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Thursday, February 25, 2021

ILLUMINATION

by James Schwartz




500,000.

We are not equipped to process this level of grief, the news anchor sighs. Video plays of the President, First Lady, VP and Second Gentleman surrounded by candles. 

500,000.

A statistic surpassing wartime numbers. The day will come, President Biden promises, when the memory of our loved ones will bring a smile before a tear. 

500,000. 

We are an illumination in this dark stillness. One morning we will smile at the empty chair. One morning we will smile. 


James Schwartz is a poet, writer, slam performer and author of 5 poetry collections including The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America. Twitter: @queeraspoetry

500,000

by Cathy Hailey




Ascent and descent
Symmetrical staircases
Move candlelight bent

Flames flicker faces
Pathways towards transcendency
Spirits drifting in

Liminality
A presidential burden
Despite empathy

Comforts multitudes
In national eulogy
Church bell interludes

Ritual “Amazing Grace”
All, Requiescat en Pace


Cathy Hailey teaches as an adjunct in Johns Hopkins University’s online MA in Teaching Writing program and previously taught high school English and Creative Writing in Prince William County, VA. She is northern region vice president of The Poetry Society of Virginia and organizes In the Company of Laureates, a biennial reading of poets laureate held in PWC. Her writing has been published in Poetry Virginia, The Journal of the Virginia Writing Project, Written in Arlington, The Prince William Poetry Review, Grid Poems, and in anthologies associated with ekphrastic collaborations.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

YES,

by Penelope Scambly Schott




yet another one of the poets I have known
now gone under the grass. Lawrence Ferlingetti,
at a hundred and one. I once heard him recite:
   Pity the nation whose people are sheep
   Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
and yet, how we all try
to go on walking.
Who will sell shoelaces down by the seashore?
Mine are torn.




Penelope Scambly Schott is a past recipient of the Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Her newest book is On Dufur Hill, poems about the cycle of the year in a small wheat-growing town.

WHALE SONG

by Barbara Parchim


Probing the structure of the ocean crust requires a wave source. The most common source is an air gun, which is effective but potentially harmful for ocean life and not easy to use everywhere. Václav M. Kuna and John L. Nábělek found that fin whale songs can also be used as a seismic source for determining crustal structure. Fin whale vocalizations can be as loud as large ships and occur at frequencies useful for traveling through the ocean floor. These properties allow fin whale songs to be used for mapping out the density of ocean crust, a vital part of exploring the seafloor. —Science, February 12, 2021


now that seismologists know
that different frequencies of whale songs
can map the layers of the ocean floor
to help us study sediment and rock
in areas where earthquakes occur—
can we pause?
 
when their beauty and sentience,
curiosity and gentleness,
is not enough—
has never been enough—
to awaken compassion
 
when the “harvest” of these giants,
some with their young alongside
does not engender adequate empathy
 
now that we have a “use”
for these beings,
for scientific research,
that requires a living, breathing, body
 
now—
can we, finally, stop the slaughter?
 
 
Barbara Parchim lives on a small farm in southwest Oregon. She enjoys gardening and hiking and volunteered for several years at a wildlife rehabilitation facility. Her poems have appeared in Ariel Chart, Isacoustic, Turtle Island Quarterly, Windfall, and Trouvaille Review. Her first chapbook, selected by Flowstone Press, will appear in 2021.

