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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

NOT

by Laura Rodley





It’s not OK that Covid lurks
on sheet metal, lingers in lungs,
six hour window between tenants
in vacation rentals, disinfecting all
surfaces, holding onto our face masks.
It’s not OK I cannot see the stranger’s
face to know what they are saying,
who they are, if they might be safe or not.
It’s not OK that school might not
start up again and all rights of passage,
hallmarked by the start of school
in September, college, the rights of passage
are now given over to the power
of the internet, now zoomed into outer
space—are we being recorded? Who is
mapping our thoughts? It is as though
all the ways we knew how to live
and be kind, follow the markers, each right
of passage has left us with an earth
that’s flat, no longer round: what if Columbus
never sailed the seas, he drowned in them,
it was someone else who discovered America
and it was not someone looking for gold.
It was discovered by accident,
and no one was taken prisoner.


Laura Rodley, Pushcart Prize winner, is a quintuple Pushcart Prize nominee, and quintuple Best of Net nominee. Finishing Line Press nominated her Your Left Front Wheel Is Coming Loose for a PEN L.L.Winship Award and Mass Book Award. FLP also nominated her Rappelling Blue Light for a Mass Book Award. Former co-curator of the Collected Poets Series, until Covid-19, Rodley taught the As You Write It memoir class for 12 years.  She edited and published As You Write It, A Franklin County Anthology volumes I-VI, also nominated for a Mass Book Award. Latest books Turn Left at Normal by Big Table Publishing and Counter Point by Prolific Press.

COUNTERFACTUAL WISHING

by Sarah Dickenson Snyder





Pleated in every human minute
is the second of someone’s death—
the way a mother and daughter leap
from a warm wooden dock
into the Maine coast sea
and the mother is taken
in the sharpness of a second—
the shark’s desire to clench
what looked like seal skin. What if
she had not worn the wet suit, what if
they had decided to eat lunch before
the swim—sandwiches
& iced tea on the deck, what if
clouds obscured the sun & they hadn’t
needed relief from heat, what if
we knew the second of our leaving,
could stop ourselves
from diving in.


Sarah Dickenson Snyder has written poetry since she knew there was a form with conscious line breaks. She has three poetry collections: The Human Contract (2017), Notes from a Nomad (nominated for the Massachusetts Book Awards 2018), and With a Polaroid Camera (2019). Recently, poems appeared in Rattle, The Sewanee Review, and RHINO.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

WHEN WE'LL ALL MARCH TOGETHER

by George Salamon


Detail of the cover of Katie Mack's book The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking).


Does it all end, or can we keep on in our merry way indefinitely?… We have doom and destruction of our own to worry about, arriving faster and faster… Plague is rampant. The Arctic Circle is on fire. Still, I find it helpful—not reassuring certainly, but mind-expanding—to be reminded of our place in a vast cosmos. —James Gleick in his review of Katie Mack's book The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) in The New York Times, August 4, 2020


Walked out of my confinement to
Gaze at the sun, moon and stars,
Colossi of our universe, they
Make our world go round,
Turning the wheels, rising
Above our shrinking horizon.
We touch their grandeur to
Sustain our hope and striving.
Shivering, I crash instead into
Our rush into losing everything
There is to lose: day, night, the
Center itself, I ask if our purpose
In the universe is found in such
Disposition, or lost by it as well.


George Salamon lives in St. Louis, MO and most recently has contributed to One Sentence Poems, The Asses of Parnassus, and TheNewVerse.News.

TRAGEDY IN [...]

by Devon Balwit


Lebanese security forces confronted protesters during clashes in downtown Beirut on Saturday, following a demonstration against political leaders blamed for a deadly explosion in the city. Credit: Agence France-Presse—Getty Images via The New York Times, August 9, 2020


The United States is becoming like Lebanon and other Middle East countries in two respects. First, our political differences are becoming so deep that our two parties now resemble religious sects in a zero-sum contest for power. They call theirs “Shiites and Sunnis and Maronites” or “Israelis and Palestinians.” We call ours “Democrats and Republicans,” but ours now behave just like rival tribes who believe they must rule or die. And second, as in the Middle East, so increasingly in America: Everything is now politics—even the climate, even energy, even face masks in a pandemic. 
—Thomas Friedman, The New York Times, August 9, 2020


How does a city fall, how does a nation?
A raft of catastrophe floats in & is lashed
to a bollard & then forgotten, pleas for attention
ignored or handed on, fears quashed

beneath derision. Those at the helm creep
away in the dark after pocketing what they can.
Those who cannot leave tremble at the seep
of decay & instability, hoping to withstand

the blast that finally comes. Many won’t.
Their names will be added to a list, misspelled,
the list lost, their ashes scattered amidst
a hundred thousand livelihoods propelled

into calamity. Then, blistering recrimination
& grim survivors doing what must be done.


