Riding in the New Hearse by Shuly Xóchitl Cawood

Do you want to ride tomorrow
in the new hearse
he asks me just before
he turns off the light.

This death thing is a daily part
of our married life.
Caskets, urns, insurance
work into a lesson
for the living.

Tomorrow the hearse will still be new,
known for what this car is mostly known for:
paddle shifting, those leather seats, lumbar support,
the smooth ride, the easy breathing of the engine.

The hearse will not yet have carried the old,
the shake-your-head young, the tiny ones
whose possibilities have just begun, who teach
to never ease a person’s pain
with the beastly words at least.

Tomorrow, the hearse will still be emptied
of its grief, which it will learn to carry
down the grey ribbon of these lonely roads.

And tomorrow, my love will say let’s go,
and I’ll lean back in that passenger seat
and drive with him on the streets we know
will never be the same.

We’ll roll down clear windows, let in some sky,
steer the hearse toward tomorrow
as if it’s any other
extraordinary
ride.

Shuly Xóchitl Cawood is the author of The Going and Goodbye: a memoir and the story collection, A Small Thing to Want. Her poetry collection, Trouble Can Be So Beautiful at the Beginning, won the Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. Learn more: http://www.shulycawood.com

About the Guest Editor: Dennis Etzel Jr. (he/him) lives with his spouse Carrie and their five boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. He has numerous books, including My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVOX 2015) which was selected by The Kansas City Star as a Best Poetry Book of 2015. His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, FUGUE, Puerto del Sol, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others.

Ars Poetica: Kansas           by Robert Stewart

Wind off the prairie makes me want to punch
back at something. It elbows the windows
and nearly killed my dog, Sparky, cracking
a limb off the lady next door’s dead elm
I could barely drag off the drive, dents
in the F-150 but just the bed. Wind
swings the big wooden gate, so lets out
the dog and has the wood fence leaning
northeast, the phone wire, dragging
a cord off a cello all night, getting
into our business. It’s a summer wind
but not like the Sinatra song, from the sea.
It sucker punches into car windows,
so walking along 75th can kill you, Frank.
All summer long, we sing our song,
my wife and I, if cobwebs we call cable
and power grids don’t crash our computers
for once. My wife drives her nails into
my T shirt in the yard, holding on.
“You’re too big to make a dent in,” she says.
A prevailing wail corners the house
and makes me want to take on the beater of time.
A cottonwood seed courses over crops
like a comet. A boxwood leaf karate chops.
No lingering in pools that stand in drains:
rotations, convections, sideways rains.
Someone has opened a job box
of westerly wind and has us leaning,
as we’d been taught, which is into it.

Robert Stewart’s (she/her) 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.

About the Guest Editor: Dennis Etzel Jr. (he/him) lives with his spouse Carrie and their five boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. He has numerous books, including My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVOX 2015) which was selected by The Kansas City Star as a Best Poetry Book of 2015. His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, FUGUE, Puerto del Sol, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others.

The Sound of Begging           by Allison Blevins

In the begging—flounder
and drowning, primordial,
liquidblack, an ocean wail—

I wanted the body saved.
You can imagine
how lovers must feel to live—
not alone but distanced—

just out of reach
from every breath and growl.

In the begging,
nothing human.
Human was love once

without flesh
or fire. You can imagine
the begging as smoke,

as a sticky fog
that lingers on the tongue,
breath exhaled
from a full flesh mouth.

Allison Blevins is the author of the chapbooks Susurration (Blue Lyra Press, 2019), Letters to Joan (Lithic Press, 2019), and A Season for Speaking (Seven Kitchens Press, 2019). Her books Slowly/Suddenly (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2021) and Cataloging Pain (YesYes Books, 2023) are forthcoming. Chorus for the Kill (Seven Kitchens Press 2021), her collaborative chapbook, is forthcoming. She is the Director of Small Harbor Publishing and a Poetry Editor at Literary Mama. She lives in Missouri with her spouse and three children where she co-organizes the Downtown Poetry reading series.