Monday, February 22, 2021

THE UNSPEAKABLE

by Sister Lou Ella


Dianna Ortiz, an American Roman Catholic nun whose rape and torture in Guatemala in 1989 helped lead to the release of documents showing American involvement in human rights abuses in that country, died on Friday in hospice care in Washington. She was 62. —The New York Times, February 20, 2021. PHOTO: Sister Dianna Ortiz in 1996. After being raped and tortured in Guatemala, she helped focus attention on the 200,000 people who were killed or disappeared during that country’s 36-year civil war. Credit: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times


           in memory of sr. dianna ortiz, osu
                         rape and torture victim


friday after ash wednesday
2/19/2021
 
the death certificate read cancer
but i know better
the unspeakable terror
that tortured your flesh years ago
has finally had its way with you
then and then daily the Holy in your body
screamed why have you forsaken me
perhaps you are the saint of the struggle
that wrestling with the command to forgive
but the Holy will also have Its way
It too Unspeakable


Sister Lou Ella has a master’s in theology from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and is a former teacher and librarian. She is a certified spiritual director as well as a poet and writer.  Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines such as America, First Things, Emmanuel, Third Wednesday, and The New Verse News as well as in four anthologies: The Night’s Magician: Poems about the Moon, edited by Philip Kolin and Sue Brannan Walker, Down to the Dark River edited by Philip Kolin, Secrets edited by Sue Brannan Walker and After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events edited by Tom Lombardo.  She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2017 and in 2020. Her first book of poetry entitled she: robed and wordless was published in 2015. (Press 53.)

THE NUN WAS TORTURED

by Karol Nielsen


The nun founded the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC).


The American nun, who was gang raped and tortured in Guatemala, died of cancer in Washington, DC. She had been helping indigenous Guatemalans when she was captured. The government suspected the indigenous of left wing subversion, with the United States backing the Guatemalan military in its civil war. The nun was burned by cigarettes, exposed to dead bodies and rats, and forced to mutilate another captive with a machete. She jumped out of a car as the man with accented Spanish drove her to a new location. She fled to the United States and struggled to remember her life there. She sued a Guatemalan general who was studying at Harvard. A judge ordered him to pay millions but he escaped to Guatemala. She told a reporter that even though she was Catholic she struggled to forgive.


Karol Nielsen is the author of two memoirs and two poetry chapbooks. Her first memoir was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Her poetry collection was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

SOME DAY, PERHAPS...

IT WILL HELP TO REMEMBER THESE TROUBLES AS WELL.*

by Bonnie Naradzay


*Aeneas to his men, after theirs is the only ship
  to survive a violent storm at sea near Carthage.

         
Friends, a study of The Black Death states the plague 
may have come from outer space. The Mars Rover 
landed in a dried up lake. Perseverance is transporting 
images home from the red planet. On earth, we learn 
that magnetic north and south may be flipping sides, 
an ominous event, according to weakening attractions 
and ancient iron shards stuck pointing the wrong way. 
In Galveston, medical workers asked for a refrigerated 
truck to store the dead bodies. Thousands of turtles 
stunned by the cold have gone to a convention center 
in the backs of station wagons. Ted Cruz got on the plane
in jeans but went the wrong way, or the optics were wrong.
Sweet Thames, and Virgil, flow gently while I end my song.


Bonnie Naradzay leads poetry workshops at a day shelter for homeless people and at a retirement center, both in Washington DC.  Recent poems are in AGNI, New Letters (Pushcart nomination), Kenyon Review Online, RHINO, Tar River Poetry, Tampa Review, Poet Lore, EPOCH, Northern Virginia Review, Anglican Theological Review, Seminary Ridge Review, and The Ekphrastic Review.

KIDNAPPING GODOT

by Richard Fox


"People are bloody ignorant apes." 
—Estragon in Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

1. Polio

Mom makes pancakes for breakfast on a Wednesday.
Gives me a gorilla hug at the bus stop.
At school, we hang up coats, march to the All-Purpose Room.
The nurse smiles, watches us down cups of clear liquid. 
The principal anoints each forehead with a gold star. 

2. Cancer

Mothers quiz me about Gardasil* for daughters. 
I endure HPV*-caused tumors, 
so pegged their expert.
My plea, heed pediatricians.
Inoculate girls and boys by age eleven.
They choose to delay, let their kids ripen. 
Maybe by sixteen, the children can decide.

