February 25th-March 3rd, 2011

The Children Must Learn to Read by Third Grade

by Jill Stukenberg

The children must learn
            to read by third grade.
Those words aren’t going to read themselves!

Or do much else for our economy.
            The prisoners must lead
the third graders who can’t be trusted

who can’t be invested
            like money can be in greeding.
And what about the money?

The teachers have hidden it
            where no one will look—
inside the prisons, inside the books.

Jill Stukenberg is an English Instructor at UW-Marathon County, in Wausau.

Speak for Us

by Sean Butner

Snow and night fall fast
Turning the rheumatic backbone
Of the state to glass
Causing it to buckle and crack.
Salt sits in silos
And steamrollers chill.
And who will speak for us?

Chalk rests in rails
And coffers clank,
Altogether unlike that
Sullen sound of shackles slinking,
Or plows scraping
Or chalk’s sloughing excess
That even broken still goes on.
And who will speak for us?

Busy bodies back to busy things
Too much for us now
To follow, record and report.
The world goes on, for sure,
But with an aching shuffle
Leaving snail’s trails of wear
Asking who then speaks for us?

Sean Butner is a poet and freelance writer living in Green Bay.

P.E.T.A Responds to S.W.’s Budget Bill

by Sandy Stark

OK, so we’re the Badger State,
the Cows on the Concourse State,
the “Don’t Shoot our Pooping Geese” State.
We rescue kittens, puppies, ducklings,
tolerate the scurries of squirrels,
murmations of crows,
swarm of gnats.

But this?
Do we really have to put up with
this battery of barracudas,
this cowardice of curs,
surfeit of skunks?
Sorry, but it’s getting way too feral here.
Time to fix some other cats. 

Sandy Stark lives in Madison.

Lamentations of A Poet Laureate
(To the tune of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”)
Feb. 24, 2011

by David R. Clowers

The loveliness of Oshkosh seems somehow sadly gay
The glories of Milwaukee are of another day.
I’m alone and forgotten in Neopit and Pound.
I can’t go back to that city by Green Bay

I lost my funds in Walker’s budget.
High on his repair bill, he shafted me.
Along with workers rights and cuts for WPR
The Kochs may fill the air--he don't care.

My poems wait here in fiscal limbo
Along the blue Lake Michigan sea.
When reason returns to you, my Wisconsin,
Your golden sun will shine on me.

Respectfully: The Teacher to the Independent Workman

by Carolyn Stephens

Like Sir Gawain I wax and wane from night to noon. I thrive and bloom
When sun is weak. But when the sun is at its peak, I swoon.
My winter hero, Gawain, rode from Halloween to Imbolc.
Like so, I thrive in winter’s night at a desk with lamp and book.

Milton’s best came from the dark – of blindness, night, and melancholy.
He wrote from Michaelmas to March then slept in shades of oak and holly.
A pisces, I was born in March, delivered from my mother’s womb
To face the winds of equinox before t’Ram’s course was half yronne.

From Fall through Spring my life was ruled by paper, pen, and bell.
I waged my wars with ignorance and fought the de’il with ink and well,
So now in age I can withdraw to “Hairy Gown and Mossy Cell.”

Thank God for my livlihood earned by long hours at low pay.
There’s justice in that fair exchange – security for the distant day.

February 2011

*Response to Governor Walker’s bill to cut teacher’s pay and retirement benefits, increase medical costs, and eliminate collective bargaining.

We’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore

by James Reitter

I’ve been threatened by
the National Guard
deemed a danger
to local, to state
because I choose
to educate, even
when prohibited.

Brains in the streets.

“Glory, Glory Hallelujah”
plays on piano and brass
amidst a sea of green assembly.
I'm marching on Madison
out there unprotected
reduced confined
dictated. Truth will
march today with
anthemic defiance.

James Reitter is an Assistant Professor of English at UW Sheboygan.

