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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

A BANNER DAY IN FLORIDA

by Michelle DeRose


Alan Gratz’s “Ban This Book” tells the tale of a fourth-grader’s quest to bring her favorite book back to the school library after officials had it removed. Late last month, a Florida school district banned “Ban This Book.” A parent involved in Moms for Liberty, a right-wing parents-rights group, submitted a complaint about the book in February, alleging that it depicted sexual conduct and was “teaching children to be social justice warriors.” Though a school district committee recommended that “Ban This Book” be kept on shelves, the Indian River County school board voted to ban it last month. —The Washington Post, June 13, 2024


So thin bands of women who love 
liberty (because their heads-of-households 
told them to) banned the book 
Ban This Book. If words don’t build it, 
it never happened. Scrub climate change
from state websites and Florida’s coast 
rises like Lazarus. Certain words, like loaves
and fishes, work double miracles. 
With no gender queers, some gun 
violence disappears in a pulse. 
Requiring proof of rape for abortions 
erases abortion and rape with a stranger’s
magic wand that, waved in a yard,
transforms twelve year-olds to the most noble
profession. They might wed NFL stars,
be the next to erase abuse in their world,
just a giant pink rubber in their clutch.


Michelle DeRose is Professor Emerita of English from Aquinas College. She lives and writes in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Monday, June 17, 2024

DEAR DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

by Susan Vespoli




I want to thank you for the 126-page report 
you finally released after three years
of gathering evidence
about Phoenix cops who bully 
the homeless, teargas
protesters, taunt, “Let’s 
jack ‘em up dude, fuck it,” 
and “Hit ‘em, hit ‘em, fuck ‘em, 
hit ‘em” while firing 1,000s 
of Pepperballs into crowds like it’s a sport. 
A sergeant’s ecstatic, “Holy crap, 
we’ve got peeps.” Gagging. Choking.
Tasers. Attack dogs. “Nice job, boys.” 
Challenge coins imprinted with testicles
and the words: Make America Great 
Again One Nut at a Time.
False statements and bogus felony
charges, arresting the unhoused
for sleeping, slamming them to the ground
like I watched them do to my now dead
son on body cam after he said, “We didn’t
do anything wrong.” I want to scream 

YES, THEY DO to City of Phoenix 
council members who say the police 
don’t need oversight 

but I just had skin cancer
removed as the report was released,
a swath of squamous cells that ironically
spread across the flesh above my heart

and I am just so tired
      of meanness.
And I am trying to heal.


Susan Vespoli writes from Phoenix, AZ, where she has experienced firsthand the brutality of Phoenix cops and the denial of City of Phoenix. Oh, let the DOJ's report make a difference in how future humans are treated by the police.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

SMALL DIFFERENCES

by Moira Magneson


AI-generated image by Shutterstock for The New Verse News.


Three days
we've watched
the acorn
woodpecker
perched atop
the telephone
pole
bright red
crown
black beak
driving
into
the glass
insulator
over and over.
His fury
for the bird
who looks
just like him—
side-eye
glittering—
knows
no bounds.
He refuses
to give up
the fight
with his own
reflection.
He will win 
this war.
He will not 
surrender.
Each will hammer
the other down.
They will stop
at nothing.


Author’s Note: "Small Differences" addresses the June 12, 2024 Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel which came after Israel killed a senior Hezbollah commander in southeastern Lebanon in a June 11 airstrike.  The poem's title is based on Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic concept of “the narcissism of small differences" in which he proposes that people tend to amplify the minor differences between themselves, leading to feelings of hostility, estrangement, and contempt.


Moira Magneson's full-length collection of poems In the Eye of the Elephant will be published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2025. Her novella A River Called Home—a river fable illustrated by Robin Center was released by Toad Road Press in early 2024. She is currently working as the poet-in-residence for ForestSong, artist Andie Thrams' project exploring solastalgia, biophilia, and resilience in the face of wildfire devastation and the climate crisis.

CINDER AND SADNESS

by Tricia L. Somers


AP File Photo Deir Al-Balah, Gaza Strip, October 2023


Cinder block pillows  
and satin tears

Our sheets tied
into escape hatches again

The exquisite pain
of a child a mortal sin

Who has enough courage
to not slaughter the children ?

Who is strong enough
to resist the temptation

to crush the soft spot
of a newborn baby's skull?

Anyone? Anyone at all?

Every last Palestinian child
has more bravery and heart

than the moral army
sent to "cut the grass"

With each child killed
we go more in the red

We're going down fast
A centrifugal vortex

Are you strong enough
to win an election ?

Or too weak to stop
the killing of children?


Tricia L. Somers is in Los Angeles CA where she lives with her Significant Other and a couple of other crazy cats. You can find her work on the pages of The American Dissident. Online her poetry can be found at The New Verse News and Rat's Ass Review. For a different perspective on current issues visit her at Bitch n Complain on Substack.

