Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

If we are to believe the Bible, all of us came from the dirt of the earth. Can this be why God created so many colors of mud?Deborah Wymbs

1.

Everything present, first mud.
Everyone in place, first mud.

2.

Suddenly,
a dimpling of clouds/a shadow of sunshine
like the farming wife’s farming husband,
the nurse who somehow knows of him,
and their easy way of talking.

3.

A ghost is always in the equation,
near death but not dying,
or a remembered dead, sasha,
or the hunter who went into the forest
and never came out,
zamani, the forgotten dead, 
until his grandson asked,
“What ever happened to Granddaddy?”
and the grandchildren of the great snake
near the bones by the dry stream bed apologized

and venom that took a life, healed it.
Muscle knitted to bone.
Blood vessel attached to muscle.
Layers of skin protected lifelines.

A wind threw itself up.

The man gasped,
sat up,
felt the need to run.

He was able to fly.

When he arrived home,
he held The Artifact of Great Value.
His family lined up to receive it,
and his neighbors, friends, an enemy or two.
He had eyes only for his grandson
and he reached for him,
his hands slipping.

He could not hold weight.

But The Artifact of Great Value was real.
The boy picked it up, placed it to his ear,
heard the digging of the dead.
He went on to be a great healer of The People.

4.

A bridge is necessary most of the time.

5.

Here we only found blonde sand
and over there, sand gray with age and wrinkled.
Elsewhere dried beds of water offered nothing.
Near the quarry, red clay, and under the tree,
rich blackness full of worms and beetle larvae.
In the cave and near an opening, just mud.

6.

When my son digs the pond for his garden,
earth and grass and small branches stain his skin.
The rains come with thunder and brilliance,
the pond fills with water, twig and turtle.
Frogs avoid it, but snakes come to drink,
and the King of Deer leaves its track in the torn grass.
The pond is a great success and water lettuce take root.
Many days he watches an egg become
whole and living and dead. He remembers
many things and keeps neatly printed journals.

7.

My wife studies wood,
a shape to root and decadence,
the forms of men in grain.

What color superman when his strength comes from a tree?
What hunger photosynthesis? Carbon dioxide? Radiant energy?

She sees a man go into the tree,
find a sleeping place safe within its folds,
and she draws him a power over rain,
directions for sun-heat and light-fire,
strength over the movement of root.

8.

My daughter expresses color in algebraic equations.

9.

And my grandson holds his hand out to be cleaned.
Inarticulate, he waves it like a wand,
an incoherence we understand to mean:
“Please, take this mud from my palm.
I only meant to see how it felt,
but now it is a part of me.”

10.

Somewhere ash is running,
Building waters,
A great turbulence underground.

11.

The importance of life
is always in the remembrance of the dead,

not the hell we fall against,
but the blazing heat of the Laplanders,
the fierce fire that cannot go out in Vinland,

a prayer to wood and fresh kindling,
the anger needed to warm a soul,

12.

how mud bakes itself into brick
somehow.  

~ Michael Brownstein

Michael H. Brownstein’s poetry volume, A Slipknot Into Somewhere Else: A Poet’s Journey To The Borderlands Of Dementia, was recently published by Cholla Needles Press (2018).

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita, is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; and a forthcoming book of poetry, How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood through the arts, and consults with businesses and organizations on creativity

The world doesn’t meet anybody half way.

You have to rise up, you have to reach deeply,

You have to search for a witness.

You can’t hide under a blade of grass forever.

Reveal yourself to the redwood, 

embracing the sacred, too immense to 

put your arms around, 

too strong to bend to your will.

Reveal yourself to the ocean, 

waiting to cover your arms and toes 

in an aqueous expanse, the tide rising up 

to the moon, whispering to you its power.

Reveal yourself to the mountain, 

study the shadows, but ask 

for a path forward. Reveal yourself to the sky, 

open to the sun’s warmth, or the shelter of gray skies, 

the mist on your face to awaken you.

Reveal yourself to the prairie, the vastness 

encircles you. Sing to the wide open fields 

and the never ending horizon.

The trees hear you cry out. The ocean feels 

your toes dab at the water’s edge.

The mountain sees you. The sky wraps you in its arms.

The prairie holds you up, your reflection in the sunrise, 

your tenderness in the setting sun.

What is it that makes you, yourself, 

and not anybody else?

In a wild place of last resort, 

breathe into the life that is you.

Give it back for want of nothing.

~ Julie Flora

Julie Flora lives and works in Topeka, KS. She lives with her husband, Vaughn, her cat, Lightin’ and her dog Zenny. Julie has five children and seven grandchildren. Her roots are Southern, but she claims the Prairie as her home. She moved to KS in 2010 to marry the love of her life. She writes, reads, swims and watches biographical documentaries in her free time. 

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita, is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; and a forthcoming book of poetry, How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood through the arts, and consults with businesses and organizations on creativity

She painted the monkey on the wall
years before I was born. But there’s
something in its eyes that makes me
think of me. The way it glances
up and to the right. The way I do
when I don’t know the answer,
but don’t want to say.

Only rarely over the years
did we drive the weeded lane,
to the gray stucco home place,
empty since my birth and Dad’s town job.
We’d survey the outbuildings’ decay,
bending to collect rusted implements
from the patches of dirt and buffalo grass,
gathering fragrant lilacs and pink rhubarb stalks
from the overgrown garden.

One summer night, we lingered at the farm
past sunset. My brother lifted
a torn mattress from the back porch
and pushed it onto the brown dirt.
We flopped down on our backs,
wishing for tiny white stars
to sail across the blanket of night.
I closed my eyes just for an instant,
weary from breathing country air.
“See the shooting star?”
he asked, pointing into the darkness,
to where I had just missed it.

