Excerpts From Dancing In Dissent: Poetry For Activism
as well as poems written since the book's publication.


working the clay


what is it that's not being said?

why is it the news is not really news?

is it because the knows only hype the no's?

the eyes only look the other way?

no real truth about the greed that robs,

that felons our schools, cutting funds, fogging futures,

no real facts like the two keystone state judges

pocketing bribes from pennsylvania prisons

in return for long term sentences foisted on unsuspecting young...


could this be the source of our collective discontent?

are you driven to distraction as I am, Miss Daisy

by weapons of mass distraction,

the painted mask,

the disney world portrait

over a grisly world scene

sensed away from outrage

cajoled away from action

reversing revolution


what is it that's not being said?

could be capitalism is broken?

democracy remains a spoken token?

children kill children in our streets

politicos kill education

smoking guns, class war heat


what is it that you're not saying,

don't look the other way,

mickey mouse is not your savior

language is your clay

sculpt young brother,

sculpt young sister,


sculpt your clay...


Jim Moreno  (Summer 2009)



Palms Up


Friday morning Halloween

Last poetry workshop for the day

In Juvey Hall,

A staff teacher catches my

attention, gives me a small blue stickem

with the name of a student and his cell block:

“Mohammed in unit 400 would like to share a few

poems and get feedback”, it requests,

So I walk into the bowels of this youth jail

The teens are settling in to an early lunch

The goblins of loneliness lurk in the shadows

and cracks,

the witches of time drag on clocks' second hands

quicksands of time, second hand mud moving at minute hand speed,

I find the young poet after crossing two electric-locked doors,

The guard tells me I can stand in the hall and talk

with the ward after he unlocks the door.

The young black man sits on a mattress

with text books framing the opaque window

no toilet, no bedframe, no fresh air, no hope in his young face,

styrofoam lunch waiting on his prison bed

and I can't remember him? which class? which campus? which time?

He reads a breeze through the trees poem and I shine his

words because I am praying for him.

His face so young and I don't want to know

what his crime is, the crime is that it is Halloween

and he is not out in freedom enjoying being young,

I ask him to read the poem again and it is good.

He has a unique stanza form on the page,

and I tell him I like his creativity.

He reads another poem and then asks me if

I'd like to hear a poem from his favorite book?

I say yes and he produces the collected verse of Langston Hughes

I tell him I'm in the Langston Hughes Poetry Circle

and he nods. He reads the poem Little Old Letter after

hopping off the bed and moving to the door

so I can read with him and help him with words,

he tells me he reads this Langston poem over and over,

I taste tears when he reads:

I never felt so lonesome

since I was born black,

It feels like he is my son,


black angels...

50,000,000 black angels

50,000,000 black Middle Passage Angels

perch on my shoulders shouting


and my jail blues son shows me another

book he likes

and we talk about poetry,

about life...

I tell him we are more alike than different.

I tell him I wish society wasn't so ignorant.

I ask him to hold his palm up.

I hold my palm up next to his

and announce

palms up we are the same color,

I ask him to put his palms down

and I hold my palm down next to his.

Why does society call attention to palms down differences

I protest - - when both colors are beautiful

I flip my palm up again and he mimics my motion

Now we are the same color again.

He asks me if I will visit him again?

I tell him I'll come back next Friday...

We shake hands same colors touching

contrast colors smiling

Langston Hughes approving,

racist hate ebbing

goblins of loneliness surrendering,

sands of time flowing,

I tell him if he will write in this tiny room

it will get bigger,

I tell him if he will read in this studio room

it will get bigger,

I tell him if he makes this his writing room

he will grow and the room will grow

and this poem about a letter that takes a life

will change to a poem that gives new life.

I ask him what classroom I've taught him in,

he says I've never been his teacher but

he heard about me and wanted to meet me,

and one more time poetry performs a miracle,

one more time poetry transforms,

and I am humbled in the presence of spirit

I don't understand,

but I know for sure spirit waits,

poetry spirit waits... to dance with you.


Jim Moreno Fall 2008


gripping thorns: for jennifer


you say I’m not an american

because I disagree with this forked tongue,

two bloodless election coups (except for the innocents slaughtered in haiti,

iraq, and palestine), small p president―capital b, capital s bush.

but I say my dissent is when I’m most american,

when I disagree, when we disagree with him.

we are most american when we shout out in dissent,

like thomas jefferson, like john hancock,

shouting out, declaring freedom,

under threat of hanging be hanged.

shouting out like John Brown,

deploring the suffering of slavery,

shouting out like Crazy Horse,

bravely fighting the slaughter of his People,

fighting the theft of his land by this same

United States government who had him chained,

then bayoneted in the back.

his people hid his body,

and no one knows where Crazy Horse is buried.

shouting out like Sojourner Truth,

wishing she could have saved a thousand

more slaves, if only she could have

convinced them they were slaves.

shouting out like Frederick Douglas,

how the whip drew his blood in rivulets, then

rivers, his screams not withstanding.

shouting out like soldier of freedom Harriet Tubman

code name Moses―

whispered with hopes of the People,

humming freedom songs to celebrate

her iron will insisting, demanding freedom,

freedom, freedom, freedom,

say click clack, underground railroad track,

shouting out like Rosa Parks, that she

was just too damned tired for anymore of Jim Crow,

that she would take a stand for little brother Emmit

and keep her seat.

shouting out like Jane Fonda exposing muffled cries

of Vietnam’s babies, echoing genocide in valleys of torture and death.

