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Friday, November 16, 2018

I WAS WONDERING . . .

by Tricia Knoll 


A cadaver dog named Echo searches for human remains in a van. A husband-wife team, Karen and Larry Atkinson, worked their way through devastated properties near Eden Roc Drive in Paradise with their dog Echo, an English lab. Echo dashed ahead, nose to the ground, and then returned to Karen, who would point the dog toward the next place to be searched. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester, November 14, 2018.


Of course, I was wondering
but you don’t just pipe up
to ask this about these fires
that everyone is explaining
for why the forests are dry,
why these houses stand
in the wildland interface,
what climate crisis ramps
up the drought. And now
I don’t have to ask where
are the cadaver dogs
doing their work?
They are there, sniffing.


Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet who responded to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans as a public information officer—a few weeks after the cadaver dogs had come and gone. A friend of hers worked with his dog on this hard job after major hurricanes in Florida two decades ago. More responders with more hard jobs.

A MURMURATION

by Buff Whitman-Bradley


Cars destroyed by the Camp Fire sit in the lot at a used car dealership on November 9, 2018 in Paradise, California. CREDIT: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images via CBS News


Driving north on Highway 101 from Marin to Sonoma County, I notice a small flock of starlings rise above a fallow field into the dystopic, ashy, leaden sky to perform their liquid choreography come hell or high water or filthy air. To the north and east of us, a vast, murderous fire rages in Butte County, wiping out entire communities and killing many trying to escape the flames. The smoke from the inferno has plastered our sky for several days now, air quality is abysmal, and we (old people) and young children in particular are warned to stay indoors until the pollutants dissipate. We’re headed to pick up our little granddaughters and spend a few hours with them in the air-conditioned-and-filtered library. Like all of us who pass a significant portion of each day in the out of doors, the little ones are feeling cooped up and antsy. As I watch the astonishing flow of shapes the starlings create high above the field, swooping and soaring and wheeling in the angry air, I imagine their tiny lungs being assailed and assaulted and overwhelmed by the noxious particulates through which they are moving. Will they die premature, unnatural deaths because of toxins inhaled while performing their ancient ballet? Probably. As will many others of all species, including our own. Whether or not any particular fire is merely accidental in origin, the conditions that support and sustain the increasing number of disastrous wild fires we have endured over the past few years are no accident, but the result of the warming of our climate due to the maniacal consumption of carbon. Droughts turn trees and other plant material to kindling; increasingly high winds spread conflagrations with deadly alacrity. Scientists have told us all this for years, have warned us that such out-of-control blazes will occur with increasing frequency and intensity. So what malfunction in the mental circuitry of the gluttonous petroleum mongers causes them to lose sight of their/our common humanity, of their/our interconnectedness with all life? Why continue driving this biocidal juggernaut? What the fuck is going on?


Buff Whitman-Bradley's poems have appeared in many print and online journals. His most recent books are To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World and Cancer Cantata. With his wife Cynthia, he produced the award-winning documentary film Outside In and, with the MIRC film collective, made the film Por Que Venimos. His interviews with soldiers refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan were made into the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. He lives in northern California.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

TO A PHYSICIAN KILLED BY GUN VIOLENCE

by Jenna Le


You climbed the stairs to middle age
and just beyond, your footsteps trained
to make no creaking noise, your veined
hand mute upon the balustrade

so that your snoring spouse, his cage
of matted hair propped on a doubled
plinth of pillows, could sleep untroubled,
your daughter with her snaking braid

doze undisturbed when you returned
from work. You wore your own hair short,
like shadow—nothing here to court
notice, to creak or squeak or glint

or gleam. Those seeing you discerned
no youth, no unformed possibility;
they only saw someone who willingly
did the work until she didn’t.


Jenna Le is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011) and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Indolent Books, 2018; 1st edition published by Anchor & Plume Press, 2016), which won 2nd Place in the 2017 Elgin Awards. Her poems have also appeared in AGNI Online, Bellevue Literary Review, Denver Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and West Branch.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A RECIPE FOR MORE ABORTIONS

by Gemma Peters


A record number of women—mostly Democrats, many of them galvanized by the threat the Trump administration poses to reproductive freedom—were swept into Congress during in the 2018 midterm elections. The results were still being tabulated on Wednesday when Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services quietly finalized two rules empowering employers, universities and nonprofits to refuse birth control coverage to women. A third rule, also announced Wednesday, would require insurers on the Affordable Care Act marketplace to charge women a separate monthly bill for abortion coverage—a change that advocates say would be so prohibitively expensive it could force insurers to stop offering the procedure altogether. —Rolling Stone, November 8, 2018. Photo: Supporters of birth control coverage rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on March 23, 2016. AFP/Getty Images via Vox.


