Two Poems by Morgan O.H. McCune

Letter of Long Grass

We urge whomever responsible
To address this matter very
Urgently; there is danger,
And if not addressed
A team must be dispatched.

Look--let bees tangle
The leggy oregano, let spiders
Spin in wild blades of rough;
Let each wasp bring
Its blessing of sharp attention
To heal what has been mown.


Kelp, I learn at the aquarium,
have holdfasts to anchor them,
stipes like stems, bladders to lift
blades to the sun. I try to trace
a line to its end, but it moves
like memory, bleeds into other
lines, and the whole view sways,
dizzying. Fish cruise between
dark and light, thoughts in salt-water.


For these two women to harvest
seaweed, they must venture
into bitter surf with sharp
knives, wrestle the living ropes,
cut them free, twirl them
into baskets that they then
must keep from the sea.
They load the boat heavy,
steer home while the sea pulls.


We ignore storm warnings, afraid
we’ll miss our chance. Vacations are
rare as reunions, and we’re taut
cables stretched from ship
to foundering ship. We arrive at a beach
piled with seaweed, ugly and shocking.
But what’s familiar about this smell?--
natural as chemical signals, as beach,
storm, the salvation of a weed
absorbing surge.

Assistant Editor Morgan O.H. McCune recently retired from Pittsburg State University in southeast Kansas. Now based in Topeka, she holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from Washington University in St. Louis (1991) and an M.L.S. from Emporia State University (2002). Her poems have been published in River Styx, Flint Hills Review, and other places. 


Three Poems by Katherine D. Perry

Upon Watching Notre Dame Burn
I stood where Quasimodo rang his bells,
looked through painted glass like everyone else
for hundreds of years. We rode dinner boats
on the Seine to see the buttresses fly,
to wonder at Parisian medieval
Gothic architecture, ribbed vaulting, stone.
In the revolution, much was destroyed,
and now, as careless democracies fall,
again, a spark lights; the whole tinderbox
explodes, and structures collapse into ash.
It’s time for another change, but it is
devastating to watch history burn.
Astrophysical Singularity
“…the block of stone can't be is because it never can 
become was because it can't ever die or perish…”
                          –William Faulkner,  Absalom! Absalom!
I am.
What           	was
before          	what            	is?
Ocean: heart beats a rising tide, awareness perceives liquid glass surface, reflecting light.
Sky: atmosphere runs through hurricanes and windless nights;
Spark: energy creating.
Earth:  unfathomed particles fall, attract, force, push.
It is not only because we think.
It is not only because your atoms smash into mine.
We are also matter and energy that is a black hole:
question marks at the beginning and end,
a place before language that needs marking.
Maybe god is a placeholder, a __________
Remove the verb of being,
remove existence: dipping below the surface.
Without is,              	what?
Without golden light, without sapphire ocean,
without star strewn sky, how is poetry?
But something sparks from nothing.             
Some new universe begins to be.
Undistinguished Miraculous

Our star is middle-aged and yellow.
The Milky Way galaxy, spiral and midsized,
sits in the middle of the Local Group 

in the edge of the Virgo Supercluster, 
not the center of our universe, not special
or even interesting, by astronomical standards. 

Even if you are famous today,
what of the next thousand years? 
The next million?

The body turned creator pushes 
new life out into the universe. 
That baby is just as miraculous as every other baby, 
two hundred fifty-five born every minute, 
three hundred fifty-three thousand born every day. 
Our ordinariness is our bond. 

We were created, 
moving against entropy,
and we have only a flash of time

to make 
a life 
a light. 

Katherine D. Perry is a Professor of English at Perimeter College of Georgia State University. Her poetry is published in many journals, and her first volume, Long Alabama Summer, was released in December 2017. She also co-founded the GSU Prison Education Project, which teaches courses in prisons.

This selection was selected by editors Laura Lee Washburn and Morgan O.H. McCune.

Two Poems by R.B. Simon

Canto of the Earth’s Song
In the flowers eye, lashes of goldenrod wink their fringe, dusting petals with the blueprints of the world.

There’s a scent on the air of a day forgotten in the woods, wilding witches drinking mead around a bonfire, acrid with the smolder of mugwort.

