Forgiveness                                                                             by Pat Daneman

Some things cannot be destroyed—
there is always a bit of ash in the seam 
of a pocket, a long hair on a pillow. A melody 
runs in circles looking for its words. 
In backstreet vapor, some shabby lady
 
or shady traveler can’t stop mumbling. 
Sometimes midnight is crowded—
dead teachers, vengeful cousins and neighbors 
whose parties outlived the night—
lights low, everyone dancing as you watched
 
from your bedroom window.
But the day comes for fresh air, empty hands, 
nowhere to go but for a walk into the woods 
as if back in time. The chatter is far away, 
the stream’s reflection stirred 
 
by rising minnows and falling leaves. 
The trees cannot be asked to stop telling lies, 
the sky not to turn. A winter bird sends its one note 
into the clouds, sound of a hammer striking cold steel, 
saying now, over and over.

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, Morgan O.H. McCune, currently works at Pittsburg State University in southeast Kansas. She is a native Kansan, and holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from Washington University in St. Louis (1991) and an M.L.S. from Emporia State University (2002). Her poems have been published previously in River Styx and Flint Hills Review. 

Gerrymandering                                                                     by Marjorie Maddox

 –after the photograph “North” by Karen Elias
 
From down here, 
            up there is 
nowhere close to 
            click click there’s no place like
City Hall to haul your 
            cracked compass spinning, 
spinning its shiny tin arrow, True North
            a myth lost in the reshuffling
of district lines and Which way do the monkeys fly?
            voting booths Pay no attention to yourself
behind the curtain. Or do that keep you looking
            both ways, keep you crossing streets,
rivers, endless fields of deceptively sweet-
            smelling poppies all the way
to the Emerald mirage you mistook
            for your own backyard Toto, this isn’t
Pennsylvania anymore, the familiar still
             in focus but slanted just enough
to help you see the unreal not paved
            with yellow bricks, but the ordinary
cracked choices of Now, pointing someplace
            not here, not home, not anywhere
close to the bright blue skies harboring
            tomorrow’s tornadoes. 
“North” by Karen Elias. USA (Contemporary). Used by permission. “I took this photo at an event held at the Clinton County courthouse to celebrate the fact that every one of Clinton County’s municipalities signed on to a proclamation asking for gerrymander reform.  I looked up, saw the sign for “North” and snapped the picture.  Margie’s poem highlights the abysmal gap between what we might call the true north of our intentions and the discouraging political distortions that skewer our lived maps.”–Karen Elias.
Marjorie Maddox & Karen Elias

Marjorie Maddox, winner of America Magazine’s 2019 Foley Poetry Prize and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, has published 11 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else; Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite); children’s books; Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor); Presence (assistant editor); and 600+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Her newest books Begin with a Question (Paraclete Press) and collaboration with photographer Karen Elias, Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (Shanti Arts), are due out in 2021. www.marjoriemaddox.com

Dr. Karen Elias taught college English for 40 years and is now an artist/activist, using photography to record the fragility of the natural world and raise awareness about climate change. Her work is in private collections, has been exhibited in several galleries, and has won numerous awards. She is a board member of the Clinton County Arts Council where she serves as membership chair and curator of the annual juried photography exhibit.

Elias and Maddox are engaged in an exciting, mutually inspiring project, combining poetry and photography in creative collaboration. Their work has been exhibited at The Station Gallery (Lock Haven, PA). In addition to their forthcoming book Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For, additional collaborations have appeared in such literary, arts, or medical humanities journals as About Place, Cold Mountain Review, The Ekphrastic Review, The Other Journal, Glint, and Ars Medica.

Guest editor, Morgan O.H. McCune, currently works at Pittsburg State University in southeast Kansas. She is a native Kansan, and holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from Washington University in St. Louis (1991) and an M.L.S. from Emporia State University (2002). Her poems have been published previously in River Styx and Flint Hills Review. 

River Satoris                                                                             by William Sheldon

i.
 
Sometimes a knife won’t take an edge
becoming only a weight
you choose to carry, or leave behind,
despite the day you found it close
beside the arrowhead, small
stemmed heart, sparkling among gravel,
as you waded from the river onto the bar.
The finely worked flint hangs
in a frame, but the little knife, once
you knocked off the rust and whet it,
has stayed in your pocket for years, called on
to sever twine, never cut the first time,
or dig a thorn, but it would not stay sharp.
So, the day comes when you’re cutting rope,
sawing really, and are forced
to walk back to the shed for a better blade.
It is an old idea—of religion, say, or governance,
the workings of the world—you’ve held
dear and true so long it’s like your heart
working quietly, laboring till it goes bad.
You hold it against your palm, weighing
your thoughts, saying good-bye
before you set it on the shelf, drop it
in a drawer, but do not give it to your son,
knowing how jaggedly
a dull blade cuts. That arrowhead hangs
framed on the wall, five hundred years
old, exquisitely chipped, sharp
despite the river’s tumbling.
never to be hafted again.
Step from the gravel, back
into the heart of a new current.
 
