March 25-April 7, 2011

Real Middle class

by Thomas R. Smith

We’re actually talking to real people at real companies who are the real middle class. Not the tens of thousands of protesters that have been brought in, not only from around Wisconsin but from Nevada, Illinois, and New Jersey, increasingly coming in from other states . . . big union bosses from Washington sending in thugs. —Gov. Scott Walker, March 15, 2011, Wausau, Wisconsin

So who were those people I met in Madison
the day we took the Square over a hundred-
thousand strong, stood in the snow and icy wind
slashing as budget cuts for the poor?
The nurse from Eau Claire.
The first-grade teacher from Appleton.
The fire-fighter from Waukesha.
The owner of the sign shop in Milwaukee,
there with AARP for his first demonstration ever.
The cop who came back to the join the protesters
after his shift guarding the Capitol.
The corrections officer holding a sign that read
The organic farmer passing out warm foil-wrapped yams.
Unreal middle class?
And students, college and high school, more pseudo-
middle class apparently.
I wonder what “real” means to you, Governor Walker.
You thought that blogger was the “real” David Koch.
How is your grasp of reality?
Could it be a few dozen captive-audience workers
in Wausau or Hudson are more real to you than we are?
Speaking of real, you’d have planted phony protester provocateurs
to turn the demonstrations ugly if you could.
But the police and fire-fighters — really real —
knew what might happen and did their best to make sure
it didn’t. That warmed this old
Sixties protester’s heart.
Among us “thugs,” crowded together
in the March chill of Madison for foot-
freezing hours, a kindness prevailed, triumphed,
a decency in which you had no part.

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

March Madness in Madison

by  Janet Leahy
Mr. Walker Mr. Walker
why plunder public education
these schools serve everyone
without discrimination
Mr. Walker Mr. Walker
who will govern voucher schools
will those with special needs
be excluded by your rules
Mr. Walker Mr. Walker
working people need their rights
to bargain in good faith
ought not to be a fight
Mr. Walker Mr. Walker
there was money for the rail
and jobs for state workers
but you let that project fail
Mr. Walker Mr. Walker
a poet laureate does no harm
you cancelled the position
now wordsmiths are alarmed
Mr. Walker Mr. Walker
who writes your script each day
Karl Rove and the Koch brothers
is that whom you must pay
Mr. Walker Mr. Walker
your legacy will read
his budget honored the elite, but
harmed those most in need                                                               

Janet Leahy lives in New Berlin.

A New Freedom Song

(with apologies to Bob Marley)
by Rob Ganson
We have bled for many kingdoms
and we’ve bled for many maps
while the kings, and all the generals
stayed behind to eat and nap

We have tilled a thousand crops
and built their mansions high
We have payed their many taxes
and sent our sons to die

But the kings, they never listen
to the cries of meekest men
they lie through soft pink faces
again, and once again

We have taken to the streets now
In the names of mercy and trust
To remind the rich and strong ones
that they have to listen to us

So I add my voice to freedom’s song
and I raise my little sign high
as I march against their many wars
and I march against their lies

We are only workers and teachers
We are meek but unafraid
We denounce the newest fascists
and all the plans they’ve laid

‘Cause the worker, he’s a hero
and the mother, and the child
We are all the simple citizens
that the kings have so beguiled

Now the kings have had their riches
and the masters have had their day
‘cause the meek are finally rising
and pulling feet from clay

to arise against the corporate man
and demand our slice of pie
to end the wars they perpetrate
and expose all the lies

So I sing to all the presidents
to the generals and other blights
That the time of change has come
to finally see the light

It’s the meek who grow your food
and the meek who make your shoes
It’s the meek who build your houses
and we’ve come to take our due

So I face your guns and badges 
to sing my little song
and all my friends and neighbors
have come to sing along

All we ask is peace and freedom
and our little slice of pie
All we ask is peace and freedom
And our little slice of pie…

Rob Ganson lives in Washburn, WI.

On the Line 

by Susan Niemela Vollmer
My grandfather was blacklisted from the iron ore mines
Because his partner read a Wobblies newspaper
My father stood on the miners' picket line
Bundled against the cold with his sign held high
We gather on Main Street in the darkness in Wisconsin
Marching for the rights of the people to be heard
Ahead of me the line snakes across the street
Amid blaring car horns and gestures of support
Behind me the line stretches back to the bridge
Citizens who refuse to be silenced
Following in the steps and shadows
Of those who fought for all that we might lose

Susan Niemela Vollmer is a writer who lives in Rice Lake, WI. 


by Marnie Bullock Dresser
(new email signature on my university account)

Can’t believe how strange things have been—
Republicans are picking on
One of the few professors who’d defend them.
Next thing you know, they’ll want all
Our emails. Let’s make it fun for everyone.
Now tell me. Is this ironic? Absurdist? Or real?
Ask not for whom the Bell tolls, Mary.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, recall, would rally
Simply to hear himself called Darling.
Collective bargaining for Marty Luther
Might not make sense unless you’re in
Edmonton, Alberta or Harsdorf, Germany.
Wisconsin has a Dan big mess in the Hopper,
Erpenbaching all kinds of han-Kapanke games.
America may not recover, but it can.
Cherish the union, for which Lassa stands.


by Marnie Bullock Dresser

On a cold day
after the darkest night
in the bitterest wind
I hunt for tiny bits
of hope
     We played with mercury
     when I was little
     Little silver pearls joined
     with bigger silver pearls
     You could slide the whole thing
     like an amoeba
     It is dangerous, being hopeful
     Some people will call me  “naïve”
     Some people will call it “denial”
     Some people will say “not yet”
     But this is when hope
     matters most
     Anger can’t sustain us
     Explosions are big
     but they die
     We can’t all run a marathon
     but we can walk together
     for a very, very long time
If you hunt for hope
you can find it
Crocuses evolved
to bloom in heavy snow

We Must Never Forget

by Marie Loeffler

That our liberty
will not be protected
by a dominant few.

That those who silence
democracy's voice
worship before an altar
of false profits.

That we need march
down every street
with ardent calls for freedom

That our ancestors
bled and died
to give us
this right.

Marie Loeffler lives in Waukesha.

"Madison," performed by Glass House, lyrics by Mark Vickness and PC Munoz.
Used with permission of the authors.

About "Madison" by Mark Vickness

I wrote (with some help on the lyrics from the amazing PC Munoz) and produced “Madison” for two reasons. First, I was becoming increasingly angry over what Scott Walker and the republicans in Wisconsin were doing. They are perpetuating a fraud. The notion that public employees are responsible for the budget crisis in Wisconsin, or any other State, is a lie. Corporations perceive unions as an obstacle to their quest to dominate the American political system. “The right to bargain is a right that’s fundamentally about power to the people, that’s where it should be” is a concept I believe in to the core. Second, I was increasingly inspired by the people who came out to protest in Madison day after day, week after week, in frigid temperatures, to stand up for their rights and the rights of all of us. Seeing those crowds in Madison, hearing the speeches, feeling the energy as best I could from my home in Oakland, California, I was reminded in the most poignant way, that all power in this country ultimately derives from, and is vested in, the people.

My hope is that “Madison” will provide just a little lift to all those who stand up and demand to have their voices heard.

Mark Vickness is a member of Glass House, based in Oakland, CA.