Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Posts tagged ‘Dawne Leiker’

Red Rover — by Dawne Leiker

When I picture Alan, it’s with his toes outlined
in silky white sand, stepping into a frothy wave,
just as a slice of sunlight welcomed him
to take one more step. His mom bracing herself
against that same wave. And when she looked again,
Alan was gone. That was all. Just gone. Lost
where eyes cannot distinguish ocean from sky,
From a shore a world away from
the sea of Kansas wheat fields.

That summer after Padre Island
That summer of undertow and loss
we remembered the teenager who
entered seamlessly into our neighbor kid games:
Red Rover, Green Light Red Light, New Orleans
A pale cowlick resisting the order
of his freshly combed hair.
We remembered how he
lit the grassy summer nights.
Strolled easily when Red Rover called him over.

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.

August Co-Editor and Past Poet Laureate of Kansas (2017-2019) Kevin Rabas teaches at Emporia State University, where he leads the poetry and playwriting tracks and chairs the Department of English, Modern Languages, and Journalism. He has twelve books, including Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner. He is the recipient of the Emporia State President’s and Liberal Arts & Sciences Awards for Research and Creativity, and he is the winner of the Langston Hughes Award for Poetry. 

August Co-Editor Linzi Garcia can be found frolicking through fields, cemeteries, and bars across the states, gathering poetry along the way. She recently received her MA in English at Emporia State University, where she served as the assistant to Former Poet Laureate of Kansas Kevin Rabas and to Bluestem Press. Her first poetry collection, Thank You was published by Spartan Press (2018), and her co-written chapbook Live a Great Story was published by Analog Submission Press (2019). She is always looking to invest time in new places where she can absorb new perspectives.

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

Riddle — by Dawn Leikier

She answers the riddles no one can
The punchlines to jokes we didn’t know we started.
We mull her words, wonder where they were born.
She says the five of us sat on the davenport
‘til the wind blew us away. She laughs,
picturing of the nonsense of it.
Her head slumped low, she doesn’t see
that five of us sit there. Just listening.
She asks why God doesn’t fall from the sky
And if pioneers ate grass when they ran out of food.
She asks the name of the little boy in the red sweater
Who no one else can see.
Who loves her scraping, high-pitched songs
that stab our ears and twist our hearts.
She answers the riddles no one can
From the corner of the room, when no one knows she’s listening.

~ 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.

James Benger is the author of two fiction ebooks, and three chapbooks, one full-length, and coauthor of three split books of poetry. He is on the Board of Directors of The Writers Place and the Riverfront Readings Committee, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online workshop, and is Editor In Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and children.

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