February 18th-24th, 2011

Two Visual Poem, February 20 by Matthew Stolte

[These were made with protest signs dug out of the snow on Sunday morning, February 20th.]

Gov Walker

visual poem


World Watching

visual poem

Matthew Stolte is an artist and poet living in Madison.

What Then?

by Barbara Lightner

They set the scene.
I’ll not forget.
The dreaded rainbow,
the shimmy-shine shenanigans,
the outside swithering in.

It was all-important,
many of several sibilant syllables,
inhering there; vague whisperings
from a fringe stage menacing right,
th’unbalanced line and the pursuit
of a total fragment disregard.

Our sesamé child,
parturient, quaky;
jackdaw jackdaddies
declaiming in the wings;
preposterous scenes
of gold undue.

I’ll not forget.
Not now.
Not after.

Mister Politician Classifies His Frills
or The Lean Times Blues Calls a Response

by Martha Kaplan

cut art cut music cut poetry
cut all the work with vision as if it’s
not your balls as if it’s
some kind of tacked on tinsel take it
down when the winter’s over
trash it to the curb
put it in the dead black can
Mister Winter Man
what you ain’t got you ain’t got
and you ain’t got no Charlie Parker
Sonny Rawlins or Trombone Shorty
no music in the schools no graphic arts
no tin can blues no tappin’ spoons
no travelin’ in trains rhythm and blues
no sweet or sour get-by in life
no sidewalk busking
no riffin’ triples no what dead men
can’t hear ‘til Gabriel blows
his honey horn
Mr. Walker Man
you give me the blues

Martha Kaplan lives in Madison.

In Wisconsin, February 2011

by Estella Lauter

The story is simple now.

A man wins an election.
                  The state budget is predicted
                                    to show a surplus by spring.

But the Man has debts to settle.
                  Millions rolled in to keep him looking
                                    smart on T.V. from June to November.

So he instructs his Party
                  to pass new cuts and shelters
                                     that pay up but create a deficit.

Then he crafts a high-sounding Repair
                  to recoup that loss
                                    out of Public paychecks

for teachers and nurses whose unions
                  did not belly up to his campaign.
                                    What’s not to see here?

Robbing little Peter to pay big Paul
                  without regard for the Common Good
                                    is a classic move for Monarchs

and those we call by other names abroad
                  who call up their Guards to maintain order
                                    when People go on strike or demonstrate.
A non-negotiable Gubernatorial Decree to overturn
                  a half-century of precedents without discussion.
                                    Take it or leave town

and when dissenting Senators do leave town
                  start a movement to recall them from office.
                                    Easy to co-opt the Tea Party against unions.

But maybe the story’s ending will not be simple.
                  People not so wealthy as Walker are waking up
                                     from a long-winter’s political nap.

Estella Lauter lives in the Door Peninsula.

to start a union

by Elizabeth Cook
the union organizer organ grinder man
is handsome.
he smiles at me
he loves me
                    as he loves all oppressed.
he loves the thought
of new hands to shake -
of lifting us out of our underpaid limbo
like toddlers from a crib.
i see the darling way he ducks his head
like he's too tall for every room.
how he smiles into his coffee cups.
he might see me only as
something to plaster over with pamphlets -
a talking telephone pole with blue eyes
and dreams of him.
sir, i will pay my dues to talk to you,
will fall in your picket line -
to be the fairest of your unfairly treated,
your girl worth fighting for.

Elizabeth Cook lives in Madison.

Leaving the Capitol Grounds Where the Protests Over the Governor's Stance Continue

by Andrea Potos

I am suddenly melancholy
for the English countryside,
the hills and wild gorse, the heather
blooming purple in late summer.
I loved walking beside crags,
tiny waterfalls where minnows scurried
and stood still.
I loved coming upon the fences
made of worn grey, lichen-stained stones.
No stone ever exactly matched
the other, though some patient worker
made them fit, leaving space around the edges
for miles and miles, for the wind to call through.

Andrea Potos lives in Madison.


Madison Protest (Feb 2011)

by David S. Pointer

Asking for
economic justice
in America is like
fishing the fecal
ponds of high
finance hoping
for a whale of
a break, and now
looking into
Wisconsin Governor
Scott Wilson’s eyes
seeing the double
agent economics
of the average
elected politician
trying to disband
worker unions for
a more futuristic
frenzy has crowds
mobilizing wanting
to avoid a wage
slavery increase

David S. Pointer lives in Murfreesboro, TN.

