The Ninnescah River
Popcorn cooked over the fire would emboss the concrete patio
We called it the shelter
Would scrap our sandy sneakers on the grates by its entrance
Let the bits of dry earth flick off our bodies
grains of soil that nobody could call pleasant
Kansas summers are hot and windy
My friend’s dad always says he’ll never leave Kansas
Because it makes traveling even more beautiful in comparison
At camp, the kids who took medication would see the nurse after breakfast
And my nose would run in my cereal
Dust to dust
I have always been allergic to dust
Clover and dehydrated grass
A blacktop softened by summer
Many children, all with different stories and different futures
Sweating together into a bug spray and chlorine shower haze
The quiet girl who slept in the bunk above me
Would become a mother in two more Springs
I also got older, in other more superficial ways
Band camp and small summer jobs
I only came back to be baptized in this river, the one with clay rocks we’d use to draw on each other’s wet arms
Before the nurse would squirt saline in our ears
The river was dirty, dangerous
But it was the only thing that could turn the dust to mud
Fully clothed, I walked in the river because of the dying and the dead, because of what preserves the living
My grandpa, lungs full of fluid, watched my nose tilt back into the water from the safety of the car
I was supposed to pinch my nose between my thumb and forefinger
But instead, water flooded my body, like a cannula
Like saline solution, like the wind, like the dust
I know the river is still in my body
But sometimes all I remember is the 15 year old mother
Outgrowing bunkbeds too quickly
Paper Crane People
Bring America your tired
and they can dream of finally waking up,
startling to an alarm
the sound of tornado sirens wailing their terrible dance
bread dough rising in a mixing bowl cocoon
We were all just yeast and warm milk once
My brother used to hold onto the soft skin of my mom’s elbow in the grocery store
See how safe we were
under our tea towel as we rose?
Bake until golden, the passed-down recipe said
I did not grow up afraid of golden boy and golden girl,
the children of the flaming, cancerous sun they will have.
I did not grow up afraid of the word “affluent,” how it sounds like
the hollow in a hummingbird’s chest
custardy egg yokes whipped with sugar
choosing to walk six miles in a day
small families on their chrome bikes
clean wooly dogs on nylon leashes
tan women with blonde highlights
I did not grow up afraid of
calling the police over noise in the park
I was afraid of teenagers driving in circles
tossing bags of drive-through food out their chipped windows, not even watching
as it lands noiselessly
abandoned, grease wetting its white paper sack like an infant’s diaper
People who smell of burnt grass and
We tell the wounded to thread their circumstances into scarves,
hammer them into bangles,
bake them into bread.
Craftsmanship is easier taught than executed,
Taught by a country that often chooses execution over teaching.
Ignorance is the bottoms of ballet slippers,
the grimy rims of tires
Where did we, bloated with greed, emaciated with fear,
Dust to dust, possibly
Possibly, in the petri dish of the powdery-slick top of my shelves
A new colony will take their first sharp, shaky breaths
I will whisper to these dust-people
Children of my negligence, my entitlement
To keep folding paper cranes
Even though they’ll never fly through the bombed, bloodred sky
Faces with grill marks
Like hamburgers on May Day
Voices, like bulbous, infected appendixes, thud about the House
They plagiarize a composite of news sources and stage-whispered secrets
Night grows the People
Emboldening, holding, folding
in on the pressure of good, seeming.
The economy is bruised in this masked and mucused city,
this redlined neighborhood of rags and fences and riches and gates.
I could think but
it is easier for me to spend my days like a drunk girl online shopping
One minute, I hold them in my abundant purse
The next, I don’t.
Were we naive to think there really was a before?
A world with a recipe and a result you can measure
can put in a tupperware and store in the fridge
can slice and eat with a cool metal fork.
I don’t know that anybody has ever held the world in their hands
has ever counted its fingers and toes
measured the rumbling of our oven minds on the richter scale,
where our itch to create and consume
has been compressed into crushed gemstones for the oligarchy to sift through
during their long-winded addresses, mouths garage doors too slow to open
Dispair is embedded in history’s shaggy fibers
It is a body
Left at the bottom of the river for too long, until floating
Pale puffy skin flipped upwards, protruding through the water’s surface
A belly swollen with creek and sand
But we’ll keep folding paper cranes made of slain trees and a strange, illustrious dream
Expecting objects without hearts or bank accounts to fly
As if tomorrow’s bullet-proof boot won’t crush our careful folds
We’ll keep folding paper cranes.
Maybe, they won’t be Icarus, won’t have to fear the children of the cancerous sun or their mothers with locks of platinum blond, locks of the house and the car and the pool.
Maybe, they’ll soar, no fear of tear gas or miranda rights
It is hard to have faith in the tomorrow that’s unfolding.
But tomorrow cannot unfold if it was not folded first and
what if you are the one pressing the new day’s careful creases
What if you are a conscientious maker
Made to respect others’ creations,
Made to respect their creators.
as if grasping a precious reality,
careful not to spill the boiling liquid onto your stomach,
the place where even the soundest plans go to die.
I struggle to speak sentences without caveats
To discuss futures without ifs
The word “when” is a child with a distant father,
a man of many empty promises,
of many missed birthdays.
I do not know if I will ever get married,
but if I do,
I do not think I could get past the naïveté of a wedding.
