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Saturday, December 05, 2020

UNTIL THE SICKNESS CAME AMONG US

by Penelope Scambly Schott


"Knee" by Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), February-June 1886: chalk on paper, 10.2 cm x 13.6 cm. Credit: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)


We hadn’t really understood
the lunatic loneliness of skin.
Now, it’s the careful withholding
of the over-eager hand,
the lack of the comforting pat
on a friend’s shoulder,
no quick notifying tap
against a stranger’s sleeve,
no glad hug of greeting
or clinging hug of goodbye
Now we need to caress
the hand-smoothed bannister,
the weave of the couch,
bumps on the pickling cucumber,
the rough skin of our elbows,
or the childlike folds
of our own getting-old knees.


Penelope Scambly Schott is a past recipient of the Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Her newest book is On Dufur Hill, poems about the cycle of the year in a small wheat-growing town.

Friday, December 04, 2020

LOOKING BACK AT THE TIME . . .

SENATOR JEFF FLAKE ASKED SUPREME COURT NOMINEE NEIL GORSUCH WHETHER HE’D RATHER FIGHT 100 DUCK-SIZED HORSES OR ONE HORSE-SIZED DUCK



by Kathleen Latham





In hindsight, it seems the Senator was onto something, since Washington today is certainly overrun by plenty of duck-size horses—all of them tripping the tourists and shitting on monuments and generally wreaking havoc in the heart of democracy—which is bad, I agree, and incredibly frustrating, but not nearly as disturbing as that one gelding-sized, orange-feathered, fowl-mouthed lame duck currently digging for grubs in the Rose Garden, snapping at shadows with his wedge-shaped bill while he tramples the truth with his big, webbed feet and scares the hell out of the rest of the free world while simultaneously making them laugh at us, which, I suppose, was the original intent of the question? I’m sure three years ago it was tempting to make puns like Stop ducking the issue before playfully pointing out that you can remove half of a duck’s brain without any obvious difference in its behavior or that ducks can turn their heads completely backwards to preen themselves—both facts which now seem remarkably prescient, although the latter will undoubtedly lead to unfortunate thoughts of The Exorcist. And speaking of movies, doesn’t it feel like Washington has become the rich kids’ lunch table in a John Hughes’ film, if the rich kids were out of touch birdbrains who laugh at other people’s misery while the entire school is going to shit—a comparison that inevitably brings to mind Duckie in Pretty in Pink. And maybe that’s what we need right now, a loveable poor man who lip syncs "Try a Little Tenderness," or maybe it’s just tenderness we need or hope or the simple recognition that this isn’t funny anymore because real lives are at stake and our country is being torn apart and when I try to understand how anyone could possibly believe more of the same is a good idea, I’m reminded of Justice Gorsuch’s response three years ago to the above-mentioned duck-themed question and strangely, my answer is the same: I’m very rarely at a loss for words, but you got me.



Kathleen Latham is a poet and short fiction writer living outside of Boston, MA whose work has appeared in Fictive Dream, River Heron Review’s Poetry Now issue, Chestnut Review, Constellations, Tipton Poetry Journal, and Flash Fiction Magazine among others. She can be found on social media as @lathamwithapen.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

CATS & DOGS

by Scott C. Kaestner




My dog is a Socialist
and my cat a Capitalist.

My dog speaks of the pack 
my cat wants to be left alone.

My dog sleeps on the floor
my cat naps in a penthouse.

My dog wastes not an ounce of kibble
my cat scoffs at its gourmet food.

They are two different beings no doubt
and there is definitely conflict.

Like during the 2020 Democratic Primary 
my dog a Bernie Bro and my cat Ridin’ with Biden.

Or the time my dog’s Communist Manifesto
caught fire when my cat knocked over a candle.

Said it was an accident like when my dog
mistook the cat’s Wall Street Journal for a bone.

I have my suspicions as they both
like to poke and stoke each other’s fire.

Just when I think conflict is inevitable 
and a peaceful existence a pipe dream.

Come home and find the two of them
snuggled together on the couch.

Then I am reminded that differences 
make their union stronger.


