A Spacious Place

What do you do when
designers of coverups and
corruption leave
you staggering
as if inebriated by
excuses, duplicities,
blatant hypocrisies,
denial of mounting evidence
pushed aside,
choked off,
drowning out
testimony that
is unwelcome to
oligarchs bent
on destroying all
that is sacred?

What is left
of the slow, bloody march
toward justice, freedom,
all humanity included in
rights of dignity and respect,
if monuments, symbols and
posturing salutes that breathe
oppression, threaten genocide
are defended,
even promoted as
worthy of reverence,
while brothers and sisters
are stripped of their
inalienable rights?

Where do you go when
violators of liberty
upend decorum, subvert
integrity, heap cataclysmic
conflagration upon
ravaged communities,
voiceless populations,
imprisoned masses, then
spew venom,
perpetrate violence,
divert funds
from those who are dying,
left gasping in
the grip of disease,
suffocating stranglehold, all
with impunity?

no effort seems
to stem
debilitating flood of
destruction and decay,
the deluge of reports on
never ending inquiries,
repugnant divergences,
when energy flags,
vision, grace, one’s very
lifeblood seeps
from weary soul,
…….deeper life calls from
…….the lonely places,
…….the wide open spaces,

where clouded spirit,
dulled heart, grievously
depleted body
where jaded dreams
and faded hopes
absorb the wind
of possibility,
where chest rises and falls
to inhale the expansivity
of light, the color
of inclusion, the fresh air of
abundance, rich integration,
connection with each other
as with nature, in
the DNA of the Divine.

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017
Photo Credit: © Stacey L. Rhoades. Used with permission.

storm season

Unseen –
part of an
invisible majority
on the sidewalk, in the
classroom, office, she
failed to make the cut
with the agile,
mobile, tactile,
clutching her true grit,
gift in hand

Overlooked –
name omitted
from recognition,
missed the checklist, though
not the blacklist,
cunning twist,
the gist of which
hurls her to
ponder strategic moves
aligned with

Recalibration –
her eyes focused
on another prize, resolute,
unflinching and undeterred
despite those in myriad
sectors who
criticize, demoralize,
fixate on driving
intentional demise
of what is constructive, compassionate,

Humanity –
oh how you have been
protections and provisions
exchanged for entitled,
bastardly greed,
loathsome spread of
cancerous disease
destroying bedrock of
foundational respect, threatening faintest

Deflection –
backhanded distraction,
headlining soundbite,
intentional coverup,
nefarious, mounting evidence of
malignancy, invading
private spaces, holy
places, denying graces
to those ravaged by systemic
corruption, bent on

Come –
luring call of
gentler tone
seductive summons,
domesticated structure
soothes with duplicitous
intent, masking its
menacing confinement,
detainment for the sake
of a cause
not her own

Wild spirit –
never content with
useful endeavors,
righteous encounters,
fine appearances,
toiling to line
coffers of enterprises
embracing euphemisms
purposed to lull
the unwary into
unwitting slumber

No –
she needs air,
wings to soar,
not clipped to
aid their tiny schemes,
not restrained by leash
to do their bidding,
never contained as machinery
of either war or peace,
for human soul alone begets

Oh my dear –
you travel treacherous path,
this isn’t wise – quite unstable.
this reeks of resistance,
uprising, protest.
what are you thinking?
……………sincere words, well meaning,
……………yet gravel inside moving joints
what if you’re caught in the turbulence,
volatility, in the eye of
brewing storm?

Silently –
light breaks over weathered face,
eyes the window to miles traveled,
losses incurred, drenched cargo,
battered vessel,
her resolve reinforced to
bear witness, keep vigil,
there is no storm to be feared, for
she, indeed, is now the

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017
Photo Credit: © Stacey L. Rhoades. Used with permission.

The Shadow

This inviting playground, beckoning innocent children, stands as a beacon of hope; the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the background.

Selma, AL 

it’s been a myriad moonrises,
yet seems like just one
shadow has passed since
loved ones were
among those who
hoped and endured,
demanded peace,
fearing their fate
as evil’s heinous
fang forced its venom deeply
into tender flesh of those
who dared to
be black and yet
cross a bridge

once sole passage
to halls of power,
now an icon,
to this day bearing
on its forehead sinister
reminder of one whose
unholy memory, unmistakably
emblazoned on steel –
…………like branded contempt,
…………stark shadow of hatred –
hangs suspended over a nation
as bodies once hung,
brazenly suspended from limbs.

where shall we go?
wide swaths of citizenry
denying its culpability,
divided, and still one

vision of color, light
and dark, in the shadow of
bloody reminder,
now fresh with the vibrancy
of blue skies and laughter –
wee carriers of possibility,
no longer destined to
rage with hatred,
offered new fire to ignite
flame of justice and mercy in
exchange for brutality
and barbarism.

here is the breath of hope

shadows of bygone years
still poignant

where the brave once walked.


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017
Photo Credit: © Stacey L. Rhoades. Used with permission.

the words we say

Take care of yourself
mimicked blessing for
health, wellbeing, safety
dissolves as
nugatory sentiment when
one’s child is shot –
point blank range, sheer hatred,
disregarded and discarded
At Fifteen.

This too shall pass
glib assurance – maddening
normalizing platitude purporting
nothing lasts forever –
unless that something
preexisted in the form of
rape, domestic violence, sexual assault,
or unfortunate chromosomal configuration of
Being Female.

