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

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

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.
… melting. pipelines in sacred places.
hands fly to her ears – maybe
this will help it not be real

… 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

Between The Cracks

One in a series of poems about life in, relegated to
or ending up between the cracks.


When door creaks on weary hinge
demeanor shifts
shoulders sag
eyes dull
heavy sigh whistles
through teeth now concealed
invisible weight
borne by one so young

When no one sees
tears escape
pent up no more
leak unbidden, moistening
sunkissed face
slight body quivers
‘neath burden
of precept and petition

When distant city
offers refuge, midst brash
light, melancholic night
guarded heart mourns
pummeled by
endless dichotomies
pointless polarities
prodded to wandering eternities

When indigo dispels final celestial amber
sole respite dwells in
recalled images of peaceful
love as is
hope just because
joy-drenched, inconsequential
minutia, moments

When showers fall
sent as refreshing to
parched corners of
ache within desert soul
color, aroma, melody awaken
bestowing unassuming tranquility upon
hearts of common intent
together in untiring embrace
between the cracks.

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Celebrate The Cracks

One in a series of poems about life in, relegated to
and ending up between the cracks.

life within allure
of sunlight offers
the grandeur she expects
congruent with messages
that have flooded her soul
since childhood – uttered
by clergy and celebrity:
there are no limits
when you push
teeter, yet struggle to

hope provides
vision, a course
offering brilliance, though
oft obscured by
debilitating twists
unexpected and unpredicted
for someone having
connected the dots
played by the rules, but now
sacrifices, while striving to

trodden beneath
clumsy boots of the weighted
scraped into cracks
instead of lying bare
and vulnerable for
all to see and despise
licking her wounds
without drawing attention
to her battered soul
belittled, fearful of being

it takes a moment
for it all to sink in, reorient
mind and heart to embrace equilibrium
wondering what is amiss
and by whose standards
whether up is down or if
the abyss can, for all intents
and purposes, be actual
elevation with abundance of
buoyancy, hallowed by

all is still

eyes shift, come to rest
on her finest possession
adorning sparse shelf,
gifted by
ardent, adoring admirer
proudly displayed
exquisite with gilded cracks –
now perfect, flawless
shimmering in utter
splendor, salvaged from scorned

momentarily dazed
by the wonder of
delicate vessel, cherished
beyond comprehension
though marred, concealing
its worth from souls
of lesser capacity
filling chamber with
holy glow, resplendent in
grace, though tinged with subdued

she rises with
resolve, poignant
moment kisses
gentle soul, forever capturing
this exultant moment
ne’er looking back to pine
for castles lost, charisma
exchanged for nobler calling
designed to bestow light on
pilgrim and pauper
chorus and choreographer,
poet and philosopher, deliberately choosing
celebration of the cracks

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017
Photo Credit: Pinterest

Which Crack?

One in a series of poems about life in, relegated to
and ending up between the cracks.

there is a world
populated by the
smiling, laughing
strutting, lounging
which is less
obscene and sinister
than it is
oblivious and self-absorbed
secluded in exclusive quarters

it would seem there is
no existence beyond
the glitter, the allure
heads held high
lips wrapped in petulant sneers
demanding favor –
the exceptionalism assuming caste
always ready to take
giving no thought to those
from whom they’ve borrowed

the living, breathing
tenacious oppressed
are found in places damned by
debilitating detriment
discarded without deliberation
neglected, negated
throughout decades of
deadening decisions
designed to keep order
in well-nigh invisible cracks

but, there is warmth
laughter and beauty
there are dreams and hopes
fanned into flame through
lyric and rhythm
petition and rhyme
reflecting the soul
of people whose
spirits soar, rumbling
with rugged, redemptive resolve

who defines a crack and
what makes it so?
is a luxurious crevice more enviable
than one of harsh scarcity?
who imprisons the fettered, and
whose predicament is superior –
that of the calloused creating the stratum
or those confined within them?
where does one find comfort
and is this solace or ease?

the human spirit
– mercifully bestowed upon
each sojourner –
will blossom or wither based
not on position, possession or prestige
not on which crack confines or
defines it, but on
its ability to lay down all devious
vertical categorizations
in favor of human embrace

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017
Photo Credit: Mother Nature’s Ikebana via Pinterest

In The Cracks

One in a series of poems about life in, relegated to
and ending up between the cracks.

she came
quietly – hidden
no highly anticipated
a mere beginning
of a life concealed
subdued, invisible –
loved on in the cracks

embraced by
strong arms of
a community
which always
lies low
avoids suspicion
keeps little ones close
fearing scrutiny by
the coward, the faceless who flings
crude disrespect at those in the cracks

lithe wisp in blue,
with lightning speed
outdistances, outshines
outperforms them all
yet recognition is denied
with patronizing platitudes –
unattainable for the
neglected and undesirable
relegated to the cracks

noble tenacity, nurturing
without prejudice –
connected in the cracks
where water collects and
organisms grow, ever widening
making room for more
glimpses of expansion, if no-one
treads them down
sprays them down
mows them down

there she lies – wilted,
motionless – in the heart
of what should have been
protected space
arms empty all around
wailing to heaven for
a promising baby girl
now out of reach
still outdistancing them all
soaring beyond the cracks


“there will be miracles”
they say
many cling to hope
some mock, others grow
dark with the bitterness
of it all
in the private place
where blood runs freely
they weep, as no one without
notices those within the cracks.

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2017
Photo Credit: Stacey L. Rhoades
Taken at Magnolia Farms, Waco, Texas