While wandering the murky forest, the ghostly bear searches for her phantom cub. Part shriek, part roar, too loud to be bird, too soft to be nearing motor, she moans and squawks.

The sound is vermillion and bronze, splashing the vision, filling nostrils with the pungency of crushed herbs and broken wood.

Clouds tumble over treetops like dice. Lightening prays to the sea, a crackling spark, I beg you open, take me in; I am providence, receive me.

On my last day walking this miniscule planet, I, too, will throw my cells sunward, expanding with gaseous heat, contracting like dew to land among the clouds.

Ex Gratia

I am uploading my new engagement photos.  
Thoughtlessly using the same app that you and I
used all those years ago, the one that lets you
create your fantasy wedding and website. Well,
machines have memories longer than elephants,
and as I open it the screen stubbornly flashes your name
in forty-eight-point font across the ornate scrollwork headline. 
My fingers click the mouse furiously, back, back, back
arrow to find the offending field still carrying your name
before my fiancé’s attention shifts away from their work,
over to my screen. It is not as if we have not all acknowledged you,
haven’t all become a strange little family: me and my fiancé,
you and your husband, the five of us (with the ghost of our relationship past.)
Together at Christmas over baked ham and sweet potatoes.
Swatting the mosquitos away from each other at summer BBQs.
Folding each other’s laundry over Starbucks and home baked treats.
And I would be lying if I didn’t say I don’t think about the future and you
as guest at my wedding, all four of us grown old and grizzled together. 
How you and I had once pictured the front porch, the rocking chairs.
How the view has changed since you lived here. 

R.B. Simon is a queer artist and writer of African and European-American descent.  She has been published inmultiple literary journals, and her chapbook, The Good Truth, was released by Finishing Line Press in July 2021.  She currently lives in Madison, WI with her spouse, daughter, and four little dogs. 

Guest Editor Hyejung Kook’s poems have appeared in POETRY MagazineDenver QuarterlyPrairie Schooner, Glass: A Journal of PoetryPleiades, and elsewhere. Other works include an essay in Critical Flame and a chamber opera libretto. Born in Seoul, Korea, she now lives in Kansas with her husband and their two children. Learn more at her website.

This Is Not an Inauguration Poem                                                                                    by Heather Bourbeau

This is Not an Inauguration Poem
Yesterday, I woke to rain shadow winds, heat and fire and fear.
“We are too broken,” my mind said. My body agreed, gave in.
On my apple tree, one leaf remained. It must have fought to survive, unaware
its destiny to make soft ground for ants and beetles, earthworms and me.
A cat mewled. A spider abandoned its web.
I miss the deer that walked into my yard.

If I had dug my hands into the ground, marveled at potato bugs, felt the slick of slugs, 
the leavings of creatures who also call this home, could that have soothed my reptile brain?
Today the crescent moon set early. The air is calm and crisp. The leaf had fallen.
Inside, my peace lily prepares to bloom.

Heather Bourbeau’s work has appeared or will appear in 100 Word Story, Alaska Quarterly ReviewThe Kenyon Review,Meridian, The Stockholm Review of Literatureand SWWIM. She has worked with various UN agencies, including the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia. She lives amid the sage and fog.

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is a University Professor, the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10thAnniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Carolina Quarterly, Ninth LetterThe SunRed Rock Review, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review‘s micro-chap prize is named in her honor.

Shelter Her                                                                       by Kayla McCollough

Have you heard death
in the divine strike of bird
and glass? The clash
of time and vision.  

If a robin—sign of spring
and good luck—should come to you,
listen. Its song will disturb
the sound of rain pounding
dead leaves.

Now you are the curious person
risen from the couch, called
by nature’s strike. You find
a robin looking up
at you through the mystic glass,
awestruck, beak agape,

while on the porch another robin
lies on her back on the wet
cement. It was she who dove
head-first into the drizzling
forever world. 

You arrive witness to her
legs jerking in air, like a sad,
asynchronous swimmer, in her final
dance of death pain. Her stunned
sister meets your eyes and flies away.

