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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

WE LIKE OUR FREEDOM

by Ginny Lowe Connors




And our steaks—we like them rare.
Our vengeance bloody and loud. Lightning bolts
aimed at the heart. That thrill. That satisfaction
when our rage explodes.
 
Ask the six-year-olds of Sandy Hook.
Ask their parents. Or anyone from Ulvalde.
Ask the stuffed bunny left behind
on the bed, one ear bent and frayed.
 
Tissue paper parachutes
drifting over the wastelands of our freedom—
that’s what the prayers became
of those in the Pittsburgh synagogue
and in the Fort Worth Baptist Church.
 
Nobody asks about the anonymous workers
who come in afterward to clean up the blood.
In the schools, the churches, the nightclubs.
The homes, the offices. Grocery stores.
That sludge, that slurry of hatred, cold sweat, malice—
how long must the smell of it linger?
 
I myself cannot eat steak. I cannot free myself
from the vision of a little boy racing a school bus. 
Something is happening to the field of wildflowers
I used to carry in my chest, asters and daisies, bees.
Summer sunlight. I’m full of holes.
The hummingbirds are escaping.
 
 
Ginny Lowe Connors taught English in a public secondary school for many years. She is the author of four full-length poetry collections, including her latest poetry book Without Goodbyes: From Puritan Deerfield to Mohawk Kahnawake (Turning Point, 2021). Her chapbook Under the Porch won the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize, and she has earned numerous awards for individual poems. She is co-editor of Connecticut River Review and runs a small poetry press, Grayson Books.

PINKY PROMISES

by Ann E. Wallace



“Pinky Promise” by Joseph Patton



Can you see it?

The shredding of precious 

organs, of slim muscles and growing

bones, of smiles and baby teeth,

of dimples and pinky promises, 

when weapons meant for war

open fire on 40- and 50-pound

children crouching under desks,

hiding behind racks of graded 

readers, and huddling

in the pretend play center.

 

Can you imagine

what damage has been 

wreaked when a mother must 

recall the neatly pressed 

dress or red striped shirt 

her third grader selected 

for the end of school festivities, 

two days before summer break, 

when a father must swab 

his cheek or offer a vial of blood 

to confirm that the shattered 

remains held in the morgue 

belong to his darling child?

 

How as a nation 

do we bear that another 

community has been asked 

to be patient, that parents 

were again told to not pick up 

their kids, not yet, when they heard 

the news, so as not to cause chaos—as if

parents’ terror caused this mayhem—

until officials have finished scouring

the brightly colored classrooms 

for small victims, until doctors

have saved those they could

and zipped those they could not 

into oversized body bags, until 

every student has been accounted for,

until nineteen sets of parents 

have learned they will never 

again pick up their children?

 

How do we justify

that while the devastated 

people of Uvalde have waited 

in desperation for their children 

to be accounted for, 

no one is holding 

our leaders accountable? 

 


Ann E. Wallace is a poet and essayist from Jersey City, New Jersey. Her published work can be found at AnnWallacePhD. Follow her on Twitter @annwlace409 or on Instagram @annwallacephd.com.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

THE AMERICAN IDEAL OF JUSTICE

by Howie Good




The gunman
shoots to death
19 children
 
in an elementary school
in Texas
 
and then turns the gun
on himself.


Editor's Note: The specific circumstances of the death of the shooter at the scene of Robb Elementary School had not yet been clarified by authorities at the time of the posting of this poem. Since then, authorities have announced that the gunman was killed by law enforcement officers.


Howie Good is a poet and collagist on Cape Cod.

UVALDE TEXAS MAY 24, 2022

by Alan Catlin




19 children 
and one teacher
dead

because one
elementary
school shooting
wasn't enough


Alan Catlin has published dozens of chapbooks and full-length books, including the chapbook Three Farmers on the Way to a Dance (Presa Press), a series of ekphrastic poems responding to the work of German photographer August Sander who did portraits of Germans before, during, and after both World Wars.

ROE V. WADE—THE PREQUEL, 1972

by Marianne Gambaro




I guess I can’t blame them
for feeling the way they do.
 
They weren’t there.
They didn’t see your ashen face
against the blood-soaked
laundry service sheets
on your dorm bed.
 
I wish I could remember your name—
Karen, I think,
or maybe Caryn—
your whitebread family
was pretentiously middle class
so would have spelled it differently,
not at all like that boy
who knocked you up.
Did he disappear fast when you told him!
 
You were a quiet girl, younger
than the rest of us freshmen,
smarter too,
with all your advanced placement classes.
 
I think it was your roommate who took you
to that bogus doctor in Pennsylvania,
who stayed with you
and finally called the RA
when she couldn’t stop the bleeding.
 
You never did come back to the dorm.
Did you come back to school?
Did you even live?
No one talked about you after you left,
at least not above a whisper.
 
