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Sunday, September 15, 2019

RENT FOR OUR ROOM ON EARTH

by Barbara Simmons  

after Muhammed Ali





Not sure where that is, sometimes, my room, my home,
but this west coast city has too many zip codes,
and too many faces that turn away
don’t look at you, sometimes beyond, afraid connecting might mean
you want something and here there are too many
whose wants aren’t being met
whose needs go unwatched whose backs we don’t have.
Sounds on this hot Sunday rise like hot air sending gospel notes
beyond the outdoors stage, lifting words that catch up with my feet
so I am walking keeping time
walking and watching and walking and listening and walking and hearing
“Give me your arms for the broken hearted    and San Jose cried with Dayton and El Paso and Gilroy.
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten   and San Jose cries for all who don’t have refuge.
Give me your eyes so I can see”   and I cry until my tears clear my eyes, and I hear
the words on your t-shirt sing to me of  Ali, you walking towards me, me looking at you with you.
Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth
My room here on earth—so many rooms where I’ve slept and risen
loved, been lost, saved, often still looking for redemption, my many lives
spent trying to understand  words we wear, words we feel, words I say.
I stop to mouth the words to you, to all of you, that yes I’ll have your back
I’ll read and listen and watch and hear and see and see and see.


Barbara Simmons grew up in Boston and lives in California; her dual environment—shapes, skylines, even color wheels—informs her poetry, as do her families of origin and extended. She graduated from Wellesley College, received an MA in The Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University, and an MA in Educational Administration from Santa Clara University. As a secondary school English teacher, she was able to revisit texts she loved with students who inspired her to think more about how we communicate with each other on pages/screens as well as face-to-face. Retired, Simmins savors the smaller parts of life and language, exploring the communion of words as ways to remember and to envision and to heal. Publications have included Santa Clara Review, Hartskill Review, Boston Accent, Soul Lit, Hamline Review, Oasis Anthology, Writing it Real and Common Ground, among others, as well as short Perspectives on NPR affiliate. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

AT THE TEXAS BORDER CROSSING

by Wendy Hoffman





Justice is a pebble under the rug you trip over,
a slipped stitch on embroidery,
mail that fails to be delivered.

I want to give my kids life
so the gangs won’t rape
or kill them,
so we can buy food, not steal.

Does that make me a criminal?
It makes me unwanted.
I didn’t think we’d make it to the border
but we did, thirsty, filthy.

I thought the children would faint,
I carried the youngest.
Asylum: that was for the old days.

The stiff legged officers pace like dictators.
Some enjoy, some hate, their job.
All my children severed from my spine,

its sound like a building demolished.
Our pleading cries carry no weight,
our filled lungs don’t matter.

Will I hug empty air for the rest of my life?
I don’t know where they took my children,
I may never feel or smell them again.
The space between us is deeper than a grave.

How can people in uniforms rip out my soul?
This theft will be engraved in my children’s minds forever.
First starvation, then murder of our bond.
They send me home alone.

What will they do with my children,
who cares about them?
Asylum: a dream from the past,
democracy doesn’t exist.

The gangs are restless,
they know I am here,
they prowl.


Wendy Hoffman is a retired social worker. Karnac Books, London, published her memoirs in 2014 and 2015, and a co-authored book of essays, in 2017. Her books are now with Aeon Publishers in England and Routlege in New York. Her first book of poetry was published in 2016. A new memoir is forthcoming. She has a MFA in creative writing and lives on the Olympic Peninsula with her dog.

Friday, September 13, 2019

A HUNTING WE WILL GO

by Stewart Shaw


“It’s been two years since a 26-year-old Black gay male died in the West Hollywood home of a 63-year-old white man and 243 days since the second one died. That’s not a typo. Yes, I said the second one. Despite the many young Black men who stepped forward in the wake of the deaths of Gemmel Moore, and later Timothy Dean, with text messages, plane tickets, voicemails, screenshots and videos recounting similar stories about Ed Buck, a Democratic activist and major donor who they say has a Tuskegee Experiment-like fetish which includes shooting meth into young Black men that he picks up off the street or via dating hookup websites, no charges have been filed against Buck in either death.” —Jasmyne Cannick, The Advocate, September 11, 2019. “The first pre-trial court hearing will take place on Monday [September 16, 2019] in the wrongful death civil rights lawsuit filed against Ed Buck, L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Assistant Head Deputy D.A. Craig Hum in the 2017 meth overdose death of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore in Buck’s West Hollywood apartment.” —WEHOville, September 10, 2019. WEHOville photo above: Jerome Kitchen, a friend of Gemmel Moore’s, speaking at the rally on Laurel Avenue in West Hollywood in July with Moore’s mother, LaTisha Nixon, at left, and organizer Jasmyne Cannick at right.

for Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean


Pt.1


No one can hear the crying. The white man who plays daddy or god, who wants my awe, my bended knee tribute, his ears that do not pick up the frequencies of such lonely cries, are on backwards, are not attune to blk boy misery.

