Prayer Beads,
by Cindy Bosley

Late summer church camp, I taught children how to pray
the beads of St. Therese. Hemp cord and colorful balls,
they licked the string and made it taut between their teeth
to needle through the bead. Crowded as Easter parishioners,
we were seated up and down the long craft table,
too long for the shallow space of the room, and the many
sweaty teens, each one more grown up than the next.

Always, some wanted more choices, different colors,
other shapes, the bright ones, and options for new
string, so many beads across the floor. Certain children
struggled with the fine knots, tying their prayers
in a circle. And always, a few children—boys, sometimes
girls of the younger grades—wanted to bead with real
stones like mine—garnet of the invitatory bead,
or the solid maple rounds, engraved with Celtic crosses
for their cruciform beads—four of them.

It happened on its own that two or three sometimes
stayed behind while others abandoned their rosaries,
and some had only made a bracelet before running off,
sweaty crowds of them, to the cage ball pit, or down
to the leech pond, or beyond, to seek the vast wilderness
of camp. Also, some in pairs stole away to climb into
a friend’s bunk, sharing secrets during quiet hour.

When free time came, I opened my jewel case
for the reverent children still with me in the craft
cabin so they could choose their own seven mysteries
beads, and their ten Hail Marys, and by the time
evening came, we had to slip silent into the wooden
logged pews in time for vespers, the fire lit.

Lightning Bug Glow,
by Cristina M.R. Norcross

I am at once light
and the absence of light,
nature’s flashing yellow,
beckoning you to slow down,
turn around, notice every minute detail
of twilight.
With bioluminescent glow,
I am evening’s lamp,
the firelight hovering above blades of grass.
I hold my torch to attract both partners
and prey.
I am the golden, honeyed breath
of a summer night.
Like lungs inhaling and exhaling,
I am the pulse of the earth
before eyelids close.

summer flashback/flash-forward,
by Cynthia Gallaher

(with a nod to Three Dog Night)

ah summer, free of snow, classes, compressed spaces,
time off for mountain crags and the mellifluous, time off
from duties? is this when I carelessly sift unfinished haiku,

charcoal sketches, weedy gardens
through my fingers, become consumed
by family visits, mad afternoons of cooking,

before the breathin’ air is gone,
will I pause to blink with lightning bugs,
answer cardinal’s call,

find boskiness under the catalpa,
revel in evenings of ursa major?
before the sun becomes a bright spot

in the autumn night-time,
will I finally take harvest?
or paint new doorways, compose duets,

write the poem
about summers
that passed me by?

Don't Write About Fireflies,
by Ellen Lager

                                  Inspired by The Rules—Leila Chatti

Overwritten, hackneyed, don’t write about them.
Or use the words, wink, blink, flash, flicker, or firefly nights.

Such bioluminescence!

No matter how captivating or tough,
banish small winks flashing attraction for mates,
or the blink of a spark.

Embrace instead hummingbirds, their sunset hums suckling,
all ruby throats, golden-green feathers.

Or capture spring peepers, their high-pitched call
of fertile swamp song in the mire of marsh marigolds,
or glassy loon-wails opening twilight.

Dismiss the flicker, the glow of firefly nights
that ignite tiny fires,
enough to arouse parched underbrush.

Night Sky,
by Jason Ryberg

The summer night sky stretches out above us
like the hide of some dark leviathan,
flayed and pulled taut on stakes like a circus tent,
the angry, purple-black bruises of clouds
slowly dispersing, moving on towards
Topeka, Abilene, Salina, Dodge …
to feed the lonely fitful sleep of outlaws,
exiles and secret admirers everywhere.

Bathed in the blue liquid light
of the night sky, we are soon reduced
to those things most immediate,
maybe even, most urgent:
the cold, flapping curtains of mist,
the snaky twist and hiss of tall grass,
the oily flow of red wine, wood smoke
and rainwater over our tongues.

All the little conversations have stopped,
the tracks of their sentences leading
to the edge of a dark, thoughtless gulf.
Coyotes and crows, field-mice and hitch-hikers,
the ghosts of old pioneers, even; everyone
pausing to listen, faces turned up, to the distant,
musical crank and groan of gears and engines …
the solar system turning on its axis.