About the Guest Editor: Dennis Etzel Jr. (he/him) lives with his spouse Carrie and their five boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. He has numerous books, including My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVOX 2015) which was selected by The Kansas City Star as a Best Poetry Book of 2015. His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, FUGUE, Puerto del Sol, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others.

What We Eat (the Freedom tarot, traditionally the Chariot)           by Jericho Hockett

for Melanie, the Inclusive Pedagogy Research Group, & the Inclusive Teaching Writing Institute, upon their willingness to be disturbed

We are searching out
hidden nests wanting
to be found. We are
snake, wide-
jawing, chased out
the coop with egg
in mouth. We are
water-colored
fingers outstretched
to identify those
we claim. We are
bird, feather-painted:
each one different
in color, each one
named. We are
cloth corners soaked
in milk, lip-dipped
to teach to want
to eat to strive. We are
calf, fresh-emerged,
cocoon-wet nuzzling
urgently. We are

learning bodies’ words,
watching ears & wings
& shivers, shifting hands
to hollows, forming
shapes to shelter
each creature’s flesh—
mammalian, shelled,
amorphous, camouflaged,
winged, serpentine. We are
furred or sometimes skinned,
bare bones gleaming
brown as bread & some
are melted into ink,
into tallow. Some have teeth
sharp that show when soughing,
some muzzles soft
with steam when lowing.
We see the way
this barn’s been built
by hands for hands
, we say
with tongues in turn
clamorous or clever,
contending to survive,
sustain, tongues licking
blood off blistered
thumbs rubbed raw
from cleaving tight
to pens as we are
revised, reconstituted,
ourselves rewritten
relentlessly resubmitting
against rejection
our course common
with those we eat
to be eaten as we are.

Jericho Hockett’s (she/her) roots are in the farm in Kansas, and she blooms in Topeka with Eddy, Evelynn, and Bastion. She is a poet, social psychologist, teacher, forever student, and dreamer, most whole in the green. Some of her poems appear with or are forthcoming from Mom Egg Review, Coffin Bell, and Pilgrimage Magazine. Her first chapbook, ‘Rituals for Dissolution,’ is forthcoming from Eastern Iowa Review/Port Yonder Press. Instagram: @jerichomariette

About the Guest Editor: Dennis Etzel Jr. (he/him) lives with his spouse Carrie and their five boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. He has numerous books, including My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVOX 2015) which was selected by The Kansas City Star as a Best Poetry Book of 2015. His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, FUGUE, Puerto del Sol, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others.

Sit: a Spell           by Jericho Hockett

before you miss intimate           years paint yourself
an old abandoned           grey room
take conscious           measures create color in
your life           desires urgently calm
radical inattention           spends without counting
worried dollars           purchase few friends
eye rubble and speculation           grieve seasons
give screens           a sabbath night for surprises
diversion reduces           world thinking
of poetry           temples to technologies of heart
absorb images           observed in day
dreaming a planet           free to sense music
in silence sit           a spell to shift

Jericho Hockett’s (she/her) roots are in the farm in Kansas, and she blooms in Topeka with Eddy, Evelynn, and Bastion. She is a poet, social psychologist, teacher, forever student, and dreamer, most whole in the green. Some of her poems appear with or are forthcoming from Mom Egg Review, Coffin Bell, and Pilgrimage Magazine. Her first chapbook, ‘Rituals for Dissolution,’ is forthcoming from Eastern Iowa Review/Port Yonder Press. Instagram: @jerichomariette

About the Guest Editor: Dennis Etzel Jr. (he/him) lives with his spouse Carrie and their five boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. He has numerous books, including My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVOX 2015) which was selected by The Kansas City Star as a Best Poetry Book of 2015. His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, FUGUE, Puerto del Sol, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others.

Whispers / Silence by Barbara Waterman-Peters

Photo of Barbara Waterman-Peters

Barbara Waterman-Peters, (BFA, Washburn University, MFA, Kansas State University, Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, Washburn University) whose award-winning work is in museum, corporate and private collections, is represented by several galleries, including the Jones Gallery in Kansas City, MO, the Strecker Nelson West Gallery in Manhattan, KS, and the Beauchamp and SouthWind Galleries in Topeka. She was a founding member of the Collective Art Gallery (1987-2014) and is a charter member of Circle of 7.  She has shown regionally, nationally and internationally in more than 300 solo, invitational and juried exhibitions. 

