Letter from the Editor, Darcie Friesen Hossack
I wrote what will follow before the election in the United States was called for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I’m tempted to delete and replace it with nothing more than this quote from a beloved leader, Jack Layton, in his posthumous letter to my country.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.— Jack Layton
But there is also work to be done to bring the change that Jack Layton foresaw. There is a stain to erase and prevent from coming back.
This, from last night:
Four years ago, following the election of Donald Trump in the United States, my neighboring country, I spent the night vomiting into a freshly-scoured toilet bowl.
Until that moment, I had been a Conservative Christian, attending and adhering to either the Mennonite faith of my mother’s heritage, or the Seventh-day Adventist one of my father.
That ended in November of 2016, when my white, Christian, American counterparts overwhelmingly, by exit polls of 81%, aligned themselves with and ensured the election of a man who had cheated on all of his wives, admitted to and laughed about assaulting women, mocked a disabled reporter, denigrated war heroes both living and dead, and incited hatred and violence against People of Colour: people who are children of this earth, no matter where they live or whom they love.
All these things, he did, and so many more, throughout a monstrously vice-filled life, and a divisive, self-serving campaign that turned out to be just the beginning. Children in cages would come next.
Tonight, as the 2020 election in the United States comes to its achingly slow conclusion, we know, I know, that a small percentage of the American president’s white Evangelical, Mainline and Catholic supporters have left his side. Overwhelmingly, they have not. And while trying to wrap my understanding around this once again, while trying to put words to this everlasting grief, I found a few paragraphs by novelist, essayist and screenwriter Dean Bakopoulos, re-posted by ministry candidate Elle Dowd, on Facebook earlier today.
Instead of discussing how how he, how I, can further distance myself from certain white communities, Bakopoulos instead writes about how white people are needed to redeem them.
These, clearly, are the new mission fields. And much of what Bakopoulos proposes we plant them with is art and thought and science.
And so, for the remainder of my space here, I’m going to yield this platform and ask, if you are white, like me. Christian and/or otherwise, like me. Still binding up your heart, discouraged and disillusioned with your own people, like me, please read Dean Bakopoulos and consider how to make this a possibility where you live. Consider, too, that if there are stories here in WordCity that speak to you, that they may very well be the seeds for this soil we’ve been given.
White liberals like to do a lot of their work in communities of color, but this election has shown us that white progressives have the most work to do in the rural white communities. Communities of color have shown us that they’re doing their own work and doing it well.
But we have a major deficit in white communities, particularly in rural white communities–of creativity, of compassion, of critical thinking, of care.
It’s easier to go into marginalized communities–white saviors–and feel good about the work we do. But those communities feel so good to work in precisely because they have so much creativity, compassion, care, critical thinking.
It’s much more difficult to deal with the spiritual and political toxicity in white communities. More dangerous, more emotionally treacherous. But that’s really what we must do next…
You won’t sway the votes of MAGA voters with logic or numbers or a pandemic that has killed a quarter of a million of their fellow citizens.
We’ve learned that. We need a revolution that brings art and history and science to the young people that live among the MAGA crowd, that sets them up for a higher education that makes them critical thinkers. Not political work, but heart work. Mind work. Our [white] communities are sick. We like to believe we an heal other communities, but we’re not dealing with our own.Dean Bakopoulos
Bakopoulos has more to say in his original, now viral, post, for which I encourage you to visit his Facebook page.
Whatever you take from this, I am personally grateful for the author’s words. Because no matter what comes next, spending any time wrapped around a toilet on account of a hateful man with too much power for at least another eleven weeks, is time we cannot afford to waste. That’s why we create WordCity every month.
That’s why, this year, before we knew what would happen across the border, I picked up my pen instead of getting out my bleach and my brush.
by Contributing Editor Jane SpokenWord
In this month’s podcast we introduce you to Arthur ‘Art’ Collins, a poet, educator, and mediator. A believer in the transformative power of literature, “Art the poet” is a natural sayer and teller of all that is. A restorative justice practitioner with a solid background in Education, Nonprofit Organizations, Youth Development, Coaching, and Crisis Intervention, he is committed to ending the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ by encouraging solutions that allow more students to remain in school and continue their education. As one who identifies symbols and markers in society his commitment to the agenda of humanity is unwavering. ~ Jane SpokenWord
Art Collins in Conversation with Jane SpokenWord
Edited by Sylvia Petter
This month we have four stories for you. Three are by Canadian writers and one by a UK writer with a more musical bent. All four stories deal with individuals who are a bit “different” and therein lies their humanity enriching us through seeing it.