 
ii.
Sometimes it happens at evening,
when, without the three quarter moonlight,
wading upstream would seem foolish,
ankles caught by logs along the shoreline,
stumbling into chest-deep holes.
As you crawl along a deadfall
in such feeble light, you marvel
at peace passing your understanding.
As you make your way
down off this pile of limbs into pampas
grass and salt cedar, what little light
is left seems perfect. Coyotes singing
close in a field above the bank
match the pitch and yaw of earth’s turning.
All this strikes you like a stick snapping
back into place. The river is a koan
perhaps rather than a poem. You wade on
knowing it will be dark
before you reach your truck at the bridge,
pleased by this discovery.
 
 
iii.
Wading cold water upriver,
under the skirl of paired hawks hunting,  
you find a dog’s jawbone skimming pea-gravel,
smooth and clean in your hand
Dropped,
  it moves again
a different direction from yours,
the same destination.

William Sheldon lives with his family in Hutchinson, Kansas where he teaches and writes. His poetry and prose have been published widely. His new book is Deadman (Spartan Press, 2021). He is the author of two other books of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley Press, 2002) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth Publications, 2011), as well as a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill Press, 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. He plays bass for the band The Excuses.

Guest editor, Morgan O.H. McCune, currently works at Pittsburg State University in southeast Kansas. She is a native Kansan, and holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from Washington University in St. Louis (1991) and an M.L.S. from Emporia State University (2002). Her poems have been published previously in River Styx and Flint Hills Review. 

White Patsy: Raised Racist                                                 by Ronda Miller

Rust-colored hair and
freckles like mud specks
made me a target, easy
prey for schoolmates
of mixed races. Brown
children chased me through
the mile-high city projects
of Denver with worms,
they threatened,
sometimes managed,
to slip down the back
of my shirt as I ran screaming
toward the direction of wherever
home was those days. My
older brother pummeled
them with balled-up fists.
Determined grit showed
in his eyes and mouth.
He blocked their pathways,
took their wrath, as I ran and
ran and ran from their chants
of, “White Patsy! White Patsy!”
We were five and six years old.
It was the full-bodied, black-
skinned woman, who lived in the
same building as ours, who
motioned me in as I watched
hungrily from her open doorway. She

kneaded white flour mixed with brown
into loaves of bread. Soon,
delicious smells of rising yeast
floated throughout the cold, rat-infested
building. She’d lift the top from a barrel
beside where she stood, rub her warm
brown hands across her apron, take
a slice of day-old bread, sprinkling
sugar and cinnamon on it, before
placing it into my outstretched hand, then
pull me against her for a quick, firm hug. I
was a stray she fed daily. Decades
later, the day my stepsister
called to tell me my father
had killed my mother, I learned
her name was Myra Hodges.

Ronda Miller is a Life Coach and author of five books of poetry. Her latest book, I Love the Child, took first place at the 2020 State Kansas Authors Club Convention. Miller is a former state president of Kansas Authors Club, 2018-2019, and created poetry forms Loku and Ukol. Miller’s presentations across the United States include, Rewriting Your Trauma, and Talking to Crickets (we all live until we die).

Guest editor, Denise LowKansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, is winner of a Red Mountain Press’s Editor’s Choice Award for Shadow Light. A new book of poetry from Red Mountain is Wing. Other recent books areThe Turtle’s Beating Heart: One Family’s Story of Lenape Survival (a memoir, U. of Nebraska Press); Casino Bestiary (Spartan Press); and Jackalope, fiction (Red Mountain). She founded the Creative Writing Program at Haskell Indian Nations University, where she taught and was an administrator. Low is past board president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She has won 3 Kansas Notable Book Awards and recognition from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Sequoyah National Research Center, Poetry Society of America, The Circle -Best Native American Books, Roberts Foundation, Lichtor Awards, and the Kansas Arts Commission. Low has an MFA from Wichita St. U. and Ph.D. from Kansas U. Her literary blog is http://deniselow.blogspot.com.

Next Year’s Garden                                                                  by Pat Daneman

Is it flowers we are wishing for
when we loop jewels around our necks,
string up colored lights in winter?  
What strange blooms do we imagine 
 
as we rest
our heads against a window white with fog,
feel the train wheels churning? Nothing is less
concerned with beauty than a flower.
A bee rises from a dusty dream,
 
a bead of rain 
rolls like a kiss around a petal’s curve
and we forget last year’s frost. Too heavy
for its stalk, a blossom bows to earth.
 