There's an Immediacy in the Situation That Prevents Us From Perfection

by Sarah Busse

[author’s note: the title is taken verbatim from an email message to us at Verse Wisconsin Feb. 21, from fellow Madison poet Gillian Nevers, thanking us for the poems we’ve been publishing and commenting on the rawness and subsequent power of the drafts. As I am a writer who usually strives for perfection, or close to it, her words sparked my imagination.]

Yes. There’s an immediacy for
almost a week now, here in my living room,
two kids home from school because the teachers
the teachers are marching and there’s an immediacy.
“Why aren’t the teachers at school?” Because
the governor is trying to take away their voice.
Even in my armchair, humming
to facebook, /post/ to the Ed Show / link/
to Youtube / share/  and the various emails from neighbors and friends / reply/
/ reply / reply /
There’s an immediacy, and I hear there’s pizza from Ian’s.
There’s an immediacy to this, this need to be heard.
Won’t you listen, you on the other side? And damn
my binary thinking, why
do I think there are only two sides? Think of a pizza,
round or wedge like, depending on
the angle of your vision, your experience.
There could be more than two sides.
There could be a circle?
There could be a circle here but we
we are prevented from perfection, by our need
and we need
to share our words, to share our experiences, our voices.
This is a poetry flip cam, not a documentary. /share/ / link / / heart /
Our chants may sound silly, years or even days from now.
Our poems, drafted in heat, may fall flat.
Are they worse for that?
What do we require of them?
What is required of us?
We are prevented from perfection. We are human.
There’s an immediacy in the situation.

Sarah Busse lives in Madison and is co-editor of Verse Wisconsin.


by  Michael Belongie

There is no threat to bear with
in the hawk’s talons rending the
feathers of unsuspecting prey.

The protest so short, the shrill
squawk piercing, collision
calculating this token trophy.

Irrelevant that mindfulness
usurps vain startle.


by Nichole Rued
visual poem

Nichole Rued is a creative writing student at UW-Green Bay.

In Solidarity

by Lisa Vihos

Seen from above, we are
a myriad of small circles.
We move through the streets
like blood cells in veins bobbing
our way in and through to the heart
of the matter. We make ourselves
known as a collective system.
We work to keep the greater body
alive and healthy, we work
to keep at bay that which would
like to annihilate us. We band
together in arteries all over the planet,
all systems flowing toward a common
goal: to speak, to be heard, to listen.
We flow like water, like wine, like blood.
Each one unique, each one connected.
When we ignore our small discrepancies
and remain united, we cannot fail.
We surge like a tide. We will prevail.

Lisa Vihos lives in Sheboygan.


by W.F. Lantry

It's getting hard to see here, as the snow
returns to Madison, it's hard to stand
all night, huddled for warmth against the cold,
gathered against the wind, trying to hold
each other's strengths, and lift them up, this hand
with many fingers working here as one

to carry on a struggle we'd thought won.
The price of justice, still, is constant sight.
Look to that marble dome, where powerful
advisers think they now approach their goal,
hoping to break those fingers with a sleight
of hand designed to trick a careless eye

and break all those who refuse to comply.
I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive
and warm within that crowd. He dared to speak
against all those who'd legislate the weak
into submission, till they can't survive.
His words were carried on the wind, and spread

through each cluster, each gathering. They fed
somehow, the fires keeping those hands warm.
And as those flames blazed up, each eye could see
even through snow, the strength of unity
standing even against this latest storm.
Look how their faces in this strong light glow!

W.F. Lantry works in Washington, DC.

February 20 2011: My Badger Brush. (In solidarity with the WI teachers and workers in their pursuit of retaining collective bargaining I salute them with my 21 year old badger brush)

by Stephan Mazurek

Photo of a badger brush.

Stephan Mazurek is a photographer and documentary film-maker.


[Clouds  hover over our]

by Joseph Briggs, February 21, 2011

Clouds  hover over our
isthmus & the moon
a waxing gibbous
looms hidden
from view
in hot
light Fog
as breath
licking wet
cement & bare oaks
while inside many men
& women stand on firm legs
singing chanting to the mural above
Soon they’ll unfurl their sleeping bags
to rest on polished marble shipped in from
all over the world as Lake Monona ice is cracking
apart outside moaning about the thaw winter has
known about for all time How long will this frost hold it’s
grip on the land before spring moves in from some flat horizon?

