Poems

Per Aspera Ad Astra

by Huascar Medina

We were lost in the plains,

beautiful and ordinary,

Sunflowers in the fields;

seeds of fallen stars,

standing tall; deeply rooted

in this land.


I’ve admired how our flowers shine,

grasping towards the sky

beyond the prairie grass; anchored

down to earth; mimicking

the sun.


When a gardener plants

the seeds of Helianthus, he is

performing magic; raising

stars out of the dust where

buzzing planets circle,

half red moons set; and swarming

comets float in orange comas.

I’ve always felt that

late at night, in the bed of a truck,

in a Kansas field; we were

at the center of this universe.

…and I was exactly where I should be,

amongst the flowers; not below.

Kansas Awakening

by Kevin Rabas


Walk the early green

fields and run your fingers

across the wheat’s whiskers

and you will know this land

is not ours, but we belong

to these fields and this simple

dirt, and when we shake hands —

rough hands, smooth hands — we can

feel that heat, blood run

through the blue-green chutes

of the heart. This land

pulses with us — the city

office towers with their yellow

lights always on,

the wind turbines, pinwheeling

to the breath of God,

the Main Street teens, music

up, windows down,

dragging that strip of blacktop

in the night in a one light town —

and at dawn the sidewalks

full of noisy kids

in backpacks with lunch sacks

walking to the yellow buses

that honk hope

and to the tough-shouldered

grain elevator, its white pillars

and ribs, that flashes

a lonely light, but holds

abundant, golden grain —

to all these and more

we say welcome: you belong

to this state, like we do, somewhere

in the middle, at the heart

of a body awakening

and coming into its own.


Z

by Linzi Garcia

It's refreshing to be confident

in the energy You emit;

The aura You share

welcomes Me.

Colors commingle,

creating a secondary palette,

witout forgetting

Our Primaries.

Zosma may

be a single star,

but Leo wouldn't be complete

without it.

Leo may

be a incandescent lion,

but we must remember

that when a lion shows

its teeth, we cannot assume

it's smiling.


Leo is part of Our galaxy,

and our galaxy is a part of ten thousand galaxies

measured in the tip of a ballpoint pen.

We are lucky to be

intertwined in all.


Remember...

There is no full moon

in heaven for us

to admire.

To admire

is to recognize

Existence; on this day,

that is You.

Universes are vast,

and today, You made it

noticeably bigger.

Incantation upon a New Year

by Amy Sage Webb Baza

Now is a good time

to get rid of all

the itchy socks.

Keep a kazoo

if it works for you

but clear out

and let go

of everything

that does not suit.

Sage the space

that is you

and let the new

season come.

Notice all the skies

and clouds and stars

in their own wheel

of time. Pay attention

to your own seasons

and appreciate

how the tomato

perfectly ripe falls

perfectly red

into your palm

with just a twist

and how what resists

may need to wait

for now. Let time be

the river playing

its passage into music

over the rocks.

May you live peace.

May you keep an open hand

for reaching and for letting go

for giving, forgiving.

Spoken Sonata No. 1 in the Key of…

by Kevin Rabas

So We Stay Home

So we stay home

watch the rain:

gray day, the lawn greening,

the yellow crocus up, trumpeting--

and nowhere to go, no one

to meet for lunch, the bug

in the background, and so

I listen to Mingus, "Goodbye

Porkpie Hat" and pray

for my parents

in another town

and for jazz musicians, out

of work, home with their saxes

and drums, rumbling somewhere,

like the Italian tenor, singing

from his window to an empty

empty street.

Wednesday 18 March 2020, Emporia, Kansas


Not Done

with Gary Wyatt

We eat tilapia

by the sea, that little

black fish with a small pinch

of salt to season the dish

in Uganda, where this

is a lot, a treat, more than most

ever eat, and we stop,

and the waiter says, “Not done,”

so we pick the bones.

“Not done.” So we eat

the scales, fins. “Not done.”

So we eat the eyes, warm

and soft, the tail

‘til there is nothing

left but thin

white bones, like hooks,

like teeth, like the belly

of a boat, stripped, open

to the sun and sea,

hollow, a mouth

all the way open, hungry

for nothing now.


My son talks with everything.

He’s two. When he goes outside

and touches the tomato plant, it flowers,

white. When he looks up at the starlings,

they talk to him, and he talks back, a chatter,

their language. When a plane flies overhead,

it wobbles its wings. Eliot waves.

When he goes to the water, the turtles put up

their heads, nod. Everything wants to know

him. Everything calls, and he says, “Yes.

Yes. Yes. Let’s talk.”


Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano

Her full-sized electric piano flew out

of my father’s pickup truck.

