Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Posts tagged ‘Denise Low’

Hobo Code — by Debbie Theiss

I see him walk between railroad tracks,

black braids sway back and forth,

beads interwoven,

long fringed vest jangles,

entwined stones collide.

 

A dog, black and sleek nudges his leg at ready.

Above his head a metal rod with prongs

looms like a goalpost.

Two hawks perch

stately, poised.

 

Hunter? Wanderer?

 

I scramble to the railroad trestle

keeping him in sight,

grass bites bare legs,

my hand runs along outcropped rock,

traces charred hobo codes

 

left by transient workers

during the Great Depression,

lined drawings, meant to guide

simplistic signs

danger ahead, shelter, food.

 

Now draped across his back

the folded platform.

On his shoulders, the hawks hunker

yellow-banded curved beaks

yellow claws clutch.

 

Shelter taken in the shade

of persimmon trees that line the field’s edge.

His fingers probe the bark

small, square blocks

as if searching for signs.

Note: During the Great Depression, nomadic workers traveled on freight trains to garner work that they could find, not spending too much time in any one town. A unique Hobo Code (hoboglyphics) was developed to communicate and give information about places to camp or find a meal or dangers that lay ahead. In Parsons, Kansas a quilt designed with hobo codes was auctioned during Katy Days in celebration of the strong heritage of freight life in Kansas.

Debbie Theiss is an emerging poet. She won 3rd place in the Japanese Haiku Festival Contest and published poems in the Skinny Journal, Paddle Shots: A River Pretty Anthology, Vol. 2, I-70 Review (September, 2016) and was accepted in Interpretations IV in Columbia, MO. She enjoys nature, bicycling, and gardening.

Guest Editor Denise Low: The University of Nebraska Press published Denise Low’s 2017 memoir The Turtle’s Beating Heart, about her grandfather’s Lenape heritage. Other recent books are A Casino Bestiary: Poems (Spartan Press 2017), Mélange Block: Poems (Red Mt. Press), Jackalope (short fiction, Red Mt. Press), and Natural Theologies: Essays (The Backwaters Press). Low is former Kansas poet laureate and past board president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She teaches for Baker University’s School of Professional and Graduate Studies.

Advertisements

Flint Hills, Kansas — by Jemshed Khan

Snowmelt scours the Rockies until the creeks flash.

Gravel and sand wash into Beaver Creek and the Solomon River.

Cows are calving as water sweeps the land.

The jet stream drops from the north like a Cheyenne raid―

Rain slams the high plains, rivers churn,

and spring calves stumble into the drowning snarl

that roars through the Smoky Hills.

Anvil-grey thunderheads rumble the Flint Hills.

 

Thirty million bison roamed the tall grass prairie

before General Sherman’s final solution to the Indian problem―

kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated.

They shoot them down on foot, horseback, and from trains:

The hides are stacked, hacked, carcasses left to rot―

to starve out the Pawnee and Osage tribes:

 

Now bison bones still wash into angry creeks,

with mastodon teeth, arrowheads, deer antlers.

The surly boneyard river reminds whose land this was.

Barbed-wire fences bristle and glint in slanting rain,

Angus, Herefords, and yearlings graze on wet bluestem grass.

The drenched bovines munch ancient fodder,

the white settlers keep Sunday clean.

Soon the calfs―fattened under the summer sun―

move to feed lots and holding pens.

When the box chute opens to the kill floor

the cows will know the bison’s fate: kill, skin, sell.

~ Jemshed Khan

Jemshed Khan has published poems in Number One Magazine, Wittenberg Review, #BlackArtMatters (2016), Read Local (2016), Rigorous (2017), NanoText (Medusa’s Laugh Press, 2017). The author is slated for Clockwise Cat, Issue 36 (2017) and I-70 Review

Guest Editor Denise Low: The University of Nebraska Press published Denise Low’s 2017 memoir The Turtle’s Beating Heart, about her grandfather’s Lenape heritage. Other recent books are A Casino Bestiary: Poems (Spartan Press 2017), Mélange Block: Poems (Red Mt. Press), Jackalope (short fiction, Red Mt. Press), and Natural Theologies: Essays (The Backwaters Press). Low is former Kansas poet laureate and past board president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She teaches for Baker University’s School of Professional and Graduate Studies.

Forbidden by Denise Low

He pulls fear from a wooden drawer—Denise2014SFbySusanGardner (2)

an Aboriginal witching stone

his uncle collected years ago.
1

As he unwraps flannel swaddling he says,

unflinchingly unsexing me,

“Women should not see this. It is taboo.”
1

We had spent hours drinking medicinal tea

while sorting eucalyptus-bark paintings—

crocodiles, water holes, sparkling dust.
1

Now this stone. He recounts ceremonial rules—

the strict gendered intention for it.

How initiates kill women who intrude.
1

He holds the pecked lodestone to light,

a Gondwandaland lava remnant

at first unremarkable but magnetic.
1

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.

1953 Wellington Wheat Festival by Myrne Roe

August’s void of evening breezes

capped a small park gorged with crowds.

Ride lights were glimmering circles,

teasing children with no tickets.

I envied friends certain of their beauty,

practiced in promoting romance.

A dreamer unsure of her dreams,

shy as a colt, afraid of my yearnings,

I pretended apathy toward the boy,

eyes smiling, who stood before me,

Today memory comes in cloud wisps,

but long ago under a luminous sky,

I clearly recall the handsome boy

who held my hand and walked me home.

I still smell the oil in his hair,

and hear the band play “Tenderly.”