Joseph Briggs lives near the Capitol in Madison.


by Len Kuntz

We are blocks, stone.
When we cross our arms
a vein runs through our eyebrow,
blinking like a camera link,
swelling like a snake,
eager for attention.
Nothing is getting done.
The days dance and collide like drunken partners.
Someone says, It’s last call.
Someone else says, I’ll burn this place down if you don’t
give me a microphone.

So the bartender pours a vat,
fills pitchers and everyone’s glass.
For an evening, anyway,
the acrimony is over,
another stall tactic success
as we move
in masses,
one day closer
to the apocalypse.

Len Kuntz's writing appears widely in print and online, and can also be found at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.


by Len Kuntz

Someone’s daughter threw a soda can at someone’s son.
A woman in gray sweats called a three-piece suit a whore-monger.
The mobs throbbed and split into twos then fours, more--
no different than if they were amoebas or viruses.

Everyone’s sign was handmade, some with misspelled words,
curses and threats,
skulls and swastikas,
diagonal lines inside a bubble with the word Whiners.

I watched from a grassy knoll,
the irony of my position not lost on me.
I lay under a tartan blanket
with a cooler and some brie.
I poured champagne
and felt the bubbles spiking under my nostril like wet fingers
trying to cheer me up.
I made a toast.
I wasn’t taking any of this lightly,
but I also wasn’t about to
take sides.
I said, “Here’s to all of us holding hands,
and holding them tight.”

Len Kuntz's writing appears widely in print and online, and can also be found at lenkuntz.blogspot.com

This Would All Be Different If We Were Still Children

by Len Kuntz

We forget.
We forget about being children—
that it’s important to stand up straight,
that learning comes through repetition and practice,
that there’s nothing wrong with sharing soda cans or swapping spit
so long as you’re able to overlook the other person’s cookies.
We forget.

We forget about being children—
that the best answers are those we find on our own,
that mean people have to
yell and complain,
but puppies just want to lick your face.
We forget about
and believing anything is possible,
even human flight off a garage roof.
We forget that the moon has light blue lakes on its west side when it’s full.
We forget about gnomes being cute and freaky all at the same time.
We can’t recall that Nathan wore a leg brace in second grade.
We forget the important stuff:
like manners, grace, finding solutions instead of problems.

Len Kuntz's writing appears widely in print and online, and can also be found at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.


by Ellen Birkett Morris

Every weekday morning
My grandfather went to work
In his stiff boots and blue shirt
Never called in sick or complained
That he’d rather be reading a magazine
Or throwing around a football
Labor was his calling
The way he left his mark on the world
When he dressed in his suit and white
Overcoat we knew there was a union meeting
An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay
He’d say as he walked out the door head high
Like the working men and women before him
For the working men and women to come

Ellen Birkett Morris comes from a union family and writes poetry, fiction and ten-minute plays.

Letter from Alfred Moskowitz

February 20, 2011

I look at the Wisconsin situation and I see a struggle to preserve what I had fought for in 1960 in New York City. We had to strike (the first in the country by teachers) to get the city to allow us to have a collective bargaining election. We were vilified in the press and TV and refused any kind of negotiation by the Superintendent of Schools ("I don’t negotiate with my family.")

What has to be understood are the reasons for unionization and collective bargaining. I worked for the first 10 years, starting in 1950, in an inner city school (Brooklyn) without a union or collective bargaining. I had no voice in my working conditions, pay or pension. Frequently, there were forty or more students in a class (some sitting on radiators and window sills), no duty-free lunch period—I had to run down 5 flights of stairs (after gulping down my lunch in 20 minutes in my room) to patrol the outside yard and supervise the students running around, and then run up 5 flights to meet my next class. Teachers had no say in the running of the school (no grievance procedure), starting pay was $2600 (1950) a year and going up in increments of $120 or $180 per year for 16 years to reach maximum, with the requirement that college courses be submitted every 3 years in order to get that step in salary. 13.6% of my pay was deducted for pension (mandatory), and we had to pay for half our medical insurance. Transferring to another school was at the pleasure of the principal and the district superintendent.

We had to strike twice again to gain some of our demands for a better life as a teacher.

Those teachers and other government employees in Wisconsin do not want a rollback to the 1950s.


Alfred Moskowitz is a sculptor who is married to poet Rhina Espaillat.


Do You Have to Ask?

by John L. Campbell

Having been self-employed most of my life,
selling for foundries on straight commission,
I adhere to certain ultra-conservative views.
Yes, I started a business in Wisconsin, made
money, paid all state and federal taxes, put
four kids through college, put money aside,
fretted over retirement, asking was it enough,
to get us through life, until death do us part?

