God Willing — By Antonio Vallone

my mother used to say

for minor events I’m sure

an omniscient, omnipresent

god had little concern for.

I’d say, “I hope I don’t have cavities”

or “I hope I get a raise this year.”

“God willing,” my mother said, hoping

herself, I suppose, the god she believed in

a little more near the end of her life

would, for the briefest moment,

stop juggling universes and look our way

while whole galaxies–

planets, moons, stars–

hung spinning in the sky.

~ Antonio Vallone

Antonio Vallone, associate professor of English at Penn State DuBois, founder of MAMMOTH books,  poetry editor of Pennsylvania English, co-founding editor of The Watershed Journal Literary Group. Published collections: The Blackbird’s Applause, Grass Saxophones, Golden Carp, and Chinese Bats. Forthcoming: American Zen, Blackberry Alleys: Collected Poems and Prose. In progress: The Death of Nostalgia.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity. YourRightLivelihood.com, Bravevoice.com, CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

Lexicon — By Roy Beckemeyer

“…somewhere

someone speaks in a tongue I will never know”

                             —Kevin Rabas, “Translation”

Speaking this wordless language

of decades and seasons,

shared glances and barely

perceptible smiles,

brushings in passing,

looking up from a scene

to see it imprinting in each

other’s cascade of memories,

knowing we are both

descending that staircase,

lifting left feet over the same

scuffed patch of carpeting,

relaxing our fingers’ grip

at that splintered bit of railing,

seeing the sun spattering through

leaves into the dark corner

of the stairwell, opening

the door through which

we stepped together,

that first time, so many

years ago, when we inscribed

the initial entries in love’s lexicon

of lives lived long together.

~ Roy Beckemeyer

Roy Beckemeyer’s latest book is Mouth Brimming Over (2019, Blue Cedar). Stage Whispers (2018, Meadowlark) won the 2019 Nelson Poetry Book Award. Music I Once Could Dance To (2014, Coal City) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. Roy Beckemeyer has designed and built airplanes, discovered and named fossils of Palaeozoic insect species, and once traveled the world. Beckemeyer lives with and for his wife of 60 years, Pat, in Wichita, Kansas.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity. YourRightLivelihood.com, Bravevoice.com, CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

The Promise — By Kyla McCollough

At night, in my dark sleeplessness, I tell promises

to the stars, to the gods, to the monsters

in my closet and under my bed, to the cicadas who know

what it means to be always looking for love. 

I make promises I want to keep, but really

they’re just full-hearted half-barters,

like a kid who begs his mother for a puppy

or pleads before supper for two scoops

of ice cream, even small ones: I

tell cicada-star-monster-gods

I will be nice to myself. I will love myself

if you just give me someone to love me, too.

These lies I cannot keep. I 

don’t have time to make this kind 

of promise, the courage to wait. 

I do not have the power

to shake hands with an angel or a voodoo man.

I write the promise in sand, in thought clouds

looming overhead, in the not-so-secretly hidden

journal in the bedside table. 

I tell myself, the cicada-star-monster-god,

the weak angel, the wayfaring lover.

I tell only those who won’t hear.

~ Kayla McCollough

Kayla McCollough graduated from PSU in May 2020 with an MA in English. She often writes introspective poems that explore emotions and the daily struggles with anxiety. Sometimes these poems turn into songs. In her spare time, Kayla cares for plants and creates macrame and embroidery projects. When it’s warm, she’s outside soaking up the sun and enjoying birds or other creatures.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity. YourRightLivelihood.com, Bravevoice.com, CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

The Right God — By Pat Daneman

   “…and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.”

                                    –William Stafford

O, god of old maps, god of tears. We have met so many of you, 

followed some.

God of morning weather reports and grandmothers’ stories. 

We have dreamed you with fangs and with careful hands.  

O god of changed locks and not enough whiskey. 

God of grudging apologies.

We have gone walking at night, looked up and seen our stars.

God who trusted us enough to furnish us these bodies

made of questions. Do the wrong gods say everything is looking good,

then step outside to make a call?

Ask if anyone is sleeping upstairs?

