Speak. Poetry Edition Compilation.

A brief introduction:

Here is the April-May of 2021 Speak Poetry Edition Compilation. This is my first genre-focused compilation and is also the first compilation I have repeated outside of the same year. I first did this prompt in October-November of 2019. Much of why I chose the word speak back then was because of fear. Fear keeps us from speaking a lot of words we may need to speak and release. I wanted to share a prompt that would encourage people to speak through the fear or despite the fear.

I returned back to this prompt for very similar reasons.

A lot has happened since October of 2019. Each of us have lived through lives and days and experiences we could not have imagined. We each have our own stories of fear, of loss, of grief, of joy, of love, of confusion, of doubt, of anger, of growth, of celebration, of miracles, of the beauty of humanity, and also the ugliness of humanity within these past few years. And within that, we each have words that we may need to speak. We each have words that we may need to speak just for or to ourselves. We also each may have words that we need to speak out loud simply to be heard by somebody else. Speak those words my friends. However you need to, speak those words. Write what you need to your fear and your doubt. Write what you need to process. Write what you need to heal. Write what you need to celebrate! Write what you need to speak in order to dream. Write what you need speak to your shame. Write what you need to remember. Write what you need to hear. Speak those words you need to hear.

Whatever it is you need to speak, speak it my friends. Speak it.

And may the words that these writers have written within their poems be a part of that encouragement to speak your words. These poems are special and I cannot wait for you all to read.

As always, if you read some words that connect to you, reach out to the writer and let them know. A few words of response to someone’s words can go a long way. If you want me to pass your words along, I’d be happy to do so!


Happy reading my friends!

I’m sorry we lied.
Hid behind black and white
terrified of not knowing,
of having no control.
I’m sorry we told you
to fit the mold
or get out.
I’m sorry we let you leave.
Forced your hand.
I’m sorry we let power corrupt.
Broke backs 
not bread.
Drank hypocrisy
not wine.
Spoke in tongues
not love.
You belong here
as you are. 
You are safe to ask questions. 
Safe to wrestle. 
Safe to change 
your mind. 
This is not mass conformity
Nor mind control. 
This is liberation. 
You are free to walk away, 
to stay, 
to come back Home. 
I’m sorry we were blind.

Grace Gamache 


Yes, no, maybe so
Kinda-sorta, not quite sure
Hurts more than just us, you know
Awakened by dreams
They were truly bad nightmares
Help me out somehow
Yes, leave me alone
No, don't bother me once more
I am my own loan
Borrowed for a while
Pay is coming with interest
Not what I believe

Parker Nail 


I Can Hear Your Heartbeat 

I love to ask about the heart. 

The matters of the heart. 

The home where the heart “is.” 

The broken heart.

The heart attack. 

The heart break. 

The heartwarming—a favorite of mine. 

The hidden heart, the loving heart, the gentle heart, the sick heart, the evil heart, the heart that loves me. The heart(s) that love me. Love(d) me. 

A dear friend once asked,
“How’s your heart?”
I haven’t gone back since.
I have one too.

Afraid of Asking 

I think I am intelligently created.
But you don’t believe that.
So what do we do? 

Back On My Knees 

Should I sit on my knees to talk to you?
How do I converse with a person I don’t see. A person I can’t see. Wait this piano music is really moving me.
Wait, this piano music made me feel close to you. I’m in a building with people to study and love your words you gave to us. Are they really your words?
Who is right, who is wrong?
I’m scared to be wrong. I feel safe with not knowing. Your religion scares me out of life.
Your religion, your faith—it doesn’t add up.
Unconditional love seems to have many many conditions these days.
I’ll just get back on my knees, fearful.

Karmen Smith 



I imagine my great great great grandchild, in orbit:
Gently rotating, head tilted slightly back,
Staring down through the vacuum at the glistening radiance,
Bluer than the bluest of eyes.
And I imagine that my great great great grandchild is smiling
With a mix of astonishment, awe, and pride
At what humankind had accomplished heretofore
In that briefest of moments—in geologic time—that defined its existence.
I wonder if my great great great grandchild, in the face of such a wonder,
Will stop and think what life was like in my time.
When trivialities reigned with such fierce import
And so,
	so much time was wasted.
Would that fleeting image of me in memory mar that moment,
And would that smile wither away,
As my great great great grandchild, in orbit, considered,
For the briefest of moments, that creation below?
John R. Barner
April 18, 2021


 A Letter For the Sick 

This is a letter for the sick. 
Why do you rely on medicine alone to heal? 
Is it not I who gives medicine the power to heal? 
You take medicine daily to be healed yet you forget about the source of healing. 
You take my gifts and you run. 
You are my beloved.

