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).