We all claim some part of her-
memory word reflection.
And why not? She invited us all
to a place at the table. “Do you think”
she uncrossed her arms and asked,
allowing one of those deep pregnant
pauses to divide her words into rivers
of thought and feelings
“you are the only one to have suffered
the loss of love? Of a child? Or missed
the rent? Or gotten fired? Well…read
the Black poets and you won’t feel
so alone. Muted with pain, she
taught us how to sing. Constrained
by fire, she worked up steps to leap
across the flames and dance.
In all her words: a great heartbeat.
She was the voice of past. Present.
Future. How freedom could ring
in those syllables. How she could say
what we all need to hear. Brothers.
Sisters. In her name let’s scoot our
chairs a little closer to the table.
~ Kathleen Cain
Kathleen Cain is a native Nebraskan who has lived in Colorado since 1972. Her nonfiction book The Cottonwood Tree: An American Champion ( ) was selected for the Nebraska 150 Books Project. Two of her poems appeared in Nebraska Poetry:A Sesquicentennial Anthology 1867 -2017.
Guest Editor Annette Hope Billings is an award-winning author and actress whose dynamic style of reciting has led fans to dub her “Maya of the Midwest!” Her first book of poetry, A Net Full of Hope (2015), garnered the 2015 ARTSConnect ARTY Award in Literature in Topeka, Kansas. Descants for a Daughter followed in 2016 and serves as a collection of affirmations from a parent’s heart. Billings most recent publication is Just Shy of Stars (Spartan Press, 2018). Her poetry and short stories also appears in the following anthologies: Gimme Your Lunch Money: Heartland Poets Respond to Bullying (2016), Twisting Topeka (2016), Our Last Walk: Using Poetry for Grieving and Remembering Our Pets (2016), and Kansas Time + Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Balkans Press, 2017) and Revealed (2017). Billings’ poetry can also be found in both online and print publications including Inscape/Washburn University, Coal City Press, Microburst and Konza Magazine.