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Sunday, January 20, 2019

JEALOUS GODS

by Devon Balwit




            for Mary Oliver 1935-2019


This morning, the world mirrors rather than mocks,
fog-shrouded, pines diffident in gauze.

Mary Oliver has died. Determined to save
the only life she could, even she yielded

in the end. Now, she awaits the mercy of time.
I read her and carry her memory one day further.

The spirit, she writes, needs the metaphor
of the body. Mine pains me and would do better

to seek another vessel. What sufferer can be
heroic? Look me in the eye, Mary. Tell me

all do not long to pass the dark baton.
Her cricket moves grains of sand, dedicated

to its humble effort, but what if, secretly,
it ached for more, the dead poet missing

the yearning shuttered behind its elytra?
I appreciate evangels, welling good news,

but old gods are not so easily shed. Jealous
of our attention, they are not above

turning our heads where they want our gaze
or of swallowing the prayers of well-wishers.


Devon Balwit's most recent collection is titled A Brief Way to Identify a Body (Ursus Americanus Press). Her individual poems can be found here as well as in The Cincinnati Review, Tampa Review, Fifth Wednesday (on-line), Apt, Grist, and Oxidant Engine among others.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

O'BRADY CROSSES ANTARCTICA

by Fran Davis







"Crossing Antarctica: How the Confusion Began
and Where Do We Go From Here"—ExplorersWeb, January 9, 2019


ice   ice   ice
     solo man
sastrugi  beat  your heart
                 the sled   your life
up  and  over
ridge  and  trough

sky  and  ice
meld  to  white
     muscles only
                  read   the miles
ridge  and  trough
ice  shelf  sings

arctic  sleep
frigid  fingers flex
      grip  the  dream
                twenty-five below
up  and  over
ridge  and  trough

why  why  why
     solo man
in  deep flow state
                    sastrugi  beat
the  losing  ice  
yield  to  frozen  heart


Fran Davis writes a column for Coastal View News in California. Her work has been published in TheNewVerse.News, travel books, periodicals and numerous print and online journals.

Friday, January 18, 2019

A GOLDEN SHOVEL AFTER REP. RASHIDA TLAIB

by Karen Shepherd



“People love you and you win, and when your son looks at you and says, ‘Mama, look, you won. Bullies don’t win.’ I said, ‘Baby, they don’t, because we’re going to go in there and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker.'”


They’re outside in their blue shirts with patches and neckerchiefs.  Oh mama!
The Cub Scouts are out in the rain recycling the disrobed trees again. Look—
the little ones are struggling to lift and load those noble corpses! You
know I’m not going out there to help. No way-too cold. I think they’ve won
the War on Christmas, by the way, those little deconstructionist bullies
hauling away holiday cheer for a donation sealed in a Ziplock bag. I don’t
really care, though. I’m teasing, eating too much chocolate. And I can win
at other things. Like raising a glass before lunch, refreshing newsfeeds and
licking the rim of the eggnog carton. With the ornaments packed, I
can pour more vodka in my coffee, light my bowl and kick it. Someone said
Be Best and you know I’m being and doing my best now, baby.
No one is paying or being paid, toilets overflow, the zoo is shut and they
say maybe it's really a strike. National emergency. Yeah, okay, chill. Don’t
you know smooth voiced 44 hit the Billboard charts? Yeah, that’s because
there is some karma left. And it dances, sings and swears. Now as we’re
forced into gingerbread cookie detox programs, I ain’t gonna
lie (like the king). This won’t be some “but-I-posted-about it” easy go.
Things get uglier before they get prettier. I had to put all the nutcrackers in
boxes that looked like coffins, pack up the merry-making, stack them there
in the garage 'til next Thanksgiving. The scouts are dragged out there, and
really, they just want to shoot arrows at camp. Go ahead, please, impeach
the Grinch, the happily-ever-privileged, the liars, the pussy grabbers, the—
never mind. I’m off to take a nap, hoping to sleep off this motherfucker.


