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Thursday, June 21, 2018

MAGICIANS

by John Kaprielian




Illusionists use tricks
and deception
lies and distraction
to delight
us with their
feats of impossibility
but we know they
are not sorcerers
or wizards
but subtle and artistic
con men whom
we allow to
twist our perception
to bewilder and amuse.

The magicians have
taken over
and conjurors run amok
making children
disappear and
bending the laws of
nature and man
to perform their
sickening sleight of hand
turning babies into pawns
women into whores
and men into criminals
with a wave
and a word.

But illusionists must
guard their secrets
hide their tricks
or the curtain falls away
and we are embarrassed
and ashamed
by just how easily
we allowed ourselves to
be led
to preposterous
conclusions.

Expose their secrets
and their lies
the tricks of their foul trade
the woman sawed in half
is quickly mended
the family torn
apart
will never
ever
be the same.


John Kaprielian is a Russian linguist by training and has been employed as a photo editor for three decades. He has been writing poetry for over thirty-five years; in 2012 he challenged himself to write a poem a day for a year and in 2013 published the 366 poems in a single volume, 366 Poems: My Year in Verse. He has also had poems published on The Five-Two Poetry Blog and in the anthology Live at the Freight House Cafe. His poetry ranges in subject matter from the natural world to current events and politics to introspective and philosophical themes. He lives in Putnam County, New York with his wife and son and assorted pets.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

THE LULLABIES FALL SILENT

by Janet Leahy


'Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three “tender age” shelters in South Texas, The Associated Press has learned. Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis.' —The Guardian, June 20, 2018


In the detention center
there are no lullabies for the eight-month-old infant,
for the two-year-old  girl, for the young boy
calling out for his Papa, his Mama,
for the child who has memorized
his auntie’s phone number, and pleads
to call her, so she can come and take him home.
No one sings behind the chain-link fence,   
no one reads “Good Night Moon,”
or hugs a child as darkness settles,
but in detention, darkness never settles,
lights stay on all night . . .
No one cradles a crying infant.
No one recites “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”
still they wonder where . . . the lost parents are.
There are no groups singing rounds
of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,”
children remember crossing the Rio Grande
in a boat too crowded, too cold, too wet.
No one intones “Are You Sleeping, Are You Sleeping”
because all one can hear is children weeping.
No one sings “Hush Little Baby,” yet little babies
do not hush, without a mother or father near.
All the while the king is in his counting house
counting out his money, the queen is in the parlour
eating bread and honey.
And the lullabies
fall silent.


Janet Leahy is a member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. Her ekphrastic poems have appeared in several art exhibits throughout the state. Her work has been published in the Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, Midwest Prairie Review, in many anthologies, literary journals and online at My Daily Poem, TheNewVerse.News, and Blue Heron. She has published two collections of poetry. She enjoys working with a host of poets in the  Milwaukee-Waukesha area.

IN FIFTH GRADE HOME EC

by Megan Merchant
"The Art of the Hostage Negotiation" by Pia Guerra, TheNib


“Look what you made me do has emerged as the dominant ethos of the current White House.” —Jessica Winter, “The Language of the Trump Administration is the Language of Domestic Violence,” The New Yorker, June 11, 2018


I was taught how to microwave an egg, to transform
fabric into a skirt that fell well below my knees, but also

how to mend a tear, a fractured wing, a black eye. I pricked
my finger with scissors when it came time to cut out ads from

glossy magazines & construct the female body as nest. They
said to fill it with prayer, which hums the same as obedience.

Mine held a mixing bowl, silk scarf, pearls. I learned that
the joke about broken bones ends with—next time that bitch

better listen. I learned that some laughter requires permission,
but also how to pad & hide the red they kept calling fault,

while the boys next door sawed wood into loud splits just
so they could pound them back together, and when the nail

bent from too much force, they took turns saying look what

you made me do.


Megan Merchant is an Editor at Comstock Review. Her most recent book Grief Flowers (Glass Lyre Press) will be coming into the world this summer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

NOT MY SON

by Anna M. Evans




McAllen, Texas, June 2018


Last night a woman crossed the Southern border—
heat haze and scrub, to armed men with blank faces
and rumors of a presidential order.

She had a baby with her who adored her
and sang him lullabies of safer spaces
last night. This woman crossed the Southern border

leaving her town of ruin and disorder
because she trusted others knew what grace is,
and hadn't heard the presidential order.

She didn't fear the men who came toward her,
explaining she would be one of their cases
last night. This woman crossed the Southern border

and begged asylum. First, the men ignored her,
then warned the women to stay in their places
while they enforced the presidential order.

No mi hijo! the refugee implored, her
stricken mind confused by legal phrases.
Last night a mother crossed our Southern border.
We took her son by presidential order.


