God Willing — By Antonio Vallone

my mother used to say

for minor events I’m sure

an omniscient, omnipresent

god had little concern for.

I’d say, “I hope I don’t have cavities”

or “I hope I get a raise this year.”

“God willing,” my mother said, hoping

herself, I suppose, the god she believed in

a little more near the end of her life

would, for the briefest moment,

stop juggling universes and look our way

while whole galaxies–

planets, moons, stars–

hung spinning in the sky.

~ Antonio Vallone

Antonio Vallone, associate professor of English at Penn State DuBois, founder of MAMMOTH books,  poetry editor of Pennsylvania English, co-founding editor of The Watershed Journal Literary Group. Published collections: The Blackbird’s Applause, Grass Saxophones, Golden Carp, and Chinese Bats. Forthcoming: American Zen, Blackberry Alleys: Collected Poems and Prose. In progress: The Death of Nostalgia.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity. YourRightLivelihood.com, Bravevoice.com, CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

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Lexicon — By Roy Beckemeyer

“…somewhere

someone speaks in a tongue I will never know”

                             —Kevin Rabas, “Translation”

Speaking this wordless language

of decades and seasons,

shared glances and barely

perceptible smiles,

brushings in passing,

looking up from a scene

to see it imprinting in each

other’s cascade of memories,

knowing we are both

descending that staircase,

lifting left feet over the same

scuffed patch of carpeting,

relaxing our fingers’ grip

at that splintered bit of railing,

seeing the sun spattering through

leaves into the dark corner

of the stairwell, opening

the door through which

we stepped together,

that first time, so many

years ago, when we inscribed

the initial entries in love’s lexicon

of lives lived long together.

~ Roy Beckemeyer

Roy Beckemeyer’s latest book is Mouth Brimming Over (2019, Blue Cedar). Stage Whispers (2018, Meadowlark) won the 2019 Nelson Poetry Book Award. Music I Once Could Dance To (2014, Coal City) was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. Roy Beckemeyer has designed and built airplanes, discovered and named fossils of Palaeozoic insect species, and once traveled the world. Beckemeyer lives with and for his wife of 60 years, Pat, in Wichita, Kansas.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity. YourRightLivelihood.com, Bravevoice.com, CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

The Promise — By Kyla McCollough

At night, in my dark sleeplessness, I tell promises

to the stars, to the gods, to the monsters

in my closet and under my bed, to the cicadas who know

what it means to be always looking for love. 

I make promises I want to keep, but really

they’re just full-hearted half-barters,

like a kid who begs his mother for a puppy

or pleads before supper for two scoops

of ice cream, even small ones: I

tell cicada-star-monster-gods

I will be nice to myself. I will love myself

if you just give me someone to love me, too.

These lies I cannot keep. I 

don’t have time to make this kind 

of promise, the courage to wait. 

I do not have the power

to shake hands with an angel or a voodoo man.

I write the promise in sand, in thought clouds

looming overhead, in the not-so-secretly hidden

journal in the bedside table. 

I tell myself, the cicada-star-monster-god,

the weak angel, the wayfaring lover.

I tell only those who won’t hear.

~ Kayla McCollough

Kayla McCollough graduated from PSU in May 2020 with an MA in English. She often writes introspective poems that explore emotions and the daily struggles with anxiety. Sometimes these poems turn into songs. In her spare time, Kayla cares for plants and creates macrame and embroidery projects. When it’s warm, she’s outside soaking up the sun and enjoying birds or other creatures.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity. YourRightLivelihood.com, Bravevoice.com, CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

The Right God — By Pat Daneman

   “…and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.”

                                    –William Stafford

O, god of old maps, god of tears. We have met so many of you, 

followed some.

God of morning weather reports and grandmothers’ stories. 

We have dreamed you with fangs and with careful hands.  

O god of changed locks and not enough whiskey. 

God of grudging apologies.

We have gone walking at night, looked up and seen our stars.

God who trusted us enough to furnish us these bodies

made of questions. Do the wrong gods say everything is looking good,

then step outside to make a call?

Ask if anyone is sleeping upstairs?

When we are trapped behind fences, lost in the woods, do the right gods

bring blankets and food, bend down to ask us our names?

~ Pat Daneman

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 Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity. YourRightLivelihood.com, Bravevoice.com, CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

Reveal Yourself — By Julie Flora

The world doesn’t meet anybody half way.

You have to rise up, you have to reach deeply,

You have to search for a witness.

You can’t hide under a blade of grass forever.

