And time slid by: notes on the revolution

:- So now we’re at the bottom of this wild and grueling year.

I’m threshing the days, as we all do in this week between consumer frenzy and a new year. We try to reset, gather our Selves, not just our thoughts or plans. Adam and I have finally stopped being in the Emergency, or asleep, long enough to sort and share the wedding photos. (Took a minute, we know.) A chasm has opened in one of my cherished friendships, and that dark place has proved a cavern full of many darknesses. It is my turn to go deep again, get a guide, budget for some therapy.

:- It’s always a surprise, how one gets here. In my case, time danced and hopped while I read and read–philosophy threaded with feminist theory, lots of post-Marxist social theory, myth, poetry by the shelf, an informal Master’s in Eastern Studies, the Heart and Diamond Sutras–and I was not ready.

We’re never ready.

  • for the hurt we cause
  • for the risk that stays just another step ahead
  • for the shame or fear between us and that risk
  • for the expanded self in the far chamber of the cavern

We are never ready for the Emergency. And the Emergency will never give up or fuck off. So, let’s plan long days of time together, meals, room for quiet understanding, days with room for joy and no pressure to perform it.


Justice for All or None: A Note on This New Era and Possible Coalition

:– I was at The Women’s March on Washington. I did not wear a #pussyhat. I have since purchased a pussyhat, in pink, from a woman who’s donating proceeds from the hats to PBS and NPR. I will wear it with my #BlackLivesMatter and #LGBTQIA and #EqualRightsAmendment pins. –:

I want all these newly energized liberal-or-progressive-mostly-white women to hear the skepticism we are getting from women of color and lgbtqia folk, especially trans women:

  1. They want us to show up FOR them.
  2. The do not want us to save them, or fix their movements.
  3. They want us to help in the background.
  4. They want us to come to their marches and demonstrations* and risk for them, too.

I have been a feminist scholar all my life, and have been knocking around social justice movements primarily for the last five years or so. I have interviewed many women in the Second Wave and recorded those interviews for posterity (visit Va NOW’s YouTube to watch, they’re rough edits).

What is missing, still, from “white feminism” is deep engagement with the particular issues and experiences of other kinds of women.

We have a huge historical opportunity right now to build coalitions like never before, simply because so many more people are energized and realizing they have skin in the game.

“Intersectionality” is a word requesting this support, this space-making, this basic sharing. “Coalition” is about the strategy for doing that, finding our areas of common concern and really being concerned in common.

I am asking us to do a little learning. To deepen not only your action as a citizen, but to deepen your commitment to Justice for All. This country did not begin oppressing people last year. It started from the beginning. There are good historical reasons for many kinds of people not to trust us white women. Historically, we have ditched on them — every time.

Reading. Do some. There’s more here than a person can do, I know. But, do some. Show up with some education. Don’t ask people in these movements to get you hip, get hip, be cool.

Remember, make space: You get to center your issue and your symbol at your march, at your action. When you show up for others, and when you work intersectionally, the focus can’t stay on you all the time.

* There are huge practical and legal differences between planned and permitted marches compared to direct actions and spontaneous demonstrations. The latter two often involve some kind of not-very-serious law breaking — like blocking a street or highway or entrance to a building, etc. Those actions can result in arrest. Not all activists can be available for that, but we can all be available in support roles that do not risk arrest.

+ Full Disclosure: I’m the Poetry & Social Justice Fellow at Split This Rock and the managing editor of The Quarry.



#StayWoke, layers of

PoMoRed, 1/12/2016, Mt. Vernon, VA —

Staff meeting this afternoon, but just this morning Dr. Cornel West was on Democracy Now reminding us to dig in and push, we became certain that #notmypresident’s cabinet is made of #robberbarons, Texas is set to force women /clinics who have abortions to pay for the burial/cremation of the remains, and #StandingRock is gearing up for a confrontation with #historicalconsequences, read a great interview with Ralph Nader in Sun Magazine

“#StayWoke” usually shows up tagged to some awful event.

A murder by police. A missing or murdered transgender woman. An incorrectly drawn swastika on a school. News of some climate destabilization symptom meant to yank on our hearts. #Amnesia is a defense employed, by those not too-directly affected by these problems, to cope with the sheer psychic battering that Knowing does to us in a world built of Systems of Damage. #StayWoke is usually a reminder to keep looking, stay sharp. Like being awake all the time, it can lead to exhaustion and total breakdown.

