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Thursday, January 20, 2022

WOMEN OF GHŌR

by Steven Croft




In twilight we stare into our deaths
like we are the coming darkness

Our harrowed babies cry
but we dare not sing to them

The flour is gone in days
even tea is scarce

Our colorful dresses long hidden
or already burned for warmth

A bird calls a melody from a snowy tree
like joy trapped by the coming darkness

Warlords with stern faces walk the streets
with whips, rifles,

Whip-march a head-bent man with hands
bound behind by thick layers of rope

They tell us we have now what the hands
of the people have earned

And there is nowhere else to go, just
a cold valley, hill passes snowed for winter

If allowed to sing, we would moan a dirge
now even the night-bird is quiet

Nowhere is even a seed of relief
markets, kiosks, shops, silent and empty

They say our sins haunt us now—
girls wanting work and education

In the cold schools boys recite the Quran
Ameen

But how many times, O Knower of the Unseen,
until all our sins are erased

In our dreams of spring we see green trees
goat's milk and markets full of vegetables

In our dreams of spring we dance and sing
in our colorful dresses


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.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

ANOTHER RAPID TEST

by Devon Balwit


The Biden Administration to Begin Distributing At-Home, Rapid COVID-⁠19 Tests to Americans for Free. Americans can order a test online HERE


It’s just a cold, we say. We’re feeling fine.
But want to reassure, so swab away—
Another rapid test without a line.
 
The tests are nearly impossible to find.
We call around or treasure hunt all day.
It’s just a cold, we say. We’re feeling fine.
 
We hide our coughs from those who’d mind.
But none of us can forego pay.
Another rapid test without a line.
 
The law now makes tests free—how kind—
but where to find them? Hunt and pray.
It’s just a cold, we say. We’re feeling fine.
 
We’re three years into this new grind—
Vaccinated, boostered—the whole array.
It’s just a cold, we say. We’re feeling fine.
Another rapid test without a line.
 

When not teaching, Devon Balwit chases chickens in Portland, OR. Her most recent collections are Rubbing Shoulders with the Greats [Seven Kitchens Press, 2020] and Dog-Walking in the Shadow of Pyongyang [Nixes Mate Books, 2021]. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

IN THE ROUND

by Indran Amirthanayagam




Yes, I pray now to God, to Francis
whose name I took at Confirmation,
to the Pieta in whose lap I lie, to my
mother determined to bathe despite
her failing legs and fear of the night.
who recalls the pride with which
we were taught to reply to scissors
and knives of the outrageous
and bigoted, who say that we
do not belong on this side of
the river, on the red carpet,
in the ceremony of democracy.
We will not cede. We will not
be overcome. We will not
despair. We are going to keep
our seat despite the pandemic,
the supply chain hijacking,
the wild fires, because God
will observe the proceedings
once again—this my faith—
to keep us from falling off
the flat end of the other party's earth.


Indran Amirthanayagam produced a “world" record in 2020 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 has just published Blue Window (Ventana Azul), translated by Jennifer Rathbun.(Dialogos Books). 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.

Monday, January 17, 2022

WILD ABOUT WHITE

by Jen Schneider





sets on. lights bright. everyone wild. wild about white. all bets on betty. betty always on. leg of hose & humor on tap. eyes of blue & berry sparkle. body & mind of pure spunk. cameras click. lights blind while white binds. folks of television lands. card hands & foreign tongues. tongues click. vocal cords clack. white cures airs of silence. heir to all. syllables stream. smiles crack. baby blues sparkle. betty curates & creates. aches of bellies & bent backs arc. laughter always on the menu. dial in. dial on. of/with/at your back. always streaming. of decades. of then. of now. flashes of brilliance. beltways of brightness. of dolls & decades. of danes, dances & daily documentation. of golden girls & mary tyler moore. everyone always eager for more. regimens & irregularities. broads on main. saturday night brilliance. live on stage (& social). expert at both crafting & creating a life. time to mourn. time to adorn. under the lights. lights bright. sets on. everyone wild. wild about white.

