Tag Archive | Dan Wilcox

RED ALERT–a poem for the gloom-and-doom folks who think America’s never had it worse

I vowed that after the election, I’d stop writing about politics, but I’m afraid that’s a promise I’ll inevitably break. Last week I wrote this poem to read at the open mic at New World Home Cooking in Saugerties. The reading featured Therese Broderick and Alifair Skebe, both reading from their excellent new books, which I bought, since I believe authors should support other authors whenever possible. I recommend them both.

This monthly poetry event, held on third Thursdays, is organized by Leslie Gerber. He’s taking a winter’s break, but I hope the event will return soon. Meanwhile, there’s still Dan Wilcox’s Third Thursday open mic at the Social Justice Center in Albany.

Julie at Up the River launch April 2013

Reading at Poets Speak Loud at McGeary’s

If you’d like to hear me read this in person, come to Poets Speak Loud at McGeary’s next Monday night. My husband, Robb Smith, will be the feature.

The many open mics in our region provide a wonderful incentive to write new work, then come out and read it for a live audience and the instant gratification that comes from applause.


We’re on the verge of Armaggedon.

America’s on the edge ever since

Wisconsin tripped the scales to Trump in the electoral college

And plunged the country into red high-stakes alert.

Eggheads in the blue states are aghast.

Despite their computer-driven polls, their smug predictions,

They didn’t foresee this tsunami exploding

Out of the fly-over states and rustbelt cities

Of America’s heartland.

Me, I’m not surprised. I’m a Wisconsin cheesehead, after all,

McCarthy Laughing by Yale Joel

Senator Joe McCarthy (photo by Yael Joel)

Born in the state that spawned Joe McCarthy

And Jeffrey Dahmer. I remember scary grade school drills,

Sheltering beneath wooden desks with inkwells

And hinged fliptop lids, shielding our eyes

Against imagined radioactive glare

From mushroom clouds we watched in public service movies.

Fast forward to October, 1962, the Cuban missile crisis.

Fifteen days of panic. Sure we’d be blown to smithereens,

I begged my boyfriend to marry me, STAT. Day by day

We huddled by the tiny black and white TV,

Waiting for news of our annihilation. Already lovers,

We didn’t need to put a ring on it to make it real,

But marriage was the be all and end all in those cloistered years

Before the Beatles ushered in the Swinging Sixties.

Meanwhile in Flushing Meadows out in Queens,worlds-fair-1964

Robert Moses and his millionaire buddies

Were throwing up the 1964 World’s Fair atop the Corona Ash Dump

Immortalized in Fitzgerald’s Gatsby.

Crazy to plan ahead, I thought. The human race would be exterminated

Before the fair could open. And if by some miracle we survived,

I knew I’d never live past thirty.

Yet here I am at seventy-five. The human race has muddled through.

With any luck I’ll die of natural causes in a decade, two at most.

I won’t be here to witness the mass extinction

Brought on by human greed and folly.

Plagues, drought, floods, famines, and the battles that they’ll bring—

So many ways to trigger our destruction,

It boggles the mind, outstrips the imagination,

Puts the four horsemen of the Apocalypse to shame.


And so we meander on, blinded by our denial,four-horsemen-of-the-apocalypse

Until the media vomits up a demon.

Skin and hair of flaming orange,

Sprung from the towers of Mammon in Manhattan

To spew his venom and seduce

The denizens of the red-state heartlands into thinking

He actually gives a shit for their survival.

Everywhere I turn, everything I hear or read,

Proclaims America’s panic.

Look out! The sky is falling!

Disaster lurks at every turn inside the Beltway

Where all those monstrous politicians

Wallow in the swamp, gnashing their alligator teeth

And chomping down on liberals.

The true blue states on both our coasts

Will fall into the oceans

While the right’s red tide rolls forward,

Drowning those who dare to fight it.

But me, I’m much too old to panic.