Waterman-Peters taught at Washburn and Kansas State Universities as well as for Lassen Community College in California. She has received a Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Achievement from the State of Kansas and the Monroe Award from the Washburn University Alumni Association. In 2011 she was awarded the ARTY for Distinguished Visual Artist from ARTSConnect in Topeka.

Waterman-Peters was the staff artist for the Washburn University Theater from 1999 until 2016. In 2010 she founded STUDIO 831, an artists’ space and gallery in the North Topeka Arts & Entertainment District (NOTO). She has served on numerous boards, most recently the NOTO Arts & Entertainment District Board. In addition, she was part of Heartland Visioning’s Quality of Life component, and a curator and panelist for various arts institutions. Currently she is part of the ARTS Leadership Roundtable.

She is co-founder of Pen & Brush Press with author Glendyn Buckley. She and Glendyn each received a Children’s Book Award from Kansas Authors Club for their work on their second book, Bird. Their first book, The Fish’s Wishes, was placed on the KNEA’s Recommended Reading List. Recently, she worked with poet Dennis Etzel, Jr on the exhibits, art, and book for the Two Ponders: A Collaboration project.

Working with other authors she has created cover art and illustrations for numerous books, most recently Marcia Cebulska’s Watching Men Dance. Her art has appeared in such publications as Inscape (Washburn University).

She writes articles about art and artists for TOPEKA Magazine and other publications. One of her creative non-fiction essays was recently included in 105 Meadowlark Reader.

About the Guest Editor: Dennis Etzel Jr. (he/him) lives with his spouse Carrie and their five boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. He has numerous books, including My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVOX 2015) which was selected by The Kansas City Star as a Best Poetry Book of 2015. His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, FUGUE, Puerto del Sol, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others.

Note about the poem: The two-voice poem is hard to accomplish, for sure. It isn’t simply writing two poems for two readers to synchronize reading at the same time, but the effect of it–that the form is about juxtaposition as much as it is about synchornization. Barbara Waterman-Peters shows her mastery of this through even the titles, “Whispers” and “Silence,” because in these difficult times both forms are catalystic in moving to change.

“to the stars through difficulty” by William J. Karnowski

to the stars through difficulty1622856_3847566204678_1093079812_n
we extinguish the piercing porch light
a new line begins: from the stars with ease
looking up we drink in the Milky Way
the distance from Goodland to home
is now more like a brief Sunday cruise

never was Orion’s Belt more bright
the hoot owl talks from the branches in the trees
and we listen for the nuance in what he has to say
there is no need nor cause for us to roam
I get Cassiopeia kisses from my midnight muse

~ William J. Karnowski

William J. Karnowski is the author of seven books of poetry; Pushing the Chain, The Hills of Laclede, Painting the Train, Hardtails and Highways, Catching the Rain, Dispensation, and The Sodhouse Green. He has poetry published in Kansas Voices, The Midwest Quarterly, Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, Kansas Author Club Yearbooks and multiple website locations. Karnowski is the current State President of Kansas Authors Club.

chosen by Dennis Etzel Jr.

Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and the boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. His chapbook The Sum of Two Mothers was released by ELJ Publications in 2013, and his work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, DIAGRAM, and others. He is a TALK Scholar and Speaker for the Kansas Humanities Council, and volunteers for the YWCA of Topeka and Midland Hospice. His website is http://www.dennisetzeljr.com.

Dennis says, “This poem transcends time and space through its elements–and looking at the stars. It informs us we can be in any time and place to be moved as ‘we drink in the Milky Way.’ These guiding lights from the past inspire the poet to create her or his own bright place.”

“Flint Hills Runner” by Thomas Reynolds

05_10_1Flint Hills Runner

I.
All day wind
Sprints through

The grass and never
Gets out of breath.

II.
At night no one to play
Catch with or run

For a pass unless
You count the stars.

III.
At dawn it races
For the hilltop

Before sun leans across
That gray ribbon of creek.

IV.
Who can explain
Something so ancient,

That seeps from the rocks,
And rises from the earth?