Anna M. Evans’ poems have appeared in the Harvard Review, Atlanta Review, Rattle, American Arts Quarterly, and 32 Poems. She gained her MFA from Bennington College and is the Editor of the Raintown Review. Recipient of Fellowships from the MacDowell Artists' Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and winner of the 2012 Rattle Poetry Prize Readers' Choice Award, she currently teaches at West Windsor Art Center and Rowan College at Burlington County. Her new collection Under Dark Waters: Surviving the Titanic is out now from Able Muse Press, and her sonnet collection Sisters & Courtesans is available from White Violet Press.

Monday, June 18, 2018

PLANET HELL’S VERY LAST SUPPER/DEATH MATCH

by David Spicer




Smiling, smoking a licorice cigarillo, the Devil commissions Picasso to paint the Very Last Supper’s megalomaniac orgy, a delegation of twelve lunatics vying for Daddy’s attention. Chairs fill, arguments continue, Hitler at one end of the table opposite Beelzebub, Mussolini to the left of the rectangle stash, Stalin scouting Siberian gulags in his head, Idi squealing like a butchered pig. There’s Mao at his side, chomping on a ribeye. They don’t impress Satan, he’s seen it all, he’s their God they love, the Ayatollah and Rasputin arm wrestling, betting a fruit pie against a lemon cake. And there’s Manson with Putin, followed by a pedophile pope. Just arriving, the two newest members, T***p and Kim, known as T***pkim, slap each other on the back, shake hands for two minutes before the Breezy Bully yanks his mitten from Kim’s vice-grip fist and says, Hey, bud, that hurt. Kim says, Don’t be a Dotard, turd. BB says, I don’t like you anymore, Kimmy. The dictator laughs louder than his pin-stripe suit, grabs Breezy Bully’s red tie, twirls him against the barbed wire cage, waits, drop kicking him, bounces on the bully’s big belly with his big belly, ole Lucifer slamming his huge hand on the flaming floor, One! Two! Three! And the winner is . . . Rocket Man! The vanquished President whines, That’s not fair. He cheated. The bad boys boo, Pussy! Pussy! Grab that Pussy, Kimbo! Mussolini barfs. Hitler screams, Death to the American Weasel! Helter Skelter! Manson shouts. I’ll hear his confession, the holy man whispers. Kim grabs a frat paddle, smacking his former fat bro on the ass, Hahahahahahaha. Mao and the others echo Kim. Hahahahahahaha. Suddenly Stalin jumps on the table, shouts Shuttttuppp!! and grabs the loud loser by his small ears, slams him on the table, scizzors his head with yellow boots: Stay down, do-dad, stay down. Do dad bawls. Everyone laughs. Putin says, You’re with the big boys now, Banana Breath, but we’ll toughen up your pink punk butt. The audience of liberals and me-tooers cheers so deafening the world explodes.


David Spicer has had poems in Gargoyle, Rat’s Ass Review, Reed Magazine, Tipton Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Chiron Review, Easy Street, Prime Number, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares,  among others, and in the anthologies Silent Voices: Recent American Poems on Nature (Ally Press, 1978), Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing From Homer to Ali (Southern Illinois University Press, 2003), and A Galaxy of Starfish: An Anthology of Modern Surrealism (Salo Press, 2016). He has been nominated for a Best of the Net three times and a Pushcart, and is the author of one full-length collection of poems, Everybody Has a Story (St. Luke's Press, 1987), and five chapbooks, with the latest, From the Wings of a Pear Tree, available from Flutter Press. He is also the former editor of Raccoon, Outlaw, and Ion Books.

SERAFINA'S CHOICE

by Jennifer Lagier


Just released by border patrol @CBP showing the McAllen, Texas detention facility that we were allowed to tour today.  For now, we can only rely on what they give us. They will not allow us inside to film on our own. Why? “Privacy”; they don’t want faces shown. —@DavidBegnaud


"I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for His purposes." – Jeff Sessions


Vindictive politicians cloak cruelty
with misinterpreted bible quotes.
Modern-day storm troopers
rip children as young
as breast-feeding infants
away from their desperate mothers.

Private contractors reap the rewards
of warehousing innocent captives.
Predator-in-Chief and his craven enablers
use families as bargaining chips
in a cynical, racist game
of immigration bill chicken.


Jennifer Lagier has published fourteen books, co-edits the Homestead Review, helps coordinate Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium readings. Newest books: Scene of the Crime (Evening Street Press), Harbingers (Blue Light Press), Camille Abroad (FutureCycle Press), Like a B Movie (FutureCycle Press). Forthcoming: Camille Mobilizes (FutureCycle Press).

Sunday, June 17, 2018

LETTER BY LETTER

by Bill Meissner



That morning of my tenth birthday, I expected
a game, comic books. Instead,
my father lowered an American Heritage Dictionary
into my open palms,
told me he’d give me a small allowance
if I’d learn the definitions from A to Z.
I felt the weight of the book, its embossed leather cover
holding in those 225,000 words.

