Category Archives: Arts: Poetry

Redbud in Review (A walk with Emily)

Dear March—Come in—(1320)

Dear March—Come in—
How glad I am—
I hoped for you before—
Put down your Hat—
You must have walked—
How out of Breath you are—
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest—
Did you leave Nature well—
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me—
I have so much to tell—

I got your Letter, and the Birds—
The Maples never knew
that you were coming—
I declare –
how Red their Faces grew—

But March, forgive me—
And all those Hills
you left for me to Hue—

There was no Purple suitable—
You took it all with you—

Who knocks? That April—
Lock the Door—
I will not be pursued—
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied—
But trifles looked so trivial
As soon as you arrived.

That blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame—

A Light Exists In Spring — (85)

By Emily Dickinson

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to thee.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.


Photos from Durham NC

A Response to a Comment: Who Is this Quaker named “Wlliam Leddra”?

In a  June blog post here about virulent persecution of LGBTQ folk in Uganda based on a draconian new “kill the gays” law, a correspondent known to us as “William Leddra” issued a call to Quakers, who have two yearly meetings in Uganda, and affiliations with Friends United Meeting [aka FUM] based in Richmond, Indiana, to take up the work of speaking out and defending LGBTQ persons in Uganda (and other Africa countries where they are also persecuted). The call to Friends and others is also to exert pressure toward the repeal of this dreadful repressive legislation.

Reader David Howard Albert, in a comment posted earlier, said,

“I have no idea who this ‘William Leddra ‘ is or purports to be – I have never heard of him, he has never contacted us, and he seems ignorant of the efforts of more than 40 Quaker Meetings and Churches.”

Indeed, “Leddra” would be ignorant of the current plight of the persecuted in Uganda. That’s because the historical William Leddra was a Quaker, who was hanged on Boston Common in 1661, one of four known to history as “The Boston Martyrs”.  (Yes, being  Quaker in Boston then was in fact a hanging offense. ) The best-known of this group is Mary Dyer, of whom more is here.

Leddra, banished and then hanged for the same offense as Dyer, is less known; but he ended up just as dead, only for the offense of being true to his convictions. (“Our” correspondent “Leddra” feels pseudonymity is a prudent security precaution today, as “promoting” LGBTQ  life in Uganda is now punishable by a 20-year prison sentence.)

Fortunately, what happened in the wake of the Boston Quaker Martyrs’ sacrifice was turned into memorable verse by the famed Quaker poet Whittier, a later native of Massachusetts, in his poem, The King’s Missive.

We take this opportunity to reprint the poem below, as it seems to us that there are strong contemporary echoes and resonance in it. Last month, FUM held an international conference in Kenya, which included Ugandan Friends. All participants were under strict instructions not to speak about the new law; or if they were LGBTQ, not to be visible or vocal about that reality. (Those keep silence instructions are reprinted in the postscript to “Leddra’s” column.)

Negative international reactions to Uganda’s “kill the gays” law continue to accumulate.

Here’s Whittier’s comment, from 1881:

The King’s Missive

John Greeleaf Whittier
UNDER the great hill sloping bare
To cove and meadow and Common lot,
In his council chamber and oaken chair,
Sat the worshipful Governor Endicott.
John Endicott

A grave, strong man, who knew no peer
In the pilgrim land, where he ruled in fear
Of God, not man, and for good or ill
Held his trust with an iron will.He had shorn with his sword the cross from out
The flag, and cloven the May-pole down,
Harried the heathen round about,

And whipped the Quakers from town to town.
Earnest and honest, a man at need
To burn like a torch for his own harsh creed,
He kept with the flaming brand of his zeal
The gate of the holy common weal.

His brow was clouded, his eye was stern,
With a look of mingled sorrow and wrath;
“Woe’s me!” he murmured: “at every turn
The pestilent Quakers are in my path!

Some we have scourged, and banished some,
Some hanged, more doomed, and still they come . . .

William Leddra, a Quaker banished on pain of death from Boston for “heresy.” He returned to the city and was hanged on Boston Common in May of 1661.

Fast as the tide of yon bay sets in,
Sowing their heresy’s seed of sin.