Your Appendix 

by Matt Jaffe


With the negative slope I’m getting fed up, I’m getting fed up
Of the misuse of hope I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough
Now the water is up to my shoulders
I might as well learn to swim, now or never
I think I’ll take now
If we wait the world out, will it get fixed?  Will it get fixed?
That did not work at all with your appendix, your appendix
Are we waiting for some sort of green light?
We should know by now it’s time to take flight
I just wish I knew how
When does the revolution start?
When does it commence?
Will you help me or will you not?
I guess I’ll have to do it by myself
To the questions we ask, no answer is told, no answer is told
So they tend to appear, rhetorical, rhetorical
If the answers are not in the textbooks
Where in the continent should we next look?
Perhaps in our mouths
To doubt the powers that stand is not dishonorable, it’s not dishonorable
It’s our right when conditions turn intolerable, now they’re intolerable
If we raise our voices at the same time
We can throw the corrupt in the limelight
And we can call foul
When does the revolution start?
When does it commence?
Will you help me or will you not?
I guess I’ll have to do it by myself
When does the revolution start?
When does it begin?
Will you stand by me?  Will you stay alert?
The ice we’re skating on is getting pretty thin
They’ve got us right where they want us
Now they’re tightening their grip
They’ve got us right where they want us
I think it’s time to open up our lips
They’ve got us right where they want us
Now they’re tightening their hands
They’ve got us right where they want us
I think it’s time for us to take a stand
I think it’s time for us to take a stand
When does the revolution start?
When does it begin?
Will you stand by me?  Will you stay alert?
The ice we’re skating on is getting pretty thin

15-year-old Matt Jaffe lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Choke Hold, a visual poem

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



by Sarah Busse
two weeks of whirlwind, and today
to find the center,
the single point of focused still
(three days ago, we om’ed the Capitol,
a woman in butterfly wings leading us into it oohhmmmmm)
today I am not going. today
I am recentering myself, to aim
again tomorrow
(yesterday I led the chant outside
to form a human chain
            hands around the Capitol
            let’s surround the Capitol

to witness any arrests
to witness, to document, to cheer for the people but
there were no arrests. the cops laid down on air mattresses
another night beside the protesters and a woman outside
gave me a werther’s caramel for my throat)
meanwhile the pizzas kept multiplying
meanwhile inside the protesters chanted thank you
to the police, and then
to the guy who waxes the floors
thank you thank you
we have learned to feel grateful for every small thing
we have learned to lead, each of us,
in turn, surfacing and re-surfacing with what gifts
we have in the moment
today I stare into a spruce tree and imagine
myself deep among its branches, at rest and sheltered
from the cold
today I rest my voice
that I may sing again tomorrow as the fist
rises, then opens to release
butterflies, dragonflies, winged things by the thousands
circle and how we fly, we fly
Sarah Busse is co-editor of Verse Wisconsin.

The Art of War

by Robin Chapman
I’m looking for good reads on Project Gutenberg
and there it is, a top-ten book, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War,
right up there with Huck Finn, Pride and Prejudice,
the Kama Sutra, and Alice in Wonderland—advice
from the Chinese strategist, late-sixth century,
who showed the King that he could manage troops
by assembling the King’s concubines in two caucuses,
the favorites in charge, to drill—and beheaded
them both when the teams broke out in giggles,
demonstrating to all that he was in charge—I ponder
our Governor, his reading habits, the hapless
Republican ranks, the arts of peace, our future state.

Robin Chapman lives in Madison.

Four Visual Poems: Feet, Go Stream, Heart, Kill the Whole Bill

by Matthew Stolte

visual poem


visual poem


visual poem


visual poem


Matthew Stolte is a an artist and poet in Madison.


Protest Poem

by Adam Halbur
I said “That’s nice”
to a friend who told me
I was going to hell
because I don’t subscribe to
Jesus Christ.  I said
“That’s nice” to an uncle
who told me he prays daily
to redeem my soul. 
I said “That’s nice”
when the State took a little
over 3 percent of my living
to cover the rich's loss.
I said “That’s nice”
when an employer raised
my hourly existence by 50 cents. 
When I asked my friend what
is wrong with America, he replied,
“If you don’t like it, then leave.”
So I did.  Then I came back.


