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Sunday, May 22, 2022

PRAYERS OF WAR

by Peter Witt


On May 20, Dmytro Kozatskyi, a soldier of the #Azov Regiment posted his photos of the defenders of #Mariupol, calling on the world media and those who can help to distribute them. "Well, that's all. Thank you for the shelter; Azovstal is the place of my death and life. See you".


I.
I hear the drums of war banging
as recruits shoulder their weapons,
while merchants of arms pray
half-heartedly for peace knowing
money is to be made
off the mayhem and suffering.

II.
Somewhere safe and hidden,
a barely 19 year old guides
a drone capturing images
of hospitals, schools, that
will soon smolder with
the aftermath of airborne
mechanized chaos...silently
he offers a prayer for the living
and soon to be dead.

III.
Mother with teething child,
walker propelled grandparent,
and shivering family dog
board a train that chugs
its way to the western border,
rails singing "pray with me,
pray with me."

IV.
Someday, when bodies
are counted, refugees
and soldiers hobble home,
there'll be an annual day
of remembrance of victory
and defeat, speeches made,
loved ones honored,
as the priest asks
the assembled to bow
their heads and pray.


Peter Witt lives in Texas.  His poetry has appeared in a variety of online and print publications.

UKRAINE HAIKU

by G. R. Kramer


On May 20, Dmytro Kozatskyi, a soldier of the #Azov Regiment posted his photos of the defenders of #Mariupol, calling on the world media and those who can help to distribute them. "Well, that's all. Thank you for the shelter; Azovstal is the place of my death and life. See you".


all across the road
blood of butchered                  root in cracks
seed of black spring             bloom
 
weapon
 
below white flowers
we lie with the fray of bees
nowhere people are
 
child
 
mir meant peace to both
when trees leafed over laughter
now           stumps             stand    their     ground
 
      explosive
 
see how the flies help
keep down             the odor of rot
old men in ditches
 
witness
 
may the good endure
tanks missiles sunflowers plows
may the lost                    return
 
annihilate
 
family        stained             red
parlor tatters                      open sky
empty sniper eyes
 
artillery
 
war machines rust out
wind blown blood loam covers steppe
lily bulbs open
 
memory
 
when do nations live
empires feed         death to their dead
human history
 
for get       ting
 
mothers of soldiers
whose blood drains to the black sea
mothers of soldiers

 
G. R. Kramer grew up in Canada, Kenya and the U.S., the child of refugees from fascism and communism. A lawyer by vocation, his passion for writing poetry has rekindled in late middle-age. His first poetry chapbook is forthcoming from Finish Line Press and he has published in numerous journals. 

LET PEACE BE THE MOTHER OF EVERYTHING

by Steven Croft




Polemos pater panton (War is the father of all things.)
—Heraclitus


From the internet I read about the bombardment of Barcelona
by Italians, Germans, in 1938, watch the Movietone footage
of children running, the torn arm of a father's tweed jacket dark
with blood even in the film's black and white.  Omen, prelude
of what would come.  Today Germans, Italians, the rest of us,
condemn the bombs' carnage in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol.

The UN was founded in 1945 to prevent world war and make
the world better.  A gradualism powered by hope, a world
where the center will hold, held by our civilized will, forged
from what we all want and what we know we did wrong.  But...
those bomb-melted multistorey wrecks of buildings in the gritty,
jumpy newsreel are grimly colored in today in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol.

War could never be a mother.  Not that she couldn't cradle a rifle
as easily as a baby, plant a garden of mines—but motherhood
is too likely to want the peace to nurture children, is too ready
to negotiate, to drop the aim of a final strike on the wounded,
seeing her own sons and daughters in them, their mothers' pain.

Even if it, she, starts small like an opening bud in spring, compassion
could start at a steel plant in Mariupol where bloody-bandaged men
are being stretchered out to buses today on CNN.  Negotiation
could spread to Kharkiv, Kyiv, Kherson, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, peace
could become a warm-bedded garden, now the mother of everything.