I was driving. Somehow, the base

detached from the keyboard,

and it all went flying into the busy

intersection of 47 th and Main.

No one hit it, and Lisa said,

“Let’s just throw it into this

dumpster,” when we had carried it

out of the road. “No,” I said.

“Let’s take it to your new apartment,”

and we did. When I turned it on,

the power eye glowed red,

but it did not play. The next day,

I found the volume slider,

turned it up, and it played perfectly.

Aside from the scrapes from the road

on its key cover, it was fine.

I practiced tying knots, roping things down,

and I dreamt, at last, of turning corners

slow, and of a keyboard

rising in flight and floating across town,

playing a well-known sonata.


Fall Up

Gunkle and I had this big mirror between us, hefting it

into the back of his blue pick up truck. Gunkle’s real real slow,

a giant in blue jeans and green Crocs, wearing a white t-shirt

with battery acid on it. His glasses are thicker than my thumb.

So, we grab hold of this monster mirror, and it glints,

and we both look into that mirror, noticing the clarity

of that blue sky and those green sycamore leaves reflected

so perfectly that is appears you could just dive on into that mirror

and sink into the sky, and we think the same thing.

“You could fall up,” Gunkle says, “and just keep on falling.

Nothing would stop you.” And that was the way of it.

Gunkle’s mind was now my mind, and I was in that mirror

falling on up through those white smoke clouds

headed towards an orange sun.

Gunkle and I stacked box bed springs on top of that mirror,

and some branches from out front, and I could hear that large mirror

crack,

but I think Gunkle and I could still see it—

that vision of sinking into sky, drowning

with only the sun to hold us up.



Sitting in the Bar with Nothing Particular To Do

by Kerry Moyer

The blonde, lacquered wood is smooth

cool

My amber glass of beer

sits

1/8 of an inch of head

foamy

cold

A bluesy, smoky voice

a rhythm

comfortable seat

An older woman talks to a friend

maybe friends?

they are smiling

get up to leave

I know the guy at the other end of the bar

I always see him

He’s always here

bloodshot eyes

red-faced

muttering

catches himself

looks around

He sees me

half nod

I lazily raise my left index finger from the lip of the glass

in reply

And that’s over

thank God

He’s always here

He always looks

Nice guitar riff cuts through the air

I think it’s louder

An attractive woman just walked in

I saw

everyone saw

I look deliberately and smile

She sees

She always sees

a smile in return

and She floats past to friends at a corner table

they are loud

middle-aged

probably decent tippers

The bartender in me remembers

one Harley Davidson owner in the bunch

He looks clownish in his leather jacket

but he doesn’t know it

Guys like that

they never

know

The attractive woman sitting there

flips long blonde hair

serving smiles

gets drinks all night

talking motorcycles


This song is going on and on

steady pulsing

rhythm

Two friends toast to something

the guy next to them salutes

Funny looks are exchanged

spare guy

stares back into his glass

His beer lacks character

it’s flat

warm

I’ve taken three drinks

it’s still cold and I think

it’s all I do:

Think


The song just keeps going

then stops

midbeat

on the edge of a cymbal crash

My glass in the left hand mid-damn-drink

taking the rest of it down

empty

and exhale


The bartender is cute

flashing eyes and secrets

flips dark hair past auburn eyes

walks up

Ready for another?

The word wanders lazily out of my mouth

Yeah

Looking back down at the smooth,

blonde, lacquered wood

Fairy Tale Variations

by Amy Sage Webb Baza

If you meet a girl raised

by wolves, you may love

how she makes you a pack

of two, but don’t be surprised

the first time you see her snap

a dove from flight into red flesh.

Be prepared for the day

she snarls you into circling

the smallest deer. Be prepared

for the way the scent of

weakness floods your mouth

with a salty yearning to break,

tear, wrestle down. If you meet

a girl who has escaped

the house of a witch

in the woods, you might

like the way she lies

stretched on her side

telling stories of that time,

how in her stories, in her

eyes you are a huntsman

she can just see with that

axe. But don’t be surprised

when she leads you back

down the path where

the tunnel of trees

closes behind you until

a clearing opens to the dead

house where the plaster reeks

of rot and you must push away

scattered trash to sit on the sour

sofa so the witch can hand you

a cup of murky tea. Don’t be

surprised how after you squint

your way through a few bitter

sips you start to see the

gingerbread lath, the gumdrop

seat cushions, the licorice-

leaded windows lit by sparkling

sugar snow outside. Don’t be

surprised when the old woman

lights a fire under the pot, or

when the three brothers knock

at the wafer-waffled door, or

when you see them standing

on the candy mat with their

hatchets. If you meet a girl

who has climbed down

from a tower on a rope

of her own hair

she may give you roses

sharp as thorns and

thorns soft as roses.

