Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

I, Water, having fully drenched12552978_10153398709925678_2056471190933144579_n

each part you present,

find you faultless,

I find you totally acceptable,

utterly free of error,

and entirely worthy

to enter deep into me.
I, Water, part for your descent,

yield for your departure.

I covet the sum of you,

caress the all of you,

welcome the whole of you

which you so generously bring.
I, Water, feel no excess

in wake of your body’s passing.

I swirl around you,

ripple against you,

flow beside you,

lap between you.
I, Water, find you exuberantly sufficient,

clothed or naked,

to step, wade, float, tread, splash, spin, stroke,

as you will,

while you want,

until, saturated with me,

you fancy to exit.
I, Water, having shamelessly sodden

your every surface ,

deem you perfect,

and I bless you for your presence

which renders me holy.

~ Annette Hope Billings

Annette Hope Billings is an poet/actress/playwright, who has written two poetry collections. In 2015, she stepped away from four decades of nursing to writing full-time. Her most recent collection of poetry, A Net Full of Hope, was published last year, garnering her a readers’-proposed title of “Maya of the Midwest.” anetfullofhope@gmail.com

Jose Faus is a multidisciplinary artist, writer and independent teacher. He is a founding member of the Latino Writers Collective and sits on the boards of the Latino Writers Collective, UMKC Friends of the Library, Charlotte Street Foundation and is president of the board of The Writers Place. His first book of poetry This Town Like That was published in 2015. The full-length poetry collection The Life and Times of Jose Calderon is forthcoming from 39 Street Press.

Hobo Code by Debbie Theiss

reunionI see him walk between railroad tracks,

black braids sway back and forth,

beads interwoven,

long fringed vest jangles,

entwined stones collide.
A dog, black and sleek nudges his leg at ready.

Above his head a metal rod with prongs

looms like a goalpost.

Two hawks perch

stately, poised.
Hunter? Wanderer?
I scramble to the railroad trestle

keeping him in sight,

grass bites bare legs,

my hand runs along outcropped rock,

traces charred hobo codes
left by transient workers

during the Great Depression,

lined drawings, meant to guide

simplistic signs

danger ahead, shelter, food.
Now draped across his back

the folded platform.

On his shoulders, the hawks hunker

yellow-banded curved beaks

yellow claws clutch.
Shelter taken in the shade

of persimmon trees that line the field’s edge.

His fingers probe the bark

small, square blocks

as if searching for signs.

~ Debbie Theiss

Footnote: During the Great Depression, nomadic workers traveled on freight trains to garner work that they could find, not spending too much time in any one town. A unique Hobo Code (hoboglyphics) was developed to communicate and give information about places to camp or find a meal or dangers that lay ahead. In Parsons, Kansas a quilt designed with hobo codes was auctioned during Katy Days in celebration of the strong heritage of freight life in Kansas.

Debbie Theiss is an emerging poet. She won 3rd place in the Japanese Haiku Festival Contest and published poems in the Skinny Journal, Paddle Shots: A River Pretty Anthology, Vol. 2, I-70 Review (September, 1016) and was accepted in Interpretations IV in Columbia, MO. She enjoys nature, bicycling, and gardening.

Thomas Reynolds is an associate English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Review, and Prairie Poetry. Woodley Press of Washburn University published his poetry collection Ghost Town Almanac in 2008. His chapbook The Kansas Hermit Poems was published in 2013, and his sports-themed chapbook Small Town Rodeos was published by Spartan Press in 2016.

In western Kansas, the windjenni-gribble-photo

Drifts and the wheat drifts—

Nothing but a golden and fluttering expanse,

And there are no trees unless you plant them.

The old ripe grain, ready for the threshers,

The house was in such a place,

Flatter than flat,

Underneath a perfect sky.

~ Jenni Gribble

Jennie 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.

Thomas Reynolds is an associate English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Review, and Prairie Poetry. Woodley Press of Washburn University published his poetry collection Ghost Town Almanac in 2008. His chapbook The Kansas Hermit Poems was published in 2013, and his sports-themed chapbook Small Town Rodeos was published by Spartan Press in 2016.

You hear it late at night when the moonLindsey
becomes a sliver in someone’s dream,
and ripples in the lake settle
into streams lined with algae and bass.
It might come from John Brown’s ghost
or the specter haunting the WPA castle at Coronado Heights.
It could be wails from Bob Elliot, who died in a wreck
on the red trail winding down from the peak.
Perhaps it’s the lonely moan of a locomotive
over plains where fires break through nights.
Maybe the shriek emanates from the cemetery
edged by yuccas where the snow never stays,
or from the western ridge where wolves cry
and geese wing through wide, blood-red skies.

~ Lindsey Martin-Bowen

From Standing on the Edge of the World (Woodley Press 2008)

Lindsey Martin-Bowen’s “Bonsai Tree Gone Awry” (Inside Virgil’s Garage, Chatter House Press 2013) was nominated for a Pushcart. Woodley Press published Standing on the Edge of the World, named one of the Top 10 Poetry Books for 2008 (McClatchy). Paladin Contemporaries released three of her novels, and her poetry has run in New Letters, I-70 Review, Coal City Review, Thorny Locust, Flint Hills Review, Bare Root Review, The Same, Little Balkans Review, and others. She teaches at MCC-Longview.