Devon Balwit's most recent collection is titled A Brief Way to Identify a Body (Ursus Americanus Press). Her individual poems can be found in here as well as in Jet Fuel, The Worcester Review, The Cincinnati Review, Tampa Review, Apt (long-form issue), Tule Review, Grist, and Rattle among others.

WHAT STILL BELONGS TO US

by Sean J Mahoney


“Tangled Roots,” a painting by Wayne Doyle.


Offer the dark and far side of the house as stilled
prey to light and wind. Sky filled with weather
balloons, a story of openings and the dishrag
calamities of coming wars fought not between
soldiers but callous ideologies. My neighbors
crossing waters caught aflame, sown with
stench of powder, predatory hint of pheromone.
Those boat holds packed with coffins of kin.
Fragments of lovers. Loads of hurt, spray-painted
time, viral loss of speech coming fast, loose.

Clothed people with weathered skin, sitting and
waiting for apples and a humanity of eyebrows.
Decent beings most, stripped for their good deeds,
their mutual bonds and returns, for grid coordinates
of physical love and further acid rain bombs.
As though a brush stroke across the sky could
cure the vicissitudes of storms, of the prickly
aftermath where many headed in the days and
years that followed. Brush and slow stroke.
Spiritual tech and the uncaged graphic stations

of the body. This they say is art. Street magic.
Lord of hands digging trenches through rubble
and dirty clothing of unfamiliar beings. Postcards
of a land in better times; tourists, culture, and
radiant sunshine. Blue house on a block of narrow
mildewed homes. Bloated curbs and skinny
streetlamps illume familiar strain: a colored side
and the other side, a have side and a have next
to nothing side. Storm drains usher ill promises
and leprous iguanas to a cold sea amid tangles
of tree roots promulgated by water and by state.


Sean J Mahoney has had work published at Poets Reading the News, The Good Men Project, Nine Mile Literary Magazine, Antithesis Journal, Catamaran Literary Reader, and Wordgathering among others. He lives in Southern California with Dianne, her mother, 3 dogs, and 4 renters. There is a large garden and two trees with big, bitter oranges that look more lemon-like. Sean co-edited the 2nd and 3rd volumes of the MS benefit anthology series Something On Our Minds and he helps to run the Disability Literature Consortium booth at the annual AWP bookfair… lit by crips.

Monday, August 10, 2020

THE MATAMOROS-BROWNSVILLE BRIDGE

by Janice MacKenzie


Asylum seekers have been waiting for hearings in Matamoros, Mexico, across the Matamoros-Brownsville Bridge from Brownsville, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images via Vox. Organizers say the camp is one of the last remaining along the U.S./Mexico border. Migrants returned to Mexico have faced months-long postponements in immigration hearings held underneath tents and in trailers across the river in Brownsville. Many of those returned to Mexico live in tents along the river for the duration of proceedings. Some have been living homeless for over a year, surviving with the assistance of Brownsville and Matamoros-based aid groups. Hearings are currently postponed until Texas reaches Stage 3 of its reopening plan. Due to a surge in cases, it will likely be months until proceedings begin again. Prior to COVID-19, the camp’s population was estimated to be over 2,500 with more asylum seekers living further into Matamoros. A recent census conducted by Angry Tias and Abuelas of the Rio Grande Valley documented 960 residents, suggesting that people have been abandoning their cases. —The Brownsville Herald, July 29, 2020


On this side, the tent city—
mud, flies, the stink of
unwashed bodies and latrines
families crowded together—
no hope, no future

On that side, steel & concrete—
cages for the children
uniformed men, with guns and
cold eyes
fences and barriers—
but hope for
something better

Between them, the river
wide and muddy, snaking through
the tall grasses and scrub brush
a barrier—but also a friend
giving water, a bath,
clean clothes

And spanning that divide,
the bridge—
symbol of connection,
of joining together
of safe passage

Now, a different kind of barrier
unfriendly concrete and steel girders
barbed wire and chain-link fencing
forming a narrow corridor
like a cattle chute
to check points,
to rejection

On this side, the sign reads
“Feliz Viaje”—
“Happy Journey”
though my journey was
anything but happy

On that side, an American flag flies
over a sign:  “Welcome to the United States
of America”—
but there is no welcome there
for me
and never will be


Janice MacKenzie is an acupuncturist, an activist, a poet and a photographer.  She came back to poetry after a long hiatus during which she built her acupuncture practice and became active in acupuncture politics.  The current political situation in the U.S. calls for poetry and activism. Janice has organized a weekly vigil since June, 2018, for the children of the migrants/asylum-seekers stuck at the Mexican border.  She lives in Sellersville, Pennsylvania.