Editor's Note: The Golden Shovel is a poetic form devised  by Terrance Hayes in homage to Gwendolyn Brooks. ("Golden Shovel" is a reference to "Seven at the Golden Shovel" in the Brooks poem "We Real Cool" from which Hayes built the first Golden Shovel poem.) The last words of each line in a Golden Shovel poem are, in order, words from a line or lines taken often, but not invariably, from a Brooks poem.


Karen Shepherd lives with her husband and two teenagers in the Pacific Northwest of the United States where she enjoys walking in forests and listening to the rain. Her poetry and short fiction have been published in various journals including Constellate Literary Journal, The Literary Nest, Halfway Down the Stairs, Riddled With Arrows and Wales Haiku Journal

Thursday, January 17, 2019

CRADLESONG

by Mark Tarren




"Far-right European governments launch plan to take over EU with anti-immigration ‘axis.’" —The Independent (UK), January 11, 2019


Today

children are awakened by the scent
of orange peel, coffee,
melted butter on toast.

In the hazelnut light
a father carries his son
upon his shoulders.

A mother lifts her infant's
head to her breast.

Kolysanka

She sings a lullaby for her history.

Today

the Nazis invaded Poland —

A mother rests her hand on
her son’s cheek for the final time.

A father is executed just outside
his home of forty years.

A grandfather is thrown
from his balcony,
still seated
in his wheelchair.

A daughter’s innocence is forcibly taken.
A son becomes a shadow.

Today

in a darkened cinema
there are hands searching for faces,
the secret language of lovers
retreating from the threat of the world.

An ear to a radio show in a sunroom.

A moist thumb to the page
of a comic book.

Chopin’s Marche funèbre
crackles into the night.

Today

a mother and child undress to shower
for the last time.

The faint smell of bitter almonds.

They hear the Berceuse,
the gentle sounds of departure
and return

as a wrist is tattooed in Auschwitz—
the calligraphy of nationalism.

Today

a finger swipes a touchscreen.

A small grave is dug
for a small body
after dying in
the arms of America.

A bullet enters a skull
to escape the walls around
our worlds.

These are the holes left by fascism.

So now we place our lives
in the communal

Book of Forgetting;
moving forward into the past.

For the stars died long ago,
all of us asleep;
under that dead light.


Mark Tarren is a poet and writer based in Queensland, Australia. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in various literary journals including TheNewVerse.News, The Blue Nib, Poets Reading The News, Street Light Press, Spillwords Press and Tuck Magazine.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

IN THE NEXT ONE

by Gil Hoy




Things will be different.

No more children in cages
No more parents reunited

With their children
without success.

Some say the Presidency
defines the man,
others the man
defines the Presidency.

No more neo-Nazi
death cars
No more dictatorial
fears to worry

About.

A dictator dies
A thousand deaths,
A true man grows
A thousand lives

No more living things
cut down to their roots.

No more
hardened hate-filled

Walls.

A con-man can only con
even himself for so long.

In the next one

Sleeping babies will
sleep more soundly.


Gil Hoy is a Boston poet and semi-retired trial lawyer who studied poetry at Boston University through its Evergreen program. Hoy previously received a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from Boston University, an M.A. in Government from Georgetown University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. He served as a Brookline, Massachusetts Selectman for four terms. Hoy’s poetry has appeared most recently in Chiron Review, TheNewVerse.News, Ariel Chart, Social Justice Poetry, Poetry24, Right Hand Pointing/One Sentence Poems, I am not a silent poet, The Potomac, Clark Street Review and the penmen review.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN WASHED AWAY

by Dustin Michael


The devastating tsunamis that struck the coastlines of Chile, Haiti, Indonesia, and Japan in recent decades produced waves tens of meters high, unimaginable to most people accustomed to gentle seas. But millions of years ago, a truly inconceivable set of waves—the tallest roughly 1,500 meters high—rammed through the Gulf of Mexico and spread throughout the ancient ocean, producing wave heights of several meters in distant waters, new simulations show. (Photo credit: Science Photo Library/Alamy Stock Photo) —EOS, December 20, 2018


