Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

I had a lifetime penchant for clipping and saving whatever suited my fancy from the newspaper, starting at fifteen with my grandmother’s obituary notice. Lately, Tyson biting off a piece of Holyfield’s ear, Clinton’s Whitewater troubles, a beauty shop expanding to a full-service salon, Frontenac High School football games, lots of local wedding and anniversary announcements and, of course, obituaries. While I was living up in Kansas City, I collected song lyrics by jotting them down on scraps of paper at work, then transcribing them longhand into books — 15 all told. You might remember I mixed sodas and malts with Gertie behind the marble counter at Fedell’s Drug Store in the 1950s. For five years before Fedell’s, I took care of my bedridden mother. Once I forgot some anniversary or birthday and told her I was sorry — that I should have bought her some flowers. “You don’t need to buy me no flowers, Margaret,” she said. “You’re my flower.”

~ J. T. Knoll

T. Knoll,a native of the Republic of Frontenac, Kansas, is a counselor, prize-winning newspaper columnist, poet and speaker. Ghost Sign, his recent collaboration with three other Southeast Kansas poets, was selected as a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. He lives in Pittsburg on Euclid’s Curve, with his wife, Linda, and dog, Arlo the Labradorean.

Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His collection, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. Ghost Sign, a collaborative work, was released in 2017 from Spartan Press in Kansas City. It was named a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has been featured on the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Ortolani serves on the Board of the Little Balkans Press and Woodley Press. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Place in Kansas City. Recently, he retired after teaching for 43 years in Kansas. He’s sometimes trips going up or down curbs. He once said that if he didn’t laugh at himself, someone else would beat him to it.

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Before she came to America your grandmother served three sisters in a chicken legged cottage in Russia, a dancing cottage that turned and turned among the trees, a woodcutter’s cottage in a clearing in a forest and the woodcutter was never home, a modest cottage that turned and turned with three beautiful sisters inside,

 

Woodsman’s daughters they were and your grandmother was servant to the three sisters and small and capable, and silent and quick, when she plucked a chicken she was a fistful of feathers and the woodcutter was never home, and the three sisters laughed at your grandmother, her clothes and her smell and her manners,

She belonged outside where she was born they said, she smelled like the skin of animals — and the truth of the matter is your grandmother DID spring out of the earth, like a mushroom, near a tree where the cottage pigs dug up roots in summer, and when she walked through the cottage a chill like outdoors followed her from room to room,

And the three sisters were afraid of that and they didn’t like the look in her eyes and called her Baba, as in Baba Yaga, and they called her that right in front of her face, and she said nothing and tended the smoky stove and cleaned things up, she pushed the handle of a broom through straw to chase away mice, when it was necessary,

 

And in the candlelight of evening the cottage danced and the pine forest was silent and watchful, and the silence was terrible and wonderful and enchanted at the same time, and the clatter of chicken bones and metal plates, and in winter the three sisters ate turnip soup and laughed and were very happy,

 

And the woodsman was not there, and the wind shook off the blanket of snow which covered the trees and the animals and the wet straw roof, and your grandmother standing outside the door of the dancing cottage, dreaming of America

~ George Wallace

George Wallace is writer in residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, author of 31 chapbooks of poetry and winner of the Naim Fraisheri grand prize at the International Poetry Festival “Ditët e Naimit.” Editor of Poetrybay and co-editor of Great Weather for Media in New York City he travels regularly to share his work with poetry with writers across the United States and internationally. Recent appearances in Kansas include the Gordon Parks Museum, Pittsburg Library, Prospero‘s Books (2012); and the 2017 Kansas City Poetry Throwdown. An interview with the poet may be heard via ‘The Poet and the Poem,” webcasts & podcasts from the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress.

 

Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His collection, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. Ghost Sign, a collaborative work, was released in 2017 from Spartan Press in Kansas City. It was named a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has been featured on the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Ortolani serves on the Board of the Little Balkans Press and Woodley Press. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Place in Kansas City. Recently, he retired after teaching for 43 years in Kansas. He’s sometimes trips going up or down curbs. He once said that if he didn’t laugh at himself, someone else would beat him to it.

