Dennis Etzel Jr

Dennis Etzel, Jr.

Dennis Etzel, Jr. has his MA in Literature and Creative Writing, Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies, Kansas State University. He teaches part-time in the English Department at Washburn, and previously served as Editor-in-Chief and Poetry Editor for KSU’s literary magazine, Touchstone. His work has appeared in RATTLE, Black Bear Review, and Poetry Midwest. His fellowships and awards include: Salina’s New Voice Award, Graduate Student Creative Writing Award in Poetry, Seaton Fellowship for Creative Writers, and Washburn Writers Fellowship.

Included below are selected works by the visiting writer.


Along the prairie

To run, you put on young feet, place your arms 

around each hillside as the girl, again,

the spinner in her dress who listens

as butterflies make their way back south, a sign

that summer is over, when school strikes

with its classroom lessons, and the good girl remains

silent, still, but you give her permission to run out

with the library books that take her to another place 

where you now are, with the smile you saved

for these fields, with rows of grown-up days—

(First published in Flint Hills Review Issue #12: 2007).


And so


With the vague idea of conjunction and adverb, I start with nothing.  To help describe my actions, please let me explain, the President said.  There was a so-and-so on television, and the word and repeated over and over.  Gertrude Stein said there is no repetition in writing, only insistence.  Watch the whole thing via satellite on television and pay per view, not as a repeat, but for insistence, like when the man insisted there were hidden weapons.  In America, you can start with nothing. 


Many depict war as a game at a time when children who learn easily and enjoy painting can purchase plastic Army men to decorate.  Even as I want to be the good guys, the green plastic Army men, it is difficult to see who the good guys are when recorded in black and white World War Two films. 


Children play war games in suburban backyards, in gardens of lilacs and lilies, of roses and other flowers for sympathy.  The young boy dressed in Army green with a helmet is under fire for equipping kids as young as five with fake guns and knives in commando training classes.  Maybe this gives us a chance of relating to our children in a way our parents never could? 


We often would picnic after a morning of running around with plastic machine guns, the rapid-fire sound and spit as a means for shooting.  I placed my hands over the ketchup spout to stop the bleeding. 


My Transformers Optimus Prime can beat your Halo Master Chief.  And my fantasy football Indianapolis Colts Payton Manning quarterback can beat your fantasy football Miami Dolphins Jason Taylor defensive lineman.  And my American Idol first-season winner Kelly Clarkson can beat your American Idol fourth-season winner Carrie Underwood.  And my Led Zeppelin "Stairway to Heaven" can beat your Beatles "Hey Jude."  And my Herman Melville's Moby-Dick can beat your Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  And my Resident Evil’s Jill Valentine can beat your Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft.  And my Risk Board Game of Global Domination green Army in North America can beat your Risk Board Game of Global Domination yellow Army anywhere in the world.  And my noun can beat your verb.  And my scissors can beat your paper.  And my rock can beat you beat you.


(First published in Seveneightfive).