Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Archive for the ‘Heartland’ Category

Everyone is Dying — by Tyler Robert Sheldon

and our country was never so full with lies

I will count the minutes until we live

no longer in a post-truth country

where inviting despots to black tie dinners

is normal and where every day

the government is laced clear through

like bad pot with logical fallacies


Bad Hombres is only cool

as a license plate or bumper sticker

or a teenage bedroom door sign

and I will not give in

to the vortex of rancid hate

sucking up the good men and


women and children of this country

even as Big Bird and breakfast

for school kids might be next


the polar bears have to stand

on one leg now but

what about how much oil we need

we could melt down all the

polar bears, cut the middleman


out that way

and will we build another mother

for all the bombs that are orphans now

like every little child they lie down on

until the movement stops

~ Tyler Robert Sheldon

Tyler Robert Sheldon is the author of First Breaths of Arrival (Oil Hill Press, 2016) and Traumas (Yellow Flag Press, 2017). His poems and/or reviews have appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Quiddity International Literary Journal, Coal City Review, The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature, and other venues, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the AWP Intro Journals Award. Sheldon holds an MA in English from Emporia State University. He lives in Baton Rouge. View his work at tyrsheldon.wixsite.com/trspoetry.

James Benger is a father, husband and writer. His work has been featured in several publications. He is the author of two fiction ebooks: Flight 776 (2012) and Jack of Diamonds (2013), and two chapbooks of poetry: As I Watch You Fade (EMP 2016) and You’ve Heard It All Before (GigaPoem 2017). He is a member of the Riverfront Readings Committee in Kansas City, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online poetry workshop and is Editor In Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and son.


Un Corazón de Cerdo – by Gregory Stapp

En el super,

she places on the counter

a cow’s tongue,

a cow’s heart,

a cow’s liver,

in that order,

the same order,

every week,

while getting the groceries

for her madrastra.

Blancanieves, I call her,

my Snow White de Guatemala.


While ringing up her food

I ask again, Blanca, why

do you always place them

on the counter in this order?

She pulls at her hair,

shrugs her shoulders,

and scratches her thigh.

First the tongue,

then the heart,

then the liver.

This is the order.


Some days I see her

in town with her madrastra.

While they wait for the bus,

her madrastra jerks

Blanca’s hair

to keep her

from stepping into the street,

or to make her

ashamed of her beauty.

Then she cuffs her shoulder,

and smacks her on the thigh.

Always in this order.


I go hunting one weekend,

kill a jabalí and take its heart,

and when I see Blanca again


I give it to her

in the store’s packaging.

Para tu madrastra, I say.

Un corazón de cerdo.

She pulls a manzana

from beneath her camisa

and drops it with a thud

behind the liver.

Y esta, she grins.


Gregory Stapp received his BA from the University of Oklahoma and his MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. His poems have appeared in Outside In Literary and Travel Magazine, Lime Hawk Journal, Shot Glass, The Ekphrastic Review, and Forage, among others. He recently served as the Poetry Editor for Qu: A Literary Magazine.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is President of the Kansas Authors Club. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book.


Burnout – by Jeff Worley


was what the game was called,
the game of catch Dad and I played.
You stand 50 feet away at first

and throw the ball hard as you can
to your partner, your opponent. It’s
a dialectic of quick heat. You need

nerves like wrought iron, nimble
reflexes, a well-padded glove.
We had just argued at dinner,

black clouds flexing in the window.
My hair was too long and Dad
demanded to know what was in
the aromatic baggie
he turned up in my glove box.
It was 1969, and he invested

every ounce of righteous energy
he could muster in firing the ball
at me in the backyard. Tradition

thunked like a sledgehammer
into my mitt; then family,
the American Way. I hurled back

a dorsal-carpel-popping carpe diem,
Happy Hour haze, recreational sex.
At 40 feet he wound up like a man

with too many arms, and sent me
reeling on my heels, the ball a spike
in my blistering palm. So I smoked

the next one at his sweaty temple.
Steady job, Dad’s return sung out,
the webbing of my Jimmy Piersall

mitt snapping back but holding.
Hedonistic hijinx, I slung back.
Eight-to-five, Albert Camus, credit

rating, Mr. Zig Zag, Windsor knot . . .
With only 30 feet between us, Mother
intervened with two deep blue bowls

of chocolate chip ice cream.
We dropped our steaming gloves
in thick clover. It’s nearly dark, she said,

someone could get hurt in this game.

[ “Burnout” first appeared in Atlanta Review, Spring/Summer 2001, and was republished in the books Happy Hour at the Two Keys Tavern (Mid-List Press 2006) and Driving Late to the Party (Woodley Press 2012).]

Jeff Worley, born and raised in Wichita, was the second graduate of the Wichita State MFA program (1975). He is extremely grateful to Bruce Cutler, founder of the program, for his invaluable help with early fledgling poems. Jeff has published 10 collections of poetry, the most recent, A Little Luck, winner of the 2012 X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize from Texas Review Press. Now retired from the University of Kentucky, he and his wife, Linda, split their time between Lexington and their Cave Run Lake cabin.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is President of the Kansas Authors Club. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book.


Mohammed Reads Poetry – by Diane Wahto


At the peace poetry reading, we gather

in the crowded coffee house, poets

who have written poems of peace.