Scott C. Kaestner is a Los Angeles poet, writer, dad, husband, and street taco enthusiast. Google ‘scott kaestner poetry’ to peruse his musings and doings.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

THE BIG SLEEP: ARE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WAKING UP?

by George Salamon


“Sleepwalker” sculpture by Tony Matelli at The High Line in NYC.


"...an age when Americans were sleepwalking through history..." —Haynes Johnson,  Sleepwalking Through History, America in the Reagan Years (1991).


It feels like we've been asleep since
The movie star charmed us to sleep,
Since our aspirations and expectations
Were stamped out of date and we decided
To sleep through the times when roles of those
On the national stage became vacant, when
Nothing could move anything to animate the
Emptiness we'd sleepwalked into, when every
Movement failed to resuscitate our consciousness,
We found ourselves alone and blind to what was
Waiting for us beyond the bend in the road, so
Today we cannot tell if everything has stopped,
Waiting for everything to start and we're just
Looking to find the right sequence so we can
Join again and, if all goes well and we the
People can find our voice and finally learn
To play against the rules and the rulers.
Is there reason to hope, or is hoping merely
Lying to oneself and  this poem merely
What I dreamt?


George Salamon lives in America's "heartland," but even so he cannot tell if there is still enough in the heart and vision  of Americans they can share and make known to those who look with contempt and condescension on "bleeding hearts."

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

SANTA'S HELPER

by Julie Steiner




Her God is Santa Claus. Remember those
mid-ceiling scenes of Michelangelo’s?
Old white guy. Bearded. Fierce. Great muscle tone.
Conclusion: Santa. (On testosterone.)
She claims to be His prophet. She’s devised
a scheme to get His giving supersized.
It seems to work. With all He seems to bring her,
she seems to have Him wrapped around her finger.

Her God is Santa Claus. Or close enough.
Stay on His good side, and He’ll give you stuff.
And if you’re poor, that’s proof you’ve pleased Him less
than those (like her) He’s showered with largesse.
She claims to be His prophet, on a mission
to bless/endorse whatever politician
keeps rich folks rich and poor folks wretched, still.
Inequity in equity’s His will.

Her God is Santa Claus. And you’ve been naughty.
He knows what you’ve been up to. You’ve been caught. He
will leave your household destitute. You’re screwed.
But for a fee, she’ll change His attitude.
She claims to be His prophet. If you give her
a large enough donation, she’ll deliver
the benefits of Naughty List protection.
Your scandals won’t prevent your re-election.

Her God rewards and punishes. He’ll strike
and strike and strike the folks her fans don’t like.
By preaching what her funders most like hearing,
she puts the prophet into profiteering.
She claims to be His mouthpiece. Where’s the love
for others that His Word kept speaking of?
Her rants are full of something, but it’s clear it
is not—as she insists—the Holy Spirit.

Her God is Santa Claus. Saint Paula White’ll
get you the goods that good works don’t entitle
do-gooders to. It’s faith that works! Believe
that if you send her God-bribes, you’ll receive!
No need to change your ways: pay her to wheedle.
If fear won’t make you do it, sloth or greed’ll.
Call now! An operator’s standing by.
Give hiring her to grease God’s palm a try.


Julie Steiner is a pseudonym in San Diego. Besides TheNewVerse.News, the venues in which her poetry has appeared include the Able Muse Review, Rattle, Light, and the Asses of Parnassus.

CONGRATULATIONS

by Michael L. Ruffin




In a 5-4 ruling, the US Supreme Court sided with religious organizations in a dispute over Covid-19 restrictions put in place by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo limiting the number of people attending religious services. —CNN, November 26, 2020


Let us congratulate
the people of faith
who successfully
used the secular courts
and the secular Constitution
to secure their right
not to do what their
faith should compel
them to do willingly, 
voluntarily, and gladly: 
care about people.


Michael L. Ruffin is a writer, editor, preacher, and teacher living and working in Georgia. He posts poems on Instagram (@michaell.ruffin) and prose opinions at On the Jericho Road. He is author of Fifty-Seven: A Memoir of Death and Life and of the forthcoming Praying with Matthew. His poetry has appeared at The New Verse NewsRat's Ass Review3 Moon Magazine, and U-Rights Magazine.