Missed, too, the farm that wasn’t my home.
Vacant now more than five decades,
but for two dead coyotes in its basement,
an assortment of snakes, birds, and rats.
And Mom’s crude murals on the walls. Curious,
fading traces of her dream to be an artist.
To be a mother. To be a decorator,
without money to do it tidy.

Down the dank, ancient stairway, cowboys
cling to the block foundation.
One is masked, a Lone Ranger, pink pistol
on his hip. He rides a curly yellow horse.
Across the room, another cowboy
shoots a pistol into the air,
thrusting high its crooked barrel.

Upstairs, red cuckoo clock on the kitchen wall,
framed by a mosaic of cracked ivory paint,
forever strikes seven. Beneath it,
a metal oven, filled with debris,
is now cold to the touch.

Teddy bear and wolf murals
tend the children’s room.
The little ones would have been tucked in
by seven. My brother’s spanking finished moments ago.
My sister’s brown curls laid across
a feather pillow.

And me, alien to the memories
stored here. I touch the paw of
the monkey on the wall, who
fixes his eyes up and to the right.
He does not know. He cannot say
If the light that shot across the night
Was ever really there.

~ Dawne Leiker

Dawne Leiker is a former journalist, now working in academia. Her news/feature stories have appeared in The Hays Daily News, Lawrence Journal World, and several online publications. Her poetry and short stories have garnered awards in regional and statewide literary competitions. Ms. Leiker’s fiction and poetry often are influenced by her past news story interviews, as she develops and re-imagines fictional characters and situations loosely based on local individuals and events.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita, is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; and a forthcoming book of poetry, How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood through the arts, and consults with businesses and organizations on creativity

Not like I thought or remembered. Not prairies or worms. Not afternoon thunderstorms. Not braless aunts, tribes of topless kids hiking in boots, frayed red laces, trees, paths, all that long hair. Not a park of girls squealing and cupping water balloons, We’ve got boobies! We’ve won the booby prize! Not magic. Not fay villages in every fallen trees. Not a walk of unmeasurable distance. Not fields of dandelion, clover, frisbees, grills, open coolers. Not picnickers or overnight tents. No bare feet, bottles, pipes, or humidity. It’s a place with a name I forgot. You touched my hand, a map in your phone and another memorized—the one you pointed at in the air as if I could see. My map, part bewilderment, part retold story. Our map together, once torn, but now mended, a new chart to unfold.

~ Laura Madeline Wiseman

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 Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita, is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; and a forthcoming book of poetry, How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood through the arts, and consults with businesses and organizations on creativity

Washout mud where flint’sDenise2014SFbySusanGardner (2)
brown slick shines.

Jasper, a scraper,
and there a bird point—

hunters’ tools
fallen from their hands.

My thumb fits the groove.
Chipped facets sting

my palm. What to do?
Collect gifts

from spirits or leave
this gravel porridge

each day streaming
to the Wakarusa.

Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, won Red Mountain Press Editor’s Choice Award for Shadow Light: Poems. Other books are Turtle’s Beating Heart, memoir (U. of Nebraska Press) and Casino Bestiary: Poems (Spartan). She has won 3 Ks. Notable Book Awards and other recognition. She teaches in Baker University’s MLA program. www.deniselow.net

Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review. Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.

My hands are so small, just developed,Shrum-Cody
finger bones grown solid,
but they’re the pinkest hands I’ve ever seen.

This place is the greatest.
It’s warm, cozy, really lovely.
I’m not sure where I am,
but my people are looking into it.

I don’t want to leave. Why
would anyone want to ditch this?
I’ve got the greatest living arrangement,
ask anyone. So comfy
I sleep almost constantly.
It’s the best womb
(I’m calling it a womb, trademark).

That wall better hold me in,
cradle my soft skin.
It holds up to my kicks,
and I kick hard, let me tell you.
Back in the day, we kicked
more asses for much less.

Try to take me out of here,
I dare you.
As far as staying in this place,
I’m a genius. I know more than you do.
I can’t move, really,
I’m all scrunched up here,
but just try me.
Just try me, snowflakes.

 
Cody Shrum is an MFA candidate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a fiction emphasis. Cody’s fiction and poetry have appeared in such journals as Five on the Fifth, Rust + Moth, Harbor Review, and Kansas Time + Place, as well as the anthology, Kansas Time + Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry. He teaches Discourse at UMKC and is finishing his fiction Master’s Thesis.

Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review. Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.

Since the body became an I, it revels in being mine
and not yours. It bends toward drought,
and expands when it rains. It fits itself perfectly
in flannel sheets, around another body, held
in the concentric wind the ceiling fan makes.

This body of time takes another breath,
sends another valentine, ignores another blast
of unoriginal hatred as it learns new tricks:
how to hang upside down in ropes at the yoga studio,
walk across a wet field on tiptoe, or sleep standing up.

It’s a month old, or 11 years, or somewhere past 57,
and while it doesn’t know all the words to that tune,
it’s smart enough to know how it internalizes age
like a tree does as it rings out another year.

It’s all the time in the world I have,
so says the swirl of the fingerprint,
the indentation on the left ring finger,
the slight rise of a scar line on the clavicle,
the branches of veins on the back of the wrists,
the heart’s muscular clutch and release.  
  
_8103565_caryn_mirriam-goldberg

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Everyday Magic: A Field Guide to the Mundane and Miraculous, and Following the Curve, poetry. Her previous work includes The Divorce Girl, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet, a bioregional memoir on cancer and community; and six poetry collections, including the award-winning Chasing Weather with photographer Stephen Locke. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely. http://www.CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

   

Guest Editor Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals as TheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso ReviewHarbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.

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