How to Get There
By Laura Lee Washburn

Follow Eliza. Toss an apple
for your toddler boy to keep him
moving toward and away from.

Let the good people who will
feed. Sleep in a ditch. Sleep
under a tree. Carry the child.
Carry your neighbor’s child.

Try to avoid rape. Try
to avoid death. Drink water
as you can. Note the shoot
water barrels in the desert.

Take care of your shoes.
Try to keep your feet
from bleeding. Be prepared
for stranger’s spit. Be
prepared for men with guns.

Be prepared for hope
to be almost as bad as risk.

University of Kansas Removes Art After Governor Finds it Disrespectful and Other Vignettes
By Laura Lee Washburn

The grass too tall dead brown
scratching ankles. Mosquito air
and no rain. Pants ripping
at the zipper. The crazy ex
student sends messages
about fingering a girl maybe.

They will crack out a piece
of the old woman’s embedded tooth
at the periodontist tomorrow.
All over North America,
dark houses blow exhaust
for cool air, the people
are lit in dim rooms by blue
screens reflecting their scowls.

I remember women jogging
in blue water, the county fair
horse barn during drench,
intermission, dog walkers
meeting on the corner, the jogger
in place chatting not
so very many years ago.

I put the ripped pants
in the recycle pile. We know
the old woman will be ok.
A college art gallery in Kansas
takes down the flag painted
with the country’s division,
the children prisoned at the border
wait, the curators are ordered
to cave; one small
child’s sock put back in a box.

The Self, Scribbled
after Akira Kito’s ‘Enfant’
By Laura Lee Washburn

When I was a child I stomped
and my dark eyes ranted:
calla lily, lily of the valley, clematis.
Repeat it back. Repeat it back:
calla lily, lily of the valley, clematis.
Stop asking to cut down the hibiscus.
I know you will chop the mimosa.
Calla lily, lily of the valley, clematis.
Just the grass near the fence. Cut only
the grass near the fence. Stop
asking about the hibiscus.

My dark eyes were round as my cheeks and chin.
My round eyes were dark ink.
I was showing all my teeth
and trying not to throw my thatched basket.

When I was a child, it was this morning,
fifty-three and four days and my clavicle
into my neck muscle ached. I shook
the things in my hands. Calla lily!
I threw the butter knife. Clematis!

I drove to the parking lot. I parked,
Sunday, lot empty, I cried. Yesterday,
I read, If words control you. I read,
True power breathes past their words,

      for example:
      grabbed her by the moved on her
      piece of grab ‘em by the dropping
      to your knees coming out
      of her wherever when you’re a star
      inside and out fat ass absolutely
      bleeding dog pussy piece of but
      I really don’t care. Do you?

When I was a cartoon monster child,
I was fifty-three. I should’ve been a judge.
I was controlled by words.
You couldn’t remember calla lily.
You couldn’t remember hibiscus, lily of the
valley, clematis. In fairness, you
never knew those plants. I was a cartoon
black ink lithograh Akira Kito monster
child. I was moving toward abstraction.
I didn’t want you dead.
You were moving toward abstraction.

When I was a monster child, I was yesterday,
1969, 1978, 1980-the present, years
of my dark eyes screaming words. Not strong
because I felt all the meanings.

Somewhere an itinerant donkey played violin
and somewhere goat clown in check pants fluted
and somewhere you slept with a dog in a crate on the bed
and the embroideries grew up my tight jeans
and the pelican of my soul watched.
Alternative worlds might exist.

It’s like Akira Kito was writing
with that kind of roller ink pen
so much extra ink marks, and he drew me
like that, cross-hatching me, teeth
mouth, kind of scribbling me fast into a cage
dress, girl monster, dark eye nostril
flare, and I woke like this and ready
so ready, every wound an incentive
and a flag to the word.

Poem: Feeling of Longing for the Past
By Laura Lee Washburn

The feeling of longing for the past
is the deception by which we’re defended
against historical facts, South African
apartheid, American refusal of the Jewish
refugee, American small pox blankets,
forced march, shotgun slaughter, bone
pile American bison, camp, camp, camp.

That feeling of longing for the past
makes comfort of talk with who knew you
when, of talk with who saw it, too, of talk
with who remembers like you, who heard
the story before you, who shared the blanket
Saturdays at the long hall house.

The feeling of longing for the past
has been the tool used against you when disruption
and uncertainty provoke social anxiety,
when disrupting, they provoke cultural
anxiety, when major lives are fixed ideal past,
persuasions, a tool of the past to fix futures.

The feeling of longing for the past
evoked, promotes your psychological growth:
I embrace unfamiliar people. I want to explore
Ireland, Mexico City, the English
countryside where stiles connect green
sheepland to land, and go on trains and in flying
cars (should that be possible) because I can
love my (even maybe more than I should).

The feeling of longing for the past
is providence of the existential, where one
finds meaning lack of meaning one’s well-
being. Buffered threats. Perceive searching
less. Buffer threats. Self-esteem increase.

The feeling of longing for the past
breaks down in language into literatures,
  past literature, the longing down breaks
  in feeling into the language of for
        into the language of for the longing
        past breaks down, in literatures feeling
            in feeling, into longing of the past
            breaks down for language, the literatures,
        so it is, so it must be, so it has been.

By Laura Lee Washburn

I was not expecting the white sky
or the scribbled on branches
through the upstairs windows.

January, but I had grown used to sun.
I was not expecting the white
government or the scribbled on laws
to burn through all the changes.

America, but I had grown used to something
like movement toward fairness.

I was not expecting the white pills
or the scribbled on prescriptions
to cost more than my month’s salary.

Pharmacy, but I had grown used to commercials.

I was not expecting the cross
burning on TV while the black man watched.

I watch the old white people in Harrison, Arkansas,
hug a black TV celebrity to make up for the Klan,
and on the show they let the white men spay supremacy
and blood
and pray to Christ. I had grown used to hypocrisy.

This was the year I learned
what was under was above.
This was the year I learned
inhumanity is the secret they never teach.
I understand all history and this time only
when I understand the men who believe other men
are meant to die, when I understood the woman
who locked her dog in the kitchen for six weeks to die
is the same as the billionaire signing policies.

Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Cavalier Literary Couture, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, Red Rock Review and Valparaiso Review. Born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she has also lived and worked in Arizona and in Missouri. She is married to the writer Roland Sodowsky and is one of the founders and the Co-President of the Board of SEK Women Helping Women.