Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

wasserstein_selfieAlmost every time.

You will run for 24 hours, run until your calves burn

and your feet are a ruin of blisters,

and reach your destination fifteen seconds late.

The sandbags you stack through the night

will not hold back the floods.

You will look at the rubble of your life.

You will come up short.

The future you work for will always be the future.

The war you rallied against, prayed against,

shouted against, screamed against–

the war you beat your bloody knuckles against

until your arms gave out–

the war will come. The men who started it will grin

over the ashpits of your despair.

You will come up short.

The walls you build around yourself will crack.

The poem you write will fail.

This poem will fail.

Your song of protest will not sway the President,

nor the mayor, nor the mayor’s dog.

You will pull apart your pockets seeking change,

and finding none, you will give up the milk, or the eggs, or the flour.

You will leave the tying run stranded at third base,

and they will laugh and celebrate their triumph

and hope you do not notice they were born there,

on third base, while you fought to take your first swing.

They want you to come up short

because of the color of your skin, or the dirt

caked to your palms, or the shape of your genitals

or the self you need yourself to be,

or whom you love or lust after,

because you do not sound like them,

because you were born elsewhere

because you were born at all,

because you see their lies,

or because they hate everyone

but themselves, and maybe especially themselves,

and so they cannot stand to see you succeed.

They will leave landmines in your path,

and when they do not know your path,

they will leave landmines everywhere.

They will threaten what you love.

They will promise you a runner-up trophy

if only you stop now. They will take away the trophy

you earned, and if they cannot take it away

they will tell you it was never yours, or never existed,

or that they let you have it.

They will have you thinking since you first crawled

that your legs were theirs,

that your arms were useless to you.

They will cut your tendons.

They will tell you that you are safest if you are silent,

tell you to keep your head low

and your eyes on your folded hands.

They will offer you baubles

and tell you that you can only win

by joining them

and then they will place you in the stands,

far, far up, so you may cheer their triumph with your bloody mouth,

they will tell you that you can be one of them

if only you put the hammer down,

if only you take up their flag

and their knives

and put them to use.

You will come up short.

They are counting on it.

They have built the world to ensure it.

Almost every time, you will look back and see the long line

of failures and their way will seem appealing, so much easier.

Just put the hammer down,

they will say.

And then you will see the fear lodged back far behind their eyes,

the pulsing fear, the fear that is a mechanical fist, always constricting,

and the only way they can loosen it

is to make it grasp you.

And you will know you do not need their fist.

You will come up short.

The blow you strike with all your strength

will not split open the bars.

The alarms will shriek contempt, the hammer will drop

from your hands.

Look at it closely. See the way the grip

was molded for your dirty palm. The edge is chipped

but it is strong. The callouses you have earned

serve you now. Reach down.

The hammer is as heavy as it needs to be.

It was made for you.

Strike again.

~ Izzy Wasserstein

Izzy Wasserstein is a Lecturer in English at Washburn University. Izzy is the author of the poetry collection This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, and has published in Crab Orchard Review, Flint Hills Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Izzy shares a home with Nora E. Derrington, a cat, and three dogs, and believes in the power of resistance.

Guest editor bio: Annette Hope Billings is an author/actor whose published works include a collection of poetry, A Net Full of Hope, and a collection of affirmations, Descants for a Daughter. Her poetry, prose, and short stories have appeared in a number of publications. She resides within the delights of being mother to one, grandmother to two and friend to many in her village of Topeka.

IMG_0638Implicit seeds are cultivated

From fear so profitable for its ease to make,

Of the well-meaning to self-serving,

Off power milked from icons of deviance,

To be mutilated and manufactured

As the feed needed to breed fury

In the cattle to normalize that they will cannibalize

Their sisters, their brothers, they’re others.

Because it was superficially better for cost

Than the nurture lost of proper nutrition.

Feed sacks on face,

In the bondage of blue collar choke chains,

The creatures cannot see

As they are being led gently to slaughter,

To become an export of hate-mongered followers to Oblivion,

An army perfected for any cause,

Even pre-packaged for consumer convenience.

Off further from the yard

Can be heard the milk maid and her grievances,

That guilt leaves her defeated,

But not that the guilt would not be

For not the absence of action.

Her cries become silence

As she continues her job as always before.

Silence is her death

In a farm of noise so chaotic

You can no longer find sleep at night.

You of the stable hands few

Who sees what has been

And can be empath oracle to see what could be,

Be that ugly roots digging deeper to spoil our soil

Or the change Romantic hearts hopelessly pined for.

