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(28 Stories)

Prompted By Question Authority

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Feel it, Smell it, Own it

In first grade I happily ran down the hall

with Thelma and Rosemary giggling, laughing, 

loving our first day.

In the hallway loomed a dark figure,

clothed in a black cloak, white cardboard veil,

a brown rosary ‘round her waist. 

Sister Six-Foot-Tall Everista beckoned us to her,

raised her huge knuckled hand

and with considerable might

slapped our three stunned faces cold.


This was most likely the day a rebel was born.

I was twelve years old when I heard Dylan’s

Blowing In The Wind,

I was ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ who

rambled through her own backstreets, 

picking up the sounds of discord

from a Newark neighborhood set on fire 

in the summer of ‘67.


And then, the Vietnam War.

The catalyst of it all.

A rise of a counterculture so vast

it’s influence remains today.

What we learned, what we carry forward is –

any war can be stopped,

any tyrannical despot overthrown,

any autocratic legislative branch dissolved,

as long as the majority of people want it.

As long as peace their intent,

equality and justice their passion,

to be brave enough to fight back

by questioning that dark cloaked invader

in order to win.


“There’s battle lines being drawn

   Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

   Young people speaking their minds

   Getting so much resistance from behind” 

Profile photo of Patricia Valese pattyv

Characterizations: moving, right on!, well written


  1. Khati Hendry says:

    It was a powerful lesson–things CAN change, and fast. It is sometimes hard to remember and to really believe how much was changing, but you captured that feeling well. The story continues.

    • pattyv says:

      Yes Khati, the women’s March, March for our lives, again Black rights, Gay rights, the beat does go on but not like Viet Nam. Not an entire nation on its feet. And truthfully I hope it doesn’t come to that. Not for the likes of Donald Trump! Who would’ve thought?

  2. Keep fighting the good fight Patty and keep speaking your mind!

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    In these tenuous, fractured times, it can be difficult to remember that things CAN change fast. Thanks for this reminder that if we stand together, we CAN effect change, no matter the odds. It feels terrible when 34% of our country slavishly follow a corrupt, self-important, lying blow-hard, no matter the hard evidence brought against him. Let’s fight for our values and to keep our founding principles!

    • pattyv says:

      Betsy, this time the winds of change seem pretty ominous. The trumpers are so determined and rabid in their quest. But I have no doubt we will prevail. We can’t let our democracy perish, we are the majority and must defend our homeland for the sake of our children.

  4. Patty, this is so beautiful! So movingly visceral from such a succinct choice of word, line, and image. The nun and the beginning of rebellion, so clear,
    the impressionistic capture of Dylan’s work, your encapsulation of the war and it’s explosive dissemination of resistance.

    I was much older, I first heard Dylan in 1962 in my last year of high school, as a folk singer, a friend brought me Don’t Think Twice. I was old enough to understand he had turned folk music on its head, and it came in ragged harmony with everything else in my life turning on its head.

    I also loved the optimism of your closing stanzas. Just a beautiful manifesto of resolution built on a deep understanding of what we had experienced, despite our age differences. Thanks for bringing the past excitement of resistance, rebellion, and love into the future.

    • pattyv says:

      Wow Charles, Mr. Degelman, professor, I’m stunned. Your reaction to my poem is a total dream response. Sometimes when we write we aren’t sure how it will be received. Was I clear enough? Should I have written more? Explained more? But you got it! Every part of it and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. I am surely a soul sister who will get to know you much better as I begin to read your many publications. Where shall I begin sir? And if we must in the days ahead, let’s promise to meet ‘All Along The Watchtower’.

      • Charles says:

        I’m so glad you felt this way, patty. We definitely are soulmates in the struggle, past and — I am sure — present and future. I’m honored that you’re interested in my writing outside of Retrospect. I’ve just completed the third volume of a “resistance trilogy,” three novels, each set in a different realm of the resistance movements of the 1960s and ’70s. It’s probably easiest to peruse them here: https://linktr.ee/charlesdegelman

        “There are many here among us
        Who feel that life is but a joke
        But you and I, we’ve been through that
        And this is not our fate
        So let us not talk falsely now
        The hour is getting late”

        Venceremos, baby

  5. Dave Ventre says:

    I went to public grade school, but many of my friends went to the local Catholic school. They never mentioned the capricious physical abuse that you describe! Although they did tell us that the nuns told them not to play with Protestant kids because we were all going to hell and might drag them along with us. They didn’t obey that particular rule as far as I can tell.

    You reference a great song. For me, when I think of a Vietnam-era protest song, the first one that pops up in my mind is Graham Nash’s “Chicago.”

    • pattyv says:

      Dave, so happy to hear your friends’ Catholic school was nothing like mine. The sisters of Saint Joseph were half lunatics and half senile with maybe a handful of normal kind ladies. 12 years definitely left its mark. “Rules and regulations, who needs them? Open up the door”.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    That song was the soundtrack of my life for many years. Great job, Patty, of capturing the essence of a generation that believed all wrongs could be righted if we just make our voices heard. Sometimes I fear Sister Six-Foot-Tall Everista is with us in the form of Trump, the bully who refuses to go away despite the majority of the country (I have to believe this) wishing he would.

  7. Amy says:

    I think the article offers a powerful insight into one person’s experience with injustice and resistance.Bob Dylan inspired and influenced many people, but can a war be stopped. Not in an authoritarian country where resistance (as a group) is harder to organize.

    Being able to voice in your opinion on the internet has been an interesting phenomenon. You cannot do it in a lot of countries

    • pattyv says:

      I think giving voice to what you believe in or defending the rights you believe are being attacked is the responsibility of every person living in freedom. Too many hide from this and leave it to someone else. Too many surf the waves of complicity looking for a Bob Dylan to speak for them. If anything, we learned the impact of the multitude and the power of joining hands.

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