“These poems all stem from the Moral Monday protests here in North Carolina this past summer. I am one of more than 940 arrestees who engaged in civil disobedience at the legislative building in Raleigh.”
The silver horses of the government stamp restless in front of the moon. All night legislators whistle, clinging tightly to the dome of the capitol. They float untouchable in their dreams. They thought the horses theirs. If you have plowed the ground, stand in the rows of wheat, stand in the apple trees. If you have built a house, stand in your house. If you can sing, sing. They will tie your hands in front or in back, a symbolic gesture, as poetry is symbolic. The silver buses with grated windows exhale and turn slowly from the lifted gate from the dark under the government building. Upstairs with the brass doors sealed senators call out late into the night. In moonlight along the cooling roads, the people who are called the people are singing and slapping the flanks of the buses which roll easily through the night air toward the prison.
in the seed of the year beyond the year there was no harvest but tears caught in whipping yellow weeds like dust cast on dry rock cast on sand and nothing nothing but wind storms grew make my back the plow let me start the work week let me break a gash in the ground where the burnt grass hissed at the hunger of my congregation and when justice in its flood comes down here lord here are the fields needing soaking
always something complicated always something wrong why not accuse why not ask why not hover why not call out while i search my pockets search my purse the duties of a citizen spilling nervous as scattered change while i prove it to you prove it tripping the particulars the long lines will be parted with the late light the polls closing before night comes those at the threshold stepping back and someone always had the right to stand in the door to make the questions up the lines will close before i answer every shadowed line of my face filling with the night outside and the empty building locked a broken streetlamp and a flag hanging limp in the quiet without a breath of air to lift it
In the capital, the bird-like hearts of senators perch in a forest of ribs: silent, graceful predators. They are nocturnal. There is testimony from the microphone. The words are like singing at dusk. The words are like weather, like warm dark air before a storm. The listeners have flown to shelter. I can walk in the shade of their many solitudes, a canopy like thick green leaves with slender branches. I can hear in the distance a call and response of light, irrepressible song. I look up to the startled, interrupted music. The wings blur, huge and beautiful, into sudden quiet, all flown from my glances.
sing in buses up the mountain side from the backs of trucks unload the folding chairs fill up the public squares and in the breeze outside the courthouse test the mics test the bullhorns write your jokes and poems on the poster board file over the bridges and under the bridges and along the way while the person next to you is listening the two of you are house and senate magnanimous in the sunshine
Note: House Bill 589, with massive changes to voting laws, was rushed through the North Carolina legislature with almost no public notice in the late summer of 2013. It was introduced on the heels of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court case which struck down part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and it enacts voting practices that the VRA would not have allowed, especially in Southern states and counties where voter repression and intimidation had long been common practice from the reconstruction to the civil rights movement.
Among many changes, the new law allows vigilante poll watchers, and the direct challenging of voters at the polls, requires strict forms of identification beyond a voter registration card, shortens early voting, halts programs to help older teens register for the first time, and places other restrictions on qualifications and access to voting (including not allowing polls to remain open for long lines during elections).
The new law is being challenged by a number of groups, including the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and now the US Department of Justice. It introduces the most severe restrictions on voting in the country.
Rachel Kubie is a public reference librarian in Charlotte, NC. She attended the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins “and had the good luck to study under Allen Grossman there.” She also has the MLS from Catholic University in DC. Her work has appeared in Drunken Boat, Oyster Boy Review, Rattapallax, Rhino, Sou’wester, and Potomac Review among other magazines, and in the anthologies Imperial Messages: 100 Modern Parables (2nd ed.) and Final Harvest: Jewish Writing from St. Louis.
The five poems in The Harvest from a Field on Fire took shape as drafts in the Tupelo Press online 30/30 project (during which poets attempt to post 30 drafts in 30 days).