Let prim employers only pay the bills
for men’s, not women’s, sex-related pills.
To interfere with impotence is fine,
but contraception counters God’s design.

Tell alpha males who spew their DNA
unchastely, “That’s not good, but that’s okay.”
Defend those men too strong for self-control.
Let boys be boys. Virility’s their role.

Be sure to slut-shame women who decide
to not end unplanned pregnancies. Deride
those harlots. Praise the girls you think are pure.
Imply it’s best they seek a secret cure
in trouble, since they won’t have your support.
Keep up your “pro-life” pressure to abort.


Gemma Peters writes in Rancho Peñasquitos, California.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

PARADISE IS BURNING AND NUMBERS ARE RISING

by Jean Varda




9 drops of rain
one for each of
the people who
died in the flames

Do not burn candles
for the dead
they represent fire
and fire killed them

4 of them burned up
in their cars as the exodus
left single file not fast
enough to escape the flames
on all sides of them, even
licking across the road
under the tires

Buildings collapsing
trees like matchsticks
so unreal
watching from car windows

Hearing explosions,
transformers
propane tanks
bombs going off
like a war

One turned back to
rescue her cat
that was hiding in terror
she checked under the
beds in the closets
while flames enclosed her
roared in the windows
and smoke blinded

Another was delayed searching
for a folder that contained
her advance directive, the
property deed and her children’s
birth certificates
the roof of her house collapsed
in one heaving sigh

A mother turned her car
down a side street to pick
up her child from daycare
the building already gone
the children and teachers
ahead of her on the road out
she didn’t make it

The one who forgot to let
the horses out
so they could flee the fire
as horses will
He couldn’t get back
into his place, fallen trees
on fire blocked the road
he got out and ran into
the open mouth of hell

An elder decided to sit it out
she was old and this house
was built by her grandfather
She was born in it as was her
mother her grandmother
and her five children
this house had a soul
she couldn’t leave it
So she made tea and sat
by the wood stove
rocking till she and the
house disappeared in
roaring flames
that left only a flat
black scar on the earth

This is why I can’t light
the 9 white candles
and watch their tiny
steady yellow flames
But rather place a small
pearl lined shell
beside each unlit candle
and in each a drop of water
for the lives that
burnt up in flames


Jean Varda’s poetry has appeared in The Berkeley Poetry Review, Poetry Motel, Manzanita Poetry & Prose of the Mother Lode & Sierra, Avocet  A Journal of Nature Poems, California Quarterly, Third Wednesday and The Red River Review. Her poem “Naming Her,” published in River Poets Journal 2012, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has taught poetry writing workshops, hosted a poetry radio show and sponsored poetry events at cafes. She also is a collage artist, her way to escape words. She presently lives in Chico, California where she works as a nurse and writes her memoirs.

Monday, November 12, 2018

LITTLE THINKING

by Kathleen A. Lawrence



Source: Boedaq Lieur



Little boy man
with hair of straw
and bubble gum cheeks
hollers at the crack of dawn
for not coming when he called,
orders the morning plans changed
so he can ride his Flintstone car
for 9 holes of golf instead of work,
but pouts if the clouds don't shade
his eyes from happy, babbling brooks.
(he hates the sound of laughing water,
“stop laughing at me” he bellows)

Little big shot
with sticky hands
in ill-fitted Brooks Brothers suit
snaps at the afternoon sun
for not shining bright enough
to polish his dull and tarnished lies,
screeching at the nap time hour
refusing to quiet down
to let the world sleep.
(“shut up” he squawks like a magpie
awake and wanting attention
through the autumn air)

Little baby boss
with sleep in eyes
red helicopter cap
wails at the Man-in-the-moon
calling him names, mocking his craters
blaming him for not casting
a longer shadow
on his tiny little form,
turning his back on the North Star
for stealing his limelight.
(“Damn, stupid moon”
who said it could orbit his earth?)

Little brat-in-chief
with mouth full of teeth
to chew his candy lips
stomps around the penthouse
screeching to the shimmering stars
for sparkling too much,
cursing out the rotating planets
for moving too quickly
and without his permission,
“I get to sign the documents.”
(Swatting at the constellations
like he was bringing down
pesky spider webs that had startled him)

Little monster boy
with orange mask
concealing scary supervillan
who rages at the grass
for growing too soft and green,
and screams against the mountains
for looming tall, purple, and majestic
and breaking the view
from his expensive toy plane.
(in a tantrum he insists that
“everybody sit down, sit down,
so I’m the tallest!”)

