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

Rain and Wet — by Laura Lee Washburn

I’ve pulled up the mint by the roots

that was crowding the iris.  I’ve pulled

up the oregano down to its roots, the oregano

that crowds the iris, the chives,

and the lily.  The basement has water

 

in places I’ve rarely seen, rivulets

blown by high-powered fans.  The sump

at least is working, dehumidifier

filling, too.  Did you know the shop vac spits

like a squirt gun when near full?

 

The dog’s paws are wet when we come into the house.

The back stairs are dirty and damp with our mess.

The oregano and the mint are littering the yard.

In Texas hill country, in Oklahoma, too,

the creeks are overflowed, the lake past

its spillway, fourth time in this history.

 

They say the scent of grass or mint

when cut or pulled is screaming, is warning

the other grass and mints nearby.  The air

is full of mint.  The air is full of oregano.

 

The basement is full of water, and the

damp will sound its destruction in dank

and rot and gathering molds until

we suffer the heat and the stink and wilt

of the evercoming unbelievable summer.

~ Laura Lee Washburn

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.

August Co-Editor and Past Poet Laureate of Kansas (2017-2019) Kevin Rabas teaches at Emporia State University, where he leads the poetry and playwriting tracks and chairs the Department of English, Modern Languages, and Journalism. He has twelve books, including Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner. He is the recipient of the Emporia State President’s and Liberal Arts & Sciences Awards for Research and Creativity, and he is the winner of the Langston Hughes Award for Poetry.

August Co-Editor Linzi Garcia can be found frolicking through fields, cemeteries, and bars across the states, gathering poetry along the way. She recently received her MA in English at Emporia State University, where she served as the assistant to Former Poet Laureate of Kansas Kevin Rabas and to Bluestem Press. Her first poetry collection, Thank You was published by Spartan Press (2018), and her co-written chapbook Live a Great Story was published by Analog Submission Press (2019). She is always looking to invest time in new places where she can absorb new perspectives.

Surfeit — By Linda M. Lewis

How many watercolor

sunsets are sufficient?

Does a human get her fill

of ocean chant, lilac scent,

seeds of dandelion skydiving

by silk parachute, robins

preening orange breasts?

I have counted blackbirds

perched on power lines like

children queued for recess.

Admired glistening chain

mail on rainbow trout.

Sauntered under leafy

canopies on pine-needle

cushioned paths. Captured

snowflakes on my tongue,

insects in my hair. As remedy

for humdrum days, make

your house green. That’s

my prescription.

~ Linda M. Lewis

Linda M. Lewis, professor emerita of Bethany College, earned a PhD in British literature and has published four books of literary criticism (University of Missouri Press). Her recent work, Ensemble (Spartan Press, 2019), is a collection of poems that celebrate woman’s experience and narrate female lives—both famous and infamous. This poem contained an allusion to The Sunday Tertulia, a novel by Lori Marie Carlson. This poem was originally published in The Sea Letter, October, 2018.

June Editor Bio: Ramona Vreeland McCallum is the author of a collection of poetry entitled Still Life with Dirty Dishes (Woodley Press, 2013). She earned her MFA from UMKC in 2017 and her Master of Arts in Teaching from KSU in 2018. She lives in Garden City, Kansas where she teaches 5th grade English Language Arts and co-parents six children with her husband, Brian McCallum. For June’s poems, Ramona selected work whose avian and weather imagery convey metaphoric and dichotomous themes of restlessness & peace, anxiety & security, and which communicate the power of presence when reflecting on the past and looking toward the future.

Sounds — By Ramona Vreeland McCallum

This morning I sit

on the edge of the bed.

The calm black lab Lucy

asleep beside me,

dregs of my first

cup of coffee

on the bedside table

among containers

of lotion, lip balm,

melatonin

 

and out the window,

sounds:

 

The hospital a block away

groans with grinding machinery.

What are they burning now

or cleaning? How much longer?