99 (by three) ways to make (live) (transform) a life

1.     Entertain all people, possibilities, & permutations. Ration sarcasm.
2.     Track consumption not weight. Weigh options. Seize opportunity.
3.     Track actions, not time. Treasure time & tunes of many types (& transcripts / scripts).
4.     Experience & experiment with life, love, laughter. Liquid humor, too.
5.     Season all sauces. Secure all seasons (& reasons).
6.     Breed offspring of original lines. Converse (& traverse) lines of unoriginal origin.
7.     Maximize sauciness. Minimize saltiness.
8.     Memorize scripts regularly. Make new memories daily.
9.     Prime personalities & timing. Always of/on prime time.
10.  Improvise finales. Rehearse final lines.
11.  Glow (like a Golden Girl). Emulate (like a multi-Emmy winner).
12.  Collect & create (a life on high definition). (re)Create. Juxtapose. Pose often.
13.  Patron (not patronize) all personalities. Puree peculiarities & ponderings.
14.  Befriend & pet creatures of many paws. Pause often. Inhale. Glow. Regale.
15.  Pen recipes of craft & creation. Greet consumers of/on/in People & Parade.
16.  Serenade serendipity. Harmonize habits. Habituate harmony.
17.  Entertain all possibilities. Entertain all people. Populate screens. Screen popularity.
18.  Track actions. Not time. Treasure time & tunes of many types.
19.  Experience & experiment with life, love, & laughter. Favor foods of familiar roots.
20.  Embrace final words & works. Take action & agency. Work finales.
21.  Grace plates, tubes, & presents. Maintain presence of mind and manners.
22.  Practice gratitude. Tether caution. For/of/in/at duties. Projects, too.  
23.  Be of homegrown grains & household grime.
24.  Assess all situations. Situate all communications. Savor sitcoms.
25.  Twinkle under stars, in eyes, of curtseys. make light of most makings.
26.  Stroll across stages. Put pen to paper. Pamper pets in pens.
27.  Add a dose of sass to all sensations (& creations)
28.  Be curious. Be courageous. Be(t) on/of/for betty.
29.  Mix & mingle. Sip sweet & salty. Stir trouble. Add dashes of umph.
30.  Blanket newsstands. Blanket screens. Fill in (all) blanks.
31.  Run series. Run bits. Run betty.
32.  Plan jokes of spontaneous & unpredictable possibility. Do not plan. Be.
33.  Be (dedicated to thee) betty.


Sources:
https://people.com/tv/betty-white-died-peacefully-in-her-sleep-at-home-agent-says/
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/31/arts/television/betty-white-dead.html
https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/16/entertainment/betty-white-100/index.html
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/12/31/betty-white-appreciation-tribute/


Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. She is a Best of the Net nominee, with stories, poems, and essays published in a wide variety of literary and scholarly journals. She is the author of A Collection of Recollections (Next Chapter), Invisible Ink (Toho Pub), On Daily Puzzles: (Un)locking Invisibility (forthcoming, Moonstone Press), and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups (forthcoming Atmosphere Press).

Sunday, January 16, 2022

NEW YEAR RESOLUTION

by Geoffrey Philp




The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued level 4 and level 2 travel advisories for Jamaica which sees them strongly warning against travel into the country due to several factors including Covid-19 and violence which has plagued some areas. —YardHype, January 12, 2022. See also CDC, January 10, 2022


The CDC has updated their travel advisory
to Jamaica due to crime, the spread of Covid,
and a lack of police presence in the county.
 
They’ve suggested avoiding public buses or secluded
places and added to statistics of robberies and break-
ins, a rising positivity rate. Fully vaccinated,
 
boostered, and up-to-date on flu shots I’ll take
my survival odds on the island this winter.
You see, America, I need a long-deserved break
 
from my daily rehearsal of answers to policemen
with the tiresome, “Who are you? Why are you here?”
usually by some rookie hoping to make his bones
 
with an exotic trophy in the trunk of his squad car
where he’ll pose with his first kill of the New Year.