“Did we count on this? Did we leave behind
The graves of our kin, the comfort and ease
Of our English hearths and homes, to find
Troublers of Israel such as these?

Shall I spare? Shall I pity them? God forbid!
I will do as the prophet to Agag did
They come to poison the wells of the Word,
I will hew them in pieces before the Lord!”

The door swung open, and Rawson the clerk
Entered, and whispered under breath,
“There waits below for the hangman’s work
A fellow banished on pain of death–
Shattuck, of Salem, unhealed of the whip,
Brought over in Master Goldsmith’s ship
At anchor here in a Christian port,
With freight of the devil and all his sort!”

Twice and thrice on the chamber floor
Striding fiercely from wall to wall,
“The Lord do so to me and more,”
The Governor cried, “if I hang not all!
Bring hither the Quaker.” Calm, sedate,
With the look of a man at ease with fate,
Into that presence grim and dread
Came Samuel Shattuck, with hat on head.

“Off with the knave’s hat!” An angry hand
Smote down the offence; but the wearer said,
With a quiet smile, “By the king’s command
I bear his message and stand in his stead.”
In the Governor’s hand a missive he laid
With the royal arms on its seal displayed,
And the proud man spake as he gazed thereat,
Uncovering, “Give Mr. Shattuck his hat.”

He turned to the Quaker, bowing low,–
“The king commandeth your friends’ release;
Doubt not he shall be obeyed, although
To his subjects’ sorrow and sin’s increase.
What he here enjoineth, John Endicott,
His loyal servant, questioneth not.
You are free! God grant the spirit you own
May take you from us to parts unknown.”

So the door of the jail was open cast,
And, like Daniel, out of the lion’s den
Tender youth and girlhood passed,
With age-bowed women and gray-locked men.
And the voice of one appointed to die
Was lifted in praise and thanks on high,
And the little maid from New Netherlands
Kissed, in her joy, the doomed man’s hands.

And one, whose call was to minister
To the souls in prison, beside him went,
An ancient woman, bearing with her
The linen shroud for his burial meant.
For she, not counting her own life dear,
In the strength of a love that cast out fear,
Had watched and served where her brethren died,
Like those who waited the cross beside.

One moment they paused on their way to look
On the martyr graves by the Common side,
And much scourged Wharton of Salem took
His burden of prophecy up and cried
“Rest, souls of the valiant! Not in vain
Have ye borne the Master’s cross of pain;
Ye have fought the fight, ye are victors crowned,
With a fourfold chain ye have Satan bound!”

The autumn haze lay soft and still
On wood and meadow and upland farms;
On the brow of Snow Hill the great windmill
Slowly and lazily swung its arms;

Windmills on Old Boston Harbor

Broad in the sunshine stretched away,
With its capes and islands, the turquoise bay;
And over water and dusk of pines
Blue hills lifted their faint outlines. . . .

But as they who see not, the Quakers saw
The world about them; they only thought
With deep thanksgiving and pious awe
On the great deliverance God had wrought.
Through lane and alley the gazing town
Noisily followed them up and down;
Some with scoffing and brutal jeer,
Some with pity and words of cheer.

One brave voice rose above the din.
Upsall, gray with his length of days,
Cried from the door of his Red Lion Inn
“Men of Boston, give God the praise
No more shall innocent blood call down

The bolts of wrath on your guilty town.
The freedom of worship, dear to you,
Is dear to all, and to all is due.

“I see the vision of days to come,
When your beautiful City of the Bay
Shall be Christian liberty’s chosen home,
And none shall his neighbor’s rights gainsay.
The varying notes of worship shall blend
And as one great prayer to God ascend,
And hands of mutual charity raise
Walls of salvation and gates of praise.”

So passed the Quakers through Boston town,
Whose painful ministers sighed to see
The walls of their sheep-fold falling down,
And wolves of heresy prowling free.
But the years went on, and brought no wrong;
With milder counsels the State grew strong,
As outward Letter and inward Light
Kept the balance of truth aright.