Thomas Reynolds is an associate English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Review, and Prairie Poetry. Woodley Press of Washburn University published his poetry collection Ghost Town Almanac in 2008. His chapbook The Kansas Hermit Poems was published in 2013, and his sports-themed chapbook Small Town Rodeos was published by Spartan Press in 2016.

GusThe stars outside drink in

the Friday night and this Kansas

winter-cold glass—frothing

with dense foam that just kisses

both lemon wedges—

sweats like lovers down

to the waxed table and coaster and

the dim bar lights filter through ale that

glows like time-frozen sap to amber,

bronzed mosquitos caught mid-buzz.

Citrus and hops drift

behind the music,

up to my thirsty face,

and why the hell not?

~ Cody Shrumm

Cody Shrum is a second-year graduate student at Pittsburg State University, studying Creative Writing with an emphasis in fiction. Cody plans to pursue his MFA degree next fall—an adventure he will embark on with his wife, Kylee, and their two dogs, Zoey and Zeus.

Guest Editor Thomas Reynolds is an associate English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Review, and Prairie Poetry. Woodley Press of Washburn University published his poetry collection Ghost Town Almanac in 2008. His chapbook The Kansas Hermit Poems was published in 2013, and his sports-themed chapbook Small Town Rodeos was published by Spartan Press in 2016.

(St. Fidelis Church)Lindsey
Victoria, Kansas

Even if it isn’t the Temple at Nîmes,
we race each other through quiet streets
to this tall, limestone church that reigns
over Victoria, a town the British named.
Inside, I feel chills and wonder if a spirit followed us.
I squint at windows to see if it filtered through green
and red glass, and listen for rustlings of the Holy Ghost.

Here, white marble guards the sanctuary.
It spreads out like angel wings, this marble from Italy.
But St. Fidelis never stepped inside this sacred place.
Killed when he claimed, “One Lord, one faith,”
he left the earth in 1622, centuries before this altar
was shipped, before Volga-German farmers agreed
to lift a cross here and name a church after this martyr.

St. Fidelis studied law and taught philosophy,
fought cases for the poor, and like me,
when put off by too much aggression
and greed, dropped the legal profession.
No saint, I come from German farmers in Mankato,
where the prairie roils from rust to green,
acres away from this Plains Cathedral.

And burdened with uncertainties,
I wonder if I’m a tsunami or a soaring melody.
Under stained glass reflecting in corners,
I move to candles and drop in quarters.
Then I light two stubs and drop to my knees.
I cross myself, inhale sweet perfume,
and watch you lift your camera to snap these scenes.

~ Lindsey Martin-Bowen

(From Standing on the Edge of the World, Woodley Press 2008)

Lindsey Martin-Bowen’s “Bonsai Tree Gone Awry” (Inside Virgil’s Garage, Chatter House Press 2013) was nominated for a Pushcart. Woodley Press published Standing on the Edge of the World, named one of the Top 10 Poetry Books for 2008 (McClatchy). Paladin Contemporaries released three of her novels, and her poetry has run in New Letters, I-70 Review, Coal City Review, Thorny Locust, Flint Hills Review, Bare Root Review, The Same, Little Balkans Review, and others. She teaches at MCC-Longview.

Guest Editor Al Ortolani’s poetry and reviews have appeared in Rattle, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, The Writer’s Almanac, and the New York Quarterly. He has published several collections of poetry. His Waving Mustard in Surrender (NYQ Books) was short-listed for the Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award from Binghamton Univesity. Paper Birds Don’t Fly was released by New York Quarterly Books in April of 2016. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Writers Place, The Brick Mountain Foundation, The Little Balkans Press, and is currently a member of the Board of the Woodley Press at Washburn University in Topeka.

Killed by Quantrill’s Raidersml2
Olathe, Kansas, September 6, 1862

broken tombstones,
eroded epitaphs
pleasant ridge
where Judas grieved
gone to clover
dandelions
moles

~ Mary-Lane Kamberg

(first published in Midwest Quarterly)

Mary-Lane Kamberg lives in Olathe, Kansas. Her first chapbook, Seed Rain, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2015. She is listed as a Kansas Poet on KansasPoets.com and serves as co-leader of the Kansas City Writers Group. She directs the I Love to Write camp for young writers.

Guest Editor Al Ortolani’s poetry and reviews have appeared in Rattle, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, The Writer’s Almanac, and the New York Quarterly. He has published several collections of poetry. His Waving Mustard in Surrender (NYQ Books) was short-listed for the Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award from Binghamton Univesity. Paper Birds Don’t Fly was released by New York Quarterly Books in April of 2016. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Writers Place, The Brick Mountain Foundation, The Little Balkans Press, and is currently a member of the Board of the Woodley Press at Washburn University in Topeka.

Tag Cloud