Dark Times ~ By Jacinta Camacho Kaplan

Open the heavy door
of neighborhood bowling alley,
no one’s there. Dark.
The Big Dipper requires sunglasses on a normal night.
I get my own shoes
and ball as if I own
the place and all the rules have changed.
 
At the snack bar, I pour
myself a lukewarm bottle
of Coke, grab a bag of potato chips, wait for the lights
to switch on while I learn patience; bears hibernate
in summer and tulips bloom
in January in North Dakota.
 
Knock on tavern door a block over. Sign says OPEN, 
but chairs are upside down on
tables, no bartender, no lies or exaggerations, 
no swagger, smoke, or temptation. The town’s devils 
have been evicted or found a better planet to corrupt.

Stand like a statue in the middle of the road, each 
corner empty of strollers,
skateboards, bikes and people on porches, 
no cars in driveways, no taxis to run me
over, no one to give me 
the finger with abandon— I miss that person.

The grocery store follows protocol to buy toilet paper, 
milk and bread. I load the ’72 Volvo wagon with hand sanitizer, 
disinfectant, bleach, and a new chest freezer. But the children 
are middle-aged; they buy their own supplies.

Angst like scratchy linen sheets rubs against raw skin 
like grief tumbling down a rocky hill, there before you realize its name. 
In the movies, they grab a bottle of booze and smoke when they worry,
I stuff cheap chocolates
and rocky road ice
cream down my gullet.

Jacinta Camacho Kaplan has written poems and plays since she learned to read. A retired architect/ restaranteur, she planned to publish her first chapbook called ‘Mooning Everything” in 1995. Jacinta still cannot copy and paste, but she cut her own bangs during lockdown—scissored a W for writer.

November Editor, Ronda Miller was State President of Kansas Authors Club, 2018 – 2019, Miller has three full length books of poetry: Going Home: Poems from My Life, MoonStain and WaterSigns and chapbook Winds of Time. Miller’s first children’s book, I Love the Child, was published 12/13/2019. The book’s illustrator is Katie Wiggins, a found cousin. I Love the Child, won first place for The Children’s Books Award at the Kansas Authors Club State convention, October, 2020.

butcher rack by Cei Loofe

 i wanna be a boy!
 that’s what i told every ‘old lady’ 
 that came to play bridge with my grandmother. 
 they would smile…
 ruffle my hair and say
 ‘you are cute honey, but you’re a girl.’
 and they were right. 
 i was cute.
 saddle leather tanned
 feathered with incorrigible
 able to fly with a wing span imagination wide 
 i ran shirtless, chest first into everything i could
 i would be cowboy, riding propane tanks all the way to dallas
 and building callouses on my hands from swinging on the kill rack
 long into the night
 washing the blood off before i came in.
 by the time i was seven i knew the meaning of sin.
 i didn’t know wanting to be a priest
 instead of a nun qualified
 so i lied after grandma’s disapproving glance
 and her suggestion i find a better habit. 
 i can still say mass, word for word. 
 i heard all her all their admonitions
 shame on you, young lady.
 wore the blouses they put me in
 my hair held perfect ringlet curls
 i became the precious i was expected to be
 and somewhere in the process
 i lost me. 
 my skin became pale.
 my feathers fell.
 i was no longer able to fly.
 the callouses left my hands, 
 i hung from the rack by a rope.
 long into the night. 
 but with a foothold, not a noose
 wishing to wash off who i had become,
 begin again, in new skin.
 two thousand  ‘what if’s’ and hundreds of ‘why not’s’ later
 i grew courage-gained new feathers sprouted in confidence blue.
 my arms stretched hallelujah-finally wide and i began to fly. 




Cei Loofe writes and makes art in Seward, NE with an ASL speaking dog and a quad of stone flipping fish. Loofe spent 25 years as a free-lance journalist before switching to creative writing. Since, he has been included in several anthologies and has been published three times independently.

November Editor, Ronda Miller was State President of Kansas Authors Club, 2018 – 2019, Miller has three full length books of poetry: Going Home: Poems from My Life, MoonStain and WaterSigns and chapbook Winds of Time. Miller’s first children’s book, I Love the Child, was published 12/13/2019. The book’s illustrator is Katie Wiggins, a found cousin. I Love the Child, won first place for The Children’s Books Award at the Kansas Authors Club State convention, October, 2020.

Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, KS on 12/02/2019

Where does your belief come from?
 
From the past being brought to the future
from the here & now
being unapologetically myself
trying to be the truest form of me
realizing that I am stronger than I know
 
so much stronger than I ever thought possible
exceeding even my own expectations
 
stay true to yourself
 
but is there still meaning
in that, or has it become
cliché?
 