We recite our pieces to applause,

nod and take a seat. Mohammed,

there with his dark-haired, dark-

eyed wife, distributes his poems,

written in Urdu and English, speaks

in Urdu, a melodic language, intricate

as the architecture of his homeland,

then turns to English, a language

created to deliver straight-forward

words. Urdu is heard, Mohammed’s

accent still strong, even after years

of living in America. Poems of love,

of joyous parties, of family, of land,

lift us, make us smile. After, we gather

around, talk about the next time, freed

from the darkness outside the windows

of the brightly lit coffee shop.


Diane Wahto received an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University in 1985 and has been writing poetry ever since. Her latest publication, “Empty Corners,” is in the spring 2017 issue of Same. She was co-editor of 365 Days, an anthology of the 365 Facebook page poets. She lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Patrick Roche and their dog Annie.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is President of the Kansas Authors Club. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book.

The Undocumented – by Thomas Locicero

Guthrie addressed the “deportees” by name;
The undocumented are far less blessed.
In shadow and light, they hide, Pride and Shame,
As dead, without lament, headstone, or rest.

They’ve not raised-seal certificates of birth
Or nine-digit cards that voice who they are,
No forms to confirm residence on Earth;
Though here, still irretrievably afar.

It would seem, then, they can be who they choose to,
But they cannot be who they were meant to be.
And if hiding is all that they’re used to,
If safety is invisibility,

How does one incent their civil order
When Heaven resides this side of the border?


Thomas Locicero’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Roanoke Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Long Island Quarterly, Jazz Cigarette, Antarctica Journal, Hobart, Ponder Review, vox poetica, Poetry Pacific, Brushfire, Indigo Lit, Saw Palm, Fine Lines, New Thoreau Quarterly, and Birmingham Arts Journal, among others. He resides in Broken Arrow, OK.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is President of the Kansas Authors Club. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book.

O Beautiful – by Robert L. Dean


A man begs us not to step over his family. He wears rags and tears and dust. Behind him a pile of rubble. Perhaps he once lived here. Perhaps also the legs and arms and heads before which he kneels. We do not know. We pass on by.

M10 hospital. We bandage. Stitch. Amputate. Slip, slide on blood, bowels. Don garments of stinking flesh. In a corner, a woman babbles, boy on a litter, eyes gone deaf. Windows shatter. Concrete dances. Barrel bomb. We burrow deeper. Carry wounded. Wounds. Dying. Death. What we carry, we become.

Ahead of us, a torch. Someone whispers: Crawl faster.

Sambisa Forest

When the men speak, it is not Chibok. Maybe Hausa. Arabic. They rip off the abaya, the niqab, the black they make us wear to cover our shame when it suits them, our only concealment, our one refuge, the cold ash of our village, our hearts. They ram into us, thighs banging buttocks. We are 14, 12, 8. Our mounds weep red. Husband, they say, in our language. Before the next one sticks it in.

Helicopters in the monkey-bread trees. Alone in our huts like graves. Blessed Virgin, we whisper: Blessed G.I. Joe. Machine guns. Rockets. Kaboom. Fingers laced, we listen. The hiss of snakes. The swagger of the husbands. What we are left with.

We eat bloody dates. Drink strange-leaved tea. Pledge mubaya’a. Birth their babies. Detonate in crowds of strangers. The husbands say we go to Paradise. And we do.


The Dead Women haunt the maquiladoras. Assemble into printers, TVs, cars. Sigh spreadsheets in Wenatchee, dust up Sioux City back roads, number Days of Our Lives in Brooklyn. They tire of trash dumps, sewers, creosote, cactus. Gardens of red crosses.

Mummies grin on morgue slabs. Sons. Uncles. Brothers. Those we ransom two times, three. Fifteen-year-olds in Escalades and Yankees caps collect. Quinceañera bouquets wither. Carnicerías, discotecas fire the night.

Make-shift altars: tequila, Marlboros, the things She craves. Black candles. Mariachis sing: Santa Muerte, Bony Lady, Lady of the Shadows, Lady of the Holy Death. We shoulder grappling hooks, machetes. Wade the river. Shimmer in the moon’s image. Tired. Poor. Huddled. What we are not: wretched.

Stars whisper. We climb. The eyes of gringo guns.


Robert L. Dean, Jr. majored in Music Composition at Wichita State University. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Illya’s Honey, Red River Review, and I-70 Review. His chapbook Doors was a finalist in the 2014 Dallas Poets Community contest.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is President of the Kansas Authors Club. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book.

Hobo Code — by Debbie Theiss

I 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.

Note: 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, 2016) and was accepted in Interpretations IV in Columbia, MO. She enjoys nature, bicycling, and gardening.

Guest Editor Denise Low: The University of Nebraska Press published Denise Low’s 2017 memoir The Turtle’s Beating Heart, about her grandfather’s Lenape heritage. Other recent books are A Casino Bestiary: Poems (Spartan Press 2017), Mélange Block: Poems (Red Mt. Press), Jackalope (short fiction, Red Mt. Press), and Natural Theologies: Essays (The Backwaters Press). Low is former Kansas poet laureate and past board president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She teaches for Baker University’s School of Professional and Graduate Studies.

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