If there had been an Eiffel Tower,
an Empire State Building, a Great Pyramid,
One World Trade Center, a Statue of Liberty,
our house, our cars, and all the plates and dishes
from our wedding registry, our books, our children,
our children’s new dinosaur toys and my old dinosaur toys,
if there had been these things all stacked one on top of the other
like a mighty finger, they would point up to space, and to the terrible foam
of a still-much-taller wave.

If there had been human words to fail,
a rich tapestry of languages, a monomyth,
creation stories from every culture, all involving fire
and water, the name Enkidu in Sanskrit on a shard of pottery,
a diagram of the heroic cycle labeled fig. 2 in a student’s essay
about the earth-diver, the bones of Joseph Campbell
tumbling over and over in a tsunami that scrapes clean
all the bone beds, petroglyphs, an animated film on VHS about 
non-contemporaneous dinosaur friends on a dangerous journey,
drawer after drawer full of carefully labeled fossils all scattered,
all hit with the hose

If there had been a firebox containing the important papers,
passports, proof of citizenship, baptism certificates, bonds,
our homeowner’s insurance policy locating us in a flood zone,
topographical charts predicting sea level rise that the current administration
commissioned and then dismissed, the food and gas receipts from hurricane evacuations never submitted for a claim, fluttering away into a darkening sky like a thousand tiny lab coats

If there were a way to imagine a bullet from space
striking a planet of enormous birds, or to invent an instrument 
to measure emotions from plaster footprints made from casts of stone,
if there were a way to carbon date an animal’s scream and filter it
through a mile-high wave crossing the globe at close to the speed of sound,
or to photograph the world dying from our bedroom, I would reclaim these secrets from the quivering Earth for you and fall asleep with dirt from the backyard grave of our parakeet under my nails, tracing my finger along the crater
in your pillow where your face has pressed,
and discover a new layer of sediment there
composed entirely of thoughts
and prayers


Dustin Michael teaches writing and literature. He lives with his wife and children in Savannah, Georgia.

Monday, January 14, 2019

PANTOUM FOR FURLOUGH

by Pepper Trail


Federal workers and contractors rally against the 8artial federal government shutdown in Washington DC last week. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via The Guardian, January 13, 2019


Empty-handed, we are given furlough
My colleagues and I, turned away
The doors are locked against us
And all the work that we would do

My colleagues and I, turned away
Classified as mere Non-Essential
And all the work that we would do
Deemed to be—what’s the word?—worthless

Classified as mere Non-Essential
National parks, flight safety, food safety
Deemed to be—what’s the word?—worthless
Except as material to build a wall

National parks, flight safety, food safety
Ground into powder, melted into slag
All material to build a wall
Concrete or steel slats, shimmer of hot air

Ground into powder, melted into slag
The integrity of our government
Concrete or steel slats, shimmer of hot air
A mirage, distorted mirror of one man’s ego

The integrity of our government
Sacrificed to trumped-up fear, talk-radio rage
A mirage, distorted mirror of one man’s ego
Beyond, a weary mother, a crying child

Sacrificed to trumped-up fear, talk-radio rage
Empty-handed, we are given furlough
Beyond, a weary mother, a crying child
The doors are locked against us all


Author's Note: The government shutdown is many things. The national media has chosen to focus on how the shutdown is absurdist political theater in the service of one man's fragile ego, and is only now beginning to give attention to the shutdown's devastating financial impacts on many federal workers, its lasting damage to national parks and other public lands, and the huge waste of money that it represents.
     I am a furloughed federal worker. I work at a government science laboratory that carries out cutting-edge work in wildlife conservation. The government shutdown has prevented the lab's dedicated professionals from carrying out this important work for the past 22 days—with no end in sight. We are all classified as 'non-essential.' So are FAA plane safety inspectors, national park rangers, immigration judges, NASA scientists, USDA food inspectors—the list goes on and on.
     The pantoum form, with its repetitions and slow rhythms, seems particularly suited to express the seemingly unending frustration of the shutdown. The doors are locked against us all.


