Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Report to William Stafford — By Izzy Wasserstein

…tell me if I am right. — “Report to Crazy Horse”

You lived long, and carefully.
You knew the prairie wind,
how it can call all through long January nights,
how sometimes settlers would listen
and step from their houses, thin topsoil crunching
under boots or rising to meet bare toes,
and in the morning there would be no trace
of their passing. The storm does this.

 

I have listened to the wind’s song, and I think
I will not live so long. It does not concern me.
But this: I matured in a decade
of madness, assaults on an enemy
we were told was hiding in desert ratholes
or mountain caves, where people hold
centuries-old ways, and older
grudges. (the ones who say this think we are different.
I do not know who they mean by we.)

 

They fight a concept,

 

a tick growing fat on assassinations, uranium shells,

 

drone strikes (this is a convenient way of killing
as impersonal as any strip mall).
No one can tell me if they believe they will win,
if they think fighting makes them strong.

 

You have been gone twenty years now, more than twenty.
They award Peace Prizes to men who have done nothing,
and worse than nothing. The wind does not care
about Mr. Nobel. It does not care about you, Bill,
or me. It is the wind.

 

I do not know if monsters can be overcome,
if the new great extinction can be halted, or slowed.
I dream of that gleaming face, at times.
Will you tell me what this means?
Yesterday, at dusk, a cold front came battering
against my door, sweeping from the West,
striking bare branches against windows,
stirring the dog as he watched the fire burn low.
A shriek. I rushed in terror to the window.
Two children chased each other in circles, laughing.

~ Izzy Wasserstein

Izzy Wasserstein is the author of This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, a 2013 Kansas Notable Book. Izzy teaches at Washburn University, runs long distance slowly, and shares a home with a cat and three dogs.

Guest Editor Tyler Robert Sheldon is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of First Breaths of Arrival (Oil Hill Press, 2016), and Traumas (Yellow Flag Press, 2017). His poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such venues as Quiddity International Literary Journal, The Midwest Quarterly, Coal City Review, The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature, The Dos Passos Review, Entropy Magazine, and others. He earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, and is now an MFA candidate at McNeese State University. View his work at tyrsheldon.wixsite.com/trspoetry.

At the Kevin Young Reading — By Kevin Rabas

I’m so choked up
at the Kevin Young reading
that I will my copy
of To Repel Ghosts
to my student, Ralvell.
I write a note, say, “Take this book,
and ask Young to sign it, keep
these words in remembrance,”
though I make it to the water fountain,
clear my throat,
spot my student
chatting Young up,
two black men
in a white sea, a moment
for which we raced
100 miles, sailing
blacktop in a borrowed
college car.

~ Kevin Rabas

Kevin Rabas is the Poet Laureate of Kansas. He teaches at Emporia State University, where he leads the poetry and playwriting tracks. He has seven books, including Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner.

Guest Editor Tyler Robert Sheldon is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of First Breaths of Arrival (Oil Hill Press, 2016), and Traumas (Yellow Flag Press, 2017). His poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such venues as Quiddity International Literary Journal, The Midwest Quarterly, Coal City Review, The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature, The Dos Passos Review, Entropy Magazine, and others. He earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, and is now an MFA candidate at McNeese State University. View his work at tyrsheldon.wixsite.com/trspoetry.

Hillary Clinton Becomes First Female Presidential Nominee — By Melissa Fite Johnson

So many white, so many
men, tape their mouths in protest
at the DNC. They black out signs.
Their eyes shine. They boo the black
congressman, the Hispanic
congresswoman. They chant.
They walk out. They will stay home
in November, chop fallen trees
into firewood, grill steaks while milking
beers for the last time this year.
They will stare at the black sky
while their neighbors’ TVs blare
too quietly to tell who won.
During roll-call, I cry. I cry but do not
post my joyful tears on Facebook,
where so many white, so many
men post cheater, criminal, cunt.
I do not think of these men. I think of
the women crying with me—
in Alabama, Wyoming, Maine,
in living rooms and Laundromats and bars,
college dorm rooms and cars, women
wishing their dead grandmothers
alive, women reliving sixth grade
career fairs, women with
daughters asleep in their beds.

Melissa Fite Johnson received her Master’s in English literature from Pittsburgh State University in Kansas. Her first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015) won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book. Her poems have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, The New Verse News, velvet-tail, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband in Kansas. For more, visit melissafitejohnson.com.

Guest Editor Tyler Robert Sheldon is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of First Breaths of Arrival (Oil Hill Press, 2016), and Traumas (Yellow Flag Press, 2017). His poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such venues as Quiddity International Literary Journal, The Midwest Quarterly, Coal City Review, The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature, The Dos Passos Review, Entropy Magazine, and others. He earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, and is now an MFA candidate at McNeese State University. View his work at tyrsheldon.wixsite.com/trspoetry.

The Nobody Bird — by Marjorie Saiser

I’m nobody! Who are you?

        – Emily Dickinson

The woman leading the bird walk

is excited because she thinks

for a minute the bird

is one she doesn’t have

on her life list

and then she says Oh it’s

just a dickcissel.

I raise my binoculars

to bring the black throat patch

and dark eye

into the center of a circle.