I can hear the echoes of past supplicants; they walk over my grave. I ask him if he feels the heavy, vibrating air circulating through the room.  His soft-spaced body pitted with an excess of hubris, self-loathing, only detects its own insatiable appetites for worship and dick and ass; a blk body more synecdoche than spirit. He

Does not believe in blk pain, just white pleasures. So, I give this god his want, give him my blk body to fill with poison, give him my neediness, my hopes in exchange for his lust and pieces of silver. I will indulge his fantasy, bow down at the altar of his self-righteousness; swing from his lustful ego. When I die

Bury me in the blue of divinity, let no white sheet adorn my skin. Drop me into the ocean, let the salt cleanse my veins, carry my body away from the hunt.


Stewart Shaw is a poetry and fiction writer and the author of the chapbook The House of Men from Glass Lyre Press. His poems have been published in African American Review, Temenos Literary Journal, Serendipity and others, as well as short stories in Mighty Real: An Anthology of African American Same Gender Loving Writing and African Voices. He is a Cave Canem Poetry Fellow.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

CLEANING THE WHITE HOUSE

by Cathleen Calbert




Chaos presidency, sighed MSNBC.
I thought of bombs blasting, black holes, and tornadoes,
how no kid wants a home that’s unsafe and crazy
with a mom screaming and a dad who ups and goes.
My husband and I don’t have children, just trauma
from fucked up childhoods, I suppose, along with doubt
about those who thrive on narcissistic drama
as does the USA’s own proud tangerine lout,
so we rail along with our small screens, piss and moan
our way to a messy sleep, and don’t even kiss
on the lips as often as lovers ought but drone
on and on about this political abyss.
It’s hard to believe we’re the adults in the room.
But we are, dear. Time’s up, timed out, time for a broom.


Cathleen Calbert’s writing has appeared The Nation, The New York Times, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. She is the author of four books of poems: Lessons in Space, Bad Judgment, Sleeping with a Famous Poet, and The Afflicted Girls. Her awards include the 92nd Street Y Discovery Poetry Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and the Sheila Motton Book Prize.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

TEXT 911 FOR RESERVATIONS

by David Feela





Summer camp, scrapped
for the Taliban at Camp David,
the outing such a secret
not even the Taliban knew

if there’d be time for swimming
before their bombs blew.
The commander and chief
counselor promised

hot dogs and marshmallows,
airplane rides, and maybe
if they were good a story
around the campfire

about thousands of ghosts
who still haunt the woods.


David Feela writes a monthly column for The Four Corners Free Press and for The Durango Telegraph. A poetry chapbook Thought Experiments won the Southwest Poet Series. The Home Atlas appeared in 2009. A collection of his essays How Delicate These Arches was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Unsolicited Press released his newest chapbook Little Acres in April 2019.

PENTAGON MEMORIAL

by Jacqueline Jules


Photo of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial by Mike Myers


Across the river in D.C., tourists
come from all over the country
to touch walls honoring
soldiers who died
in Vietnam, Korea,
Europe, and other places
far from American soil.

But here in this sacred place
built beside a structure
still standing in spite of attack,
I read the name of a three-year-old
seated on a plane with her parents
and older sister.

Here, water flows in shallow pools
as I walk with silent steps
between 184 benches
made of stainless steel and granite,
each one positioned to preserve
the last moments of someone
who died in a ball of fire
on a clear September morning.

Here, I stand beside
young trees planted in the hope
visitors will value their shade
as they come from all over
to remember the lives lost here,
not somewhere else, far away.
                                           

Jacqueline Jules is the author of the poetry chapbooks Field Trip to the Museum, Stronger Than Cleopatra, and Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String, winner of the 2016 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize from Evening Street Press. Her work has appeared in over 100 publications including TheNewVerse.News, The Rising Phoenix Review, What Rough Beast, Public Pool, Rise Up Review and Gargoyle.  She lives in Arlington, Virginia.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

FIDDLER WITH THE PROOF

by Edmund Conti



The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s acting chief scientist said in an email to colleagues Sunday that he is investigating whether the agency’s response to President Trump’s Hurricane Dorian tweets constituted a violation of NOAA policies and ethics. Also on Monday, the director of the National Weather Service broke with NOAA leadership over its handling of Trump’s Dorian tweets and statements. —The Washington Post, September 9, 2019


to the tune of "Matchmaker" from Fiddler on the Roof


Mapmaker, Mapmaker
Make me some maps
And put in some storms there
A Cat 5 perhaps.
Then you will have to
Send me relief.
Just a few billions
Will allay my grief.
Mapmaker, Mapmaker
Take out your Sharpie
Use all your witchcraft
Be your best Harpy.
Matchmaker, Matchmaker
Add a small line
And soon we’ll see FEMA
And life here in Alabama (or Georgia or Mississippi) will be fine.