This is a letter for the deaf. 
I am crying out to you, 
Yet you refuse to listen. 
You hear my voice, and then you block me out. 
I am closer than your breath and you still keep things from me. 
You are my beloved. 

This is a letter for the colorblind 
My voice is written and I am not blank. 
With one motion you can see my love.
The red letters are woven into your heart. 
I’m right in front of you. 
You are my beloved.

This is a letter for the discomforted 
You have let him into my safe space. 
Can a branch bear fruit apart from the vine.
It is thrown away and withers. 
Abide in me and your joy will be complete.
You are my beloved. 

This is a letter for the weary 
You have heard that my yoke is easy and my burden is light 
But do you believe it?
Not only is my burden not heavy,
But it is the literal light that you see everyday. 
I AM comfort and 
You are my beloved. 

This is a letter for the one walking away
I am right behind you. 
You can walk down paths that lead you nowhere
But I will always run after you when you decide to turn around.
You are my beloved. 

This is a letter for the worrisome 
Tomorrow will worry about itself. 
I’m not worried so why should you?
I am the most relaxed person to ever walk the planet.
Tomorrow, I knew that you would betray me, 
Yet I still prepared my table for you. 
Tomorrow, I knew that you would deny me, 
Yet I still washed your feet. 
You are my beloved. 

This a letter for those who now know 
These words are no longer just words, 
But they are the truth. 
Now you see yourself how I see you 
And you fall before me because you have seen my holiness. 
I am constantly fighting for you, 
Turning your sorrow to gladness 
And springing lilies from your barren soil. 
I value this relationship that I would rather die 
Than not be with you. 
You are worthy. 
You are beautiful. 
You are my beloved.

Austin Frederking 



it’s spring again, and I love the green
it’s everywhere I look,
and I can’t get enough of it.
in it I see hope and
growth and a freshness
that sets my mind at ease
and brings me peace.

and I can hear your voice sometimes
telling me that I’m green too.
green like the green that
grows on trees.
like the green I like so much.

I get so in my head about
getting it all right.
and you whisper to me that it’s okay,
I’m green too,
growing like the trees that
bring fresh air,
taking color.

and green is beautiful
but it also stings sometimes
because it’s not forever.

it’ll grow these beautiful flowers,
blooming for all to see
and admire and pick and cherish
and it’ll also die and wilt away.

and in winter we’ll forget all about
the vibrant green
that made the freshest air
and when we all took a deep breath
we won’t be able to see that color
quite so clearly.

green isn’t forever
and neither are the flowers
but green will always be
green again.

you say I’m green too
and even though I don’t like
the color so much on me,
I’ll still take a deep breath.
I won’t be green forever.
I’ll grow flowers, and I’ll wilt away

but I’ll always be green again.
it’ll always be spring again.

Caroline Beltrami 



She was breathing the same way that grandpa did when he went. Chest heaving with every slow and shallow breath. I’m physically standing in room 25 but the rest of me is in a room in a hospital in Jackson - telling him that he can go and we’ll be okay. There is a chill in my spine from the similarities.

I stand next to my trainee, wondering if he has ever seen death this close. I assume Nurse has and I certainly know that Doc is intimately acquainted with death’s demeanor. Later trainee will say to me: they don’t prepare you for that part in online training. I’ll reply solemnly: no they don’t. He has just been inducted into the club for those who witness death for a living. He will not be the same from this point forward. Their faces will haunt him like the rest of us. 

Family sits to the left of her bed and holds her hand just as I did 6 years ago. They will soon learn that time does not dull this memory.

 Tunnel vision has surely set in by now for those left to grieve. Minutes later she is gone. She made her choice hours before and she seemed unafraid to face it. I made my choice years ago to show up on the front lines of death knowing I will never win the war. But maybe one day I can learn to ease the suffering and gently guide those ready to journey onward. And maybe one day I’ll be unafraid to face it.

