C.N.P Poetry 

  • Cathexis Northwest Press

Anarchy

By: Judith Mikesch McKenzie


The old red quilt hangs

against the window with

little white yarn-bows

in each square

many no longer tied

but falling limply

unravelled but still in place

against the glass


hung there in the window to

keep out the cold

the quilt provides

a hiding place

between the hanging folds

and the glass

the illusion of warmth

provided by

red-plaid

red-checked

red-striped

patches

proof against the cold and light


Hiding between

glass and comforter

staring at the red and gold

of morning


I have no courage


I stand I stand

facing outward braced against the day

I stand

waiting for my own strength to fail me


I need my strength more

sometimes

than the warm room behind me

or the arms that wait there


I stand I stand

against those I call my brother

who try to strike me down

I stand


Between glass

and red hanging


wondering where the battle is.





Judith Mikesch McKenzie has traveled much of the world, but is always drawn to the Rocky Mountains as one place that feeds her soul. She loves change - new places, new people, new challenges - but honors a strong connection to the people and places of her roots. Writing is her home. She is a recent winner in the Cunningham Short Story Contest and the Tillie Olsen Short Story Contest. Her work has been published in Who Are We?, the Tishman Review, Rogue River Review, Thought and Action, Mountains and Lake, Works in Progress, and in the anthology The Poetic Bond X, and she has upcoming publications in Wild Roof Journal and Halcyone/The Black Mountain Press/Her Words.


"Shortly after the 2016 election, I went to a meeting where a woman cried. It was a 'Teach-In' organized to give people ideas about the best ways to protect those things important to us in the four years that were coming. In one session, people went around the room giving ideas they had, and most of us were scribbling ideas down as quickly as we could. Then one woman burst out in sobs. We all turned to her, trying to comfort her, and someone asked what was the cause of her tears. Pulling herself together, the woman choked out - 'there’s just so much to fight for - I’m overwhelmed, I don’t know where to….what to….' and she cried again.


After that meeting, I was not able to catch up to her to offer her my number, but I have thought of her often and, when I did, I also thought of this poem, which had actually been written a few years before in a particularly hard time. My family is multi-racial and multicultural, and, in the (mostly white) town in which we lived, my children suffered at their schools. Daily battling racism and poverty along with the normal struggles of work and parenthood, we were also constantly in battles with the school district (The superintendent: 'But there are less than 1% of minorities in our district - what do you expect us to do?'....Pause, response: … 'So you’re saying our children are acceptable casualties.')

We were struggling financially, socially, emotionally, and actually in the struggle for our rights and our lives. I would often, in the morning, stand between that red quilt and the glass doors, holding my coffee, holding on, trying not to sob, as that woman did years later.


After the 2020 election, I became concerned about the number of people who seemed to think that they no longer needed to worry, that the change in administration would solve everything. So, I took out this poem, polished it, and felt it was time to send it out. When I first wrote it, I showed it to my daughter, and she asked only 'Why did you call it Anarchy?' I told her because it felt that was how our lives were at the time - in chaos, in anarchy, in constant battle. She just nodded. "