NUESTRA NUEVA CASA

by Philip C. Kolin




Corona is a cruel landlord taking over people's bodies,
cancelling their lease on life and throwing them out

of their hovels and apartments, as many as
40 million this year. How can they pay back

rent when they have no jobs. Corona profiteers
hide their eyes and close their hearts and hands

as the least of these, many Latin strangers in
a strange land, become street people overnight.

Portfolioers like death-grip Mitch advise the evicted
to declare bankruptcy, the easiest way to go.

It begins with a knock, a summons,  and ends with  a padlock.
All their belongings packed in black plastic bags

for the trip to the curb. But how can you put sheets
over the pavement or where can you hang

clothes or curtains. Will the post office deliver
to an address that has no address.

Their only furniture a donated  empty
box  used to ship a refrigerator;

passers-by glibly say these outcasts should
be grateful that America has donated the air

fouled corona air, too, they can't get with such abundance
in their own country. Some wait outside funeral parlors

for a vacancy, or sneak into a post office
to bring back some heat in a blanket

to a child or a wife too sick to walk.
The street becomes their hospital, too.

Ambulances rushing by the only medical
care they will get all night.

Other desalojos crowd into a friend's already
crowded apt. setting up households in a hallway

or sharing a bedroom with four generations,
the best housing arrangement for Corona

to spread. Shelters, too, are welcoming centers
for Corona tenants packed face to face, coughs

and sneezes in lieu of rent. Corona quips
it never evicts anyone. Everyone's lungs are welcome.


Philip C. Kolin is the Distinguished Professor of English (Emeritus) and Editor Emeritus of the Southern Quarterly at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has published more than 40 books on Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, African American playwrights as well as ten collections of poems. His most recent books are Reaching Forever: Poems in the Poiema Series of Cascade Books and, forthcoming from Main Street Rag, Delta Tears.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

BEFORE AND AFTER

by Judy Juanita






before

We stood on garbage cans to watch the assembly line
at the Chevrolet manufacturing plant on 73rd ave
See the USA in your Chevrolet
America is asking you to call
Drive your Chevrolet through the USA
America’s the greatest land of all
We paid our parents no mind at all
when they said Dinah Shore was passing for white

Oakland had white-only garden apts. on 66th ave
housing UC Berkeley grad students
young dads in Bermuda shorts 
moms in capri pants
a 99 year covenant kept us out
the little children called us niggers
if we took the shortcut home

Those apts. became the site of the 1980s drug wars
The would-be Coliseum was a swamp
BART was a developer’s dream 
to bring suburban commuters to SF
Oakland be damned
We had to fight to get Oakland stops added
The boys across the street were from Georgia 
Their mother welcomed my brother to peepee 
in their bathroom but insisted he poopoo at home
I thought white people pooped white poops
And we pooped brown 

Wave after wave of Ohlones, Mexicans, Chinese, Portuguese
Oakies and Arkies from the Oklahoma and Arkansas dust bowls
coloreds and whites from Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma 
migrated for munitions and troop movement work during WWI

Our parents and grandparents came in droves
planting their families and dreams 
in the fertile soil called California 

after

We’re all Panthers now
The Black Panther Party did not backfire
It was an early warning system 
for this entire country/world 
about U.S. oppression
the ravages of imperialism 
the rampant police-as-occupying-force 
in the black community

As the vanguard it did exactly 
what 
it was historically tasked to do
it woke people up 

What people choose to do now
under this near totalitarianism
is up to individuals and groups

We don’t need Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Denmark Vesey
Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Fannie Lou Hamer
MLK, John Lewis, Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver
Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, all our people
who fought to the finish

They came, they saw, they served
It’s up to the living to stand up and be counted


Judy Juanita’s poetry has been published widely. Her poem “Bling” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2012. Her semi-autobiographical novel Virgin Soul is about a young woman who joins the Black Panther Party in the 60s (Viking, 2013). She appears in Netflix’s Last Chance U: Season 5, Laney College where she teaches.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

PENGUIN: FAMILY SPENISCIDAE

by Gwendolyn Morgan


            

aquatic flightless birds
they     like us              have adapted to their environment
adopted flippers for swimming in icy water
in Chile, Argentina, South Africa

We are a black and white same gendered multiracial family
intersectionality of lens          lock and intersect
race      ethnicity          gender              orientation
privilege          power              white and black witness feathers