After twenty-six years, I retired without a pension,
planned to live on our savings and investments,
accustomed to risk taking and sleepless nights,
grinding my teeth during recessions, lean years,
but I had faith then, have faith now,  banking on
no tenure for time in harness or bonus at year’s end,
my income depended on my company’s performance,
for every dollar we earned, forty cents went for rent,
other employees, utilities, travel, health insurance,
unemployment taxes ( an amount I could not touch,
being self-employed) I paid twice for social security,
the corporate plus my own, and income taxes paid,
always higher, based on my annual performance.

Some years I lost money, one employee sued me
and won a judgment I had to pay by court order.
But, I didn’t quit, I sacrificed for that freedom.
No one told me what to do, when to do it, my lot
had no union, classed as independent contractors.
Once in awhile I did ask, am I on the right path,
when reading what governments paid employees,
the pensions and payouts for public service?
I chose the path of freedom, right or wrong,
and ask after this latest recession, will our
savings last until it’s time to step off?

So, what do I think of paid politicians hiding out,
of physicians writing phony absence excuses for
sick teachers and state employees faced with higher
pension payments and contributions to health care?
With the majority I voted my choice for governor
to act on my behalf dealing with public employees.
You needn’t guess where I stand—if only we could
pay on performance, would we need so many?

 John L. Campbell lives in Brookfield, WI.

The Ballad of Gene Sharp

by Russell Gardner, Jr. 2/19/2011

In Two Thousand and Eleven,
Corporates felt in U.S. heaven—
All the United States their oyster
Republicans had made the voters stir

With amazing monies poured into ads.
The middle class they considered bad
Soon to be history, doncha know?
Union benefits?—gotta go!

While in the meantime, in Tunisia,
Alternatives to tyrant began its stir.
No violence, no deadly arms, no force,
Marching to tell of another course.

And then Egypt too went that route
And oligarchies lost their clout.
While back in Wisconsin a pedestrian,
A Walker, rode high—as equestrian

As Napoleon, missing only the hat.
“The law will change: that’s that!”
He’d leaders named Fitzgerald
Who saluted “Dear Leader” to herald

Good times now--for the corporations
Had selected them to lead the nation
Including our fair state of Wisconsin.
A cabal was about to make a din

When people took to Capitol Square
(Like Cairo’s Liberation Square o’er there).
Let’s hear it for Gene Sharp who did create
Steps to do in tyrants: one hundred ninety-eight.

They’d read this in Tunisia, Yemen,
Egypt, all the dictatorships, like Iran.
Watch our Sharp American solution
Give rise to peaceable revolution.

Now it’s not only the middle east
But as well the middle west.
Paul Ryan said Madison-Cairo alike:
Truth he said—though said in spite.

Let’s hear it for a peaceable revolution!
Let’s hear it for appropriate evolution!
Corporate tyranny will intrude more
But Gene gives hope that at core

We can combat these cabals—
People too can make some calls!
Gene’s sharp—look what this man did:
Not only Mubarak will hit the skids.

Russell Gardner, Jr. lives in Madison, WI.

Redact Governor Walker

by Chuck Rybak
[An erasure or redaction of the Emergency Budget Repair Bill.]

Erasur of the Emergency Budget Repair Bill

Chuck Rybak is a writer in Green Bay.

Ode to Madison Area High School Students

by Gillian Nevers

In the din of the ever growing crowd
You appear. A ragtag band of kids chanting,
the clang and bang of your drums, of pots
and pans, interrupting the official proceedings,
You circle the Square - some say, drawing attention
away from the important speakers.
We know better. We turn, smiles breaking
and applaud You. Applaud and cheer your banners,
your youthful, heartfelt enthusiasm. We ignore,
for a moment, the big-wigs at the podium.
Don’t get me wrong, their words, their presence,
are important, but it is You, the hundreds of You
from rival schools, gathering in support of your teachers.
And, You, the group who started it by walking out of class,
before your teachers did. All of You could have
blown off the day, hung out at the mall, friended
more friends, smoked dope in basement rec rooms,
plugged in, tuned out. But, here You are,
staking claim to your future.

Gillian Nevers lives in Madison.

