Smoke in the Distance                                                                 by William Sheldon

We stoke the wood stove at the patio’s
edge, pull our chairs a little closer,
tug the Mexican blankets a little tighter
The cold dark beer is bitter.
We like the bite, the way
one does in later days, sensation
welcomed.
      Smoke rises
on the near horizon confirming
life in the distance, night
and winter coming on.

“Smoke in the Distance” was first published in Flint Hill Review

William Sheldon lives with his family in Hutchinson, Kansas. Books of poetry include Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley), Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth).  A new full-length collection, Deadman, is forthcoming from Spartan Press. He plays bass for the band The Excuses.

 Guest Editor James Benger is the author of two fiction ebooks, and three chapbooks, two full-lengths, and coauthor of four split books of poetry. He is on the Board of Directors of The Writers Place and the Riverfront Readings Committee, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online workshop, and is Editor In Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and children.

What I Know Today                                                               by William Sheldon

The opposite of life is…
Well, death’s opposite is hunger
“Love and death,” the poet
says, “love and death.” Horsetail
clouds framed by a window tease
dying leaves, red in setting sun.
 Bah.
All preamble to my saying again,
how much I love this graveyard
we tread daily. Let me walk thigh-
deep in the river, sit under winter’s
red skies.  We can be friends, but dirt
is my only lover.  We will lie together,
rise in each other’s clothes.

William Sheldon lives with his family in Hutchinson, Kansas. Books of poetry include Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley), Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth).  A new full-length collection, Deadman, is forthcoming from Spartan Press. He plays bass for the band The Excuses. sheldonb52@icloud.com

Guest editor, Denise LowKansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, is winner of a Red Mountain Press’s Editor’s Choice Award for Shadow Light. A new book of poetry from Red Mountain is Wing. Other recent books areThe Turtle’s Beating Heart: One Family’s Story of Lenape Survival (a memoir, U. of Nebraska Press); Casino Bestiary (Spartan Press); and Jackalope, fiction (Red Mountain). She founded the Creative Writing Program at Haskell Indian Nations University, where she taught and was an administrator. Low is past board president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She has won 3 Kansas Notable Book Awards and recognition from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Sequoyah National Research Center, Poetry Society of America, The Circle -Best Native American Books, Roberts Foundation, Lichtor Awards, and the Kansas Arts Commission. Low has an MFA from Wichita St. U. and Ph.D. from Kansas U. Her literary blog is http://deniselow.blogspot.com.

The Doorway — by Gregory Stapp

A door is not always a door.

Understand, for me it’s sometimes a bridge

over the frozen creek or a wall against the wind

propped up against the dumpster bay

like a mean city lean-to.

I slept on a bunch of books once.

Spent all afternoon lining them up:

seven wide and fourteen deep,

about five high, depending,

with a divot in the middle.

They became a warm, firm mattress

where I found a poem called

The Oven Bird and dreamt the night

of Thanksgiving’s past and realized

on waking I’d forgotten how to sing.

I love words for their descriptions of things,

in the way they’re used like doors. I used to be

a man. I love poetry, the leaning music,

for being mattresses, or fuel

for the fire; for reminding me to sing

in a way the city didn’t mean to.

~ Gregory Stapp

Gregory Stapp received his BA from the University of Oklahoma and his MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. His poems have appeared in, Lime Hawk Journal, Shot Glass, The Ekphrastic Review, and Forage, among others. He recently served as the Poetry Editor for Qu: A Literary Magazine.

William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas where he teaches and writes. His poetry and prose have been published widely in such journals as Blue Mesa Review, Columbia, New Letters, and Prairie Schooner. He is the author of two books of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley, 2002) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth, 2011), as well as a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill, 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.

The Nobody Bird — by Marjorie Saiser

I’m nobody! Who are you?

        – Emily Dickinson

The woman leading the bird walk

is excited because she thinks

for a minute the bird

is one she doesn’t have

on her life list

and then she says Oh it’s

just a dickcissel.

I raise my binoculars

to bring the black throat patch

and dark eye

into the center of a circle.

I see how the dickcissel

clings to a stem

when he sings, how

he tilts his head back,

opens his throat.

The group follows

the leader to higher ground.

The wind comes up; white blossoms

of the elderberry dip and

right themselves in a rocking motion

again and again. An oriole

flies into the cottonwood,

the gray catbird into

the tossing ripening sumac.

The nobody bird

holds on,

holds on and sings.

~ Marjorie Saiser

Marjorie Saiser’s most recent book is I Have Nothing to Say About Fire (The Backwaters Press, 2016). Saiser’s poems have been published in Poetry East, Poet Lore, RHINO, Rattle, Nimrod, Mud Season Review, Fourth River, The Writer’s Almanac, Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, and at poetmarge.com.

William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas where he teaches and writes. His poetry and prose have been published widely in such journals as Blue Mesa Review, Columbia, New Letters, and Prairie Schooner. He is the author of two books of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley, 2002) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth, 2011), as well as a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill, 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.

Storm Surge — by Morgan O.H. McCune

I’m sure this time the world has me

wrecked. Cornered, filthy water rising

to my lips, I search for the boat, fireman,

enormous Newfoundland, a blow-up

raft miraculously trailing his wake—

or the dog, just the steady dog. Paddling

myself with numbing hands, I catch

the edge of a roof, realize it’s mine.

