an Aboriginal witching stone
his uncle collected years ago.
As he unwraps flannel swaddling he says,
unflinchingly unsexing me,
“Women should not see this. It is taboo.”
We had spent hours drinking medicinal tea
while sorting eucalyptus-bark paintings—
crocodiles, water holes, sparkling dust.
Now this stone. He recounts ceremonial rules—
the strict gendered intention for it.
How initiates kill women who intrude.
He holds the pecked lodestone to light,
a Gondwandaland lava remnant
at first unremarkable but magnetic.
I behold a dizzy white-on-black nebulae
a white hibiscus a frozen river whirl
a desert spring a rosette of labia stretched wide open.
(For Barnaby Ruhe, on the death of Ed Ruhe)
~ Denise Low
Denise Low, second Kansas Poet Laureate, has published over 20 books of award-winning poetry and essays, including Ghost Stories (Woodley) and Natural Theologies, essays about Mid-Plains literature (Backwater Press). Low was visiting professor at the University of Richmond and Kansas University. She taught at Haskell Indian Nation University, where she founded the creative writing program. She served Associated Writing Programs as board president. She and her husband Thomas Pecore Weso publish Mammoth Publications.
Tyler Sheldon is a graduate student in English at Emporia State University. His poems and articles have appeared in Thorny Locust, I-70 Review, Coal City Review, The Dos Passos Review, and in the anthology To The Stars Through Difficulties (a 2013 Kansas Notable Book). Sheldon is an AWP Intro Journals Award nominee and has been featured on Kansas Public Radio.
William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas, where he writes and teaches. His work has appeared widely in little magazines and small press anthologies. He has two books, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth), and a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill). He plays bass for the band The Excuses.