Because the only difference
between a groove & grave
is the depth




 

Exquisite corpse: (from the French term cadavre exquis), A method by which a collection of words or images are collectively assembled. I collected these poems as I traveled through Kansas. These poems are written collectively by Kansans at readings, open mics and workshops. The titles of each poem are the locations and dates where they were assembled. They are part of Exquisite Kansas, a collection to be published at the end of my laureateship.

Highland Park High School in Topeka, KS on 11/25/2019

I.

Who are you talking to today & how are they?

My future and it’s looking bright
brighter than the sun
& stronger than the waves
 
the waves crashing all around me
I feel that it will one day pull me under
&  let me drown
 
I feel like if I’m drowning in thought
without a second to stop
when I stop there would be
emptiness
 
I would be happy but I wouldn’t be myself
& if I’m not myself
happiness isn’t important
 
II.
 
How do you let thing go?
 
By walking away
or ignoring
the issue
or by bottling
my emotions
 
open that bottle
& spew out
all of your feelings
 
but make sure you’re
in the right place first
think very carefully
on where those emotions
are coming from
but let your emotions
be natural
 
you can’t solve anything
running away

or else
they will control you
control what you feel
or why you should
like their puppet
 
dancing sadly
as you dangle
from the thick strings
 
this is not the life, but
 
tugs of war
tears in hearts
pulls from peers
as they trace
our tears
 
our eyes miss nothing
our breath releases all




 
 

Exquisite corpse: (from the French term cadavre exquis), A method by which a collection of words or images are collectively assembled. I collected these poems as I traveled through Kansas. These poems are written collectively by Kansans at readings, open mics and workshops. The titles of each poem are the locations and dates where they were assembled. They are part of Exquisite Kansas, a collection to be published at the end of my laureateship.

Benedictine College in Atchinson, KS on 11/19/19

Where do you go for words?
Where do you go for meaning?
 
Sometimes meaning hides,
like burning stars silenced behind
the lights of the city
 
like a child, waiting to unveil a secret
entrusted to her care
wanting to take hold of it, but knowing
if I grasp it, it will break
 
words flow around us
like water or wind
 
the raucous screams of crows
like the faceless mouths calling for
the death of the battered prize fighter
 
one thousand joined in a single voice
joined in a single, solid song
but I’m afraid to venture in the dark attic
& reach for them, afraid
I will get lost in those words
 
Lost at a grocery store
 —alone

My mother,
one aisle over
 
My heart is a lemon in my mouth
not sweet enough to savor nor
sour enough to make me cry
 
& what to do with this other than
reject it—to spit it out
 
I swallow
 


Exquisite corpse: (from the French term cadavre exquis), A method by which a collection of words or images are collectively assembled. I collected these poems as I traveled through Kansas. These poems are written collectively by Kansans at readings, open mics and workshops. The titles of each poem are the locations and dates where they were assembled. They are part of Exquisite Kansas, a collection to be published at the end of my laureateship.

Robinson Middle School in Topeka on 11/15/2019

Tai Amri Spann-Ryan’s students

I.
 
I always want to be
the best I can be
but sometimes it’s hard
to always stay positive
& to keep your head up
to always think about wonderful things
 
Life is different for everyone
maybe we can sit under the stars
& think about how we are
all special in this world
cool & brave
 
My life is awesome & cool everyday
I want to be safe wherever I go
there will be a show
that I go to & roar
I go to an orchard
 
II.
 
One day I will find
one soul that will join me
OOGA BOOGA
 
Join me on the road
lighten up the soul
with a smile that is
so full
 
I will find flowers




 

Exquisite corpse: (from the French term cadavre exquis), A method by which a collection of words or images are collectively assembled. I collected these poems as I traveled through Kansas. These poems are written collectively by Kansans at readings, open mics and workshops. The titles of each poem are the locations and dates where they were assembled. They are part of Exquisite Kansas, a collection to be published at the end of my laureateship.

Pratt High School in Pratt on 11/28/2019

Where has all the summer gone?
 
The summer was sweet
The summer was salty
Long days full of laughter
Joy was evident under the hot sun
Joy is summer, summer holds beauty
beauty is a blessing
 
The summer turns dark
Cold and desperate
 
The summer will vanish & leave
but will always find its way back
to us
although summer is where bellowing heat
resides, there are also relenting, rosy tides
& in those times I think
do my friends really love me?
They never seem to call me
 
The sun rises the sun falls
but why do my friends never call
even when I call them
they still don’t talk to me
 
So instead, I speak to the sky,
the sun, the clouds, stars, moon
& all the galaxies in between
that stop & listen as I spill
my heart like rain
 
An aching like no other
why must I continue to
exist in pain for the
benefit of those who
don’t care
 
to their senses
understand
how the world is
& can be
 
the sunlight ripped away
now there is no light
I can’t see where
I was or should be

I sat there with nothing
empty  inside
I’ve decided I can no longer hide
there’s so many words stuck
in this mind of mine
for we, the children of mankind
teeter on the brink, between
fear and success
the fear of fear itself,
withers away the thought of success
 
Someday, maybe, we’ll understand why
all the success consumes our minds
 
But why do our minds crave success
the thing that eats us
inside & out
 
with the consumption of our body.




