Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Archive for the ‘Heartland’ Category

Neighbors — by Melissa Fite Johnson

We played house in her basement.
As mother, Ellie crouched
behind the plastic oven. As father,
I moved to kiss her forehead.
She frowned. You’re doing it wrong.

That year, Ellie’s father visited
the grocery store where
her mother worked. She steered
him to the storage room,
where he shot her dead, then himself.

We switched. As father,
Ellie hoisted a plate over her head,
slammed it to the floor.
As mother, I poured air from
plastic eggs into a red mixing bowl.

(Originally published in Broadsided Press, January 2018)

Melissa Fite Johnson’s first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book. She is also the author of A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky, winner of the 2017 Vella Chapbook Award (Paper Nautilus Press, 2018). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Pleiades, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Sidereal, Stirring, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband and dogs in Lawrence, Kansas. 

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.

Wild Edges                                          by Elizabeth Perdomo

I am not meant
for modern civilization,
rectangular box repetition;
garish shops; abhorrent lights.
Jangling distractions, fountain flows
fully regulated in sequence;
colored concrete marine
blue.
Give me wild places,
unfettered waters,
unkempt patches,
wild edges.
Unmowed meadows
& dandelion dotted lawns;
better yet, front yard wildflowers
teaming with bright winged life.
No lifeless trimmed &
sprayed hedge
symmetry.
Rather, life-filled hedgerows,
tangled preserves, secret
conserves, hidden
reserves.
Green forests still
alive with brilliant shadowed
silence;
soft breezes
which whisper
important things which
should & must be
heard.
7 May 2019 – Pharr, Texas

Elizabeth Perdomo at Dallas Museum of Fine Arts

Elizabeth Perdomo, born in Emporia, Kansas, raised in Winfield, has written poetry since a teen. One Turn of Seasons, includes her poetry and another’s photography. Recently, her poems appeared in Kansas Time + Place, Interstice, and The Chachalaca Review. Perdomo now lives in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

Guest Editor Julie Ramon is an English instructor at NEO A&M in Miami, Oklahoma.  She graduated with an M.F.A from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Among writing, her interests include baking, sewing, traveling, and garage sales. She is also a co-organizer of a Joplin, Missouri poetry series, Downtown Poetry. She lives in Joplin with her husband, sons, and daughter.

Backyard    by Melissa Fite Johnson

This scooped-out hole was once
the Bradford pear a friend and I sat under
last May when she lifted her shirt
to let me feel the life inside. Through
the dark soil, the tree’s roots still stretch
like lines etching a cracked egg.Melissa-Fite-Johnson_sm

She became a mother. I didn’t.
She secures the stroller’s strap, follows
her son to the park. She sits with other
mothers
in the shade. The older children
pile acorns in their mothers’ laps
until they spill to the ground.

At home, my husband and I read,
opposite ends of the couch, my feet tucked
under his side. Our tea steeps
in the kitchen. I’m not holding on
to nothing anymore. In the neighbors’ yard,
branches quilt patterns into the sky.

(Originally published in Broadsided Press, May 2017)

Melissa Fite Johnson’s first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book. She is also the author of A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky, winner of the 2017 Vella Chapbook Award (Paper Nautilus Press, 2018). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Pleiades, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Sidereal, Stirring, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband and dogs in Lawrence, Kansas.

Guest editor Julie Ramon is an English instructor at NEO A&M in Miami, Oklahoma.  She graduated with an M.F.A from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Among writing, her interests include baking, sewing, traveling, and garage sales. She is also a co-organizer of a Joplin, Missouri poetry series, Downtown Poetry. She lives in Joplin with her husband, sons, and daughter.

By Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg           I Love This Body That’s Not the Way I Thought      

like I love lightning, and especially its aftermath:
a horizon balancing blue sky, dying thunderheads,
faint stars, open space—the whole world stretching
its arms two directions at once, just as I do, shaking
myself steady, remembering how this body loves
miles of sidewalk diminishing into a faint path
made by deer with genius for merging the visible.
I love the walk out of what I thought even if
my feet hurt, I’m scared by the blank stare of the sun,
or I’ve surrendered to how the subway sways its chant
along my spine as it cups this body in its seat.
I love the flash of yearning that turns this body
toward the dark or bright branches of sex or dreams,
all this weather informs these limbs and muscles
in the seasons that come and go, or that came and went:
the mechanisms of cell-building, the three children
from that flint-on-flint spark, the years before
walking sunsets out of housing developments,
and earlier, the fast slim legs that galloped me
down long apartment hallways as the girl
who knew how to tell herself to stay curious,
just as the woman who woke from the old pain,
and put on her walking shoes to head out into billions
of atoms shifting into fire or flower at every turn.

_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. www.CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

 

Guest Editor Julie Ramon is an English instructor at NEO A&M in Miami, Oklahoma.  She graduated with an M.F.A from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Among writing, her interests include baking, sewing, traveling, and garage sales. She is also a co-organizer of a Joplin, Missouri poetry series, Downtown Poetry. She lives in Joplin with her husband, sons, and daughter.

Visiting my Grandson during the Pandemic      by Debbie Theiss

My grandson plays on his driveway
chalk in hand as he draws
large yellow daffodils and red tulipsDebbie Picture
sidewalk paths
trees with orange and cherry blossoms
me under the branches with
picnic basket full of cake and
cookies in blue-checkered napkins
a robin’s nest above my head
with four tiny egg blue gems

I watch him from my car, window down
sun fading in the pink-streaked sky
I beep twice, he looks my way
I throw him kisses; he catches each one
I pull away still watching him and
wish that someone would have HIT PAUSE
before—
before now.

 

Debbie Theiss (Lee’s Summit, MO) grew up in in the Midwest and finds inspiration in the unfolding art of daily life and nature. She is a member of the Kansas City Writer’s Group and has poems published in I-70 Review, Helen Literary Journal, River & South Review, and others.

 

Julie Ramon is an English instructor at NEO A&M in Miami, Oklahoma.  She graduated with an M.F.A from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Among writing, her interests include baking, sewing, traveling, and garage sales. She is also a co-organizer of a Joplin, Missouri poetry series, Downtown Poetry. She lives in Joplin with her husband, sons, and daughter.

 

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.

Hometown — By Janet-Jenkins-Stotts

A narrow nest,

fled as soon as

fledged, but flight

alone, never enough.

 

Faltering return.

Wingbeat found

in the familiar.

Venturing forth again,

 

Seeking wider skies,

Full of sudden swoops

And spirals, rising

And falling Intentionally.

~ Janet Jenkins-Stotts

Janet Jenkins-Stotts’s poems have been published in Kansas Voices, Konza Journal, River City Voices, Dash, Passager and the Swedish underground journal, “Devote.” She lives in Topeka, KS. with her husband and their min-pin, Romeo. stottsjanet@gmail.com

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.

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