Geoffrey Philp is the author of five books of poetry, two collections of short stories, three children’s books, and two novels, including Garvey’s Ghost. His poems and short stories have been published in The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse, sx salon, World Literature Today, The Johannesburg Review of Books, The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories, Bearden’s Odyssey Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden, Rattle: Poets Respond, and Crab Orchard Review. A recipient of the Luminary Award from the Consulate of Jamaica (2015) and a former chair for the 2019 OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry, Philp’s work is featured on The Poetry Rail at The Betsy—an homage to 12 writers that shaped Miami culture. His next collection of poems, Archipelagos, is forthcoming from Peepal Tree Press.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

WINTRY MIX

by Tricia Knoll




As a forecast this seems like calling for mayhem
until the front moves in and the silence of snow
licks every branch and sticks to each twig’s gesture. 
 
The goldfinch and nuthatches retreat from the feeder
to unseen hideouts. The dogs yawn, and I succumb
to a sleepiness at odds with the morning news
 
of those who call for civil war, the skyrockets
of corona deaths, projections of costs in trust
and cash. The silence of falling snow deepens
 
inch by inch above the ice slick the rain gave 
first. Slow gather and the flurry of politicians
with papers and proof seeking. Such sad news
 
in accumulations inch by inch by inch. 


Tricia Knoll is living out the series of wintry mixes in Vermont where the forecast calls of windchills of -20 in the next few days. Her new chapbook Let's Hear It For The Horses is available February 1, and the horses outside down the road during the day  are all wearing heavy blankets now.

Friday, January 14, 2022

BASEBALL LOCKOUTS AND WINTER DREAMS

by Earl J. Wilcox





Baseball labor talks to end the lockout resumed Thursday for the first time in 1½ months with little evident progress during a bargaining session that lasted about an hour, jeopardizing a timely start to spring training. Major League Baseball imposed the lockout on Dec. 2 as soon as the five-year collective bargaining contract expired, a few hours after talks broke off. —Los Angeles Times, January 13, 2022


Your tinny voice throws me off.
You stand slightly slumped holding
 
a baseball bat. Your face is a bit
out of focus though my macular
 
eyes make most pictures seem dim.
I have trouble figuring where
 
you and I are: a ball park, a small
dugout, perhaps just a dirt yard,
 
the kind I know well from childhood.
We sit very close. I see the bat, its
 
stark beauty of slightly tanned oak
or is it maple or some wood I see only
 
in my dreams. We chat, but I cannot tell
what we say. Man, your quirky smile
 
radiates warmth through shaded
teeth of twilight in dreamland.
 
You talk a lot about a pitcher’s
knuckleball you once hit. I mumble
 
a reply and just want to know more
about Enos or Gibby—and the lockout.
 
You shrug then take a sliver-looking
candy bar from your pocket. You put
 
the bar in your mouth, blow, cheeks
slightly puff out. I feel & hear a wail
 
sounding like Wabash Cannonball
or an old gospel tune clearly off-key.
 
My Alexa gently nudges me with music
and some NPR news, mid-January morning.
 

Baseball lovers all will have no trouble puzzling out who appeared in Earl Wilcox’s dream.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

SOCIOBIOLOGICAL

by Tom Bauer


E.O. Wilson, famed entomologist and pioneer in the field of sociobiology, dies at 92.


It’s safe to say. It's like the species does
what others do, but quickly, consciously,
aware of what it does while doing it,
like caterpillars on the dying edge;
the lava comes, the inner circle’s safe;
above it rains, they’re safe below, beneath
the layers of others, those who will go first,
who'll dive off leaves into the drowning ground.
The finest traits in all the kingdom are
amassed and ready in the mass, to move,
adapt, the speed of thought, instant meta
class of entity, biology, human,
bipedal feces-maker, building wide
a grand estate of armor-plated lies.


Tom Bauer grew up playing violin and listening to spoken word recordings. When he was ten, he rashly announced he was going to be a poet. He did a bunch of university and stuff. He's had some poems published. He lives in Montreal and plays board games.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

THE CLASSROOM

by Gary Glauber


This undated photo shows special education teacher Jennifer Graves, at Dr. Reginald Mayo Early Childhood School, in New Haven, Conn. When her classroom aide didn't show up for work and no substitutes were available for the day because staffing levels have been decimated by the surge in COVID-19 infections, she borrowed paraprofessionals from other classrooms for short stretches to get through. (Courtesy Jennifer Graves via AP) —US News, January 6, 2022


We ask them to identify global issues
at a time when their own lives are the global issue,
when identity comes masked and at a remove
measured and circumscribed for safety
according to the latest recommendations.
 