 
 

Exquisite corpse: (from the French term cadavre exquis), A method by which a collection of words or images are collectively assembled. I collected these poems as I traveled through Kansas. These poems are written collectively by Kansans at readings, open mics and workshops. The titles of each poem are the locations and dates where they were assembled. They are part of Exquisite Kansas, a collection to be published at the end of my laureateship.

Ellen Plumb City Bookstore in Emporia on 9/06/19

That night, my heart
like drumbeats.
Your heart , like
Winter glass, clear
frost-rime-fragile.
Delicate, strong, precious
frost on my heart;
the beat slows.

Winter:
Death of nature.
Death of our love.

Yet still, somehow we carry on.
Never knowing how strong
we had to be, until we were
there, facing this, our own
stopping of the heart.

My heart, held in the hand
of an Inca lord, who reached 
into my chest, in the midst 
of an ayahuasca vision.

My head fell back as I
sunk more deeply into
the vision. My heart
glowed in his hand
-swollen with love.

Exhausted, long week,
will it get better?
Not anytime soon.

Floorboards creak beneath
the calloused feet
& lights flicker above
a war torn head.

Mango juice drips down
my hands on hilltop highs
as fight to get the spills
sweetness on my tongue.

Strawberries on my knees,
memories blooming as I feast,
childhood romps in green grass,
grubby hands holding
blood-red berries.

Ravenous, some might say,
but I do not see it that way.
I should not apologize for what
others have had in their time.

So devour, if it pleases, Mango
on the lips. Sweetness on the mind.
In this community– we share,
we support, we cheer
each other on.







Exquisite corpse: (from the French term cadavre exquis), A method by which a collection of words or images are collectively assembled. I collected these poems as I traveled through Kansas. These poems are written collectively by Kansans at readings, open mics and workshops. The titles of each poem are the locations and dates where they were assembled. They are part of Exquisite Kansas, a collection to be published at the end of my laureateship.

NOTO Burrito in Topeka on 9/04/2019

Speak Easy Poetry Open Mic (6th anniversary)

Small sliver in a grey river
shrivel and shiver, trampled,
please deliver  us warmth
if just for a moment,
if you would
 
Drench with comfort,
dry with love, only
for a moment, only
if you could.
 
I’ll get your weak wisping
hair from my eye
when I take the blade
to my scalp & shave 
from myself my need
for a better me
for you
 
you will see
 
The truth in your eyes
my love in your heart
 
Someday will be far away
but now —now is most precious
for new beginnings
there is no other time
 
In this moment, we are
finding ourselves anew,
changing
evolving
discovering
who we are together
in this world of individuality
 
Lines blur
emotions blend
and identities meld
as we all change
we lose and gain
 
Gain love, lose friends
growing and aging is
who we are, as humans
 
Safety no matter the cost
 
We lose a lot and gain a lot
but love is always around
I want to love you guy’s a lot
even the people I don’t know
 


Exquisite corpse: (from the French term cadavre exquis), A method by which a collection of words or images are collectively assembled. I collected these poems as I traveled through Kansas. These poems are written collectively by Kansans at readings, open mics and workshops. The titles of each poem are the locations and dates where they were assembled. They are part of Exquisite Kansas, a collection to be published at the end of my laureateship.

HOWL in Lawrence at The Bottleneck on 8/28/2019

May your words be safely perched in the bars as bones
that hold us upright. May you free them as sparrows.

And may they return to you fuller, more vibrant; and free.
Free to begin building. You see, you can’t migrate unless you

can create your own home. We make houses from our own
bones, moving freely from place to place, creating safe havens

in the spaces around us. About Face. Like a Phoenix from ashes. Brass taxes is playing “Taps” for Civs. Be the change you want to see at knifepoint.

Myrna birds peering behind the trashcan. Eating the disposed,
the very things no one found value for.

I am not to be consumed or repurposed or recycled. Throw me
in compost. Let me be flower. Let me be aroma. Let me be color.

Let me be beauty. I wanted to turn wasted moments into outside
galleries. Where art is life and life mimics absolutely anything I am.

My truth is beautiful. I have been trash. I still am beautiful.
Pick me like a daisy stuck in the crevice of a sidewalk you walk down daily.

Don’t ignore me. See that, I don’t belong here. But here I am.
Rising out of the slab, the cold gray indifference.

I am color. I am life. Pick me.

 

Exquisite corpse: (from the French term cadavre exquis), A method by which a collection of words or images are collectively assembled. I collected these poems as I traveled through Kansas. These poems are written collectively by Kansans at readings, open mics and workshops. The titles of each poem are the locations and dates where they were assembled. They are part of Exquisite Kansas, a collection to be published at the end of my laureateship.