Archives for posts with tag: Virginia

Licensed Patrick Morrissey
Let’s Hear It for the Horses
by Tricia Knoll

One million dead in the Civil War,
if you count the mules.
Which I do.

I say, blowtorch the rebel men
off their statue mounts and keep
the horses prancing on their pedestals.

They were not traitors
to their country, showed no sign
of caring who they carried,

black or white, male or
female. No one questions
their service to equality.

They did the work
they were asked to do
without a nod at glory.

Previously published in the author’s collection How I Learned To Be White. 

PHOTO: Monument to Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Charlottesville, Virginia, by Patrick Morrissey, used by permission. The photo shows an orange safety barrier erected around the monument to prevent vandalism.


EDITOR’S NOTE: In April 2017, the City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, voted, by a margin of three to two, to remove the Robert E. Lee monument as a remnant of the city’s Confederate past and defense of slavery.  During the following months, protests erupted over the statue’s removal. On August 12, 2017, counter-protester Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and 19 others injured when a protester drove his car into a crowd that had gathered to support the monument’s elimination. Two years later, in June 2019, James Fields, 22, was sentenced to life in prison plus 419 years for the crimes. A Virginia law went into effect on July 1, 2020 giving local governments broad powers to take down war memorials. Charlottesville is now in attempting to have a judge remove a prior injunction preventing the city from taking down the statue.  As of late July 2020, the Robert E. Lee monument remains in place.

PHOTO: Virginia Senator Tim Kaine stands before a makeshift memorial for Heather Heyer, who was killed by James Fields on August 12, 2017 in a car ramming incident. (Source: Office of Senator Tim Kaine.)

licensed viacheslav nemyrivskyi

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  I have been horse crazy since I was a child. At the age of 72, I just finished a book on the history of wild horses around the world by Dayton O. Hyde. I admire the horses who sit under the Confederate generals in statues around the country. I am glad to see the statues coming down, but I think too of the horses.

PHOTO: Woman and horse at sunset by Viacheslav Nemyrivskyi, used by permission.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Tricia Knoll’s work appears widely in journals and anthologies. Her collected books of poetry include Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press), Ocean’s Laughter (Kelsay Books), and Broadfork Farm (The Poetry Box). Her recent collection How I Learned To Be White received the 2018 Indie Book Award for Motivational Poetry. Read more of her work at Find her on Amazon and Twitter.

January Vacation
by Marianne Szlyk

The blonde with the sweetheart neckline
walks up to the mic
for “Stormy Weather”
while the warm fog,
like a heavyset regular at the bar,
settles in outside.

The nearsighted bass player stoops
beneath the low ceiling.
The baby grand takes up space
used for dancing
when couples squeezed together and swayed
at supper clubs throughout the nation.
The saxophonist swings alone.

Servers scurry from table to table,
plying wine, beer, and cocktails,
offering separate desserts for all.

Behind scrubbed brick walls, you cannot hear
the freight train moan and stumble
its way to the coal mines.

PHOTO: “Freight train, Staunton, Virginia” by W. Nathan Simmons.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “January Vacation” is about a recent vacation that my husband and I took in Staunton, Virginia, a city that has intrigued me ever since I first took the Cardinal to Purdue University in 1996. (My husband and I go south for the winter but not that far south since I do not fly.) The poem itself was among several I wrote for a poetry challenge last July by the Ridgeline Literary Alliance. I begin drafting the poem by hand in a notebook. From the second draft on, I type and revise, expanding and then contracting, adding details and sometimes taking them out. This time around I shortened the poem quite a bit from my late drafts.

better picture of marianne

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marianne Szlyk is the editor of The Song Is...and a professor of English at Montgomery College.  Last fall she published her first chapbook with Kind of a Hurricane Press. Her poems have appeared in a variety of online and print venues, including Silver Birch Press, Long Exposure, Bottlec[r]ap, ken*again, Of/with, bird’s thumb, Carcinogenic Poetry, Flutter Poetry Journal, and Black Poppy Review as well as Kind of a Hurricane Press’ anthologies from Of Sun and Sand on.  She hopes that you will consider sending work to The Song Is blogzine.

trailer pic
That People See
by Jessica Wiseman Lawrence

A home needs repairs
If that isn’t done, winter will leak in or
you’ll be baked inside by Memorial Day.
Helping him last year, I climbed up onto the slanted metal roof with
rollers and silver paint and made sure to cover every inch.
I approached the part of the home nearest to the driveway
and he called out — “Do a good job over there.”
I thought about the dilapidated trailer home below and asked, “Why?”
He said  — “Because that is the part that people see.”