Steven Croft lives on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia. He is the author of New World Poems (Alien Buddha Press, 2020).  His poems have appeared in Willawaw Journal, San Pedro River Review, The New Verse News, North of Oxford, Anti-Heroin Chic, Soul-Lit, and other places, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

HEART OF THE GALAXY

by Alejandro Escudé


The mystery at the heart of the Milky Way has finally been solved. This morning, at simultaneous press conferences around the world, the astronomers of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) revealed the first image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. It’s not the first picture of a black hole this collaboration has given us—that was the iconic image of M87*, which they revealed on April 10, 2019. But it’s the one they wanted most. Sagittarius A* is our own private supermassive black hole, the still point around which our galaxy revolves. —Scientific American, May 12, 2022.


It’s an engine, 
the scientists say,
a black Mustang
parked at the curb
in front of our house,
the Milky Way,

I’ve been there, 
lightless, eating up stars,
surrounded by fire
that cannot reach me,

speed of light,
the scientists say,
why the image is blurry
yet crisp
as can be,

such are the rules
we live by, the movie
inside the maelstrom,
the Papi
and the Mami,

a solitary mitt laying 
centerfield, a baseball 
tucked inside 
twirling 

as the cradle
of life in the universe spins 
26,000 light years away,

humans beings, Lucy
to the aliens, biological
Big Bang, Adam
and Eve to the bug-eyed
Greys

and the lizard man
who staggers out of an oval door
of a saucer-metallic
flying saucer,
time falling into time,
a spot on a boy’s foot,
beach tar, sound of waves,
salty air.


Alejandro Escudé published his first full-length collection of poems My Earthbound Eye in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches high school English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

Friday, May 20, 2022

I AM THINKING ABOUT AMERICA TODAY

by Cecil Morris


A counselor attends to a grieving woman outside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., site of a "politically-motivated hate incident" shooting which left a prominent doctor dead and another five people injured, on May 15. (Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty Images) Photo illustrating “A weekend of violence punctuates generations of hate.” —The Washington Post, May 18, 2022


I am thinking that more people need more guns, many, many more guns in the hands of many more people, even young people, people too young to be trusted with books or ideas or facts or contraception or health care. If everyone has guns—both long and short and semi-automatic, bump-stopped and rapid-fire, with magazines large and small—then those bad guys with bad aims will be outnumbered and outgunned and no amount of metal-clad body armor will protect them. How else can we be prepared for the communists invading from Russia or Mexico or Cuba or Venezuela? How else stop the socialists spilling out from Blue States, flooding out from urban centers to America the Beautiful home of brave and unalienable rights. I am thinking Kid Rock or Ted Nugent or Lauren Opal Boebert or MTG needs to follow Dolly’s baby-book give-away example: a gun for every real American at birth and a new bullet for every month. I am thinking of growing libraries of arms borne and bared, of personal catalogs of destruction carefully curated and cleaned and oiled and mounted with laser-targeting sights so red dot marks the spot and shows us the way to heaven. I am thinking about teachers with guns and the indoctrination of students. I am thinking about ghost guns haunting America with our forefathers. I am thinking about women’s shelters handing out guns and incorporating target practice in their services, about Guns for Graduation, about CPS with guns and black plastic trash bags, about beaming girls at quinceañeras armed to the nines, about pistols in pews and a line of shopping carts with bullet-proof fairing and guns, about fortune cookie fortunes with guns in bed.


