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Saturday, October 24, 2020

JEREMIAH 2020AD

by Julie Kramer


Immigrant families wait in May 2019 in Los Ebanos, Tex., to be searched and taken to a U.S. Border Patrol station after they were caught illegally crossing into the United States from Mexico. Credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post, October 23, 2020


“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 19:14
 

You put them in cages
    and arm their enemies with AK47s
You take away their food
   and say that it is for their own good
You dirty their air and water
   and point to it as progress
You make their world uninhabitable
   and call their cries a hoax
You let your police
   murder them in their beds
   and say they deserved it
You punish their governors
   for standing up for them
You take away their families’ health insurance
   and say it’s in service of freedom
You beat them in the streets
   because they challenge your authority
You promise them relief
   and present it to the rich
You insult their allies
   and sell out their friends
You sit by as they die of a dread disease
  saying it will just... go away
You defile and debase
   the halls of their government
   with petty criminals and yes men
You make their lives less sane, less safe, and less free
 
You think that their God is sleeping
   do not be deceived
God will bring about his justice
   through the least of things
Including teenage TikTokers
               small dollar donations
                                absentee ballots
                                               and subpoenas.
 

Julie Kramer is a molecular biologist, lay minister, marketer, and mom of three teenagers living in Madison, Wisconsin.  In 2012, she made the unforeseen and disconcerting discovery that she is also a poet. Her themes include family, religion, #me too, and current events. She has had previous work published in the Journal of Women and Religion, and the Wisconsin UCC Conference newsletter.

Friday, October 23, 2020

TODAY

by Earl J. Wilcox




Today when I awoke it was very dark outside.
Today when I got up at 5:30 AM, it was cold.
Today I fumble putting in my hearing aids.
Today my glasses help little with macular degenration.
Today my bladder wants to empty before I arise.
Today I struggle to put on my pants, my shoes.
Today the cats wait patiently to be fed, petted.
Today I see dimly the coffee pot, the faucet.
Today I munch a protein bar, put on a mask.
Today I find my walking stick, unlock the door.
Today I stumble out the door, my knees resist walking.
Today it is still dark as I move toward the street light.
Today I shudder, cough and sneeze, wait for a ride.
Today I hear kids and cars and school buses pass by.
Today a friend stops for me. I hobble to his car.
Today I find his car is warm, his voice hopeful.
Today we ride to a community center across town.
Today I can barely hear or see the place we seek.
Today I wobble down the pavement, smile, anxious.
Today a friendly voice asks if I am “doin’ OK?”.
Today I walk inside a warm hall, hear low, calm chatter.
Today I wait and wait and wait and wait and wait.
Today I wonder if the line will open a slot for me.
Today I arise, my cane is calmer than I am.
Today I hand my photo ID to someone at a table.
Today I am helped to a small machine I barely see.
Today a friendly voice asks if I can see the screen.
Today I barely read, barely hear, barely stand.
Today I feel a rush of joy and peace.
Today my friend puts a small sticker on my sweater.
Today and tomorrow the sticker says I VOTED.
 



This week at age 87 Earl Wilcox voted.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

DÓNDE ESTÁ MI MADRE

by Roger Aplon

 


A child weeps & her cries reverberate throughout the dingy warehouses,
makeshift barracks & swarming
extraction camps, it
 
ricochets across the desolate plains of west Texas & southern California &
southern Arizona & the mesas
of New Mexico.
 
A child weeps & his tears threaten to drown the tongue-tied Christians, Jews
& Muslims, they dampen dinner tables
in Portland, Maine &
 
Poughkeepsie, New York & St. Louis, Missouri & across the Rockies &
across the sea to Honolulu. Children weep &
parents weep &
 
a once-proud people cringes in the wake of what it has allowed & what it
has wrought & what it is to be
dishonored.
 
Between bouts of fear & trembling these kids are heard to ask ¿ Dónde está mi madre?
          —¿Dónde está mi padre?—
¿ Dónde estoy?
 
‘Where Am I?’ rings off-key like a cracked bell—like a symbolic “liberty”
bell, cracked but still resonant, reminiscent
of what has been lost but might still be.
 

