Civility War

It’s an evil snake that crawls 
between us and takes up the 
space we didn’t know existed,
that turns you left, me right, 
with our guns pointed at 
him, at it, at each other. 

It’s a vicious smoke that rises
into our nostrils, fills our lungs with
free-based gratification, makes 
us high on self-righteousness. We
exhale noxious fumes into faces
we say we love.

It’s a vile ideology that turns us
on each other, makes an up seem 
down, makes a fall seem elevating,
sends us packing, locked and loaded
brother on brother, sister on sister.

Haven’t we been here? Haven’t we turned
on each other before? Haven’t we gassed
and lynched and nailed to crosses those
we decided to hate? Is this a never-
ending war we’ve all agreed to wage?

And now I feel the snake against my skin,
the toke in my lungs, the rhetoric in my
brain like pinballs of sound bites, and I
wonder if doing justice and loving mercy
can ever be simultaneous acts. 

It’s one thing to agree not to spit on your
brother. It’s another altogether to agree
not to spit on the one who spits on your

It’s yet another still to balance the
world on your back while you learn
to walk humbly with your god. 

© 2020 Deborah E. Moore, All Rights Reserved

To White Men

(On the occasion of the 2020 Vice-Presidential Debate 
between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence)

I don’t hate you.  My father was one of 
you. He, with his tense jaw and strong
grasp meant for affection but delivered 
in pain. He whose presence commanded

attention when he spoke. Though I had
six more years of education, two degrees
more, I listened patiently when he explained the
themes of Thoreau’s writing. Me, expressionless,

when he persisted in pronouncing it THOR-ee-o. 
Me, silent, waiting until my next class to unload
the corrections on unsuspecting sophomores. 
He, who threw the blinker light of his 

motorcycle against the back wall of the garage
in rage when it broke from the bike he had
instructed me to hold while he retrieved 
his forgotten wallet. Me, 10 years small,

not quite made to kickstand a Kawasaki. Me, 
watching in terror as the center of gravity shifted
away from my spindly arms. Me, watching it fall,
the bike and his anger, with a rush of hot wind.

Me, wanting to say, “you’re the Einstein who 
thought 65 pounds could hold 400 at center,” but 
I would never dare.  Wouldn’t even admit I 
was thinking it for at least two decades. 

He, whose anger was quick and sharp, but 
his raised backhand never landed, only 
threatened. That was enough. He, the one 
who told first-grade me to tell those sixth-grade 

boys that my daddy was as big as King 
Kong and they better leave me alone, but 
he could have just been on time to pick me 
up instead. And 

you, who look so much like him, wearing
your assistant managership like a crown, 
interrupting me when I’m speaking, as if I
was never speaking.  You, who have never 

moved through your world afraid, always 
afraid. You, claiming you see women as
equal because you have no comprehension 
of the depth of your ignorance. You, holding

a toothpick and lecturing a druidic priestess
on forestry.  You, the one not forced 
to smile, the writer of rules not the follower,
the interrupter and talkoverer and ignorer of

anything not you. I don’t hate you. To hate you,
I would have to start with him, and I love 
him.  Like a beaten dog still needing to eat, 
I love him. I don’t have to love you (thank

god), but I am able to not hate you. 
Because of him. 
In spite of yourselves. 

and him.  

© 2020 Deborah E. Moore, All Rights Reserved

Harvest Moon 2020

I built a fire from the trimmings
of the honeysuckle which threatened
to devour the right corner of
my front yard, by the street,
almost chewing my neighbor’s 
mailbox. Most of the limbs were 
dead, and the live ones had a few
days to season, leaves still 
attached, ready to crackle the 
blaze to life. I started with the lined
notebook paper holding my notes from
yesterday’s class, now obsolete. I
don’t save notes from semester to
semester. When I lecture on topics as
dry as essay format and outlining and
works cited pages, the least I can do
is to bring the freshness of new life, thoughts
not yet ready for the woodpile, analogies and
strategies not yet prime for kindling. Then
I tore the lid flaps from a small cardboard
box, most recently the delivery vessel for
new pens, 0.7’s, Sharpies. I heard they glide
like Kristi Yamaguchi, so I opened the Amazon 
app on my smartphone, searched them, clicked 
“Buy Now,” and that was just Tuesday, and this 
is Thursday, and I have new pens. Then I 
opened and wadded a piece of junk mail
addressed to the previous occupant of 

the house I refer to as “mine,” or
“mine and the bank’s,” all the while 
knowing that this life is a dream
and everything I know of it will fade.
I stack the papers and lean the cardboard and
angle the leaved branches, and teepee the larger
pieces of wood that I offer to the Harvest
Moon.  Once the fire has a life of its own,
I toss a half-used bundle of white sage into
the hottest part, at least seven or eight smudges 
left in it, but I have two more bundles, 
and who says only the insides need cleansing,
besides it always sets off the smoke alarm, 
and it is a Harvest Moon after all, and there
should be an offering.  And the fire grows,
and the smoke seeps into the fabric of my
jacket, and from my seat, I can see the fire,
and just above it, the house, and just above
that, the moon.  And I contemplate the prayer
I wish to give to the neon sky, to the only 
thing I know that has seen all of it.  And 
I say these words to the closest part I can
see of God, the satellite of each soul and 
season, the grandmother moon of me and 
my mother and 
her mother and 
her mother,
heal my nation.” 

© 2020 Deborah E. Moore, All Rights Reserved