it’s our choice

the same ingredients,
the same tools,
24 hours every day
are open to us all.
the same air surrounds us,
the same sunsets
paint our western skies.

yet our response is up to us.
what words will we choose,
which symbols use?
the alphabet invites us
all to select letters which
evoke a blessing or spew forth a curse,
to express love or loathing.

even young children
distinguish the difference, learning to
connect words and action,
words and approach,
words and attitudes
of the heart that beats
within every human breast.

so, take a simple combination
of letters from wide array of
possibilities. let’s take
e – i – l – v.
four letters with which to play
pray, shape realities,
retreat or retrench.

the four letters can create




which will it be?
it’s our choice.
will we create surroundings
unlivable and inhumane?
pass along malevolence
to our fellow human traveler?
or will we choose to create

spaces for us all to
live — to breathe,
laugh, run and play,
recreate and pray,
dancing heart-to-heart as we pay
our blessing forward?
it’s our choice.

what erupted at our
southern border today
(and for many days
over many months)
has yet again displayed only
2 of the options:

this shall not become
simply another news report,
another noise, offensive smell, gruesome picture
which quickly fades as we jostle
through overcrowded shopping malls
which feed our greed
at the expense of their need.

for when i do
my heart’s rebirth
contributes to the dignity of
every other member of the human race
longing to live in love.


This poem comes in response to US Border Patrol agents firing tear gas at a group of people seeking asylum in the United States today, November 25, 2018. 

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2018
Photo Credit: Newsmax
Twitter: @J_Pennz
Instagram: @j_penner_zook 


Soul care is not about doing more but of letting go.

Photo Credit: Audubon California
Twitter: @J_Pennz
Instagram: @j_penner_zook 


despite the cost

compassion threatens to
suffocate all who live to
extend it.

our hearts dissolve
directly proportionate to
our capacity to feel

a little of
what it’s like to
be you.

we could allow compassion
to bypass care, anguish,

and instead steer this
healing gift

the chasm of cynicism,
establishing permanent residency
in anger.

it seems safer there–
less painful, the
immediacy of

explosive release
building a temporary

but this hostile dwelling
is dark: cold without

serving only to further
the agenda of

from oneself or one’s
neighbor, offering
no space for community,

leaving us homeless,
dismembered, a mere shadow
of who we can be.

allow tears to flow,
hearts to feel,

to admit grief and
for only

then can the
dignity of compassion
be sustained,

rising as a shield against the
destructive forces of rage,

expanding to give birth to

warmth, welcome,
well-being, blossoming into
tangible embrace

for all humanity.

we shall offer love in place
of indifference, extend

instead of withdrawal,
carry within our

hope for our neighbor,
our human family,
despite the cost.


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2018
Photo Credit: Annie Spratt via
Twitter: @J_Pennz
Instagram: @j_penner_zook

baited, yet unabated

she rises to speak.

they continue with
faded phrases,
regurgitated rhetoric,
inflexible ideology,

every utterance
evidence of inner turmoil–
residue accumulated from sojourn on
a groaning planet.

neither demeanor nor language
suggests credence given
to speaker’s artistry,
journey, wound.

the root of bravado lies 
carefully hidden, cloaked with
rehashed words that flow
unreflected, unhindered.

we bristle as unruly interruption
increases, silently wary that we, too,
carry disquieting entrenchment in our own
self-declared righteous cause.

nothing will change
until we become convinced that we
who share our sacred
earth, all members of
one human race,

cannot continue to
classify each other as “them,”
distinct from “us,” labeled as
“antagonist” instead of “ally,”

for truly all of us are “we.”


Reflecting on a rally calling for thoughtful voter participation which was marked by significant heckler activity. Inspired by the rendition of poet and activist @GenesisBe, I choose a healing stance.

© Julia Penner-Zook, 2018
Photo Credit: Simon Buchou via
follow me on Twitter: @J_Pennz
follow me on Instagram: @j_jpenner_zook

travel with abandon

what were the paths worthy
of travel for women? in bygone
years each was meticulously
metered, measured, monitored, modified
to ensure promise of purity,
perfection in passage, and precision in

foolhardy journeys were deemed most unsuitable
for young women of dutiful upbringing,
deserting orthodoxy was met with
withering words, tattling tongue, flustered frown
— every one a roadblock for any
adventurous fledgling with wonder in
her eyes.

fanciful pursuits caused heads to shake,
arms to cross over buxom chests,
words to be whispered from one rural
party phone-line to another: this can never be!
for who would care for brood of offspring if
farmyard well were exchanged for trifling

frivolous designs: could they have grown
into vehicles transporting creator and viewer
into carefree spaces, ethereal places?
instead, they were disqualified
as meaningless caricatures without merit,
dismembered, discarded, relegated to the

where are you, o whimsical,
snuffed-out soul, long buried
as treasure in far-flung field?
you can—you must be exhumed from
repulsive tomb, revived despite rigor mortis,
resuscitated to travel yet uncharted course
with unabated abandon.


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2018
Photo Credit: Dariusz Sankowski via
follow me on Instagram: j_penner_zook
follow me on Twitter: @J_Pennz

dissolving dreams

diminutive shetland, muscles defined,
broad chested, refined,
stops for a moment, nuzzles in curiosity as
little one rides once, then twice,
but not again, watching in tears
as he gallops nobly toward misty

scarlet, tumbling maple
floats weightlessly down, down, down.
she reaches, eyes gleaming, but crimson beauty
glides just beyond her outstretched hand,
settling in the company of other wilting sisters,
nestling close to form a spongy carpet

in spring’s pre-dawn glow
tiny feathered oriole
delights her audience of one
with trilling notes of rapture,
promises of new possibility
dampened as symphony fades
to stillness.

soft showers, each minute droplet
offering hope for new life,
refreshment for parched soul
and seared landscape,
welcome drizzle, momentary relief,
healing caress,
abruptly gone.

they come in shapes and forms
not easily defined, yet disarmingly
captivating — each one appearing
ever so briefly, then fading
too soon,
form unfinished,
gift recalled,
hope fading.

dissolving dreams.


© Julia Penner-Zook, 2018
Photo Credit: Bronwyn via
follow me on Instagram; @j_penner_zook
follow me on Twitter: @J_Pennz