The finality of dates printed on well-inked paper,
of rsvps and the circling of meals,
of the booking of flights or buying of flowers,
things that are destined to shrivel from the moment they are picked.
Day dreams and night dreams
Phantasms and fantasies
My mind strays from reality
To visit a realm in which i am undisturbed
By cacophonous inquires
Met with dubious claims
Subdued by calamity
Who can discern fact from fiction
And chaos from convention?
I am incredulous
In a time of existential unrest,
Suppressing agitated symptoms of distress
Bereft of rationality
Left only with the urge to dissociate
From my present state
And submit to illusions of sanity
A fire ignored inside
An ember that flies and is caught in the wind
The higher it rises,
The greater the fall
The flood captures all
It dampens my spirits
And washes away the passionate play of my youth
The persistent truth
I retire my ire
And float on the whim of my day dreams,
For that is all they will ever be
The flames flicker and die
My lungs fill with smoke
My eyes spill from fear and I choke
I Meant to Tell You
I meant to tell you before I forgot:
I remember when you were my babysitter
I remember going to the pantry because it would have my favorite snacks
You always made sure of that
I remember going on adventures with you
When we went to the park, the pool, and the movies
You were always so happy to spend time with me
I remember baking gingerbread cookies
And painting popsicle sticks
I remember we were going to make art journals
When I started mine I wasn’t happy with it
But you always made me feel better about how it looked
We spent whole summers together
And every day after school
You would always be waiting at the window to pick me up
And I was always excited to walk home with you
When I got older I walked by myself
You were always waiting for me at the door
I was always excited to see you
You always listened as I told my stories
The first time I became self-conscious about how much I talk
You still listened
You even wanted me to tell you more
You wanted more of my movie recounts and book summaries
But sometimes my stories were not your favorite genre
And you listened anyways
One day I grew up
You understood when I was too busy to come over
You said “don’t be a stranger”
You gave me a hug every time I arrived and every time I left
Your house is my second home
But I’m so old and busy now
We used to spend so much time together
It’s harder now that I’m growing up
It was a while ago…
But I remember when you were my babysitter
And all the things we did together
I meant to tell you that
There are some days I feel a little red.
The morning sun glows orange
and the sunshine warms my skin yellow.
The grass under me is green
and the sky over me is blue.
The flowers along my path bloom purple.
And when the sky turns purple,
the ground goes red
and I start feeling a little blue.
Sometimes, the sky is orange
with a sun glowing green
and I feel so so yellow.
If I wake up yellow,
my sky goes purple
and the walls around me fade to green.
The ground is red
and the flowers bloom orange
and nothing that should be is blue.
Waking up blue
makes the world turn yellow
with streaks of brilliant orange.
The moon is hued purple
and the sun is hued red.
But then sometimes, the sky goes green.
And if the sky goes green,
the world looks blue
with the sun melting red.
The stars stay yellow
but the moon turns purple.
And then sometimes I wake up orange
and waking up orange
makes me feel a little green.
But the sidewalks look purple
and the flowers bloom blue
with little bugs crawling yellow
and leaving trails of red.
But even if I’ve been blue,
or I want to feel yellow,
there are some days I just feel a little red.
Not Really a Believer
God looked at me and said “Little girl,
where have you been all of this time?”
“I don’t really know God. But
it was better than this.
Being here with you.
Guilty with my
A Rose :: Waterlily :: Rosebud
Kenton Fox Horst
to whom do the dead refer
so fleeting a gesture
walking on water
a spider spun
some last drops
of a winter storm
toward the border of
a waterlily waiting for morning.
a word is a rosebud
waiting to bloom
in the summertime
under the moon
stumbling toward the answer:
a seedling, fertilizer, and cancer
Untitled 7/26/20, 4:13AM
Kenton Fox Horst
an insatiable itch
chest hurtling down
knees sent in
i know how this ends
before sleep awakened again
perhaps I’ll treat death as a friend.
the art of self-isolation
Kenton Fox Horst
in the closet where the bodies are buried
and history was carried
my parents were married
in winter coats
stitched of pew cushions
stolen from sanctuaries
tinted with red hues cast by
jesus in the arms of mary
Hannah at Trader Joe's
Under the blistering light
Everything reflects back the color of gold
A certain shine that brings me back
The memory of a reality in love with routine
I watch as she floats by
Piece of art on lend from the local museum
Reaching, reaching ever slightly
But never turning to ask for help
Her independence shines the brightest
Under this blistering gold light
Stronger than atlas her hands fill
As if the world would crumble without this
There is an air of agreeance
All onlookers in awe of her beauty
The master strokes of her craft
A rococo painting come to life
On walks around the lake
I pick up ice to watch it melt and crack as I throw it
Across the still panorama
Every winter the skin on my forehead cracks
The hollow wind stronger than any lotion
I still drive my first car even though
All of the tires gave up and the lights went out
The antenna torn off by a car wash lover
My hands never could keep up with the speed of a drum
Hips constantly feuding with the rhythm of dance
Hands frozen over the computer, knuckles fighting time
It’s in the stillness of the night that I remember
I never really liked flowers
Picked stems face death too easily
Beauty dwindling with every moment
Rib bones remembering the essence of life in their etches
Thoughts of waking up too early, frozen,
Suspended in the motion of busy hands
A touch still felt in the hold of another man