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Ode to Phyllis + Collective Writings

Please see several writings, poems, and more as offerings to Phyllis below:


Ode to Phyllis by Jonathon Stalls

Cherished Friend,

It's the way you were always early... texting me or others 30-minutes, sometimes one-hour before every meeting, walk/roll event, or group gathering. You had to reserve the access-a-ride at least 24 hours or more in advance. You scheduled it to arrive, often hours early, because you knew it would frequently arrive late (or not at all).

You didn't miss one email, update, planning meeting, or story.

It's the way you carried the courage of mountains (often in the road because there was no sidewalk or the sidewalk was inaccessible) - moving against high-speed car traffic - showing elected leaders, transportation planners, civil engineers, and fellow mobility justice advocates the dignity and experience of people using powered-scooters trying to get home, to the bus, to the grocery store, to school, to work, to medical appointments.

You spoke up at council meetings, joined committee meetings in-person and virtually, interviewed with local and national press, offered feedback on community budgets/plans, and so much more - impacting more accessible, dignified mobility for thousands of community members across Denver and beyond.

It's the way you pushed, nudged, reminded, and followed-up with me and other busy people in busy, swirling projects/systems - making sure every project you touched moved forward.

You tirelessly advocated for accessible sidewalks surrounding your senior public housing home and won nearly half a million dollars in funding.

It's the way public officials know you by name.

It's the way engineers see the dignity of nondrivers in ways they haven't before.

It's the way you joined a new transportation committee weeks before your body let go.

It's the way you learned zoom, TikTok, Instagram, Discord, and more for the greater good.

It's the way you invited us to play cards.

It's the way we co-created scavenger hunts and neighborhood walk/rolls.

It's the way we moved - side by side - on all-weather Pedestrian Dignity experiences.

It's the way you served as Secretary, Vice President, and eventually President for your neighbors.

It's the way you welcome - everyone - into this when-we-can, however-we-can grassroots work.

I see you. I see you. I see you.

We see you, green bee.

How could we ever stop seeing you?

It's the way you commented on every new art piece I shared.

It's the way you tried to visit me at every local art market.

It's the way we laughed and teased each other.

It's the way you showed up for every art lounge - from home, the bus stop, in the doctor's office, and on the hospital bed.

The loss of your physical, virtual, and on-this-planet presence hurts the most.


You are with me, still.

In every budding tree, flower, and missing sidewalk.

You are with all of us in every way.

If I am ever asked to define "advocate" - Phyllis Mack, born August 16th - will be the first thing in my heart and out of my mouth.

Thank you, cherished friend, for seeing me and teaching us so much. With the widest and most spacious kind of love, courage, fire, laughter, and humility I can offer.

To you, Phyllis. Always.

Your friend, Jonathon

Watch this video below produced by Denver Housing Authority - Phyllis Mack Denver

If you are interested in gathering with us in celebration of Phyllis, please reach out to me at jonathon (at) intrinsicpaths (dot) com or by text 720 263 0227.


Poem by Nica Cave

The first time we met felt like

finding each other again

how we just looked at each other

and knew what sister had been through

The street gutter a second home for

those orphaned by the cracks and 

crevices and too skinny sidewalks

like uniforms that don’t fit

so you designed your own line

and wore it so unapologetically 

That time we went to the cafe and 

the server saw us in our chairs and

asked if we were going to buy anything

something about our seated silhouettes 

made us seem suspicious

but you didn’t let that, or anything, 

turn you away at the door

In a world that identifies us by the way we tread

you saw the lines and colored outside 

moving with a torch atop your head

setting spirits ablaze beyond walls of the maze

That time you asked me to help you pirate an

audiobook on your computer because 

knowledge and love are free in your world—

Green Bee

Queen Bee

And you gave me a coffee mug that 

looks like an egg, and

I see you in this origin of life 

every time I take a sip

And we thought for the longest time that

your last name was Smack and 

little did we know you were 

naming the hand you put up to the system’s fists—

open, yet demanding the life we deserve

When you’d call me for just ten minutes

on a Monday just to see what’s up

and you left me gifts in the voicemail box

The way we would match our pace as

we moved along the street 

totally in sync in blood and ink

with arms linked we announced

our rightful presence to oncoming traffic

you taught me how to be fearless

Every city needs a Phyllis

but you are the one

nobody else can sing your melody

and you told your own story

into a microphone that

could never be big enough to

capture the layers of you

Every move a brick in this house

we are building together and

your spirit is more than a foundation

more than white paint on the wall

you are the architect designing 

the vision and I am grateful 

to have lived in your universe


Writing by Justin Bai

I am still processing this loss, and words seem insufficient to commemorate someone so inimitable. 

I remember the way Phyllis was so often to reply to emails with "Count me in!" In fact, I believe my first interaction with her was through one of these emails when I first connected for the Sheridan walk and roll. 

I remember she was fond of using the 100 emoji to react to my stories on Instagram. 

I remember her telling me about growing up in Denver and how much its changed, about Stapleton Airport and how she used to work there.

I remember when she thought Nica and I were dating and we had to break it to her that we weren't, that we were just good friends. 

She seemed so full of life, and it's hard to believe there won't be another Zoom meeting with "moto g" again.


Poem by James Warren

Your joy radiated out like a warmed hearth in a darkened room

The closer I got the more I could feel the flames ignite me too

Unrelenting love for those forgotten  

“I did it for myself,

But mostly I did it for the community”

Like an edict from your throne

Even when your eyes grew weaker

Your spirit danced inside you like a pinball machine

All noisy and aglow

Waiting to place your next thirty phonecalls, waiting to be transferred to the most powerful person in the room

Her phone gave the busy signal

Because it was a Moto G

And now that spirit is alive

Just no longer in your body

The body that the system wished to destroy, but they were not ready for your smack 

Flutter on, green bee

Pollinate some other world as you have ours

Now the spring flowers push out of the pavement to worship you


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