I see how the dickcissel

clings to a stem

when he sings, how

he tilts his head back,

opens his throat.

The group follows

the leader to higher ground.

The wind comes up; white blossoms

of the elderberry dip and

right themselves in a rocking motion

again and again. An oriole

flies into the cottonwood,

the gray catbird into

the tossing ripening sumac.

The nobody bird

holds on,

holds on and sings.

~ Marjorie Saider

Marjorie Saiser’s most recent book is I Have Nothing to Say About Fire (The Backwaters Press, 2016). Saiser’s poems have been published in Poetry East, Poet Lore, RHINO, Rattle, Nimrod, Mud Season Review, Fourth River, The Writer’s Almanac, Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, and at poetmarge.com.

William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas where he teaches and writes. His poetry and prose have been published widely in such journals as Blue Mesa Review, Columbia, New Letters, and Prairie Schooner. He is the author of two books of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley, 2002) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth, 2011), as well as a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill, 2009). Retrieving Old Bones was a Kansas City Star Noteworthy Book for 2002 and is listed as one of the Great Plains Alliance’s Great Books of the Great Plains.

Storm Surgery — by Morgan O.H. McCune

I’m sure this time the world has me

wrecked. Cornered, filthy water rising

to my lips, I search for the boat, fireman,

enormous Newfoundland, a blow-up

raft miraculously trailing his wake—

or the dog, just the steady dog. Paddling

myself with numbing hands, I catch

the edge of a roof, realize it’s mine.

 

A dead fish stares as it kisses my

shoulder, then drifts away, listing,

and farther, the shadow of something

larger, bloated, spoked with rigid legs.

I close my eyes; the water rises.

In my mind, again, I write the line

that dangles from the helicopter,

grab it from my broken house.

~ Morgan O.H. McCune

Morgan O.H. McCune was born and raised in Topeka. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from Washington University in St. Louis (1991) and a Master of Library Science from Emporia State University (2002). She is currently working as a Cataloging Librarian, Associate Professor, at Pittsburg State University.

William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas where he teaches and writes. His poetry and prose have been published widely in such journals as Blue Mesa Review, Columbia, New Letters, and Prairie Schooner. He is the author of two books of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley, 2002) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth, 2011), as well as a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill, 2009). Retrieving Old Bones was a Kansas City Star Noteworthy Book for 2002 and is listed as one of the Great Plains Alliance’s Great Books of the Great Plains.

Local Weather — by Laura Madeline Wiseman

Our neighbor tells me it dropped for days

until even the sun could not lift the mercury

from cold, but today all the black squirrels sit

on haunches munching morsels unearthed, robins

step the yards like kings eyeing court favorites

and cardinals trumpet encouragement from the trees

to every living thing that has failed to notice—the warmth,

the crocus, the daffodils, the laid off who stare from curtains,

unconvinced. All afternoon I wait and I watch this space.

One by one, neighbors arrive home from work, open windows

to let the breeze chatter the blinds. They shirk from Carhartts,

kick off boots and sit stoops and lawn chairs in the day’s heat.

Yes, such balm might only be for today, but it’s ours.

~ Laura Madeline Wiseman

 

From An Apparently Impossible Adventure (BlazeVOX [books] 2016).

First appeared (as “First Thaw”) in Sugar Mule, Issue 41, 2012

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.

William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas where he teaches and writes. His poetry and prose have been published widely in such journals as Blue Mesa Review, Columbia, New Letters, and Prairie Schooner. He is the author of two books of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley, 2002) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth, 2011), as well as a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill, 2009). Retrieving Old Bones was a Kansas City Star Noteworthy Book for 2002 and is listed as one of the Great Plains Alliance’s Great Books of the Great Plains.

Spill — by Annette Hope Billings

A near-perfect carry technique

results in safe transport

of coffee from barista to table.

No slosh as hot liquid sways

in tandem with a measured gait.

 

Don’t look at it and it won’t spill.

 

Saucer-cup ensemble is slid slowly

onto a table’s solid surface

with careful consideration

to not waste such vital fluid,

to keep each drop its rightful side of wall.

 

Don’t look at it and it won’t spill.

 

Black ink on morning newspaper,

printed proof of latest violence

this time on foreign ground,

to soak up life spilled

from arteries to exsanguination.

 

Don’t look at it and it won’t spill.

 

Vision clouds at lists of victims

until eyes avert to waiting coffee—

lifeless now, cooled to tepid.

It and headlines are pushed aside

neither valid when left to grow cold.

 

Don’t look at it and it won’t spill.

~ Annette Hope Billings

Annette Hope Billings is an author and actress known for her spoken delivery. She has received a Renna Hunter Award for theater and an ARTSConnect ARTY Award in Literature (2015) Billings’ published works include A Net Full of Hope (2015), a collection of poems and Descants for a Daughter (2016), a collection of inspirations. Her poetry and short stories are included in a number of publications and anthologies. For additional information and performance videos, visit website: http://anetfullofhope.com/

Guest editor Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and the boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. He has two chapbooks, The Sum of Two Mothers (ELJ Publications 2013) and My Graphic Novel (Kattywompus Press 2015), a poetic memoir My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVOX 2015), and Fast-Food Sonnets (Coal City Review Press 2016).

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