I guess I can’t blame them
for feeling the way they do now.
But maybe you can.
 

Marianne Gambaro’s poems and essays have been published in print and online journals including Mudfish, CALYX, Oberon Poetry Magazine, Pirene's Fountain, Avocet Journal, Snowy Egret, and The Naugatuck River Review. She is the author of Do NOT Stop for Hitchhikers (Finishing Line Press). She lives in verdant Western Massachusetts, with her talented photographer-husband and two feline muses.

Monday, May 23, 2022

COWS WHO DIDN'T JUMP OVER THE MOON

by Dick Altman


Jason Grostic's cows are tame and relaxed on his small Michigan farm. But after repeatedly testing his farm for PFAS chemicals in biosolids applied to his fields, state officials stopped Grostic from selling any meat or cattle from his farm. Feed grown on his farm is contaminated as well, and he's having to buy feed for the herd he can no longer sell. (DTN photo by Chris Clayton) —Progressive Farmer, May 9, 2022


After euthanizing several thousand contaminated cows, Art Schaap is losing not only a once-thriving dairy farm but a place where he and his family have lived for a quarter-century. He has no choice, he said, because the polluted runoff from Cannon Air Force Base that tainted the groundwater, soil and his livestock with cancer-causing chemicals has left Highland Dairy in Clovis [New Mexico] an empty shell… Schaap euthanized 3,665 dairy cows in phases over the past four years, when he first learned they’d become contaminated with PFAS from drinking polluted groundwater. PFAS is short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Dubbed “forever chemicals” because they last indefinitely in the bloodstream, PFAS can cause increased cholesterol, reproductive problems, impaired immunity and cancer. Highland Dairy, a 3,500-acre farm, is a casualty in an ever-growing environmental and health issue as PFAS increasingly turn up in public drinking water, private wells and food. —Santa Fe New Mexican, May 19, 2022


Hey, diddle, diddle.
The cat and the fiddle.
The cow jumped over the moon.
Except the bovines,
all thirty-six hundred,
who couldn’t overcome
pollution’s deadly gravity.
Who weren’t invited
to your last barbecue.
Whose cream didn’t fortify
yesterday’s Frappuccino.
 
Hey, diddle, diddle.
The cat and the fiddle.
The cows who didn’t
jump over the moon,
died rife with PFAS,
“forever chemicals” etched
into their bloodstreams.
Cholesterol/reproduction/
immunity all impacted.
Cancer lurking.
 
Hey, diddle, diddle.
The cat and the fiddle.
The cows who tanked up
on PFAS-ed groundwater.
Who drank the brew/runoff
of airbase firefighters practicing
with PFAS-laced foam.
The entire herd euthanized/
farm closed/soil toxic.
PFAS showing up
in public drinking water,
wells and food.
 
Hey, diddle, diddle.
The cat and the fiddle.
The cows’re all dead.
No place to rest/exit.
Oh, just this once.
change the flight plan.
Let them jump on the moon—
rather than over it.
 

Dick Altman writes in Santa Fe’s high, thin, magical air, where, at 7,000 feet, reality and imagination often blur. The Santa Fe Literary Review, American Journal of Poetry, Haunted Waters Press, and many others have published his work in the U.S. and abroad.  A poetry winner of the Santa Fe New Mexican’s annual literary competition, he has in progress two collections of some 100 published poems, Voices in the Heart of Stones and Telling the Broken Sky.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

PRAYERS OF WAR

by Peter Witt


On May 20, Dmytro Kozatskyi, a soldier of the #Azov Regiment posted his photos of the defenders of #Mariupol, calling on the world media and those who can help to distribute them. "Well, that's all. Thank you for the shelter; Azovstal is the place of my death and life. See you".


I.
I hear the drums of war banging
as recruits shoulder their weapons,
while merchants of arms pray
half-heartedly for peace knowing
money is to be made
off the mayhem and suffering.

II.
Somewhere safe and hidden,
a barely 19 year old guides
a drone capturing images
of hospitals, schools, that
will soon smolder with
the aftermath of airborne
mechanized chaos...silently
he offers a prayer for the living
and soon to be dead.

III.
Mother with teething child,
walker propelled grandparent,
and shivering family dog
board a train that chugs
its way to the western border,
rails singing "pray with me,
pray with me."

IV.
Someday, when bodies
are counted, refugees
and soldiers hobble home,
there'll be an annual day
of remembrance of victory
and defeat, speeches made,
loved ones honored,
as the priest asks
the assembled to bow
their heads and pray.


Peter Witt lives in Texas.  His poetry has appeared in a variety of online and print publications.