When we are trapped behind fences, lost in the woods, do the right gods

bring blankets and food, bend down to ask us our names?

~ Pat Daneman

Pat Daneman’s recent poetry appears in Atlanta Review, Freshwater, Bryant Literary Review, and Typehouse. Her collection, After All (FutureCycle Press 2018), was first runner-up, 2019 Thorpe-Menn Award and finalist, Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award. She is author of a chapbook, Where the World Begins. For more, visit patdaneman.com.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity. YourRightLivelihood.com, Bravevoice.com, CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

Holy Space — By Patricia Miller

An Ode to Sanctuary of Hope’s Chapel

A pale night light watches over each door,

twenty doors, twenty flickers of blue —

angels guarding those within.

I slip through the sleeping hall,

careful to avoid the squeaky floorboard

lest I waken one of those the angels guard.

The hall ends at the chapel door.

Warmed by a hundred years 

of prayer and memories, it welcomes me. 

The scent of lemon from Saturday’s cleaning 

does not erase the lingering scent

of incense and bee’s wax candles.

Forty-watt light bulbs shine through curtains, 

hide the 80-year-old water stain, 

give a honeyed glow to the tabernacle’s gold.

Simple straight-backed pine pews, polished

by generations praying lauds and vespers

asking: O, God come to our assistance

An awkward blue vase, made in second grade art class,

holds a single white lily to Mary, our Mother.

Desire, not skill, gives the gift its perfect beauty.

By Morning Prayer, dark squares along each wall

welcome daylight, transparent windows show

oaks and maple to rival stained glass.

I kneel. No books, no hymns, no liturgy. Time

for resting with those who came and those to come

to this place made holy by those the angels guard.

~ Patricia Miller

Patricia Miller began writing poetry to find perspective after her husband’s death. She volunteered with her husband at  Sanctuary of Hope for 20 years. SOH remains her favorite place of solace.  Patricia graduated from the University of Saint Mary, Leavenworth, and resides in Mission Kansas. She was recently published in Months to

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity. YourRightLivelihood.com, Bravevoice.com, CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

No Obligation to Enjoy the Weather                                 by Robert Stewart

Been stranded out in snow before—
stepped lightly on the bare places, hoping
for frozen ground, avoiding slush, wind, 
 
a fir-tree limb speared into the yard.  Today,
a friend calls the office and says look up 
the weather—yellow-ball sun, cartoon-cloud free, 
 
wind 5 mph, and to the left of the flat screen 
a window so blue even the grime clears enough 
it must be, and is, 57 late February, rain 0%.
 
My plans Sunday to read the “Wondrous Love”
essay by Marilynne Robinson stalled by word
of clemency.  Ice returns at sunset, 
 
say forecasters in present tense, so Midwest
conditions reveal a seasonal mix of time present
and snow any moment, as if our technology-mediated 
 
life on this planet, says Robinson, has deprived us 
of the brilliance of a bright sky and more—
think about the smell and companionship
 
of mules and horses, she says; and so I am
thinking my chickens are out scratching
among dry grasses, their feathery butts 
 
raised pointedly, as Robinson and time 
agree, The Bible is terse, the gospels brief . . . 
every moment and detail merits pondering.  
 
I read the day’s instructions: Love 
thy chickens, as they have been given 
a breeze that lifts their down, and I the book.

Robert Stewart’s latest book of poems is Working Class (2018, Stephen F. Austin State Univ.); his latest collection of essays is The Narrow Gate: Writing, Art & Values (2014, Serving House).  For many years, he edited New Letters quarterly, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Guest Editor James Benger is the author of two fiction ebooks, and three chapbooks, two full-lengths, and coauthor of four split books of poetry. He is on the Board of Directors of The Writers Place and the Riverfront Readings Committee, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online workshop, and is Editor In Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and children.

Smoke in the Distance                                                                 by William Sheldon

We stoke the wood stove at the patio’s
edge, pull our chairs a little closer,
tug the Mexican blankets a little tighter
The cold dark beer is bitter.
We like the bite, the way
one does in later days, sensation
welcomed.
      Smoke rises
on the near horizon confirming
life in the distance, night
and winter coming on.