Cecil Morris taught high school English for 37 years. In his retirement, he has turned his attention to writing what he once taught students to understand and (maybe) enjoy. He has poems appearing in Cobalt Review, English Journal, Evening Street Review, Hiram Review, Hole in the Head Review, Midwest Quarterly, Poem, Talking River Review, and other literary magazines.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

JUST AS THE BIRDS, DISTRACTED

by Paula J. Lambert




Most nights this week, there will be more birds in the air above
this country than people in beds down below.” —Josh Sokol
 

Just as the birds, distracted by light
that splits the star they follow into sparks
and mirrors so they never see the towers
that reach out to kill them, just as the birds,
 
so entranced by needs they cannot explain
that they propel themselves steadfastly
forward through all the wildfires we set 
for them (if they recognize their own 

plummeting numbers when they emerge 
from the smoke, they don’t show it, 
they keep flying) just as the birds 
soar even through their own sleep as, 

one by one by one, they die of thirst 
or starvation or exhaustion, falling into fields 
and ditches and sidewalks, mountain peaks
and seldom-seen valleys, just as they 

keep going, season after season, year after 
year, eon after unfathomable eon, so we 
sleep through it all in our beds below, 
writhing maybe through tangles of sheets 

and the existential threat we’ve made
of our lives—we who’ve lived long enough 
to multiply every problem we inherited, 
who’ve ignored or angrily explained away 

the desperate patterns of our own migration—
but sleeping, blithely unwilling to do more
than worry while, awake, we grab our keys 
and cameras and binoculars and go,
 
to the marshes, waterways and wild places
still left, still untrampled, still—unbeknownst
to us—part of the twisted dreams and difficult
truths we rarely remember, come morning. 


Paula J. Lambert has authored several collections of poetry including The Ghost of Every Feathered Thing (FutureCycle 2022) and How to See the World (Bottom Dog 2020). Awarded PEN America's L'Engle-Rahman Prize for Mentorship, Lambert's poetry and prose has been supported by the Ohio Arts Council, the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Her work has been nominated for several Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes.

WHAT WE LEARN FROM BIRDS

by Earl J. Wilcox



If our baby worm formula is not available—
Backup plans with day-old bugs will do.
 
If the five-year old birdie-boy wants
To be a girlie bird, let him dress as he will.
 
If the teen robins won’t sing or play—or fly
Let them consult Papa Owl, not take codeine.
 
If old lady robin’s days are done, do not
Push her out of the nest where foxes await.
 
Find old bird a comfy hole in an elder oak,
There let Sister Robin live out her days in love.


Earl Wilcox has learned from many birds over many years.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

PRAYING FOR YOU, GOV

by Darrell Petska




Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska said Sunday that he will call a special session of his state's legislature to pass a total ban on abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade this term. "Nebraska is a pro-life state. I believe life begins at conception, and those are babies too," Ricketts told CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union" when asked if he thought the state should require a young girl who was raped to carry the pregnancy to term. —CNN, May 15, 2022


Of course rape is evil,
but evil left to proliferate in a woman
tends to strike again and again in all its
suffocating helplessness, trauma, chronic
anxiety and nightmarish violation,
with all its attendant heartache.

Political one-upmanship and pietisms
that insist on allowing rape's evil to live on
by citing "directives" of god or bandying
emotionally fraught trigger words—
manipulating evil to sell one's agenda—
are beneath a purported man of god
and the yea-saying cadres of men sharing
narrow perceptions of a woman's uterus,
including its role in shaping cognitive
and emotional well-being and the drive
for self-determination—the latter a right
not reserved for men alone.

The shelf-life of your brand of religiosity
is short. We who espouse a more merciful,
compassionate religion pray that your efforts
to be both judge and executioner will fall
to the light, lest "Nebraska Nice" succumbs
to the politics clouding your heart and soul.


Darrell Petska lives and writes in Wisconsin, but part of his heart remains in his birth state of Nebraska.

VILLANELLE FOR A POST ROE WORLD

 by Mary K O’Melveny


Cyndi Lauper and Laura Dern

Women have no rights required to be respected

say five jurists whose words hurl us back to ancient time.

What actions are required to see this travesty corrected?

 

This outcome—undesired by most—was not unexpected.

Women have been told for centuries that men’s role is prime,

that women have no rights required to be respected.

 

Some say our decisions must be made by men, elected

but clueless, whose laws transform our choices into crime.