For years a boy will watch his father’s hands

uncross crossed coils before he gets the knack

of never pulling tight, before he gets

his father’s words: Don’t pull until you clear

the nub. In time a boy will learn to make

a nearly perfect cast, to place a plug

between two lily pads or softly by

a rock. A father though won’t always clear

 

the nub, won’t always find the words to say

exactly what he means and by the time

he learns, his doubt has hardened to regret.

A line recalls the worst that it’s been through –

a backlash pulled too soon will tighten up

and leave a kink a thousand casts won’t cure.

~ James Haines

 

Jim Haines lives in Lawrence, Kansas. His poems have appeared most recently in Spank the Carp, Inscape, Naugatuck River Review, Blue Island Review, and The Evening Street Review. Poems are forthcoming in “Measure, A Review of Formal Poetry” and in “The United States of Poetry”, an anthology to be published by the National Geographic Society. He is a lifelong woodworker and is retired from a career in law, business, and teaching.

 

Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His collection, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. Ghost Sign, a collaborative work, was released in 2017 from Spartan Press in Kansas City. It was named a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has been featured on the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Ortolani serves on the Board of the Little Balkans Press and Woodley Press. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Place in Kansas City. Recently, he retired after teaching for 43 years in Kansas. He’s sometimes trips going up or down curbs. He once said that if he didn’t laugh at himself, someone else would beat him to it.

-July-

Since yesterday’s Farm Futures

fell the limit because of rain

in Chicago or K.C.,

and his corn is dry, the farmer

decides he has worked too long

for nothing. He gets up

late, and puts on clean clothes.

He feeds the sows

an extra bucket, because

it is the holiday thing to do.

Unimpressed, because

it’s expected, they fight,

tail-snatching over the last

bite, squealing like tires

on pavement.

With contempt, the farmer

looks at the dirt

blown into the garage.

He cleans his car, then sharpens

the blade on the mower.

Each misplaced

tool finds its place. For lunch

he licks a candy bar

out of its wrapper, while the oil

drains out of his tractor.

He walks 200 yards to pull

one weed out of a field.

Farm magazines stacked

beside his chair, he watches

the weather change. It moves rapidly

across a computerized map

in Wichita. A sun sits

on Illinois, low-pressure

over Nebraska. Because it’s time

the farmer turns out the light,

stares at the dark, and looks

forward to tomorrow’s work,

because it’s expected.

~ Greg German

Originally Published in Kansas Quarterly, 1993 V.24, #4

Greg German was born and raised near Glen Elder, in north central Kansas, where he farmed with his family for many years. He currently lives in Kansas City, Kansas, with his wife Regina and son, Alden. He is a private consultant specializing in web site development, special project consulting, and photography. (www.limestone9consulting.com) He holds a B.A. degree in English/Creative writing and a B.S. in Education from Kansas State University.  Greg developed and maintains www.kansaspoets.com — a website unique to Kansas Poets. Greg’s poetry and personal essays have appeared in over 50 literary journals across the U.S.

James Benger is a father, husband and writer. His work has been featured in several publications. He is the author of two fiction ebooks: Flight 776 (2012) and Jack of Diamonds (2013), and two chapbooks of poetry: As I Watch You Fade (EMP 2016) and You’ve Heard It All Before (GigaPoem 2017). He is a member of the Riverfront Readings Committee in Kansas City, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online poetry workshop and is Editor In Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and son.

It takes seconds to forget the road,

my husband’s attention distracted by

potato chip delights (like snowflakes

no two land on the fingertips alike)

as we navigate Missouri landscapes

through snow pillows sculpted by wind.

 

seconds to do a one-eighty,

skid on the slick road ice-sheeted

as a river – visions of home

now littered with tattered limbs

smashed like potato chip crumbs –

to a momentary destiny in a ditch.

 

seconds to catch our breaths,

 

a young farmer arrives,

boy-scout-prepared for instant action

with ballast and chains in the bed

of his four wheel drive pickup.