Somehow we made it through the age of nuclear terror

And lived to tell the tale to those who care to listen.

I hope and pray our country will survive

The bloody red onslaught of the coming years,

And come out even stronger in the end.

I may wield my words in the coming struggle,

But our children and their children will have to bear

The burden of the battle.

As for me, as Phil Ochs sang before he killed himself,

I ain’t marching anymore.



Author of the Year! Unexpected but not quite out of the blue

Eldercide (2008)Tuesday night I got a totally unexpected phone call informing me I’ve been chosen by the Friends of the Albany Public Library to be honored for “Local Book and Author of the Year.” They want to showcase me and my mystery Eldercide at a luncheon on November 14th. What’s more, they love the title and don’t want me to change the name, at least not before the luncheon.

For most of this year, I’ve been planning to retitle the book Evening Falls Early and to tone down the cover illustration in hopes of attracting more readers. I’ve done quite a few panels and signings, primarily with the Mavens of Mayhem, our local chapter of Sisters in Crime, and I’ve found that while some folks love the title and subject, many more pass it by or react negatively. The blurb on the back begins as follows:

When quality of life declines with age and illness, who decides if you’re better off dead? Nursing supervisor Claire Lindstrom suspects a killer is making the final judgment call for the clients of Compassionate Care.

Some readers have told me the book’s theme hits too close to home because of their own experiences, while others – especially those over 60 – say they hate the word “elder.” One bookstore owner has refused to carry it because she finds it “ghastly,” but has said she’d carry it once I changed the title. I guess she’ll be out of luck, because I’m sticking with the original version after all. Committee chair Joe Krausman told me that one of the factors that gave me the winning votes was the book’s relevance to important social issues confronting the nation today, especially regarding health care reform and the treatment of the elderly.

The subtitle of my blog is “Mystery novels with a social conscience,” and that description is right on target. It’s a huge relief to give up the charade of masquerading as a writer of cozies. Besides, although I like the title Evening Falls Early, it sounds a bit too much like a vampire novel. As Rick Nelson sang, “You can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself.”

Although this honor took me completely by surprise, it didn’t come totally out of the blue. I’ve been laying the groundwork for several years, and I’d like to share a bit of the process in hopes it may prove useful to other aspiring writers.

I’ve been writing poetry since 2002. The initial impetus came from the chance to publish in my Unitarian Universalist congregation’s literary magazine, Oriel. Poet Therese Broderick was editor at the time, and I loved seeing my work in print. Before long I was reading my work at open mics throughout the Capital District, and especially in Albany.

Gradually I became a recognized figure on the local scene, and once I’d self-published my novels, I began bringing them to all my poetry readings. I didn’t sell many – people don’t tend to spend much at open mics – but some of the right people bought them. Four of those poets just happened to be on the Friends of the Albany Public Library committee, a group of a dozen or so people who chose from among ten or more possible contenders. Maybe  not so coincidentally, the same four – Dan Wilcox, Gene Damm, Joe Krausman and Sylvia Barnard – are friends of mine on Facebook, where I post frequent links to my blogs, so perhaps that’s helped keep me at the forefront of their minds.

Last year Gene became president of the library group, which has a weekly book discussion. Dan has an annual New Year’s Day open house, and at this year’s party I lent Gene copies of both my books, asking if they’d consider me for one of their weekly sessions. Months went by, and I heard nothing. With my usual lackadaisical approach to marketing, I didn’t follow up, although I did consider asking for the books back. Then came last night’s phone call from Joe.

The moral of the story? Persistent networking can pay off – especially if you’re enjoying the process of becoming part of an artistic community and not looking for immediate payback. I’m hoping the same will prove true in the online writing community. Meanwhile, “the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.”*

*Congratulations to Jane Kennedy Sutton, author of The Ride, for identifying the group that sang this as Timbuk 3. That’s such an obscure answer, it’s gotta be right, so I’m not even bothering to Google it.