Inner Voice Crescendo

by Katrin Talbot, February 20, 2011

The day we started symphony rehearsals
we had already had begun to hear
the off-balance goose-step of awareness,
the pressing inhalation of disbelief,
the early mumblings of private outrage
And, as we played through
Pomp & Circumstance, Military March # 5,
the Nobilmente tempo marking
floated above the G# like a
mickey mouse balloon,
and Tutta forza seemed as silly as
a wild west store front,
when I remembered the words scrawled onto
a five-year-old’s sign: ‘Wonder Woman
supports truth and justice and
so do I!’
Next, then, the Emperor Concerto
of Beethoven (though he grew to despise Napoleon),
and I remembered the abuse of power
I had been rallying against just up the street,
and by the third day, the sound of marching
was beginning to rumble beyond
the Capital Square, louder than any bass drum,
the people’s percussive chants
banged out now with a media mallet
And then, Prokovief’s Fifth Symphony,
"a hymn to free and happy Man,
to his mighty powers, his pure and noble spirit”

and, as I counted rests with a tilted head
to stretch the neck, a common battle injury
from Beethoven viola parts,
the staffs of music began to stand as
marble columns in a democracy of gravity.
a balance of defiance, a shaking up of order,
as the themes and the people’s voice began
a spin on harmony from the stage
out into the streets

Katrin Talbot is a violist and poet living in Madison.

Wisconsin Storm

by Kay N. Sanders
February 2011

Sometimes it takes a blizzard
to stir things up, a whirlwind
to let the world know
that ice and snow cannot
be legislated away.
No majority can hold it off.

Sometimes it takes a blizzard
to calm things down,
give people a chance
to withdraw into their dens,
let a little fat be consumed,
transformed into energy renewed

for the long, hard winter
yet to come.

Atlas Frowned

(for my conservative friends)
by Gary Jones

Near the city of Kaukauna Atlas frowned
As he supported the world on his shoulders,
Scowling not from the weight but the smell
That wafted across the industrial landscape
And from the fountain arcs that splashed on him like pee;
(A senior boy in a high school shower room
Once urinated on his foot as a prank.)

Tiring of Ayn Rand’s fanciful project
He finally rolled the globe behind the building
As if it were an exercise ball
(He worked out regularly in the gym),
Dried off with a towel, pulled on his pants,
And began hitchhiking down Highway 41
Bound for Kimberly-Clark
Where he would put in an application for a real job.

Gary Jones is a writer and teacher living in Northern Door.

this is democracy
madison, wisconsin
february 2011

by Jessica Lyn Van Slooten

this is what democracy looks like:

a sea of red shirts (union strong, teach me to bucky,
university of wisconsin) and flashes of green (afscme).

signs bobbing (union rights=human rights, negotiate
don’t dictate) and flags flying (stars and stripes, solidarity).

this is what democracy sounds like:

impromptu drum lines (bongo and snare) reverberate beneath
tambourine shimmy and silent protests (peaceful vigil).

songs pour through the audio system (black eyed peas, bon jovi)
and disparate voices unite (what’s disgusting? union busting!)

this is what democracy tastes like:

a char-grilled brat (courtesy of building trades brothers and sisters)
airy wafer cookies (kill the bill with kindness treats)

the pangs of hunger (for fairness, for recognition, for respect)
the quenching of thirst (free water flows with collective spirit, unity)

this is what democracy smells like:

something sweet, something motivated not by fear but by belief
and love (fragrant breath rises upward with possibility)

the earthiness of mud (underneath so much snow, melting at last,
this winter disappearing with a fresh fecundity)

this is what democracy feels like:

feet in motion, hands clapping, voices raising, emotion rising
(hope anger potential sadness) the weight of history, this moment


An Old Madison Radical Dies a Block from the Capitol

by John H. Sime

From my bed of pain
I hear the protestors up the street.
And I yearn to join them, but can't.
These days a trip to the toilet
Requires a nurse or nurse's aide.
So, I listen to the drums and shouts and songs.
I catch an occasional glimpse through the window
Of red shirted protestors--
An avalanche rolling up Capitol Hill.
Will the rich and powerful
Fall before this righteous wrath?
I don't know.
Did my years of activism
Help push the boulder of Sisyphus up the hill?
I don't know that either.
But I do know that humanity
Was born to share and to fight.
And it's better to fight for the workers
Than their bosses.
And it's better to share the goods
Than to hoard them.
And if this be my death bed
I know I will die hearing the drums
Of liberty gather the people
For the march up the hill of tomorrow.

John H. Sime graduated from UW Madison, and is in business in western Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Lessons

by Marilyn Windau
We had family meetings
almost every week,
usually on Sundays,
and sometimes mid-week
if emergency issues arose.
We sat around the square
table, voiced our frustrations,
our complaints, our needs,
our wants. 
We grieved.
We debated.
My brother’s 6-year-old words were heard.
My sister’s 10-year old-ideas did not drown out
my 7-year-old pleas.
My father said, “I am listening.”
My mother said, “In my classroom,
we may politely disagree. From each other,
we learn.  For each other, we compromise.
With each other, we grow.”
My parents were born in Wisconsin.
Old lessons die hard.