This remains a social place, as it must,
where exchanged ideas ignite the fires
that fuel internal growth alongside 
the social and the physical, and we bear witness
daily to the awesome and real act of becoming.
 
Now we are in a prolonged fugue, a limbo
wherein they better grasp the repetitive hopes
of Vladimir and Estragon, awaiting further instruction.
As news brings forth each sobering tidal wave
of rising numbers, it grows harder to pretend.
 
Every week brings a new normal.
Haggard-looking administrators roam hallways
with official clipboards of doom,
asking four questions to trace
the trails of those not virally passed over.   
 
And all the while we take attendance,
having learned to smile with our eyes,
and dispense daily lessons that pale
against these larger life lessons
that challenge and instruct us all.
 
Here in our smart modern classrooms
we muster the safest havens we can manage,
sharing screens and hearts and minds,
knowing that with each period’s gathering
comes a strong dose of social healing.
 
All pandemics come to an end,
the wisdom of the ages suggests.
Yet until that ancient saw becomes reality,
there’s a remedy called the classroom
that brings the dream closer, uniting us in wisdom.
 
With this new world comes higher order questions 
that Bloom’s taxonomy never considered.
Through shared crisis come unmasked truths:
together we feel shared love that helps us through
what often seems these most trying of times.


Gary Glauber is a widely published poet, fiction writer, teacher, and former music journalist. He champions the underdog while negotiating life’s absurdities. He has four collections, Small Consolations  (Aldrich Press), Worth the Candle (Five Oaks Press), Rocky Landscape with Vagrants (Cyberwit), and most recently, A Careful Contrition (Shanti Arts Publishing); and two chapbooks, Memory Marries Desire (Finishing Line Press) and The Covalence of Equanimity (SurVision Books), a winner of the 2019 James Tate International Poetry Prize. A new collection will be forthcoming soon from Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

STRIKE

by Katie Kemple





We placed the blue trash can
and the green recycling bin
filled with the detritus
leading up to Christmas
in front of our townhouse
garage, like we always do,
and our neighbors too, and
they stayed there, all the way up to
and well past Christmas,
past New Years. The brown
cardboard boxes of mail-ordered
gifts stuck their tongues out
at us, papers glued like stickers
to the pavement courtesy
of the rain, and the sanitation
drivers never came. The neighbors
built cities of empty boxes.
Shrimp skins haunted us.
We wore yesterday's diapers.
The CEO of the sanitation
company makes 154 times
the pay of his average employee:
twelve-million dollars a year. 
Crows swung down to feast
on the new year's abundance. 




Katie Kemple (she/her) is a poet, parent, and consultant based in San Diego. Her work has appeared recently in Longleaf Review, The West Review, and The Shore Poetry

Monday, January 10, 2022

DRESSING ROOM

by Shirley J. Brewer


The funeral for a 14-year-old girl struck by a stray bullet fired during a police shooting at a North Hollywood clothing store is scheduled for Monday in Gardena, family attorneys said. The funeral for Valentina Orellana Peralta is scheduled for 11 a.m. at City of Refuge Church. The Rev. Al Sharpton will officiate and deliver the eulogy, family attorneys said in a statement. Valentina was shopping for Christmas clothes Dec. 23 when she was struck by a stray bullet fired by Los Angeles police who opened fire on a man attacking shoppers. A bullet went through an exterior wall of the dressing room and struck the girl, police said. —NBC Los Angeles, January 5, 2022


Growing up, I spent hours in dressing rooms
not much larger than an upright coffin,
lined with hooks and distorted mirrors—
my mother and I in such close proximity
the space felt like a birthing place.
Every zipper resembled an umbilical cord
I longed to slice in two.

Buried under a cluster of plaid skirts,
ugly corduroy pants—I ached for fresh air.
Holiday sales or back-to-school bargains
signaled dread. It wasn’t all torture.
Mom’s agony while squirming into
stiff girdles and voluminous brassieres
stirred laughing fits I could not suppress.

