Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

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My Flag–by Greg Kosmicki

 

It is after dinner and I go to shake
the crumbs from the tablecloth.
They fall down onto the porch steps

for the crickets and the mice and ants.
We live in a great country
there is enough for all.

The tablecloth unfurls lightly on the held breath
of the still fall night air
and it seems to me to be like a flag

with the blue stripe all around the border
and the blue stripe enclosing the field at center
a field which encloses some flowers

but could not hold in even all the flowers
since some of them have escaped
and drifted, as on water or a breeze

toward the bright blue border.
It is the flag of the friendly country
where even the vermin have enough to eat

and I’m waving it from my porch for you.
I want you to come and join me
and my family, I want you to sit

at my table and have bread and lasagna with us
so we can talk about the war and the taxes.
I want you to help me shake crumbs on the porch

I want to wash it and iron it and fold it safely
to place it gently and with respect in the drawer
for our next dinner when we will not have

marched under any other flag
for I know you could not be a traitor to me
we will all be so insanely happy

we had not yet had to die for any cause.
I want you to spill your wine
I want you to get bread crumbs on my flag.

 

[Initially self-published in When There Wasn’t Any War, The Backwaters Press, 1987, with ½ proceeds donated to Nebraskans for Peace. Anthologized in A Sandhills Reader: Thirty years of great writing from the Great Plains, Mark Sanders, Ed., Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2015. Anthologized in Nebraska Poetry; A Sesquicentennial Anthology, Daniel Simon, Ed., Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2017. Forward by Twyla Hansen, Nebraska State Poet. Included in Leaving Things Unfinished: Forty-some Years of Poems, (Selected Poems), Mark Sanders, Ed., Sandhills Press, scheduled for 2018 publication.]

Greg Kosmicki is the author of eleven books and chapbooks of poems. He founded The Backwaters Press in 1997 and is Emeritus Editor. He and his wife, Debbie, are parents of three and grandparents of two. Greg has been involved in peace and justice and anti-war efforts since the early 1980s.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

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This is a prayer for a field. . . — by Kathleen Cain

 

on the high plains, descended from mountains and foothills.
This is a hymn for foothills, twenty miles upstream; an incantation for mountains both
shining and dark; navy blue; unearthly green.
This is Hosanna! for erosion and differential resistance
and disintegration stone by pebble by grain
in the wind. And the rain. In snow. And ice.
This is praisesong for freezing and cracking, an orison for Old Red Sandstone losing its grip.
This is a Kyrie for letting go: eleison of return, oxygen from leaves, plainsong of snowfall from blizzard clouds; speaking in tongues for run-off at snowmelt.
This is a mandala for creeks threading east and west,
a burnt offering for gravity—pilgrimage along the path of least resistance.
This is riparian adoration—for cottonwoods making their way one at a time, procession of ash and elm following; sycamore; currant bushes; forbs and grasses, bluestem and grama.
This is a charm for natural flooding along green rivers, brown streams, sunburned creeks.
This is a novena for trees accused of taking too much water after the dam has been built, the stream diverted, the irrigation allotment overspent in ever-widening circles of evaporation.
This is a rosary for roots holding earthen banks in their grip, a lorica for their leaved branches keeping the water cool—the catfish, the bullhead, the bass—for holding algae at bay.
This is an Alleleuia! for shade and shelter, for life breathed back into the world. Amen! Blessed Be! along the river, the creek, the stream, the field. . .

 

Kathleen Cain is a native Nebraskan who has lived in Colorado since 1972. Her nonfiction book The Cottonwood Tree: An American Champion (2007) was selected for the Nebraska 150 Books Project. Two of her poems appeared in Nebraska Poetry: A Sesquicentennial Anthology, 1867-2017.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

Alien Guest–by Guinotte Wise

Marshland out back. Soggy, sucking. I skip and splash along the outskirts to keep from sinking. Then a rise. Then a hollow. These different strata and the stone shelf beneath house crystals that are ground and pressured to release soft light at night. It comes and goes. The earthquakes spider outward from Oklahoma, the aftershocks like unfinished thoughts unfelt here in southeast Kansas but disturbing the shelf just enough. You have to look indirectly to see the lights, more like sensing them.

I go to the ridge and down again to old growth trees that form a woods, even
a small forest, timed to coincide with earliest pre-dawn and the
coyote’s waking when they stretch and howl and gibber flushing rabbits
and small animals. In the marsh, with silvered surface, the crane rises and
shivers it, ripples it outward. The crane is gone in a whisper, but where it was still
ghosts. Like the lights. Like the familiars I feel around me.

And currents, too in the earth I’m on, Teslaic, telluric, you feel them like you see the lights, obliquely, anything that lives here knows them intimately, anything but man, and even though I sense them, I am alien. I am just a guest.

 

[Appeared in Scattered Cranes, a collection of poetry by G. Wise.]

