the sum of small things — book release

It’s finally here and I couldn’t be more pleased!

the sum of small things

The booklet featuring photography and poetry on a wide variety of topics: creative, challenging, introspective, uplifting–much like you’ve read on my feed for some time! Order yours today for $US 19.95 + s/h e-mail me at for information on how to receive your copy!


Photo credit (background to book): Olesya Grichina via

on being seen

look at you,
blatant imposter,
unceremoniously labeled,
officially relegated to
yet posing as a real

against a real
pastel, fluid
magical in every
way, except you’ll
always only be a


you may have
the coloring of
more prestigious

your visage
carried like a
weightless crown
atop your robust

stem, but you
will always be

kept in your place,
framed within prickly,
unyielding enclosure,

immobilized—never veering

there are those
who find refuge

in your inviting
presence, each one
drawing from your

life source,
once more
freed to

blessed be that
serendipitous moment
when one with argus-eyed

artistry comes upon
your vibrancy,
captures your

very essence with one
click of the shutter
—one moment of recognition—
moving you from


this will ever
warrant a chorus of
a grateful hymn
of praise offered
for those who

honor humble position,
see the divine in
what others dismiss,
offer patient prompts
toward previously
unthinkable, unreachable

a thistle, too, can
find her way to wide open

spaces, sacred


©Julia Penner-Zook, 2019
Photo Credit: @staceylrhoades used with permission
Twitter: @J_Pennz

lament for the little ones

lament for the little ones
(before the fourth)

i’m a little chilly.
oh where did
i put that extra blanket

for nights like these?
should have thought

to adjust the open window to
fit the temperature.

then I think of you,
small baby-child,

lying alone without
blanket or cover

of any kind, clothing
soaked with urine,
smeared with feces,
trembling from cold and

compounded by fear.

i stretch out on my mattress
grumbling to myself
about that nagging ache
in my back— did i twist it?
overextend it?
is it the aging mattress?
or what? 

i see you, little one,
curled up alone
on a concrete floor—
if lying at all.
you may have to spend
the night sitting up
without chair, couch,
pillow—pressed up against
strangers in a crowded

room with glaring lights.

i moan inwardly, groaning
with a tension headache
i cannot shake. i didn’t
reach for the magical
cure-in-a-bottle in time,

and now i have to deal with
this nagging pain.

yet evil has decided
to leave you alone, little one,

to shiver with a fever,
delirious from exposure,

denied even the most
rudimentary treatment,
having no one to hold you

close in your agony.
no one!

if there is
liberty and justice for all,
why does my liberty include
elements so different
from yours?
if all are created

equal, why am i granted
gifts of humanity

not extended to you? 

you are not
expected to have

the answer for
these troubling
questions, little one,
but i’m driven,

mandated to
invite their weight

to sweep over me
with tsunami-like force.

indeed these
inequities MUST

be drummed into
every heartbeat,
emblazoned over
every mental image,

disrupting the tranquility
of my privilege,
sucking the breath
out of my otherwise
vibrant lungs, leaving
me speechless. 

little one, you are too valuable
to look the other way;

i must find my voice. 


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2019
Photo Credit: Dev Asangbam via
Twitter: @J_Pennz

white time

mental overload
moral fatigue
emotional depletion—
designations justifying
rest, regrouping,
there is no escape
from the precipitating
unless person,
is continually
targeted and granted
no recourse. 

but that is not
most of us
in the middle-class,
white demographic.
what is required of us?
or is nothing ‘required’?
is it our destiny
to bask in our
privilege, finding
no reason to question
our own biases
and blindness? 

no one is exempt!
not one.
not old or young;
rich or poor;
educated or simple.
it’s time to stand up
and revitalize our
tepid conscience,
walk the extra mile,
listen instead of speak,
drop our heads
in humble recognition
of generational

where do we find
the fortitude,
reservoir of conscience
to begin positioning
our own warm
terrified bodies in the
way of bullets
aimed at various
shades of brown in
our communities? 

who will lead the
way to monitor
those who monitor,
stop and question
those who interrogate,
become obstructionists
to those who willingly
carry out the
demands of an

which of us
will raise a chorus
of protest, refuse
to participate in
our own chilling
version of kristallnacht,
standing in the way
of neighbors being
rounded up,
and whisked into
horrors of

or will we hide
within our white
façade, that white-
washed community
protected by a weak
outer layer of
used to rationalize
our superiority,
separating us from
them—those targeted by
nothing other than
delusional indoctrination? 

will we prove we
have risen above
those from
previous eras
whom we’ve
regarded with disdain
for their lack of will,
absence of courage,
irresponsible allegiance
to exceptionalism? 

this is our time.