Shouting out like Angela Davis insisting on sweet freedom,

echoing cries of outrage from the strange fruit pen of Ida Bell Wells…

I say I am an American echoing Dr. King’s dissent

as a patriot with great love for my country.

I say I am an American echoing Dr. King’s

great sadness at ignorant, arrogant leaders

who miss the mark framed by founding fathers

at the Second Continental Congress.

I say I am an American and I know where Crazy Horse is buried.

he’s buried in the soul of the unions who fight for a living wage.

he’s buried in the strong hands of black brothers who built this country as slaves.

he’s buried in the strong backs of brown brothers & sisters who harvest the food to feed this country, brown brothers & sisters who cry, “si, se puede!”, with sweaty, homeless hands.

he’s buried in the minds of weary soldiers who refuse to obey orders that betray freedom.

he’s buried in the tears of the kind mothers whose children die in the Middle East.

he’s buried in the outrage of grieving fathers who buried their war dead sons

as this blue-blooded president nixed press coverage of their return

( a thousand flag-covered caskets are bad for the president’s image, you know?)

he’s buried in the insult of families bathed in sorrow, who have not seen

their callous president attend one funeral of our over 1,000 killed.

Crazy Horse is buried in the brave hearts of men, as Dr. King said,

who fight injustice anywhere knowing it affects justice everywhere.

Crazy Horse is buried in the smiles of brilliant women

who live, love, and work equally with men.

great warrior Crazy Horse is buried in the sweet breaths

of slumbering children who trust us to create a world that someday

will allow them to awaken under warm blankets

with stomachs strangers to hunger, with minds secure,

because momma and papa are living in full democracy

free from violent oppression.

I know where Crazy Horse is buried,

I know where he is buried….

Crazy Horse is buried in you.

Crazy Horse lives in you...


winter 2004







                                                                “I chase the setting sun hoping not to lose it,

Stupid me,

Exhausted, I turn to watch the rising full moon,

Chasing me.”

Rev. Kenji Akahoshi. 

The Great Consolation

We've got work to do!
And have some fun

and goosebumps too. 

Discover the me in the we,

That balance is the great constellation.

The great Konsho,

The gong that starts your ceremony.

Your poetry sees what you cannot see,

Your poetry says what you cannot say,

And so, says it for you.

Says it as you,

And you begin to love without fear,

You begin to love as if there had never been fear,

Your poetry can be that good.
Your poetry is that good.
Your voice ― medicine for you.
Your voice ― medicine for the world.

Your voice ― the way you see things,

You are here tonight

Because prose is not enough,

You are here tonight

Because the sprawl of prose,

Despite the pedants rant,

Is never enough.

You can only live with observable truths.

Poetry is like that.

How can we access these truths?


We live with unobservable spirit,

Poetry is the great consolation,

One with your spirit:

Invisible radio waves of compassion

Poetry is the sunset & the moonrise,

Poetry is the goddess of the heart,

The quiet reflective light of the moon.

Receiving this light I breathe in & breathe out,

Receiving this light I relax achieve, suspend calculation,

And I―the stupid one― fearing abandon, chase the setting sun

While the rising winter moon

Chases me.

Jim Moreno Winter 2013


contemporary folly tales

the king was a fool...

the violins played "the king is a fool" songs,

the horse neighed:  "beware the royal fool!"

even venus commissioned a sign to warn on fool moon nights,

the poor people didn't know about their foolish monarch,

only the earth children knew...

the earth child had access to the magic ship

where every voyage ended with a placing of secrets

before each one in such a way that thinned out and made shiny

regal lies of competence in the king...

of course, everyone in the queendom respected

the earth child whose second name was "choose again".

the people knew an earth child home was a place

of overflowing dreams, a place of acquire feelings,

a place of love, a place to love.

it was only a matter of time before the fool/king

would be invited to an earth child home,

and there, in great mystery, he would shed

his cloak of folly in war, in natural disasters,

and in speech, it was there, in great mystery,

the king would discover his heart.

summer 2006




damn you make it difficult

to practice Buddhist compassion

with your hack war pimp corporate pirate

self greedily plundering your way to perdition,

shouting patriotic non sequiturs masking

exponential profits gleaned from industry

of misery, theft, corruption,

insider trading, & sleight of hand accounting,

betraying people's lives, starting with theft

of lives of 144, mostly brothers of color,

murdered by you & your sleazy racist machine

when you were governor of the lone star state.

damn you make it difficult to practice





peaceful meditation

I'm afraid to close my eyes when you are awake,

you might pull off another sleazy election robbery

where you engineer discriminatory disenfranchisement

on brothers and sisters of Africa.

damn you make it hard to practice nonviolence

the way you socialize the costs and privatize the profits,

manipulating numbers, utilizing six multinational mega giants

who lie, prevaricate, propagandize and allow you

to arrogantly swagger towards war

against starving people already living in ashes

and you stupidly misread the frigging cue card.

damn you make it difficult to practice guided meditation

as you proselytize your euro-christian, white, far right agenda,

when it comes to the god of profit, you are chief priest.

when it comes to People's lives, you are bonehead clueless.

markets are not more important than People!

markets are not more important than People!

now is the time we'll turn the tide against twenty year onslaught

against our freedoms by high tech plutocrats.

you are the terrorist holding weapons of mass distraction,

you are the enemy of freedom.

you are the foe of democracy.

you are the terrorist we need to arrest right now!

damn, you make it difficult to be free.


(Thanks to Progressive Magazine, Sept. 2002, pps. 30-37 on the anniversary of 9/11.)


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