(Wisconsin protests of February, 2011)

by Thomas R. Smith

Best of all is to see the young
and meditate on the law of unintended
consequences:  the Governor's
hardline arrogance mobilizing

a new generation to learn one of
democracy's most glorious lessons:
that there is not only duty
but joy in the combining of voices.

Though now we're grey and you're
the vivid ones, every cell in us
resonates to your bullhorn.
Standing today less for ourselves

than for you, we lean easier
into aging bodies and visions,
loving the early spring wind wafted
by your lithe, shining spirits.

Our old romance with hope
stirs again, that we might yet
establish the Beautiful Community,
and that you may still lift the dream

forward to places we've only imagined,
greyhairs, who like Moses, won't live
to see the Promised Land but will be carried
in your hearts toward that fulfillment.


by Thomas R. Smith

The sun a smoldering burn
in scored winter clouds,
bright aperture at the center
of a smoky eye ringed by iris.


Bare trees stutter past
the diffuse lowering fire
with the grainy jerkiness
of old black and white film frames.


Since the election we'd watched
the trainwreck of our state run in fast
motion, frozen, as they say
a snake's prey is, in its gaze.


Jet trail's
white incision
on the sky's flesh.  Why this
operation?  And who is the


A firefighter told the rally,
"The governor is trying to burn
down our house.  If he does,
we'll rebuild it with you!"


Are we rising up now
from the sleep of apathy?
Suddenly I'm in the Masonic Hall
singing the old union songs again.


Are enough awake to do this?
Or will we be like the deer,
fugitive at dusk
on the edge of the frozen field?

Thomas R. Smith, River Falls, Wisconsin, has a web site at www.thomasrsmithpoet.com and some lines of poetry in granite at the Elizabeth Link Peace Park on State Street in Madison.

The Big Bang

by Laura Wendorff

Mr. Governor
don’t mess with the word-weaver

she can knit irony to image
and tie that cloth around your neck until
you choke

or spit back out
the power
you think you possess

but is really on loan from us.

Mr. Governor
don’t mess with the wordsmith

she can hammer your image
turn your black hair gray
mark your face with spots
and force you to look
in the mirror

and see who you really are
puppet, panderer.

Mr. Governor
don’t mess with the sibyl

she can write thousands of verses
that immortalize your cruelty
and greed

for generations

students in English classrooms across
the state will read and explicate
your lies.

Mr. Governor
be forewarned

she is not going down to defeat
she will not be shut up, shut down, or shut out
for she has powers

your prosaic mind cannot fathom

the power of sun and earth
the power of cloth and metal and cave
the power of solitude and sound
the power of her voice and 70,000 voices.
The time is now.

February 2011
Laura Wendorff teaches English at UW-Platteville

Supporting the Troops

by Ed Werstein

We support you,
our heroes on the front line
we, who cannot be there daily
who cannot brave the cold and snow
who cannot spent the night on marble floors
protecting the rights of us all.

We will shovel your walks
water your plants
feed your animals.

We will watch your children
read them stories of your bravery and resolve
tell them their mothers are heroes
defending our freedoms.

We will post and re-post your messages
your videos, your letters,
your first-hand accounts
your stories that don’t make the corporate news.

We will feed you with pizza from down the street
ordered for you from around the world.

We will write poetry and music in your honor.

And when we can
as soon as we can
every time that we can
we will be there in our thousands
reinforcing you
warming you with our warm bodies
and our love.

Madison, Wisconsin

by Kathryn Gahl

because of fifty years ago
because of then
because of now

red ink splashing everywhere
red the rage on stairwells
streets, the rotunda
red the cheesehead
whether day or night or democracy

the game is alienation vs. elimination
finger it like an incision
bring your own needles and sutures—
never mind if you don’t know
how to make a surgeon’s knot:

in Walker’s oligarchy, you will learn

I Want To Talk To You
for everyone’s Madison

by Kathryn Gahl

You are in one hemisphere
I am in another

I speak this set of syllables
You math up new syllogisms

You craft conclusions
I draft possibilities

You point your finger
I set my sails

And the hard wind blows
These days, to mythical proportions


by Kathryn Gahl

noise is always the enemy
the throat’s immense clearing

teeth who are into it
lungs ears and tongue

determined to cut splice dice
berate and degrade a people’s identity

until people make a song so strong
it drowns all bullies
drowns ‘em good.


by Kathryn Gahl

Mistakes were made.
You meant what I knew.
You never know.

