Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

Posts tagged ‘Laura Lee Washburn’

Sixteen by Laura Lee Washburn

The tramping van made me woman enough.Photo on 2010-07-13 at 11.40 #3 (1)

Carburetor, clutch, hub, window guide, crank

pulley roused me before I knew the other words

of womanhood: snake, bend, flood stop, drop elbow

universal flapper, male and female fittings.

Coming back from the feed lot,

Dad stopped quick for the hippy van,

bread truck, whatever it had been.

We painted it primer black for a mural.

I tossed a mattress in back for a home

on the way to quest. Nothing turns out

how you plan. I should’ve learned body

repair, how to press the smash out of a door,

how to fire glass back to a pane, how loving

sometimes calls you out of your dreams,

how it follows you, even into the prairie grass

bent in November’s sullen winds.

~ 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 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.


Al Ortolani’s poetry and reviews have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner, New Letters, Word Riot, and the New York Quarterly. His fifth collection of poems, Waving Mustard in Surrender, was released in 2014 from New York Quarterly Books. Currently, he is teaching English in the Blue Valley School District and serves on the Board of Directors of the Kansas City Writers Place.

Occasions of Laughter and Horror and Pride by Laura Lee Washburn

When you stand under a tall straight cedar in DecemberPhoto on 2010-09-14 at 00.39 #6

and the red-tailed hawk flies smacking out of the branches

above you and lights on the bare tree where you watch it

and think about proximity and predatory excellence

 

or February when you hear the glass tinkling breaking of ice

leaping branch to branch down and lift your face up

toward the blue sky to watch the sparkle

 

and when your red snow boots sparkle in the melt,

 

splash

then the shard glances off your nose not leaving a mark

then the thunk of half a squirrel, bloody mess

on browned grass.

 

The hawk waits for you to leave. The ice shakes down.

The slush melts into icy water. Backyard daffodils thaw toward bloom.

 

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 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.

Lori Baker Martin is Kansas Time + Place editor for the month of May. She lives and works in Southeast Kansas where she is  teaching English at Independence Community College. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin,  The Little Balkans Review,Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, Midwest Quarterly, Kansas Time + Place, 150 Kansas Poets, and in a Kansas Notable Book poetry collection To the Stars Through Difficulties. She’sbeen awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices.  Martin is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop where she was named a Truman Capote Fellow and received the Clark Fischer Ansley Award for Excellence in Fiction.

Evensong

Photo 518“And indeed there will be time” —T.S. Eliot

After the happy hour,
when the night is thinking
of coming down and the eaters
are scurrying into the restaurant,
when the last brawlers
of the late afternoon have
hung their sheepish heads
out of the bar and the evening
waiters have sent in
their replacements and the helpers
have washed the lettuce
leaves and the carrots
are chopped and covered,

when the sun braises
the treetops and the wind
wraps the edges of all
that is material and all that is not,
in a loud voice or in quiet
whispers, in whimpers
or tail-thumping greetings,

without malice and without
mischief, internally, in
this town where tonight
folks gather on a stadium’s track
and candles are lit and where
yesterday families grieved
the single loss again, where last
weekend women marched
and where or when
the peonies bloom and are blooming
and the clematis bursts
against vine and is fading and
is blooming, where the wrens
are considering an old house
they know of over near the garage,

the couple (the she and he at the axis
of this poem) think forward
in their courtyard to a fire
they might build to take the slight
wind’s chill off the night

sometime in a little while
after the sun settles down
when the planets will beam
in a deep sky and the gazanias will close
and the small brown dog will nestle
into her lap while the cat settles
comma-like into a chair and he
closes his eyes and leans one elbow
on the table, or perhaps they’re thinking
how instead they’ll go inside

because little insects
have begun to appear on their arms
and after all, it’s only Friday
and there will be other days
for fire and rest and thought
after some other vaguely happy
hour or little minute on this patio
or on some other.

– 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 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.

– April’s Guest Editor, Roy Beckemeyer, edits scientific journals and writes poetry and essays. His poems have most recently been accepted by or appeared in The Midwest Quarterly, Straylight, The North Dakota Quarterly, Nebo, Mikrokosmos, Coal City Review, and The Lyric.  He lives in Wichita, Kansas and has degrees from St. Louis University, Wichita State University, and The University of Kansas.