3. Ba’al

the field of stones 
chiseled memorials
first born sons
throats slit


* Gardasil is a vaccine that prevents the HPV virus from causing oral and cervical cancer. Anti-vaxxers promote false research that a side effect is autism. Because HPV is spread sexually (not necessarily via intercourse), they claim the vaccine is tacit approval for teenage sex.


When not writing about rock ’n roll or youthful transgressions, Richard Fox focuses on cancer from the patient’s point of view drawing on hope, humor, and unforeseen gifts. He is the author of five poetry collections and the winner of the 2017 Frank O’Hara Prize.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

A PANDEMIC PRAYER

by Roderick Deacey




Don’t let me die a COVID death
pinned and tied by wires and tubes,
felled by fear and pain,
enduring dark visions
from potions that numb and confuse,
unable to touch the infinite,
losing the inevitable tussle for breath.

Instead, let me choose a worm’s death,
gently stilling movement
in the warm black soil.
Feeling the earth shiver and move
as it wraps me in its vast body
and cradles me
in its perpetual swing around the sun.

Or let me walk into the ancient forest
and sense the slow sap of centuries
sliding through the rough bark I lean against.
Let me mark the deep rhythm of the wood
as I feel myself slowly sink
into the tree’s heart,
to rest serene among leafy limbs.

Best of all, let me die a bird’s death,
swooping and swirling
high in a star-pricked sky
not even aware
of tumbling flesh and feathers falling
as I joyously fly on
toward that brilliant rainbow slash of dawn.


Roderick Deacey is a performing poet in the DC area, based in Frederick, MD. In normal, non-viral times, he regularly performs with his drummer/percussionist and bass-player, presenting “neo-beat” poems inspired by the Beat Poets’ poetry and jazz forays of the nineteen-fifties. His beat poetry chapbook neo-beatery ballads was published in 2019. Deacey was awarded the 2019 Frederick Arts Council Carl R. Butler Award for Literature. Crossing genres, he won the Gold Award for best lyrics in the 2020 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest held by the Songwriters Association of Washington.

Friday, February 19, 2021

WHAT IS HERE

by Mary K O'Melveny




Perseverance
has landed today
on Mars.
Curiosity will have company.
Everyone is eager for news:
Red cinnamon rocks.
Long dead grey lakes.
Dust filled grooves.
Caves chiseled into canyons
like a Henry Moore garden.
Layers of mystery
embedded in swirls of rock
marbled as a fine steak.
We are always looking
for something
to make sense of.
Something that explains
our odd and quirky selves,
the reasons we love and lose,
fight over nothing sensible,
torture and torment.
We are always looking
for history,
for memory,
for stories,
for permanence,
for renewal.
The deeper we dig,
the less happy we are.
So we fly off
to other realms
hoping to learn more
from long dead planets.
Hoping there is something
new under the sun.


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. Mary’s poetry collection Merging Star Hypotheses was published by Finishing Line Press in January, 2020.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

FAMILY VALUES LIMBO

by Chad Parenteau


Cartoon by Steve Brodner for Mother Jones, March 6, 2009.


Angry Dad is dead.
The rush is on

to see who now has
the loudest voice.

Auditions begin
at dinner table. 

Women fill glasses
from bottom to brim.

Contents spill over
on flag tablecloths.

New father figure 
finds this affront,

sets air above table
aflame, scatters dishes,

sends all to bed
without supper.

There they'll fester,
rewrite old declamation

overheard piecemeal
from fighting parents.