What actions shall we take to see such travesty corrected?  

 

Once a woman’s bodily autonomy has been rejected

by folks who’ve no idea the mountains we must climb,

how can we ensure that anyone’s liberty will be respected?

 

Diminishments of human rights are always quite connected.

Misogyny, like slavery, depends on whose lives we define

as worth the actions needed to see such travesties corrected. 

 

Look in the mirror—do you see the person you expected?

No matter age or circumstance, the time has come for rage sublime.

If women have no rights required to be respected,

revolution is what we need to see this travesty corrected.



Mary K O'Melveny is a recently retired labor rights attorney who lives in Washington DC and Woodstock NY.  Her work has appeared in various print and on-line journals. Her most recent poetry collection is Dispatches From the Memory Care Museum, just out from Kelsay Books. Her first poetry chapbook A Woman of a Certain Age is available from Finishing Line Press. Mary’s poetry collection Merging Star Hypotheses was published by Finishing Line Press in January, 2020.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

BUFFALO HAIKU



Sari Grandstaff is a high school librarian in the Catskill Mountains/Mid-Hudson Valley of New York State. Her work has appeared in many print and online journals including The New Verse News, The Mainichi's Daily Haiku, the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association's Haiku in Action, and Prune Juice

LE GRANDE REPLACEMENT

by Susan Cossette


Image credit: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


Blood moon rises over the horizon,

over Minneapolis, Auckland, Buffalo,

over blood spilled in schools and supermarkets,

hot orb, hatred splayed on the pavement.

 

In Minnesota you know you’re dead to the world

if you see your obituary in the Star Tribune a week before you die.

The loons’ eerie tremolos and yodels call to you—

outsider, peculiar threat, excised one, unwelcome.

 

Strange bugs come calling each spring.

They crawl up your walls in curious unison,

fleeing, seeking escape.

You find them on the kitchen floor,

dead in the window wells,

silent and withered.



Susan Cossette lives and writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The author of Peggy Sue Messed Up, she is a recipient of the University of Connecticut’s Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize. A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust and Moth, Vita Brevis, ONE ART, As it Ought to Be, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Amethyst Review, Crow & Cross Keys, Loch Raven Review, and in the anthologies Fast Fallen Women (Woodhall Press), Tuesdays at Curley’s (Yuganta Press), and After the Equinox.

Monday, May 16, 2022

IN SEARCH OF DEMOCRACY

by Shirani Rajapakse


The Sri Lankan state is descending into a full blown political and economic crisis, as more people contend with starvation, death and severe disruptions. Now they are also facing the brutal violence of the state. The BBC reports at least nine people died and more than 200 were injured as vehicles and houses were set alight during fighting between government supporters and critics this week. The island is facing its worst economic crisis since independence, and the responses of the state indicate it is incapable of protecting its citizens. The deployment of military force, however, is unlikely to quell unrest. The anger and frustration displayed by the public, aggravated by pro-government protesters, is only likely to grow – fuelling further distrust in the ruling government. —The Conversation, May 12, 2022


Watch the blazing 
snarls of flames 
spitting disgust. 
Bodies stand outside arms raised 
fists wrapped round 
poles ready to beat up dissent 
silence with one stroke 
anyone, anyone who protests 
opposes the wrong 
howling jackals laughing condoning 
acts of violence. 
 
Wrong is the new right. 
No one understands where 
we stand. 
Who are we? How did we 
come to this? 
 
Thirty-five years ago 
I cowered in fear 
of red guerillas stalking streets 
vengeance running in veins 
bloodthirsty hyenas 
                    looting 
                    pilfering 
                    destroying 
                    torturing. 
 
 
                                        Murdering. 
 
 
A new generation that 
                    doesn’t remember 
the knock on doors dragging 
life out pleading screaming begging, 
                    never saw 
bloated corpses floating in waterways 
or have to step over 
roasting moaning bodies unrecognizable 
piled up on the side of roads, 
                    never 
                    lived 
                    through fear 
wondering if they will be next. 
                    Only 
heard about those days 
through history’s sieve. 
Violence 
the norm to get what 
cannot be 
through the ballot. 
 