Monday, November 30, 2020

KINESIS

by Andrés Castro




For Julian Assange


Under a falling red sun, 
     in the stench of decomposing
leaves and muddy 
dark earth,
     He turns over a stone. See!

     Circling white centipede—
Dancing black spider—
     Tangle of worms
 scrambling.

 
Andrés Castro, a PEN member, is listed in the Directory of Poets and Writers. His work appears in the recently released anthology We are Antifa: Expressions Against Fascism, Racism and Police Violence in The United States and Beyond and he keeps a personal blog, The Practicing Poet: Dialogue to Creativity, Poetry, and Liberation

Sunday, November 29, 2020

POST-THANKSGIVING 2020

by Barbara Schweitzer


“Only Human,” painting by Judith Dawson.


We are such little twisty things
protoplasm and cell productions
who eat turkey in November
and hotdogs in July
who love intensely our neighbor-in-bed
then plot coups with the Deplorables.
We are unthinkable most times
and dumb the rest
yet we climb and hope
and endure so that we might
not cascade into the smarmy oceans
we have made. We pick our way
so that we might reach an alp
and spread our small intelligences
like faraway stars into a universe.
We are just enough bare-boned and starving
to go on and on and on though we remain
still closer to slime than to god.


Barbara Schweitzer is still writing poems and plays and Cyjoe Barker mysteries in upstate RI.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

INTIMATIONS OF DEMOCRACY

by Gus Peterson


Credit: Tannen Maury/EPA, via Shutterstock in The New York Times.


after "Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth


There was a time I glimpsed our declared decree
            and a people, its common block and seam
                        swam with visionary sight—
            e pluribus unum, the American dream.
It is not now as it was before.
            Scroll however I may, by night or day,
                        the might of eagle flight   
I once recalled I call upon no more.

Yes the red rose thorns and goes,
                        a blue wave ebbs and flows,
                        and the old man beams his light
as signs are pulled and lawns made bare,
            the tears that November night
            fell past our fellest despair.
Now with slow labor glorious rebirth,
and yet I know, whither this go,
the city upon a hill has passed from the earth.

  And as networks exalt their united song,
              and the hopeful young stream
                        inside insistent screens,
    I mourn alone that fleeting aberration—
                        once among the throng
   of certain inalienable nations.


Gus Peterson lives in Maine. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

CRIME SCENE

by Ilene Millman

“Taking Stock” by Keith Knight at The Nib.


If I were collecting evidence
wouldn’t I look at the tire tracks
tracing broken distances
living to dead
in stock dividends and expense accounts—
who has the motive—they who look like citizens
changing the map
leaving no forwarding address?
 
If I were collecting evidence
wouldn’t I analyze photographs,
video recordings, tweets
brittle as promises
and autopsy the bones
cracked like hope
and stacked deep
in boxes of discord?
 
If I were the one collecting evidence
shouldn’t I unpack the fingerprints
floating fibers, strands of hair
from the briefcases of influence
brushing what’s there to see
and lay them end to end
across this current carnage—
a measure of the outstretched fingers of God
or the smallest fisted hand?
 
 
In addition to writing poetry, Ilene Millman is a speech/language therapist currently working with school aged children and volunteering as tutor, tutor trainer and assessor for her county Literacy Volunteers organization. Her poems have been published in a number of print journals including The Journal of New Jersey Poets, Nelle, Connecticut Review, Paterson Review, Passager and anthologized in several volumes including the recently published Show Me Your Papers. She is an associate editor of The Sow’s Ear. Her first book of poetry Adjust Speed to Weather was published in 2018. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