BUT. #StayWoke also means staying Awake To Your Power. 

I see so many new energized people! Folks calling Congress to draw a line on #SteveBannon. The joy in that! If you’re a social justice advocate of any stripe, you’ve been hungering for a long time to see Americans Get Engaged! And it is really that simple: Call your representatives and let them know what you think. Keep those phone numbers in your contact list. Get their emails. Bug them. Bother them. Talk to them. It is, no joke, that simple.

#trump wants to fill his cabinet with #robberbarons (literally), call to draw a line on all of them. Congress must approve the appointments. Lay some conscience on these people.

1 minute out of your lunch break. That easy. You can call while you’re in line at your favorite casual dining establishment or small business eatery.

You can bet your soul that the political right has been at this a long time. That’s how we’re in this clusterfu(K. Because this shit works. Some of the levers of state operation can be swung in our favor.

Ralph Nader reminds us how to #StayWoke: 

… it’s not that hard to turn the country around. Most people, whatever they call themselves — conservative, liberal, libertarian, progressive — have a deep sense of fair play and justice. They’re not sadists. They care for other people. We see this in a national disaster. All labels go out the window, and everybody helps …. That’s what we need to tap into. That’s why I say fewer than 1% of the people, if they represent a majority opinion [on background checks for gun purchase and restricting assault weapons, for example] can make a lot of changes.

If that 1% makes the phone calls. One or two calls a day, at lunch maybe, or while you’re on the train or bus, or stopped on the highway in your commute.

Wanna get more radical in a totally gentle and effective way?

Throw the labels out the window forever and all of time. Just ask yourself: would I suffer if X or Y or Z were happening to me? If the answer is Yes, ask yourself one more question: Where is my phone?? The 21st Century version of: If not now, when?

Now, look at #StandingRock and ask yourself: if an occupying government broke every promise it ever made me and mine, if a company were about to dig up the cemetery where my parents and grandparents are buried, my child is buried, my spouse, if that company were about to destroy my private land,  if the police whose salaries my taxes pay and who are supposed to protect me were spraying me with water in sub-freezing temperatures in order to shut me up and get me out of this company’s way, would I suffer?

Yes, you would. So pick up the phone. Simple.

If you throw out political, even social, kinds of labels, if you act on your heart and your connection to the joy and good living and to the suffering of other people, you become a completely uncontrollable, politically unpredictable, socially responsible excellent human being. You come from a place of love and care, and that is nearly impossible to manipulate.


Your state government lists the phone numbers and contact info for state representatives and senators, and the governor and their cabinet, on a website like States each have a Senate and a General Assembly (like the House of Representatives).

Your city, too. City council, aldermen, Jane Smith who lives over on Maple St., whatever your town’s manner of organization, call them about local issues and needs.

The Feds.

Find your senators here. There’s a search box in the upper right corner.
Find your representatives in the House here. Also, search box in the upper right.

Not sure what each house of Congress is responsible for? No problem. Below are links to the committees. Here you can find out what the committees are working on, and who’s on them. You can contact committees much the way you would your own legislators.

Committees of House of Representatives

Committees of Senate

Keep your representatives’ numbers in your phone,
use them daily, #StayWoke.





Call for Submissions Split This Rock Poem of the Week

Call for Submissions
Split This Rock Poem of the Week

Open to Split This Rock Festival Attendees & Presenters

Submit by June 19, 2016
We are now accepting submissions for
Split This Rock’s Poem of the Week Series
that publishes a contemporary poem online each week.

Submit up to 3 poems via Submittable by June 19, 2016.

Who Can Submit: This call is only open to poets who attended and/or presented at Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness 2016 AND who do not yet appear in The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database — the anthology of poems of provocation and witness at Split This Rock’s website.
We are especially interested in 
themes currently under-represented in The Quarry, poems on themes such as (but not limited to) Indigenous life and resistance, disability issues, working class issues, poverty and inequality, international perspectives, transgender and genderqueer themes.
We’re also looking for socially engaged poems of provocation and witness, poems on topics such as (but not limited to) identity, community, civic engagement, politics, economics, government, war, leadership, education, activism, history, Americana, and cultural icons.

Read the full list of guidelines at Split This Rock’s website or Submittable page.

Accessibility: If Submittable is not accessible to you, please contact us at for instructions on how to e-mail your submission. It is important that we know about your situation before receiving your mailed or emailed entry. Please allow sufficient time for your submission to be received.

