Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

On May 20, several poets shared poems in resonance with the 1962 Brown Vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ended school segregation as part of the Voices of Freedom festival held in downtown Topeka. Here is a poem delivered and written by Tava Miller.

Just the other day I stood frozen

As I watched children being separated from their mother

As I watched  this family weep for one another, I began to wonder

If I weep with them, would I be next?

Should I hold my tongue’s dialect and pray that my silence grants me Asylum in a country that already treats me like I don’t belong here?

I too, belong here.

Dear Mr Trump,

How dare you tear families apart and call it security!?

I’m more afraid of the obscurity of hatred you express in 140 characters or less

Than skin sun-kissed like sand

Beautiful, but banned

The irony…

Brown skin synonymous with bombs

But when have wars ever began with anything other than white privilege?

It’s sickening how your so-called “agenda” means suffering for all of us

Maybe it’s because this was never your land to begin with

And everybody knows old habits die slow

Do you even know what a good night’s rest feels like anymore?

I mean you must be haunted by the ghosts of all the bodies whose blood you now carry on your hands

Broken bones are buried in your back yard

And white supremacy alive and well

This is not the story I plan to tell my grandchildren one day

Instead I want to say that I spoke louder than I ever had before when a nation tried to silence me while sending families back to war zones

I will teach them that their own brown skin embodied voices are beautiful

And that whenever the discussion of humanity arises

They can hold their head up high because they too have every right to sing along to the song we call America.

~ Tava Miller

Tava Miller writes, “I was raised in Topeka KS. I have performed my poetry in cities across the nation. Always had a love for words. My work mostly focuses on social justices and adversity. I hope that my work inspires others to find the courage to use their own voices.”

The golden kings came for her money. She said, But I have none. She’d long spent her coins on the road

that wound west of the sea.
Somewhere she lost the old cloak the north wind wrapped around her,

so the kings tracked her trek through the foothills and over the cliffs.
For too long she’d paid for the kings’ gilded hallways and parlors.

For too long she’d honored their laws, laws that kept her from love.
So she fled to the south, to the Aunt whose nine women ruled with her,

where the bakers and seamstresses thrived, where she kissed whom she wished.
When the golden kings came for her money, she said, But it’s mine now.

Your year is ending, she told them. The ocean unfolded.

~ Joshua Davis

Joshua Davis holds MFAs from the University of Southern Maine and from the University of Mississippi. He earned an M.A. in English at Pittsburg State University. Recent poems have appeared in The Midwest Quarterly, Monster Verse, and Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters.

Guest Editor Lori Baker Martin is assistant professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), The Little Balkans Review, Maine Review, Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, words (on pages), Midwest Quarterly, Kansas Time + Place, and in 150 Kansas Poets.  Martin has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Independence Community College, and Pittsburg State University. She has worked as a reader for both The Iowa Review and NPR. She is a founding member of the Astra Arts Festival in Independence, KS and was director of the visiting writers’ series at ICC. Martin has been awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices.  She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

In memoriam, Philando Castile,

killed by police at traffic stop

Philando Castile, cafeteria supervisor,

remembered which students

couldn’t have milk. I imagine

his kids lined up under the fluorescent

hum, pushing plastic trays across

the chrome lunch counter.  Yes to

mashed potatoes.  No to baked beans.

A little more corn, please. Last stop

before steering their trays to seats:

Phil handed each child a milk or juice

carton without asking, knowing their orders.
Now each child performs solo the quiet

act of reaching down into the chest

cooler, no one there to console them

with a smile or clap on the shoulder.

~ Melissa Fita Johnson

Melissa Fite Johnson received her Master’s in English literature from Pittsburg State University in Kansas. Her first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book. Her poems have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, The New Verse News, velvet-tail, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband in Kansas. For more, visit melissafitejohnson.com.

Guest Editor Lori Baker Martin is assistant professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), The Little Balkans Review, Maine Review, Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, words (on pages), Midwest Quarterly, Kansas Time + Place, and in 150 Kansas Poets.  Martin has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Independence Community College, and Pittsburg State University. She has worked as a reader for both The Iowa Review and NPR. She is a founding member of the Astra Arts Festival in Independence, KS and was director of the visiting writers’ series at ICC. Martin has been awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices.  She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

My dog looks a little bit like a fox.

He would like to skulk alone

with no other fox—or dog. His

ears and pointy face and bushy tail.

He does not walk on his toes.

We leave that to the actual cat.
I have learned the fox wants prey

that doesn’t fight back. My dog

runs to the crate after chasing

the cat, a four foot race before turning

back to his safe crate den home shake.
I have watched a fox from the window

scratch at his fleas like an ill-treated dog.