PHOTOGRAPH: “The House I Grew Up In” by Jessica Wiseman Lawrence.

wingina, va
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The poem’s setting is in a town called Wingina, Virginia, in Nelson County — an unincorporated community with a population of around 400 (9 people per square mile). People who live in the area I grew up in also call it Warminster, after an old road. It’s a blue-collar place; many people living in Wingina are employed by CSX railroad or Westvaco logging.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Colors of the Day (Wingina, Virginia)” by Jessica Wiseman Lawrence.

lawrence picture

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Wiseman Lawrence lives in rural central Virginia and received her liberal arts education from Longwood University. Her work is currently upcoming for publication in Hermenuetic Chaos Literary Journal and The Activity Report. Typically, her work focuses on motherhood, poverty, and nature. She also has an interest in earth science and biology.

Take the Nearest Detour
by Candace Butler

The next time you drive through
the mountains of southern Virginia
take a couple of long, winding roads
out of your way. Stop at a small gas station
with bags on the pump handles
on purpose. Fold up your map
with its road names and numbers
and compass and ask the person
leaning on an elbow at the counter
how to get back to the interstate,
you’ve made a wrong turn.
Listen to the directions,
right past the silo,
take a left when you see the three
big crosses (you can’t miss them),
then there will be a fork in the road,
and you’ll want to stay toward the left.
From there you go about, oh I don’t know,
what would you say, a few miles?
A few miles. And you should be able to
find the interstate and follow the signs
from there. Before you go, browse the
couple of aisles, pass by the baby food jars
with expiration dates nearly eight years past,
the rows of gum and candy bars in dust.
Settle for an overpriced drink or
a lottery ticket.
Look closely at the peeling sticker
on the slush puppy machine by the register.
It will be cracked teal where
there used to be a deep ultramarine.
The corners will be peeling, a sticky
border where they used to lay flat.
Once you pay, follow the directions.
Chant them over the low murmur
of the radio. Listen close, now,
this is the most important part.
Look at every cornfield,
feel the depth of the forest, take in
the “Jesus loves you” graffiti
on a gutted trailer.

You might never find this place again.

SOURCE: Previously published by Dirty Chai in Issue Two: Adventureland.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Mountains of Appalachia” by Patsy Phillips. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Candace Butler is a poet, musician, and artist residing in her hometown of Sugar Grove, Virginia — a small town in the Appalachian Mountains. Her poetry appears widely in journals and anthologies, and she is working on her first full-length book of poetry. Candace holds an MFA in Creative Writing Program from Antioch University of Los Angeles (AULA), and is former poetry co-editor of Lunch Ticket. Find more of her poetry at

HOWL (Excerpt)
by Allen Ginsberg

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz…

……Read more of HOWL at


Photo: “Cadets read Howl, February 19, 1991, Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia” by Gordon Ball, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Editor’s Note: I don’t know if HOWL (1955), the ultimate Beat poem, was part of the curriculum at the Virginia Military Institute in 1991 or if photographer Gordon Ball — who from the mid-1960s took photos of Allen Ginsberg and his friends — set up the shot for its humorous possibilities. Perhaps he thought, considering HOWL‘s history — including the 1957 obscenity trial involving its publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti — it would be funny to show straight-laced military types reading it.

UPDATE: I’ve learned that photographer Gordon Ball was a professor of English at the Virginia Military Institute during the 1990s and invited Allen Ginsberg to speak with the students as a guest lecturer to “overwhelmingly positive response,” according to And I learned at the Virginia Military Institute website that Gordon Ball,  PhD, is still a professor of English and Fine Arts at the school.