Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Marshland out back. Soggy, sucking. I skip and splash along the outskirts to keep from sinking. Then a rise. Then a hollow. These different strata and the stone shelf beneath house crystals that are ground and pressured to release soft light at night. It comes and goes. The earthquakes spider outward from Oklahoma, the aftershocks like unfinished thoughts unfelt here in southeast Kansas but disturbing the shelf just enough. You have to look indirectly to see the lights, more like sensing them.

I go to the ridge and down again to old growth trees that form a woods, even
a small forest, timed to coincide with earliest pre-dawn and the
coyote’s waking when they stretch and howl and gibber flushing rabbits
and small animals. In the marsh, with silvered surface, the crane rises and
shivers it, ripples it outward. The crane is gone in a whisper, but where it was still
ghosts. Like the lights. Like the familiars I feel around me.

And currents, too in the earth I’m on, Teslaic, telluric, you feel them like you see the lights, obliquely, anything that lives here knows them intimately, anything but man, and even though I sense them, I am alien. I am just a guest.

 

[Appeared in Scattered Cranes, a collection of poetry by G. Wise.]

Guinotte Wise’s work has appeared in numerous journals including Atticus, Rattle, Ekphrastic Review, The MacGuffin, and Southern Humanities Review. His first short story collection (Night Train, Cold Beer) won publication by a university press and enough money to fix the soffits. A Pushcart nominee, he writes and welds steel sculpture on a farm in Southeast Kansas. His latest book of poetry, Horses See Ghosts, was published this month. Some work is at http://www.wisesculpture.com

 Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

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My mother would like to die now, please.
Her nursing home apartment is immaculate.
Friendly aides set hot meals in front of her
three times a day. Enough! So what!
She’s tired of their cheerier-than-thou
voices and those voices on television
trying to sell her on buying it, whatever
it is, however prettily wrapped.
TV light bathes her morning til night.
Then welcome sleep, an undress rehearsal
that never lasts long enough.
Awake again? The chattery girl asking
This top? These pants? And some slick
preacher “just stopping in,” wanting
her to donate her soul. My god.
It never ends. Which is all she wants.
And these framed photos grinning down
from the bookshelf, this innocent choir.
My mother knows what we’re thinking.
We want to keep her here. Children
she probably loved once, their own
disappointments just beyond the horizon . . .
Now, not knowing I can hear from the next room
she says, with conviction, What crap!

 

[First appeared in The Texas Review]

Jeff Worley, born and raised in Wichita, was the second graduate of the Wichita State MFA program (1975). He is extremely grateful to Bruce Cutler, founder of the program, for his invaluable help with early fledgling poems. Jeff has published 10 collections of poetry, the most recent, A Little Luck, winner of the 2012 X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize from Texas Review Press. Now retired from the University of Kentucky, he and his wife, Linda, split their time between Lexington and their Cave Run Lake cabin.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

You don’t declare Kansas.
Kansas keeps your scent
and adds your color to its blood.

Every time we go back to China,
I keep something hidden
from you and from customs.
I’ll get to our apartment in Suzhou,
open our suitcases, and release the last
breath of Kansas, our one ration.

Hair from the cats will riddle our clothes
until your mother washes them in secret.
She’s missed our surprised faces,
the sound of my voice held back,
embarrassed by limited vocabulary,
and the chance to ignore our praises
by busying herself in the kitchen.

I’d like to tell your mother how Kansas
is just like fresh laundry on the line,
it’s doing more than what you have to,
and it’s having dinner when all the wheat
in our empty and lightly salted land
leans close to the house trying to smell.

 

Matthew David Manning is an English instructor at Pittsburg State University (PSU) in the Intensive English Program. Matthew holds degrees in creative writing from Arizona State University and PSU. His poetry has appeared various publications including I-70 Review, Red Paint Hill, Rust + Moth, Kansas Time + Place, and Chiron Review. His website is at www.mattwritenow.com.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

like a flock of brilliant birds and so
I wrote that poem he says and I say When

was it that you saw them and he says Four years
ago the day after they found that

missing girl’s body in the frozen field
over which I saw them floating and I just had this

feeling you know and I say Yes I know I saw them too
just yesterday all yellow and red and blue all

bunched together still like some small hand
had blossomed just a moment ago and set them free

they were headed north it was a sign to me of things to come
though the trees were all still bare armed

and so sorrowful there It would be nice
he says if we could all be like balloons Yes I say opening

out my hand it would be nice My name is Blue I add
My name is Red he says I search the sky

on the way back home but all around me is that
field there is no moon and the bone chill night is murderous black

like it must have been four years ago and yet somewhere
on the other side of the world it’s greening

spring and someone’s found little girl lets go a
flock of many colors into the bright beamed face of God

runs laughing open armed towards laughing opening arms and so
I write this poem Madonna And Child, Laughing for

Red and me the missing nameless all of us yes the
killers too because I just have this feeling you know if you ever see

balloons

 

[“Yes the Killers” first appeared in Illya’s Honey, Spring, 2015.]