Little baby man
with giant demands
snaps his tiny, itty-bitty fingers
demanding the help clean up
his messes while fixing more food,
gobbling treats and tonguing
disapproval he claims his greatness
“I’m big— really, really big”
and the rest of us are just losers.
(he folds his arms and turns away
saying "you're fired" and “dumb,
really really dumb”)


Kathleen A. Lawrence likes the idea of writing poetry under a Cortland apple tree on a crisp afternoon, lifted by a scented autumnal breeze. She longs to write of love and beauty inspired by the loveliness of the world. However, she typically is compelled to write while watching the news explode reality across her flat screen, in her small suburban bungalow, painted an optimistic shade of periwinkle blue. 

ARMISTICE COMMEMORATION IN PARIS

by Alan Catlin




T***p appears disengaged,
outside of the spotlight, except
when greeting Putin and his thumbs
up salute.  Forced to listen to solemn
solo by cellist Yo Yo Ma, the day after
failing to lay a wreath on graves of
the fallen due to inclement weather,
he seems  preoccupied. Compelled to
listen to President Macron deliver
a speech decrying Nationalism, directly
criticizing him, T***p appears tired
as if formulating new ways to become
unchecked and balanced as autocrat-
in-chief, electoral defeats, and late night
television viewing, is wearing him down. 
Protestors raise new trial balloons of baby-
in-diapers-T***p to see if anyone salutes.


Alan Catlin is poetry editor of online journal misfitmagazine.net. His latest book of poetry is American Odyssey from Future Cycle Press.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

BREATH OF DAMNATION

by Phyllis Klein


Plenty of people in The City, including this man walking on Market Street, donned a mask Friday due to bad air quality as smoke from the Camp Fire in Northern California drifts down into the Bay Area 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner, November 10, 2018)


After the fire fractures its invisible
borders, the air going south becomes
a death powder. The Anna’s hummingbirds,

white-breasted nuthatches, the western
meadowlarks all disappear as if the atmosphere
pushes them indoors. Ominous vapors grab

oranges on their bushes with fingers visible
as ghosts in a dimly lit room. The sun, our lady
of perpetual light, glares down through a haze,

murky blue. Nothing wet. Or shiny. The dirt
tries to move, no wind, no dust, only rocklike
rusty brown with cracks.  Everyone knows this

feeling, a drought, field drained of water,
perdition place of nightmares. Here it is: our
dread of Hades, right outside the window, real

enough to taste, to smell.


Phyllis Klein writes, lives, and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Silver Birch Press, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, TheNewVerse.News, Chiron Review, Portside, and Sweet, a Literary Confection. She also has poems forthcoming in I-70 and 3Elements. She believes in artistic dialogue as an intimate relationship-building process that fosters healing on many levels. And the healing power of anything as beautiful as poetry.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A MOTHER'S LAMENT FOR AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

by Shirley J. Brewer




Gun shots punctuate country music.
An endless series of ragged wounds
ruin amber waves of grain.

A damaged boy in black
takes aim behind his killer toy.
Gone our purple mountain majesties.

All the years I spent nurturing my child
dissolve in puddles of blood.
America! America!

Without solace, alone I become
a maternal vigilante.
Till all success be nobleness
and ev’ry gain divine.

A grieving parent, I want to destroy
weapons of rage throughout this land.
Oh, beautiful for heroes proved
in liberating strife.

My mission: Annihilate the guns.
Let the alabaster cities gleam
undimmed by human tears.

My child’s life matters.
Will you help me, please?
America? America?
From sea to shining sea.


Shirley J. Brewer serves as poet-in-residence at Carver Center for the Arts & Technology in Baltimore, MD. Recent poems appear in Barrow Street, Comstock Review, Gargoyle, Passager, Poetry East, Slant, and other journals. Shirley’s books include A Little Breast Music (2008), After Words (2013), and Bistro in Another Realm (2017).

Friday, November 09, 2018

MEMO TO JEFF SESSIONS FROM WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

by Wilda Morris




I warned you in my famous play
what happens when you grasp the coattails
of a sociopath drunk on the possibilities of power,
one who hides evil intent behind the scriptures
he quotes, sows seeds of division,
spreads false gossip, multiplies lies
while boasting his achievements, faith
and truthfulness. Had you read Richard III
and heeded Buckingham, you would have realized
that one brief pause before fulfilling all demands,
one little bit of conscience, and you’d be doomed.
You were destined, like him, for the axe
by your recusal.