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2019
Photo Credit: NeONBRAND via
Twitter: @J_Pennz 


in stately glory,
golden ridges reflect
resilience, resplendence,
having fought off
mid-day’s heat
and shivered in
the chill of
star-studded blackness
millennia upon ever-recurring

each one holds within
its bosom
tales of past
heaving, convulsing,
shuddering, until
persevering peaks,
sculpted curves,
cavernous canyons,
were formed, now
inviting reverence.

each one bids us
marvel, catch our
breath, offers this grandeur
as wordless prayer,
filling every fiber
of our being
until our unity
with this enormity
folds us into its sacred


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2019
Photo Credit: Julia Penner-Zook
Twitter: @J_Pennz
Instagram: @j_penner_zook

double exposure

Dazzling color drains
from expansive 
horizon, no longer
dancing with brilliance,
burdened, as a sky during
prolonged gray rain —

heaven weeping
through grief
and loss,
existence, being,

Sound fades;
tonal qualities
slide into deeper
registers, finally
slipping into

so profound
its transcendence seeps
into innermost hollow —
its salve soothes,

Motion slows,
adjusts to suit
current mood
which commands
no further activity.

where frenzy
once reigned,
candle’s burst of
flame is relinquished,
replaced by awakened

Who am i when weary,
porous vessel gives way
to one that follows?
when music morphs
into wind’s whisper? 

when grasping turns
to discover serenity’s
is this still me, or is this


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2019
Photo Credit: hieu vo via
Twitter: @J_Pennz
Instagram: @j_penner_zook

She Is Woman

She is woman — a woman of
courage, purpose, perseverance.
She does not buckle before
those who tell her to keep

She may never appear in headlines
or walk a red carpet;
she’s not signed a tantalizing
contract, crooned on local radio,

or been verified on Twitter.

Yet her voice holds authority for
she has embraced life — not hidden from,
denied, or vilified it, but filled her

bosom with its lacerations and losses
without shame. 

Grit and grime have etched deep
canyons into visible surfaces,
gouged ravines into the caverns of
her soul creating a permeable silhouette
of hope

which invites all to
lean in, listen closely,
choose the wisdom she
carries within her humble


She may live with a stigma
foisted upon her by others which
she relentlessly rejects, for
no aggressor will wield such

over her. She will rise; she will square
her shoulders, draw from her sisters,

call for her tribe and together they
wrestle and struggle, weep and cry out
until the heavens weep, too.

Drenched with the tears of angels
she will turn her face into the storm,
welcoming the ugly force which
sneers at her davidic frailty against its

bloated power,

— power that is insignificant
in the presence of strength.
When strength, borne of adversity,
fashioned in the crucible of the


meets power in the arena,
all hold their breath. Power preens,
struts, taunts, humiliates while
strength stands its holy ground
without fear.


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2019
Photo Credit: Julia Penner-Zook
Twitter: @J_Pennz

Instagram: @j_penner_zook

free fall

what can outweigh
the comfort granted by
connection to

i try to convince myself that

being associated
with people of prestige,

owning something of value,
proudly strutting achievements

will inevitably impress,
and thereby

insulate me from
being just another formless

apparition in a long
procession of those disfigured
by the scars of

it’s hard for me to grasp

why i should
clamor to escape the
tumble into the
ranks of the


strategically unselected,
minimally protected,
while others flaunt
their graces, unnatural
faces masking

traces of pain.

much more terrifying is the
smooth seduction,
sneering suppression,

sanctimonious subjugation
of the swirling river
of domination.

i’m not sure 

i can ever
bear the blithe
banter of those

immersed in a
purposeless plot. 

i hear disbelieving gasps,

palpable horror,
superficial condolences
without tangible expression save
half-hearted lifeline thrown.
but i also hear
affected laughter

behind my back as
i fall, fall, fall,
landing – alive and

supremely satisfied –
in an oft disparaged
but intensely inviting couloir

without security,
yet bathed in the warmth
of generosity,


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2019
Photo Credit: Sebastian Voortman via
Twitter: @J_Pennz

Instagram: @j_penner_zook