventh grade algebra, the one who always

copied my homework, even though I

was a D student, otherwise she’d fail, the

time she took my hand in the hallway

in between fourth and fifth hours and she

kissed me on the cheek, a tiny ring of wet

warmth on my face, and I swear I

could feel the flutter of an eyelash on my skin.

The next day she was just gone from

everywhere but my head.

 

I could tell you about the time

I pretended to not care when everything

was crashing down in insurmountable

obstacles, towering doubts, negativity

and pressure to just give in, but you

pulled me back and righted my angle

and reminded me that everything is temporary;

nothing is static, pressure is only pressure

because there is inevitable release.

 

I could tell you any or all of these things,

but you’ve heard all my stories before.

So I’ll just stand silently beside you

And breathe in the next moment.

~ James Benger

James Benger is a father, husband and writer. He is the author of two fiction ebooks, Flight 776 (2012) and Jack of Diamonds (2013) and one chapbook of poetry, As I Watch You Fade (EMP 2016). He lives n South Kansas City with his wife and son. In 2015 James started an online anthology among fellow poets called 365 Days. A book has since been published with a collection of some of those poems – 365 Days: A Poetry Anthology.

Ronda Miller enjoys wandering the high plateau of NW Kansas where the Arikaree Breaks whisper late into the sunset and scream into blizzards and thunderstorms. She lives in Lawrence close to her son and daughter. She is a district president and the state vice president for Kansas Authors Club. She is a life coach specializing in working with those who have lost someone to homicide. She dances every chance she gets. She has poetry in numerous online and hard copy publications that include The Smithsonian Institute. Two books of poetry include Going Home: Poems from My Life and MoonStain (Meadowlark Books, May 2015).

I tapped on the door to her room that stood slightly ajarEveOtt

before gently pushing it open.

Her face could have lit a dark space when she saw me.

She hugged me tight, pulled back, lit up again, then

hugged me some more.

 

Her walls are covered with mandalas, all the same,

each different, that she has colored. Canisters of

colored pencils sit on each of two small tables.

 

You must have the most beautiful room on the floor, I say.

I do, she says. Mandalas.

 

We go out for lunch. Turns out Newton, Kansas has some

wonderful old houses. She keeps pointing out the

ones with mansard roofs.

 

Remember, she says to me, remember how we used to…

 

But the thoughts drifts off, so I study the roofs, and, yes,

there were such in Emporia, Kansas, where we were

unlikely classmates in graduate school, she so young

and willowy, I a staggering newly single mother of two.

 

She points to another mansard house. Remember? She says.

 

Yes! Ghosts. Underground railroad, right?

 

Yes! Remember how we saw them, those ghosts? Remember?

 

And I do. I remember how we walked around town,

told each other tales, most always cynical, humorous,

self mocking, sometimes licentious and most often

centered around the house with the mansard roof.

 

Good, she says, Good for you. And remember we kind

of joked a little, and we wrote, didn’t we? We wrote

some, some…

Poems, I say.

 

Yes, Very short little words. But those roofs. Remember?

 

Yes, I do.

Well, we shouldn’t have laughed, you know. They are

there, those ghosts. And they are very very lonely.

~ Eve Ott

 

Eve Ott loves the Kansas City writing community and has been writing up a storm since she retired there in 2007. Her collection Album from the Silent Generation was released last year by Aldrich Press. Eve has poems in several anthologies.

Ronda Miller enjoys wandering the high plateau of NW Kansas where the Arikaree Breaks whisper late into the sunset and scream into blizzards and thunderstorms. She lives in Lawrence close to her son and daughter. She is a district president and the state vice president for Kansas Authors Club. She is a life coach specializing in working with those who have lost someone to homicide. She dances every chance she gets. She has poetry in numerous online and hard copy publications that include The Smithsonian Institute. Two books of poetry include Going Home: Poems from My Life and MoonStain (Meadowlark Books, May 2015).

MKaminskiSI drove spikes into frozen ground

splitting root-flesh tender tossed

white-ward knit drawl-colored

a cap for the baby while daddy

day-dreams climes further north

sulfured trousers drift seaboard

desert-wrecked sun-soaked

cow-toed Kansas will lie

in the center of things

the sun dripping wet and cool

true that the sun

sets westward either it does

or does not it leaves tongues

bitter-coated all the same

the afternoon is clanging heavy

if the pine gets fell we’ll

have stone grits for dinner

fat-back soaked green cow

come down-river Thursdays

but what of knitting and snow

and deeper roots truculent clouds

impinge upon our expanse of

hill squawk endlessly as we aim

westward brush dirt burlap soft

cold sprouts dreaming us home

~ Megan Kaminski

(originally published in the South Dakota Review)

Megan Kaminski is the author of two books of poetry, Deep City (Noemi Press 2015) and Desiring Map (Coconut Books 2012), and nine chapbooks. She teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Kansas and curates the Taproom Poetry Series in downtown Lawrence.

Tyler Sheldon earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, where he taught English Composition and received the 2016 Charles E. Walton Graduate Essay Award. His poems and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, Quiddity International Literary Journal, Thorny Locust, and other journals. Sheldon is a two-time AWP Intro Journals Award nominee, and has appeared on Kansas Public Radio.

XanLlueve en el fosforescente verde matutino

Descubro entre la cibernética tinta negra

Entre un desconocido norte que es mi sur

Palabras entretejidas con miedos

Sentimientos disfrazados de distancia

Muros metálicos dividen dos países

Dos corazones, madres e hijos

Padres y hermanos, pasado y presente

¿Qué nos hace diferentes?