“Smoke in the Distance” was first published in Flint Hill Review

William Sheldon lives with his family in Hutchinson, Kansas. Books of poetry include Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley), Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth).  A new full-length collection, Deadman, is forthcoming from Spartan Press. He plays bass for the band The Excuses.

 Guest Editor James Benger is the author of two fiction ebooks, and three chapbooks, two full-lengths, and coauthor of four split books of poetry. He is on the Board of Directors of The Writers Place and the Riverfront Readings Committee, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online workshop, and is Editor In Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and children.

Happiness                                                                                                 by Pat Daneman

Today I have no expectations—the world 
will go on as the world would if I were not in it. 
As if I were this boy fishing in the creek,
 
wanting terribly to catch a fish, but going on his way 
undamaged when no fish finds his hook. His footprints 
leave mud on the path, disappear in the flicker 
 
between sun and shade, and no one knows
that he has walked there, softly
adding words to a made-up tune.

Pat Daneman’s poetry is widely published, most recently in Moon City Review, I-70 Review, Atlas & Alice, Freshwater and Typehouse. Her full-length poetry collection, After All (FutureCycle Press 2018), was first runner up for the 2019 Thorpe-Menn Award and a finalist for the Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award. She is author of a chapbook, Where the World Begins and co-librettist of the oratorio, We, the Unknown, premiered by the Heartland Men’s Chorus in 2018. She lives in Candia, NH. For more, visit patdaneman.com.

Guest Editor James Benger is the author of two fiction ebooks, and three chapbooks, two full-lengths, and coauthor of four split books of poetry. He is on the Board of Directors of The Writers Place and the Riverfront Readings Committee, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online workshop, and is Editor In Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and children.

Clarity                                                                                             by Roy Beckemeyer

“…notes
adults have trouble
hitting, holding”
—Kevin Rabas, “Easy for Me”
 
Our notes of childhood
ring out clear and higher
than our post-pubescent
drones, sing, still, somewhere
across the dimensions
of time, out of synch,
now with the photon-
painted gold-toned movies
of our lives, the flurry
of image and sound
complicated sinewave
mixtures that refract
and reflect and sliver
through slits to devolve
into constituent colors
and notes pure as carefree
days where you and I
run through light bright
with promise, heads high
and voices brilliant
with the clarion-clarity
of youth recalled.

Roy Beckemeyer’s latest book is Mouth Brimming Over (2019, Blue Cedar). Stage Whispers (2018, Meadowlark) won the 2019 Nelson Poetry Book Award. Music I Once Could Dance To (2014, Coal City) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. Roy Beckemeyer has designed and built airplanes, discovered and named fossils of Palaeozoic insect species, and once traveled the world. Beckemeyer lives with and for his wife of 60 years, Pat, in Wichita, Kansas.

 Guest Editor James Benger is the author of two fiction ebooks, and three chapbooks, two full-lengths, and coauthor of four split books of poetry. He is on the Board of Directors of The Writers Place and the Riverfront Readings Committee, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online workshop, and is Editor In Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and children.

The Coincidence                                                                   by Cameron Morse

Just an instant
of unobstructed sunset
grabs the surprise
 
downfall by the shoulders,
silvering rain
with the dregs of day
 
light before
a cloud occludes
the wound I am wound by,
 
wound up and released
from the kitchen
just in time
 
to catch a glimpse of this
coincidence.
A glimpse is all I get.
 
The rain angles away
from the sliding door
I'm backed by, reflected in,
 
though no one sees this.
No one sees me
out here
 
in my ratty pajamas.

Cameron Morse is Senior Reviews editor at Harbor Review and the author of six collections of poetry. His first collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. His latest is Far Other (Woodley Press, 2020). He holds and MFA from the University of Kansas City—Missouri and lives in Independence, Missouri, with his wife Lili and two children. For more information, check out his Facebook page or website.  

Guest Editor James Benger is the author of two fiction ebooks, and three chapbooks, two full-lengths, and coauthor of four split books of poetry. He is on the Board of Directors of The Writers Place and the Riverfront Readings Committee, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online workshop, and is Editor In Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and children.