Jenn Ashton´s story, “Still”, deals with a husband with dystonia and appears in her collection, People Like Frank and other stories from the edge of normal published byTidewater Press, in 2020.
Janice MacDonald´s story, “The Piano” reminded me of Tim O´Brien´s seminal short story “The Things They Carried” from his collection of linked stories of the same name in that a thing, the piano, and its various iterations mirrored all the ups and downs of a life.
Anne Sorbie´s satirical yet “Modest Proposal for Sending Alberta Children Back to School” is presented in the form of a pseudo-academic research proposal.
Finally, John Ravenscroft, an English writer, musician, gentleman farmer, lover of wildlife, in his prize-winning story “Crazy Gene” explores a father´s madness and a son´s coming to terms therewith. Rather than the usual bio and photo, I have included John Ravenscroft´s old and still functioning website because of the wealth of material that could be useful for emerging and seasoned writers alike, and also to showcase his current musical passion. ~ Sylvia Petter
Thanks to Dr. Alexandra Guerson from the University of Toronto who directed me to this “brilliant thread by a Kenyan journalist, @gathara, covering the American elections using the same language American media uses to cover elections in African countries”. ~ Sylvia Petter, Contributing Editor of Fiction (and satire), WordCity Monthly
(presented with permission)
#BREAKING November 1. Polls are set to open in 48 hours across the US as the authoritarian regime of Donald Trump attempts to consolidate its hold over the troubled, oil-rich, nuclear-armed, north American nation. Analysts are sceptical the election will end months of political violence.
#BREAKING African envoys have called for Americans to maintain peace during the elections and to be prepared accept the outcome of the vote. In a joint statement , the diplomats condemned recent incidents of incitement, violence and intimidation directed at opposition supporters
#BREAKING A team of African election observers led by the famed explorer, Milton Allimadi, who discovered the Gulu River in Europe, is en route to the seaside capital of Washington DC where they are expected to separately meet with Mr Trump and opposition candidate, Joe Biden.
#BREAKING Milton Allimadi, head of the African election observer group, urged US media to be responsible in its reporting, and take care not to inflame the already tense situation. “We urge American journalists to preach the gospel of peace and acceptance of election results”.
A MODEST PROPOSAL
For Sending Alberta Children Back To School
Since there is a growing number of COVID-19 cases among the province’s school-age population, our proposal suggests closing schools immediately and forming a test group to better determine and predict future rates of infection.
First, we highly recommend engaging in the test group, the children of Alberta’s 1% who are currently registered for the 2020 / 2021 school year. These children best represent the most advantaged of the population, and those most equipped to handle the socio-economic losses and future health challenges, possibly long term, that the test may incur. Side effects may include contracting COVID-19, having an inflammatory response to CV19 that leads to multi-organ failure, coma, intubation and ICU stays, the infection of siblings, parents, grandparents and other extended family members, and exponentially, their immediate family members, friends and community contacts. Additionally, death may occur in a very few cases. These elite children (or subjects) will be conscripted. However, if the children volunteer to take part, their parents can avoid the province’s newly minted wealth tax. Volunteer subjects will be included in the test on a first come first served basis and will represent students from a number of undisclosed schools.
When I was six years old my father went mad and attacked himself with a hammer.
People don’t go mad these days, not like they used to. They have phobias and ‘episodes’ and anxiety attacks instead. They have bipolar depression, or schizophrenia. I reckon there’s at least a dozen fancy-sounding psychoses to choose from – some you can even mix and match. But back in 1959 when I was a snot-nosed kid, things weren’t so complicated. Either you were sane, or you were mad. It was a two-sided coin, and the edge didn’t count. Dad’s coin flipped, got plucked out of the air still spinning, and was slapped down on the kitchen table. It said mad. From that point on, that’s what he was. A loon. A nutter. Three sheets to the wind.
(reprinted with permission by Tidewater Press)
A few times a year I start to feel the walls closing in. The house seems smaller and I realize that it’s probably getting too cluttered in here. Although I watched Marie Kondo’s program on decluttering religiously and even bought the book, the habits did not completely form and after a year of collecting old clothes and odds and ends and donating them to Goodwill each month, I’m afraid I fell off the “tidy” wagon.