UKRAINE HAIKU

by G. R. Kramer


On May 20, Dmytro Kozatskyi, a soldier of the #Azov Regiment posted his photos of the defenders of #Mariupol, calling on the world media and those who can help to distribute them. "Well, that's all. Thank you for the shelter; Azovstal is the place of my death and life. See you".


all across the road
blood of butchered                  root in cracks
seed of black spring             bloom
 
weapon
 
below white flowers
we lie with the fray of bees
nowhere people are
 
child
 
mir meant peace to both
when trees leafed over laughter
now           stumps             stand    their     ground
 
      explosive
 
see how the flies help
keep down             the odor of rot
old men in ditches
 
witness
 
may the good endure
tanks missiles sunflowers plows
may the lost                    return
 
annihilate
 
family        stained             red
parlor tatters                      open sky
empty sniper eyes
 
artillery
 
war machines rust out
wind blown blood loam covers steppe
lily bulbs open
 
memory
 
when do nations live
empires feed         death to their dead
human history
 
for get       ting
 
mothers of soldiers
whose blood drains to the black sea
mothers of soldiers

 
G. R. Kramer grew up in Canada, Kenya and the U.S., the child of refugees from fascism and communism. A lawyer by vocation, his passion for writing poetry has rekindled in late middle-age. His first poetry chapbook is forthcoming from Finish Line Press and he has published in numerous journals. 

LET PEACE BE THE MOTHER OF EVERYTHING

by Steven Croft




Polemos pater panton (War is the father of all things.)
—Heraclitus


From the internet I read about the bombardment of Barcelona
by Italians, Germans, in 1938, watch the Movietone footage
of children running, the torn arm of a father's tweed jacket dark
with blood even in the film's black and white.  Omen, prelude
of what would come.  Today Germans, Italians, the rest of us,
condemn the bombs' carnage in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol.

The UN was founded in 1945 to prevent world war and make
the world better.  A gradualism powered by hope, a world
where the center will hold, held by our civilized will, forged
from what we all want and what we know we did wrong.  But...
those bomb-melted multistorey wrecks of buildings in the gritty,
jumpy newsreel are grimly colored in today in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol.

War could never be a mother.  Not that she couldn't cradle a rifle
as easily as a baby, plant a garden of mines—but motherhood
is too likely to want the peace to nurture children, is too ready
to negotiate, to drop the aim of a final strike on the wounded,
seeing her own sons and daughters in them, their mothers' pain.

Even if it, she, starts small like an opening bud in spring, compassion
could start at a steel plant in Mariupol where bloody-bandaged men
are being stretchered out to buses today on CNN.  Negotiation
could spread to Kharkiv, Kyiv, Kherson, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, peace
could become a warm-bedded garden, now the mother of everything.


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.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

HEART OF THE GALAXY

by Alejandro Escudé


The mystery at the heart of the Milky Way has finally been solved. This morning, at simultaneous press conferences around the world, the astronomers of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) revealed the first image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. It’s not the first picture of a black hole this collaboration has given us—that was the iconic image of M87*, which they revealed on April 10, 2019. But it’s the one they wanted most. Sagittarius A* is our own private supermassive black hole, the still point around which our galaxy revolves. —Scientific American, May 12, 2022.


It’s an engine, 
the scientists say,
a black Mustang
parked at the curb
in front of our house,
the Milky Way,

I’ve been there, 
lightless, eating up stars,
surrounded by fire
that cannot reach me,

speed of light,
the scientists say,
why the image is blurry
yet crisp
as can be,

such are the rules
we live by, the movie
inside the maelstrom,
the Papi
and the Mami,

a solitary mitt laying 
centerfield, a baseball 
tucked inside 
twirling 

as the cradle
of life in the universe spins 
26,000 light years away,

humans beings, Lucy
to the aliens, biological
Big Bang, Adam
and Eve to the bug-eyed
Greys

and the lizard man
who staggers out of an oval door
of a saucer-metallic
flying saucer,
time falling into time,
a spot on a boy’s foot,
beach tar, sound of waves,
salty air.


Alejandro Escudé published his first full-length collection of poems My Earthbound Eye in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches high school English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

Friday, May 20, 2022

I AM THINKING ABOUT AMERICA TODAY

by Cecil Morris


A counselor attends to a grieving woman outside Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., site of a "politically-motivated hate incident" shooting which left a prominent doctor dead and another five people injured, on May 15. (Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register/Getty Images) Photo illustrating “A weekend of violence punctuates generations of hate.” —The Washington Post, May 18, 2022


