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Saturday, February 24, 2018


by Jeremy Bryant

"A five-day-long bombardment by Syrian government forces is reported to have killed more than 300 civilians in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area." —BBC News, February 23, 2018

This image—girl child with blood as rouge, with liquid eyes—how?
What words? "These children are part of the human cost."
There is only this—brokenness, only an endless gloaming.
What sights in the blurry background?
A mother who was making bread when the roof fell,
a mother whose dust caked face is lined with vertical tear stripes,
a mother waiting for her child's last breath. There is only this.

Jeremy Bryant is a poet and a writer of creative nonfiction. He is a graduate of the low residency MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Bryant is a spiritual writer who often explores universal suffering. His work may be found in Pikeville Review, EAOGH, TheNewVerse.News, and Prism.

Friday, February 23, 2018


(My Neighbor Calls Gun Owners ‘Beelzeguns,’ 
Says They Call Themselves ‘Gun Nuts’ 
Because Otherwise They Don’t Have Any Balls)

Graphic from Jon Stewart's The Daily Show.

by Ron Riekki

There have been two killed and twenty injured
by gun violence in the U.S. since Parkland.*
The melting pot is melting because of climate
change and the heat of being ambushed by
a blizzard of shrapnel. I taught a course on gun
violence and near the halfway point a student’s

girlfriend was shot and killed on campus. Life
used to stand until a Loaded Gun carried me
away to my graveyard shift where I don’t teach
anymore, sunk into the valley of security,
unarmed security, where I’m paid to stay awake
and at night, in the mountains of dark I remember

a kid telling me during that class that he used to take
his gun and shoot it at the lake at his parents’ camp,
December, Alabama, trying to make the bullets
skip. I asked him if he thought he might have
killed someone by mistake doing that and he told
me, Nah, no one was around for miles. There’ve

been more than two killed, more than twenty injured
now since.* Since. In Detroit, I remember a moment
on the street where someone commented on
another person’s visible bullet-hole scar.  He
lifted up his shirt to reveal more and then a bunch
of those nearby started sharing their bullet holes,

pant legs rolled up, shirts off, the drinking
of wounds. In Virginia, I delivered a Feast Pizza
to a trailer where the guy sat on his historical sofa
holding an old shotgun pointed at my college chest.
I asked what the hell he was doing and he said,
I just wanted to see your reaction. His girl-

friend told him to put the gun down,
but he didn’t. When I got back to the Dominos,
one of the other drivers asked, Did he do it to you?
He likes to do that to everyone who delivers there.
A cop told me about a kid who got shot in the eye
and the bullet ricocheted and came out the other eye.

During EMT class, the instructor asked if any
of us had been shot and one of the students
raised his hand; he’d shot himself by mistake,
cleaning his gun. The instructor told us a story
of how he got shot by a kid when he was doing CPR
on a rival gang member that they didn’t want saved.

By a kid, I mean a child. By a child, I mean that we
are drowning in the shallow end. After school shootings,
gun sales go up. I mean, throw up. As in puke. “It’s too
soon to talk about gun control.”  Hell, it’s too late.
Graffiti by my apartment says, What You Rape
Is What You Sewer with an AR-15 policed underneath,

plastered to the wall, pulverized to the wall in onyx
paint. Two times in my life, when talking about gun
control, I’ve had a person reach over and pull a gun out
of nowhere. Anti-magic. One was under a couch.
Another in a purse. As if guns were cigarettes.
As if guns were TV channels. As if the guy who lived

across from me in Chicago wasn’t shot and killed
in his apartment. My favorite superheroes never
use a gun. That’s for villains. Batarangs and bat-darts—
sure, but I always prefer those who simply outsmart, whose
sheer intelligence comes out. The opposite of those
who cure guns with guns, who stop choking by choking

more. The king of choking. We elected the king
of choking. Chos—a Persian word for fart.  The NRA chos-
king. A rump . . . Real hunters use bow-and-arrow. They bow
before the flesh and honor the animal by using every
body part, not sitting next to an elephant, leaning
against its belly with the gun in his crotch. Cowards.