Our house isn’t exactly messy though. Rather it just begins to feel close when stuff starts to pile up—books, dog toys and even plants, especially because lately I’ve been on a succulent binge and my entire desk has been taken over by all the lovely shapes and colors. But, with three small, very active dogs and my husband Charlie in the house, it can feel a bit like a whirlwind of activity in here. Sometimes I know that it’s also my mind that needs to calm and declutter too, and tidying the house will help with that, so last Saturday I flicked on the TV to watch Marie’s happy little frame and rewatched my favorite episode, the one with the vet, and then felt refreshed and ready to revisit my clutter.
The nuns were amazingly accommodating of her mother, a Protestant divorcee, who couldn’t get through traffic to pick her up till after four. Normally, girls at the convent school didn’t start piano lessons right away, but they called the music teacher, who ran her through some exercises, pronounced her musical and agreed to take her every day after school for lessons and practise sessions, and the Burser beamed and sorted out the paperwork for Mommy to sign. Providing she was baptized, no of course it didn’t matter what religion, they would take her.
When class was over each day, she took her coat and lunch box up to the music rooms, and practised her scales and pieces. Sister would give her a lesson one day a week, and one of the older girls, Julie or Melucia, would oversee her practise each other day. She sometimes was allowed to practise in one of the bird rooms, where finches sang in cages, but most often she was in a room with one or two pianos, a window and a relatively sound-proof door. The practice rooms ran along a balcony hall above the gymnasium, and oftentimes she could watch the older girls play volleyball or basketball, themselves practising, practising.
At home, there was no piano to play. Sister had given her a cardboard keyboard, which she unfolded on the kitchen table and dutifully practised the fingering of her scales. Mommy smiled up from the other side of the table where she marked other children’s homework. Someday she would be able to play some of the little pieces for Mother, when they had a piano of their own.
Edited by Olga Stein
This month’s creative non-fiction contributions are full of travel. Italian poet and essayist, Franca Mancinelli, and her American translator (also writer and critic), John Taylor, take us on a much-needed excursion to Fano, Italy. The trip to this picturesque, historic coastal town in the province of Pesaro and Urbino, once a settlement belonging to the Roman Empire, lets us revisit a fascinating past, though this also unearths an old story—of women persecuted and burned as witches. Novelist and short-story writer, Irena Karafilly, treats us to her “paranoid musings” on a visit she made to Djerba. It’s a l97-square-mile Mediterranean island off the coast of Tunisia, which still wears its history—that of a scenic, exotic, and bustling contact zone for numerous ancient cultures.
Gary Fowlie continues his “Covid Recovery Road Trip.” On his way to Canada, where he plans to take a respite and recover from the lasting and debilitating effects of his bout with Covid, he passes through Minneapolis, Minnesota, then grappling with the fallout from the murder of George Floyd. Despite the unrest there in early June, Fowlie writes as a witness: “There is a sensibility about the people of Minnesota that gave me hope as I watched them….If any state can face and fix the scourges of racism and white supremacy, it would be Minnesota.” From the vantage point of this date, November 7, just days after Minnesotans chose Biden as America’s next president, Fowlie’s words come across as especially prescient.
An exceptionally moving account of life with Ollier’s disease, comes to us from the accomplished Jessica Penner. Her strength as a woman and writer, the depth of her testimony as she describes her personal struggles, are remarkable. Ultimately, her wisdom, as Penner watches a total eclipse in Nebraska, to which she has travelled to gaze on a phenomenon she’s unlikely to see again in her lifetime, transports the reader to a place of spiritual comfort that isn’t bound by space or time.
Finally, my own piece on the series Lovecraft Country, also takes up the themes of travel, racism in America, as well as courage and resilience in the face of forces that threaten to overwhelm us. Welcome dear readers! Enjoy! ~ Olga Stein
Gary Fowlie, Memoir
A Covid Recovery Road Trip Part 2
An overweight, out of shape young man is jogging. He stops and sweats all over the sidewalk on an uphill stretch of Edgecombe Avenue in Washington Heights. He wears no mask and shows no concern for this busy stretch of pavement, where other old masked men like me have escaped our lockdown for a walk, in hopes of unlocking housebound muscles.
I pass and I hold my tongue, but when I hear him panting up from behind, I turn, stretch my arms out and yell, “If you’re not going to cover up at least keep your distance.” He ignores me and chugs right past. “Arrogant fucking millennial,” I send his way but soon regret it—not because he stops and sends me back an exaggerated unmasked cough, and follows that up with, “I hope you die Gramps!”