“Hold these pins,” she’d say
as I doubled over, spilling my M&M’s.
Sometimes we both dissolved in giggles.
Prom time called for battle tactics,
Mom fighting off the billowing crinolines,
eyeing bust and hem before the price tag.
She earned her corsage.

Looking back, I recognize the miracle—
how my mother and I emerged alive
from a thousand dressing rooms, how we walked
together into the safe burst of afternoon light.


A recent Pushcart nominee, Shirley J. Brewer serves as poet-in-residence at Carver Center for the Arts in Baltimore, MD. Her poems appear in Barrow Street, Comstock Review, Gargoyle, The New Verse News, Poetry East, Slant, among other journals and anthologies. Shirley’s poetry books include A Little Breast Music (2008, Passager Books), After Words (2013, Apprentice House), and Bistro in Another Realm (2017, Main Street Rag). Shirley was a 2020 guest on The Poet and The Poem with Grace Cavalieri, broadcast from the Library of Congress.

Sunday, January 09, 2022

YEAR IN REVIEW

by Barbara Simmons


“In the weightlessness of space.” Oil on canvas painting by Anastasia Balabina (Ukraine).


We tell ourselves stories in order to live. —Joan Didion
 

What were the stories that seemed mental U-turns,
that needed returning to, never ending?  At year’s
end, 2021’s review heralded tales most told,
the big look back compactly written,
the headlines sculpting what had happened
into what we should remember.
I’ve skimmed the stories alphabetically, but find the letter C
for COVID is my alpha, tireless virus with infinite variations. I 
flip quickly to the Fed, to China, climate, revivals
on Broadway, deaths we expected someday, but maybe
not this year, like Didion’s, Sondheim’s, Tutu’s.
The story I return to most takes me on SpaceX travels,
finding weightlessness a way to reconstruct my sight,
no longer lineated up and down,
but now a new fluidity, a chance to stream myself beyond
the time and space of just one journey,
just one life, to understand how we are multitudes,
how we are singular, how we are both chorus, soloist, conductor
in a musical rendition of this year reviewed
and what we need most is to listen to stories we’ve composed,
and play
and play
and play
until we fully hear.

 
Barbara Simmons grew up in Boston, graduated from Wellesley, and now lives in San Jose. As a secondary school English teacher, she loved her students who inspired her to think about the many ways we communicate. Retired, she savors exploring words as ways to remember, envision, celebrate, mourn, always trying to understand human-ity. Publications have included Hartskill Review, Boston Accent, The New Verse News, Soul-Lit, 300 Days of Sun, Writing it Real, Capsule Stories: Isolation Edition, and OASIS. Her book of poetry Offertories: Exclamations and Disequilibriums will be published in Spring 2022.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

BEHOLD

by Geoffrey Aitken

 


the cat
our predatory
suburban
household favourite
cannot change
its spots

the cuttlefish
the octopus
and the squid
like the chameleon
can change colour

now
the automobile


A minimalist industrial signature drives Geoffrey Aitken away from the scene of mental unwellness for the eyes and ears of those without voices. Widely published locally (AUS), and internationally (the UK, US, CAN, CN & FR), he chases ongoing congeniality.

LIFE ON MARS

by John Whitney Steele


NASA’s Retiring Top Scientist Says We Can Terraform Mars and Maybe Venus, Too —The New York Times, January 2, 2022


Imagine the red planet with an atmosphere,
replete with plants and animals. It isn’t hard to do. 

A couple billion years ago Mars lost its air,
its water too, and so it is no longer blue.

But should we choose to live there, we could change it,
claims NASA’s top scientist. All we’d have to do

is terraform the planet—that goes for Venus too.
Put up a magnetic shield, block the sun, retain

more heat, and watch Mars turn from red to blue.
The solar system’s ours. Imagine life on Mars 

while back on planet Earth we churn out CO2.


John Whitney Steele is a psychologist, yoga teacher, assistant editor of Think: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction and Essays, and graduate of the MFA Poetry Program at Western Colorado University. His chapbook The Stones Keep Watch was published by Kelsay Books in 2021. His full length collection Shiva’s Dance will be released in 2022. Born in Toronto and raised among the pines and granite cliffs of Foot’s Bay, Ontario, John lives in Boulder, Colorado where he encounters his muse wandering in the mountains.