Reveal yourself to the redwood, 

embracing the sacred, too immense to 

put your arms around, 

too strong to bend to your will.

Reveal yourself to the ocean, 

waiting to cover your arms and toes 

in an aqueous expanse, the tide rising up 

to the moon, whispering to you its power.

Reveal yourself to the mountain, 

study the shadows, but ask 

for a path forward. Reveal yourself to the sky, 

open to the sun’s warmth, or the shelter of gray skies, 

the mist on your face to awaken you.

Reveal yourself to the prairie, the vastness 

encircles you. Sing to the wide open fields 

and the never ending horizon.

The trees hear you cry out. The ocean feels 

your toes dab at the water’s edge.

The mountain sees you. The sky wraps you in its arms.

The prairie holds you up, your reflection in the sunrise, 

your tenderness in the setting sun.

What is it that makes you, yourself, 

and not anybody else?

In a wild place of last resort, 

breathe into the life that is you.

Give it back for want of nothing.

~ Julie Flora

Julie Flora lives and works in Topeka, KS. She lives with her husband, Vaughn, her cat, Lightin’ and her dog Zenny. Julie has five children and seven grandchildren. Her roots are Southern, but she claims the Prairie as her home. She moved to KS in 2010 to marry the love of her life. She writes, reads, swims and watches biographical documentaries in her free time. 

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita, is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; and a forthcoming book of poetry, How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood through the arts, and consults with businesses and organizations on creativity

Cave Paintings — By Dawne Leiker

She painted the monkey on the wall
years before I was born. But there’s
something in its eyes that makes me
think of me. The way it glances
up and to the right. The way I do
when I don’t know the answer,
but don’t want to say.

Only rarely over the years
did we drive the weeded lane,
to the gray stucco home place,
empty since my birth and Dad’s town job.
We’d survey the outbuildings’ decay,
bending to collect rusted implements
from the patches of dirt and buffalo grass,
gathering fragrant lilacs and pink rhubarb stalks
from the overgrown garden.

One summer night, we lingered at the farm
past sunset. My brother lifted
a torn mattress from the back porch
and pushed it onto the brown dirt.
We flopped down on our backs,
wishing for tiny white stars
to sail across the blanket of night.
I closed my eyes just for an instant,
weary from breathing country air.
“See the shooting star?”
he asked, pointing into the darkness,
to where I had just missed it.

Missed, too, the farm that wasn’t my home.
Vacant now more than five decades,
but for two dead coyotes in its basement,
an assortment of snakes, birds, and rats.
And Mom’s crude murals on the walls. Curious,
fading traces of her dream to be an artist.
To be a mother. To be a decorator,
without money to do it tidy.

Down the dank, ancient stairway, cowboys
cling to the block foundation.
One is masked, a Lone Ranger, pink pistol
on his hip. He rides a curly yellow horse.
Across the room, another cowboy
shoots a pistol into the air,
thrusting high its crooked barrel.

Upstairs, red cuckoo clock on the kitchen wall,
framed by a mosaic of cracked ivory paint,
forever strikes seven. Beneath it,
a metal oven, filled with debris,
is now cold to the touch.

Teddy bear and wolf murals
tend the children’s room.
The little ones would have been tucked in
by seven. My brother’s spanking finished moments ago.
My sister’s brown curls laid across
a feather pillow.

And me, alien to the memories
stored here. I touch the paw of
the monkey on the wall, who
fixes his eyes up and to the right.
He does not know. He cannot say
If the light that shot across the night
Was ever really there.

~ Dawne Leiker

Dawne Leiker is a former journalist, now working in academia. Her news/feature stories have appeared in The Hays Daily News, Lawrence Journal World, and several online publications. Her poetry and short stories have garnered awards in regional and statewide literary competitions. Ms. Leiker’s fiction and poetry often are influenced by her past news story interviews, as she develops and re-imagines fictional characters and situations loosely based on local individuals and events.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita, is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; and a forthcoming book of poetry, How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood through the arts, and consults with businesses and organizations on creativity

Reinhabit — By Laura Madeline Wiseman

Not like I thought or remembered. Not prairies or worms. Not afternoon thunderstorms. Not braless aunts, tribes of topless kids hiking in boots, frayed red laces, trees, paths, all that long hair. Not a park of girls squealing and cupping water balloons, We’ve got boobies! We’ve won the booby prize! Not magic. Not fay villages in every fallen trees. Not a walk of unmeasurable distance. Not fields of dandelion, clover, frisbees, grills, open coolers. Not picnickers or overnight tents. No bare feet, bottles, pipes, or humidity. It’s a place with a name I forgot. You touched my hand, a map in your phone and another memorized—the one you pointed at in the air as if I could see. My map, part bewilderment, part retold story. Our map together, once torn, but now mended, a new chart to unfold.