Roger Aplon has published thirteen books: one of prose poems & short fiction: Intimacies twelve of poetry, including the recently published: Mustering What’s Left—Selected & New Poems—1976 – 2017 from Unsolicited Press. He lives in Beacon, N Y & publishes the poetry magazine: “Waymark – Voices of the Valley.”

OCTOBER 2020

by Roberto Christiano 


"Fear of Pain," oil painting by Igor Shulman


I have heard the sirens falling
falling like the songs of sorrow
I have seen the black man hobbled
hobbled by the blues of bullets
I have smelt the forests burning
burning till the ashes whiten
 
I have seen the mermaids leaving
leaving as our rivers rumble
I have heard the children crying
crying with our cupboards empty
I have smelt the fear of winter
winter with the sirens calling
 

Roberto Christiano won the 2010 Fiction Prize from Northern Virginia Review. He received a Pushcart Prize nomination for poetry in Prairie Schooner. His poetry is anthologized in The Gávea–Brown Book of Portuguese-American Poetry (Brown University). His chapbook Port of Leaving was published by Finishing Line Press. Other poems have appeared in The New Verse News, The Washington Post, Writer.org, and The Sow's Ear.

IN LOVE AND POETRY

by Indran Amirthanayagam


“Hope,” a painting (1886) by George Frederic Watts and assistants.


Call it now. Out loud.
Without shame. By
its name. Call it

this morning on waking
in the still dark. Call it
reading last night

your words on the screen.
Call it banishing sleep.
There is no energy

more sweet that sustains.
Call it for the one
who corrects these verses.

Call it on streets of
suburb and city,
in the fields. Call it

in front of the Capitol
on top of Mount Baldy
on Waikiki Beach,

by Lake Superior.
We are going far my dear
and we are walking back

home for Thanksgiving
Let us invite Kamala
and Joe to the table.

Let us boil sweet potatoes,
serve elderberry jam,
make a bean and onion stuffing,

let our friends know
the meal will not involve
killing a turkey

or any other fowl.
Let us give thanks God
for this vitamin flowering

in the early dark, guiding
our fingers as we write,
saying call it now.

in the day, at night,
to friends and enemies
alike. In love and poetry

we are going to make
table and bed, and
we are going to write

our songs in these days
of the plague until
we see light come up

above the trees on fire,
the befogged clouds,
until the back of beyond.


Indran Amirthanayagam writes in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. He has 19 poetry books, including The Migrant States (Hanging Loose Press, 2020) and Sur l'île nostalgique (L'Harmattan, 2020). In music, he recorded Rankont Dout. He edits The Beltway Poetry Quarterly, is a columnist for Haiti en Marchewon the Paterson Prize, and is a 2020 Foundation for the Contemporary Arts fellow.

JOY IN THE TIME OF COVID

by Rebecca Leet


“Joy of Life,” a painting by Alexandra Romano.


Joy has deep, soft texture these days,
like going barefoot on a carpet so lush
you almost feel you’re walking on air.
Its sound is soft, too—no brass bands,
 
no clashing cymbals. More like sweet air
passing through spring leaves. Its color
is the wash of a water-color painting—
nothing bold. To claim joy feels slightly selfish
 
but how can I feel other when—as I write—
all whom I love are healthy and those dearest
I can hold with my eyes—un-Zoomed—
and with my arms. I cradle my granddaughter
 
and inhale her infant perfume, draw each daughter
hard against my breasts. Randomly, a quiver
of Covid concern causes pause until—
like warm sun on my face in winter—
 
time dissolves into the eternity of now
and I breathe in the joy of the moment.
 

Rebecca Leet has been writing poetry for five years since retiring from the media-policy-politics world of Washington, DC. Her first book of poetry is Living With the Doors Wide Open. She has been published in Canary, Passager, Bourgeon, and elsewhere.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

COVID ABATTOIR

by Philip C. Kolin



Above: Family members of JBS USA meat packing plant employee Saul Sanchez watch as his casket is lowered during his funeral after he died of Covid-19 in Greeley, Colo., on April 15, 2020.Jim Urquhart / Reuters via NBC


“Meatpackers deny workers benefits for virus-related deaths, illnesses.” 
NBC, September 29, 2020


Upton Sinclair is roiling in his grave.
Things have not changed in Packingtowns
across America. Covid has just made them worse.