 

A dead fish stares as it kisses my

shoulder, then drifts away, listing,

and farther, the shadow of something

larger, bloated, spoked with rigid legs.

I close my eyes; the water rises.

In my mind, again, I write the line

that dangles from the helicopter,

grab it from my broken house.

~ Morgan O.H. McCune

Morgan O.H. McCune was born and raised in Topeka. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from Washington University in St. Louis (1991) and a Master of Library Science from Emporia State University (2002). She is currently working as a Cataloging Librarian, Associate Professor, at Pittsburg State University.

William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas where he teaches and writes. His poetry and prose have been published widely in such journals as Blue Mesa Review, Columbia, New Letters, and Prairie Schooner. He is the author of two books of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley, 2002) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth, 2011), as well as a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill, 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.

Local Weather — by Laura Madeline Wiseman

Our neighbor tells me it dropped for days

until even the sun could not lift the mercury

from cold, but today all the black squirrels sit

on haunches munching morsels unearthed, robins

step the yards like kings eyeing court favorites

and cardinals trumpet encouragement from the trees

to every living thing that has failed to notice—the warmth,

the crocus, the daffodils, the laid off who stare from curtains,

unconvinced. All afternoon I wait and I watch this space.

One by one, neighbors arrive home from work, open windows

to let the breeze chatter the blinds. They shirk from Carhartts,

kick off boots and sit stoops and lawn chairs in the day’s heat.

Yes, such balm might only be for today, but it’s ours.

~ Laura Madeline Wiseman

 

From An Apparently Impossible Adventure (BlazeVOX [books] 2016).

First appeared (as “First Thaw”) in Sugar Mule, Issue 41, 2012

Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of 25 books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance, selected for the Nebraska 150 Booklist. Her collaborative book Intimates and Fools is a Nebraska Book Award 2015 Honor Book. Her latest book is Velocipede. She teaches at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

William Sheldon lives in Hutchinson, Kansas where he teaches and writes. His poetry and prose have been published widely in such journals as Blue Mesa Review, Columbia, New Letters, and Prairie Schooner. He is the author of two books of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley, 2002) and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth, 2011), as well as a chapbook, Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill, 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.

Birdseed by Bill Sheldon

SheldonPicThe Ladderback Woodpecker

hangs from the underside

of the suet cage. Eleven

new chicks scratch the grass

in their pen as their mother

has shown them. Four

House Finches, scarlet

heads flashing

in morning light, take short

shifts in the birdbath.

Three new Bluebirds

follow their parents

into the mown field

beside our house.

The Song Sparrow chicks

in the nest in the rain

gutter cry hungry

when their father nears,

a grub in his beak.

The one Red-Wing

Blackbird that visits our yard

rests on the feeder. And then

amid all this

bounty, the epiphany

we have sought all summer,

there, at the sugar water,

the first Hummingbird.

~ Bill Sheldon

William Sheldon lives with his family in Hutchinson, Kansas. His poetry and prose have appeared widely in small press publications. He is the author of three collections of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley, 2002), Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill Press, 2009), and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth, 2011).

Hunting Arrowheads on the Arkansas by William Sheldon

When the eleven egrets roseSheldonPic

over the river bend, green shrubs

even a droughty river holds—

just as the flock had a week before,

right before he saw the small Washita,

a white triangle in the pea gravel—

he might have, had he believed

in omens, egret deities, or other magic,

thought himself lucky, looked

for another point, that moment,

at his feet. Instead, he was only

gladdened. All day he saw

gravel and minnows, light

on the water. Only later,

moving back upriver,

did he indulge his foolishness,

cursing, almost aloud, the day’s

heat, the barrenness of the river.

He saw again the ungainly grace

of wading egrets lifting in late

afternoon’s sallow light. Their blessing

had been real. “Walk slowly, look hard

in the small gravel. Move on.”

~ William Sheldon

William Sheldon lives with his family in Hutchinson, Kansas. His poetry and prose have appeared widely in small press publications. He is the author of three collections of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley, 2002), Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill Press, 2009), and Rain Comes Riding (Mammoth, 2011).

11. To the Stars Through Difficulty: William Sheldon

The dog’s ashes sift a little lower
in the garden under evening’s arterial light.
Above, Venus calls in the west,
and the last flight of geese settles
in old man Moran’s pond.
Hunched and shuffling, he makes his way
to feed the old horse and graying mule,
a fortnight from the end of his wife’s
long fight.  Stars are winking now, but we’ve
difficulty enough on the ground.

— William Sheldon

132. Idyll

The dog’s ashes work their way

deeper into the garden’s soil.

This season I walk alone

the dirt road winding into darkening

sky. The horses no longer

come to the fence, and the wind

keens, “Winter is coming on.”

The rising moon

rattles the dry grass,

and below, the dead

continue their long work.

— William Sheldon

William Sheldon lives with his family in Hutchinson, Kansas where he teaches and writes. His poetry and prose have appeared widely in small press publications, including Columbia, Epoch, Flint Hills Review, Prairie Schooner, and Midwest Quarterly. He is the author of two collections of poetry, Retrieving Old Bones (Woodley) and the chapbook Into Distant Grass (Oil Hill Press).