News Poetry: Charlottesville Poems, Part I

After Syria, After Charlottesville
By Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

And there, on the to do list,
somewhere beneath “post office”
and above “pay the bills” is a single word

not yet crossed out. “Peace.”
You’ve written it in ink, as if
to offer it permanence,

an urgency that can’t be erased.
Every day, you look at it,
wondering if this is the day

that goodwill will come as easily
as changing the burned-out lightbulbs
or taking the garbage out.

You almost stop believing
you will ever cross it off.
After a while, it might seem

just like any other thing
you write on your list, then ignore—
like clean beneath the piano

or organize the garage.
But then the news will shake you,
will render your duties

small. And you’ll write it in
at the top of the list
in all caps, underlined in blue,

PEACE, not something to do,
but something to serve,
something to practice

as you move through the day,
something to inform the way
you fold the sheets, you drive

to town, you attend the meeting,
you make the call, you write
the letter, you do what must be done.


Still Shackled to Our History
By Phil Woods

The black historian reminds:
For every time equal rights advances
there’s always retrenchment.
That’s abstract. A car driven
with blind anger for fuel
is not abstract. Three lives
are gone. Two policemen
& an activist named Heather.
And when I take in this
painful, searing news what
do I think of? I think of
an unqualified leader who
spews stinging nettles
& heals nothing. And then,
I think of a man who
exemplifies steadfastness.
So many churches burned
in Dixie. Bob Moses got a call.
He went to one ruin & started
sweeping the charred floor.
The blackened, dead embers.
With the windows largely gone
& no lights he chose
to sleep on that floor.
Why? To do otherwise
lets hate win.

(Bob Moses was a leader of the student wing [SNCC} of the Civil Rights Movement and founder of the Algebra Project.)


Does the news — good or bad — inspire you to pick up your pen? Submit your news poetry to for a chance to be published on our site. 

Photo credit: M01229, Creative Commons, Flickr 

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer is Colorado’s Western Slope Poet Laureate, a TEDx speaker, and San Miguel County’s first poet laureate. She has authored and edited thirteen books, is widely anthologized, and teaches and performs throughout Colorado. Visit her at Phil Woods is the author of several books of poetry, most recently, To Understand: New and Selected Poems, 1981-2015. He teaches in Denver Public Schools and is an active member of the Romero Troupe, Denver's political performance community theater.


  1. Rosemerry offers us a response to these terrible events with an invitation to the personal practise of peace, and Phil roots us in the history of one man’s response to racist terror. Both point us to action.

  2. and i make the bed, sweep the floor, put away handmade dishes and think of peace-of Rosemerry’s peace while taking out the trash; of Phil’s poem of a man named Bob who also swept a floor. I am tired at the end of each day with these peace-making practices. It is the HEART MIND that is in control these days, for the maker mind, of lists, of clay vessels, of garden weeds, is weary from all this language of hate and fear.

  3. “Peace on Earth” the phrase on Christmas Cards, year after year. Diversity… if we all embrace it, accept it and respect it – Peace on Earth is possible.

  4. Thanks for reminding us of our job, it’s important to keep that word, that hope, that necessity, on our list.

  5. Art, yes, thank you for the comment about the two poems, about how important it is to take action, both internal work and out in the world. And yes, Janet, the hate talk is exhausting. What a gift when the “heart mind” can take over. And Donna, yes to embracing, accepting and respecting diversity. That is certainly the key–and to Art’s point, a practice that must be taken on both in our minds and in our actions. And Sharron, yes to knowing that peace is a necessity. Thank you all for your comments.

  6. I am not sure what happened to the long comment I wrote responding to everyone? Sigh–it amounted to a big yes and a big thank you to Art Goodtimes, Janet, Donna and Sharron. It’s so important to be willing to take action, as Art says, both in our own lives and out in the world. So important, as Janet says, to let the “heart mind” take over, so important as Donna says to embrace and promote diversity, and so important, as Sharron says, to keep peace making as a necessity–more now than ever. Thank you, friends, for joining the conversation.

  7. Rosemerry — Apologies for the delay. We manually approve comments on our site, so sometimes it takes a little while. Thank you for your poetry!

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