Pepper Trail is a poet and naturalist based in Ashland, Oregon. His poetry has appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Kyoto Journal, Cascadia Review, and other publications, and has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards. His collection Cascade-Siskiyou was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A PROFESSOR'S DILEMMA

by Maureen Rubin


500 academics and counting have signed the JVP Academic Advisory Council letter in support of Angela Davis. Jewish Voice for Peace calls on the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to rescind their cancellation of the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award intended for Professor Angela Davis. The cancelling of this award by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is unjust, insulting and ill-conceived, especially because it is likely premised on Professor Davis' long-standing support for Palestinian human rights. The decision seems to stem from a misinformed view that to advocate for Palestinian human rights is somehow offensive to the Jewish community. —Jewish Voice for Peace


“Hell no. We won’t go!” “Hey! Hey! LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”
Angry slogans soar while we march in our bell bottom jeans and tie-dyed tee shirts.

We can barely breathe. We cover our innocent collegiate mouths with wet washcloths to ward off the tear gas.  But washcloths couldn’t stop the bullets at Kent State.

College students are marching again. Dressed in yoga pants and ripped jeans they now yell “Fight the power. Turn the tide.  End Israeli apartheid” Same anger. New slogans.

They are BDS.  They demand Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions for Israel. They are Palestinians. They hate all things Israel.

They use tough tactics. They ban Israeli speakers from their campuses. They seek to forbid college funds from supporting the Jewish state. They pass resolutions.

They win at Barnard. George Washington.  University of Minnesota. Pitzger College. And now the US House of Representatives.  A new freshman Member of Congress admitted she backs BDS.

They demand freedom, justice and equality, just as we did.  But is it the same?

But my job is to teach aspiring journalists to cherish the First Amendment. “Democracy demands free speech,” I say. I quote Tallentyre. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

As I hammer the necessity of free speech into my student’s sponge-like brains, I always think of my causes.  The good ones.  The right ones. Viet Nam.  ERA.  #MeToo.

Free speech lives on college campuses.  They are safest of all places. Safe to debate. To argue.  To protest. To march.  To learn.

David Duke came to my campus.  I told my students to go see him. I quoted Justice Brandeis. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”  Let them spew their hate on my campus.  Openness exposes idiocy.

But now, there is a cause that is not mine. There is a cause that makes me sick. I am a Jew and I do not want angry Palestinians working for their change in my backyard.

But don’t these protesters have the same rights as we did?  How can I teach my students to cherish the First Amendment rights of hateful BDS?

I can’t.  I am a hypocrite.


Maureen Rubin is an Emeritus Professor of Journalism at California State University, Northridge. In her 30 years on campus, she served in a variety of administrative positions, published widely and received numerous teaching and public service awards.  Prior to joining the university, she was Director of Public Information for President Carter’s Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs in the White House, and held similar positions for a U.S. Congresswoman and several non-profits. She has a JD from Catholic University School of Law In Washington, D.C., an MA in Public Relations from University of Southern California and a BS in Journalism from Boston University.  

Saturday, January 12, 2019

LAW RAP

by Ian Patrick Williams




We fought the British army to create a new democracy
But it turned out just to be a lesson in hypocrisy
Instead of having freedom in the new Home of the Brave
All the Founding Fathers got to hold on to their slaves.
So as our brand new nation was then starting to be shaped
African-Americans faced lynching or were raped
Abolitionists did what they could to raise a legal fight
But all the slavers said it was a matter of state’s rights.
Dred Scott escaped into the North and thought that he was free
His owner followed, claiming he was just some property
The Court agreed and sent him back, said he was not a man
And all the racists cheered: it was the Law of the Land.