The virus works well in these damp, cold, sun-
blocked meat processing plants where droplets can settle 
and slay much longer. Gigantic fans whirl and spread 
saturated foul air as workers breathe each other's
infected coughs and sneezes.  Loud machinery demands
they must talk louder and farther to announce Covid's arrival.

All in cramped spaces.
Packed shoulder to shoulder, workers have to
butcher in non-stop 10-12 hour shifts, no plexiglass
or strip curtains between them. Processing lines
move at race car speeds, leaving workers even  more
vulnerable thanks to exhausted breath, great Covid hosts. 
It's a lung-breaking job. And sharing knives
and hammers means shaking hands with coworker Covid.

Like the animals they eviscerate and de-hide,
these meat processing workers leave the plant
with slaughtered lives, their lungs and hearts offal.

It's a jungle in these plants.


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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

SUBURBAN WOMEN

 by Laura Winkelspecht




Suburban women wake up early to exercise,
load the dishwasher while brushing their teeth,
and dress their kids on the way out the door.
 
Suburban women drive to office jobs
in late model crossover vehicles
and pick up overpriced coffee on the way.
 
Suburban women schedule family vacations,
manage doctor appointments and oil changes,
and plan pregnancies in between potty training.
 
Suburban women attend soccer games,
take turns at carpooling to school,
and organize fundraisers and family reunions.  
 
Suburban women decorate for each holiday,
nurture their prized sourdough starter,
and sew masks for everyone in their family.
 
Suburban women host socially distant barbeques
with their brown neighbors two doors over
and promise play dates with genuine smiles.
 
Suburban women tolerate condescension
with tight-lipped smiles and long memories. 
They register voters on the weekend.


Laura Winkelspecht is a poet and writer from Wisconsin who writes with the hope of finding lightning among the lightning bugs. She has been published in Anti-Heroin Chic, One Sentence Poems, Rat’s Ass Review, Poets Reading the News, and others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee.

SIMILE

by Gil Hoy




So now he's said:
 "Maybe 
I'll have to leave 
the country 
if I lose the election." 

You mean 
like a fleeing felon 
trying to get away?

All of America's birds
gone South

Will then be seen 
flying north.

Every hibernating thing
will be waking early.


Gil Hoy is a Best of the Net nominated Boston poet who studied poetry at Boston University through its Evergreen program. Hoy previously received a B.A. in Philosophy from BU, an M.A. in Government from Georgetown University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. He served as a Brookline, Massachusetts Selectman for 4 terms. Hoy's poetry has appeared in Tipton Poetry Journal, Chiron Review, Ariel Chart, Right Hand Pointing, Indian Periodical, Rusty Truck, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, The New Verse News, Rat's Ass Review, the penmen review, and elsewhere. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

THE CAN'T-WORRY TALES (EPILOGUE)

by Richard Hacken




Whan that panne-demie with her virrus bittre
the lande with Mericanne courpses did littre,
and swathed thus visages with couvre-masque,
of which vertu for manye was too bigge an asque;
Whan Donaldus (eek!)  with his love for selfe
putte bleech and snaque's oil on ev'ry shelfe
for tendre eldres with prievyus conditiones
held oute to driy at cause of his foul perditiones;
and with electiones at halfe cours yronne,
twentie-milles of lyes he'd alreddie sponne, 
So priketh hem the truth from toe to tooth
which longeth folk to goon to voting booth,
or mail-personnes who neith in raine nor sleete do faile
to delivere ballotts by the U.S. Mail;
And specially from every stayte and districke
of Vespucci-Lande at the urn they pick
the hatefulle, hurtfulle jerke away to sende
that in an SDNY gaol he might justlie ende. 


Richard Hacken is a librarian-poet with degrees in German literature and past appointments at U.C. Davis, Oregon State, University of Kansas and BYU. He has translated Austrian short fiction and the poetry of a Tuvan poet from Mongolia who publishes in German. He claims to have found this Chaucer epilogue in the wash.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

DEMOCRACY AS AN ACT

by Mary O’Melveny


Ardeth Platte, Dominican Nun and Antinuclear Activist, Dies at 84. Sister Ardeth spent years behind bars for her beliefs and was the inspiration for a character on the Netflix hit Orange Is the New Black. Photo: Sister Ardeth, left, and hr friend Sister Carol at the White House in 2019 protesting plans for a military base in Okinawa, Japan. —The New York Times, October 8, 2020


Who can say what lines cannot
be crossed? What laws must be obeyed?
Most days, it feels as though we
are all complicit in our world’s great ills.
 