Emily Heyduck


there's this version of you:

there’s this version of you 
that I cant afford to forget 
its the best one 
the purest one 
the simplest one 
and if I forget 
then what was all this for 
there’s this version of you 
thats slipping away
as hard as I try 
to remember the details  
the moments
they fade quicker than I can keep up
there’s this version of you
that haunts me 
that feels real 
but is too distant to touch
I want it back 
but never will  
there’s this version of you 
thats holding onto me 
it overtakes me when I least 
expect it 
when I try and push it away 
it floods my memory 
there’s this version of you 
that im letting go of 
im making peace with 
im allowing myself 
to grow away from 
there’s this version of you 
that ill always miss

Savannah Shaw 



He invites me to
I open my mouth in response 
And an opposing force stops me short
A memory, several of them
A recollection of the last time I tried ties my tongue 
How little the truth set me free back then

He invites me yet again
With tear laden eyes
For honesty
More than anything
For confirmation, affirmation 
That our relationship is still on the mend

The anger wells
And dissipates
Like smoke from a tea light 
How crippling are his tears to me
How quickly I unravel
I remember, yes
But the fury fades

Soon after this conversation
It will return
And some regret will hold fast
Building like dust on a ceiling fan blade

I go on autopilot 
Trying to respond with truths that are sufficient enough
That feel like progress

Yet the back of my head swims with
The other truths 
    The infidelity
    The manipulation
    The lies
    The irrationality 
    The dependence
    The distractedness

How does it all lose its legitimacy 
When it is time to address it
In the face of sincerity   

I know the healing process is slowed all the more without doing so
And I am doing everyone involved a disservice 
But if I speak, then what
Then we’re back at the start
The root of it all still orange embers
Never cooling

Words are so powerful when spoken 
So troubling when harbored 
Something so intangible so able to shatter
To mend

I remain - comfortable enough in the land of half spoken
Fanning my embers
Soothing my hope in the future all the same 
Am I waiting for something to break?
Some moment that warrants my words more than now?
Surely I am 
Surely I should



April 27th 

It’s just days now.
I’m sure of it.
The days, yes.
But the man, I mean.
I’m sure of him.
I trust him.
I love him.
Last night I watched him lead.
He led a crowd to bend down low.
And to raise their voices.
To cry out to the One who hears.
The One who heals.
The One who healed.
I’m sure of it.
Yes, the healing.
But the King, I mean.
I’m sure of him.
I trust him.
I love him.
I believe him.
I will follow him.
We will follow him.
I’m sure of it.

Rachel Gamblin 


You’re not here yet,
But when you are I know you’ll love it.
The places your mind will take
You will certainly bring joy, curiosity,
And a fondness for people you’ve yet to meet.
If you ever begin to worry, find your friends.
The ones that rescue instead of demand,
And they will be your heroes.
Some will be comfortingly similar to you,
And others—wildly different.
You haven’t met them yet,
But when you do—I’m certain you’ll love them.

a letter poem found in Carolina’s shoebox, one week after the kite.

Karmen Smith 


To Natalie,
To know you
Two lily pads away.
To meet you one day at the Fern Forest Cafe.
To beauty I drew,
To freedom I stayed.
Too unique just
To be
Two long hops away.
Today, we will meet
Two hours today
To make less the leap from two cities away.
To eat and
To drink,
To share time and space.
Together we'll meet at the Silver Soiree.
"To Beauty"
"To Freedom"
"To Friendship," we say.
Tomorrow we'll meet at the Fellows Cafe.
Two melodies
Two tunes
Two friends we will stay.
To never now be
Two too far away.

Carson Travers


She burned a deep yellow
Fierce and bright
Her roots sank deeper
With each morning’s new burst of light
As she began to learn
She began to grow
Deeper and deeper went her roots
And it began to show
Some walked by her
Admiring her beauty
And some walked by her
Whispering in dismay
“That weed doesn’t belong here,”
She would hear them say
Yet still she stood tall
For she did not want to fall
One night
As she continued to grow
She suddenly realized
Her color no longer showed
A soft gray
Took yellow’s place
Time and wisdom
Seemed to glow in her face
New seeds were growing within her
Bursting forth with new life
On the outside she appeared fragile
But on the inside she grew with new might
The winds of change began to blow
And she quickly realized
It was almost her time to go
But this was not her death
No, she still had much life left to live
But she had lived enough to know
That her time in this place had come to a close
She had grown and grown
And seen new things
But she had new things she needed to see
And new things she needed to dream
So one by one
Her seeds blew away
Gently and softly
Into the light of the day
She saw that every piece that broke off of her
Was bursting forth with life abundantly
And in each of the places they flew
Life bloomed new
And started again.
So if the Little Dandelion learned anything through her journey
It’s that sometimes the bravest thing you can do
Is to let go when the winds begin to blow
For perhaps it’s only then
That you truly begin to grow
Hailey Hawkins 


you wanted glass castles
and high mantles
big enough for fires that can burn the bridge(t)s between you and your past relationships
did i say relationships?
i meant all the different versions of life you led
never once bringing yourself fully to the table
the good old days
insecurity and insincerity
what if you told me you missed it?
but i miss you
don’t waste wood trying to burn down the bridge(t) you built
between where you stand still and where i move foreword
the good new days

