Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

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Mother of Exiles — By Tava Miller

On May 20, several poets shared poems in resonance with the 1962 Brown Vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ended school segregation as part of the Voices of Freedom festival held in downtown Topeka. Here is a poem delivered and written by Tava Miller.

Just the other day I stood frozen

As I watched children being separated from their mother

As I watched  this family weep for one another, I began to wonder

If I weep with them, would I be next?

Should I hold my tongue’s dialect and pray that my silence grants me Asylum in a country that already treats me like I don’t belong here?

I too, belong here.

Dear Mr Trump,

How dare you tear families apart and call it security!?

I’m more afraid of the obscurity of hatred you express in 140 characters or less

Than skin sun-kissed like sand

Beautiful, but banned

The irony…

Brown skin synonymous with bombs

But when have wars ever began with anything other than white privilege?

It’s sickening how your so-called “agenda” means suffering for all of us

Maybe it’s because this was never your land to begin with

And everybody knows old habits die slow

Do you even know what a good night’s rest feels like anymore?

I mean you must be haunted by the ghosts of all the bodies whose blood you now carry on your hands

Broken bones are buried in your back yard

And white supremacy alive and well

This is not the story I plan to tell my grandchildren one day

Instead I want to say that I spoke louder than I ever had before when a nation tried to silence me while sending families back to war zones

I will teach them that their own brown skin embodied voices are beautiful

And that whenever the discussion of humanity arises

They can hold their head up high because they too have every right to sing along to the song we call America.

~ Tava Miller

Tava Miller writes, “I was raised in Topeka KS. I have performed my poetry in cities across the nation. Always had a love for words. My work mostly focuses on social justices and adversity. I hope that my work inspires others to find the courage to use their own voices.”

Conversation After Love — By Catherine Anderson

In that fragrant pool

a bisque light hovers.

We speak of our separate

grandparents, how they appeared

in the mundane grain of life,

tapping the wall to find a light switch,

folding softened sheets of the bed

they made for us—your ancestor,

my ancestor, their simple acts.

After love, before parting, our

breath released as one apparition,

our conjoined air accepting the transfer

of time and its diminishment,

we’re spent, we’re tired, we follow

any direction the conversation takes.

And those people from whom

we descend—ghosts riding

ghosts, alike but unknown

to each other, the plank road

they traveled or the wooden

turnstile passed through.

How we’ve held them in our minds

our whole lives: pocket watch,

handkerchief, coal stove,

two grey citizens glimpsed

those mornings on what

would each be their last bed.

~ Catherine Anderson

Catherine Anderson’s most recent poetry collection is Woman with a Gambling Mania (Mayapple Press). She is a Pushcart Prize winner (November 2017). Her poems have appeared in the I-70 Review, the Southern Review and others. She lives in Kansas City where she works with area refugee communities.

Guest Editor Maril Crabtree holds B.A, M.A., and J.D. degrees from the University of Kansas and has taught French, English, therapeutic writing, yoga, and sustainable living. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have been published in numerous journals, along with three chapbooks. Her full-length collection, Fireflies in the Gathering Dark, will be published in August, 2017.

Ideas/Gardens by Thomas Fox Averill

averill-tomLongwood Botanical Garden, Pennsylvania:

The Idea Garden demonstrates plants and plantings,

juxtapositions and designs, for home gardeners.

 

Every Botanical Garden is an Idea Garden,

every gardener a home gardener.

 

Nature, expressing itself, element

by element, is an Idea Garden.

 

Live near a Botanical Garden: your neighborhood

will lean toward it, as though a plant learning the sun.

 

Plants, design features, walls, fountains, plantings,

will escape the garden walls and sneak into nearby yards.

 

The Botanical Garden, swept and manicured:

such Godliness promotes cleanliness for blocks and blocks.

 

Your clean neighborhood will make a nice entryway

to that destination, the Botanical Garden.

 

Take a cutting from, find a seed in, the Botanical Garden:

so planted, your neighborhood will be a Botanical Garden.