In Protest

by Marilyn Windau

In the East Towne lot, she kneeled down
on cold cement
to embellish her white tag board sign.
Awaiting the next yellow school bus,
she uncapped the marker.
An explosion of red spread to the pavement,
her fingers, her sign, her message.
She gathered bare-handed snow
to scrub the stains from only
the Penney’s store sidewalk.
Though twenty nine degrees
at the capitol square,
she, with her reddened hands,
joined thousands
moving forward to dome circle
in parka-shoulder closeness.
The daily current of cardinal,
shivering their placards overhead ,
were united in solidarity,
with voices raised in protest,
as gilded light reflected
in their focused eyes.

Wisconsin Gets a New Governor

by Ralph Murre

The Fool Who’d Been,
as he was stepping down,
met the Fool Who’d Be,
who was donning the crown.
“Not so fast,” said Been to Be,
“you look an ordinary clown to me.”

“This is no job for a Bar Mitzvah rental -
these are big shoes to fill.
Why, you must be mental.
You think that if you simply will
wear a wig or disguise like Yentl,
you can be a fool: all accidental?

“The kind of fool that’s needed here,”
continued the very aged Been,
“was born before your tender year.
He must have had the chance to learn.
He must have had the chance to hear,
so it can all slip out his other ear.”

“I’m young, it’s true,”
said the fool-to-be,
“but if you’ll give me half a chance,
I’ll be a bigger fool than thee.”
So he wears the crown, and hikes up his pants
as he begins his uninformed rants:

“ It’s my turn now,”
says the Fool Who’d Be,
“and I’ll tell you a thing or three;
my head may not be amply thick,
but my delivery is pretty slick,
and I know something of tomfoolery.”

“I hardly needed to get elected,”
he said as he erased,
before he redacted,
“I’m just outstanding in my field.”
And then, as though he had reflected:
“Among most fools, I am respected.”

Now I could quote the youngster
nicely, word for word,
but here’s the summation:
if we cut the funds for education,
we can stop teaching school
before summer vacation.

Ralph Murre is a writer and publisher living in Baileys Harbor.

Dancing with Liberty

by Patricia Monaghan
(Madison, Wisconsin, February 19, 2011)

My friend called to say, “I’m waiting
at the top of State,” but I was across

the square, so I kept walking with the crowd
past the media stands where a few angry

men screamed through bullhorns while
we answered the call: Show me what

Democracy looks like, singing back over
and over, This is what Democracy

looks like, the marchers slowing to let
parents with strollers cross to the Capital,

past the costumed onlookers, past the sax
player giving us “Solidarity Forever,”

past the Harley-jacketed family, past
“Queers from Chicago” with raised fists,

Show me what Democracy looks like—
This is what Democracy looks like—

but at the top of State, amid thousands
of marchers, my friend and I could not

find each other, so I called and told her,
“Look for the man dressed as Liberty,”

and cut through the crowd to stand
beside a young black man in green silk

and a plastic-foam Lady Liberty crown—
Show me what Democracy looks like—

This is what Democracy looks like—
and he told me he was from Milwaukee,

and that his mother was a teacher,
and I told him I was from Alaska

and my father was in the service,
and all the while music was pounding

out from the Capital steps, and after
a few minutes we were dancing to

Michael Jackson, swaying and pumping
our arms, Show me what Democracy

looks like—This is what Democracy
looks like—and somehow, my friend

never did find me, and none of us
who are hoping for justice know

whether we will find it, now or soon
or never, but what the heck, my friends,

isn’t this what Democracy looks like:
each of us, all of us, dancing with Liberty?



by Mary Wehner

Tricked by the sun
one morning
I raised my head
and watched

the curtain float out
across the lake carrying
with it the dead
horse I’d been tied to,

a draft horse so heavy
he shook the trees.

Arizona Sunset

by Mary Wehner

Again, sun vanishes
ignoring the day’s history,

State of aftershock,
a beached desert boat.

now grass is black, errant
armadillos zigzag .

We’d all like to circle
around to another place,  

somewhere with bluer skies,
a healing cobalt sea.

Through the Glass

by Mary Wehner

The spill is pure
resonance, high chant,

gently easing my thoughts
to a more hospitable place

through a pine bending
across icy snow.

