The first domino in the long line of canceled events and shut doors of the Coronavirus emergency in these parts was Poets in Resistance II on Friday, March 13 at the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry, Illinois. It was supposed to be a big event and I had been working feverishly for two months to pull it together. But that week cases of the deadly virus seemed to be erupting everywhere including Chicago and the looming crisis was taking over the news headlines. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) made a recommendation—just that and with no enforcement provisions that gatherings of 50 or more should be postponed or canceled. That Thursday, with great sorrow and reluctance I pulled the plug on the event
It was supposed to be a postponement—maybe for a month or so at most. But who knows now at what distant date we may be able to do it. Rather than wait for that eventuality it occurred to me that we could have a virtual Poets in Resistance right here featuring some poems that participants sent me. So here goes!
Sue Rekenthaler is a long time member of Tree of Life, a vegetable farmer in Richmond, Illinois, a long time social justice activist, and poet. She was a leader in the state anti-death penalty movement when her husband Gary Gauger was wrongfully convicted of murder in a celebrated miscarriage of justice. As an active member of the congregation’s Social Justice Team and chair or co-chair on multiple occasions, she has been especially active in immigration and criminal justice issues. She is a jail visitor for the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (ICDI) and was Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children caught up family court.
The World in One Room
I am Orphan. I am from Thailand. I am not a terrorist. My god, I am the manager of a Pizza hut.
My god, I am a mother.
My god, I teach figure skating to children. What terrorist teaches figure skating?
I am Emmanuel. I am from Haiti. I am not a terrorist. My dream was to come to America. My dream did not include sitting in detention.
My god, I speak 5 languages.
My god, I taught English to children. I am asking for asylum.
My god, I am only 23 years old.
My god, I work in the jail kitchen. What terrorist would want to work in the jail kitchen.
I am Cedric. I am from Republic of Congo. I am not a terrorist. My god, I saw my father killed in front of me in a tribal war.
My god, my mother was raped in that tribal war. I am here for safety.
I want to help others. What terrorist wants to help others?
I am Jesus. I am from Mexico. I am not a terrorist. I worked to support my family. My god, my father and brother were both murdered in Mexico.
My god, Chicago is my true home.
My god, I am a changed man. What country does not give a second chance to a changed man?
Joe Calvillo asked to be described in the program simply as a “Local Poet and Wonderer “I do not curse anymore—I don’t curse any less”
An orange plague has emerged from a reality-TV dump
And it spews lies that poison hearts and blinds sight
Do not sit in silence – rage, rage against the blight.
The creature’s tiny fingers tweet away into the night
Curses, diatribes and jive nonsense to amuse the crowing stump
While the air saturates with hate until it congeals into rains of fright,
Do not sit still, afraid; silent – Rage, Rage against the mob’s false might
Truth is being slayed before your eyes; the poor, the weak are gathered into cell clumps
Lady Liberty has been taken down - raped at the hands of the trumps
The orange creature feasts at the head of white supremacy – then, tweeter dumps
The big lie is true; democracy is being dismantled; twisted into pretzels of trite
Do not close your eyes; do not close your eyes; the devil’s mind spawns many a loyal wight.
Rail, rail my brethren – Do not forsake your voice to the threatening sight
We must stand together, or the country will fail and fall in slump
As all sense deadens while treacherous lesions grow into a cancerous lump
Stand, stand; stand the test of time – stand and fight
Stand and meet this trial against the very founders who met to write
A ledger of guides to keep the republic safe; sacred and away from any trump
Away from the filthy money and power mongers – Rage, Rage for freedom’s right.
Jan Bosman is a retired public school teacher, avid reader, published Atrocious Poet, and blessed and sometimes speechless observer of daily affairs.
Musts Versus Maybes
“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” William Shakespeare
Why do I harbor expectations for others
when I know my heart is safer
Why would I move through time,
grasping at “shoulds,”
lying awake, waiting for calls
that ought to come, or
assuming men will do the right thing?
“And it shall come to pass afterward
that your old men shall dream dreams.
Your young men shall see visions.” Joel 2:28
Maybe there is an upside to hope:
for a night, dreaming of world peace,
for a morning, leaning toward compassion,
for a day, wishing for more than a whisper of love.