It’s not his fault he doesn’t know that I’m in recovery and may or may not be immune to the Covid bug that hopped, skipped, and jumped its way down 162nd Street to bite my 65-year-old ass. No, I regret my comment only because my temper got the best of me. When he turned to jog away I hit out again, this time going even lower: “Your parents must be very proud of you.” I should have known better. My mother once told me to never forget how easy it is to raise someone else’s kids. She was right. I’m sure his parents did the best they could. That he turned out to be a self-centered ass isn’t their fault.
Irena Karafilly, Memoir
PARANOID MUSINGS IN THE LAND OF THE LOTUS EATERS
To begin with, a word of advice: If you’re thinking of travelling to North Africa, do not read Paul Bowles! I knew nothing about the Tunisian island of Djerba, except its being a mecca for European sun worshippers. It was February and I needed rest and sunshine. I made the mistake of reading Bowles’ “The Delicate Prey” on the plane.”
Houmt Souk is an ancient town, once renowned for its silk and wool, its trans-Saharan slave trade. Its history has left Jerba with a small black minority which today shares the l97-square-mile Mediterranean island not only with Berbers, but with the descendants of Arab invaders, persecuted Jews, Greek and Maltese sponge fishermen.
I met a local woman for tea at a fonduk, a modernized inn where Ottoman merchants once sought shelter along with their camels. The Arischa had studded portals painted cerulean blue and a whitewashed courtyard festooned with purple bougainvillea. My acquaintance was a Jewish woman who had converted to Islam in order to marry her jeweller father’s apprentice. Jerba’s Jewish community is small but ancient, going back to 56 B.C, when Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar II.
Jessica Penner, Memoir
It is hour 30 of a 48-hour ambulatory EEG. The sun has unveiled herself after a brief flash of rain, and the few birds that I can hear over Fordham Road’s late-afternoon cacophony of horns and sirens are madly chirping. Seated on my red velvet futon, surrounded by dejected pillows and unopened mail, I watch the sunlight pierce the maroon and turquoise curtains that cover the bay windows and listen to the breeze as it rustles leaves beyond my line of sight. I’ve done little else, besides sleep, for the past 30 hours.
I’m wearing a skullcap of tightly wrapped gauze. Beneath the skullcap is a braid of brightly colored wires cemented to my head by an earnest technician. We were together long enough that I found I didn’t want to leave him behind when he finished. I wanted to know his history, his passions, the identity of the woman he spoke to in another language on his cell phone as he worked, but he dismissed me without a glance, so I had to make do and invent my own story for him.
This is my habit: to invent stories and personalities for complete strangers and inanimate objects. About a year ago, someone painted a frowning face on a sidewalk near my apartment. I named him Lester, and feel guilty if I don’t whisper hello to him when I walk past. The past year has been hard on Lester; his outline has faded, his frown almost a memory. I wonder how I will feel when Lester finally disappears.
This ambulatory EEG isn’t anything to worry about—or so I tell myself in hour 30. I’ve lived with Ollier’s disease, which causes tumors that stunt and disfigure bones, my entire life. My left leg has been scarred by an orthopedic surgeon’s repeated work to straighten and lengthen the femur, tibia, and fibula. A skull-based brain tumor that caused seizures was partially removed, and my left eye paralyzed in the process; the remainder of the tumor was zapped with proton and photon radiation. Two of my fingers were amputated because the tumors grew to monstrous proportions. I’ve had just about every piece of bad news due to this disease that one can imagine. I’ve learned that the brain tumor has blocked messages between my uterus and pituitary gland (short read: no ovulation, no children) and could be the reason behind my lapses in memory.
Additional thanks and credit to Jessica Penner, whose extraordinary photography from New York makes up the images for this month’s photo collage (at journal’s end and on the author’s page).