V.
The old rancher
Stands at his barn

Watching for what
Chases that old boy.

[

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.

chosen by Dennis Etzel Jr.

Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and the boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. His chapbook The Sum of Two Mothers was released by ELJ Publications in 2013, and his work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, DIAGRAM, and others. He is a TALK Scholar and Speaker for the Kansas Humanities Council, and volunteers for the YWCA of Topeka and Midland Hospice. His website is http://www.dennisetzeljr.com.

Dennis says, “This ecopoem connects for me place with nature with human. The space that happens while running is where this poem becomes as testimony for the Flint Hills. The questions of existence are here, as well as the cycle of life in the last stanza. Thank you for this poem, Thomas!”

“Kansas Drought” by Iris Wilkinson

1150860_10201817201337491_1439121457_nKansas Drought

Last week, Rain made puddles along the curb and the white chrysanthemums bent over

as though they wanted more to drink.

The air tasted like baking soda, fresh and gritty and the odors are absorbed,

absolving us for a brief moment from the unending guilt

which comes knowing just exactly what we’ve all done to our Mother.

Yesterday when I tried to dig up a spot to plant iris under the oak tree, the dirt was dried up and

dead, parched, heavy chunks, sort of like concrete. Frantic,

I dug deeper and was finally able to breathe when I found one small worm – a sign of life.

Rain came again this morning for a short visit and I wanted to offer her a homemade green

tomato pickle and a hot corn biscuit with apricot jam.

[

Iris Wilkinson lives in North Lawrence, just off the banks of the Kaw River. She enjoys leading a creative writing group for the women at the county jail and is thankful for her day job as a college professor at Washburn University.

chosen by Dennis Etzel Jr.

Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and the boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. His chapbook The Sum of Two Mothers was released by ELJ Publications in 2013, and his work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, DIAGRAM, and others. He is a TALK Scholar and Speaker for the Kansas Humanities Council, and volunteers for the YWCA of Topeka and Midland Hospice. His website is http://www.dennisetzeljr.com.

Dennis says, “This ecopoem really surprised me. It is truly of time and place, addressing via a meditation a subtle crisis on both personal and global levels ‘from the unending guilt / which comes knowing just exactly what we’ve all done to our Mother.’ One can only do what one can do from the signs found in nature–and in poems–‘I found one small worm – a sign of life.’ I am still captured by its call for my own attention to life.”

“Ode to Washing Dishes” by Melissa Fite Johnson

1478989_10151821111791994_1022361121_nOde to Washing Dishes

First, make sure your sink is under a window.
Look outside while you fill the basin. If daytime,
don’t scrutinize your lawn. Do laugh
at quarreling birds or your own yawning dog.
If night, be kind to your reflection.
Appreciate your long arms that disappear
at the wrists and the wrinkles at your mouth.

Don’t think of this task as another in a hundred.
It is the reward when those are done,
the chocolate mousse after steamed vegetables.
If the hot water and bubbles,
the lavender smell, the wine glass
to your left and soft terrycloth
against your bare shoulder are not a comfort
in this late hour, then you are doing it all wrong.

[

Melissa Fite Johnson teaches English at Pittsburg High School in Kansas. She’s had poetry published in magazines such as Sotto Voce, The Little Balkans Review, and Inscape Magazine, and in a Kansas Notable Book poetry collection To the Stars Through Difficulties. The Little Balkans Press will publish her first book of poetry, While the Kettle’s On, this year. Melissa and her husband, Marc, live in Pittsburg with their dog and several chickens.

chosen by Dennis Etzel Jr.

Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and the boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. His chapbook The Sum of Two Mothers was released by ELJ Publications in 2013, and his work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, DIAGRAM, and others. He is a TALK Scholar and Speaker for the Kansas Humanities Council, and volunteers for the YWCA of Topeka and Midland Hospice. His website is http://www.dennisetzeljr.com.

Dennis says, “This poem is brilliant, not just for taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary, but does so in the instructional “how to” tone. This says to enjoy one’s self in place and time, to not ‘think of this task as another in a hundred.’ This poem is helpful in a time of need.”