There Is No Place In Virginia by Phibby Venable

There is no place in Virginia to dance –
my hair is too dark, my eyes too brown,
and I am a loose woman spilling
independent thoughts on sacred ground
I am uneasily free and footloose,
but when I dance I feel the breath
of rage roaring through dangerous engines
I am nervous and tense in movement,
and dread saying I am afraid
How can I dance when the music beats
in such a way, and my feet dodge bullets
and blood, until I try to hide in mountains
of purple majesty from the crazed crosses
that have nothing to do with Christ,
and everything to do with man made placards
on who and what to hate




Majesta by Phibby Venable

Majesta is four.
She is watching the curtains blow
in the wind off the street
Something crashes outside her door
Bugs move friendly across her bed
She is quiet with bruises
She is obedient to abuse
She is a small white star
fearing two angry moons

(photo from khaleejtimes)


Whitewash by Phibby Venable

The city wanted a new image.
The buildings were shoots of black mold,
rubbing their scent on fake foliage.
The streets stank of tar & old pigeons.
We want lilies, the city said,
and replaced the plastic with rooted ones.
We want fresh bark, said the inspector of the buildings,
so the men in white applied mold proof paint.
The old paved streets were freshened with brick.
Disinfectants were applied to unruly scents.
Soon all sparkled a wholesome goodwill.
At the meeting of the successful men with a ribbon,
harps rang triumph as the band marched on main.
Everyone applauded the lovely new image.
What about Carly’s Corner, I heard someone say.
It was the very poor section on the other end of town.
It was pawn shops, warm girls, and a liquor store.
The mic screeched loudly, so that no one could hear,
whatever the mayor said regarding the poor.

Woman With Children by Phibby Venable

In my country there is a war walking
in heavy boots across the land
It is burning, looting, raping the world

that I live in
I am ashamed to say it is nothing to me
I simply watch as my children
watch for openings to play
I cannot care for anything but their peace
In the smoke, the moon believes
the sun has died, and cries at the pale
replica of morning
Stars stare over the edge of Heaven
I am confined to survival and searching
for small cans of wounded food
My husband’s heart was blown to oblivion
and I must love enough for two
My hands have blackened, but not my heart
The water is dirty, but boiled
in the heavy kettle gifted from my mother
I focus on the story of a fine, blue heron
I read of him once in a stolen book
His head rose far above his body
in a sunny sweet breezed world of free breath

segregation by Phibby Venable

The first week of school
it was time to be chosen
to play ball.
The new girl, Rosa, stood
in the same spot,
often in the same dress
and because I was shy too,
I stood beside her
waiting to be friends,
each of us smiling,
neither of us thinking
of anything to say.
By the end of the week
my friends from the year before
weren’t speaking, either,
not to me,
not to Rosa
until the day I wanted
to play kick ball
and while I was moving
around the field,
Mary and Martha,
the blond twins, said,
we can’t play with you
if you don’t stop
standing with Rosa.
When I returned
to stand with Rosa,
her big eyes looked at me
and her dress seemed
even longer than before
but I didn’t say anything
we only smiled,
uncertain with each other.
One day she disappeared somewhere
on a different bus
to a new zoning
and no one spoke of her again.
So I played kick ball
but sometimes
I would look back
in her old direction
where something sad
and invisible still stood.