He notes: “In the poem series I have chosen for April, I have  focused on works that define our sense of Time and Place by the people we know, the people we interact with, the people we live with. “

Happy by Laura Lee Washburn

Happy showed up late in the 19th centurypubphoto

like another version of the burden of slim bodies

or mother as the keeper of the hearth

or father as the strong man replete with ax

and barbells shaped like, well, bells. Bells

were for happy, too, the jester, jerk, dwarf,

fool. Now happy makes you mad

because you’re filled up with some chemical

to keep your cough down or your sleep

in check. You think you remember happy

and you think your neighbor’s got happy

and your neighbor’s smiling, but you

know smiles are the worst sort of darkness,

teeth you can fall a mile into, like kissing

and the tongues that throw germs

up into your palate until you’re gasping

for breaths and even phone calls are a chore,

but on the phone no smile’s required.

The bus driver pulled over and stopped

and said a lot of words about everyone

settling down RIGHT NOW, and you, you

young lady, why are you smiling, what

do you think is so funny? Happy wasn’t around,

and you didn’t even know you were.

We need a new word for not afraid, for not

worried to death, for not fighting,

for worried but hanging in there, for

my hair’s clean and the dog didn’t pee

on the floor and the refrigerator’s full

and I might steam some broccoli later,

for I can move, and for all I care

the past can go fuck itself and fuck happy, too

~ Laura Lee Washburn

Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University, Laura Lee Washburn, is an editorial board member of the Woodley Memorial Press, and the author of  This Good Warm Place (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in Carolina Quarterly, Valparaiso Review, The Sun, The Journal, and elsewhere.  Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has lived in Pittsburg since 1997.  She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky.

85. To the Stars Through Difficulty: Laura Lee Washburn

Too many weeks this summer the flags have been ordered
flown at half mast.  I think of the armed troops facing miner’s wives
and daughters.  Just this spring a smaller group marched the capitol.

Half the state’s billboards are against us, and in one county
the farmers have taken away the pill.  This state would take the child

from its only surviving mother, and it’s not alone in that.
We make our plans in the belly of the Carnegie library
as the neighborhood fox slinks along under the pinpricked sky.

Something is moving along the horizon; we’re a dark speck that glows
and grows large, starry-eyed women poised to take back our history.

— Laura Lee Washburn

98. Profession

for the teachers

 

Has summer ever not wound to school,

wounding me with its insistent buzz and chirp:

work, work, work; done and gone, done and gone.

 

I try to freeze the days with compressors and sleep,

keep the nights as late as I can, blinking dots and books.

A few tasks, the mechanic’s, the stylist’s, the party, and the jaunt.

 

When the moon blooms full and bright as marigolds

and the naked ladies pop up pink and plain as ever

while the marsh mallows wave over small rooftops,

 

and the cicadas are stunned and dragged down

into burrows to live twice their lives

as food for some other species’ young,

 

we wake again and go, we teachers, we book-holders,

we paralyzed buzzers, our hair trimmed and our clothes new,

we go unarmed into their burrows, bringing our lives along.

— Laura Lee Washburn

Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University, Laura Lee Washburn, is an editorial board member of the Woodley Memorial Press, and the author of  This Good Warm Place (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in Carolina Quarterly, Valparaiso Review, The Sun, The Journal, and elsewhere.  Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has lived in Pittsburg since 1997.  She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky.

44. Lily-flowered Tulips

My hands are covered in dirt.

I dig in dank soil,

dense enough to bend back

the cheap handle of our new-bought

bulb-planting tool. Mosquitos

blur between my eyes and bangs

 

and I can’t wipe my face from sweat

with these earthen hands. In each

tubed hole, I reach an old spoon

to tap its tip against the brasting bulb.

I am trying to see into the earth

 

but the dark minions are in my eyes

and the green flopping leaves of hosta

remind me how many things, from

plant to double-headed dog

or gatekeeper waiting for change

are meant to keep me

from seeing or living down into it.

 

Our world wants up

amongst the bite and sting and sweat.

The dug earth might smell

of wet dog and blackened leaf,

and the tulips might wave to us

each spring coming,

 

but they’re as close as we can get

and not nearly enough: no

merging of our world will ever occur

with that of our still loved

and harder and harder to remember dead.

— Laura Lee Washburn

Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University, Laura Lee Washburn, is an editorial board member of the Woodley Memorial Press, and the author of  This Good Warm Place (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in Carolina Quarterly, Valparaiso Review, The Sun, The Journal, and elsewhere.  Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has lived in Pittsburg since 1997.  She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky.

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