Chad Parenteau hosts Boston's long-running Stone Soup Poetry series. His work has appeared in journals such as Résonancee, Molecule, Cape Cod Poetry Review, Tell-Tale Inklings, Off The Coast, Ibbetson Street ,and Wilderness House Literary Review. He is a contributor to Headline Poetry & Press and serves as Associate Editor of the online journal Oddball Magazine. His second collection, The Collapsed Bookshelf, was released in 2020.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

REALITY CHECK

by Marc Swan




for Jane Ferguson


Birds shriek, buildings fall,
body counts mount
in Beirut, Kabul, Baghdad,
parts of Africa, South Asia.
Where have all the flowers gone
I think in the quiet of my office
on a quiet road in a quiet village
along the coast of Maine. I try
to imagine reporting live 
from these hostile locales, 
most importantly staying alive. 
I think of a Special Correspondent
for PBS, an Irish-British journalist 
with long blond hair tucked 
under a head scarf, jeans 
and a military-style jacket
treading lost roads in leather boots
with another woman, camera in hand.
We never see her, but know
she’s shooting the footage
we’ll see on the nightly news.
In recent reports, the Taliban 
armed to the teeth 
seem more than willing to speak 
on camera as the journalist 
asks hard questions in Arabic, 
translated for us in the comfort 
of heated living spaces unaware 
of what is truly seen, heard, 
felt in places of unending conflict—
what does constant fear smell like?


Marc Swan’s latest collection all it would take was published in May 2020 by tall-lighthouse. Poems recently published or forthcoming in Gargoyle, The Stony Thursday Book, Queen’s Quarterly, MockingHeart Review.  He lives in coastal Maine with his wife Dd, an artist and yoga teacher.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

AVERSION TRAINING

by Robin S. Axworthy


Photo credit: Bette Ferber via The New York Times.


I have grown used to the moisture of my own breath 
on night walks, the mask, the sound of my own breathing 

pushed up past my ears.  Used to my own company at home, 
with only husband and sometimes daughter.  Used to any other

contacts as just the glass and scratch of microphone, letters 
appearing and sorting into sense on a screen. Used to touch

as poison to be scraped clean with alcohol and friction.
Accustomed now to nearness an electric buzz of warning

away from flesh, ears so used to staccato whine they have forgotten 
rippling waterfall of open mouth, mouth forgotten how breath 

feels naked and dry, thin in the bare air, my hands so used to solitude 
they’ve forgotten how to find their way to warmth.  


Robin S. Axworthy has been published in various anthologies including, most recently, Dark Ink: An Anthology Inspired by Horror (Moon Tide Press) and Is It Hot in Here or Is It Just Me? Women Over Forty Write on Aging (Beautiful Cadaver Project). Her chapbook Crabgrass World was published in March 2020 by Moon Tide Press. 

WHAT WE LEARNED IN 2020

by Katherine West




The globe of Earth has shrunk, a small balloon
losing air sinking against the blue blue sky
to land exactly in my hand, all mine 
to know the pain of every land, all you 

and you and you, all me in mirrors new 
as stars on windy nights of sharpened light 
that cuts my chest that makes me bleed your time
cut short then so is mine the years so few 

now less the globe a shriveled wrinkled skin
I cup as gently as a fallen bird 
my own true love I carry home to bed 

I tuck you up, I slide beside so thin
we fit, an old and folded map, a world 
of continents that kiss, of coasts that wed.
 

Katherine West lives in Southwest New Mexico, near Silver City.  She has written three collections of poetry: The Bone Train, Scimitar Dreams, and Riddle, as well as one novel, Lion Tamer.  Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Writing in a Woman's Voice, Lalitamba, Bombay Gin, The New Verse News, Tanka Journal, Splash!, Eucalypt, and Southwest Word Fiesta.  The New Verse News nominated her poem "And Then the Sky" for a Pushcart Prize in 2019.  In addition she has had poetry appear as part of art exhibitions at the Light Art Space gallery in Silver City, New Mexico and at the Windsor Museum in Windsor, Colorado.  Using the name Kit West, Katherine's new novel When Night Comes: A Christmas Carol Revisited has just been released, and a selection of poetry entitled Raising the Sparks will come out in 2021, both published by Breaking Rules Publishing.  She is presently at work on the sequel to When Night Comes. It is called Slave: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Revisited. She is also an artist.