*Accurate as of February 21, 2018. The numbers have enlarged since then.

Ron Riekki wrote U.P.: a novel (Great Michigan Read nominated) and edited The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book), Here: Women Writing on Michigan's Upper Peninsula (2016 Independent Publisher Book Award), and And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press, 2017).

Thursday, February 22, 2018


by Neil Creighton

Parkland students watch as Florida legislators vote down a resolution to discuss a ban on assault weapons.

So Sam rose early, saddled his donkey,
and took his children up the mountain.
And his children said
“Where is the offering, our father,
and who is this god we praise?”
“You are the offering, my children.”
Then hail of fire descended
and bright blood flowed until all were gone.
Sam sighed, thought he would pray,
wept a little as he descended the mountain.
A congregation waited below.
“It’s hard,” he said, “so hard.
But what can we do?
We don’t wish it but we must worship.”

And the great congregation shouted “Amen”.

Neil Creighton is an Australian poet whose work as a teacher of English and Drama brought him into close contact with thousands of young lives, most happy and triumphant but too many tragically filled with neglect. It also made him intensely aware of how opportunity is so unequally proportioned and his work reflects strong interest in social justice. Recent publications include Poetry Quarterly, Poeming Pigeon, Silver Birch Press, Rat's Ass Review, Praxis Mag Online, Ekphrastic Review, Social Justice Poetry, Peacock Journal, Poets Reading the News and Verse-Virtual.


by Ralph La Rosa

The evolution of revolution
is a student-led crusade,
its first and foremost resolution:
the NRA must be waylaid.

Ralph La Rosa’s work has been published online, including at TheNewVerse.News, and in the books Sonnet Stanzas and Ghost Trees.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018


by Mark Tarren

Mungo Man returned to ancestral home where he died 40,000 years ago. Traditional owners say the return of the remains of the historic Mungo Man, who was removed by scientists from his resting place more than 40 years ago, will provide closure and is a step toward reconciliation. More than four decades ago anthropologists removed the ancient skeleton of an Aboriginal man—the discovery of which rewrote Australian history. Now he has been returned home to his descendants, travelling for days in a hearse from Canberra. —ABC News, November 17, 2017. Photo by Dean Sewell, The Guardian, November 19, 2017.

These are the winds
of Country.

That birthed fire leaf and smoke
fish, ear and bone

upon the grinding stone
sparks hooded in a eucalypt sky
the footprint of a face.

A fire of Yellow Box and peppermint
of scented leaf, sand and cloud

that carved out a timbered lake
with gentle ochre limbs

hands crossed deep across
the womb of beginning
in the wounds of Country.

These are the winds
of Mutthi Mutthi, Paakantji

sung forever in the tears
of the tall man’s journey
to return to Country.

My white skin burns against
the red-gum casket lung

unable to remain in this life
as he wraps me to unfold me

in the ancient sands
of dunes and desert wounds

the crack, cry and howl as
my white skin dies
swept away
in the scales of shedding,

of waiting.

Come and dance across our hearts
so we can find

the first fire that remains.

Mark Tarren is a poet and writer based in Queensland, Australia. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in various literary journals including TheNewVerse.News, The Blue Nib, Poets Reading The News, Street Light Press, Spillwords Press and Tuck Magazine.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


by Melissa Balmain

CNN video from Oct 26, 2016.

"What to know about the Russian troll factory
listed in Mueller’s indictment" 
Vox, February 16, 2018

Chug-chug, the googly-eye machine
goes round; a massive table brims
with squat injection-molded limbs
and fluffy topknots (orange, green)
as workers in white coveralls
toil on without a kasha break.
At last: "We've done it, no mistake!"
the comrades whoop. Then silence falls
as they behold their masterpiece—
that gruesome grin! That triple chin!
That overcooked-kolbasa skin!—
and plot its glorious release.