Wilda Morris lives and writes in the Chicago area. Her blog provides a contest for poets each month.

TO THE POLITICIAN WITH A MICROPHONE DRIBBLING THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS

by Tricia Knoll





I have my hand up in your face, you crazy motherfucker!
I do not want your prayers and thoughts.
Yes, my son was inside that school. Drawing peonies.

What did you say? I said it was my son dancing
in that bar. I’m sick of your platitudes and droopy eyelids.
He was line dancing and you tap dance about amendments.

He was in the yoga studio doing sun salutes.
That’s what I said and yes, I’m yelling at you.
He was stretching for breath to live in peace.

Yes, he was at Shabbat. Next to his grandmother.
And at the Baptist church. And the nursing home.
And the trucking office. And the Waffle Company.

And you’re out here with your microphone
crooning what a terrible shame
that so many people suffer mental illness

and that your people, the ones in their desks
piled with law books, are going for the death penalty
as if that says something other than you don’t know

nothing. This shooter shot himself.
And I don’t want the other ones
dead, I want them loved by someone

and I want YOU to stop making it sooooo easy
for them to buy the guns that make every
single room in this country dangerous to be alive.

We are all in this together. I was there too.
So was my neighbor and his daughter.
And his neighbor in the wheelchair.

Where were you? Playing golf?


Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet living in a quiet woods.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

WHEN WEASELS HOLD OFFICE AND RATS WEAR ROBES

by Michael T. Young





The great slap away the hand
that reaches out; the great know
the need of a migrant child is not
their need, and to imprison them
will make a country great.

The great watch the news but
spit foul words, praise the attacker,
the killer of journalists because this
will make a country great.

The great bellow of unity and love,
parrot Amazing Grace while grabbing
women between their legs because
this will make a country great.

The great speak their mind, act
from the gut, then deny everything—
brag because the great let no one
forget they’re great and this
makes a country great, like them.


Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection The Infinite Doctrine of Water was published by Terrapin Books. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and his chapbook Living in the Counterpoint received the Jean Pedrick Award.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

I VOTED TODAY

by Kathy Conway

Walked wearily to the polling place at town hall
ignoring the peak foliage bursting color
in every direction on a fall day here in southern
New England.

I returned home on a street lush with trees -
maples, birches, elms, chestnuts, sumacs.
Windy yesterday yet warm and drizzling today,
I tread on a magic carpet of leafy shapes and colors.

Bright yellow birch leaves cover the sidewalk,
gradually changing to intense reds, then amber,
deep gold and rust.  I strolled wet-faced beneath trees
hanging heavily with colorful offerings.

Looking up, awed by a crimson Japanese Maple,
wet-black limbs foil to the beauty of its ruby red -
a canopy fit for a bride or a queen.  And I remembered that
change is the only constant; that this too shall pass.

The seasons come, go; heat and cold begetting
winter snow, spring green, summer blossoms, fall stipples.
Buoyed by the brilliance and brisk walk, I return hopeful that
my fellow Americans vote to effect change.


Kathy Conway splits her time between a cottage on the coast of Maine and her home outside of Boston. She's taught memoir poetry in Maine and Florida. Besides her chapbook Bacon Street about growing up in a large family, she has poems in themed collaborations.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

PROPOSITION EIGHT

by T R Poulson




Who is she, the woman whose blue eyes reach
out in ads, voice strong, hair blonde?  Her clinic
at stake, she says a thousand lives beseech

me, the voter-hero, to Vote No. I remain the cynic.
Draped with red-filled tubes like snakes, a man bids me
Vote Yes! Gown-wrapped clients refer to unhygienic

rooms where unseen life forms lurk and kid me
not.  Gloves, urine, needles, machines, puddles,
fill my mind along with missing kidneys,

those pulsing beans now shriveled, blood now muddled.
I die without dialysis, a man’s voice proclaims.
My barre-toned back holds twin flesh-cuddled

organs pulsing, cleaning. This vote-luring campaign
forms paths and forks that twist and feel the same.


T R Poulson lives in San Carlos, California.  Her work has appeared previously in TheNewVerse.News, along with Rattle’s Poets Respond, Verdad, Trajectory, J Journal, The Meadow, Delaware Review, and Raintown Review.  She enjoys windsurfing, basketball, and horse racing.