The Puritan spirit perishing not,
To Concord’s yeomen the signal sent,
And spake in the voice of the cannon-shot
That severed the chains of a continent.
With its gentler mission of peace and good-will
The thought of the Quaker is living still,
And the freedom of soul he prophesied
Is gospel and law where the martyrs died.

Uganda, tragic home of many martyrs of today . . . Will Friends now raise their voice to help to drive this plague away?

When In Doubt: More Leonard Cohen

[NOTE: I’m a latecomer to Leonard Cohen fandom. His early songs seemed gloomy, slight and self-indulgent, his young voice nasal and whiny. I much preferred Bob Dylan then.

But when a good friend gave me his album “Democracy” thirty or so years later the title song and several others bowled me over: his voice had aged into a superb gravelly instrument, perfectly tuned to his mature melancholy. And there were so many lines and couplets and images in his poetry that became breathtaking, unforgettable. I realized I had grown largely indifferent to Dylan, and felt his Nobel was misplaced: it should have gone to the mystic of Montreal.

But if Leonard didn’t shrug off the  slight, the Zen-master Cohen would have, so what the hell? When I saw him live, in Brooklyn in 2013, he seemed completely real, and the performance meticulously rehearsed and intricately authentic.]

The Guardian — Oct. 3, 2022

Tim Adams

A Ballet of Lepers by Leonard Cohen review – intimations of immortality

A fascinating collection of early fiction foreshadows motifs and concerns that Cohen the performer later mined across decades

This collection of Leonard Cohen’s early fiction – a novella and 15 short stories, plus a play script – was all written between 1956 and 1961, before Cohen really thought of himself as a songwriter or performer. He didn’t release his first record until 1967, when he was 33. The bulk of the pieces might be classified as unpublished juvenilia except, of course, that the composer of Famous Blue Raincoat and Hallelujah was never wholly young and free of care.

The title piece, written when Cohen was 22 and doing postgraduate study in law at McGill University in Montreal, justifies the decision to bring these things to light and not only for the insights it offers into the artist that Cohen was to become. The novella is a strange confessional – it is hard to imagine Cohen writing in any mode other than the first person – involving a youngish office worker, his doomy occasional lover Marylin and the aged Jewish “Grampa” who unexpectedly arrives to share his one-room apartment in Montreal.

It has a subliminally rhyming opening that, you might say, sets the gravelly spoken-word tone for all the 60 years to come: “My grandfather came to live with me. There was nowhere else for him to go. What had happened to his children? Death, decay, exile – I hardly know. My own parents died of pain. But I must not be too gloomy, at the beginning, or you will leave me and that, I suppose, is what I dread the most. Who would begin a story if he knew it were to end with a climbing chariot or a cross?”

As ever in Cohen’s work, that inherited sense of anxiety and tragedy and religious weight of feeling – his uncle was the unofficial chief rabbi of Montreal, his maternal grandfather a famous rabbinical scholar – comes to be set against a dark wit and the intoxicating, troubling freedoms of the coming sexual revolution.

Marylin, the name itself a harbinger, matches the archetype of many of the author’s subsequent muses, idealised, unattainable and finally discarded. The comedy of their initial couplings, in which she is both his addiction and his torment and where their pillow talk occasionally catches cadences of the Song of Solomon, can sound like early Philip Roth. Their affair, though, is undone by the presence of Grampa, spitting and shitting and cursing and hitting out with his cane, in whose demented company Cohen’s narrator loses his own inhibition and starts to match his house guest in violence and taboo-breaking.

What follows is a curious and compulsive examination of the boundaries of honesty and cruelty. Taking his grandfather’s example, the narrator becomes briefly and disturbingly sadistic towards a stranger, and then to his lover and his landlady; a sort of bohemian Canadian Raskolnikov. Cohen made four full drafts of the book before he gave up on it. You can see why the novella – poetically astute and quite psychologically unhinged – never found a publisher in the mid-50s, but also why Cohen considered it a more interesting book than his subsequent more conventional novels, The Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers, of nearly a decade later.

Cohen performing in Brooklyn, 2013.