Melissa Balmain is the Editor of Light, a journal of comic verse. Her poetry collection Walking In on People (winner of the Able Muse Book Award), is often assumed by online shoppers to be some kind of porn.

Monday, February 19, 2018


by Darrell Petska

Samir Salim is a White Helmets volunteer in Syria's Eastern Ghouta. Already out on a rescue mission when another air strike hit, Samir rushed toward the smoke: a Syrian government air strike had destroyed his house. He saved his infant nephew, sister, sister-in-law and father, but he could not save his mother crushed by the ceiling. He vows to continue his work.

Save the baby, Samir.
Now, fast to the girls.
Your Papa: Take him!
His cries tear my heart.

Samir, my angel,
release my soul
from this burden of being.
Be strong, as I taught you.

I am above you, Samir.
I am all around.
Tell them we are more,
more than paltry flesh.

Inhabit their eyes, my son.
Toward life's supple altar
draw their misspent hearts.
Show them we can fly.

Darrell Petska learned of Samir Salim and his family and felt a great sadness.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


by Sister Lou Ella Hickman

The Pieta Com. by Water-Lilly-Love at Deviant Art

                your child’s body stretches out on your lap    a pietá
                 as you remove the thorned crown of thoughts and prayers
                                       blood slowly crawls down the leg of your chair
                 then drop by drop marks your vigil on the floor
                                      visitors pass           your silence answers their questions
                 the outside darkness fills the window pane
                 the Senator's secretary says
                                      i have to lock up now
                  you reply
                  i’ll be back tomorrow

Sister Lou Ella Hickman is a poet, writer, and a certified spiritual director.  Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines such as First Things, Emmanuel, Third Wednesday, and TheNewVerse.News.  Her first book of poetry was entitled she: robed and wordless.


by Mary Kay Schoen

At Chichen Itza the guide said the ancient
Mayans threw innocents into the cenote
human sacrifice to forestall the end of the world

In World War II young Americans
died to defeat an evil regime
human sacrifice to make the world safe

At Littleton and Sandy Hook
and the school down the street
we send in our children

innocents in the line of fire
to defend the rights of congressmen
to finance reelection to defend the rights

of the folks who want assault rifles handy
in case the US Armed Forces are insufficient
or a deer might bound away

Shall Congress not hand out thanks
and Gold Stars to all the grieving parents
whose children gave their lives

to keep safe those seats on Capitol Hill?

Mary Kay Schoen is a Virginia writer whose feature stories have appeared in The Washington Post and association publications. Her poetry can be found in Persimmon Tree, America, and an anthology of Southwestern poetry from Dos Gatos Press. She spends too much time reading the newspaper.


by Rene Mears

Family members embrace following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Feb. 14, 2018, in Parkland, Fla. “Deadliest School Shootings in Modern US History” —VOA, February 14, 2018

Snow falls
Summer calls
                  Crying out for what can not be.
Winter’s chill
Sparrow’s trill
                  Darkness reigns, I can not see.
Many fools
Always cruel
                  The soul, all that remains
Only pawn
Myself gone
                  Invisible, are the chains
Your woe
Strikes the blow
                 So many lying still, asleep
Another gun
Better run
                 I’m left alone, to weep.
Never ends
These trends
                 Infinity. Infinity.  No way to decease
Winter’s chill
Sparrow’s trill
                 Funeral. Funeral. Forget the peace.

Rene Mears lives in Castle Rock, Colorado.  Nurse by day, aspiring writer by night.  This is her first published poem.


by Tricia Knoll

Florida student Emma Gonzalez to lawmakers and gun advocates: 'We call BS'. CLICK HERE to see her dramatic speech via CNN.

having sex before graduation,
or trying pot before sloe gin.

They volunteer, ride horseback
to halt pipelines, engage

with hip hop, rockers and rappers
to say words that need saying,

march in Washington and our city,
enlist, vote, call for police accountability,

and want citizenship for DACA immigrants.
Teenagers and twenty-somethings

see a world every day on their phones
where shooters slaughter friends

in school because there is no will
to ban assault weapons and control guns.