Who can say how we will react
when guilt cannot be assuaged
in ways that “they” deem polite?
Safety in numbers does not always save.
 
I have wielded bolt cutters
and climbed cyclone fences to search
for a more peaceful planet.
They had to wash my blood from missile silos.
 
I wore white until orange
was chosen for me by others
who mistook my acts for threats.
Humility can flourish in many colors.
 
Who can say what bravery is?
I was just afraid we would
all expire from carelessness,
that we would disappoint by despairing.
 
I always loved my life here,
even strip searched and shackled.
My convictions were the dues
I paid to earn my right to be a truthteller.
 
Who can say how we best serve
as stewards of our earthly time?
I never judged others’ paths
but I knew my own footsteps were not enough.
 
In the end, we are all fellow
travelers trying to bend
the moral arc toward justice.
Who can say for sure that we will not succeed? 


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 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.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

ODE TO THE OCTOBER PUMPKIN



Earl Wilcox is a regular reader and contributor to The New Verse News.

Friday, October 16, 2020

OCTOBER 17, SWEETEST DAY

by Ron Riekki

or, this year, Sweatiest Day, how hot 
 
the goddamn gowns and gloves are in- 
side the war of the COVID wards, how 
STUPID are the anti-maskers, the 27— 
at my current count—White Housers 
positive, and here I’m a pessimist, 
seeing the ramifications, seeing the 
ventilators, seeing the conventions, 
 
packed with people; or maybe it’s 
 
the SWATest Day, the ICEist day, 
these days of mass pollution/mass 
arrests for immigrants just trying 
to go to mass, or to work; or may- 
be it’s the Sleepiest Day, the mass 
hypnosis of this world, being told 
that this virus will just "go away," 
 
told by someone who, by the way, 
 
could get re-infected, someone who 
just had a runny nose, but now who’s 
running for President when he has 
never yet actually been President, 
or been presidential, just swinging 
pendulums in front of our eyes, 
telling us we’re feeling sleepy, so 
 
sleepy; or maybe it is, as I said, 
 
the Heat-est Day, the Hottest Day, 
the hottest October 17 that’s ever 
been recorded, because, sadly, 
that’s the theme of this year, how 
there haven’t really been any holi- 
days this year, just evil-days, sad- 
days, maydays, doomsdays, play- 
 
days where kids can’t touch, birth- 
 
days where we can’t hug, because 
we’re on an expressway to hell if 
we don’t stop the way we treat 
the world and the way we treat 
each other, if we fall for the tricks 
that led us to this collapse, the tricks 
of 2016 where the U.S. was covered 
 
in red.  Honestly, aren’t you, too, tired? 


Ron Riekki's latest books in 2020 are Niiji (Cyberwit, co-written with Sally Brunk), i have been warned not to write about this (Main Street Rag), and The Many Lives of It (McFarland).

SERVE

by Akua Lezli Hope


via GIPHY



Her smirk
not a quirk
an expressive face that moves
knows the dance in a glance
an intellectual twerk
displays the staunch resilience
of the endowed but denied
civility’s proprieties
resistance to a jerk
who made exchange real work
those demeaned, those denied
who manage but won’t hide
constraints placed on contempt
silence endless drumbeats to genuflect
accommodate, excuse, cow-tow
duck and shamble, indulge the ruse —
all ignored in the arch of her brow
skew of her lips, pursed
and parsed along the narrow band
of behavior deemed seemly
she could not unmean what she meant
nor unintend the message sent, she would
proffer her passion extolling another
yet not relent and we, her many
cousins laugh and apprehend this
semiotic vent, who know well
the sly, deliberate tell
 
 
Akua Lezli Hope is a creator and wisdom seeker who uses sound, words, fiber, glass, metal, and wire to create poems, patterns, stories, music,  sculpture, and peace.  A third generation New Yorker, her honors include the NEA, two NYFAs, SFPA, Rhysling and Pushcart Prize nominations.