Our neighbor a white man swerved at us         intentionally
a sandy brown vehicle like the burnt umber sand at the edge of Ushuaia
where you can take a boat to see three species of penguins
his Toyota 4Runner once and another black SUV again
revved at us     make the black woman            jump    again
and her partner            jump    to our neighbor’s green and brown grass
the couple moved here from another state
moved here a few years ago   now still shocked by the behavior
of well-educated mostly white privileged neighbors who in this time of COVID
pack guns, rev engines, use anti-kindness vernacular
we watch brothers, fathers, sisters, mothers die in the pandemic
while our neighbors watch microaggression after macroaggression
directed at my beloved            like guns, tear gas and a palette of vehicles
rainbow of colors, the neighborhood children walk here too

I could write for days
about what it means to live here         in black and white
how we have plush penguins and carved wooden penguins
on our fireplace hearth            
along with sage, sweetgrass, feathers,
ashes, vigil candles, gifts from our elders. 


Gwendolyn Morgan is a Pacific Northwest poet and artist who serves in interfaith Spiritual Care in a medical center in the midst of COVID19.  The Clark County Poet Laureate 2018-2020 in Washington State, her third book of poetry, Before the Sun Rises is a Nautilus Silver Winner in Poetry. Gwendolyn and her spouse Judy A. Rose focused on poetry and music during a Winter 2020 Centrum Artist Residency. As a multiracial family in a multispecies watershed, they are committed to equity work and inclusion for all. 

THREE FLAGS

by Diane Elayne Dees




On my walks to the river, I pass
many American flags, and—
while I don’t like to judge—
I think I know what they stand for. 
In front of one house 
is a large Confederate flag,
and I’m sure I know what that stands for. 
Then, one day, I walk around the corner,
and am surprised and thrilled to see 
a huge rainbow flag in a neighbor’s yard.
The next day, an American flag is hung 
next to it. I wonder if the neighbor hung
the second flag as a means of protection;
I let my imagination run away with me. 
The following day, a third giant flag
appears next to the others—a flag
reminding me to vote for the two
most evil and incompetent men
I can recall having power in my lifetime.
Collective delusion has destroyed
cognitive dissonance. The red, white
and blue of democracy and the 
bright yellow and green and purple
of nature’s prism lift my spirits.
But now, every day, when I turn 
the corner, the colors of diversity
and freedom hurt my eyes,
trigger blood-red visions,
and intimate a sky so dark,

no rainbow can ever be visible.


Diane Elayne Dees's poetry has been published in many journals and anthologies, and she has two chapbooks forthcoming. Diane also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women's professional tennis throughout the world.

Friday, August 07, 2020

IN A TIME OF VIOLENCE

by Iris Jamahl Dunkle




The swab goes deep enough to eliminate
doubt—We stay bubbled in our vehicles, 

press our IDs to the car window's glass—
The doctor's scrubs and PPE are the color of Easter eggs—

The sky blue as a calm sea. When I look up 
and open my mouth to let them insert 

the swab to touch the back of my throat, it burns
with my own fear. Hours before 

a helicopter hovered just feet above my home and I
didn’t know what it was looking for: 

downed power lines to prevent future wildfires or 
another hidden violence I've yet to know.


Iris Jamahl Dunkle was the 2017-2018 Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, CA. Her newest poetry collection West : Fire : Archive will be published by Mountain/ West Poetry Series in 2021.  Her other poetry collections include Interrupted Geographies (Trio House Press, 2017) Gold Passage (Trio House Press, 2013), and There's a Ghost in this Machine of Air (Word Tech, 2015).  Her biography Charmian Kittredge London: Trailblazer, Author, Adventurer is forthcoming from the University of Oklahoma Press. Her poem “Listening to the Caryatids on the Palace of Fine Arts” poem will be featured on 100 buses as part of the San Francisco Beautiful and Poetry Society of America Muni Art 2020 campaign. Her works have been published in Tin House, San Francisco Examiner, Fence, Los Angeles Review of Books, Split Rock Review, Taos Poetry Journal, Pleiades, Calyx, Catamaran, Poet's Market, Women's Studies, and Chicago Quarterly Review. Dunkle teaches at Napa Valley College and is the Poetry Director of the Napa Valley Writers' Conference. 

VENTILATE

by Ellen Austin-Li


"Breathe," a painting by McKayla Smitson.


Father Yaezel hovers on the veil
between this world and the next.
My mother tells me her parish priest
is in the ICU with COVID and his condition
can’t be good, as the local news put out a call
for plasma donors from survivors.
That’s last ditch, my husband says, but I shush
him with my eyes: Please. He’s one of the good ones.