Guinotte Wise’s work has appeared in numerous journals including Atticus, Rattle, Ekphrastic Review, The MacGuffin, and Southern Humanities Review. His first short story collection (Night Train, Cold Beer) won publication by a university press and enough money to fix the soffits. A Pushcart nominee, he writes and welds steel sculpture on a farm in Southeast Kansas. His latest book of poetry, Horses See Ghosts, was published this month. Some work is at http://www.wisesculpture.com

 Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

Wrap It Up!–by Jeff Worley

My mother would like to die now, please.
Her nursing home apartment is immaculate.
Friendly aides set hot meals in front of her
three times a day. Enough! So what!
She’s tired of their cheerier-than-thou
voices and those voices on television
trying to sell her on buying it, whatever
it is, however prettily wrapped.
TV light bathes her morning til night.
Then welcome sleep, an undress rehearsal
that never lasts long enough.
Awake again? The chattery girl asking
This top? These pants? And some slick
preacher “just stopping in,” wanting
her to donate her soul. My god.
It never ends. Which is all she wants.
And these framed photos grinning down
from the bookshelf, this innocent choir.
My mother knows what we’re thinking.
We want to keep her here. Children
she probably loved once, their own
disappointments just beyond the horizon . . .
Now, not knowing I can hear from the next room
she says, with conviction, What crap!

 

[First appeared in The Texas Review]

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 from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

Stowaway–by Matthew David Manning

You don’t declare Kansas.
Kansas keeps your scent
and adds your color to its blood.

Every time we go back to China,
I keep something hidden
from you and from customs.
I’ll get to our apartment in Suzhou,
open our suitcases, and release the last
breath of Kansas, our one ration.

Hair from the cats will riddle our clothes
until your mother washes them in secret.
She’s missed our surprised faces,
the sound of my voice held back,
embarrassed by limited vocabulary,
and the chance to ignore our praises
by busying herself in the kitchen.

I’d like to tell your mother how Kansas
is just like fresh laundry on the line,
it’s doing more than what you have to,
and it’s having dinner when all the wheat
in our empty and lightly salted land
leans close to the house trying to smell.

 

Matthew David Manning is an English instructor at Pittsburg State University (PSU) in the Intensive English Program. Matthew holds degrees in creative writing from Arizona State University and PSU. His poetry has appeared various publications including I-70 Review, Red Paint Hill, Rust + Moth, Kansas Time + Place, and Chiron Review. His website is at www.mattwritenow.com.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

Yes the Killers–by Robert L. Dean, Jr.

like a flock of brilliant birds and so
I wrote that poem he says and I say When

was it that you saw them and he says Four years
ago the day after they found that

missing girl’s body in the frozen field
over which I saw them floating and I just had this

feeling you know and I say Yes I know I saw them too
just yesterday all yellow and red and blue all

bunched together still like some small hand
had blossomed just a moment ago and set them free

they were headed north it was a sign to me of things to come
though the trees were all still bare armed

and so sorrowful there It would be nice
he says if we could all be like balloons Yes I say opening

out my hand it would be nice My name is Blue I add
My name is Red he says I search the sky

on the way back home but all around me is that
field there is no moon and the bone chill night is murderous black

like it must have been four years ago and yet somewhere
on the other side of the world it’s greening

spring and someone’s found little girl lets go a
flock of many colors into the bright beamed face of God

runs laughing open armed towards laughing opening arms and so
I write this poem Madonna And Child, Laughing for

Red and me the missing nameless all of us yes the
killers too because I just have this feeling you know if you ever see

balloons

 

[“Yes the Killers” first appeared in Illya’s Honey, Spring, 2015.]

Robert L. Dean, Jr.’s work has appeared in Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Illya’s Honey, Red River Review, River City Poetry, Heartland!, and the Wichita Broadsides Project. His haibun placed first at Poetry Rendezvous 2017. He has been selected as a reader at the 13th Annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in April of 2018 at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. He has been a professional musician and worked at The Dallas Morning News. He lives in Augusta, Kansas.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

In Trump’s America, I’ll Still Have–by Melissa Fite Johnson

my mother’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies—
tear open the packing tape, pop one in
the microwave, pretend she’s here in this
kitchen, her hands clasping a steaming mug.

opening day 2017, buttered popcorn,
souvenir sodas, high fives with strangers,
ketchup winning the animated condiment race,
someone’s proposal on the jumbotron.

a full sink, hot water and bubbles, lavender smell,
wine glass on the counter, soft terrycloth
slung over my bare shoulder, chickens dancing
the mashed potato outside the window.

my husband dipping to kiss my forehead
before work, my husband standing over a
boiling pot, my husband sitting in silence
as the television tells us awful bedtime stories.

 

Melissa Fite Johnson received her Master’s in English literature from Pittsburg 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 Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) together with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016. His latest book, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) contains ekphrastic poems, inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels, that “resound and sometimes subvert expectations” (Tyler Robert Sheldon), that provide “a kaleidoscope of history, art, culture, the sacred and the everyday” (Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg).

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