 

The seeds in your boot treads will take root as you visit

the Botanical Garden, which will then become your neighborhood.

 

The butterfly in your bush, the bird in your redbud,

fly into the Botanical Garden without boundaries.

 

Colorful wings flutter, birdsong warbles,

humming wings nudge their way into any flower.

 

The Botanical Garden, your neighborhood, earth

and sky, are one place. Nature is one place.

 

All Ideas welcomed into this garden.

~ Thomas Fox Averill

An O. Henry Award story writer, Thomas Fox Averill is Writer-in-Residence at Washburn University of Topeka, KS. His novel, rode, published by the University of New Mexico Press, was named Outstanding Western Novel of 2011 as part of the Western Heritage Awards. His recent work, “Garden Plots,” consists of poems, meditations, and short-short stories about gardens, gardeners, garden design, plants, and the human relationship to nature.  His most recent novel is A Carol Dickens Christmas, which won the Byron Caldwell Smith Award from the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas, and was named a Kansas Notable Book in 2015.

Tyler Sheldon earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, where he taught English Composition and received the 2016 Charles E. Walton Graduate Essay Award. His poems and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, Quiddity International Literary Journal, Thorny Locust, and other journals. Sheldon is a two-time AWP Intro Journals Award nominee, and has appeared on Kansas Public Radio.

Aunt Mar Changes How We See by Kim Stafford

Kim StaffordShe had taken to having naps

most afternoons in the side parlor

while the TV flickered, muttered

brash fuss or hush of snow

 

as the long hours rounded into dusk,

so dear Mar, when we found her,

lay settled in the easy chair where her

soft light had stepped to the window,

 

slipped free through the cold clear panes,

passed lively into the buds of cottonwood,

her whispered “Yes” to wind and stars,

her way with folding hands, learned young

 

by lasting through the thirties, by raising nine

alone, by dealing books to hungry eyes in school,

by feeding us on the stove named Detroit Jewel,

her winsome prayers at times both hard and good

 

gone deep to the loyal roots of hickory, her calm

to elm reaching over the long prairie road

that joins the there of her

to the here of us, until it all

 

turns inside out, and through the world

beyond all trouble to core affections, no matter

how far or strange, we now see our days

by the gentle gaze of Mar.

~ Kim Stafford

Kim Stafford is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College, where he has taught writing since 1979, and is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, including The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft and A Thousand Friends of Rain: New & Selected Poems.  His most recent books are 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared, and Wind on the Waves: Stories from the Oregon Coast.

Tyler Sheldon earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, where he taught English Composition and received the 2016 Charles E. Walton Graduate Essay Award. His poems and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, Flint Hills Review, I-70 Review, Quiddity International Literary Journal, Thorny Locust, and other journals. Sheldon is a two-time AWP Intro Journals Award nominee, and has appeared on Kansas Public Radio.

Death Knell for the Family Farm by Carolyn Hall

Carolyn Hall 001I bid farewell to the season of my childhood

Proud limestone house defended me from nature’s rages

Scent of Grandma’s lilacs filtered through my bedroom window

Stutterstart of rusted McCormick tractor protested early morning chores

Wheat fields swayed in rhythm to Kansas wind

 

My brief homecomings startle me

 

Roofs sag under the burden of years

Wild sunflowers flood the land and spread victory over silent machines

Cattle roam among skeletal remains of once-pampered bushes

Blank stares from hollow windows haunt the landscape

Turtle doves take flight, mourn the loss

~ Carolyn Hall

Carolyn Hall grew up on  a  family farm near Olmitz, Kansas. Her writings include “Prairie Meals and Memories,” a memoir cookbook focusing on family farm life, named one of the Best 150 Books of Kansas. She has also written for the Chicken Soup series, The Kansas City Star, Christian Science Monitor and several other publications. She lives in Shawnee, Kansas.

