When Kathy Kelly Went to Jail

By Gary Corseri

[Kathy Kelly is the co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She has traveled to Iraq and Gaza during wartime–to bear witness and give comfort. The author of “Other Lands Have Dreams,” she has been arrested more than sixty times at home and abroad, and written of her experiences among targets of U.S. military bombardment and among inmates of US prisons. In December, 2014, she was sentenced to 90 days in federal prison after she and Georgia Walker had attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the commander of Whiteman Air Force base, asking him to stop his troops from piloting lethal drone flights over Afghanistan from within the base. She began serving her sentence on January 23, 2015. ([email protected]) …]

When Kathy Kelly went to jail,
the land of the free, home of the brave
bent out of shape over deflated footballs;
O’Reilly railed at one of his guests
who dared to suggest that “American Sniper”
was not a really, really good show;
“black ice” blanketed Texas to New England
as 16-wheelers careened and caromed,
haphazardly killing all the way home.

She had tried to deliver:
a loaf of bread
and a letter
to Whiteman Air Force base
requesting they stop sending their drones
over the heads of Afghan kids
(and everyone else for that matter!).

A little past 60, small, with features chiseled
by wind and her will, she has lost count
of numbers assigned to her,
prison food regurgitated, times being ill,
for protesting wars for the sake of the children—
white, black, red, yellow, brown–
all her pretty ones,
forsaken by men pushing buttons in bunkers
at Whiteman or elsewhere;
in serpentine caverns, winding under
Pennsylvania Avenue;
or in boardrooms in London…
haphazardly killing all the way home.

“The mind-forged manacles” Blake wrote about
are what she’s standing fast against—
this wind-chiseled, Irish-Catholic girl,
who took Christ’s messages to heart:
to feed the multitudes with Truth;
to suffer for the sake of it;
to alleviate the suffering
so loaves and fishes multiply.

She cannot help but see
the commonality of life:
a kid walking down a street
in Ferguson, Missouri,
or Kabul, or Fallujah, or Gaza–
walking in a sniper’s crosshairs,
slipping on black ice.

The “summer soldiers and
sunshine patriots”
send boys and girls to kill for them—
other people’s boys and girls.
Ranters rant about 100-year wars,
“bad guys and good guys”
(like children playing video games);
billionaires cavort on multi-decked yachts
while the masses rot under chem-trailed skies;
puffer-fish generals, medals galore,
parade for more money (always more)
before a Congress of stooges
in on the take.
Media meatheads and celebrity clowns
preen for the cameras,
take selfies of grinning,
pancake-make-up faces.

Kathy Kelly, 04971-045, at FMC Lexington–
more than a number stapled to a file;
more than a cog in a Chaplinesque movie,
won’t keep the flywheel grinding
the better angels of our nature down;

she dares to see things as they are
(and ask, “Why?”).
Dares to see things as they still might be
(and ask, “Why not?).

Against tentacled and prying darkness, she
whispers to the crying child: “We are here”;
stands fast, and tells a mortified Authority:
“We are one with those who share
the morsels of our shared humanity–
the leavened loaves of love.”

- Gary Corseri has published 2 novels, 2 collections of poetry, a literary anthology (edited) and articles, fiction and poems at The Palestine Chronicle, Pressenza, Countercurrents, Veterans News Now, Counterpunch, The New York Times, Village Voice and hundreds of periodicals and websites worldwide. His dramas have been produced on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere, and he has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library. He has taught in US public schools and prisons and in US and Japanese universities. Contact him at: [email protected]


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