Wall Street via the Enron.
Coal mines and oil spills.
Mistakes are still being made.

The Koch Brothers cook.
Furtive male desire and porn.
Domestic violence.

Beliefs were made.
Unhealthy mental excitement
as Donald Barthelme once said.

And weasels are still being made.

Kathryn Gahl lives in Two Rivers, WI.

Capitol Images from February 26, 2011
1. The Peanut Butter Sandwich

by Lisa Vihos
There was a young man with a nice smile and skin like creamy coffee. He wore one of those colorful, knitted earflap caps that everyone wears these days. He stood behind the snack table, rattling off instructions to a volunteer: “Can you please go to the storage closet in 110? We need more granola bars, crackers, juice boxes, and apples.” The whole time he was talking, he spread peanut butter on a slice of whole wheat bread. After dispatching the volunteer, he spread jelly on another slice. Then he joined the two slices together and carefully placed his humble creation in a plastic baggy which he handed over to me. “Thank you,” I said, stuffing a couple dollars into the tip jar. He said, “You are welcome. Thank you for coming here today to support Wisconsin’s workers.”  I moved away to another corner of the marble hall. It was three in the afternoon and I hadn’t eaten since way before we’d left Sheboygan for Madison to come to the rally, hours and hours earlier. I was hungry. I tore off little pieces of my sandwich and savored each one. Maybe it was just my low blood sugar, but I think it might have been the most delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich I have ever eaten. As I stood with my friends in the midst of the hubbub, I wanted to tell them how amazing everything was, how palpable the sense of shared purpose. But I found I could not speak. I had that pressure in my throat that makes it impossible to put words on a simple, human kindness; that pressure that comes right before you spill over into gratitude’s tears.

Lisa Vihos lives in Sheboygan.

One Hundred Thousand

by Dana Maya
Madison, Wisconsin, February 26th, 2011

Look out
            the window—

These people are

                           to     go                   away.

This          people          knows          patience.





Dana Maya lives in Madison.

(Quotation by Bradley Whitford on the twelfth day of continuous demonstrations at the State Capitol building.)

Queen of Persia Imports

by Cathy Douglas

Honking horns bring her to the front of the store.
Outside the plate glass window
a hundred yellow taxis parade up the street
to the cheers of a hundred thousand marchers.
Raucous and red as any football Saturday,
the teachers have taken the street.

Her children's teachers must be somewhere in the crowd--
good ones like the lady who gives books to Fadwah,
bad ones like the man who claims Hassan needs drugs,
and so many who think her stupid
because her English is not good.

She tidies trinkets in the window,
pushes aside the hookahs and harem pants college girls buy
to move the jewelry forward so it winks in the sunlight.
Wise in the ways of business, she knows:
Hawkeyes versus Badgers or Union versus Tea Party,
the players don't matter so long as they fight.
The excitement of the struggle tears customers from the mall
and brings them here to her husband's store.

She leans toward the glass, trying for a glimpse of Hassan.
He's taken his scooter to Peace Park,
around the corner where she can't see.
On an ordinary day she'd worry about drunks,
but today the bums have gone missing in the clamor.
Maybe she should have left him home with Fadwah,
who's watching the baby and cleaning the house,
but a boy must come out and face the din
to find out the sound of his voice.

The door jingles
and she pulls back into the store.
adjusts her black, nonpartisan hijab and greets
the customers, taking their measure. 
She wonders what size they wear, not which side they're on;
how much they'll pay, not how much they're paid.
She's never had insurance in her life.

Half listening to their chatter,
she watches her visitors browse.
Subtle glances work the best—it wouldn't do to stare.
She smacks a roll of pennies on the counter
and lets them clatter into the till.

Cathy Douglas works on State Street in Madison.

Found Poem: Greetings from Looniesville

by Casey Thayer

All text (except for a few coordinating conjunctions) taken from anti-protest message board posts.