Maril Crabtree spent her childhood in Memphis and grew up in New Orleans, but married a Kansas boy five decades ago and considers herself a full-bred Kansan by now. She writes poetry and creative nonfiction and her poems have appeared in I-70 Review, DMQ Review, Spank the Carp, and others. Her latest chapbook is Tying the Light (2014); some of her poems can be seen at www.marilcrabtree.com

Tempo, Nearly Autumn by Ramona McCallum

McCallum headshot photoI’m lying awake in this life and listening
to sound tell me something beyond
my bedroom window, three flights high.

It’s four in the morning & tree frogs layer
their song in the backyard, along
with crickets and cicadas. This time

of year, something frantic beats
inside of all of us. So much happens
that we don’t really understand. The bedroom
ceiling fan speeds up with a pull of its cord.
The old refrigerator is ready to die but still
insists on whining to the best of its slow
and slightly-chilled ability.

A few minutes ago, I accidentally
toppled a tower of books onto the wooden floor
from their place on the windowsill, in hopes
of glimpsing the meteor shower
everyone spoke of yesterday.

But I saw bats instead. They slid,
silent through the air the way that wisps
of black paper will rise from a fire, curling
like sheets of concert music into shadow,
that the maestro has no further use for.

And as I slide back into bed I hear them
orchestrate their high-pitched chatter, coming,
I figure now, up-side down from the gaps
between the walls of this apartment.

Does it matter, when I moved in here a year ago,
I thought that was the sound of birds,
building a nest on the roof?

~ Ramona McCallum

McCallum is the author of the poetry collection Still Life with Dirty Dishes (2013, Woodey Press) and is in the second year of her MFA studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she is a Durwood Poetry Fellow. Ramona and her husband Brian McCallum, a ceramic sculptor, and their six children are currently founding a nonprofit organization called PowerHouse Universe whose mission is to recognize and encourage the creative abilities of youth by providing opportunities for positive self-expression in the literary, visual and performance arts.

Guest editor: Kevin Rabas co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State and co-edits Flint Hills Review. He has four books: Bird’s Horn, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar, also a Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, and Spider Face: stories. He writes, “For my month, I searched for poems that meditate on “time” in its many musical nuances, such as in times a tune jogged your memory, times the music seemed to transport you in time, times you patted your foot or danced to the music’s groove (time), times the music jump-started your heart (internal time), OR meditations on musical elements (such as 4/4 time vs. 6/8 time OR swung vs. straight, rock 2+4 time).”

Boys from Shaw, Kansas by Claudia Mundell

ClaudiaConsolidation closed rural township schools,
Brought the Shaw boys to town.
Swaggering down locker lined halls,
Wearing button down Madras and smelling of Brute,
Their flushed, sun freckled faces
Tossed flirty smiles at glancing girls
Like horseshoes shooting for a ringer.

Muscled thighs squatted under football pads
Before skillful sprints took down half backs
And linemen in late summer practices
While wiry arms grappled teammates
Easily, like cottonwood and hedge pieces
Heaved into cords near a farmhouse.

Once afternoon buses rolled them home again,
The young studs threw hay off pickup trucks,
Cultivated standing soybeans,
Checked bulls fenced on a back forty,
Plowed up Osage arrowheads and
Pottery shards hiding in wheat stubble
While riding red tractor stallions
Across Neosho River bottom dirt.
Shaw boys returned to actual life
On the Big Muddy–
Just like before consolidation.

~Claudia Mundell grew up in Kansas with work life in Missouri. She has memories from each state that work their way into fiction and poetry. Since retiring, she writes for pleasure—and maybe for profit someday. Her work appears in MidRivers Review, Yellow Medicine Review, Rosebud, TEA, Oklahoma Review, and several anthologies.

~February’s Guest Editor, Laura Lee Washburn directs the Creative Writing program at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas which offers undergraduate and graduate emphases in creative writing. She is the author of the Palanquin Prize chapbook Watching the Contortionists, and March Street Press’s This Good Warm Place. You can find her work in journals such as The Journal, The Sun, Valparaiso Poetry Review,, and at The Broadsided Press website.

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