GAZA, JUNE 8, 2024

by Elizabeth Poreba


The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Tusday that it was “profoundly shocked” by the impact on civilians of Israel’s raid to free four hostages, adding that actions by both Hamas and Israel may be war crimes. —The New York Times, June 11, 2024. Photo: A Palestinian medic carrying an injured child Saturday at a hospital during an Israeli military operation in the town of Nuseirat in central Gaza.
Credit...Mohammed Saber/EPA, via Shutterstock


We know from ancient bones that a pigeon or dove could atone 
now these bodies strewn 
sufficient sacrifice when less than a lamb or goat would suffice 
bodies anonymous to us 
the same birds that crowd our streets
but these could devise no flight 
their blood set the sinner right  
damage—collateral,  blood—fungible 
a ram replaces a son, or if no ram, 
a score of these little ones.



Elizabeth Poreba is a retired New York City High School English teacher. She has published two collections of poems. Vexed and Self Help (Wipf and Stock), and two chapbooks, The Family Profile and New Lebanon (Finishing Line Press). Her work is also in This Full Green Hour, an anthology composed of work by six of the O’Clock Poets (Sonopo Press, 2008). Kelsay Press will soon publish her new collection Yamma.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

SCENES FROM A CHALICE OF WATERS/VICTORY

by Dick Altman


Through “Field Work,” farmers and ranchers in rural parts of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming were eligible for up to $10,000 to implement creative water projects on their land (think: improved water efficiency, water reliability, water quality, crop yield or crop diversification, and labor efficiency). Nearly 80 producers applied and 12 projects were selected this year, totaling more than $95,000 of investment into research led by farmers and ranchers. These folks are the experimenters, tinkerers, innovators, and iterators who—while Western states agonize over how to resolve antiquated water compacts—have been finding ways to eke out a living from the land. They’re people who have a vested interest in finding ways to use water more effectively—for their own operations and for the good of the West. —LOR Foundation


Southern Colorado

While born a stream,

you gave way to a dam,
then a lake swimming
with impressionistic clouds,
clouds coalescing above me,
clouds inscribed with geese,
I watch scout  
for new nesting grounds
your rush-plated periphery.
 
While a thousand feet below,
a pair of herons,
as I approach,
loft pterodactyl-like wings,
to seek another cove,
while a lone seagull,
a thousand miles
from ocean’s home,
alights
on your boulder-strewn shore,
to fill their void.
 
While a horned-toad,
no bigger than my thumb,
streaks across the path,
to escape
my cleated feet,
as a swallowtail
samples fresh crowns
of Chamisa,
into whose stems
the pebbled form
disappears.
 
While in the water,
trout eye me warily,
before finning
into shadows
and out of sight—
but not beyond
eyes of the bald eagle,
whose outstretched talons
I last see loft
a limp figure that broke,
in death,
the surface,
to snatch
a damsel fly
emergent.
 
While my eyes shift
to observe you,
barefooted,
clamber over rocks
defending the shore,
a route I fear to test.
 
While you look,
from above,
as if queen of waves,
standing amid formations,
submerged,
whose gray elongations,
boulders immobile
of another age,
evoke a pod of whales,
newly calved,
in waters
of imagination.
  
While above you.
beyond vermillion cliffs,
ascend the Silver peaks,
whose walls
of white-enameled concavity
return to our eyes
sun’s luminescence,
as from facets
of cloud-high broken glass.
 
While wind’s pulse unfurls
in a tidal whisper
against the shore,
I’m reminded
of decades’ voices
alloyed to conjure
a mountain valley, 
untrammeled,
into a victory chalice,
embracing a lake
called Nighthorse—
final scene in a dream
to solace warring thirsts,
farm or factory,
Ute Indian or not,
whose perfected comity
our spirits bow to
each time
we tread its rim.


Dick Altman writes in the high, thin, magical air of Santa Fe, NM, where, at 7,000 feet, reality and imagination often blur. He is published in Santa Fe Literary Review, American Journal of Poetry, riverSedge, Fredericksburg Literary Review, Foliate Oak, Blue Line, THE Magazine, Humana obscura, The Offbeat, Haunted Waters Press, Split Rock Review, The RavensPerch, Beyond Words, The New Verse News, Sky Island Journal, and others here and abroad. A poetry winner of Santa Fe New Mexican’s annual literary competition, he has in progress two collections of some 100 published poems. His work appears in the first volume of The New Mexico Anthology of Poetry published this year by the New Mexico Museum Press. 

Friday, June 14, 2024

SH*T

by Ron Riekki


Photograph by Angela Callanan


“Chicago shootings: At least 33 shot, 5 fatally, in weekend gun violence across city, police say.” 

