Power down, unplug, re-start.


Yesterday, as I walked down to the Mississippi in fake February springtime, I thought about the phone calls I hadn’t made during the week, and the protest at the State Capitol that I hadn’t gone to and the blog posts I hadn’t written. I thought about the disaster in the White House and the danger in the legislature and all the things I meant to do and how, even if I hadn’t failed this week, I wouldn’t have made a difference. I felt like my brain was flashing computer error messages: this page will not load. 404. Unable to connect. Problem retrieving data. File not found. Insufficient memory. 404.

At that point, I remembered what I’m supposed to do when the computer starts misbehaving. Power down. Unplug. Re-start. Maybe it will work for my brain, too. Continue reading


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Truth in a post-factual era: A poem for Inauguration Day 2017

What is Truth?
asked Pontius Pilate,
washing his hands of
any responsibility for the consequences
of believing lies,
of not believing lies but still
letting them stand without challenge.

“It depends on what the meaning
of the word ‘is’ is.”
said Bill Clinton, dancing
every which way but truth,
slick-talking his way out of
any responsibility for truth-

Prefects, presidents, politicians,
duck and dive and dance
around the always-dangerous,
avoidable, evadable, plausibly

Now comes a post-factual president,
ranting, tweeting, lying:
pretender, poseur, profiteer,
beyond truth, beyond facts, beyond

Are we beyond caring?

I believe,
we say,
I believe that we will win.
I believe
chant crowds marching down cold November streets,
cry mourners keeping vigil on hot July nights.
I believe in you and in me and in all of us together.
I believe there is no monster under the bed.

          “It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
          It is our duty to win.
          We must love each other and support each other.
          We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

I believe love is stronger than hate.
I believe that we, the people, will win. ,

          “Power concedes nothing without a demand.
          It never did and it never will.”

Prefects, presidents, and politicians:
Power concedes nothing –
not justice,
not truth,
not even bare facts.

We are the people:
the demanding,
chanting, believing,
persevering, powerful

          “Caminante, no hay camino.
Se hace camino al andar.”

We take the streets,
fill the streets,
claim the streets.

Power concedes nothing without a demand, and we
demand justice

Against all odds,
against all reasonableness,
against all prefects, presidents, and politicians,
against all powers and principalities,
I believe that we will win.

I believe that it is our duty
to love each other
to support each other
to break chains
to speak truth to power
to speak truth to each other
to fight
to win.

I believe that we will win.

Assata Shakur: “It is our duty …”
Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing … ”
Antonio Machado: “Caminante, no hay …”


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Writing, cats and radiators


So here’s a question for my fellow-writers, fellow-poets: when is a poem done? Continue reading

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warm safe clean dry healthy fed and free 

Somewhere, anywhere USA
vets from wars past and present still
sleep cold and wet on city streets, while,
on the radio, one vet explains that
the drop-in center offers understanding, vet-to-vet,
no conditions, no payments,
just simple needs met:
warm safe clean dry healthy fed and free.

Somewhere, anywhere USA
children’s eyes, haunted, tear-filled,
or shuttered, hard, blank – refugees from
family warfare
show up in schools and daycares and preschools,
in Laundromats, on street corners, riding buses (all night),
not even able to imagine
warm safe clean dry healthy fed and free. Continue reading

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Winter light


Talk about an artist’s light
in Paris or Italy –
beautiful, yes, but
here a winter cold sky sharply
etches every edge: each
pine needle
bare black branch
fence top
roof line
brick wall.
Clear under a crisp cold
Minnesota sky.

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Advent riffs – Second Sunday


In the third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew
on this Second Sunday of Advent
on this 4th day of December
in this year of our despair,

John the Baptist speaks

to the Sadducees – the establishment –
and to the Pharisees – the populist politicians who promise to throw out the establishment.

“You brood of vipers!”

John says to all of them.

“Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.”

For all of you,
Democrats and Republicans, Sadducees and Pharisees,
All of you stand in need of repentance.
For all of us,
progressives and regressives, racists and race men, sons of immigrants and Daughters of the American Revolution, feminists and misogynists and all the -ists,
all of you, John says,
all of us, I say,
stand in need of repentance.

Produce good fruit!

Not profits and palaces, but
bread for the poor,
clean water for the people of Flint and Philadelphia,
peace for the Seven Council Fires
and for the children of Syria,
of Palestine, of Israel, of Egypt, of Iraq, of Sudan, of Ethiopia, of Eritrea, of Somalia,
for the children, for the people of all the nations.

And, John continues,
do not presume
do not presume
to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’

We are the party of Abraham (Lincoln, of course).
We are the party of Franklin Roosevelt.
We are the party of the people, the party of patriotism, the party of the working class, the party of the middle class, the party of the future, the party of prosperity, the party of patriotism, the party of the party of the party of
We are the Children of Abraham.

Do not presume!
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham
from these stones.

All the children of Abraham
Children of Abraham,
Children of God.

Do not presume!
Produce good fruit
as evidence of your repentance.

Isaiah 11: 1-10

He shall judge the poor with justice

feeding the hungry, no more food shelves, no more food stamps, but money to buy food, land to grow food;
housing the homeless, no more leaky roofs and roaches, no peeling paint and crumbling plaster, but homes for families, homes to stay, homes to own;
freeing the prisoners, ending the prison privateers, the parole profiteers, the ice boxes and dog cages and solitary silent madness.

He shall judge the poor with justice
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.

If God got us, then we gon’ be alright,
we gon’ be alright
in the day of the Lord
on the Lord’s holy mountain

He shall decide aright for the land’s afflicted

so we gon’ be alright
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon’ be alright

He shall strike the ruthless
with the rod of his mouth.

O come all ye poets who prophesy with the pen:
wield weapons of words,
strike with the rod of your mouth,
cry out in the wilderness,
in the wilderness of Washington
in the wilderness of Wall Street,
make the crooked ways straight,
rap repentance,
before we reap the whirlwind.

x x x

(With appreciation to John McCutcheon, Kendrick Lamar, and Bob Dylan for various words.)


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Family Trees

oak-trees-on-drivewayFamily Trees I

A pair of oak trees
towering over the driveway,
marking home and safety,
guarding family and farm.

Our oak trees have been there forever,
before me,
before Mother and Dad,
before Grandma and Grandpa even. Continue reading

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