If you meet a girl

who has spun straw

into gold, she may never

know how to stop

spinning, churning gold

for you. She may overflow

the house like a choked throat.

If you meet a girl and her voice

has been silenced, if her tail

has been split for you, then

you cannot save her, salve her,

sing to her. If she has been

sacrificed on the rock, you

cannot arrive in time

to cleave the chains that

bind her. If you meet a girl

you cannot keep her, cannot

keep the frog prince from

coming to claim her, cannot

keep pacing the shore, raising

your fist to the mist and the

ceaseless waves. If she has

been tricked you cannot trick

her. If she has been prized

you cannot value her beyond

price. If she has been won

you cannot win her. You cannot

carry water in a sieve. You

cannot steal her with whatever

you have stolen. Remember this,

how your third wish will always

be for everything to go back

to the humble way it was before.

You must take up the floor

boards, open the locked box,

carry the slippery selkie cap

to the foaming stones

of the surf and turn away.

Walk fast out of the forest

leaving your breadcrumbs

for birds. Close the garden

gate. Do not look back.

Let her go let

her go

let her

go.


The Little Hummingbird and the Jungle Fire

by Kevin Rabas

With a crackle and a hiss, and then a roar, the jungle was on fire. Red and yellow flames at the

tops of the trees, in the middle, and snaking along the forest floor.

The animals ran. Those that could, flew. Everyone left as fast as they can. The rabbit ran, the

deer. The snake slithered. The birds and the bats flapped and swooped. Everyone crossed the

river, then turned around to watch. The fire seemed to be eating everything: where they played,

where they ate, where they had lived.

And then the littlest of all, the hummingbird, dove into the river and filled his little little beak.

Up and over he went, circling the flames, releasing his little drops of water, that sizzled and let

up a tiny puff of smoke.

Some laughed. Some cried. It was a sight: the hummingbird against the red and yellow fire, the

ant against the elephant, something small against a monster.

Some shuffled in the dirt, tried not to watch. No one likes to see a losing match. But the

hummingbird kept at it. He'd dive into the water, then circle above the flames that leapt like red

hands, reaching, grasping for that little little bird.

But some thought the bird might be right. Maybe it's better to fight a losing battle than to lose

without a fight. The deer took water into their mouths, walked the little distance, and spit into the

flames. The bat flew into the water, then shook out his larger dark wings over the flames. Other

animals did similar, did the same.

And after a number of hours, the fire fizzled out. The water won. And the little hummingbird

nested by the water's edge, in the tall grass, pulled his wings up around his little head, and rested.

The other animals made him shade, their necks and heads branched around him. The little one,

he had won.

--from the classic folktale: reworded, interpreted, and arranged by Kevin Rabas

At the Oboe Table

by William Clamurro

Everything fits into a beige plastic fishing

tackle box, the knives, the slips of cane

to be shaped and tied carefully onto the small

brass cork-rimmed staples where they will

be carved in careful but frustrating work,

over so much time, into the hoped-for reeds.

Spools of bright colored nylon thread and all

the other necessary tools, collected over

so many years. It took all these and a bit

more than half a century for me to learn

that this table, all these implements,

and the uncounted hours, rare success

but so much more failure and futility,

to realize that I was here immersed

in acts of unconscious reverence, a kind

of worship or homage. With each new attempt

I would be reaching back in time, in tribute

to my teachers and all the painful modest

mystery of what we shared as we pursued

that elusive search for a sound, impossible

magic, and yet the measure of our years,

this dedication to our mistress of desire.


Oceana

by Olive Sullivan

I am

every shade from palest green

to deepest indigo,

reflection of the sky

layered by the depthless depths

where whales call,

where creatures carry their own

bioluminescence,

where color becomes only an idea.

***

My gown is translucent jade,

the hue I take from my sister Adriatica,

shot through with cobalt blue

from the Aegean,

turquoise from the great western sea,

silver given by the moon,

who trails her fingers

through the waves,

who pulls the tide to shore,

who calls back to the humpbacks,

the sea wolves, the green turtles,

the beluga and the bottlenose,

dolphins and orcas and great blue whales.

***

My gown is translucent green

trimmed with white foam,

spangled with mica, with abalone,

with pearl, with obsidian

from the heart of fire

that made the lands

you inhabit in your world of air and light.

***

Orange starfish stud my silver hair.

My hem trails through sand

gathering within it treasures,

discarded, lost things,

skeletons of sailors,

ruins of ancient sunken cities.