ABC7 Chicago, June 10, 2024



“My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –”

Emily Dickinson

 

“Unbending the shape of the pew

from their backs and shuffling

the pooled blood”

Neal Bowers, “Hymns”

 


I’m writing this fresh as it happened a few minutes ago,

a high-speed chase where the front vehicle almost hit mine,

turning off quickly into the apartment parking lot where I live,

although live isn’t the right word, the car tiny, like a Mitsubishi

Mirage, the back with metal mangled like tentacles, maybe hit

by a cop car, and there are about nine police vehicles directly

behind him—I assume it’s a him, the prisons are filled with hims—

and they Doppler by, police trucks in the rear, a couple unmarked

squad cars in back, almost all with lights on, but, strangely, no

 

sirens, as if they have all forgot about the sound, too caught up

in this road with its polluted beautiful trees all in a hypnotic

perfect fake line, and I stop there, craning my neck back to

watch cop car after cop car after cop car and then the stillness,

the clouds all leaking into each other so that it feels like one large

pool of cloud that keeps spilling out and two students walk two dogs

and one nips at the other and bark-whines and the silence again

until the gunshots start popping, scattered, quick, then done, gone,

and I park, get out.  This isn’t the first shooting I’ve heard lately.

 

The last one was a murder.  A sushi restaurant across the street.

They wanted the guy’s watch.  He didn’t give it to ‘em,

so they gave it to him.  That’s what a neighbor said.  The U.S.

has four of the most dangerous cities in the world.  The entire

world.  I live in one of them.  Although live doesn’t seem to be

the right word.  I asked today, before this happened, if I could

get out of my lease, the landlord sitting behind his desk the size

of a corpse.  He talked like he hated talking.  The Lord of the Land.

He said no.  He said I could buy it out.  On Generalized Anxiety

 

Disorder tests, they ask, Do you feel trapped?  I look out the window

right now, glance, typing this.  The trees are still.  There’s no wind.

There’s an ouch to the landscape, like you can feel the earth itself,

whispering to us, What are you doing?  We don’t know.  In the last

three days, there’ve been mass shootings in Wisconsin (10 shot),

D.C. (6 shot), Alabama and Nevada and Texas and Virginia (4 shot

at each); they only count a mass shooting if it’s “4+ victims injured or

killed,” so that the other 43 shootings where 2 to 3 were shot or

killed wouldn’t have to be counted, and then the eleven pages on

 

the Gun Violence Archive online that includes the one shot or killed,

so often, when I looked through the “View Incident” option, it lists

the victims as “Teen 12-17,” “rooftop party ranging in age from 14

to 23-yrs old were shot,” “Teen 12-17,” “Park Party” attendants,

“Teen 12-17,” “House Party” teens.  Teens, teens, teens.  Tens

of teens.  Hundreds.  Thousands.  Children.  The repetition.  I keep

writing about this.  History rhymes.  I swear to God, as I’m wrapping

up this poem, more gunshots.  Were those gunshots?  I ask a neighbor.

He doesn’t know, but he heard the cop cars.  He says he doesn’t know.



Ron Riekki co-edited Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice (Michigan State University Press).

Thursday, June 13, 2024

ON THIN ICE

by Anne Gruner



"[Thwaites], a massive Antarctic glacier, which could raise global sea levels by up to two feet if it melts, is far more exposed to warm ocean water than previously believed, according to a [newly published]study...." —The Washington Post, May 20, 2024.


We knew you were sickly but hoped you'd recover,
not believing you were on your deathbed.
Then we x-rayed you from space, just to be sure,
and like many x-rays they brought bad news.
 
As your shining face peers at the sun,
a deadly disease eats away your soft underbelly—
an affliction we don't fully grasp—
understanding its cause, but not its progression.
 
Warm, salty water seeps into a gaping wound
with every breath of tide you take, 
rising and falling, an eroding necrosis,
accelerating without notice until it's too late.
 
We thought you would live thousands of years,
but now fear your death in decades—
with consequences so dire
we call you "Doomsday."

 
A Pushcart-nominated writer, Anne Gruner's poetry has appeared in over a dozen print and on-line publications, including Amsterdam Quarterly Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Written Tales, and Humans of the World. Anne lives in McLean, Virginia with her husband and two golden retrievers.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

by Thomas J. Erickson




In 30 years no one will remember that it snowed here
52 years ago on the 4th of July and that it was so cold
that the high school band had to play in the school bus
with the windows down.

In 30 years tops or whenever the last of my sons
has left this globe, no one will know my father
never swam in Lake Superior when he was growing up
a few hundred yards from Gitcheegumee
because it was so damn cold back then.

Soon enough, no one but me will even think
about how beautifully fucked up this is: To now be able 
to swim in the turquoise water of the Magic Coves
to dive to the shipwreck off Chapel Rock
to do the dead man’s float in the secluded expanse
off Lonesome Point.

