Carl Stilwell

Carl Stilwell


Carl Stilwell is a retired  teacher of Los Angeles City Schools. His poems have been published in Blue Collar Review, Canary, Lummox, November 3 poetry blog, Pearl, Prism, Revolutionary Poets Brigade–Los Angeles, Struggle and Verse-Virtual.  He won first place for best western in Golden Words 20-03-2004 Poetry Competition. He also has poems included in the anthologies, AN EYE FOR AN EYE MAKES THE WHOLE WORLD BLIND/POETS ON 911 and In the Arms of Words: Poems for Tsunami Relief.


Father Sky/Mother Earth

Freshman year in college
Outside TB sanitarium, north wind
from Arctic ices darkening purple skies
Blue-eyed preacher from Baptist university
stands in cowboy boots before plate glass
window along blanched beige wall

which separates student evangelistic team
from coughing and wheezing indigenous
inmates lying in or sitting upon hospital beds

In warm, earnest tone, he assures them though their sins
be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow through
the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ

Dark brown eyes in Ghost Dance trance
while we sing, “Just as I am”
standing on cold, concrete floor

above moist, crimson soil
of Oklahoma, Choctaw word for
Red Earth People

Thanking the Birds*

While Swift Eagle is taking his walk
on the Onondaga Reservation, he hears

sounds of boys playing in the bushes. “There’s
another one. Shoot it!” says one boy.

Swift Eagle pushes through the bush and sees

one boy holding a BB gun while his buddies
stand around a dead chickadee, robin and
several blackbirds.

“Ah,” he says, “I see you have been hunting.
Pick up your game and come with me.”

He leads the boys to a place where they can
build a fire and cook the birds.
He makes sure they say
a thank you to the spirits of the birds
before eating them.

As they eat
he tells stories. It is important he says
to be thankful to the birds for the gift
of their songs, their feathers and their
bodies as food.

The last thing he says,
“You know our creator gave the gift
of life to everything that was alive.

Life is a very sacred thing.
But our Creator knows
we have to eat to live.

That is why
it’s permitted to hunt
to feed ourselves.

So I understand
you boys must have been
very, very hungry to kill
these little birds.”

*A found poem from Keepers of the Earth, Native American Stories &
Environmental Activities for Children by Michael J. Caduto & Joseph Bruchac


Lake of the Angels

Sunday morning
Exit Westlake/MacArthur Park Metro station
On corner of Wilshire and Alvarado, street preacher in staccato Spanish
bullhorns concrete congregation to BEHOLD
the lamb of God who takes away EL PECADO DEL MUNDO
Who died in your place to save you from the eternal flames
of inferno once you accept JESUS CHRISTOS as your personal
lord and savior

At Intersection—
Autos reving particles of carbon dioxide behind and upto skies
pass by
pedestrians walking between 99¢ Store and sidewalk vendors
to gospel pitch

Enter park
Homeless guy on grass snores under classified section of LA Times
displaying colored photos of shining new car models for sale
Upon MacArthur Lake in white sun glare, rest
hundreds of seagulls poised like foreboding flock
of Hitchcock birds

Near center
underwater fountain sprays jets upward as in prayer for
a thirsty California

At northern edge
marine green waters lap against cement bank while bright-eyed
niño in fading Laker tee tosses tortilla bits to gray gosling
web-peddling before mama

On grassy knoll
on western end, local Marxists begin setting up tables for
free food distribution

Walk across Parkview
to UCLA Downtown Labor Center for study session,
“Converging Storms 2014: The Crisis of Energy,
Capitalism and Environment”


A Question to the “Pro-Life” Governor of Texas

do we kill people
who kill people
to show
that killing people
is wrong

and why,
if we kill people
who kill people
to show
that killing people
is wrong
are we four times more likely
to kill people
who kill white people
to show
that killing white people
is wrong
than we are people
who kill black people
to show
that killing black people
is wrong

and why,
if we spend six times more
to kill people
who kill people
than we do when we
imprison without parole people
who kill people

and why,
if killing people who kill people
deter people
from killing people
do countries
who kill people who kill people
to show
that killing people is wrong
have more
people who kill people
than countries who imprison
people who kill people
to show
that killing people is wrong

and why,
if our country has so many
people who believe in God
and so glories in the cross
on which Jesus was tortured
and killed
but that cross was how
Roman people tortured
and killed people
who they believed had done
something wrong

and why,
if you can’t fight fire
with fire
and two wrongs
never make
a right

and why,
if we kill people
who we sometimes
can’t really tell for certain
killed the people
we believed
they had killed
and since we are
not GOD
but people,

do we kill people
who kill people
to show
that killing people
is wrong?



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