Is power so blinding we 
gorge on our own? 
Brother against brother, the same 
kind, flesh and blood 
stripping bare to kill for a different 
cause or 
for promises of treats? 
 
The future sheds tears eaten 
up greedily by cackling flames 
                    lamenting 
silently through swirling 
fumes roaring hatred 
and what is left 
to moan for—cinders that were 
once homes now 
kicked to the side 
as vultures from foreign shores 
                    line up behind clouds looming 
                    at the periphery of the island  
 
                                        waiting 
 
to step in and devour the land. 


Shirani Rajapakse is a Sri Lankan poet and short story writer. She is the author of five books including the award-winning Chant of a Million Women as well as I Exist. Therefore I Am. Rajapakse’s work appears in many journals and anthologies including Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry, Litro, Linnet’s Wings, Berfrois, Flash Fiction International, Voices Israel, About Place, Mascara, Counterpunch, Deep Water, Silver Birch, International Times, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Spark, The Write-In, Asian Signature, Moving Worlds, Harbinger Asylum.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

SHIREEN ABU AKLEH (IN MEMORIAM)

by Indran Amirthanayagam


The Palestinian Authority on Thursday declined a request to let Israeli officials examine the bullet that killed Shireen Abu Akleh, a prominent reporter for Al Jazeera who was killed in the occupied West Bank during an Israeli raid. Palestinian officials and witnesses accused Israeli soldiers of killing Ms. Abu Akleh, dismissing Israeli claims that the journalist may have been hit by Palestinian fire during a shootout in Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank. —The New York Times, May 12, 2022. Photo: The day after she was killed, Palestinian artists were already at work painting a mural of Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank. Credit: Mohammed Saber/EPA, via Shutterstock via The New York Times)


Who killed Shireen Abu Akleh? Who fired the bullet
into her head? Who raided the neighborhood? Who
has the right to bear arms? Who has the right

to desecrate the dead? Who is crying for justice
where justice has not been served, not for
Rachel Corrie, who stood before a bulldozer. Not

for Shireen who wrote of people how they live
and cook, wash and teach, how they live and die
in an occupied land as second class subjects. Meanwhile

the murderer walks. Meanwhile the struggle continues
between lord and subject. And the girl who loved holding
her bottle before the mirror as a microphone saying

one day I will grow to be Shireen Abu Akleh: what
shall we tell her now? Where can she bury her tears?


Indran Amirthanayagam's newest book is Ten Thousand Steps Against the Tyrant (BroadstoneBooks). Recently published is Blue Window (Ventana Azul), translated by Jennifer Rathbun.(Dialogos Books). In 2020, Indran produced a “world" record by publishing three new poetry books written in three languages: The Migrant States (Hanging Loose Press, New York), Sur l'île nostalgique (L’Harmattan, Paris) and Lírica a tiempo (Mesa Redonda, Lima). He writes in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Haitian Creole and has twenty poetry books as well as a music album Rankont Dout. He edits The Beltway Poetry Quarterly and helps curate Ablucionistas. He won the Paterson Prize and received fellowships from The Foundation for the Contemporary Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, US/Mexico Fund For Culture, and the MacDowell Colony. He hosts the Poetry Channel on YouTube.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

WHAT MONEY CAN BUY

by George Salamon


US billionaires' demand for 'golden passport' schemes that sell citizenships to 'safe' countries for up to $6.5m including New Zealand and Portugal rockets by 337% in three years as fears of civil unrest spike. —Mail Online, May 7, 2022


Good riddance, and safe trip,
but before abandoning our ship,
make them sign a promissory note
forbidding return to their original boat.


George Salamon looks forward to the inevitable movie version, "Ship of Wealthy Fools," starring celebrities who appear in ads for beachwear.