***

I embrace it all,

these signs of your lost worlds,

the margin where your land

holds hands with my sisters and me.

Your busy world of air and light,

the drama in which you set such store,

means nothing in the depths.

The leviathan sing their deep melodies,

heedless of your woes.

***

A few intrepid souls begin to know me,

press their faces to my breast,

float in my embrace.

Others treat me like a sewer,

forgetting that I have cleansed the world before,

my waters rising

over islands and peninsulas,

creeping up steep mountains

until the highest peaks are tiny atolls

and then shoals and reefs.

***

Hear me, you who walk on land.

You cannot save me.

I do not need to be saved.

I will pull your floating plastic waste dumps

around me like a veil.

I will shrug my shoulders.

I will bring the earthquake.

I will topple your cities

and cover them with blue.

You fancy yourselves gods,

but I tell you,

whales made this world

and all that’s in it.

They are the oldest powers

and their songs are sacred.


Duke

by Kerry Moyer

Playing guitar is cool

It just is

Everyone knows

the coolest guitar

Jazz

Blues

Duke has long dark dreads

which sit gloriously on his head

The music

Duke and his wares

call California home

for years

long, spiderlike fingers roll

lazily over steel strings

each word drawn out

One long velvety note

bends and wails

Hey

I kinda like that

You know, BB King only got big because

You know, white people like him

Lucille and his bellowing voice

Her distinct wail

Duke grins

reclined

the Kansas in him

can breath

Here

Muddy Waters

Coltrane

A Love Supreme

Duke’s musical mind

Cuban Jazz

a musical find

I’m a farm-boy-white,

jagged to Duke’s smooth,

deep, fluid laugh--bends

then wails

Metheny has good stuff

you know

Duke shifts

hand moves up the neck to find the next note

You’ve got that picking style

a nod my way

I think

Cool

Duke lays down a rhythm

I walk a lead scale

another nod

We find the groove

the sound

twelve bars--

and for a few minutes

it’s divine

the notes being blind

to his black

and my white

friends going way

way back


La Humedad

by Huascar Medina

At 1400 Main St.

I ask for

una Cuba libre

sin hielo

un Puerto Rico Rico

otro Nuevo México

otro Venezuela,

paz en Guatemala

paz en Panama

y un salvador

para

El Salvador

y algo diferente

para

Argentina

Within The Chesterfield

I dance con música alegre

Merengue

Bachata

Y Salsa

Acá bailamos

to the rhythm

of the son clave

in La Humedad

In

...esta humedad

In

...esta humedad

In

...esta humedad

In

...esta humedad

Because sitting

wishing

and waiting

would be hopeless

in the climate

we can’t

breathe in

In

...esta humedad

In

...esta humedad

In

...esta humedad

In

...esta humedad

Y el clima puede afectar su dolor

but I won’t suffer silently

tears bead down my brow

cries come out in song

and worry

turns and dips

as we protest

in dance

with

hand in hand

La Humedad

In

...esta humedad

In

...esta humedad

In

...esta humedad

In

...esta humedad

In

...esta humedad

In

...esta humedad


From Asuncion, Paraguay (We Are Neighbors)

by Kevin Rabas

from Asunción, Paraguay

They play strings, our neighbors:

violin and cello, a kind of music

of angels: and how far they have come,

have traveled, to be here in this little KS town,

little city, known for its newspapers,

beef, and pastries:

Their teen son, Joaquin, goes out

for the night

with a skateboard and a soccer ball,

and his mother, Irene, says:

adónde te vas?

where are you going?

cuando volvés?

when will you return?

And in a few hours now,

the moon will smile down,

and the stars will pop on, and the birds

will go quiet in the tops of the trees.

And Joaquin will roll in

on his skateboard, and say:

Ya estoy en casa.

I am home.

Thank You

by Kevin Rabas


Not all gifts

are wrapped

in a tight red bow.

Some come lightly,

like a 20 dropped

in a tip cup, like a smile

or a hand on a shoulder

or the words "thank you"

"I appreciate you," "I see you."

When you look back

at your college career

and remember the bulb

popping on, the lit wire

of illumination, when you realized

"this is for me," listening

as a professor talked and drew

chalk across the blackboard

or when you read aloud

and first clearly heard

that voice come across centuries

or you drew a bow across a cello

and it sounded like angels

or, in the field, you lifted

your first turtle from the water—

The "call" came to you

through the classroom,

and you've spent a life

giving that back,

and we appreciate

what you do. Like a valentine

or a love letter, you give

expecting nothing, your heart

in a card, your time

spent looping words

you may say only once,

but, if you're lucky,

that love catches hold,

and lasts, and your gifts

go on and on and on.