“Growl 2020” by Leanne Grabel

This image by papercut master artist Virginia Flynn.

“Growl” was originally written during the Reagan years as a performance piece done with a first-generation electric keyboard. It was then updated during each destructive and highly irritating Republican administration that followed. In 2012, Portland artist Angelina Marino-Heidel curated a poetry/art collaboration called “The Reimagination Project.” Several Portland writers were paired with visual artists to create posters and poems that spoke to the American condition that, as you know, has gotten sorrier and sorrier. I was in collaboration with artist Virginia Flynn, who created the above cover page. This is the 2020 version of “Growl” with new drawings.

I have nothing new left to say about the continued depravity and corruption in this administration. I am thoroughly topped out. I don’t hope they die. I just hope they get booted out in an embarrassing manner [if they can feel embarrassment]. And I hope they are finally held accountable for their corruption. [Then later, they can rot in hell.]

And, in commemoration of Justice Ginsburg, I present my new pup’s collar that arrived two days before Justice Ginsburg died. And my new pup Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her robes.

Looking toward the future, America . . .

. . . better wipe out the obvious sins. Like all the people going hungry while the rich snack on lobster. They wouldn’t need to.

Like all the people controlling, poorly controlling. They wouldn’t need to. BUT if they needed to, the legislation would shower down with natural grace. Just like petals. Or a mountain. With a mountain’s sensibilities.

Different men should be. WOMEN SHOULD BE. This way it seems like we never learned a thing. Like Father Knows Best is all we ever watched. Like we squelched all hint of culture. Like we thought we didn’t have to have a culture. Like we were glad we didn’t have to have a culture. As if having a culture was just too much  for our feeble sensibilities.

O, America. We’re acting like we have no comprehension of  the human soul at all. Like we can’t think at all. Like we can’t focus past our pricks, our sticks. Like we can’t get soft. Like we can’t get hard. Like we’re dry as a bone. Like we grab, grab, grab.

And damn me. Do you think we’re changing species? I keep hearing all these stories where the grandpas finger babies. Then they go to the veterans’ parade. Then they go to the Christians’ parade. Tell me, where does the pride come in?

O, America, a horse like us would have been glue by now.

A brain like us would have been dead by now.

We all better visit the French cathedrals. We better eat with the ancient women. We better live with the monks and take a long, long vow of silence.

We better learn how to recognize the justice. We better learn how to need the justice. We better rise up, not clench up, when we start to feel the freedom.

We better empower the brilliant. We better empower the gentle. We better blossom a future, no sticks.


Leanne in LeiLeanne Grabel is a writer, illustrator, performer, and retired special education teacher. Grabel is the 2020 recipient of Soapstone’s Bread and Roses Award for contributions to women’s literature in the Pacific Northwest. In love with mixing genres, Grabel has written and produced numerous spoken word–based multi-media shows, including The Lighter Side of Chronic Depression and Anger: The Musical. Her poetry books include Lonesome & Very Quarrelsome Heroes; Short Poems by a Short Person; Badgirls (a collection of flash non-fiction & a theater piece); and Gold Shoes, a collection of graphic prose poems. Grabel has just completed Tainted Illustrated, a stretched graphic memoir that was serialized in the OPIATE, and is finishing a collection of illustrated flash memoir My Husband’s Eyebrows. She and her husband Steve Sander are the founders of Café Lena, Portland’s legendary poetry hub of the ’90s. ACM publishes
 Grabel’s work the second Thursday of the month.