LIFE AS ACTIVISM

11/9 has come and gone but the trauma from #Election2016 remains. In response, and in an effort to cultivate fellowship and solidarity within our communities, Cleaver Magazine presents LIFE AS ACTIVISM. Send us your prose and poems of trauma, protest, hope, or healing as they relate to this past U.S. election, social justice, and activism going forward. Questions? Contact feature editor Rosie Huf.

TWO POEMS by Gemelle John, featured on Life As Activism

TWO POEMS by Gemelle John, featured on Life As Activism
So They Will
Time is the lightbulb burning for the first three traffic lights
And blinking after that
Is the side street slick with remainder
And a storm cloud trying to drown
... Read more...

VOTE TRUMP CHALKED ON A WALL IN MY RUSTBELT CITY, a poem by Freesia McKee, featured on Life As Activism

Walking home
from the protest We pour
water from the bottle another marcher
gave us over this temporary
sign With my wet and dirty
hand Lifting the fist
I would vote with Taking the side
of my arm and smearing it out
... Read more...

AND SOMEHOW THE MAN ON CNN IS ASKING IF JEWS ARE PEOPLE, a poem by A.K., featured on Life As Activism

and horns crawl like an apology out of my skull;
my tongue splits in two and gropes the air
in front of my mouth. I need two tongues, you see.
One for me and one for my grandmothers.
One for Yahweh and one for Shekhinah.
One for the body and one for the blood
they would have you think was theirs.
... Read more...

TWO POEMS by Jeanne Obbard, featured on Life As Activism

Suspect in transgender slaying says 'manhood' was threatened”
- NY Daily News, April 1, 2016
Manhood: more fragile
than the hollowed-out egg I practiced pysanky on.
More frangible than the hem
of snowbank in early March.
More delicate underfoot
than the infant sea
... Read more...

FACT CHECK, a poem by Laura Yan, featured on Life As Activism

yes, let's
argue over semantics while
decapitated bodies and babies litter
hospital floors in aleppo and
not-my-president unites with Russia in
a fight with common enemy number 1
terrorism and extremism and
hoses spray ice and gas and bullets
against water protectors protestors while sophia’s
arm is exposed cartilage and elders ache from
head wounds let’s argue over safety
... Read more...
INCANTATION ON THE EVE OF 2017, a poem by Monica Rico, featured on Life As Activism

INCANTATION ON THE EVE OF 2017, a poem by Monica Rico, featured on Life As Activism

I turn bread into tortillas.
I leave dried guajillo chiles in my wake.
My hair is wild cilantro.
My footprints are poinsettias.
My tongue is an eagle whose wings will shout.
The fringe of my rebozo is made of infinite braids.
I dare you to touch.
I am a field.
My hands are dirt, my fingernails roots.
Diego Rivera has painted them.
My bones are made of corn and chiles.
My stomach is arroz con frijoles.
My lungs are comino y canela.
My blood is lemon and salt.
... Read more...
F M K, a poem by Sybil Kollappallil, featured on Life As Activism

F M K, a poem by Sybil Kollappallil, featured on Life As Activism

Two months ago they played FUCK MARRY KILL
He picked me as Fuck and the other brown girl to Marry
Kill was a white girl who changed her name a lot
Anna then Ann then Anne then Anna again
Marry Girl told me, I wasn't there
He would have been my Kill, so you know
Then when the president was elected he yipped his pitchy yip
Marry Girl shrugged and told me, don't forget
That they think of things when they see us
And especially when they see us together and recall
There is more than one here
... Read more...

THE DAY AMERICA DIED, AGAIN… by Joel L. Daniels Featured on Life As Activism

shhh…
this is not an essay. no, this is not that. not a poem. not a bomb. not hydrogen. this is not blackface. not a pledge to a new allegiance. there will be no cotton picking. there are signs - a cross stump stuck in a lawn, a flag burning. there may be a march, some spring uprising to coincide with fall palettes and patterns, of bodies being flung to concretes, red pastels overshadowing the grainy elements of white hoods floating in the background ... Read more...

SIEG HEIL/Their Shoes, a poem by Howard Debs, featured on Life As Activism

The shoes are made of iron
presumably to preserve the
symbolic footwear, but they are
attached along the Danube’s
stone embankment, so
perhaps the sculptor intended
that the splashing water
would with time
have its own effect;
... Read more...