Franca Mancinelli, Memoir, Translated by John Taylor
Piazza XX Settembre — Fano: Following the Ammonites
This space that I see slowly opening up between the roofs of the houses, between walls dividing one intimacy from another, one property from another, tiny gardens from the concrete, takes on a definite shape with its pleasing imperfect geometry as might be drawn by a child’s pencil: it’s a rectangle softened by the years, by the scorching sunny days, by the dense drizzles of the intermediate seasons. It’s the square. I can also see it with my eyes closed, or sitting at the window and watching the light move the trees. A mirror has been left on the cobblestones, and water flows incessantly from the muzzles of lions tamed by stone. In a prehistory blended with fairytales, they came down from the hills to drink and, as if in a spell, remained there meek and resting on their legs, releasing an arc of water from their jaws. Above them, a woman freed from a cloth lets it swell in the wind. As if in a game, it mimes a flagpole, the mast of a ship. She is naked as only a divinity can be. Without malice, she wears her own body. Around her extends a city that I could recognize and call with only two single syllables, almost two musical notes or two opposing answers: fa no [do not]. The place name denotes unrest, uncertainty—like something which, once pronounced, would like to be called back, into the darkness beyond the throat. It is in this language that I speak, the language that has taught me an inland rippled by the Adriatic. At a handful of kilometers from the shore, you can still follow the veil as something that is submerged yet moves in the air.
I am from this countryside between two horizons of hills, wheat fields, and roads signaled by oak trees, ancient boundary stones. A backbone of fresh water, the Metauro river, flows through it. Somewhere along its edges, in a sandbank, lies the brother who was called to the rescue and who fell, carrying the seed of the defeat. Hasdrubal, by now scratched by a plow, by the teeth of a bulldozer, robbed of weapons and coins, and immediately covered over again—or he may still be sound asleep, lying undisturbed, a few meters of earth from the surface. And I am made of the almost never clear water of this mild, half-enclosed sea that becomes furious every so often, in the winter, with the shores that have constricted it.
Olga Stein, Essay Examining HBO’s Lovecraft Country
Lovecraft Country: Monsters in America
Embarking on a review of Lovecraft Country, an HBO series currently trending on Crave, is, I suspect, either like coming to a celebration late, having missed all of the excellent tributes, or it’s like arriving in time to hear a great keynote speech and realizing that something can yet be added to fully mark the occasion. Lovecraft Country, the series based on Matt Ruff’s novel of the same name, has already received a great deal of attention—from academics included. There are obvious and somewhat less obvious reasons for this. The televisual adaptation, a story that revolves around members of two African-American families living in 1950s Chicago and grappling with malevolent forces, offers a stylish and appropriately macabre homage to H. P. Lovecraft’s large oeuvre of dark fantasy or gothic or weird fiction (all appropriate labels for the Lovecraftian brew of fantasy and horror). With its monsters, human and supernatural, the series, like the novel it’s based on, is fanciful, gripping popular entertainment (though to be clear, its pop culture credentials by no means render it “low” entertainment; as I’ll explain below, this isn’t stuff that pulp fiction is made of, however it may reference it). Yet what accounts for the series’ favourable reception among ordinary viewers and critics alike is not that, or not just that; it is watchable and compelling because of its thought-provoking and sustained critique of America’s in-the-bone kind of racism. Moreover, the critique is clearly meant to be seen as applicable today as it is to the Jim Crow America of the 1950s, which is where most of the Lovecraft Country’s stories unfold. Its unmistakable message—that Black lives continue not to matter—is, let’s face it, exceedingly timely.
Edited by Geraldine Sinyuy
Peace be Upon You Davos, Poetry Anthology edited by Siti Ruqaiyah Hashim
Reviewed by Ahmad Salleh bin H. Ahmad
In this Peace Be Upon You Davos, Siti Ruqaiyah worked together with 16world-renowned poets publishing another bi-lingual peace anthology series which she worked on and translated, after “Khabar Dari Strasbourg/News From Strasbourg” which she published in 2017.
Siti Ruqaiyah herself wrote14 poems in this anthology , starting with “Peace Be Upon You Davos” and ending with a poem titled “Between Stolen Glances”. Peace Be Upon YouDavos is loaded with cynicisms, on the plight of the victims of war who suffered and forced to be refugees. They are represented by Osama, Mohamed, Shaif, Brahimand Ziaur. War happened solely to fulfill the agenda of great powers with their greatest economic sources in the arms trade. The great powers of the world have never fought each other but cunningly waged their proxy wars for the sake of their arms trade. Siti Ruqaiyah cynically clings to the Davos-based economic forum and invokes hopes to return to universal peace values needed by everybody.