Fragrance, blind, sweet, 
slips beyond the gate.

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.

Guest editor, Denise LowKansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, is winner of a Red Mountain Press’s Editor’s Choice Award for Shadow Light. A new book of poetry from Red Mountain is Wing. Other recent books areThe Turtle’s Beating Heart: One Family’s Story of Lenape Survival (a memoir, U. of Nebraska Press); Casino Bestiary (Spartan Press); and Jackalope, fiction (Red Mountain). She founded the Creative Writing Program at Haskell Indian Nations University, where she taught and was an administrator. Low is past board president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She has won 3 Kansas Notable Book Awards and recognition from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Sequoyah National Research Center, Poetry Society of America, The Circle -Best Native American Books, Roberts Foundation, Lichtor Awards, and the Kansas Arts Commission. Low has an MFA from Wichita St. U. and Ph.D. from Kansas U. Her literary blog is http://deniselow.blogspot.com.

Poem for Early Crocus                                                          by Laura Lee Washburn

Sun full on, popcorn’s best butter-
-y oil soaking the red-striped waxed bag,
cup small girls hold to their chin
and the reflection on skin, bright stamen
threading cloudless days into white rice,
the million wares of the Ponte Vecchio, the painted 
tromp l’oeil of the Ponte Vecchio on the Ponte Vecchio,
eyes of the domestic cat caught in darkness,
the squeaking toy’s dog-bit serenade, how
honey dreams of itself in the comb, how the world
moves even while folks shiver in drafty
offices or windowless workrooms, backlit
silk whispering China, whispering India, 
whispering home: the crocus promise, the crocus
accepts its bed of dead oak leaf, the crocuses 
wet and fold, and each small fist of gold shrivels
over its own bent but still green stem.

Editor-in-Chief 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 Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.

Guest editor, Denise LowKansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, is winner of a Red Mountain Press’s Editor’s Choice Award for Shadow Light. A new book of poetry from Red Mountain is Wing. Other recent books areThe Turtle’s Beating Heart: One Family’s Story of Lenape Survival (a memoir, U. of Nebraska Press); Casino Bestiary (Spartan Press); and Jackalope, fiction (Red Mountain). She founded the Creative Writing Program at Haskell Indian Nations University, where she taught and was an administrator. Low is past board president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She has won 3 Kansas Notable Book Awards and recognition from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Sequoyah National Research Center, Poetry Society of America, The Circle -Best Native American Books, Roberts Foundation, Lichtor Awards, and the Kansas Arts Commission. Low has an MFA from Wichita St. U. and Ph.D. from Kansas U. Her literary blog is http://deniselow.blogspot.com.

What I Know Today                                                               by William Sheldon

The opposite of life is…
Well, death’s opposite is hunger
“Love and death,” the poet
says, “love and death.” Horsetail
clouds framed by a window tease
dying leaves, red in setting sun.
 Bah.
All preamble to my saying again,
how much I love this graveyard
we tread daily. Let me walk thigh-
deep in the river, sit under winter’s
red skies.  We can be friends, but dirt
is my only lover.  We will lie together,
rise in each other’s clothes.

William Sheldon lives with his family in Hutchinson, Kansas. Books of poetry include Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley), Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth).  A new full-length collection, Deadman, is forthcoming from Spartan Press. He plays bass for the band The Excuses. sheldonb52@icloud.com

Guest editor, Denise LowKansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, is winner of a Red Mountain Press’s Editor’s Choice Award for Shadow Light. A new book of poetry from Red Mountain is Wing. Other recent books areThe Turtle’s Beating Heart: One Family’s Story of Lenape Survival (a memoir, U. of Nebraska Press); Casino Bestiary (Spartan Press); and Jackalope, fiction (Red Mountain). She founded the Creative Writing Program at Haskell Indian Nations University, where she taught and was an administrator. Low is past board president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She has won 3 Kansas Notable Book Awards and recognition from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Sequoyah National Research Center, Poetry Society of America, The Circle -Best Native American Books, Roberts Foundation, Lichtor Awards, and the Kansas Arts Commission. Low has an MFA from Wichita St. U. and Ph.D. from Kansas U. Her literary blog is http://deniselow.blogspot.com.

The Handwashing Clinic                                                       by Robert Stewart

     If a snake had hands, he’d swear
            his hands were clean.
                —Wislawa Szymborska
 
 
To wash our hands is now the saving
of the race, and don’t forget the thumbs,
says Dr. Gupta on the news,
no trace of Pilate’s thumbs
 
down to the silent king, disciples 
pleading to wash their own hands 
of the problem, until they’re bleeding.
He’s Herod’s race.
 