The population grew and so the pioneers moved West
Looking for whatever land might suit their interests best
Killing all the Native tribes wherever they would go
They found themselves in what was then called Northern Mexico
From Texas, Arizona, all the way to California
They turned their guns on Mexicans and said, “We gotta warn ya
That it’s time for all you brown-skinned folk to cross the Rio Grande.
This is white people country, that’s the Law of the Land.”

The Civil War was fought and won and stopped the South’s secession
But they simply organized a new form of repression
The Jim Crow laws would still repress the black community
But that was not the only form of inequality
Only men would have a say in forming legislation
Women couldn’t vote, though they were half the population.
The Suffragettes went marching, but the men said they were wrong
“Go back into the kitchen; that’s where all of you belong.
To vote requires mental work, you couldn’t understand.
Only men can vote ‘cause that’s the Law of the Land.”

The fight went on for years and years till Civil Rights could pass
We thought we had equality for every single class
But greedy corporations came up with a new solution:
They’d simply buy up all new laws with campaign contributions.
Crush the unions, cut their taxes, only pay low wage
And sure enough they had themselves another Gilded Age
With ever-growing profits, keeping all that they could get
Dumping on us peons twenty trillion dollars debt
The one-percenters cheered themselves and said, “Oh, ain’t it grand
When all us billionaires can buy the Laws of the Land!”

This struggle for control goes on, we’ve seen it all before
Deregulation, planned recessions, Middle Eastern war
All designed to line the pockets of the profiteers
The money-grubbing warmongers who’ve ripped us off for years.
There’s only one way out of living under their command
We have to come together and united, take a stand
We cannot have democracy until we all demand
That only We the People make the Laws of the Land.


Ian Patrick Williams won the Chicago Emmy award for co-authoring the teleplay Bleacher Bums for PBS-TV; the script was later purchased and produced as a M.O.W. by Showtime. He has also written and directed seven One Act plays for young people that toured Los Angeles Unified School District schools through the not-for-profit firm Enrichment Works. His one-act play "Provenance" was produced last year at Ensemble Studio Theater.

Friday, January 11, 2019

MEANWHILE IN MIDDLE EARTH

by Matt Quinn


"Going Medieval" by Matt Bors at TheNib


Down in the valley’s toxic murk
wild gangs of rapey goblins lurk.
All shifty-eyed with evil smirks
and unbesmirched by honest work,

they lust for trinkets they don’t need,
like fifty-inch plasma TVs,
and get mashed up on meth-laced mead,
and spread diseases when they breed.

Not one can read or use a quill,
they have no useful trades or skills
and never ever pay their bills,
but peer with envy up the hill

to where the air is pure and clean
and sparkles with a silver sheen,
where no one does a thing that’s mean,
and all are blond and tall and lean

and bathe in crystal waterfalls
as lute-strings fill the shopping malls
with songs of liberty for all.
And so we built this great steel wall

(which also helps keep out the smell)
to shield our sacred citadel
from those who do not mean us well,
inscribed it with this ancient spell:

Don’t fuck with us, for we are elves.
We want to keep this for ourselves.


Matt Quinn lives in Brighton, England in a hobbit hole a short walk from the sea. His poems can be found online in Rattle, The Morning Star, The Deaf Poets Society, TheNewVerse.News and various other places.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

WAKE

by Sean Murphy


An asylum seeker looks out from the trailer of a truck heading to the U.S. border with the so-called migrant caravan. Photograph by Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP / Getty via The New Yorker illustrating "Searching for a Substantive Response to Trump’s Hateful Speech" by Masha Gessen, January 9, 2019.


This nightmare: the awful image of your scared daughter,
frantic inside a hastily assembled cage, crying for nobody.