“You folks need help?” he asks.

 

seconds to nod yes,

 

he hooks our black VW dinghy

to his great white GMC lifeboat,

and tows us back to the icy flow.

“What’s neighbors for anyway?”

he dismisses tendered thanks, departs.

 

until seconds expand to minutes.

 

Once more alert and face-first, we continue

homeward along wind-buffeted highways

to crash into pillows and duvets

mounded like snowdrifts but warm

and nibble on our chips in peace.

~ Karin L. Frank

Karin L. Frank is an award-winning author from the Kansas City area. Her poems and prose have been published in both literary journals and genre magazines in the U.S. and abroad.

James Benger is a father, husband and writer. His work has been featured in several publications. He is the author of two fiction ebooks: Flight 776 (2012) and Jack of Diamonds (2013), and two chapbooks of poetry: As I Watch You Fade (EMP 2016) and You’ve Heard It All Before (GigaPoem 2017). He is a member of the Riverfront Readings Committee in Kansas City, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online poetry workshop and is Editor In Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and son.

and our country was never so full with lies

I will count the minutes until we live

no longer in a post-truth country

where inviting despots to black tie dinners

is normal and where every day

the government is laced clear through

like bad pot with logical fallacies

 

Bad Hombres is only cool

as a license plate or bumper sticker

or a teenage bedroom door sign

and I will not give in

to the vortex of rancid hate

sucking up the good men and

 

women and children of this country

even as Big Bird and breakfast

for school kids might be next

 

the polar bears have to stand

on one leg now but

what about how much oil we need

we could melt down all the

polar bears, cut the middleman

 

out that way

and will we build another mother

for all the bombs that are orphans now

like every little child they lie down on

until the movement stops

~ Tyler Robert Sheldon

Tyler Robert Sheldon is the author of First Breaths of Arrival (Oil Hill Press, 2016) and Traumas (Yellow Flag Press, 2017). His poems and/or reviews have appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Quiddity International Literary Journal, Coal City Review, The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature, and other venues, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the AWP Intro Journals Award. Sheldon holds an MA in English from Emporia State University. He lives in Baton Rouge. View his work at tyrsheldon.wixsite.com/trspoetry.

James Benger is a father, husband and writer. His work has been featured in several publications. He is the author of two fiction ebooks: Flight 776 (2012) and Jack of Diamonds (2013), and two chapbooks of poetry: As I Watch You Fade (EMP 2016) and You’ve Heard It All Before (GigaPoem 2017). He is a member of the Riverfront Readings Committee in Kansas City, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online poetry workshop and is Editor In Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and son.

En el super,

she places on the counter

a cow’s tongue,

a cow’s heart,

a cow’s liver,

in that order,

the same order,

every week,

while getting the groceries

for her madrastra.

Blancanieves, I call her,

my Snow White de Guatemala.

 

While ringing up her food

I ask again, Blanca, why

do you always place them

on the counter in this order?

She pulls at her hair,

shrugs her shoulders,

and scratches her thigh.

First the tongue,

then the heart,

then the liver.

This is the order.

 

Some days I see her

in town with her madrastra.

While they wait for the bus,

her madrastra jerks

Blanca’s hair

to keep her

from stepping into the street,

or to make her

ashamed of her beauty.

Then she cuffs her shoulder,

and smacks her on the thigh.

Always in this order.

 

I go hunting one weekend,

kill a jabalí and take its heart,

and when I see Blanca again

 

I give it to her

in the store’s packaging.

Para tu madrastra, I say.

Un corazón de cerdo.

She pulls a manzana

from beneath her camisa

and drops it with a thud

behind the liver.

Y esta, she grins.

 

Gregory Stapp received his BA from the University of Oklahoma and his MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. His poems have appeared in Outside In Literary and Travel Magazine, Lime Hawk Journal, Shot Glass, The Ekphrastic Review, and Forage, among others. He recently served as the Poetry Editor for Qu: A Literary Magazine.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is President of the Kansas Authors Club. His poetry book, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book.

 

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