I see Father Yaezel, his full head of snowy hair,
crossing the street from the rectory, walking
up our driveway. I remember him standing,
head bowed, at my father’s bedside, his right hand
signing the cross in mid-air as he recited
Last Rites. My father didn’t die that day —
wouldn’t die — until Father Yaezel held
my mother in his crystal blues a week later
and gently prodded, Did you tell him it was okay to go?

Some nights, a blast of air wakes me from my dreams
and for a moment I think I am on the unit again,
my patient disconnected from the vent — but instead
of the rhythmic breath coming in waves,
the whoosh is continuous. I become aware
I’m in my bedroom, the tubing popped-off
my CPAP machine. I’ve read they try these
on COVID patients to keep them off ventilators.
I open my mouth to feel the rush of pressure
whispering    breathe ...
I sigh and return to sleep.


Ellen Austin-Li is an award-winning poet published in Artemis, Writers Tribe Review, The Maine Review, Mothers Always Write, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Masque & Spectacle, Green Briar Review, Panoply, and other places. Her first poetry chapbook Firefly was published by Finishing Line Press in 2019. Ellen is a student at the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

CLOUD BURST

by Susan Delaney Spear


“Heavy Rain in the City,” a painting by Dan Haraga.


“Sad news this morning”
reads my daughter’s text,
“Ravi passed last night.”
Ravi, whom I’ve never met.

How to grieve a man
that I have never met
and now will never meet?
I find myself beset

by this amorphous loss.
He would have been
her uncle by marriage—
but for COVID-19.

The weather report predicted
a stiff fifty degrees,
so I decide to run
to feel the angry breeze.

I think I’ll beat the downpour
and quickly change my clothes.
A mile out the wind whips hard,
and the rain’s a drumming prose.                                  

I pass a Starbucks and notice
the vacant dining area.
Oddly, I think of Elijah,
transported to heaven by chariot.

But Ravi’s death was not
a smooth heavenward glide.
COVID victims wrestle death
with no one by their side.

At two miles out, too late to turn
around, large drops pelt
my legs, my bare forearms,
and the unforgiving asphalt.

The water rushes in gutters.
I plunge through its freezing foam.
Drops weep from the brim of my cap.
Run. Three miles from home.

I picture a deluge of faces,    
a flood of decimation,
one hundred fifty thousand plus,
the size of a small nation.

My shirt plasters my ribs.
My shoes and socks—drowned.
Numbness creeps from thumb to elbow.
Run. The storm pounds.

As I fumble for my key,
I say his name aloud: “Ravi”  
One by one they die,
this unspeakable enormity.


Susan Delaney Spear is an Associate Professor of English at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood. She is the author of Beyond All Bearing (Wipf & Stock Resource Publications 2018), a collection of poems, and the co-author of The Secrets of English Verse (forthcoming from Spring in November, 2020, with David J. Rothman) a creative writing textbook aimed at advanced high school students and undergraduates.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

HIROSHIMA 1945

by Daniel Brown


On that clear, sunny morning, 7-year-old Howard Kakita stood on the roof of his grandparents’ bathhouse excitedly watching the vapor trails of an approaching B-29. The date was August 6, 1945. The city was Hiroshima. Howard was not supposed to be on the roof, his grandmother shouting as the air raid siren sounded. Then again, neither he nor his brother were supposed to be in Japan at all. Born in California, they were Americans, like their mother and father before them, like unknown numbers of U.S. citizens who were caught in that city on that day and forever after associated with the atomic bomb and the horrors it unleashed… Only as a young man did Howard begin to realize how miraculous his survival was. His grandparents lived less than a mile from Hiroshima’s ground zero. For several moments, he lay unconscious under the rubble then dug himself out. His grandfather rescued his grandmother from the mountain of debris that had been their house… Both Howard and Kenny suffered dysentery and lost their hair from the radiation exposure. Their maternal grandmother, they learned, had literally vanished in the blast. Their maternal grandfather would die within days. —The Washington Post, August 4, 2020. Photo: Howard Kakita, right, his older brother, Kenny, and paternal grandfather, Yaozo, all lost their hair because of radiation exposure from the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima. (Family photo)


glowing morning busy sidewalks

children playing or in carriages 
a buzz in the sky

giant mosquitoes 
a moment later
cinder and ash.


Daniel Brown is a retired Special Education teacher. He began writing poetry for his own pleasure but is now interested in sharing his work. Daniel has been an activist for environmental, anti-nuke, and social issues since the 80’s. He reads regularly at CAPS (Calling All Poets) in New Paltz N.Y. and has been published in Chronogram Magazine. He resudes  in Red Hook, N.Y.