So I hope you find this bottle someday on some shore
somewhere if there still are shores somewhere:

There was an August when I swam far enough out
to get to the sand bar and stood there for a while.
I was surprisingly far from shore and when I turned
around it was endlessly blue.


Thomas J. Erickson is an attorney in Milwaukee where he writes poetry while sitting in court waiting for his case to be called. He spends his summers in a little town on the shores of Lake Superior in Upper Michigan where, in recent years, it's been warm enough to swim come August.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

MY MOTHER IS SUING THE US GOVERNMENT FOR POISONING HER HUSBAND

by Bill Garvey




The government doubts his
cancer was caused by Camp Lejeune.
How do you know he was even there? they ask. 
We lived in New Bern North Carolina, 
she says, and every day Bill took the bus to Cherry Point 
or Camp Lejeune depending on his orders.
 
But even if he was at Camp Lejeune,
how do you know he drank the water?
It was hot, May to September 1952.
I'm sure he drank the water.
Were you with him at Lejeune?
Did you witness him drink the water?
 
Of course I wasn't with him. 
Of course I didn't witness... 
So for all you know he could have quenched
his thirst with an ice-cold Coca-Cola.
Or even a Ginger Ale. For all you know he was never 
exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune. 
 
I was madly in love with a Marine 
with crooked teeth and a cocky grin. 
Every day from May to September he came 
home to me seventy-two years ago,
clean and showered, so handsome 
in his crisp uniform, stepping from the bus 
 
into our tiny apartment, ready for me. 
Embracing me so close I forgot all about the heat. 
I'll always remember how good he smelled 
at the end of a long day, his hair still damp from 
your showers, not a whiff of Coca-Cola—
or even a Ginger Ale—on his lips.



Author's note: This is a true story. My mother is 93, still sharp, and she is suing the US government for my father's death from kidney and renal cancer in 1977, when the world was ignorant to Lejeune.



Bill Garvey's collection of poetry The basement on Biella was published in 2023 by DarkWinter Press. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Rattle, One Art, San Antonio Review, Connecticut River Review, Cimarron Review, The New Verse News, The New Quarterly and others.

Monday, June 10, 2024

GAME CHANGER

by Felicia Nimue Ackerman


Major League Baseball’s embrace of the Negro Leagues is now recognized in the record book, resulting in new-look leaderboards fronted in several prominent places by Hall of Famer Josh Gibson and an overdue appreciation of many other Black stars. Following the 2020 announcement that seven different Negro Leagues from 1920-1948 would be recognized as Major Leagues, MLB announced [in May] that it has followed the recommendations of the independent Negro League Statistical Review Committee in absorbing the available Negro Leagues numbers into the official historical record. —MLB. Above: Portraits of Satchel Paige (left) and Josh Gibson by Graig Kreindler from the collection of Jay Caldwell via MLB.


Let's hear it now for Satchel Paige,
Installed on baseball's center stage,
And see Josh Gibson top Babe Ruth
When baseball tells the simple truth.


Felicia Nimue Ackerman is a professor of philosophy at Brown University and has had over 280 poems in places including American Atheist, The American Scholar, Better Than Starbucks, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Down in the Dirt, The Emily Dickinson International Society Bulletin, Free Inquiry, The Galway Review, Light Poetry Magazine, Lighten Up Online, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Daily News, The New York Times, Options (Rhode Island's LGBTQ+ magazine), The Providence Journal, Scientific American, Sparks of Calliope, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and Your Daily Poem. She has also had five previous poems in The New Verse News.

Sunday, June 09, 2024

RED LINE

by Lynn White


Thousands circle White House to demand Biden enforce Gaza “red line.” Demonstrators said that if President Biden would not draw a “red line” after Israeli forces began an assault on Rafah, they would draw the red line for him. —The Washington Post, June 8, 2024


It was thin at first,
the line of blood
hardly a trickle
easily crossed
though visibly
to those paying attention.

But with each crossing it widened
a stream bleeding out into a river
and then a sea
bleeding out
from the river to the sea
stronger and stronger
wider and wider
every crossing
widening it.

Making a line that can never be crossed
however many times it is crossed
its crossing becomes impossible.


Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality and writes hoping to find an audience for her musings. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Peach Velvet, Light Journal, and So It Goes.

PARTNERS IN GENOCIDE

by Steve Bloom




New York City,
Israel Day Parade,
June 2 2024,
I see the flag, take a photo,
tell myself I will write
a poem titled:
“Partners in Genocide.” 

Find, however
that no additional words
by me
are needed.


Steve Bloom is a New York City based activist, poet, and composer. He is curator of the Poetry of Protest and Struggle video series that comes out three times a year and can be found on his YouTube channel.