~ Myrne Roe

Myrne Roe is a retired editorial writer and syndicated columnist who has been writing poetry for fifteen years. Her poems have been published in local and regional publications including ByLine Magazine, Voices of the Heartland, Words Out of the Flatlands and Kansas Voices. She also has published a chapbook, Ironing Out the Wrinkles

Guest editor: Denise Low, 2nd Kansas Poet Laureate, is author of twenty-five books, most recently Mélange Block (Red Mountain Press, Santa Fe). Low is past president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs board of directors. Cream City Review nominated her fiction for a Pushcart Prize, 2014. She writes articles, blogs, and reviews; and she co-publishes a small press, Mammoth Publications. She teaches private professional workshops as well as classes for Baker U. Her MFA is from W.S.U. and Ph.D. is from K.U. She has British Isles, German, and Delaware Indian heritage. See more: www.deniselow.net http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/denise-low http://deniselow.blogspot.com

Name Bearers by Thomas Reynolds

My grandfather is a picture,05_10_1

Boxed in by a solid oak frame,

Staring with inscrutable gaze

From my aunt’s faded flower print.

He is not the imperious patriarch.

He neither intimidates into silence,

Nor beckons with benevolent gaze

This small collection of name-bearers.

How often I sat at the table as a child

Staring at those eyes squinting at the light,

Head cocked as if hearing an inner voice,

One he never seems quite able to place.

Maybe it is our faces he strains to see,

The timber of our voices he leans to hear.

What to make of this new breed of Kansans.

He appears perpetually to withhold judgment.

As judges go, he’s not a gavel beater,

But he’s Kansas shrewd, taking us all in.

In cases involving imposters, you see,

Looks don’t cut it. Nor voices.

Rather some indefinable tilt of the head.

The glacial drift of conversation.

A beckoning of ancient blood.

A quality of silence.

~ Thomas Reynolds

Thomas Reynolds is an associate English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Review, and Prairie Poetry. Woodley Press of Washburn University published his poetry collection Ghost Town Almanac in 2008. His chapbook The Kansas Hermit Poems was published in 2013.

Guest editor: Denise Low, 2nd Kansas Poet Laureate, is author of twenty-five books, most recently Mélange Block (Red Mountain Press, Santa Fe). Low is past president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs board of directors. Cream City Review nominated her fiction for a Pushcart Prize, 2014. She writes articles, blogs, and reviews; and she co-publishes a small press, Mammoth Publications. She teaches private professional workshops as well as classes for Baker U. Her MFA is from W.S.U. and Ph.D. is from K.U. She has British Isles, German, and Delaware Indian heritage. See more: www.deniselow.net http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/denise-low http://deniselow.blogspot.com

Genesis by Diane Wahto

Diane WahtoWhen those two people, cold, armored, fortified

against the assaults they had fought and conquered,

when those two faced each other, foundered,

grasped hands to make promises, to forge an accord,

in the almost empty church in front of the preacher

on a Saturday night, in front of her mother, his mother,

his father dead, her father deaf to anyone’s needs

but his own small ones,

when they left the church and went to the small

apartment just down the block that they would call

home until the first baby started to crawl,

when they shared a bed for the first time,

unfamiliar touches, awkward kisses, crossed a line

that she had not crossed before, he making a fine

show of manhood the first time. Then came the sun,

a bright light in the bedroom. They arose, put on

their wedding clothes, and went to church,

as was their habit.

~ Diane Wahto

Diane Wahto has an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University. Her poem, “Someone Is Always Watching,” won the American Academy of Poets award. Recently, her poems “The Conspiracy of Coffee” and “After the Storm” were published in Active Aging. She, her husband, and two dogs live in Wichita, Kansas.

Guest editor: Denise Low, 2nd Kansas Poet Laureate, is author of twenty-five books, most recently Mélange Block (Red Mountain Press, Santa Fe). Low is past president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs board of directors. Cream City Review nominated her fiction for a Pushcart Prize, 2014. She writes articles, blogs, and reviews; and she co-publishes a small press, Mammoth Publications. She teaches private professional workshops as well as classes for Baker U. Her MFA is from W.S.U. and Ph.D. is from K.U. She has British Isles, German, and Delaware Indian heritage. See more: www.deniselow.net http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/denise-low http://deniselow.blogspot.com

Hues by Denise Low

I look into my lover’s eyes. Denise

Like lit sumac, they catch fire.

Our glances kindle scarlet.

 

My tongue tastes sea-blue.

My hands dip in purple water.

Elderberry blooms next to us.

 

Alfalfa blossoms spread lemon.

Mountain winds smell of snow

blown through miles of sage.

 

Our legs entwine in brambles.

When we kiss, fragrance becomes

the skin’s sun-heat smell.

 

 A cinder pyre burns away the west

until again we are blind.

~ Denise Low

Denise (Dotson) Low is the 2007-2009 Kansas Poet Laureate, with 25 published books of poetry, personal essays, and scholarship. Melange Block, poems, is from Red Mountain Press (2014), and A Casino Bestiary, poetry and fiction, is forthcoming from Mouthfeel Press (2015). She has been visiting professor of creative writing at the University of Richmond and the University of Kansas. At Haskell Indian Nations University, she founded the creative writing program. Currently, she teaches courses for Baker University as well as independent creative writing workshops in Kansas City and online. She has awards from the NEH, Lannan Foundation, The Newberry Library, Academy of American Poets,Sequoyah National Research Center, and Ks. Arts Commission.

Double Trouble for Poetry Month: During Poetry Month, we are featuring a poem weekly from each of Kansas’s poets laureate in addition to our weekly poems.

Tag Cloud