By grace we live in the world

where a squirrel travels under the branch

where we see the birds scatter in leaves.
We find our home in grass and flowers.

We find our home in the trunks and needles.

The rich earth loams up to our noses.

The cut grass surrounds the brain.
I live in a house with nut trees at the window,

with goldfinch hanging at sweet gum balls

where the owl can be heard and the sparrows call.

My dog looks a bit like a fox. My cat

curls up at my leg. They make curves

of warmth alert in ears. We could all be

so human if we never remembered the news.

~ Laura Lee Washburn

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 Lori Baker Martin is assistant professor of English at Pittsburg State University. She’s had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), The Little Balkans Review, Maine Review, Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, words (on pages), Midwest Quarterly, Kansas Time + Place, and in 150 Kansas Poets.  Martin has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Independence Community College, and Pittsburg State University. She has worked as a reader for both The Iowa Review and NPR. She is a founding member of the Astra Arts Festival in Independence, KS and was director of the visiting writers’ series at ICC. Martin has been awarded for her work in The Cincinnati Review and Kansas Voices.  She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

we stand together

against wind that

waves winter wheat

then twists into a rage

and rips off rooftops

 

we stand together

against rain that

puddles for children’s footsteps

then floods creek banks

and drowns corn in the field

 

we stand together

against sun that

warms spring’s soul

then blisters skin

and parches soil

 

we stand together

through difficulties

looking to the stars

 

~ Mary-Lane Kamberg

 

Mary-Lane Kamberg’s first chapbook, Seed Rain, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2015. She is listed as a Kansas Poet on KansasPoets.com and serves as co-leader of the Kansas City Writers Group. She directs the I Love to Write camp for young writers. She lives in Olathe, Kansas.

Guest Editor Maril Crabtree holds B.A, M.A., and J.D. degrees from the University of Kansas and has taught French, English, therapeutic writing, yoga, and sustainable living. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have been published in numerous journals, along with three chapbooks. Her full-length collection, Fireflies in the Gathering Dark, will be published in August, 2017.

In that fragrant pool

a bisque light hovers.

We speak of our separate

grandparents, how they appeared

in the mundane grain of life,

tapping the wall to find a light switch,

folding softened sheets of the bed

they made for us—your ancestor,

my ancestor, their simple acts.

After love, before parting, our

breath released as one apparition,

our conjoined air accepting the transfer

of time and its diminishment,

we’re spent, we’re tired, we follow

any direction the conversation takes.

And those people from whom

we descend—ghosts riding

ghosts, alike but unknown

to each other, the plank road

they traveled or the wooden

turnstile passed through.

How we’ve held them in our minds

our whole lives: pocket watch,

handkerchief, coal stove,

two grey citizens glimpsed

those mornings on what

would each be their last bed.

~ Catherine Anderson

Catherine Anderson’s most recent poetry collection is Woman with a Gambling Mania (Mayapple Press). She is a Pushcart Prize winner (November 2017). Her poems have appeared in the I-70 Review, the Southern Review and others. She lives in Kansas City where she works with area refugee communities.

Guest Editor Maril Crabtree holds B.A, M.A., and J.D. degrees from the University of Kansas and has taught French, English, therapeutic writing, yoga, and sustainable living. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have been published in numerous journals, along with three chapbooks. Her full-length collection, Fireflies in the Gathering Dark, will be published in August, 2017.

term to describe

people erased

for existing

against the grain–

 

the disappeared

 

gone

not like the rapture

not from natural causes diseases accidents age

but deleted

 

the disappeared

 

aborted

long after birth

tossed into

the garbage bin

behind history books

 

the disappeared

 

expunged

blue contacts over brown seeing

flat iron over kinky locks

jeans over galabaya*

Irish Spring over cumin and garlic

the letters of your name

syllables of you

forever on papers

rearranged to match

a stranger in a strange land’s ear
the disappeared

~ Mary Silwance

*flowing gown worn by Middle Easterners

Mary Silwance is an environmental educator and activist who blogs at Tonic Wild and founded One Less Pipeline. She is a mother of three and a gardener who aspires to having goats, bees and chickens. Her work has been published in Syracuse Cultural Workers Datebook, Konza Journal, Descansos and Sequestrum.

 

Guest Editor Maril Crabtree holds B.A, M.A., and J.D. degrees from the University of Kansas and has taught French, English, therapeutic writing, yoga, and sustainable living. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have been published in numerous journals, along with three chapbooks. Her full-length collection, Fireflies in the Gathering Dark, will be published in August, 2017.

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