THANKSGIVING 2020

by Catherine Gonick




If we are lucky this year, it reminds us of our people.
Of the things we can’t forget. Of things that others
never let us forget, like the year I read Julia Child
and made my sister peel fifty chestnuts with a paring knife
to go with the brussel sprouts. The year a boy
cousin and I each ate an entire drumstick
by ourselves, so much food we couldn’t get up
from the table after dessert. The year the gigantic
turkey, fresh from the oven, was left to rest  
on a side-table, and when everyone showed up
to eat, was almost gone, a carcass, with only
a little meat left on its bones. We thought
it had been devoured by another animal,
possibly a cat, a huge one that must have got in
through the open window,  a beast no one had seen
enter or leave but was known to exist
in the neighborhood.  Was that one of the years
where people got stoned? Like the time I lit up
with the straightest women I knew, my mother
and her favorite niece, who wore cashmere
and brought her own grass? I have forgotten,
but not my mother’s stuffing, the best
and most basic. Pieces torn from bread,
a lot of butter, just enough sage, celery
and onion. Giblets if you can get them.
Cooked inside the bird, without thermometer.
Serve and say prayers for the dead.
Raise a drumstick like a talking stick
and ask for blessings on your table
and our nation. Pass the potatoes
and give thanks for a democracy that, like
our turkey the year of the cat, was nearly
shredded, yet, by some miracle, still left
with enough meat to feed us.
 

Catherine Gonick’s poetry has appeared in literary magazines including Notre Dame Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly,  Lightwood, Forge, Sukoon, and PoetsArtists, and in anthologies including in plein air and Grabbed. She was awarded the Ina Coolbrith Memorial Prize for Poetry and was a finalist in the National Ten-Minute Play Contest with the Actors Theatre of Louisville. She is part of a company that fights the effects of climate change.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

THANKSGIVING

by Jennifer Freed


Source: MIT Medical


For our kitchen,
for the sourdough starter we learned to make
when the stores were still out of yeast,
for my husband,
who tends and feeds the starter for days, who kneads
the dough, shapes two round loaves, waits.
For the neat white bags of flour in our cabinet,
for the grocery store, its night-cleaners, their night hours
spraying disinfectant sprays.
For the cashiers in their comfortable shoes
and the blue-haired woman bagging our food,
her purple gloves, her back brace,
the peace signs on the mask across her face.
For the long-distance truck drivers driving
past closed restaurants, closed restrooms.
For the farm, the farmer, the wheat.
For the soil, its dark depths
of invisible lives,
and the sky, answering its thirst, charming it
with sun and moon and stars.
For that same sky rounding my own yard, lighting
my window, and my daughters at the table
doing their schoolwork on-line. For their breath.
For the air
scented with bread.
For the butter, the knife, the four plates rimmed in green.
And the two round loaves, now cooled, now     
on the cutting board, now ready
for our tongues,
our bodies,
our praise.


Jennifer Freed lives  in Massachusetts. Her poetry appears/is forthcoming in various journals, including Atlanta Review, Comstock Review, Worcester Review, and Zone 3. Her chapbook These Hands Still Holding (Finishing Line Press) was a finalist in the 2013 New Women’s Voices contest. She was awarded the 2020 Samuel Washington Allen Prize from the New England Poetry Club.

AN AWKWARD THANKSGIVING

by David Feela




The cars in cue twist between orange cones

Like a snake, drivers and passengers waiting.

It’s still early morning at the testing facility 


Which has not yet opened, but the day’s task  

stretches like a painted hopscotch pattern 

on a playground before recess begins.


Everybody is so tired of paying attention.

We all want to play, to stop being told what  

should—and especially should not—be done.


The swab up the nose is our final test 

before holiday begins with a road trip or flight, 

and a gathering where families give thanks 


at the table for the bounty they share, and 

dare we say it again, each precious life. 



David Feela writes columns for The Four Corners Free Press and The Durango Telegraph. Unsolicited Press released his newest chapbook Little Acres.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

OBIT OVERKILL

by Chris O’Carroll





News Site Mistakenly Publishes About 100 V.I.P. Obituaries —New York Times headline, November 17, 2020


Our Queen has died, sad British church bells toll,
Bardot, Loren, and Eastwood quit the stage,
Pelé has aimed a shot at one last goal,
And Jimmy Carter calmly acts his age.

Despite those stories, none of them were dead,
Although it’s clear now how much they’ll be missed.
For A-listers’ fake deaths, real tears got shed.
I’m Nobody. I wasn’t on the list.


Chris O’Carroll, author of The Joke’s on Me, is a Light magazine featured poet whose work has also appeared in The Asses of Parnassus, Better Than Starbucks, Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, and The Spectator, among other journals, and in Love Affairs at the Villa Nelle, New York City Haiku, and The Great American Wise Ass Poetry Anthology.