We lie in the cold
thin air immersed in

an owl’s deep throated
search, the prism

on the sill angling

a perfect edge  
to this bleak landscape.

Mary Wehner lives in Fond du Lac, WI.


From the Outside In

by Jim Landwehr

I’ve always said I’m not a political person
The jabbing and sparring between the parties
Makes me ill
But when I read the travesty called
The Budget Repair Bill
It raised an eyebrow, to say the least
Then when I went to Madison
For a conference unrelated
I saw the rage in people
and couldn’t help but get caught up in it
People were justifiably pissed off
It showed on the streets,
on the square,
and in the rotunda.
So I signed a petition to Kill the Bill
I got my sign and walked with the masses
It was nothing short of energizing
My first protest at almost 50 years of age
And it felt so completely right.
Power to the People!

Jim Landwehr lives in Waukesha, WI.

Protest Wisconsin 

by Merle Hazard

crowds like a murder
of crows pick flesh from carrion
enjoy their victim

Merle Hazard lives in Macon, GA.

Shadows in the Mist

by Gerald W. Bertsch, 2/20/11

They arrive in pairs
and threes,
swinging low over roof tops
and calling to each other
louder than usual.
Once the geese settle
they linger
in the misty distance,
nearer than they seem
through the swirling snow.
They rest
like shadows in the mist,
dark forms gathered
on the ground as the drab sky
drapes its wings over them.


Our eyes are opened

by Charles Portolano
Having to take to the streets
of Madison, Wisconsin,
I find myself
shoulder to shoulder
with other teachers,
prison guards, students,
cops and firefighters,
along with many others
in the Capitol’s Rotunda,
in its hallways, its chamber,
we sit crossed-legged
across the floor,
making me relive those
wild days of the 60’s,
banging on drums
until my hands hurt,
chanting “Union busting
is disgusting”
until my throat is sore,
for the Governor is lying,
trying to quash the unions,
squash the middle class,
if he wants to fix
the so called budget deficit
then, why not tax those
that are of the top 2%,
why go after those
that have so much less.
I guess he didn’t think
we would gather together
and march down
to the center of town,
to meet fire with fire
for his disdain of us is
plain to see for he is not
willing to meet with us,
forcing us to fight,
to stand up for our rights.  

Charles Portolano lives in Fountain Hills, AZ. 

What It Looks Like From Here

by Susan Hering, February 19, 2011

Tell me what democracy looks like!
My skin is getting windburned from
all these days of marching in fresh
Wisconsin winds of change this wintry
February.   Tell me what democracy
looks like!  Truthfully, my hair is not looking
its best.  Again, those darned winds
and the answers that are blowing in them
with increasing assurance and
conviction. Tell me what democracy
looks like! My toes are frozen; it’s
cold here even if we’ve got  our
love to keep us warm.  My hips, oh
my aching hips, too uncushioned  to make
sleeping on the hard marble floors of
the Capitol building anything but a
very distant and poor relative of the
sleep that occurs on a good, union-made
mattress.  Tell me what democ-
racy looks like? Well, the little finger on
my left hand was sliced off in a
meatpacking accident. I have
carpal tunnel syndrome in both
wrists from typing every day. My
knees are not wasted from skiing,
let me tell you, but from standing
on the hard floor of the assembly line
eight hours every day. Tell you what
democracy looks like?  Little child,
little child, marching down the broad,
and teeming avenues swinging your
handmade protest sign like a lollipop back
and forth in front of you:  You are what
democracy looks like… WE ARE WHAT


For Immediate Relic
Friday, February 11, 2011

Governor Wallaby Introduces Buffet Repartition

by Chuck Rybak

[This document is an N+7 rendition of Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill.  N+7 is a writing technique that replaces major words in lines or sentences with the word that appears seven words ahead of it in the dictionary (for example, the title above was generated from “For Immediate Release”).  N+7 is also a well-known means for uncovering hidden truths and motivations.]

Eminence measures are needed to balance the state buffet and give government the toothbrushes to manage during economic cristobalites

Madison– Governor Wallaby today released details of his buffet repartition bill. 

“We must take immediate action to ensure fishmonger stability in our state,” said Governor Wallaby.  “This buffet repartition bill will meet the immediate needs of our state and give government the toothbrushes to deal with this and future buffet cristobalites.”

The state of Wisecrack is facing an immediate deficit of $137 milquetoasts for the current fishmonger year which ends July 1.  In addition, bill collectors are waiting to collect over $225 milquetoasts for a prior raid of the Patriarchy Compensation Funeral.