Caught in the middle of Iowa,
I knew nothing of aardvarks or zzyvas.
So each night, instead of watching TV,
I leaned close to the gold-leafed pages,
studying definitions that often eluded
me, meteors that glowed a few seconds
in the dome of sky before they faded.

     I can picture him now, after work at the used car lot,
     his beige dress shirt creased like the lines in a county map.
     He’d lean back on his La-Z-Boy in the den,
     paging through the latest National Geographic,
     marveling at the ancient mariners who navigated by the stars.
     As a young man, he dreamed of jumping on a freighter
     to ports in Anchorage, Buenos Aires, Caracas.
     Instead, he got a steady job. Instead,
     he wanted his son to learn the world,
     letter by letter, and then
     go there.

Months later, I gave up at F.
I even skimmed some of the blurred pages
just to get all the way to that failure,
then slid the dictionary into a mute dresser drawer.

Dad, I’m sorry. The universe was just too big for me
and I grew away from those words.
But I’m finding them now, years later, for this poem.
Here they are:  each one
like the light from a small, distant
star, finally reaching the earth.


Minnesota writer Bill Meissner is the author of five books of poems.  His forthcoming book of poetry The Mapmaker’s Dream will be published in early 2019. "Letter by Letter" will appear in that collection.  Meissner is also the author of two books of short stories and the novel Spirits in the Grass.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

THE NEW WORLD

by Barlow Adams





It’s not my birthday
but they bring me cake,
a rainbow bearing my name
with candles like lighthouses
on a multihued shore,
welcoming me to safe harbor.
What a beach,
what a holiday we have discovered,
a paradise prescribed through 
HR interventions, signs saying
love is love, we are all one,
Life Gets Better Together.
We get tomorrow off for the parade.

I face the flames, 
wax runs with my mascara
sizzling like sugar.
Caramelized callousness, 
calls back the heat in my shoulder
where a cluster of circles remembers where
my father used to snuff his Pall Malls.
A fag for a fag, here’s a flag
I claim this land, you scallywag.
And none of these brave explorers of equality,
in business casual and formal apology,
realize that they are not the first to arrive,
that I am not an undiscovered country.


Barlow Adams is the author of two novellas. His poetry has been featured by Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel and Dos Madres Press, and is set to appear later this year in formercactus and Finishing Line Press.

Friday, June 15, 2018

THE TROUBLE WITH YESTERDAY IS THAT IT'S NOT TODAY EVEN IF IT PLAGIARIZES YESTERDAY

by Dianna  Mackinnon Henning



Palestinian protesters near the Gaza-Israel border. YnetNews


it won’t be the same. The ironic bay window tires
revealing the picturesque—several fruit trees, aspen and
a roly-poly hillside marred with wildflowers. Shades are
more than pulled blinds. All those Palestinians shot
down. Windows break because they’re glass. Flesh is
not iron. It never will be nor does it aspire such. A young
boy’s boomerang is no weapon. They’ll kill him anyway.
Yesterday’s headlines announced hope. The trouble with
hope is that it shifts positions. Yoga doesn’t mean the body
bows like a field of wildflowers in a bilingual downpour.


Dianna Mackinnon Henning holds an MFA in Writing ’89 from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared in The Moth, Naugatuck River Review, Lullwater Review, The Red Rock Review, The Kentucky Review, The Good Works Review, The Main Street Rag, California Quarterly, Poetry International, Fugue, 22 Wagons, South Dakota Review, Trag, Hawai’i Pacific Review, and The Seattle Review. A three-time Pushcart nominee, Henning has taught poetry through California Poets in the Schools. The William James Association’s Prison Arts Program  gave her the opportunity to teach poetry at Folsom and other CA prisons. Henning’s third poetry chapbook Cathedral of the Hand was published in 2016 byFinishing Line Press.

ASYLUM

by Thomas R. Smith




   Why does my country so often stand
   On the side of the mean and the cruel?
           —Ed Sanders, "Nicaragua"


Sometimes I think these recurring dreams
of insecure wandering aren't personal
at all, but the world dreaming through me.

Again last night, I had no bed, searched
a strange town with darkness falling.
Our country has strayed so far from that

young and fearless prophet it professes
to worship.  Kidnapping children from their
parents at the border, making criminals

of asylum-seekers.  A Honduran man
separated from his wife and child by ICE
kills himself in a cell described as a "kennel."

Does the man who calls himself President
and the cowards and bullies who enable
him really believe they can have power

without responsibility?  The five
percent feeding on forty percent of
the planet arms itself to keep the starving

away from the table.  So we drift toward
our destruction, uncaring, cruel, refusing
to enter into a human future.