Or, what if I commit my life
to working for justice and mercy
until the river calls my name.
Egan Click says he is “Quality Control for Produce. Former Poet in Residence at The Raue Performing Arts Center. Almost 30. Bachelors in Fiction Writing from Columbia College of Chicago.
Help Me Render the Path
I think I spoke too soon.
The moment of recluse broke the soup spoon.
The peas split to a few.
the final number for the miles under
the scrolls of texts saved for the archive.
bet on the brave
The eyes wide shut.
we see it in the souls.
we missed the souls.
we minced the souls.
we hide on top.
the stance we take only for the public gaze.
all the more reason.
the shy away.
all the circles are political.
all the faces stern.
waiting for the mirror to fade and the mask to oblige.
it’s hard to keep up with identity.
all the stakes.
all the fences.
all the posts left to count.
to look back too.
and remember that change finds a fine line.
that human behavior finds a convenient lane.
peel away like layers of radicchio.
welcome to the manicured procurement.
we treat each other like a utility.
honor from the slalom.
multiple accounts for our private amounts.
our multiplicity tried to cope with our emotions.
fiends lurking through exposure.
see the sunlight in the open and the way the wind carried the cold low.
self love in a forum.
happy accidents in the reveal.
our dual energies crossed paths.
we hold our esteem to the hands of our peers.
we count the variance.
and do it again when we have the free time.
Terry Loncaric is the author of Crashing in Velvet, an original collection of poetry, published by Finishing Line Press. She has hosted many poetry events and has read her poems in cafes, coffee houses, and at Printer’s Row. Her poems have appeared on storefronts and in magazines, anthologies, and newspapers. She has lectured on feature writing at Columbia College and Roosevelt University. She is the founder and host of Poetry Power at Hoffman Estates High School.
The America I Know
spill into the stifling heat
of the streets
to give their children
the gift of freedom.
If deported, they face
execution or imprisonment
This is not the America I know.
I see my Croatian grandfather
making cherry wine
in the basement of his small home,
learning the lessons of survival.
During the long walk home
from the Gary steel mills,
he wore brass knuckles,
in case someone tried to rob him.
I see the morning landscapers
grip their steaming
coffee cups and smile
as car speakers
boom mariachi music.
I see strong, swarthy
Eastern European workers
build Chicago neighborhoods
and leave their imprint
on every church, cafe, and dwelling.
This is the America I know.
I see chefs prepare
their meticulous dishes,
their spicy rhythms,
artists bleed raw
emotions on canvases.
I see doctors and lawyers make
beam with pride.
This is my America,
flawed and tattered,
still able to look
beyond the easy anger
of bigotry and narcissism.
This is the America
that dares to show kindness
to the strangers among us.
The other America is rude,
petulant, and impatient.
I cry for that America
and hope she will one day
remember why so many
immigrants took that
brave leap to grasp
the majesty of
the American dream.
The Old Man.
The Old Man was supposed to host the event, play Ed Sullivan shuffling folks on and off the stage but he would probably have squeezed in a verse or two of his own between Señor Wences and the ball balancing seal. Maybe this one…
Munich and Charlottesville
August 13, 2017
So is this how it felt on the streets of Munich
when the strutting Brown Shirts
in their polished jackboots,
Sam Browne belts, and scarlet arm bands
faced the scruffy Commies
in their cloth caps
and shirtsleeves rolled up
and battled in the beerhalls,
parks and streets.
All of the good people, the nice people
cowered behind closed doors
and wished it would go away—
all of the liberals, the Catholics,
the new-bred pacifists of the Great War,
the professors and doctors,
editors and intellectuals,
the Social Democrats,
even—my God!—the Jews
who had not gone Red—
a pox on both your houses they solemnly intoned.
Hey, buddy, in retrospect those damn Bolshi’s
look pretty good,
like heroes even.
Things look a little different in Charlottesville,
in brilliant color not grainy black and white
and the Fascists can’t agree on a
Boy Scout uniform and array themselves
golf shirts and khakis, rainbow Klan hoods,
biker black and studs and strutting camo.
But the smell, you know, that stench,
is just the same.
The question is—do you dare be a Red today
or will you close your doors
and go back to your game consoles
and cat videos.
Which will it be, buddy?