Greetings from your former home: the People’s Republic
of Looniesville. In your next big ticket interview,

I suggest you do the following, Comrade: take off your shoe
and start pounding the table. That would just ruin

his next golf game. Your Lands’ End closeouts prove
that not everybody on the left wears Birkenstocks.

I don't know if you've noticed but the Chinese own you.
I don't know if you've noticed but this budget repair bill

is creating famine, drought, global warming, earthquakes
in New Zealand, and seasonal affected disorder. So

eat the whiny. Bust the unions. Palin is a rocket
scientist, and the public got comfortable with being

taken care of. Nissan Sentras? Bologna! This
is why no recovery happened. Ladies and gentlemen

the real problem confronting honest and decent folks
is Jesse Jackson. When he shows up to support you,

you know you are on the wrong side of the equation.
So it was nice of Bradley and Peter to fly their Gulfstreams

here and pontificate to us on how we should live.
It was nice of Comrade Sally to crush out the blunt

she was smoking and put down the Kool-Aid glass.
Look here, its time to see your local optometrist

before you mistake an elephant for a mouse
and get stepped on. Don’t you want a fiefdom?

What's next? Are we going to have notorious Snooki
from The Jersey Shore in here? What kind of life is that?

And don't give me barf about how the republicans wouldn't
bring them back in leg irons. The losers in our elections

don't get to govern. Free me from servitude. I'm starting to get

the ad hominem attacks from rabid left wing whackos,
and you forgot to leave the blinders in the barn. Go join

the other clowns down at the Motel 6. Mass displays
of selfishness are possible, and collective bargaining

doesn’t protect you from dishonest 10 year olds.
As for all the out-of-towners visiting our lovely state,

enjoy your stay, spend money here in our economy,
then go home. Time to take your bedding and go home.

Casey Thayer is an assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Rock County and lives in Madison.

From the Principal’s Desk
by Bruce Dethlefsen

bullies are unhappy people
they come from sad and sometimes violent families
where the rules change all the time
here’s how to deal with bullies

ignore them go about your business
don’t feed into their unhappiness
if that doesn’t work tell someone in charge
if that doesn’t work travel in twos
become a friend to make a friend
if that doesn’t work stand up taller
be as big as you can
bullies are cowards
holler no in their face
the bully will get smaller

respect yourself and never use violence

bullies end up lonely and alone
they’ll hang around their own kind
until even they can’t stand themselves
can’t stand themselves

okay then welcome back to school
it’s going to be a wonderful year you’ll see
with new hopes and new friends and dreams
so hey say hi to me in the hallways
and always remember the principal is your pal

Bruce Dethlefsen is Wisconsin's Poet Laureate.

Jump Start

by Melissa Czarnik


Czarnik writes:

I wrote the song because as an artist with a voice, it is one of the ways that I know how to fight back!  I use it as a tool for myself to not only release alot of the emotion that I have inside of me, but to hopefully inspire other people to keep up the fight.

If you listen to the song, it is clear what side I am on, and why I wrote it.  

I believe Scott Walker is trying to destroy the unions. I believe it has nothing to do with our State budget, but has everything to do with politics. If you read multiple news sources, this become blatantly clear!  I am not a journalist, I am an emcee, a poet, and that's my way of telling the story of the people!

Melissa Czarnik, www.melissaczarnik.com lives in Milwaukee.

Not the Son of God

by Phyllis Wax
In the dark of night
this pastor’s son                                    
rejects the idea of
tending a flock
This clergyman’s son
transparency on his tongue
conspires to get his way
calls for emergency action fast—
before anyone notices
what’s happening
In the dark of night
this churchman’s son
composes his message
to calmly claim he has no choice
must do what must be done
This preacher’s son
preaches the gospel
of giving to those who have
and taking from those who don’t
and calls it good business
This minister’s son  
ministers to the poor
and middle classes
by turning health care
into a luxury
This reverend’s son
decides who should
be revered, who should
get the breaks—the rich
the greedy

This parson’s son reaches out
and grabs
power to veto
power to regulate
power to affect
every inhabitant of the state
Scott Walker
the son
of a man of God.

Phyllis Wax lives in Milwaukee.