Robert L. Dean, Jr.’s work has appeared in Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Illya’s Honey, Red River Review, River City Poetry, Heartland!, and the Wichita Broadsides Project. His haibun placed first at Poetry Rendezvous 2017. He has been selected as a reader at the 13th Annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in April of 2018 at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. He has been a professional musician and worked at The Dallas Morning News. He lives in Augusta, Kansas.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

my mother’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies—
tear open the packing tape, pop one in
the microwave, pretend she’s here in this
kitchen, her hands clasping a steaming mug.

opening day 2017, buttered popcorn,
souvenir sodas, high fives with strangers,
ketchup winning the animated condiment race,
someone’s proposal on the jumbotron.

a full sink, hot water and bubbles, lavender smell,
wine glass on the counter, soft terrycloth
slung over my bare shoulder, chickens dancing
the mashed potato outside the window.

my husband dipping to kiss my forehead
before work, my husband standing over a
boiling pot, my husband sitting in silence
as the television tells us awful bedtime stories.

 

Melissa Fite Johnson received her Master’s in English literature from Pittsburg State University in Kansas. Her first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book. Her poems have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, The New Verse News, velvet-tail, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband in Kansas. For more, visit melissafitejohnson.com.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

The only thing that stays is the dog.
The microwave and T.V. go in the backseat,
most of the clothes piled
on top of that; a potted plant
on the floorboard, and a lamp. Suitcases
and scattered toys in the trunk. Stuff
Chapter 7 dictates personal.
The kid goes in the middle, the wife
behind the wheel. The farmer’s son
drives the pick-up loaded with more stuff.
Tables. Chairs. The couch. The bed.
Generations of dried sweat dust
from dirt roads. When the farmer’s son
turns onto the highway he follows
the yellow lines. He looks back,
but not over his shoulder. This time
he imagines running head-on
into the banker and they both die.
He thinks about this, and doesn’t give a damn.
Waylon, Willy, and a bunch of other boys
get-down in the radio and keep him company.
About noon some guy with a well-behaved voice
comes on. Barrows and gilts
are steady to 50 higher in Omaha.
December wheat, five-and-a-half lower.
The farmer’s son bends the man’s words
between the numbers, finds some FM, Rock
and Roll. And he don’t listen to country music
anymore.

 

[Originally Published in Kansas Quarterly, 1990, V.22, #3.]

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 website 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.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

 

At the free special exhibit opening on contemporary fairy folk art at the university art museum, I’m sure fairies are hiding behind the trees in the photograph, behind the girl, the one like your sister, with the candy cigarette. This is America, the late 1980s of outlandish white ruffles, plastic wristwatches, hair sun-bleached and wild. We let summer turn our skin tawny. We say we want boys because that’s what the movie girls say—heroes, stone mansions, big plastic boobs, shiny SUVs. All of us have kid sisters, some brother climbing the ladder, blurred in our background. We face the flickering of Do it! because that’s what girls do. This landscape, fairies, girls, and ladder-brother, that is meant to be us, meant to be America, is everything I remember—fountain drinks, nickel candy from the bottom shelf, bubble gum tattoos, fairy lip balm. America, do you believe in fairies? America, put your queer girl shoulder right here. Snap your fingers. America, don’t die.

 

[From An Apparently Impossible Adventure (BlazeVOX [books] 2016). First appeared in Toad the Journal, 5.2, 2015. Also appeared in also appeared in the anthology Circe’s Lament: An Anthology of Wild Women. Bianca Spriggs & Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, Eds. Accents Publishing, 2015.]

Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of 25 books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance, selected for the Nebraska 150 Booklist. Her collaborative book Intimates and Fools is a Nebraska Book Award 2015 Honor Book. Her latest book is Velocipede. She teaches at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

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