Poetry

 

The Ninnescah River

Michaela Esau

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

Michaela Esau

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

sweating kneecaps

 

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, 

come from?

 

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.

Laid Plans

Michaela Esau

Hold steady 

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. 

 

Pandemic

Faith Harris

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

 

Passion

Faith Harris

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

Krista Halstead

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

 

Rainbow World

Krista Halstead

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

Krista Halstead

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

number of 

sins and

crimes.”

 

 
 

A Rose :: Waterlily :: Rosebud

Kenton Fox Horst

A Rose.

to whom do the dead refer

so fleeting a gesture

arose?




 

Waterlily.

walking on water

a spider spun

some last drops

of a winter storm

dormant

before scorching

toward the border of

a waterlily waiting for morning.




 

                                                        Rosebud.

a word is a rosebud

waiting to bloom

in the summertime

         clandestine 

singing

                                                  a ramble

under the moon

dancing

                                                                                    

to cocoon

strife      gambling

  forward, preamble

                stumbling toward the answer:

a seedling, fertilizer, and cancer

 

 

Untitled 7/26/20, 4:13AM

Kenton Fox Horst

an insatiable itch

and

a kick

      kick

 

 

JOLT—electric

current

courses  

skin singed

the bends

chest hurtling down

      knees sent in

 

rest ends

i know how this ends

 

dustbound

plunged in

 

again

before sleep                     awakened again


 

and 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

Savannah Hawley

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

 

 

Hands, Hips

Savannah Hawley

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