That trajectory might also be traced in the stories that follow in this collection. Some were written in Montreal, later ones after Cohen had moved to Hydra island in Greece. There are familiar refrains, connection and lack of connection, intimacy and all its detailed discontents. One story is concerned with the complicated effects of a wife’s leg-shaving ritual on her husband’s libido. Here’s an exchange from A Week Is a Very Long Time that might serve to summarise the Montreal years: “She closed her eyes against his arm, ‘Oh, it’s been a beautiful week.’ He said, ‘You’re beautiful.’ She said, ‘Will we ever do this again?’ ‘Maybe you’re too beautiful,’ he said, because he didn’t want to say anything else.”

At the same time as he was writing these stories Cohen was also writing poetry, with more success, including, after his time in Greece, some of the lyrics – Suzanne and Sisters of Mercy – that would appear on his first album. Reading the final stories here is to witness his attention wandering from the form; what he calls in one his “jukebox heart” was already elsewhere.

A Ballet of Lepers by Leonard Cohen is published by Canongate (£20). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at


NC Drag Queen Story Hour Goes On; Arrests stop Anti-Pride Riot in Idaho

Blow a kiss and strike a pose: Drag Queen Story Hour goes on as planned at Apex Pride

Raleigh NC News & Observer

The drag queen story hour is back on for this Saturday’s Pride Festival in Apex North Crolin, now that Equality NC has taken over after citing “disappointment” with town officials.

Reported by our media partner, ABC11 News. BY ABC11 Stormie Daie arrived at Saturday’s Apex Pride a few minutes late — event organizers said she had difficulty finding parking for her royal carriage — but like any good drag queen, she was fashionable in doing so.

Stormie Daie, a Durham-based drag queen, entered the Drag Queen Story Hour under the cover of her iridescent parasol, wearing a sparkly, light blue dress with puff sleeves. She walked through the crowd, waving to and greeting the dozens of children and adults gathered to see her, then sat down in her purple chair, ready to read.

Out of her rainbow-striped reusable tote bag full of books — one of many perks of the job, she said — Stormie Daie first selected “If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It,” a sing-along picture book that riffs on the popular kids’ song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

As she read the story aloud, the crowd of listeners joined in, blowing kisses and striking poses, as the book’s words instructed them to do.

Earlier this week, it seemed that Drag Queen Story Hour would not be included in this year’s Apex Pride, as the original sponsors of the event, the Apex Festival Commission, pulled the activity from the day’s line-up due to threats of violence. The activity was restored after another group, Equality NC, stepped in to sponsor Apex Pride in place of the Festival Commission, The News & Observer previously reported.

“It felt really important for us to hold down this space for the community, to work with folks who are supportive of the LGBTQ community, and make sure that the focus was not on the people who hate us, but the focus was on us and having these safe spaces,” Kendra R. Johnson, executive director of Equality NC, told The N&O at Saturday’s event.

Drag Queen Story Hour is a global organization that brings drag queens to libraries, schools, bookstores and other spaces to capture “the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood” and give children “glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.” The organization’s mission is to celebrate reading “through the glamorous art of drag.”

The Triangle-area chapter of Drag Queen Story Hour organized the activity for Apex Pride, bringing four drag queens, including Stormie Daie, to the event to read stories to children throughout the day.

Elise Chenoweth, director of the Triangle-area Drag Queen Story Hour, said the threats against the activity were “frustrating,” but she was glad the event went on as planned.

“We want kids to be able to take pride in themselves and their neighborhood,” Chenoweth said. “And no matter how different they feel, they can see themselves in someone, if only a book character or one of our readers.”

Stormie Daie read two other books to the crowd during the Story Hour: “’Twas the Night Before Pride,” about the anticipation and joy associated with yearly Pride Month events, and “My Rainbow,” about a mom who creates a rainbow wig for her transgender daughter.

As Stormie Daie read the books, kids and adults alike, many dressed in rainbow clothing, waved rainbow flags and cheered along. Amanda and Zach Prichard, who live in Apex, said they were already planning to attend Apex Pride with their children, Eleanor and Watson, before the controversy over the Story Hour activity. Eleanor Prichard, 7, who wore rainbow ribbons in her hair and had rainbow eye shadow on, was eager to get a photo with Stormie Daie after she finished her reading.