Put your fingers through the Lava 
lather of fingers on the other hand,
back and front, so yes, check both
            sides of a thing
 
if you can bear it 20 seconds
in the measure of a day, which is
to say maybe the unwashed could 
use a hand
 
not sanitizers, and who has a right 
to Softsoap, now, from the big refill 
bottles would be all of us apostles, 
brothers, unseen sisters, 
 
as in my sewer-worker days we’d 
forgo the elbow-high rubber gloves 
and dip hands into the open
ditch’s flow of feces
 
bumping against our rubber boots 
with rubbers, spittle, corn, all things
a sewer worker could straddle 
in a ditch to open
 
sanitary lines.  We’d unglove it
among the close-up pieces of our own
humanity.  We’d wash hands in it 
but not of it. 

Robert Stewart’s 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.

Guest editor, Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, is winner of a Red Mountain Press’s Editor’s Choice Award for Shadow Light. A new book of poetry from Red Mountain is Wing. Other recent books are The Turtle’s Beating Heart: One Family’s Story of Lenape Survival (a memoir, U. of Nebraska Press); Casino Bestiary (Spartan Press); and Jackalope, fiction (Red Mountain). She founded the Creative Writing Program at Haskell Indian Nations University, where she taught and was an administrator. Low is past board president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She has won 3 Kansas Notable Book Awards and recognition from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Sequoyah National Research Center, Poetry Society of America, The Circle -Best Native American Books, Roberts Foundation, Lichtor Awards, and the Kansas Arts Commission. Low has an MFA from Wichita St. U. and Ph.D. from Kansas U. Her website is http://www.deniselow.net, and her literary blog is http://deniselow.blogspot.com .

Facebook Suggests I Might Know a Man                       by Allison Blevins

After Kardshians season 6, episode 15: “Kim’s Fairytale Wedding”

His hair is long, struggles limply in the small picture, but the name I remember. Hard to forget this first kiss—eleven years old, with tongue—to forget how he pushed me hard against the bricks of his house still covered with raindrops, the grass—unmowed for weeks in fall rains—covered with raindrops. He kissed me hard. His tongue hard. His hand hard as it pressed and pressed hard between my legs. I didn’t feel any of it. He’s in a wheelchair now. You’re wrong—I don’t tell you this because it is just or judgement—it is simply so. I’d rather have held the rain close, close as the drops I’d watched run down the blades as if paused on my brother’s VCR, held how, after, my sweater pilled in the small space where my upper back pressed hard into brick. Seeing him like this should have made me feel. But nothing is as good as it looks on the screen:  hotel room towels, cheeseburgers, politicians. Not even kisses.

Allison Blevins received her MFA at Queens University of Charlotte and is a Lecturer for the Women’s Studies Program at Pittsburg State University and the Department of English and Philosophy at Missouri Southern State University. She has been a finalist for the Cowles Poetry Book Prize, the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and the Moon City Poetry Award.  Her work has appeared in such journals as Mid-American Reviewthe minnesota reviewNimrod International JournalSinister Wisdom, and Josephine Quarterly.  Her chapbook A Season for Speaking (Seven Kitchens Press), part of the Robin Becker Series, is forthcoming in 2019.  Another chapbook Letters to Joan (Lithic Press) is also forthcoming in 2019. She lives in Missouri with her wife and three children where she co-organizes the Downtown Poetry reading series and is Editor-in-Chief of Harbor Review.

Editor-in-Chief 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 asTheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.   

The  Salep  and the Spice                                                       by Clara Rabbani 

A woman  
in a burka  
lifts her veil  
to taste  
the salep  
and the spice.  
   
To savor  
orchids that  
bloomed in winter  
when the veil  
hid her frost-bitten  
cheeks from  
the stinging wind.  
   
In spring,  
she dreamt of  
saffron.  
Blossoms that  
reminded her of bruised  
fingertips.  
   
Palms turned  
upwards in the rain.  
   
She wipes away  
the dew,  
and is met  
by the fragrance  
of roses.  
   
They whisper to her  
from the  
unlikeliest of places.  
   
So she lifts her veil  
once more,  
to taste the salep  
and the spice.  
   
Oh,  
Turkish Dondurma,  
Syrian Booza,  
Woman of the world.  

Clara Rabbani is currently a senior in high school at Pembroke Hill. In the fall, she will be attending the University of Chicago to study Anthropology. Her poetry mainly explores cultural identity, specifically her Iranian and Brazilian heritage, as well as issues related to social and environmental justice.   

Editor-in-Chief 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 asTheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.