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

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Someone’s Sister

The last time I bit my brother,
he was nine. I was six. I don’t know why
my furious teeth broke his unsuspecting skin,
but to my disgust, he cried. I reasoned
that he was just nine, that boys cry. But
so unbecoming—loud wails, puffy
eyes—I never bit him again.
He made me cry when I was 16, saying
girls couldn’t drive—couldn’t park
straight, got lost all the time. I clenched
my furious teeth. I bit through my own lip.
I had to learn that when he calls me ‘Sis’
he means, ‘I love you.’ Why
must his ownership be his love?
Once, he pedaled furiously to the corner
house that sent me home crying
in hot anger, biting my tongue.
What did he do
to the boys there? Hit them,
maybe. That’s what boys do
to show they love what’s theirs.

 

Katelyn Roth graduated from Pittsburg State University with her Master’s in poetry. Her work has previously appeared online at Silver Birch Press and at Heartland: Poems of Love, Resistance, and Solidarity. Currently, she lives, works, and writes in Kansas City.

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

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.

Down Below — by Lori Baker Martin

She’s upstairs and he’s down below
when his hammering begins.
She goes to see 
while the staircase sways
and the mother fox in the spare room
growls over her kits.

Down the hall, the windows 
are open, the curtains flapping, 
spread wide, like sails. 

In the parlor, he’s nailing her best dress 
to the wall, the red one with laces,
and it dances like she did one summer
on the lawn. She remembers
the revolving stars 
and the watchful moon, her power. 

He is heavy as granite, 
eyes like blue marbles,
mouth a curved blade, hammer
hand still raised.

She goes away again.
The mother fox hums, the staircase sways,
out of these doors is an ocean.

Lori Baker Martin is assistant professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), The Little Balkans Review, Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, and The Maine Review. Martin has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Independence Community College, and Pittsburg State University. She has worked as a reader for both The Iowa Review and NPR. Martin has been awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices.  She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Martin is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly and is currently finishing a novel set in pre-Civil War Missouri.

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.

Neighbors — by Melissa Fite Johnson

We played house in her basement.
As mother, Ellie crouched
behind the plastic oven. As father,
I moved to kiss her forehead.
She frowned. You’re doing it wrong.

That year, Ellie’s father visited
the grocery store where
her mother worked. She steered
him to the storage room,
where he shot her dead, then himself.

We switched. As father,
Ellie hoisted a plate over her head,
slammed it to the floor.
As mother, I poured air from
plastic eggs into a red mixing bowl.

(Originally published in Broadsided Press, January 2018)

Melissa Fite Johnson’s first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book. She is also the author of A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky, winner of the 2017 Vella Chapbook Award (Paper Nautilus Press, 2018). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Pleiades, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Sidereal, Stirring, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband and dogs in Lawrence, Kansas. 

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.

13 Degrees — By Kevin Rabas

When it gets

cold, and instead

of riding a Ferris wheel

in the snow, flakes

like white holiday lights,

you must walk

to work, to school,

your hat on, hood up,

your gloves ragged,

take heart, somewhere

a warm room

waits for you.

~ Kevin Rabas

Kevin Rabas is the current Kansas Poet Laureate. He teaches at Emporia State University, where he leads the poetry and playwriting tracks. He has seven books, including Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner.

Guest Editor 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.

At the Kevin Young Reading — By Kevin Rabas

I’m so choked up
at the Kevin Young reading
that I will my copy
of To Repel Ghosts
to my student, Ralvell.
I write a note, say, “Take this book,
and ask Young to sign it, keep
these words in remembrance,”
though I make it to the water fountain,
clear my throat,
spot my student
chatting Young up,
two black men
in a white sea, a moment
for which we raced
100 miles, sailing
blacktop in a borrowed
college car.

~ Kevin Rabas

Kevin Rabas is the Poet Laureate of Kansas. He teaches at Emporia State University, where he leads the poetry and playwriting tracks. He has seven books, including Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner.

Guest Editor Tyler Robert Sheldon is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of First Breaths of Arrival (Oil Hill Press, 2016), and Traumas (Yellow Flag Press, 2017). His poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such venues as Quiddity International Literary Journal, The Midwest Quarterly, Coal City Review, The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature, The Dos Passos Review, Entropy Magazine, and others. He earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, and is now an MFA candidate at McNeese State University. View his work at tyrsheldon.wixsite.com/trspoetry.