~ Laura Madeline Wiseman

Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of 25 books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance, selected for the Nebraska 150 Booklist. Her collaborative book Intimates and Fools is a Nebraska Book Award 2015 Honor Book. Her latest book is Velocipede. She teaches at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emerita, is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; and a forthcoming book of poetry, How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood through the arts, and consults with businesses and organizations on creativity

Body of Time                                          by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Since the body became an I, it revels in being mine
and not yours. It bends toward drought,
and expands when it rains. It fits itself perfectly
in flannel sheets, around another body, held
in the concentric wind the ceiling fan makes.

This body of time takes another breath,
sends another valentine, ignores another blast
of unoriginal hatred as it learns new tricks:
how to hang upside down in ropes at the yoga studio,
walk across a wet field on tiptoe, or sleep standing up.

It’s a month old, or 11 years, or somewhere past 57,
and while it doesn’t know all the words to that tune,
it’s smart enough to know how it internalizes age
like a tree does as it rings out another year.

It’s all the time in the world I have,
so says the swirl of the fingerprint,
the indentation on the left ring finger,
the slight rise of a scar line on the clavicle,
the branches of veins on the back of the wrists,
the heart’s muscular clutch and release.  
  
_8103565_caryn_mirriam-goldberg

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Everyday Magic: A Field Guide to the Mundane and Miraculous, and Following the Curve, poetry. Her previous work includes The Divorce Girl, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet, a bioregional memoir on cancer and community; and six poetry collections, including the award-winning Chasing Weather with photographer Stephen Locke. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely. http://www.CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

   

Guest Editor 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 ReviewHarbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.

Mercy. Daring. Courage — By Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

I have three treasures which I hold and keep.

~ Tao Te Ching

I carry my treasures close to my skin.

I walk carefully and fast, pause to catch

the lightning. So much fire compressed

makes the visible even more visible.

To see this is to know mercy, and how

it tumbles shards of glass and stone

to reconfigure this day. To know mercy

is to know daring: every molecule of love

so delicate and damaged, willing as grass

to fly backwards at high speed while lightning

flashes the veins of the heavens. To know

daring is to know courage, how it’s equal parts

fear and will, rooted in the dense stillness

of the cottonwood banking the creek,

and the creek itself rounding the horizon

toward whatever comes, trials or treasures,

raining down to wake us up.

~ Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Everyday Magic: A Field Guide to the Mundane and Miraculous, and Following the Curve, poetry. Her previous work includes The Divorce Girl, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet, a bioregional memoir on cancer and community; and six poetry collections, including the award-winning Chasing Weather with photographer Stephen Locke. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely. http://www.CarynMirriamGoldberg.com

Julie Ramon is an English instructor at NEO A&M in Miami, Oklahoma.  She graduated with an M.F.A from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Among writing, her interests include baking, sewing, traveling, and garage sales. She is also a co-organizer of a Joplin, Missouri poetry series, Downtown Poetry. She lives in Joplin with her husband, daughter, and sons.

 

This Sunny Day, December 30th — By Laura Lee Washburn

Through brown bamboo shades, leaves shimmy

and bounce, foregrounded by gray roof slate.

 

. . .

 

Downstairs, the man slips in cat spittle, hollers,

mad. The cat necklace sings up the stairs.

 

. . .

 

Today’s high will reach 52 with gusty winds

already hinted at in wavering pin oak leaves.

 

. . .

 

Traffic in town is light, ten minutes to anywhere.

Some man might seem dirty and bundled walking Main.

 

. . .

 

You have house noises, air blowing, pipes banging.

Right now, just now, you forget fear and chore.

 

. . .

 

Your feet are only a little cold yet. Perhaps today,

you . . . .

 

. . .

 

Alert: Low relative humidity, warm temps: any fires

that develop will likely spread rapidly: Fire Weather Warning.

~ Laura Lee Washburn

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, Cavalier Literary Couture, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, Red Rock Review, and Valparaiso Review.  Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has also lived and worked in Arizona and in Missouri.  She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky and is one of the founders and the Co-President of the Board of SEK Women Helping Women.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate and the author or editor of over 20 books. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches, she also offers community writing workshops widely, and with Kelley Hunt, Brave Voice writing and singing retreats. She founded the 150 Kansas Poems site where she is thrilled to work with many fine guest editor poets and witness powerful writing from and about the heartland.