It’s already been

forever…

 

But that’s not

what I want

you to hear.

 

Focus

on the tree

in the backyard, taller

than the house.

It’s spring and the tree’s

all dressed up

in new leaves,

so we can’t see the birds

in there among the branches.

 

Though we can hear their chirps resound

between us and the incessant, mechanical roar—

like strokes of color

on gray canvas full

of clouds.

 

Let’s get up

continue the day,

blending our way

among these sounds.

~ Ramona Vreeland McCallum

Ramona Vreeland McCallum is the author of a collection of poetry entitled Still Life with Dirty Dishes (Woodley Press, 2013). She earned her MFA from UMKC in 2017 and her Master of Arts in Teaching from KSU in 2018. She lives in Garden City, Kansas where she teaches 5th grade English Language Arts and co-parents six children with her husband, Brian McCallum. For June’s poems, Ramona selected work whose avian and weather imagery convey metaphoric and dichotomous themes of restlessness & peace, anxiety & security, and which communicate the power of presence when reflecting on the past and looking toward the future.

Election 2016 — By Charles Peek

In my dream, we are driving at night

through a hard rain on a country road.

 

At each crossing we come to, the waters seem deeper,

until we come finally to a section where we can’t go any further,

where what is in back of us seems worse now

than when we were there,

where we can’t see a way ahead and begin to feel the road

shifting beneath us,

and we aren’t sure what to do next or how the hell we got here

in the first place

and we hope for any solid ground that holds some promise

of preventing us from drifting helplessly away,

of supporting us amidst whatever it is

the water has already carried away

in the dark.

~ Charles Peek

Charles Peek blogs, writes, and protests from Kearney, Nebraska. His Breezes on the Way to Being Winds won the 2016 Nebraska Award for Poetry. Together with his wife, Nancy, he spends a good deal of time trying to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline form ruining Nebraska’s land, water, and culture.

June Editor Bio: Ramona Vreeland McCallum is the author of a collection of poetry entitled Still Life with Dirty Dishes (Woodley Press, 2013). She earned her MFA from UMKC in 2017 and her Master of Arts in Teaching from KSU in 2018. She lives in Garden City, Kansas where she teaches 5th grade English Language Arts and co-parents six children with her husband, Brian McCallum. For June’s poems, Ramona selected work whose avian and weather imagery convey metaphoric and dichotomous themes of restlessness & peace, anxiety & security, and which communicate the power of presence when reflecting on the past and looking toward the future.

 

On the Edge of the Story — By Julie Sellers

There, in the distance,

rushing inexorably onward,

a gray-clad forward guard

charges across the plains.

Skin tingles with a rumbled warning,

a timpani crescendo

crashing without and within.

An electric tension perfumes the air,

an uncompromising will-o’-the wisp

playing hide and seek amongst the clouds,

calling hearts against their will.

And as the first drops

raise dusty whispers,

there is no retreat,

no option other

than to wait

for the inevitable collision

to bring new life

or ravage this one.

~ Julie Sellers

Julie Sellers: An Associate Professor of Spanish at Benedictine College, Julie Sellers has twice been the overall prose winner of the Kansas Voices Contest. She has published in Kansas Time + Place, The Write Launch, Kanhistique, and New Works Review. Her third academic book, The Modern Bachateros, was published in 2017 (McFarland).

June Editor Bio: Ramona Vreeland McCallum is the author of a collection of poetry entitled Still Life with Dirty Dishes (Woodley Press, 2013). She earned her MFA from UMKC in 2017 and her Master of Arts in Teaching from KSU in 2018. She lives in Garden City, Kansas where she teaches 5th grade English Language Arts and co-parents six children with her husband, Brian McCallum. For June’s poems, Ramona selected work whose avian and weather imagery convey metaphoric and dichotomous themes of restlessness & peace, anxiety & security, and which communicate the power of presence when reflecting on the past and looking toward the future.