2018 Muse Winning Poems
Who was that dark-haired
Who led us down alley and aisle?
We trailed her angelic white cape
As we would a beacon, Followed
Her every gesture.
What was the name of that
Sainte of virginal memory
Who gave her finger to God?
The digit we saw in the glass case
In that chapel in Roma, Forever
Thumbing its way to heaven.
Remember that beautiful
Begging woman who sat on the steps
Outside the church?
The one who held her swaddled bundle
In postpartum pretense, As she
Looked up, her hand held out to us
The voice that she used to call
For alms, The most mournful sound
That anyone could ever bear.
— James A. Gollata
My sons told me that November was coming
but I didn’t believe them. There’s no way
it will ever be November, I said. We’re not
that stupid. Not here, this is America.
Now, when I meet up with my friends we don’t
talk much about November even though it’s
November and that’s all we used to talk about.
We talk about sports and our kids and our work.
Before November, we prided ourselves on not
talking about our work, but there it is.
My wife doesn’t like to watch the news during
November because November reminds her
of her father and her bosses who did things
to her in November during the years when
every month for her was November.
I sit at my desk and force myself to read
the stories about November in the paper.
Sometimes, I want to shout about November
but the guys I work with go through their lives
as if November never happened. I think they
think I’m crazy to worry so much about November.
Sometimes, I wonder if they even know it’s
November, though, is no time to be quiet--
not with wind whistling through the trees
and the leaves and dead branches waiting
— Tom Erickson
If Jesus had a smart phone
would he have been addicted to games
like Angry Peace Doves
instead of hiding in the temple
questioning rabbinical inconsistencies?
Would he never have been lost in the temple
because of the GPS locator on Mary and Joseph’s phone?
If Jesus had a smart phone
would he have live tweeted
the sermon on the mount
Would he have googled
groceries, Galilee, delivery
and ordered loaves and fishes
brought to the back side of the mountain
and schlepped up by his disciples
to amaze the crowd gathered in front?
If Jesus had a smart phone and a Facebook account
would he have started a page called
RomansOutof Judea! or HerodGoHome! ?
and would Judas have lurked there
posting hate comments under an assumed identity
then sold him out for 30 pieces of bitcoin?
Would there have been a live stream link
to The Last Supper, during which he would have said,
whenever two or three of you are logged on
to my Facebook page, there I am among you?
or, take this and re-post it, for this is my cyber-essence?
If Jesus had a smart phone and a Facebook page
and a Twitter account, would a flash mob
have shown up at the trial shouting, Release Jesus!
drowning out the cries for Barabbas?
Would Rome have fallen
and would all empires since have failed too,
hounded by realchristiansanonymous, a group started long ago
by a Nazarene, with a smart phone?
— Ed Werstein
Where I'm From
I am from the radio,
baseball and boxing,
farm ag reports on the Philco.
I’m from a farmhouse,
cream-colored wooden frame and screened porch
that smelled of rusted iron after rain.
I’m from the rope swing in the jack pine
and sweet-smelling alfalfa I had to help bale.
I’m from Jersey cows and daily milking,
me toting pails of milk to the scale and
recording each cow’s yield.
I am from futile piano lessons and the Ridge Prairie 4-H Club
from “Do well!” and “Don’t cry!”
I am from the Catholic Church and gothic worship,
Our Father who are in heaven,
from prayers for peace in World War II,
miraculous medals and black-robed Franciscans.
I’m from southeast Wisconsin. My forebears ate snails
and strudel and sauerkraut.
I’m from stuffing in turkey and angel food cake,
from Phil and Micky,
the dad whose priority was purebred cows
and a mother who wished life would balance
like the books she used to keep at the bank.
The jumble of photos, black and white or faded color,
stuffed in boxes and closets record a past
both exciting and banal,
a mixed soil that called me into being.
— Barb Germiat
Arriving Free in Wisconsin, the Green Land
When we came walking, feet sore, covered in dust
masters’ whip and lash still throbbing hot across our scars
troubling our minds, dimming our hopes
we saw the green land and sighed.
Wagons carrying our aged, littles, mamas with suckling babes
those sick with bellies full of mourning
escaped or freshly purchased
only this time purchased for family by family.
Languages like spinning wheels spun round and round
from poor white immigrants also desperate
for land in Wisconsin. We didn’t hear the dreaded
southern cracker voice, so we settled the green land.
All of us looking for newness, we wondered where
Red Injuns had gone. Native people forced away
from these abundant lakes and stretched out lands
still called by their original names.
Carrying promise in our hands to farm the green land
we were not empty but full of love
coursing like fresh waters to refresh souls and cleanse
the bitter sourness of slavery.
Cousins paused here then traveled up to Canada
not trusting freedom within US borders
we distrusted too, but cracking bones begged for rest.
Winter we fought snow and ice thinking about family
fighting snow and ice further north.
Praying good life for us and ours scattered
the length and width across the green land
Creator helped us stay put.
Whether we looked back south or forward north
we had to anchor ourselves in the present
praying for a Midwest welcome that our color be hidden
inside hearts willing to know we are people too.
African Americans were in Wisconsin since the 1700s as explorers, trappers, guides, and interpreters, as well as being owned like property. Two African American settlements were Cheyenne Valley, located in the Town of Forest near Hillsboro in Vernon County, and Pleasant Ridge, located in Beetown near Lancaster in Grant County.