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Spirit & Place

I’m grateful to have been asked to participate in Indy’s long running public festival!

Here’s a review of the program that includes two of my poems. Enjoy.

In the New World

I appreciate having an occasion to share this poem at the recent University High School Black Graduation event. These young people will be the creators of a new world.


You can feel the changes

As the people begin to move

From Earth’s every corner

Bringing with them hope and strength

Knowing their dreams can soon take flight

In the new world they will create

You can see the changes

As the people begin to rise

Loosed from the shackles of fear

Breaking the bonds of ignorance

Rejecting the power of separation

In the new world they will create

You can hear the changes

As the people begin to sing

Songs of courage and strength

New as a baby’s cry

Old as the language of life

In the new world they will create

You can be the changes

As the people begin to build

Bridges from one to all

Forged from peace and justice

Raised on love and truth

In the new world we will create

© Gayle Force Press 2008

The New Adam

Noah tells everyone 

He’s the new Adam

Father of an original world

What he never says out loud

The reason he drinks

Is because now

There’s only one murderer on Earth

Noah tells everyone 

He’s the new Adam

Noah knows he’s Cain

© Gayle Force Press 2020

She’s Gone

I have lots of favorite days every year.

Rachel’s birthday, my first Drunk Day during summer break, 46118 Christmas… Those are all beautiful days for me every year.

Today is always the worst.

My mom died on October 1, 2005.

Rachel and I bought a car that day. It’s the first and only new car either of us have ever owned. We drove to my parents’ house where Rachel, my dad and I talked about the car, discussed the first six weeks of my new life as a high school teacher and had as normal a conversation as is possible when someone is dying of cancer in the big bedroom.

Dad and I spent part of the afternoon in that bedroom talking about our plans for the next stage of Mom’s care. We came to some helpful decisions and made sure Mom was warm; we shared lots of laughs and more than a handful of tears and rubbed Mom’s feet and arms; we talked about how well we could continue making good choices for her and discussed how we could take care of each other.

A couple hours after I left, Dad called to tell me Mom was dead.

My initial thought was confusion; I didn’t know what he meant. When he repeated himself (Even now I am sooo sorry I asked him to say it a second time…), I squealed. I groaned. I uttered a primal, urgent sound that I’ve never heard before or since. It was the sound of my soul being sucked out of my body.

Apparently I was on autopilot as I started driving back to Mills Road. I sped like I believed I could somehow manage to hold on to something of my mother if I just arrived quickly enough.

The last thing I clearly remember from that entire day was thinking how mad Mom would be if I killed myself driving recklessly on 465.

I think I slowed down.

In these fifteen years since, I’ve lived a wonderful life. I have been blessed beyond measure by gifts of love I didn’t quite know existed before they came into my life. And even the heartbreaks of continued living have reminded me how much I continue to love the people in my life. Those in the present and in the past.

And every single day, I miss my mommy.

Today is always the worst.

Stephen A on Steve Nash

This take was fascinating for me to see, especially from Stephen A.
I love that the world of sports has worked so hard in the past few months to lift up inequality but this just isn’t one of the moments that applies. At least not in the way SAS suggests. Not in the NBA.
The same basic situation (getting a head coaching gig with no coaching experience) has happened for lots of Black coaches. Most recently it was probably Jason Kidd. The best and most prominent Black coach in the NBA is Doc Rivers and he had the same kind of job handed to him as did Steve Kerr, the most successful coach in the last decade.
I appreciate that we’re having the conversation but this focus may mean we’re still missing the actual core reason BIPoC usually *do* miss out on opportunities. This hire is about the privilege of relationship, not Whiteness. It’s not quite nepotism but it is about access. Nash and the Nets GM Marks are longtime friends. (That friendship was probably furthered by them both being White non-Americans on their Suns teams so race keeps showing up. It almost always shows up.) People tend to favor those they already know. Decision makers are still usually White and the people they know best are usually White. There’s nothing nefarious but this insular cycle is very real and incredibly powerful.
In this moment, we should also recognize the power of the NBA athlete. As much as Marks loves Nash, the most important people in the Nets organization are Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. They both have positive relationships with Nash too. Without their input, there’s no chance Nash would have this job.
Again, the theme is not race, but connection. I’d love to see us spend energy figuring out how more of us can connect. Especially for those of us to whom access to power is usually unavailable. 

Over the Ohio



The water is wide

Littered with empty bodies

Once young old weak and strong

Mingled with fish and sledge

Along with the memories of those

Who made it over the Ohio


To a new home of hope

No land but how brave

Promising to remain 

North of the river

Away from pattyrollers 

Somehow, finally free


Their lucky descendant

Starts driving faster

As I take a bridge

One of several I’ll cross

Just hoping for fun tonight

In Cincy or Louisville


Leaving Kentucky for Ohio

Trading South for North 

Simply signs on the highway

Beneath the shining images  

Pointing me to a downtown

Or a floating casino


Nothing calls to attention

The history or the bodies

Still and real below me

Trapped in the Ohio

Permanently, without memories

Somehow, finally free


© Gayle Force Press 2012

A poem by Franklin Oliver



My Blackness 



I wear My Blackness like a cape

Like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman 

No, she doesn’t always wear a cape.

Her daily life isn’t a special occasion I guess. 


I wear My Blackness like a cape

Like Hawkgirl, Thor, Spiderman

Except no he doesn’t wear one

’cause he’s always caught up in a web

Like I am

But he creates his own webs

While I get stuck in someone else’s

With My Blackness flying all around me 


I wear My Blackness like a cape

’cause Ric flair is the greatest of all time

But he’s also the Nature Boy and his robe tells you it’s true.

Same as I’m telling you about my life

and this heavy fucking cape around my neck 


See, I wear My Blackness like a cape

Because that weight makes me stronger and braver and prouder and bolder

than you could ever understand.  


I wear My Blackness like a cape

Because It reminds me that on any

Tuesday night or Friday morning

I might need a cape to protect me from the rest of the human race. 


I wear My Blackness like a cape

Because some folks still pretend that they just don’t see

The very first thing they notice about me. 


I wear My Blackness like a cape

Because It helps define me for me.

Because It contains multitudes.

And because I love it. 



© Gayle Force Press 2020

A poem by Franklin Oliver 



Justified Use of Force (for DaDon)


Every year there are

Untold more of us

An Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean,

Eric Garner, Tamir Rice or me


Then a loud clamor

Our broken faces on TV

We ask so many questions

That no one’s forced to answer


With sympathy’s short half-life

Most just wait for the noise to stop

So the questions

Can disappear once again


Just like us

In our lives

And our deaths




© Gayle Force Press 2020

A poem by Franklin Oliver




Hunted and sought

Captured then bought 

Still we do survive 


Shackled and chained

Whipped to be trained

Still we do survive 


Raped and abused

Scarred, misused 

Still we do survive 


Worked just like dogs

Fed worse than hogs

Still we do survive 


Freed then discarded 

Our progress retarded

Still we do survive 


Separate but equal 

Slavery’s sequel 

Still we do survive 


The Movement fights

For basic rights

Still we do survive 


A change from the past 

With “Free At Last”

Still we do survive 


Dreams still deferred

Our consciences stirred 

Still we do survive 


The POTUS is Black

So racists fight back 

Still we do survive 


A Movement anew

Now what will we do


More than just survive 



© Gayle Force Press 2019

A poem by Franklin Oliver