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Thursday, June 21, 2018


by Mary K O'Melveny

José, 5, carries with him a drawing of his father, whom he has not seen since they were separated upon arriving in the United States from Honduras. —“The Daily,” The New York Times, June 20, 2018. "And the president’s order does nothing to address the plight of the more than 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents under the president’s 'zero tolerance' policy. Federal officials said those children will not be immediately reunited with their families while the adults remain in federal custody during their immigration proceedings. "—The New York Times, June 20, 2018

Some of us are always trying to be kind.
Even in smallest ways.  Even as the known
world self-destructs around us, shards of
optimism falling from the sky before we even
have a chance to look up to see what has
shifted us off our comfortable axis.

I’ve got a chipmunk problem in my yard.
The tiny furred creatures have popped up
everywhere, sending showers of dirt
into the air like it was Yellowstone.
I cannot kill them even though I want to.
They will not leave even though I have raged

at them, insulted them and their ancestors.
My neighbor brings a have a heart trap
so I can remove them kindly.  He baits it with
peanut butter.  Soon the trap has a frightened
occupant.  I cannot bear to look out for fear
of crying.  The prisoner is soon relocated.

The trap is replaced.  A new chipmunk takes
the bait.  He too is repatriated to a new territory.
Capture and repeat.   The metal trap looms larger
each day as an unending array of innocents are
tempted by creamy nut paste.  Soon enough,
I begin to worry about babes left behind in tunnels,

about mothers and fathers  grieving for lost children.
One day a chipmunk plants itself on my deck
and looks in through the window.  My kind self
huddles behind the blind.  I will not make eye contact.
This is the humane way, I say to myself, even as I begin
to imagine each trapped rodent wearing an orange

jumpsuit as interrogators gather nearby with pen
and paper waiting for the inevitable confessions.
One night, the trap is sprung, its detainee freed from
house arrest.  I am thrilled.  Then I learn that a bear
has likely done it.  Probably thanked me for the easy meal.
Now I am lost in my worst fears.  There is no kindness in my yard.

How could I have thought otherwise?  This is how
it always begins.  Good intentions vanishing
like some dying star,  rationalizations
reverberating across celestial centuries.
Turns out it is our unwavering belief
in our self-righteousness that is the trap.

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.


by George Salamon 

Border Disorder by Jen Sorensen, TheNib, June 20, 2018

William Blake illuminated poem.

God has vanished and
Man still corrupts,
Building monuments to greed.
As he prospers, things
Die without a sigh.
Children cry, their tears
Bear witness that something
Has died without a cry.
What Phoenix can rise
Out of cold ashes
From soil planted with hate?

George Salamon lives and writes in St. Louis, MO.


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

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


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.


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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.