You who cannot be lulled to peace

Via non-confronting “peace” with regimen as is

And continue to champion for peace as truly is,

Where pain is no longer a tool to convert and oppress

Nor a reason never to try

Against the suffering of communication,

You will continue to breathe

In spite of the farm foreclosing.

~ Tara Barley

Tara Bartley is currently a Senior at Washburn University, majoring in History and flirting with Sociology. Her works can be found in the Konza Journal and Microburst Kansas.A lifelong resident of Topeka, Kansas, she is active in its ever-expanding poetry scene as a member and hocker of the Speak Easy Poets.

Guest editor bio: Annette Hope Billings is an author/actor whose published works include a collection of poetry, A Net Full of Hope, and a collection of affirmations, Descants for a Daughter. Her poetry, prose, and short stories have appeared in a number of publications. She resides within the delights of being mother to one, grandmother to two and friend to many in her village of Topeka.

fullsizerxenderI turn on the water faucet.

Not a day goes by that I don’t

think about how blessed

I am to have running water,

clean water, water to drink,

to cook with, to wash myself

and my clothing, to flush

what my body can’t use

away from me.
we refused them

the last few drops

of water knowing

it was all that was

keeping them alive.
I think about how much water

it takes to fill your body and mine,

and how it flows through us without

our thinking about it.
how much longer

it would have added

to their hearts beating

we had no way of knowing
My dreams are of Water Protectors.

I think how sacred they

are to our way of life,

to staying alive. I feel

the burden, the duty,

the heaviness of carrying water

to crops, to livestock,

to the garden patch.
it was the knowledge

that it added time + agony

to our own days and nights,

not theirs, that we feared.
Sometimes the weight of my own

water is too heavy to carry alone.

Emotions flow through us,

fill our vessels, escape

our eyes as water droplets,

lift as rainbow against autumn sky.
one asked for milk;

how he longed for the sweetness

of the taste.

the connection

of being joined

to his mother

didn’t cross our minds

until he was gone.
I remember the joy of carrying

my children, filled with their own water,

inside of me. And then my water

broke and they carried their water

forward, away from me.

they were able to live because

of breast milk I made from my water.
it was then

we realized

it would not have

made a difference

in his pneumonia;

in anything except

a small pleasure

we had no right to deny.
I watch as the Water Protectors

are hurt by their water,

our water,

as it is used

as weapon

against them.

~ Ronda Miller

Ronda Miller is district president of Kansas Authors Club, as well as state VP of the club. She is a Life Coach who works with clients who have lost someone to homicide. Miller enjoys wandering the high plateau region of NW Kansas where the Arikaree Breaks whisper into the sunset and scream into blizzards and t-storms. Her quote, “Poetry is our most natural connection among one another” best exemplifies her belief in poetry. She created poetic forms Loku and Ukol and co authored the documentary The 150 Reride of The Pony Express. Her books of poetry include Going Home: Poems from My Life and MoonStain (Meadowlark Books, May of 2015).

fullsizerenderart was disgusting to her

when it wasted materials

that could be used elsewhere

to help the poor or

feed the hungry

or when it lost all

practicality and only

took up space needed

for something more
 

she realized this while

cutting a stick of butter

and reflected on a film

she saw of Tibetan monks

sculpting butter into

elaborate figures and

designs to celebrate the

birth of Lord Buddha

which made her think

of all the energy spent in

creating the same beauty

to celebrate the birth of

her Lord Jesus Christ
 

supposedly saviors she

whispered to herself while

cutting the butter into

the flour for a pie crust

putting aside her project

she spied her pill box

she remembered she forgot

and popped open the cell

for the day, spilling the pills

into her cupped palm

the tiniest pill contained

both heaven and hell in

its minute chemical cosmos

but no nirvana was found there

~ Will Hagman

Poet Will Hagman works as a customer service representative in Sioux Falls, SD where he lives with his husband Bob. He has found writing to be therapeutic throughout his life and continues to write poetry as a venue to connect with others and himself. Additionally, Will enjoys gardening and dabbling in various mediums of art.

Guest Editor Ronda Miller is district president of Kansas Authors Club, as well as state VP of the club. She is a Life Coach who works with clients who have lost someone to homicide. Miller enjoys wandering the high plateau region of NW Kansas where the Arikaree Breaks whisper into the sunset and scream into blizzards and t-storms. Her quote, “Poetry is our most natural connection among one another” best exemplifies her belief in poetry. She created poetic forms Loku and Ukol and co authored the documentary The 150 Reride of The Pony Express. Her books of poetry include Going Home: Poems from My Life and MoonStain (Meadowlark Books, May of 2015).