You will retrieve gloves from
the closet, go into the cool rain
and scoop her up, hands cupped
as if to hold holy water.
You will put her in a proper place,
under the pine tree, shelter her
still body with leaf litter. 

Kayla McCollough graduated from PSU in May 2020 with an MA in English. She often writes introspective poems that explore emotions and the daily struggles with anxiety. Sometimes these poems turn into songs. In her spare time, Kayla cares for plants and creates macrame and embroidery projects. When it’s warm, she’s outside soaking up the sun and enjoying birds or other creatures. 

LORI MARTIN is associate 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), Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, The Maine Review and upcoming in The Tampa Review.  Martin is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly.

Night Swimming at Tuttle Creek                                 by Anne Graue

I remember that night. I couldn’t grasp my thoughts quickly enough to stop things from happening. You acted as if being with me were a sideline to the real work of blues guitar licks and buddies you were focused on like someone with a work ethic that wouldn’t let you stop, be with me only, see yourself from inside, not through the eyes of other guys. Giving in to me was giving up. In the water, the brother of your friend, kisses in water, the flash of a foot on a thigh, an arm brushing an arm in weightless water so it didn’t feel like touching—in water nothing matters. Later on the warm car’s hood—no touching, only talk—I didn’t know where you were, where you’d gone, or where you’d been.  

Anne Graue’s work has appeared in literary journals and anthologies both online and in print. The author of Full and Plum-Colored Velvet, (Woodley Press, 2020) and Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), she lives in the lower Hudson Valley of New York with her husband and two daughters.

Guest Editor Lori Martin is associate 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), Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, The Maine Review and upcoming in The Tampa Review.  Martin is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly.

Bird-Honest                                                                       by Tyler Robert Sheldon

The birds have begun their sweeps over the neighborhood
today before half its residents have stirred themselves
from sleep. Before the mowers and roosters, 
beating the paperboy to the punch. Significantly 
it’s not just the blue jays, whom you and I would think of 
as the most likely suspects. No, even the mockingbirds 
have taken up this unknown cause, streaming down 
from up on high and screaming like firetrucks. This is not, 
they insist, to entertain the occasional wayward cat, 
so many of whom howl and paw up the trees at them. 
More than this they refuse to specify, but 
about one thing they’ve been honest: Look out,
they say. Be sure of what you’re fighting for,
because all the birds are preparing for war.

Poet Tyler Robert Sheldon is the author of five poetry collections including Driving Together (Meadowlark Books, 2018). He edits MockingHeart Review, and his work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Pleiades, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and other places. A Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of the Charles E. Walton Essay Award, he earned his MFA at McNeese State University. He lives in Baton Rouge. Tyler’s newest book is When to Ask for Rain (Spartan, 2021), a Birdy Poetry Prize Finalist. He edits the journal MockingHeart Review, and his work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Quiddity, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and other places. He earned his MFA at McNeese State University, and is working on his PhD at LSU.

Guest Editor Lori Martin is associate 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), Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, The Maine Review and upcoming in The Tampa Review.  Martin is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly.

Ode to a Sea Turtle                                                         by Grace Hendrickson

Ocean’s grandpa, you shuffle 
with the current, dappled cardigan 
flippers and cracked walnut shell 
home. You travel with your multi-
generational family, spry as the young 
babes. Navigation and knowledge shared 
like sticky hard candy from your pocket. 
Upwards, eyes to God, hollow shell, an 
open casket.  

Grace Hendrickson graduated with her B.A. in English from Pittsburg State University in 2018. She is currently pursuing her M.A. in English. She is a current staff member at Emerald City and editor of the Cow Creek Chapbook Contest. Her poems, stories, and reviews have appeared in Cow Creek Review and Harbor Review. She has won the Charles Cagle Fiction Award, Jo McDougall Poetry Award, Karen Stolz Prize in Fiction, and runner-up for Karen Stolz Prize in Poetry.

Guest Editor Lori Martin is an associate professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the SpindleThe MacGuffin(parenthetical)The Little Balkans ReviewRoom MagazineGrass LimbThe KnicknackeryThe Tampa Review (forthcoming), and The Maine Review. Martin is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly.