Or to all those stone-faced and silent, heavily-armed officials,
standing around in uniformed circles: watching, and waiting

to do nothing; or rather, the one thing, the sanctioned thing:
just following their orders and etcetera, as usual, as always.

Never tempted or inclined to pause, reflect, and wonder how
He, the one whom everyone is obliged to obey, above all—

and whose sleepless armies wrathfully guard the gilded border
that serves to separate eternal darkness from light everlasting—

would fathom or abide disobedience and iniquity such as this,
an affront to what He offered as clear and sacred commission?

But then, who amongst us can claim to comprehend the evils
that might be lurking in the dark hearts of unfamiliar men or

their wives—shuttling the blessed burden all mothers carry—
in search of safety or shelter, however fleeting or uncertain?

And what follows next, when haven is granted, then imitated,
until this begets wave upon unbridled wave…finally drowning

our new world in its tired, poor, huddled, and massive wake . . .
never ceasing from the commotion it came here to accomplish?

And yet, aren’t human souls created in some unsullied image,
Bound to consecrated laws written not in books, but with fire—

According to He who judges all others in the midst of rulers:
Our Father, who enabled us to fall and, finally, be forgiven?

Who warned us to pray for lesser brethren—born to suffer—
and to remember, always: There but for the grace of God . . .

Go back to sleep, at ease with some absolution transferred
in sixty minutes every Sunday, the same day He rested and

beheld the work He’d made, finally dismayed by the shame
of us, declaring our earth too scarce for the meek to inherit.


Sean Murphy has appeared on NPR's All Things Considered and been quoted in USA Today, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and AdAge. His work has also appeared in Salon, The Village Voice, The New York Post, The Good Men Project, Memoir Magazine, and others. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and served as writer-in-residence of the Noepe Center at Martha's Vineyard. He’s Founding Director of Virginia Center for Literary Arts. Twitter: @bullmurph.

AWOKE

by Lauren Haynes


Masks for everyone!
The tycoon flatters with free gifts
and they applaud his charity, a champion
of the working class.
Silk blindfolds for sleep
to lull leaky minds
that would spill ideas
and bleed tears of a dream blinked free
to see
the man licking the doorbell
of someone else’s home
a distraction, the war of words
forged to subvert the fact that
over there, the water runs radioactive
and there will be no food on the table
no books for learning—no, call me fantastic/look at the snow,
battles waged with flags waved by hands that will never know
the meaning of their colors,
hands held up by bodies that tremble with hunger, with fear.
Tomorrow is here, but we look away from the mirror.
So much unexplored universe out there . . .
we starve. we starve. we starve.


Lauren Haynes is a candidate for an MFA in Creative Writing at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. She worked as an English school teacher for years and seeks to contribute to a better world.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

OH, SAY CAN YOU SEE

by Janet Leahy


Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast


the line at the border
families with little children.
They do not look like terrorists,
do not look like thugs,
they do not look like really bad people.
They do look tired
and hungry
and worried.
They wrap the baby
in a blanket of hope,
rock the toddler
in a loving embrace.
After long days and dark nights
they are here on the bridge
of promise.
Can you see the young boy
on his father’s shoulders,
the child holding tight
to her mother’s hand?
Can you see . . .
Can you . . .


Janet Leahy is a member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. Her work has been published in the Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, Midwest Prairie Review, 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.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

NEW HORIZONS

by Mary K O'Melveny





Ice is red here.  Blood red.
Lava red.  Forest fire red.
Cold sears like flame.  Or so
one might think from afar.

They say it all began
in this distant cluster
of frozen rocks.  Our sun
lies four billion miles out.

We could be wrong about
everything. Gravity’s pull
is different in new orbits.
Patience is required.

Warped by turmoil, we turn
outward, searching sky signs
for cosmic engagements,
for hints of original sins.


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 is available from Finishing Line Press.