“We wanted to show our support for everybody in the community,” Zach Prichard said. “More importantly, we also wanted to show our kids what it means to support everybody of all kinds. We want to raise them to be very inclusive.”

When they heard about the threats of violence against the Story Hour and its organizers, the Prichards said they doubled-down on their decision to attend the event. “We didn’t want the negativity to win,” Zach Prichard said.

Washington Post: 31 tied to hate group charged with planning riot near LGBTQ event in Idaho

Police in Idaho arrested 31 people who had face coverings, white-supremacist insignia, shields and an “operations plan” to riot near an LGBTQ Pride event on Saturday afternoon. Police said they were affiliated with Patriot Front, a white-supremacist group whose founder was among those arrested.

Authorities received a tip about a “little army” loading into a U-Haul truck at a hotel Saturday afternoon, said Lee White, the police chief in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a city of about 50,000 near the border with Washington. Local and state law enforcement pulled over the truck about 10 minutes later, White said at a news conference.

Many of those arrested were wearing logos representing Patriot Front, which rebranded after one of its members plowed his car into a crowd of people protesting a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.

The group’s founder, Thomas Ryan Rousseau, was among those arrested, according to jail records. Like the others, Rousseau was arrested on a charge of criminal conspiracy to riot, a misdemeanor. The arrestees were held on $300 bail. Some of the other men arrested also have been linked to the group.

A man is detained with a group of 31 people who were charged with criminal conspiracy to riot, in Coeur d’Alene. (North Country Off Grid/YouTube/Reuters)

In photos and videos posted on social media, a group of men dressed in hats, sunglasses, white balaclavas and Patriot Front’s signature khaki pants were seen kneeling on the ground with their hands zip-tied behind their backs as police officers kept watch. An onlooker taunted the group, yelling, “Losers!”

White said the people were headed to City Park, which was hosting Pride in the Park, an event advertised as a “family-friendly, community event celebrating diversity and building a stronger and more unified community for ALL.” Organizers did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment from The Washington Post on Saturday evening, but they wrote in a post to the group’s Facebook page that it was a “successful” event.

The group, North Idaho Pride Alliance, urged people to “stay aware of your surroundings this afternoon and evening” in the city.

Authorities had been aware of online threats leading up to the weekend, White said, so police had increased their presence in the city’s downtown. Two SWAT teams and officers from the city, county and state assisted in the arrests.

The Panhandle Patriots, a local motorcycle club, had planned a “Gun d’Alene” event on the same day as Pride in the Park to “go head to head with these people,” an organizer said in April during an appearance with state Rep. Heather Scott (R).

The organizer was not identified by name in a video but wore a vest bearing the alias “Maddog” and the insignia of the Panhandle Patriots group. He lamented that the Pride gathering would be “allowed to parade through all of Coeur d’Alene,” saying that “a line must be drawn in the sand” against such LGBTQ displays. Scott did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post late Saturday.

In a news release posted on the group’s website, the Panhandle Patriots encouraged the community to “take a stand” against the LGBTQ “agenda.” It also suggested without evidence that “extremist groups” were trying to hijack the event to provoke violence and said the group would change its event name to “North Idaho Day of Prayer” in response.

Reached by phone late Saturday, a representative for the Panhandle Patriots declined to comment on the day’s events, telling The Post, “We are not answering questions right now.”

White did not mention a connection between the Panhandle Patriots event and the arrests. He said those arrested had come from several states “to riot downtown,” with riot gear, at least one smoke grenade and documents “similar to an operations plan that a police or military group would put together for an event.”

He did not see firearms at the scene of the arrest, he said, but emphasized the situation was “very fresh.”

However, firearms were present in the vicinity of the park, White said. Police had been in contact with the FBI “all day,” he said.

White noted that the authorities’ understanding of the situation was still developing and said at the news conference that law enforcement had not yet interviewed those arrested. Representatives for Patriot Front were unable to be reached for comment.

More charges are possible, White said. The first court appearances for those arrested will probably be on Monday, Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris said.