Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Free Speech Canto LIII By Michael Ceraolo

Free Speech Canto LIII

She was born Charlotte Anita Whitney
(she was always called by her middle name)
in Oakland, California in 1867,
she could be used as a textbook example
of what was called privilege even then:
several ancestors came on the Mayflower;
others came only a few years later,
one who was among the founders of Harvard
There were Revolutionary War officers,
                                             public officials
(including by marriage a Supreme Court justice)
on both sides of the family during
the ensuing two-hundred-plus years

She graduated not only from high school
but also from college (Wellesley),
                                                 placing her
among the small fraction of Americans who did so
And after college she continued the traditions
of charitable and public-service work
she was radicalized by what she saw
and joined the Socialist Party
when she was in her mid-40s

In January 1919
California enacted a law
banning 'criminal syndicalism',
the purpose of which,
to the law's sponsor, was to
"stop the propaganda of an organization
known as the Industrial Workers of the World"
because the organization advocated
"a change in industrial ownership or control"

Anita Whitney was not,
                                  and had never been,
a member of that proscribed organization,
she was one of the founding members
of the California branch
of the Communist Labor Party,
had been created by a schism
in the Socialist Party over the
Bolshevik revolution and other issues
The state Party's founding meeting
took place on November 9, 1919,
received much press coverage

On November 28, 1919
she gave a lecture at the Hotel Oakland
to another organization she had helped to found,
the Oakland Center of the California Civic League
(the police chief had pressured the League
to cancel Whitney's appearance,
the audience voted 94-48
to hear her speak),
                             and she
was arrested immediately after the speech
when she started to leave the hotel

"It is not I
but the constitutional rights of all of us
that are on trial"
those rights lost at trial
for a number of reasons:
her attorney died during the trial
and she was denied the opportunity
to replace him with counsel
she had confidence in;
much irrelevant information
was allowed to be entered as evidence;
and the jury did not want to acquit
on all charges,
                       because that
"would have been equivalent to saying
that the jury sanctioned the I.W.W.
and the Communist Labor Party
believed them to be lawful, worthy organizations"

As the law mandated,
Anita was sentenced to one-to-fourteen years in prison

Two years later,
the District Court of Appeal
upheld her conviction

The state Supreme Court twice refused
to hear a further appeal

A few more years later,
the U.S. Supreme Court
heard oral argument,
decided not to decide,
decided to rehear the case,
heard oral arguments a second time,
seven years after the end of the criminal trial,
unanimously upheld her conviction
for violating the 'criminal syndicalism' law

A month after the final outcome was decided,
the governor pardoned her,
having served only a minimal amount of the sentence

Criminal syndicalism laws wouldn't be overturned
for more than forty years, and California would finally
get around to repealing the law in 1991

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Little Blue Devil by Neil Ellman

Little Blue Devil


(after the painting by Paul Klee)



Born a devil

to confound the world

with irony

turn sins to virtues

and innocence to crimes

none can dissemble 

my methods or my words.


I could lie as well

as a flame deceives a moth

play my hand without a tell     

and like a mimic octopus

change colors in a shake

I came as the Messiah

but stayed the Antichrist.


If you wish to know me

or my name

and recognize my face     

among the milling crowd

never look me in the eye.

Neil Ellman is a poet from New Jersey.  He has published numerous poems, more than 1,000 of which are ekphrastic and written in response to works of modern art, in print and online journals, anthologies and chapbooks throughout the world.  He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of the Net.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Free Speech Canto LII by Michael Ceraolo

Free Speech Canto LII

The people of the Book
(no, not THAT Book,
                                the Book
that is the McDonald's of media
in the early twenty-first century;
Billions Served)
                         claim to
"Empower you to express yourself"
and also claim to
"err on the side of allowing content"
only a couple paragraphs later they state
"We make it easy for people to report
potentially violating content"

And so a poet
(here identified only as J)
who had posted a poem on her page
that was erotic though not remotely explicit
had her account temporarily suspended
because some of the professionally offended
(alleged friends no less)
complained the poem violated the Book's
Community Standards
She was found guilty and put in the Book's jail
until she removed the poem

(definition of Community Standards

- Censorship,
it doesn't call itself that,
preferring obscurantism)

she was now one of the billions so served

Friday, June 8, 2018

Poetry by Lynn Long

Upon a pedestal 
I placed your love
Higher than the 
moon above
Believing the light
that shone within
Ever bright, could 
never dim
Basking in its
shimmering glow
I gave you my
heart, you took 
my soul
For, alas, I see, 
as the light 
slowly fades
You now look down 
Onto the love 
I gave

Upon a pedestal
I placed your love
Forgetting my own
whilst looking above

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

In Harmony by Joanne Olivieri

In Harmony

poem by Joanne Olivieri

artwork by my friend K.C.Chow at the Hong Kong Arts Center, Hong Kong.

Our bodies are fined tuned instruments

pulsating in rhythmic accord

to a beat of frenzied fusion

through erotic syncopation

and instrumental friction

our bodies harmonize.