In dreams we are relentlessly pursued,
can find no place to lay our heads in this land
of the Ego, the Dollar, and the Holy Gun.

In time our bad faith will make our nation
a prison, in which we serve our sentence
not for having killed, but for having killed

not for survival but for luxury.



A Honduran girl cries as her mother is search and detained near the U.S. Mexico border on Tuesday in McAllen, Texas. Credit John Moore/Getty Images via Slate, June 14, 2018


Thomas R. Smith is a poet and teacher living in River Falls, Wisconsin. He teaches at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. His most recent poetry collection is The Glory (Red Dragonfly Press).

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A CHILD'S PASSPORT

by Rick Mullin
Illustration by Dan Carino for PRI.


Before the monster went away, I told her,
little boys and girls were fingerprinted,
photographed, required to pledge allegiance
to the flag and quizzed on history
at gunpoint in a room without their parents.
All to see how they would hold up under
torture and to gather data points
required to follow every move they made.
Of course I reassured her things have changed,
despite the uniforms and bullet-proof
enclosures for the customs officers
and soldiers and the yellow paperwork.
I told her not to worry when they called
her name. To just let Daddy do the talking.


Rick Mullin's newest poetry collection is Transom.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

LUNCH MONOLOGUE

by Harold Oberman




The A-1 China Super Buffet lacks knives
And we are no longer the leader of the free world.
I’m not sure what disturbs me more.
I imagine an incident at the buffet,
A butter knife attack long ago,
And the owners swearing off the utensil,
Or a loutish mule at the G-7 Summit
Bucking in invective, stamping his wingtips,
Flaring his nose, and bolting for Singapore.
Certainly, the butter knife attack I made up—
It’s probably a cultural thing, allowing forks
Instead of chopsticks is as far as they’ll bend—
But the leader of the former leader
Of the free world is somehow real
And we can’t take his knives away, not yet,
And he’ll be at the feed trough braying for his steak
Well-done, gums exposed, totally uninformed
That mules usually eat hay.


Harold Oberman is a lawyer and poet working and writing in Charleston, S.C.  Most Mondays he can be found at the A-1 China Super Buffet.

Monday, June 11, 2018

ABECEDARIO

by German Dario


“Foster Care or Whatever” by Pia Guerra at The Nib


todos los nombres

child a
came from central american country x
wearing dust
from three countries
and the sweat of his ancestors

child b
came from central American country z

           we think

she was too young to speak
but the twig
she had in place
of the left arm
on her doll
is from a tree
that grows in country z

child c
was just a foot and chancla
wrapped in a serape

child d
was raped
          repeatedly
wants to die
but crossed a line
and got picked up

child e
is running
from
a new family
a gang that tattooed
their brand
on virgin skin
and killed the mom

child f
had a good
hardworking clan
but they were taken
in a van
and closed doors
don't explain
   anything

child g's clothes were on child h

I
           do nothing

child m and n
might be related
by blood
if not by blood
by abuse
from a coyote
with candy
gun
and putrid
acid tongue

o
p
q
r
s

todos los nombres
now
all are safe
behind
fence link
dreamcatchers


German Dario, recently published at The Friday Influence and The Blue Collar Review, resides in Arizona.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

CAN QUIET STILL CREATE SOUND?

by Mary K O'Melveny


Palestinian protesters take cover from tear gas, Kibbutz Nahal Oz, Israel-Gaza border, June 8, 2018. CREDIT: JACK GUEZ/AFP via Haaretz.


Hamas has a new array of tactics—violent protest, burning kites and the occasional rocket—to preserve the fire of resistance. While it's uncertain the situation will escalate into military conflict, Hamas alone doesn't decide —Haaretz, June 9, 2018.


Quiet will be met with quiet
said the Israeli officer
and violence with a response
that is appropriate.  Of course
one’s ideas of appropriate
vary widely depending where
one stands.  Rock throwers raise their arms
and lose a leg to rifle fire

based on orders given in private
to fearful soldiers, not philosophers,
who find themselves ensconced
on exploding hills.  Which side is worse,
they have no time to debate.
In moments of silence, they may stare
out at youngsters running toward harm’s
way, lobbing missiles even higher,

wonder what zeal makes them try it,
despite the odds, when a pause occurs
in mortar rounds.  Their nonchalance
is almost thrilling, their voices hoarse
with fury.  Decisions to expropriate
ancestral lands haunt them as they stare
across barbed wire, imaging farms
on hillsides that fuel their ire.

Is anyone willing to defy it,
to announce, when a pause occurs,
that forgiveness is what he wants,
that harm’s antidote might be remorse?
Instead of blood for blood opiate,
perhaps such visions might be shared,
words of peace to close down alarms
before sounds of silence expire.


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 will be published by Finishing Line Press in September, 2018.