When it getsimg_5328

real cold,

Asad from Azerbaijan

comes to school

in a new

green and black camo

ski mask,

and secretary Kay tells him:

not a good idea,

wearing that the day after

the shooting, clips

emptied into the dance club,

but Asad doesn’t get it, doesn’t

follow the connection between

that man and him, when men

look like him, but have lost

all heart, face.

Asad lugs his books

up steps, leaves

12 copies of his poem

on my desk, lines of lust

for pomegranates and blondes,

not guns.

~ Kevin Rabas

Poet Kevin Rabas teaches at Emporia State University, where he leads the poetry and playwriting tracks. He has seven books, including Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano – a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award winner.

Guest Editor Ronda Miller is district president of Kansas Authors Club, as well as state VP of the club. She is a Life Coach who works with clients who have lost someone to homicide. Miller enjoys wandering the high plateau region of NW Kansas where the Arikaree Breaks whisper into the sunset and scream into blizzards and t-storms. Her quote, “Poetry is our most natural connection among one another” best exemplifies her belief in poetry. She created poetic forms Loku and Ukol and co authored the documentary The 150 Reride of The Pony Express. Her books of poetry include Going Home: Poems from My Life and MoonStain (Meadowlark Books, May of 2015).

fullsizerender-1I wake up every day in my skin

it is white

and thin

The hot spray in my white

tile shower keeps me

clean

I smell like cinnamon

soap and baby powder

I am pure vanilla

in a sturdy white bra

soft soft bamboo tiedyed socks

a safety pin

combat boots too light

to fight in

utility pants with no tools nothing

in all those pockets

but a badge

to pass security at my white

collar job That badge says

my time is worth

more than $7.25 it says

my middle class white ass can

drive my SUV a block to

get sushi get my

teeth polished white

White ladies are raised to smile

and not ball up

our fists taught

to float like cotton candy

But me with my thin skin flimsy

boots cinnamon

scent I fight in my sleep wake up

to light stabbing

my skull my heartcage My

pale eyes they smile while

inside I shout Put down

that cross

and pick up a scale

You haven’t met

your Jesus yet and he

wouldn’t know you

from your white neighbor

or a moneychanger or

be impressed

that you footsoldier in a

white righteous war on

Starbucks cups Tell

Jesus who washed feet

do you love the

brown neighbor the gay

neighbor the headcovered

neighbor the struggling neighbor

love

thy neighbor who can’t

be a mother right now

Don’t we all breathe

air eat rice

What are your hands

busy serving up

today Why does your sign

say judgment

What of this world

needs you to hold it so tight

What gives you the right

to make the rules

for fights you cannot conceive of

when waking up in white

sheets on a nice clean street

How do you say I’m

sorry in English

Where is your shame

I wake in shame

I wake silent and afraid

I wake enraged every

single day

Every day I wake up tired

unmolted white wishing

the absence of color

didn’t make

such

a difference

~ Amy Nixon

Poet Amy Nixon is an award-winning poet and songwriter who has recently kicked a 40-year coffee habit and is still standing (most days). Her likes are birdsong, the color turquoise, and National Geographic photographs. Her dislikes are injustice and cancer.

Guest Editor Ronda Miller is district president of Kansas Authors Club, as well as state VP of the club. She is a Life Coach who works with clients who have lost someone to homicide. Miller enjoys wandering the high plateau region of NW Kansas where the Arikaree Breaks whisper into the sunset and scream into blizzards and t-storms. Her quote, “Poetry is our most natural connection among one another” best exemplifies her belief in poetry. She created poetic forms Loku and Ukol and co authored the documentary The 150 Reride of The Pony Express. Her books of poetry include Going Home: Poems from My Life and MoonStain (Meadowlark Books, May of 2015).

Crabtree Head shot - 12%Ten times ten thousand

terrible things in this world

and still

I don’t want to leave it

~ Maril Crabtree

Maril Crabtree lives in the Midwest and writes poetry, creative nonfiction, reviews, and occasional short fiction. Her work has appeared in Canyon Voices, Main Street Rag, Coal City Review, and others. She is a former poetry editor for Kansas City Voices.

Guest Editor Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals as The New Verse News, Cavalier Literary Couture, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, Red Rock Review, and Valparaiso Review.  Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has also lived and worked in Arizona and in Missouri.  She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky and is one of the founders and the Co-President of the Board of SEK Women Helping Women.

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