I am thinking that more people need more guns, many, many more guns in the hands of many more people, even young people, people too young to be trusted with books or ideas or facts or contraception or health care. If everyone has guns—both long and short and semi-automatic, bump-stopped and rapid-fire, with magazines large and small—then those bad guys with bad aims will be outnumbered and outgunned and no amount of metal-clad body armor will protect them. How else can we be prepared for the communists invading from Russia or Mexico or Cuba or Venezuela? How else stop the socialists spilling out from Blue States, flooding out from urban centers to America the Beautiful home of brave and unalienable rights. I am thinking Kid Rock or Ted Nugent or Lauren Opal Boebert or MTG needs to follow Dolly’s baby-book give-away example: a gun for every real American at birth and a new bullet for every month. I am thinking of growing libraries of arms borne and bared, of personal catalogs of destruction carefully curated and cleaned and oiled and mounted with laser-targeting sights so red dot marks the spot and shows us the way to heaven. I am thinking about teachers with guns and the indoctrination of students. I am thinking about ghost guns haunting America with our forefathers. I am thinking about women’s shelters handing out guns and incorporating target practice in their services, about Guns for Graduation, about CPS with guns and black plastic trash bags, about beaming girls at quinceañeras armed to the nines, about pistols in pews and a line of shopping carts with bullet-proof fairing and guns, about fortune cookie fortunes with guns in bed.


Cecil Morris taught high school English for 37 years. In his retirement, he has turned his attention to writing what he once taught students to understand and (maybe) enjoy. He has poems appearing in Cobalt Review, English Journal, Evening Street Review, Hiram Review, Hole in the Head Review, Midwest Quarterly, Poem, Talking River Review, and other literary magazines.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

JUST AS THE BIRDS, DISTRACTED

by Paula J. Lambert




Most nights this week, there will be more birds in the air above
this country than people in beds down below.” —Josh Sokol
 

Just as the birds, distracted by light
that splits the star they follow into sparks
and mirrors so they never see the towers
that reach out to kill them, just as the birds,
 
so entranced by needs they cannot explain
that they propel themselves steadfastly
forward through all the wildfires we set 
for them (if they recognize their own 

plummeting numbers when they emerge 
from the smoke, they don’t show it, 
they keep flying) just as the birds 
soar even through their own sleep as, 

one by one by one, they die of thirst 
or starvation or exhaustion, falling into fields 
and ditches and sidewalks, mountain peaks
and seldom-seen valleys, just as they 

keep going, season after season, year after 
year, eon after unfathomable eon, so we 
sleep through it all in our beds below, 
writhing maybe through tangles of sheets 

and the existential threat we’ve made
of our lives—we who’ve lived long enough 
to multiply every problem we inherited, 
who’ve ignored or angrily explained away 

the desperate patterns of our own migration—
but sleeping, blithely unwilling to do more
than worry while, awake, we grab our keys 
and cameras and binoculars and go,
 
to the marshes, waterways and wild places
still left, still untrampled, still—unbeknownst
to us—part of the twisted dreams and difficult
truths we rarely remember, come morning. 


Paula J. Lambert has authored several collections of poetry including The Ghost of Every Feathered Thing (FutureCycle 2022) and How to See the World (Bottom Dog 2020). Awarded PEN America's L'Engle-Rahman Prize for Mentorship, Lambert's poetry and prose has been supported by the Ohio Arts Council, the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Her work has been nominated for several Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes.

WHAT WE LEARN FROM BIRDS

by Earl J. Wilcox



If our baby worm formula is not available—
Backup plans with day-old bugs will do.
 
If the five-year old birdie-boy wants
To be a girlie bird, let him dress as he will.
 
If the teen robins won’t sing or play—or fly
Let them consult Papa Owl, not take codeine.
 
If old lady robin’s days are done, do not
Push her out of the nest where foxes await.
 
Find old bird a comfy hole in an elder oak,
There let Sister Robin live out her days in love.


Earl Wilcox has learned from many birds over many years.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

PRAYING FOR YOU, GOV

by Darrell Petska




Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska said Sunday that he will call a special session of his state's legislature to pass a total ban on abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade this term. "Nebraska is a pro-life state. I believe life begins at conception, and those are babies too," Ricketts told CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union" when asked if he thought the state should require a young girl who was raped to carry the pregnancy to term. —CNN, May 15, 2022


Of course rape is evil,
but evil left to proliferate in a woman
tends to strike again and again in all its
suffocating helplessness, trauma, chronic
anxiety and nightmarish violation,
with all its attendant heartache.

Political one-upmanship and pietisms
that insist on allowing rape's evil to live on
by citing "directives" of god or bandying
emotionally fraught trigger words—
manipulating evil to sell one's agenda—
are beneath a purported man of god
and the yea-saying cadres of men sharing
narrow perceptions of a woman's uterus,
including its role in shaping cognitive
and emotional well-being and the drive
for self-determination—the latter a right
not reserved for men alone.

The shelf-life of your brand of religiosity
is short. We who espouse a more merciful,
compassionate religion pray that your efforts
to be both judge and executioner will fall
to the light, lest "Nebraska Nice" succumbs
to the politics clouding your heart and soul.


Darrell Petska lives and writes in Wisconsin, but part of his heart remains in his birth state of Nebraska.