From The Quarry & Split This Rock

Poem of the Week

    Teri Ellen Cross Davis     


        — based on a New York Times photograph of a grieving mother during Sudan’s 2005 drought


When you were inside me I could feel you thrive
your rounded kicks, my body your taut drum.
Now I beat these breasts, betrayed by a landscape
that wilts, a place where even tears won’t come.
Your rounded kicks in my body’s taut drum
why push, gush blood, why make you,
to wilt in a place where even tears don’t come?
No milk on your lips, your wavering cry
why push, gush blood, why make you?
How do my feet keep going, weighted by
your wavering cry still no milk for your lips,
and you grow lighter day after day?
How do my feet keep going, the weight of
when you were inside me, thrives, when I felt you.
Now you have grown lighter-and day after day
I beat these breasts, blamed, betrayed by this landscape.

* * *

Used with permission. Photo by Mignonette Dooley.

  * * *   

Teri Ellen Cross Davis is a Cave Canem fellow and has attended the Soul Mountain Writer’s Retreat, the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her work can be read in: Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry JamGathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade, Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC; and the following journals: Beltway Poetry QuarterlyGargoyleNatural BridgeTorchPoet Lore and The North American Review. Her first collectionHaint is newly released this month by Gival Press. She lives in Silver Spring, MD.
* * * 
Please feel free to share Split This Rock Poem of the Week widely. We just ask you to include all of the information in this post, including this request. Thanks!
To read more poems of provocation and witness, please visit The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database at

Weather Eye

It’s not that we’re fat (tho many are), or a little less sharp of movement than East Coasters, or more uptight than West Coasters (tho many are), or more racist than either (tho many are) — it’s that we’re obsessed with weather. We go to Istanbul and talk about the weather.

In CUNY’s  Lost & Found collection of poets writing on poetry or to each other, Baraka and Dorn exchange notes mostly on getting poems published and Baraka’s young journal off the ground. I can tell Dorn is the Midwesterner in this dialogue. No matter where he is, the letters include long sections on the weather, remarks on the snow, dryness, the oppression or lifting of conditions, season. Dorn, it turns out, is from Illinois. He watches his atmosphere minutely, with some love but mostly a kind of background trepidation.

Midwesterners think inside a farming culture. MW hipsters will deny this, but their false consciousness is another post. Our cities, surrounded by 100s of miles of crop & herd. Eastern cities are surrounded by other cities, US NightLightsand Western ones by wildland of myth and monster (to hear them tell it — it’s just wolves and indigenous people they’re freaking out about).

Weather is not conversational filler, it’s vital gossip about a bad cop. If you live in a town whose name starts with a J (Jarrell, Joplin) you are in trouble from go. The Ring of Fire Derecho of 2012 was born in Iowa at 9:30 in the morning, and was pounding Virginia, DC, and Maryland ELEVEN HOURS later. It moved 2 days worth country in half a day.

Michael Stipe is a MW’er & complained about our serious small talk in “Pop Song 89“, but he was really on about a flat kind of interchangeable human insufficiently engaged in their world while Reagan & Co. burned the 20th Century down to wee green shoots. He had a point.

In LatinX and African American cultures, polite conversation gets quickly to asking after family, everyone’s grandparents, cousins. In the MW, we call long-distance to ask after the weather there, guessing whether a storm will break N or S or just smash thru everything with all of Canada behind it. I live in the East now, so when Mamma calls we compare weather in every conversation while we both have apps & know perfectly well what’s up with the atmosphere.

Little House on the Prairie? The whole plot of those novels turn on a hail storm leveling the Engel’s wheat crop. So, I’m in grad school in the early 1990s, this is before the flood of ’93, with my dad who’s helping me move into my first apartment. We get the mattress in (this is all true) and sit on the trailer with a couple of beers, it’s late June, we are made of sweat at this point and chatting about the homegoods I need to score at the Goodwill, when the sky goes gunmetal and green and the sirens wind up

that cats-fucking-in-the-alley wail, and I realize this apt has. no. basement. 20 min later, it’s over, sunny, shiney streets and glittering oaks rise & shake their crowns in the after-breeze. “Sky turned over,” Papa says,”not seen that in a few years.” Radio that night reported a tornado on the edge of town — yes, that edge of town, always. This was a sunny day.

We’re like sailors this way. Not for nought it’s called a sea of wheat. That swath of Mississippi Watershed is the size of an ocean & builds up heat and damp like the Tropics do. It teaches us how the old gods still dance at their children’s weddings.