WORDPEACE – Summer/Fall 2020 issue 5.2

Welcome to Wordpeace’s Summer/Fall 2020 issue!
WORDPEACE is a literary journal dedicated to peace and justice.

This issue features poetry, fiction, non-fiction and artwork.
Cover art is “Quarantine” by Neumia Marin

Issue 5.3 Winter/Spring 2021 coming in February!

Submissions for Wordpeace open October 1 – November 30, 2020
and March 1 – April 30, 2021
We publish semi-annually, with submissions open in March / April (for August/Sept. publication) and October /November (for January/February publication).

Letter from the Editor:
– July 30, 2020

Birdsong and Clear Skies in the Time of Covid-19

By Lisa C. Taylor, Fiction Editor, Wordpeace

We keep finding strange bugs, this one iridescent, that one flat as a snow shovel. Two millipedes crawl on the ceiling on two different days, a week apart.  I hope it’s not an infestation, you say, carrying each bug outside as carefully as a new father holds the swaddling bundle of his infant daughter. These gentle ministrations move me in this time of so much death. In quarantine, we see no one but the bugs have no boundaries, scattering like a storm that turns the sky a sickish yellow-black. It is late May, the power month for insects, time to mate and live their brief life while we try to hold onto ours. Phoebes nest in the eaves of our back porch. I watch them flying back and forth, along with a brown-headed cowbird and two black-capped chickadees.  Hummingbirds flit and sip from the blossoms of our autumn olive tree. I’m learning to tell the difference between a thrush and a nuthatch, not big news, I know, but it’s a way I stay connected to the teeming environment that is my backyard. How will we relocate the wasps building their hive adjacent to the nesting phoebes? Will the squirrels leave any of the seed for the birds we love to watch each morning?I cannot trust the government to make decisions that keep us safe. It’s been like that for a while. Sadness and fear marches along as the news flashes protesters carrying assault weapons, demanding that barbershops, restaurants, nightclubs and gyms reopen. Meanwhile racism is boiling over in the wake of continued killings of unarmed people of color, resulting in public rage and protests. These riots have become all too familiar in a country that fails to protect its most vulnerable citizens or grant equal treatment to people of all races and backgrounds. I remember my interview with poet and African American Literature professor Reginald Flood in a previous issue of Wordpeace. Professor Flood wrote a poem about teaching his teenage son to drive, Driving Lesson/After Dreaming Mamie Till Discussing Ferguson. His directive to his son included keeping his hands on top of the steering wheel, then putting his palms up and hands in the air if commanded by police to exit the vehicle.I’m not unsympathetic to economic freefall, far from it. It impacts us all in big and small ways. I see a growing disparity between rich and poor, a country that could afford to pay people to stay home, offer healthcare to everyone regardless of employment, shore up deteriorating roads and bridges, and update the crumbling rail system. None of those things are happening. Instead we have fomenting anger over the inaccessibility of haircuts and nail salons, beaches, and amusement parks. People are verbally and sometimes physically assaulted for wearing masks and socially distancing, both preventative measures backed up by science. Anti-vaxxers are protesting a vaccine that doesn’t yet exist, weaving conspiracy theories so bizarre that fantasy writers could not have imagined their plot twists. Remember polio? If you didn’t get it, it’s because you, and everyone you know was vaccinated as a child. What I’ve learned is that disregard for others has become a another epidemic, sometimes manifesting as entitlement, or a failure to understand that a lot of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. There are different Americas. Too many have been forced into gig work, bringing us our groceries and take-out food, or working for companies that fulfill and deliver online orders.

Will change happen if many fail to show up? During the sixties and seventies, protests were frequent and passionate. Activism had consequences, but it also furthered women’s rights, reproductive rights, and the end of the Vietnam War. Will today’s activism give rise to a necessary correction? Marches in the sixties and seventies were not entirely peaceful. Student protesters burned draft cards and flags and there were violent events like the Kent State massacre where four students were killed at an anti-war protest. There is a cyclic nature to unrest, ignited by social and economic marginalization combined with the ineffectiveness of government. Upheaval and change. Change and upheaval.