Bridget Walton 


On the plane watching the news

The unrest.
The murder.
The bombing in Palestine & Israel
The numbers are rising.
They keep rising. 
For Palestine more so.
more so. 
Please, make it stop.

Oh God, we need you. 
Oh God, how are you responding to this now?
How shall I?
I ache. 
I distract myself, so I don’t have to sit in the gut-wrenching pain 
of confusion 
of hopelessness
of inability to make right
what is so clearly wrong

Oh God, my stomach hurts. 
We need you. 
You are the God of hope. 
But where is hope?
We need you. 
You are the God of healing.
But where is healing?
We need you. 

Oh the land needs your healing, God.
Oh I humble myself. 
I follow your example, Jesus. 

I don’t have the words to say 
to honor both my Palestinian and Israeli friends 
my Jewish & Muslim friends
I don’t have the words
but you do, Jesus.
I think of you, Jesus. 
I picture you walking into Palestine
Walking with grace and peace
Looking the woman
the child
the man
Looking each one in the eye
and reaching toward them
Reaching out your hand to heal
to connect 
to love and serve. 
to protect.
I picture your eyes and your hands.
Oh I see your love for Palestinians 
This love that could cause Israeli leaders to uproar. 

I think of you, Jesus. 
I picture you walking into Israel
Walking with grace and peace
Looking the woman
the child
the man,
Looking each one in the eye
and reaching toward them
Reaching out your hand to heal
to connect 
to love and serve. 
I picture your eyes and your hands.
Oh I see your love for Israelis 
This love that could cause Palestinian leaders to uproar. 

You love both.
You love all.

You are not violent, Jesus. 
No, no, you Heal. 

You are not hidden, Jesus. 
No, no, you touch. 

Oh Jesus, as I think of you, my soul is revived. 
My hope is restored. 
In a moment's time, you do this. 
There is hope for violence to cease.
There is hope for peace. 
There is hope for justice. 
There is hope for unity. 
You are the hope for violence to cease. 
You are the hope for peace. 
You are the hope for justice. 
You are the hope for unity. 
You are. 
Oh I ache for you.

Rachel Gamblin 


To a Younger Me

Oh if only you knew
the joys that are to come.

Hold on sweet little boy,
your deepest sorrows 
will one day be your greatest joys.
You won't feel unseen forever.
If only you knew 
the deep love 
waiting to wrap its arms around you.
We’re so loved 
and you don't even know it yet.

Not a tear has been wasted, 
no wound will remain hidden.
Even this, 
even this,
will one day be made beautiful. 
Our scars 
will be art,
our wounds:
glory marks. 

Oh if only you knew.

But I guess that's the whole point-
you don't know,
and you won't for a while. 
You can’t know joy
without having tasted sorrow. 
One day the joy will be oh so sweet. 

Caleb Burke 


Together - inspired by my students 

This year has shifted 
If not 
For each of us 

We are connected 
Through where we have felt disconnected 

Through our loneliness 

Through our questions 

Our grievances, frustrations, and pain 

We are connected 
Through our lives lived behind the screen
The log on 
Log off 
And do it again 
The next day 

We are connected 
Through our utter resiliency 

Connected to 
Our ability to face 
Stress, challenge, change


Our persistency to then create 
New routines and rearrange

We have now come to know 
More deeply 
What it feels like to 
In the midst of uncontrollable change 

Even in where we isolated 
We reached out 
And held onto one another 
Through the words 
That could travel 
Without touch 
Close physical proximity 

Our communicating 
Through paper and pen 
And through our screens

Has helped us to see 
We are in need 
One another’s 
Shared humanity 

As we continue to shift 
In what seems to be 
The never ending 
Challenge and change 
May we continue to speak 
Our words 

May we 
And Express 
As a community 

And may we not forget to name 
One another’s 

Bailey Frederking 

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