Timeless Memories by Joshua Akemecha
Reviewed by Edward A. Ayugho
Akemecha burrows into his childhood and youthful expectations which serve as a perfect place for a poet to look for things to write about. When we read Akemecha’s poem ‘To my Last Pair of Shoes”, it reminds us about Lord Byron’s hypothetical statement cited by Michael Meyer in Poetry: An introduction that “For a man to become a poet… he must be in love or miserable” (xxxii). We cannot afford to be indifferent to the battering throes of poverty and unemployment which Akemecha spotlights in this poem. The second stanza foregrounds the poet’s plight:
You must have called me trash
Because I couldn’t afford a new pair
Yet we trekked the land together
And every door we knocked
They called me Good-for-nothing. (11. 4-8)
Edited by Nancy Ndeke and Clara Burghelea
William S. Peters
A poem for the dead
“I die daily”
It is not as if I planned on dying . . .
At least not at this time,
But I, we always knew
That death always lurked
In the white shadows
Of our lives
Our hues and pigmentation
Was a non-red flag
That signaled our presence
And that of their unfounded hate
For our existence
I bother no more about the ‘whys’,
Understanding it all
Is quite the conundrum of humanity
Or the lack thereof . . .
To COVID-19 Survivors
The smell of water,
fresh water, seawater, dead water, marshes and streams,
water carrying her away—
rocked on the tides of a second Noah’s flood come true,
no ark in sight,
no piece of timber randomly afloat,
all expectations lowered to the basics
“Lower her!” “Turn her!” “Hold her!” some scream
a looped polyphony,
her S.O.S. dawning and fading in her grizzled lungs,
We were grumbling again about the long isolation
loud enough to trade complaints
with the tenant next door, her stamp-
size balcony butting up to ours, neighbourly
enough, in the realm of concrete condos
high above the world on the 21st floor
(privileged as we know we are), the ocean
merely blocks away, our view this span
of sparkling blue, the distance to Japan.
Evening waves had shifted, were churning a froth of white,
stirred by foreign, sideways winds, furrowing the sea
to lines that skewed the wrong way from shore.
She kept saying how they tempted her, calling
her to dive right in, how she pictured being tossed
by them – a joyous, bouncing beach ball
and suddenly she leapt, arms wide, from the railing,
her open face shining with the red setting sun,
and for seconds, I swear, she was flying.
But when we looked and saw her lying on the street,
she was on her side, unmoving and bent, crumpled,
nearly in the shape of a fallen paper crane.
A VISITATION I NEVER TIRE OF
One of the poets I love, one
who no longer walks among us,
still drops by the apartment once a year.
And once again I’m surrounded by
her lyrical intensity, her humor
her imaginative leaps and storytelling.
She tells me she reads my poems
and enjoys them—I prefer to believe
she’s telling me the truth, why not?
We talk poetry and poetry until darkness
shows up and escorts her out.
I look out the window into the darkness
at the birds, the ones you can’t see,
but the ones you know are there, close by.
Mbizo Chirasha (hybrid poetry and poetry essay)
MIDNIGHT MONOLOGUES (thought tracks on bad politics, quarantine, exile and isolation) *
I smell the heavy scent of the night, pitch black night
It is sunset on the foothills of my country,
I smell the heavy scent of the pitch-black night,
pitch black night coils into this tired land feigning its darkness
birthing revolutionary ghosts and ideological imbeciles
Pitch black night pregnant with emotion and wrong ambition,
Inside the pitch-black night heartbroken shadows are harvesting funerals,
In this pitch-black night
I drink tears for tea,
munching grief chapped lips for bread,
dry bread to fill up my four-decade aged spiritual torment
The Power of Poetry and the rise of Underground Voices
I am writing a letter to dissidents farting hatred in Congo
Congo, My Nagasaki pimping the state for hot bread and cheap slogans.
Darfur, My Hiroshima, fermenting coup d’états in breweries of war
Dissidents plucking off the petals of the revolution. Drinking the
passion fruit of freedom
I want to silence the gun. I will not silence the sun.
Poetry is currently rated as one of the most influential media of literary arts and resistance activism and the voice for human rights advocacy. From the time of our birthing to these days of maturation, we are all shaped, serenaded and entertained by sweet ancient lullabies, drum beat throbs and early morning birdsongs. Song and dance are verse in motion, poetry remains a vehicle of freedom of expression and catalytic medium of creative consciousness. It is a super creative genre that cannot easily relegated to the peripheral pleats of human intellectuality but must be respected in our quest for freedom in all our struggles for human liberation. We are swayed everyday by rough political winds. Poetry injects the penicillin of sanity into the corrupted blood of rat-brained devils and iron steel-hearted dictatorial tyrants. At least they might repent after sipping a bitter sweet beverage of satire and hard to swallow brew of metaphor. Thus, the power of poetry, it is not a silent language. It is the official lingo of literary activism. The language that can be spoken in gutter, underground, ghetto, street pavements, village pathways and polished corridors of power in high offices. And with advent of digital literacy and internet revolution, it is not easy to gag poets and their voices.