But Not Guns – by Kevin Rabas

When it getsimg_5328

real cold,

Asad from Azerbaijan

comes to school

in a new

green and black camo

ski mask,

and secretary Kay tells him:

not a good idea,

wearing that the day after

the shooting, clips

emptied into the dance club,

but Asad doesn’t get it, doesn’t

follow the connection between

that man and him, when men

look like him, but have lost

all heart, face.

Asad lugs his books

up steps, leaves

12 copies of his poem

on my desk, lines of lust

for pomegranates and blondes,

not guns.

~ Kevin Rabas

Poet Kevin Rabas teaches at Emporia State University, where he leads the poetry and playwriting tracks. He has seven books, including Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano – a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner.

Guest Editor Ronda Miller is district president of Kansas Authors Club, as well as state VP of the club. She is a Life Coach who works with clients who have lost someone to homicide. Miller enjoys wandering the high plateau region of NW Kansas where the Arikaree Breaks whisper into the sunset and scream into blizzards and t-storms. Her quote, “Poetry is our most natural connection among one another” best exemplifies her belief in poetry. She created poetic forms Loku and Ukol and co authored the documentary The 150 Reride of The Pony Express. Her books of poetry include Going Home: Poems from My Life and MoonStain (Meadowlark Books, May of 2015).

Sea Birds by Kevin Rabas

RabasMy car’s radiator broken, the engine overheat light on,
we pull off the road and look at the ocean,
two young Kansans on vacation, nearly to New Orleans.
Bea says, “Look at those birds,” and our eyes swift
to the grey-tipped terns, their wings lazy Vs,
they drift on the winds above the white-capped sea.
They float, and our hands come together, clasp,
as if taken together by wind, and our troubles dissolve,
like sugar into water, and I tell Bea, if the radiator
catches on fire, I’ll take our patch-work quilt, douse
it in our jug of water, smoother, and, like that,
the fire of our lips is doused with a kiss.

~Kevin Rabas

Kevin Rabas co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State University and co-edits Flint Hills Review. He has six books: Bird’s Horn, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano (a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner), Spider Face, Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar (also a Nelson Poetry Book Award winner), Eliot’s Violin, and Green Bike (a group novel).

Stephen Meats, recently retired from teaching and administration at Pittsburg State University, is the author of a mixed genre collection of poems and stories, Dark Dove Descending and Other Parables (Mammoth Publications, 2013) and a collection of poems, Looking for the Pale Eagle (Woodley Press, 1993; expanded edition, Mammoth Publications, 2014). His poems, stories, and scholarly writings have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including more than two dozen articles on Whitman, Faulkner, and other writers in The Literary Encyclopedia. He has been poetry editor of The Midwest Quarterly since 1985. For his guest editorship, in addition to poems with Kansas associations, he asked contributors to submit work dealing with shore birds and water birds, if moved to do so, in recognition of his and his wife Ann’s recent move to Florida.

Nachtmusik by Stephen Meats

StephenCrickets and tree frogs

Choir the starlit yard.

Low in the east

a half-moon, opaque

almost as an egg yolk,

backlights the silhouettes of trees

like semiquavers in the score

of the Bach requiem

when a darker shadow

whispering into the branches

of a pin oak drops a pall of silence

into which barred owl chants―

Who dies for me?

Who mourns for the small?

―and every living thing

within sound of the call

is still and alone

with the beat of its heart.

But then the shadow lifts

and mockingbird begins

once more to improvise its

three phrase melody,

and the crickets and tree frogs

again relax their anthems

into the sacred dark.

~ Stephen Meats

Stephen Meats, recently retired from teaching and administration at Pittsburg State University, is the author of a mixed genre collection of poems and stories, Dark Dove Descending and Other Parables (Mammoth Publications 2013), and a book of poems, Looking for the Pale Eage (originally published, 1993; second expanded edition, Mammoth 2014). He has been poetry editor of The Midwest Quarterly since 1985.

Guest editor: Kevin Rabas co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State and co-edits Flint Hills Review. He has four books: Bird’s Horn, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar, also a Nelson Poetry Book Award winner, and Spider Face: stories. He writes, “For my month, I searched for poems that meditate on “time” in its many musical nuances, such as in times a tune jogged your memory, times the music seemed to transport you in time, times you patted your foot or danced to the music’s groove (time), times the music jump-started your heart (internal time), OR meditations on musical elements (such as 4/4 time vs. 6/8 time OR swung vs. straight, rock 2+4 time).”