The Emperor of Capitol Square

by Peg Lauber

He thinks he's shadowed by a crown.
His fantasy won't let him down.

His dreams of power don't include recall.
He won't mind destroying the present law at all.

Nor does he worry about Fourteen in exile
but makes plans to party California style.

When he's lying, he does not turn a one hair,
doesn't know the meaning of that little word "care."

His unneeded largess goes to all the rich,
says, "The poor are always with us: what a bitch,"

never having been hungry, never cold,
turns away his eyes from the young, the old.

Peg Lauber lives in Eau Claire.

Another Day, Another Dollar

by Peggy Landsman

The professional motivator is talking about empowerment,
Telling us what to do.
He scans the room, making eye contact,
But definitely not connecting.
He says, "Imagine..."
Then lets it just hang there in pregnant-pause limbo.
"Imagine," he repeats, "that you are a CEO."
Does he have any idea what he is saying
Or who he is saying it to?
"Hell," I spit out, taking aim at the bull's eye I see on his face,
"Let me tell you what I would like to imagine!"
"Decent retirement!" two women shout.
"Health benefits!" the man beside them blurts out.
Then a soft, timid voice bravely raises itself:
"What about child care?"
We are on a roll. "Imagine profit sharing! Imagine..."
The professional motivator clears his throat.
I bet he is cursing John Lennon.
The professional motivator continues to talk
About the company's progressive new policies.
Initiative will be rewarded.
We should write our suggestions down
And put them in the suggestion box.
He actually taps that cheap cardboard trick,
Shiny in silvery paper.
Regarding chronic tardiness and petty theft,
He knows he doesn't need to tell us
These have always been solid grounds for dismissal.
This audience has had enough.
Our impatience grows increasingly audible.
We shift our bodies in our seats,
Sigh unsoftly as possible.
No, we have no questions.
Taking over. Seizing power.
Dangerous dreams. Dark heart of the matter.
We want to leave.
The professional motivator is beginning to eat into our unpaid lunch hour.

Around and Around
(Supreme Court Revisits Campaign Finance Reform)
by Peggy Landsman

Corporations need to be one
individual when it comes
time for campaign contributions.
It's one of their best solutions.
We should not control their incomes
by prohibiting them these plums.
What they can do with their huge sums!
What generous contributions!
Corporations need to be one
voice raised in support of freedom
to rewrite the Constitution,
the right to own politicians,
influence legal decisions
so democracy can be fun.
Corporations need to be one.

Peggy Landsman is a writer living in Florida.


by Gregg Novachek
a round peg sits
in a Square hole.
it fits.
it belongs.
filling the corners of the Square,
the sides, every nook,
even the round peg itself, are
also inside of the round peg
is another square, a different square.
a blockhead, if you will.
built and shaped with outside greed and green.
recall a simpler time when
these blocks and shapes
were made by PlaySkool.
now these blockheads
play with schools,
instead of school kids
playing with blocks.
soon, the schools of blocks will tumble.
soon, more and more school kids
will spell it…skool.
recall a time when a square peg
didn’t fit in a round hole.
Gregg Novachek is a writer from Manitowoc, WI.

Engine Company

by Gregg Chadwick
48"x36" oil on canvas 2011

Dedicated to the brave Union workers across the globe: firefighters, nurses, teachers, steelworkers, bricklayers, SAG members, screenwriters, police officers, custodians, musicians, and company. Especially those fighting for their futures in Madison, Wisconsin.

Engine company, painting by Gregg Chadwick

Gregg Chadwick is an artist living in California: visit www.greggchadwick.com.

This Righteous Morning

by Ed Bennett

I remember the scar
on my grandfather’s cheek,
a gift, he said, from his manager
delivered by a scab
at the factory gate
one righteous morning
when the union marched,
refused to lie down.

His daughter worked a union job
as did my father, home from war
to an eight hour day,
a five day week that grandpa
purchased with a fractured jaw
and a monthly union check off.

They were proud of my milestones:
working and earning a teaching degree,
marriage to my social worker wife,
proud that our family now
worked at a desk with clean nails,
serving our community –
the American dream of three generations,
a tradition of dignity and a union card.

