The Race by Laura Lee Washburn

I catch foul balls on my tongue:
words like “Get ‘im out of here” USA
“Go back to China” USA, “Make America—”
USA I wash my hair
in the shower with soap that smells like berries.
On the corner, a panhandler
asks for food, “Every Little Bit
Helps. Peace.” As-salamu alaykum.

I drive by, the food bank six blocks north,
the county shelter closed, funds moved
west where Kansans vote Republican
harder than here—GodBlessAmericaJakesFireworks
signs on Forest, on Jefferson, on Adams.
I can no longer tolerate words: USA USA
balloon launches, USA the simple wish
peace be with you, and prayers (Jake’s Fireworks),
that choke fledglings, twist
in the guts of opossums.

You can make a hen tell the truth
no one hears. You can’t fake an egg.
They come honest from the hens,
a kind of fragile truth. Eat spaghetti
by the ax full, carry water
in a berry basket, eat bullets, breathe
turbine—Make America great.

A screwdriver helps a Carpenter Joe twist
screws into holes. If I could,
I’d go back to sleep, great again.
Don’t cut off your tail USA USA; drape it over your
arm, USA wear a top hat USA before it’s too late
make America catch the foulest balls
on their tongues and swallow.


Originally published at The New Verse News (


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.

Guest Editor Roy J. Beckemeyer is from Wichita, Kansas. He was President of the Kansas Authors Club 2016-2017. His latest book of poetry, Stage Whispers (Meadowlark-Books, 2019), contains “…handsomely crafted poems…Dense with images, intimate and honest…” (Kathryn Kysar). His chapbook, Amanuensis Angel (Spartan Press, 2018) comprises ekphrastic poems inspired by a variety of artists’ depictions of angels. His first poetry collection, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, 2014), was a 2015 Kansas Notable Book. He recently co-edited Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, 2017) with Caryn Mirriam Goldberg. That anthology collected poems that appeared on this website from 2014-2016.







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