COVID-19 will kill a lot of people, now 104,000 and counting. It has been said that all of us will know someone who will die from it and thus our lives will be forever transformed. I think of friends and writers in my circle. Some are cancer survivors and one has a heart problem. We have family members with pre-existing conditions. We all have challenges. When I close my eyes, I visualize the people I love and will them to be safe. Sometimes I dream we will escape to a mythical somewhere untouched by this disease, and the selfishness, greed, and inequities that have become evident in its wake. But there are also great acts of generosity and courage. The Irish people recently contributed to a GoFundMe for the hard-hit Navajo Nation. It was a belated thank you (one hundred and seventy-three years later) for the help the Choctaw Nation sent to Irish who were starving during the famine. A message from an Irish donor, Pat Hayes, sent from Ireland across the ocean read: From Ireland, 170 years later, the favour is returned! To our Native American brothers and sisters in your moment of hardship. There are many stories like this. In my own community, a young teacher has raised funds to purchase and deliver groceries to families in need. Our local food cooperative donates money from each food order to an interfaith group providing assistance to the poor.

Few places will be spared, because viruses are carried over state lines. Not enough is known about the transmission. Can it live on surfaces long enough to have packages or takeout food be a danger? We err on the side of caution and wipe down mail and groceries. We wash our clothes as soon as we get home from the store and leave our shoes downstairs. I fantasize about living a country where no one goes broke from the lack of healthcare. My vote will be for equity for all races, religions, sexual and gender identities and income levels. My vote will be cast for the candidate who will begin the healing process and restore dignity and ethics to our government. I’ll vote for  civility, empathy, and kindness in national decision-making.

It is my hope that this once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic will give the human race a chance to reflect. How can we make this country safer for all people?  In dark times, it’s sometimes hard to remember the past breakthroughs born from tragedy and political turmoil. In winter, I forget the golden light and blossoms of summer days that stretch endlessly, a flickering of sun glimpsed through the lacework of leaves.

May this time bring us closer to a renewed belief in science, healthcare as a right, not a privilege, and education as an equalizer of opportunity. Along with us, our planet has gotten a brief respite. At night I smell bonfires and see neighbors sitting outside. In the afternoon, children ride bikes and hike with their families instead of staring at computer screens. Family dinners have made a comeback. The songbirds I mentioned are noisy and unfettered. The sky is the bluest I’ve seen.

Lisa C. Taylor is Fiction Editor of Wordpeace, poet, novelist, workshop leader and a great friend.

Note from Founding Editor, Lori Desrosiers:

Monica Hand and I founded WORDPEACE in the hope of making a difference, despite having to live our lives, care for our families, and continue writing and publishing. Monica isn’t with us anymore to see the continuation of this vision, and I miss my friend. Every issue of this journal will be dedicated to her.  We are so blessed to have Monica Barron (non-fiction), Ciona Rouse (poetry), Lisa C. Taylor (fiction) and Russell Taylor (art) choosing work for the journal. We all want to stand up to indifference by publishing work that inspires people to think, in the hope that it will spur someone to activism, and, hopefully will help pave the way to kindness, sensibility, peace and social justice.

Lori Desrosiers
Founding Editor & Publisher, WORDPEACE.CO

in memorium

This and subsequent issues are dedicated to my beloved friend, co-founder of WORDPEACE and poetry editor, Monica Hand who passed on December 16, 2016 after a short illness. She was a PhD student at the University of Missouri and a professor at Stephens College, and has been a force for poetry through her enthusiasm, her scholarship and through her book, me and Nina which won the Alice James Award in 2012. Monica’s powerful second collection, DiVida: Poems was published posthumously in 2018 by Alice James Books.

Here is a link to some of her poems at poets.org, the site of the Academy of American Poets.

 

Lori Desrosiers