The buffet repartition bill will balance the buffet and lay the foundation for a long-term sustainable buffet through several measures without raising teacakes, raiding segregated funerals, or using accounting gimmicks....

[This is an excerpt of "For Immediate Relic." Read the entire document here.]

Chuck Rybak, Green Bay, is a writer.

Collective Bargaining
by Bruce Dethlefsen, Friday, February 18

fifty thousand strong
we stand up and scream to save
sitting down to talk

Bruce Dethlefsen is a retired public library director.

state of the state (a prayer by 4s and 3s)
by Peter Whalen on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 10:59am

a full moon waxes, silent,
over the dawn's icy chill.
Wisconsin's restless mind
wakes with warm heart, still.
Forward. Citizens.
Progressive. Republican.
"Out of many, one."
a warm sun rises
over morning's chill. Wisconsin's

restless minds, warm hearts,
cleanse capitol hill.
"Out of many, one."
Republican. Progressive.
Forward. Citizens.

Peter Whalen is a lifelong citizen and taxpayer from the Badger State.

14 Senators, a song by Ken Lonnquist, written 2-18-2011

(Used with permission of the author.)


Thursday Night at the Madison Labor Protest 2/17/11

by Bob Wake

We happened upon them massing two by two,
firefighters on State Street in dress uniforms.
At the front of the line Local 311 Pipes & Drums
commenced. "Amazing Grace." Solemn solidarity.
And we knew. At that moment we knew: we’ve won.

Bob Wake is a writer in Cambridge, Wisconsin.


Beware the Politicians

by Bruce Taylor

who say they are for jobs; they will take yours
who say they are protecting one neighbor from another;
                they will turn neighbors against each other
who say  they have no money for the poor;
                they have already given it to the rich
who claim to be the friend of the people;
                they are friends to no one but themselves
who claim to speak for the silent;
                they speak for no one  but themselves
who claim to protect you; they will protect you
               from everything but themselves             
who claim they are  the people,  the people know better

Bruce Taylor is Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.

Spring Tease

Written Feb 16, 2011
by Susan Hering

The birds were twittering again at
first light today, and you were out there
floating in the early clouds ofmorning,
doing a backstroke, I believe, through the
pale skies of this February mourning.
The bells up high in the campus
carillon rang out with such exuberance that
the notes of their song tumbled like
somersaults down a green hillside or the
colors in the dryer at the laundromat, the
one with the round window set in
front.  The crowds in the State
Capitol chanting the mantras of
democracy swarmed like Sufis in a
kaleidoscope or a mandala swirled in
tinted sand on a windswept Tibetan
mountaintop. Spring is not ours yet, but
she did let show the lace of her prettiest
petticoat  as she swirled by in the clouds
today, in the clouds in the crowds past
the crowned heads and clowns, past the
crowsfeet and the cloned sheep of
our daily visions. One barely notices
that the hem of her well-worn wintry
gown is stained with road salt and
deicing agents, as well as the toll of
sweat and blood and tears this
endless winter has extracted and
exacted. And then some unknown schoolchild
who has slipped one hand into yours
uninvited, tugs at your overcoat sleeve
and asks you Why is that cloud up there
naked? Whereupon you glance at the
sky then me before you say with
just the slight arch of one of your  
perfect eyebrows, “Shouldn’t we go home
together now?” and I say, "Yes, please."

Work Song

by Chuck Rybak

The anvil’s clear clang
an engine’s deep hum
the clicking language of keyboards
as cargo bays drum

Chalk taps a blackboard
brooms sweep the street
firefighters court the furnace
plows blast through the sleet

Blow torch and wire
classrooms and cops
teachers plant fields of knowledge
our state harvests the crop

These are the sounds of work
our purpose harmonized
when workers are silenced
prosperity dies

Chuck Rybak, Green Bay, is a writer.

What Becomes of the Deported?

by David Blackey

I ask myself.
Do they disperse like 
child-blown bubbles?
Or linger beneath saguaros and deliquesce?
Do their bones merge into the desert detritus?

I picture them as
ghost choruses crossing
undulating lines.

I doubt they huddle around
Sonoran campfires and reminisce
about butchered chickens in Iowa.

I suspect they languish in
sun-baked shanties on rations
of derision.

Or, incognito, in rank cantinas,
over warm cerveza,
do they slur stories of how cold
they were up north?

David Blackey, La Crosse, WI, is a retired attorney recently elected to the board of the ACLU- WI.