River Satoris                                                                             by William Sheldon

Sometimes a knife won’t take an edge
becoming only a weight
you choose to carry, or leave behind,
despite the day you found it close
beside the arrowhead, small
stemmed heart, sparkling among gravel,
as you waded from the river onto the bar.
The finely worked flint hangs
in a frame, but the little knife, once
you knocked off the rust and whet it,
has stayed in your pocket for years, called on
to sever twine, never cut the first time,
or dig a thorn, but it would not stay sharp.
So, the day comes when you’re cutting rope,
sawing really, and are forced
to walk back to the shed for a better blade.
It is an old idea—of religion, say, or governance,
the workings of the world—you’ve held
dear and true so long it’s like your heart
working quietly, laboring till it goes bad.
You hold it against your palm, weighing
your thoughts, saying good-bye
before you set it on the shelf, drop it
in a drawer, but do not give it to your son,
knowing how jaggedly
a dull blade cuts. That arrowhead hangs
framed on the wall, five hundred years
old, exquisitely chipped, sharp
despite the river’s tumbling.
never to be hafted again.
Step from the gravel, back
into the heart of a new current.
Sometimes it happens at evening,
when, without the three quarter moonlight,
wading upstream would seem foolish,
ankles caught by logs along the shoreline,
stumbling into chest-deep holes.
As you crawl along a deadfall
in such feeble light, you marvel
at peace passing your understanding.
As you make your way
down off this pile of limbs into pampas
grass and salt cedar, what little light
is left seems perfect. Coyotes singing
close in a field above the bank
match the pitch and yaw of earth’s turning.
All this strikes you like a stick snapping
back into place. The river is a koan
perhaps rather than a poem. You wade on
knowing it will be dark
before you reach your truck at the bridge,
pleased by this discovery.
Wading cold water upriver,
under the skirl of paired hawks hunting,  
you find a dog’s jawbone skimming pea-gravel,
smooth and clean in your hand
  it moves again
a different direction from yours,
the same destination.

William Sheldon lives with his family in Hutchinson, Kansas where he teaches and writes. His poetry and prose have been published widely. His new book is Deadman (Spartan Press, 2021). He is the author of two other books of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley Press, 2002) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth Publications, 2011), as well as a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill Press, 2009). Retrieving Old Bones was a Kansas City Star Noteworthy Book for 2002 and is listed as one of the Great Plains Alliance’s Great Books of the Great Plains. He plays bass for the band The Excuses.

Guest editor, Morgan O.H. McCune, currently works at Pittsburg State University in southeast Kansas. She is a native Kansan, and holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from Washington University in St. Louis (1991) and an M.L.S. from Emporia State University (2002). Her poems have been published previously in River Styx and Flint Hills Review. 

Wild Edges                                          by Elizabeth Perdomo

I am not meant
for modern civilization,
rectangular box repetition;
garish shops; abhorrent lights.
Jangling distractions, fountain flows
fully regulated in sequence;
colored concrete marine
Give me wild places,
unfettered waters,
unkempt patches,
wild edges.
Unmowed meadows
& dandelion dotted lawns;
better yet, front yard wildflowers
teaming with bright winged life.
No lifeless trimmed &
sprayed hedge
Rather, life-filled hedgerows,
tangled preserves, secret
conserves, hidden
Green forests still
alive with brilliant shadowed
soft breezes
which whisper
important things which
should & must be
7 May 2019 – Pharr, Texas

Elizabeth Perdomo at Dallas Museum of Fine Arts

Elizabeth Perdomo, born in Emporia, Kansas, raised in Winfield, has written poetry since a teen. One Turn of Seasons, includes her poetry and another’s photography. Recently, her poems appeared in Kansas Time + Place, Interstice, and The Chachalaca Review. Perdomo now lives in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

Guest Editor Julie Ramon is an English instructor at NEO A&M in Miami, Oklahoma.  She graduated with an M.F.A from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Among writing, her interests include baking, sewing, traveling, and garage sales. She is also a co-organizer of a Joplin, Missouri poetry series, Downtown Poetry. She lives in Joplin with her husband, sons, and daughter.