We walk the pickets, too,
bargain because we earned the right
to walk with our heads up,
speak in one voice the words
of every brother and sister in schools,
in offices, on every street.
We are the echo of broken bones
suffered when our parents spoke up
because no one spoke for them.

Today the scabs write legislation,
mouth pious ideologies as
they threaten livelihoods.
What hasn’t changed is the leash
about their necks yanked by plutocrats
who lead them to the trough,
fatten them up, set them on us.

But we will march and we will shout,
we will not lie down today or any other.
Our legacy will persist this day
and every other when they try to place
the boot on any worker’s neck
expecting us to fall before
the perfumed words of naked tyranny.

We promise this day and every other,
with every hand and voice and heart,
that we will stand with, stand for each other
on this day when we will not be silenced,
on this day –
our righteous morning.

Ed Bennett is a Telecommunications Engineer living in Las Vegas and is a Staff Editor of Quill and Parchment. He writes:

I had the pleasure of reviewing Bruce Dethlefsen's book Breather about 18 months ago. He was kind enough to write a review of my book that will be published in a couple of weeks and, of course, we went through the mutual "friending" ritual on Facebook. It was on that site that I saw how the poets of Wisconsin are adding their voice to the labor problems that the state workers are having with your legislature. It struck a chord with me. I live in Nevada, a right to work state but I was born on the east coast and have carried a union card, as did my grandfather and other members of my family. In this right to work paradise I was laid off, along with about half of the people in my office (it was in private industry). That was enough of a trauma but it was exacerbated by the fact that we were laid off without severance on the Friday before theLabor Day weekend. This is the result of having no union: contempt for peoplewho show up every day and do their job. I wrote this poem and submit it toWisconsin Poets because I owe a favor to Bruce and especially to every workerout there willing to give in on every negotiating point except the mostimportant one, the right to bargain collectively. Poets may not be able tochange the world but they can mark the events that happen in society. It's anobligation we all carry and Bruce has been a voice that takes this obligationseriously. I'd like to add my small squeek to his voice and to the others out there fighting for this vulnerable right. Thank you for this opportunity.

At the Open Meeting

by Sandra Lindow
Our Congressman takes questions,
an elderly man with a leg
that ends in a large black
prosthetic shoe
sits in a wheel chair in front of me.
A healed hole where his skull
is deeply tonsured
reveals a beating pulse,
Nam vet perhaps.
Anxiety in this crowd
of grass roots liberals,
educators, environmentalists,
and retired people
rests like heavy wrapping paper
around rights our governor
offers for sale to his contributors.
What to do when those who govern
do not heed the fragile
pulse of neediness?
The social in social service
has been demolished,
the cradle of human service
shattered on the rock
of the bottom line.
Shared responsibility for those
who cannot care for themselves
is now decided by whim
of one party in control,
But the still steady beat goes on.
Slowly, slowly we begin to create
a plan to take back our world.

Sandra Lindow, editor of Lindenleaf Press, lives in Menomonie, WI.

Whiskey in the Jar

by Rick Schweikert

CEOs and bankers, they make sure our debt’s a’mounting,
Governor Walker at his desk, their money he’s a’counting.
He steals from the poor, and he gives to the rich,
Keep an eye on that faux believer, he’s a bold deceiver,

We checked the math of their accounting, sir right down to the penny,
They ship our dollars overseas, there’s nothing for our Jennys.
We sigh and we swear, ne’er again will they deceive us,
We told them that we’ve had enough, it’s time that they believed us.

Every Jane grab your Joe, these guys have got to go,
Wack fall the daddy-o, there's whiskey in the jar.

We’ll march on down to Michigan, across the great Ohio,

Through the woods of old ‘Sylvania, and the mountains of Virginia.
To demand all along the way our right to collective barg’ning
Till the sweet bells of liberty once again are ringing

Their greed caused the recession, now they want to change the rules,
They strip away our right to fight for good jobs and good schools.
They claim to be pro life, but all I hear is pro hysteria,
I’ll tell ya sister it’s a fact: it’s the death of middle America.