NIGHT IS LONGER, a poem by Leonard Gontarek, featured on Life As Activism

anarchy isn’t for everyone can you hear me now
find your soul paint here on a saturday night
light is grandfathered in we sit in an ancient garden
dropping flower seeds and breadcrumbs dripping blood
beauty and music descend leaves and petals circulate
in the world the world grows dark and people grow older
x-rays float in the stream two car doors slam two doors down I sing
... Read more...
TWO POEMS by Leonard Gontarek featured on Life As Activism

TWO POEMS by Leonard Gontarek featured on Life As Activism

Walt Whitman With Light On A Lake

The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.
The land and the sea, the animals fishes and birds, the sky of heaven and
the orbs, the forests mountains and rivers, are not small themes … but
folks expect of the poet to indicate more than the beauty and dignity which
always attach to dumb real objects … they expect the poet to indicate the
path between reality and their souls. Men and women perceive the beauty
well enough … probably as well as the poet. You shall ratchet up the moon.
... Read more...

EDDIE AND DONALD, a poem by Wendy Marie Vergoz, featured on Life As Activism

Giggling girls have power the radio tells me
after the election. An epidemic of contagious
laughter spread through a girls’ school
in Africa, 1962, and no one then knew
why. Hearing this carries a now-giggling
me back to my 5th grade classroom—to tiny
freckles on Eddie’s nose, sprinkled sweet
as whispers. My girl-small hands unfold a scrap
of notebook paper, where penciled print
asks, Do you like Eddie? Circle: Yes or No
... Read more...

TEACHING REFUGEE CHILDREN AFTER TRUMP, and essay by Daniel Miller, featured on Life As Activism

Throughout the election season, I noticed that some of my students seemed uneasy. After Donald Trump’s election, true fear had taken hold in many of them. A Congolese boy, who I had never before seen without a big smile, asked me why he would have to go back to his country. His village did not have enough food, he told me. People were very sad and hungry there. A second grade teacher showed me a picture one of her students had drawn. It showed two men with Crayola guns standing over a woman, scribbled red. “This is my aunt,” the girl said. “Please don’t make my family go back." When I took this job, I knew that I might have to console students who were going through rough times: moving, divorce, the death of a beloved pet. I never imagined I would have to have a discussion with elementary students like the ones my college professors had with us after 9/11 ... Read more...
WHAT IT IS, an experimental piece by Susan Fedynak, featured on Life As Activism

WHAT IT IS, an experimental piece by Susan Fedynak, featured on Life As Activism

WHAT IT IS is how I hate my face. is how my face is amnesia. is how i love my face. is how my face is still amnesia. is waking up at 4am feeling like there is someone in the room, someone saying don’t forget me. is saying, ma, you know what the really effed up thing is, is how knowing where you come from is the privilege $99 and a mailing address gets you. is that the effed up thing is it isn’t a right. is buying your mom a dna kit for christmas. is what the hell is christmas anyway. is collective amnesia. is wanting to know if her estranged father had royal blood in him. is rethinking what is royal. is what is blood. is colonialism. is sitting in a lecture hall while a professor talks about post-colonialism ... Read more...

GOD IS MY ALIBI, a poem by Cynthia Atkins, featured on Life As Activism

Abide with me the night shadows
caterwauling on the walls—Lava Lamp Red
as the squad car pulling up to the curb.
Inside, a fish tank shifts—precarious---Colors dizzy
in a kitchen of bodies without form. Pot partying,
I made-out with my boyfriend, our friend gave
his hands to be cuffed into silence—Whispers in
the next room. All said and done, Willy sat
in jail for an ounce of stale attic
mouse-weed. We went to college to cavil in a dormitory of freshman.
... Read more...

SUPERMOON, NOVEMBER 14, 2016 and AUTUMNAL EQUINOX, WASHINGTON, D.C, two poems by Jackleen Holton Hookway, featured on Life As Activism

The week has been long, one of the longest
in my heart's slim record-book. But the moon
is at its perigee. It hasn't come this close
in years, more than you and I have known. So rise
and go to the window, the one that faces the canyon.
Tonight, as red as Mars, it will ascend, round
and smoldering, through the dust.
... Read more...