Normal in a Covid World
He tells me
it’s normal to feel anxious
everyone is these days.
I want to believe him
but as his pen dances
across a thick prescription pad
I wonder if I’m the only one
barely hanging on.
his granddaddy settled in Ridgedale
a carpenter all his life
and gave the six-year old
a simple task –
for this was a time when nothing
got thrown away, nothing
taken for granted, everything
repurposed, everything reused
and with a hammer and intention
the boy spent his summer
for this was a town where every
plank and every
nail saw new life
good-bye home town
above the rich crops of the valley
paddy, maize, millet, green, greener, grey
I fly away from my center, to the edge, farther and farther away
silence brings me back to my senses
my laughter-lit Cindrella hours are over
the hills that guard the valley fade dim
soon they soften my memories
this moment shall become a dream tomorrow
history when I visit here next
tangled: every twist and turn of this bond
once the ties that dig deep are cut
I shall set myself free like a bird
in the space,
the poetical firefly to
muse-butterfly of poesy
You must excuse me. You dear dreamer!
I have overly felt my dreamery about Golden Fleece.
I built my small paradise without any other ontological beings.
I based the dreamiest sempiternity on tenderness of my wings.
Thus. I painted my wings in color of an ambrosia.
Withal: I liked dew of dawns for the sake of elves.
I loved too much the wizardry of mayhap dreamy Erlkings.
I had to read many fairy tales of the Winter Queen.
I have enchanted your night rainbow.
I have become a magician of dawn.
I loved the Morning Starlet – the dreamy Venus.
I collected all shooting stars after a dreamier night.
Excuse me. My dear butterfly
fulfilled in same after glow
and bewitched by lights of moonlit and
Let us dream over night!
Unto an epiphany of first
angels of red sky in
North, and What the Woman Saw There
Look how summit, empty of all the useless kinds of noise,
Sends out evergreens that are bold and steadfast,
standing eternally flush against a mountain sky.
Ancient goats and wind, snow unmelting—
time is simply a guest here.
What peerage, to be a mountain citizen.
I am only a transient visitor though,
heading west, tempted into pause
by wild peaks who are not ashamed of anything.
“To: Joyce Echaquan*”
A flat tire stopped us
In the middle of a vast desert
extending between two oceans.
Sands can move through the borders
freely with the wind,
as waves can move
through borders in the ocean.
No border exists for sand and waves.
Sands are equal, waves too.
down a country road,
swarthiness blends into soft soils on sunny days
a kaleidoscope of flame and golden leaves
shimmers and sings against pale skies
a wall of pines rises
swarthiness tucked in needle blankets
but even here,
and every time it rumbles
it draws closer
swarthiness sinks a little more
into soils drenched by rain
illuminated by lightning
long, white, jagged arms
digging a grave
Michael Lee Johnson
Poems are hard to create
they live, then die, walk alone in tears,
resurrect in family mausoleums.
They walk with you alone in ghostly patterns,
memories they deliver feeling unexpectedly
through the open windows of strangers.
Silk roses lie in a potted bowl
memories seven days before Mother’s Day.
Soak those tears, patience is the poetry of love.
Plant your memories, your seeds, your passion,
once a year, maybe twice.
Jesus knows we all need more
then a vase filled with silk flowers,
poems on paper from a poet sacred,
the mystery, the love of a caretaker−
multicolored silk flowers in a basket
handed out by the flower girl.
Possessed with ideals of perfection,
Shapes and sizes telling beauty,
Skin tones and heights,
Pedigrees rules the mortal man,
Dare you a scar acquire,
Or bent of back in need of wheels,
Masses stare in disbelief,
Love may well take a back seat,
Or all together commit you into hiding,
As if you planned a defect,
As if you invited a malady,
Not even age is spared,
©®| All rights to the content of this journal remain with WordCity Monthly and its contributing artists.
Photo Gallery by Jessica Penner