Nectarine,
by Jason Ryberg

Through this hot, soupy
summer atmosphere thick with
the honey of late

afternoon light and
the sweet, funky musk of
mimosa, plum and

linden trees, we can
see the sun like a giant,
nectarine, mildly

bruised, yet radiant,
still, slowly being levered
and pullied down the

Birger Sandzen back-
drop of a Kansas sky, in-
to the vast, mulchy

fold of the void, just
beyond the black silhouette
of the tree-line on

the horizon, and
then is gone, leaving us a
darkening sky and

the first scattered hand-
fuls of stars, satellites and
a lone meteor.

Terminal Solstice,
by Jessica Weyer Bentley

In June of 79’ you carried me up that worn staircase,
to your beige apartment door.
A dreamy toddler,
pleasantly naïve of the disastrous September
that stalked us.
It mocked us as did the stagnate air,
my fresh hands grasped your neck of black stiff stubble.
In a Syracuse twang you sang me a lullaby,
softly,
gently now,
“Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars.
Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.”
It floated in the hot burnt umber ozone.
By September it had turned to cobalt and crimson.
Your grave clipped my wings.
A broken crow,
flitting about with no hope of rescue,
no splinting.
A failure to thrive.
But back in June we were whole,
both you,
              and I.
It is perilous to drift.
It is grave to dream.
Those shadows of possibilities waft in the dog day air.
But for a glimpse,
in minuet suspension.
You and I,
together,
whole,
were present in the same summer zephyr.

May Day,
by Jill Jablonski

We were rollerblading
He was Thriving
And I was Dying
The story of Us.

The Freshmen,
by Kerry Trautman

Driving past the university
on Student Move-in Day,

sunglassed frat boys
and other boys

sit in lawnchairs
along the main street with beers

and cardboard signs marked
you honk, we drink,

and moms drink free,
grilling hot dogs over charcoal.

Carloads of nervous
teenagers and wistful parents

lug boxes, desk lamps, and
mini-refrigerators down

cinderblock hallways,
smelling bright of paint

and floor wax. The sunglass boys
wear school t-shirts or

paint their slick chests,
grip Solo cups

or brown-paper-bag-wrapped
bottles, raised high in toast at

honks or sidewalk passers-by.
The parents hope they’re

not overestimating. That the kids
will feed themselves,

will let the world in slowly
enough to digest, to absorb only

the best of it. The lawn boys
relax muscles into their chairs,

drink what’s handed to them,
greet car exhaust and

August sky with equally-wide grins
and thrown open arms.

Muskmelon,
by Marilyn K. Moody

muskmelon
of summer
of heat
of childhood
smelling
of dark earth
green vines
sweetness
split open
seeds
scooped out
cut into
pieces
held in
our hands
big bites
juice
dripping
on faces
on shirts
on shorts
muskmelon

To Reach the Sun,
by Paula Frew

In the morning
I stand
Tall and reach
To the sun,
My leaves
Spread wide.

I Thought of Summer,
by Rose Menyon Heflin

I.
It rained today, and I thought of you, of those schoolless days, so sweet,
of all that time spent running amok through field and forest alike,
of all our barefoot rural mishaps and misadventures.

II.
I thought of saccharine heirloom watermelon fresh off the vine.
I thought of the steady strumming during the cicada years.
I thought of those secret fishing holes, now most likely drained.

III.
I thought of the neighbors’ hungry hunting hounds baying in the night,
answered by the howl of coyotes and the croak of bullfrogs,
sparkling constellations dancing a waltz, a cha-cha, a two-step.

IV.
I thought of old country music – of guitars, of fiddles, of twang.
I thought of following animal tracks down dusty dirt roads.
I thought of scratching chiggers and of splashing in mud puddles.

V.
I thought of Mason jars with holes punched jaggedly in the tops,
of filling them with earthworms, tadpoles, grasshoppers, and fireflies,
of setting them gloriously free again, just like you and me.