On Being Asked for a Political Poem – by Christopher Todd Anderson


My eyes drift across Kansas, its drab winter fields

and bird-churned skies, its highways like frozen

gray rivers, its oak trees clutching brown shawls

of dead unfallen leaves, a rough threadbare comfort.


I could stand at my window all day and watch clouds

grazing sky like white bison in a blue meadow. I could

stand at my window all day drinking hot tea. Gazing

is the only thing I’m really good at. I could do it all day.


Yesterday I had lunch with Laura, who keeps quoting

Rukeyser on poets of outrage and poets of possibility.

Honestly, I never know where I stand with my poems

full of raptors and wine, empty fields, black morning


coffee, and barn cats gagging up something killed

for hunger. Lunch was good, and my belly’s full

of sunshine, but the new year’s colder than ever

as statesmen swear their oaths with their left palms

flat atop piles of money and raised right hands poised

to bitch-slap America. I’ve got nothing to say to make

things better. Tomorrow, trees will still march through

poems like buckskin priests praising the sun, and gods


will roost on power lines, then glory in flight. But now

every word is on fire, every blackbird and maple leaf is

a red ember. Sing your children to sleep, sing, for worlds

are burning as we stir anger like sour milk into our coffee.



Christopher Todd Anderson is Associate Professor of English at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, where he teaches courses in American literature, creative writing, environmental literature, and popular culture.  His poetry has appeared in journals such as River StyxTar River PoetryEllipsisChicago Quarterly ReviewTipton Poetry Journal, and The Midwest Quarterly.


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 TheNewVerse.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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