The workers forged this country, while the banks took all the profits.
Now they tell us that the problem is, our needs are their losses.
So I go down to the corner bar, with John and Suz, and Harley,
To raise a glass to my fellow man, with the sweet-juice of the barley.


If anyone can aid us, come and join our peaceful army.
We fight for only what is ours, from Philly o’er to Kearney.
For we know if we do nothing, nothing’s just what we will get,
And I’ll take care of my family, sir, and on that you can bet!


Rick Schweikert lives in Pittsburgh.


I am (not)

by Alayne M. Peterson

I am not a union member
I am a taxpayer
I am not a public enemy
I am a professional educator
I am not a free-loader
I am a hard-working employee
I am not a moron
I am a person who teaches kids how to think critically as they emerge into adulthood
I am not a slacker
I am a person who works nights + weekends beyond the 40 hours a week I spend on campus for the low low bargain price of $44,500
I am not a “have”
I am a person who took on debt to the tune of $70,000 for the chance to become a professor
I am not a home-owner
I am a renter because I cannot afford a mortgage (see salary and debt above)
I am not a leech
I am a consumer in the Wisconsin economy who will have less money to spend because of this bill
I am not a supporter of this grotesque abrogation of workers’ rights
I am someone marching in Madison and chanting in the Rotunda
I am not a thug
I am an unarmed citizen of a democracy exercising my right to free speech and redress of grievances
I am not the problem
I am part of the solution if only You would listen

Alayne M. Peterson lives in Greenbush, WI.

Relying on Your Imagination, a Prose Sonnet
(at the Capitol, 2/25/11)

by Wendy Vardaman

Because what's the point if you're not enjoying your life. Because neither of us is getting any younger. Because it is an unseasonably warm February day in Wisconsin. Because it is an unpleasantly seasonable February day in Wisconsin. Because my children are with me. Because who needs all this stuff this house these plates this bed these chairs. Because it all comes down to backstory: who we are & why we're. Because there is free Ian's pizza from Finland and Arkansas at the top of the hill where we listen to Rabbi Biatch.

Because you can read the news on Avol's Bookstore windows and on Facebook and in poems and on people's faces. Because Tammy Baldwin, my congresswoman, and Beth Billingham, my children's grade school cello teacher stand on either side of me. Because "ROTC Kills." Because my husband writes Solidarity on his sign in seven languages while my teenagers get out their magic markers. Because poetry and plays came from one place, and theatrical gestures aren't stunts or tricks or mere or even just. Because 14 senators are just enough to make a sonnet, if you're careful, and I am letting go of perfect all the time and sometimes the performance is the poetry.

Wendy Vardaman lives in Madison and co-edits Verse Wisconsin.

First Birth

by Sarah Rose Thomas

I am nursing my son
(pull   pull    pull    rest
pull    pull    pull    rest)
as the state slides
into the comfortable chanting of protests
(comfortable not like sitting on a cushion
listening to the soothe of the harp
not like sleepy stretch
of a turkey dinner
but comfortable like seeing again
the busy street where I
learned to play pretend
on the edge of hunger
on the edge of broken bottle lots)
I am a post-post-Vietnam child
couldn’t even hear the echoes of the capital
from my cradle in 1980
but something in me aches
pulls    pulls    pulls    toward that mantra
the standing the shouting 
the raised fists
and the first birth of the word
“solidarity” on my lips
all of it together
pulling me toward the drumming
toward the fierce calls
for my son’s tomorrow

Sarah Rose Thomas is a teacher.

Winning the Future

by Karl Elder

That mod-looking hussy and her Honda
Odyssey—well ain’t she swell, sweet, struttin’
up the street in gold bangles and red sweats,
keys in hand, taillights flashing, bleating beep.
Mad as a badger with lead poisoning,
it’s P.M.S. from M.P.S.  Cork your
questions, kids.  Go   a.) red  b.) reed  c.) read
X-Box.  Bargaining is her   a.) rite  b.)
write  c.) right (albeit not natural).
Freedom’s dumb, something to shun, won’t rime with
coercion, the union variety,
voluntary sans “in” and all that jazz—
jus, her right, someone else’s sacrifice.

Karl Elder teaches at Lakeland College.