Somos manos que escriben, que trabajan

Limpian y guían en la oscuridad más grande

¿Qué es una frontera? Límites creados

Culturas forzadas a darse la espalda

Llueve en el fosforescente verde matutino

Descubro entre la tinta negra de esta

Pantalla de luz artificial los hombres

Y mujeres sin nombre que apenas

Dejan rastro de su existencia en

Los desiertos. Anónimos seres

Que nunca serán reclamados

Esperan las madres orgullosas a los

Hijos e hijas tragados por la flamígera

Arena del desierto. Rojo atardecer llena

Mi pantalla y la tinta negra empieza a

Sangrar.

 

It’s raining in the phosphorescent greenness of daybreak

I discover in the cybernetic black ink

In an unknown north that is my south

Words interwoven with fears

Emotions disguised as distance

Metallic walls dividing two nations

Two hearts, mothers and children

Fathers and siblings, past and present

What makes us different?

We are hands that write, that work

Cleaning and guiding in the darkest dark

What is a border? Created limits

Cultures forced to turn their back

It’s raining in the phosphorescent greenness of daybreak

I discover in the black ink of this

Screen of artificial light nameless

Men and women who barely

Leave a trace of their existence in

The deserts. Anonymous beings

Who will never be claimed

Proud mothers awaiting

Sons and daughters swallowed by the scorching

Desert sand. Red twilight fills

My screen and the black ink begins to

Bleed.

~ by Xánath Caraza

Translated by Sandra Kingery

Xánath Caraza teaches at the University of Missouri Kansas City and presents readings and workshops in Europe, Latin America, and the U.S. Her most recent book is Ocelocíhuatl. Her book of poetry, Sílabas de viento / Syllables of Wind received the 2015 International Book Award for Poetry. It also received Honorable Mention for Best Book of Poetry in Spanish in the 2015 International Latino Book Awards. Her book of verse Conjuro and book of short fiction Lo que trae la marea / What the Tide Brings have won national and international recognition. Caraza is a writer for La Bloga and she writes the “US Latino Poets en español” column.

Sandra Kingery, Professor of Spanish at Lycoming College, has translated Ana María Moix, René Vázquez Díaz, Liliana Colanzi, Federico Guzmán Rubio, and Kepa Murua.

 

Tyler Sheldon earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, where he taught English Composition and received the 2016 Charles E. Walton Graduate Essay Award. His poems and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, Quiddity International Literary Journal, Thorny Locust, and other journals. Sheldon is a two-time AWP Intro Journals Award nominee, and has appeared on Kansas Public Radio.

 

after StaffordWyatt Townley Headshot (color)

 

Agree with the river.

Agree with the field

and the tree. If you agree

with the wind that rises

in the midst of your life

running through everything,

rearranging the best

laid plans, branches down,

leaves scattered, you will agree

with what’s under your feet.

There are your parents.

~©2016 by Wyatt Townley

Wyatt Townley was the Poet Laureate of Kansas (2013-15), and her travels across the state inspired this poem. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, North American Review, Newsweek, Prairie Schooner, and The Yale Review.  Her books of poetry include The Breathing Field, Perfectly Normal, and The Afterlives of Trees. www.WyattTownley.com

Tyler Sheldon earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, where he taught English Composition and received the 2016 Charles E. Walton Graduate Essay Award. His poems and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, Quiddity International Literary Journal, Thorny Locust, and other journals. Sheldon is a two-time AWP Intro Journals Award nominee, and has appeared on Kansas Public Radio.

averill-tomLongwood Botanical Garden, Pennsylvania:

The Idea Garden demonstrates plants and plantings,

juxtapositions and designs, for home gardeners.

 

Every Botanical Garden is an Idea Garden,

every gardener a home gardener.

 

Nature, expressing itself, element

by element, is an Idea Garden.

 

Live near a Botanical Garden: your neighborhood

will lean toward it, as though a plant learning the sun.

 

Plants, design features, walls, fountains, plantings,

will escape the garden walls and sneak into nearby yards.

 

The Botanical Garden, swept and manicured:

such Godliness promotes cleanliness for blocks and blocks.

 

Your clean neighborhood will make a nice entryway

to that destination, the Botanical Garden.

 

Take a cutting from, find a seed in, the Botanical Garden:

so planted, your neighborhood will be a Botanical Garden.

 

The seeds in your boot treads will take root as you visit

the Botanical Garden, which will then become your neighborhood.

 

The butterfly in your bush, the bird in your redbud,

fly into the Botanical Garden without boundaries.

 

Colorful wings flutter, birdsong warbles,

humming wings nudge their way into any flower.

 

The Botanical Garden, your neighborhood, earth

and sky, are one place. Nature is one place.

 

All Ideas welcomed into this garden.

~ Thomas Fox Averill

An O. Henry Award story writer, Thomas Fox Averill is Writer-in-Residence at Washburn University of Topeka, KS. His novel, rode, published by the University of New Mexico Press, was named Outstanding Western Novel of 2011 as part of the Western Heritage Awards. His recent work, “Garden Plots,” consists of poems, meditations, and short-short stories about gardens, gardeners, garden design, plants, and the human relationship to nature.  His most recent novel is A Carol Dickens Christmas, which won the Byron Caldwell Smith Award from the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas, and was named a Kansas Notable Book in 2015.

Tyler Sheldon earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, where he taught English Composition and received the 2016 Charles E. Walton Graduate Essay Award. His poems and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, Quiddity International Literary Journal, Thorny Locust, and other journals. Sheldon is a two-time AWP Intro Journals Award nominee, and has appeared on Kansas Public Radio.

Tag Cloud