They know shots crack living room windows
on residential streets, that gangs fight useless

wars. When young people knew rightness
of the opportunity for gay marriage,

the nation swayed and so did judges.
They are screaming for gun control

and the right to sit in school
and learn without fear

with no more brush-off praying
for teachers and families

until something is done.
Yell with them.

We need them
to know we’re with them.

Tricia Knoll is an Oregon poet who has signed petitions for gun control for more than forty years. "We are children" say the survivors in Parkland. Do we need to hear more? She doesn't. She is tired of the empty rhetoric of pray for the families and do nothing to stop gun lobby money in Washington. Her book How I Learned to Be White is coming out from Antrim House in 2018.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


by David Tucker

Graphic from The Georgetown

I will drive all night in the Red States
I will take backroads through towns with one traffic light.
I will shop at gunshows that stay open late,
their windows festooned with assault rifles
at discounts that will make me weep.
I will make my peace with Jesus billboards
that glow from hilltops and welcome signs decorated
with bullet holes. I will make no comments
on the sexual confusion
of flag-emblazoned pickups, the twinkle
of their gun racks. I will give in
to the longing of satellite dishes as they turn
to early bird jewelry sales at four in the morning.
I will marry a trailer park beauty
who sits in a lawn chair beside a road, winding
pink curlers into her hair, I will slouch
in a lawn chair beside her, smoking Camels
as the sun comes up. I will reject national healthcare
and Islam, I will ban homosexuals and burn newspapers,
I will denounce foreign nations, ambitious women
and abortion, I will ignore the jails overflowing
I will oppose food stamps and Spanish,
I will wave to everyone who passes
glad to see them,  glad to see them go.

David Tucker’s book Late for Work won the Bakeless Poetry Prize, selected by Philip Levine, and was published by Houghton Mifflin. He also won a Slapering Hol Press national chapbook contest for Days When Nothing Happens and was awarded a Witter Bynner Fellowship by the Library of Congress. A career journalist, he supervised and edited two Pulitzer Prize winners for The Star-Ledger newspaper.

Friday, February 16, 2018


by Scott Bade

A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose is all
of them aligned in their identity a row
of matching matches each one the source
of course of course to the extinguishing
moment that follows a spectacle of what
we have to believe about what we can’t
believe. I’m not shaking anymore, neither
am I feeling much beyond the growl of dog
fattened on tables scraps lounging next to
the fire as someone pounds on the front
door their urgency their hands their rapid
fire knocking their pulling and pushing
and twisting the door handle it will not
give it won’t turn and then the turning
to living room window peering through
frantic hands binocularing now a palm
flat slapping window all heat red as you
guessed it a rose blooming in palm’s lined
lives & the dog’s ears inside perking
as the flames spread from room to room

Scott Bade earned his Ph.D. in creative writing at Western Michigan University (WMU). In addition to teaching at Kalamazoo College and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Scott is also the coordinator of the WMU Center for the Humanities. He is a former poetry editor for Third Coast Magazine and editorial assistant at New Issues Press. His poems have appeared in Fugue, Shadowgraph, H_NGM_N, Foothill and elsewhere. 


by Alexis-Rueal

What is left to write when everything
comes out looking like a bullet hole?
When everything sounds like
a coffin door closing.
How do you make room for a pen
in your hand when you are too busy hugging
toddler nephews tight and thanking
God and fate that they’re too young for school?
This time.
How many synonyms are left for despair
and fury? Do they even mean anything, anymore?
How does the poet write
when it has all been written before?
How does the poet write when they know
they will write it again tomorrow?

Alexis-Rueal is a Columbus, Ohio poet whose work has appeared in online and print journals throughout the US and in Europe. She has appeared in festivals and venues throughout Ohio and Kentucky. Her first full-length collection I Speak Hick was published by Writing Knights Press in 2016.