A reading in celebration of the release of Margaret (Peggy) Rozga’s latest poetry collection, Justice Freedom Herbs.
Margaret (Peggy) Rozga is a civil rights activist, poet, playwright, professor emerita, and the author of Though I Haven't Been to Baghdad (Benu Press, 2012) and 200 Nights and One Day (Benu Press, 2009. She served as managing editor of the chapbook anthology Turn Up the Volume: Poems about the States of Wisconsin (Little Bird Press, 2013). Her essay "Community Inclusive: A Poetics to Move Us Forward" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and is included in the Cow Feather Press anthology of prose works from Verse Wisconsin. She has been awarded residencies at the Sitka Center for Arts and Ecology and at the Ragdale Foundation and a fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society. A sought-after poetry workshop facilitator and speaker on social justice issues, Peggy believes both activism and creative writing involve seeing, being aware beyond the obvious, and both involve the dogged determination to get something right.
"Margaret Rozga's words alight - as a monarch might - on the edge of your spirit. They linger there as if you read them in passing, maybe in a volume on a shelf in a cabin overlooking a river, and come to you quietly for you to savor later. A beautiful work for justice and beauty - great action and the small work of tending leaves."
—Andi Cumbo Floyd
at a church near Philadelphia, Mississippi
Burned down to the bell Freedom Summer
then resurrected in red brick, a site now
for civil rights pilgrims, this church, its grounds
with three crosses, held me like a womb of silence.
Surely the commercial-sized panel truck
jolted and creaked down the rutted road,
but its unblemished white body, like some
unpurged ghost in my mind,
suddenly loomed large and larger, the vehicle
edging in on me, stopping, so the driver, White
like me, my age, could question me face to face.
Do you know where highway 740 is at?
I relaxed, the question no challenge. I had a map,
fetched it from my car, looked, but could not
get my bearings.
He took my map, studied it, returned it to me.
I used to live here, he says and breathes in
then exhales slowly. But
"Is that right?"
He showed no doubt. Yes.
I watched him pull back onto the road
looked for a logo on his truck. None.
Checked the map index. There is no highway740.
What was he looking for? What was he telling me?
Maybe I misremember what number he asked for.
That was the summer we turned the corner
of a new century. I write a dozen years later,
and I still don't know.