It’ll all work out if you stay positive
dissonant benediction
for single mother at 30
working 3 jobs, buying 3 sets of sneakers
reviewing 3 report cards, and attending
3 different sporting tournaments, then
collapsing into bed at night,
with gnawing, savage
Hunger Pangs.

NO – we can’t take care
of ourselves, if that means
when our demise
is systematically promoted
in high places.

NO – it will not pass,
more likely it will end in
horror, that slinking alley-cat
trailing disenfranchisement,
this malfeasance aimed
to silence, discredit, dominate
until we crumble, mute,
or rise, fists raised
towards high places.

NO – we will not fein positivity,
when simple surviving siphons
last vestiges of vitality,
viper-like from shrunken forms
who ask nothing more than
to taste the tantalizing morsels
of achievement, rewards for
toil, sweat, tears – alas, still
subservient to those conniving
from high places.


A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. – Proverbs 25:11 English Standard Version

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017
Photo Credit: Pinterest

No One Speaks For Me

I stand with

the immigrant –
working without complaint
until hands are raw, backs are bent,
figures of enormous restraint,
these moral giants among us who
teach the young respect,
the simplicity of laughter, gratitude, hope,
grasping the true meaning of home.

No one speaks for me!

I cry for justice for

those whose skin
is darker than my own
whose loved ones
live with fear, some
no longer here,
too oft a target for lead, not safe
even in their bed
no fault, no crime; systematic bloodshed.

No one speaks for me!

I bow in reverence,

acknowledging lives risked
homes shared, bread broken
together with those hunted
hounded, rounded up to be
sent away – our scapegoats,
forced to carry the turmoil
we refuse to face
within our souls.

No one speaks for me!
No one!

I am white, unconscionably privileged,
yet at odds with prevailing winds
that bend the mighty oak
away from compassion and justice
to unrecognizable versions of itself –
callousness, derision, hatred –
rejecting common civility that sees
you as my brother, my sister.

The dream of the
eighty-one percent is not my dream!
……………No One Speaks For Me
I heed a different gospel,
follow a different creed,
exchange white ethno-nationalism*
and greed for the embrace of love,
regardless of age, creed, race, status or orientation
stand resolute, head high, arms outstretched.

No One Speaks for Me
But I speak for myself.

* term used by Jim Wallis of Sojourners

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017
Photo Credit: Riccardo Annandale via unsplash.com

Together We Shine

It’s dark,
morbidly lightless,
solitary listless bulb
straining to illumine,
seeking hope,
defying obfuscation
the day the lights went out


The faint gleam
seems irrelevant,
irreconcilable with
unholy diversion,
masking utter insolence
the day the lights went out

Lift your voices
those who call in the streets,
cry out all
who witness the torturous
menace hurtling unwary
souls into decay since
the day the lights went out

Scribe with pen:
write! – though impossible
as requesting a glass of
water when surrounded by tsunami
floods, spirits deluged,
minds darkened,
the day the lights went out

all who grovel
along shards in dank cells
of shame,
leave your humiliated hovel,
well nigh obliterated
the day the lights went out

Throw bold paint on canvas,
shout with arrant abandon,
speak without apology,
take your place in the
resistant throng, determined
to bear imperiled flame, nearly extinguished
the day the lights went out

Together we shine –
Heeding not age, creed, race, status or affiliation
Arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder,
United in purpose,
Fearing no barrier.
Not shrinking back
Until the light returns.

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017
Photo Credit: Riccardo Annandale via unsplash.com

Devils In Our Midst

A Good Friday Reflection

She stretches out
on glorious sheets of lavender,
blissful in her bed of one thousand
pillows and three hundred

adamant and audacious,
having pedaled hard
sung loudly
run swiftly
danced daringly
shared secrets with
her best friend, Sam
furry, four-legged, faithful.

It is the season where
hope quivers inside innocent breast
robbing curious one of rest
because tiny birds are in every nest
keeping her dazzled, childish
spirits sailing to new heights,
life’s grand when temperatures soar
and thunderstorms roar
nothing can dampen her humor
as she grins at the ceiling above
rapturously dreaming
of adventures, wild animals
fortunes, fascination, felicity.

But wait. She’s often
pleaded with those one floor down
don’t talk so loud
I can’t sleep when you do

…..assault. woman shot dead. fighting.
no, no, no, make it stop
…..they won’t let them in –
…..those who fear for their lives.
…..gun violence. children dead. communities plundered.
I don’t want to hear it.
momma. daddy. make it stop

idyllic dreams snuffed out
dying, drowning, disenchanted,

It does not stop
they do not heed
words thunder on like metronomes,
tic-toc, without end, bruising
head, rending heart

…..hate groups. beaten and dragged.
…..people who pray differently kept out.
…..ice melting. pipelines in sacred places.
hands fly to her ears – maybe
this will help it not be real

…..be still. the child will hear.
nothing can calm the voice below
sharp. shrill. shrieking.

That very night,
as bombs wheeze and bullets crack
while children shudder in the dark
wondering: who’s next?
while men lie and women float
in watery graves,
an imperiled child
finds her beloved
spring to be stripped of its blossom,
each tender blade of grass
twisted as if seared by fire
sullen. sunken. sullied

by devils in our midst –
horrors humans inflict on others, and on
this collective, diminishing home.
her fertile mind cannot grasp all
she hears, can people not love?
see others like themselves?
erase hatred and evil?

yet shadows count
sunsets as each
flowing meadow, once
brimming and shimmering is
cloaked in a seamless robe of the night –
starless, pointless, endless.

“…and … he breathed his last.”*

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017

* Luke 23:46