FATAL MOUTHS, a Life As Activism poem by Jennifer Martelli

The city guys are stringing Christmas lights on the locust trees.
The men are lifted up in buckets. First, any old witches come down.
And then the forgotten paper pumpkins. The bats.
The city guys shake loose the dried up locust pods: brown and curled
they land on Essex Street like snakes dropping. Finally, the white
lights can go up and stay up past the New Year.
... Read more...
beneath-us-all-this-time

BENEATH US ALL THIS TIME, an essay by Angelique Stevens featured on Life As Activism

Everywhere I went in Sudan, people offered me things. I was the foreigner in their country and they could tell the minute they saw me that I was different with my lighter skin and my long hair and my rounded body. They understood that it was me who needed their help. They knew that my system wasn’t used to the extreme temperatures, that I had not sufficiently acclimated to bacteria-ridden water, that my skin was too soft for hard work, my eyes too sensitive to the dust ... Read more...

OUTHOUSE BLUES: Three Poems by Herman Beavers, featured on Life As Activism

Accounts coming due, enunciated in
The mumble of feet. Coathangers,
The electric eye of catechesis.
Populism blushes in a frenzy
Of bared teeth, biceps swelling
With the ripple of Confederate flags.
Manacled in a pageant of
Disconsolate shotguns, the echo of
Self-confident dice, public figures on both sides
wondered about the succulence of the Crow.
... Read more...

THE ART OF TRUMP, an essay by Dustin Pearson, featured on Life As Activism

In the aftermath of the election, I overheard a phone conversation my housemate had with his friend, a conversation that was casual enough to be had while he was on the toilet. He explained he was bummed that Trump had been elected president but that he was also excited. He had plans to go out and buy a gun. He’d always wanted to play out a survivalist scenario, even if he would hate it when it finally came ... Read more...

IN THE WAY I AM ALIVE, an essay by Grace Connolly, featured on Life As Activism

I am not sure now, the right or wrong way to post on Facebook. I attempt feebly my own brand of humor, certainly misunderstood. I surge with so much caffeine that the days go by in a blur. Then, binge drink, nights hazy and filled with whiskey, wine, spiked seltzer and even one time, a Twinkie. I do not eat things like Twinkies. So, this is therefore in and of itself the perfect metaphor for America really going to shit right now ... Read more...

THE BODY POLITIC, an essay written by Nathaniel Popkin with photos by Lena Popkin, featured on Life As Activisim

On Saturday, for the second week in a row, I attended a protest march against the election of Donald J. Trump as President. These marches here in Philadelphia, as they have been around the nation, are meant to bring people together to assert their anger, their betrayal, and their worry over the direction of the nation under Mr. Trump. To press for action. They provide an instant sense of camaraderie and communal feeling, and, yelling righteously into the cavern of towers, or the granite of monuments, or, in our case, the sturdy brick of Independence Hall, a heartfelt outlet for protest. The marches allow a person edging toward hopelessness to feel alive again, if only for an instant, and to sense oneself melding into the body politic. After despondent days, they come as a relief ... Read more...
Berlin Wall

LOVE OF MY LIFE, an essay by Cody Smith, featured on Life As Activism

I am watching the election results with a friend that I’m kind of in love with. He texts me after the first polls close. I join him at the Women’s Center where they are holding a viewing party, a nonpartisan event in name only. Early numbers look bad, and then they begin to look dangerous. People leave the party visibly upset. The Friend and I decide we need a drink. I call a local Mexican restaurant to ask if they’re showing the election results on any of their televisions. One girl suggests we come with her to a fraternity where they are watching CNN. The frat has hard liquor, and we could buy mixers on the walk over. I bite my tongue. I don’t want to come across as judgmental, but I have always hated boys’ clubs. And besides, I want to be alone with The Friend. “The love of my life is in that fraternity,” he says. “Just kidding.” The Friend continually cycles through moments of revealing (if exaggerated) honesty followed by sham retractions. We continue to discuss specifics. “Do you want to go, Cody?” he asks. “I’d be willing, but it’s up to you,” I say ... Read more...