Edmund Conti will alter your poem for a small fee and make it his.

Monday, September 09, 2019

I'M TIRED OF CONFUSING WHAT I WANT WITH WHAT I DESIRE

by Michael Brockley





Bibles with cherrypicked scriptures highlighted in red lay scattered along the culvert on my way to Casa del Sol. Border songs play on my radio. In a decade all the rock-and-rollers will turn out the lights after their final encores. No more rockin’ in the free world. No more trouble in the heartland. No more Ruthie in her Memphis honky-tonk lagoon. The waitress who serves a whiskey sour with my aroz con camarones is beautiful with her black widow tattoo inked down to her wrist and in the way she outsmiles Halle Berry. She wears a diamond stud in her pierced nose. Rides King’s Island’s Invertigo and Banshee without a safety net. When music award shows play on the television behind the bar, she roots for Drake or Cardi B. Says her mother bought records by Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. Remembers wearing out a 45 of I Heard It Through the Grapevine one summer. I listen to sharecropper songs on the drive home. To songs by a singer named for a woman who rings like a bell in the night. A woman of constant sorrow who walks the freedom highway. I toss my dashboard Jesus out the window. The white Messiah. No one sings we won’t get fooled again. No one is running on empty tonight.


Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who lives in Muncie, Indiana. His poems have appeared in Third Wednesday, Jokes Review and TheNewVerse.News.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

WRECK AGE

by Alejandro Escudé





“The public needs to prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering.” —Bahamas Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands.


You shall prepare for the unimaginable.
The unimaginable tree that you will use
To construct a boat. The lighting that will strike
You as you’re falling into the pit. What pit?
You imagine that too, though it’s unimaginable.
Food can’t be imagined, unless one is a child.
And neither can healthcare, again,
Unless one remembers playing doctor.
You can’t imagine another planet, can you?
Another President with larger, more capable hands?
A car is a figment of the imagination, a flying car
To rescue you from your home, as it floats
Upon the sea. Wreckage is medieval marginalia—
You can use wreckage to make a poster,
As you might use macaroni to make art.
Can you imagine a stronger heart
To support the death you can’t imagine?
The death that begins on the unimaginable horizon,
Where dark clouds meet the rising sea,
Whispering, then shouting, then screaming
For help from the unimaginable authorities
Flying in on their helicopters, which are nothing
More than dragonflies, hovering above
A shallow pond, and the inundated world below.


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.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

I WON'T BACK DOWN

by Scott Bade


via Good


          Well, I won't back down
          No, I won't back down
          You can stand me up at the gates of hell
          But I won't back down
                 —Tom Petty


I’m dead because I’m not giving in
not backing down like the song says
so plainly we almost wonder if he’s
being ironic behind his laid-back
persona which hides a driven artist
whose Americanism hangs directly
upon the red white, blue and green
ethics of a capitalist republic blown
up beyond anything a dream could
dream up if it had the time to wonder
what might happen if we let wealth
unbuckle its belt and hang loose
on humanity’s sofa, a phone in
hand to scan the endlessness
of desire: video after video after
video of nubile young bodies
performing their roles for those
who have put them there and who
hope to keep them there, tied
inside a loop of patriarchy and
testosterone, a world man made
for man to man world to hold
himself above everyone even
himself, who knows his past,
knows the wrongs he’s lived
and knows the wrongs he covered
          and so I’m hanging here above
all of us, even me, so that no
one can touch me, except
myself, which is, after all
really all I’ve ever needed.


Scott Bade earned his Ph.D. in creative writing at Western Michigan University (WMU). In addition to teaching at Kalamazoo College and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Scott is also the coordinator of the WMU Center for the Humanities. He is a former poetry editor for Third Coast Magazine and editorial assistant at New Issues Press. His chapbook My Favorite Thing About Desire was a co-winner of the 2018 Celery City Chapboook contest. His poems have appeared in Fugue, Shadowgraph, H_NGM_N, Foothill and elsewhere.

Friday, September 06, 2019

PESSIMIST'S ODE

by Carolyn Wells


Researchers with the Danish Meteorological Institute making their way over meltwater topping sea ice in northwest Greenland STEFFEN OLSEN via Forbes, August 16, 2019


If Greenland is melting,
I'm going to drink expensive Sancerre.
The reefs are bleached, the white rhinos extinct , the pangolins over hunted,
the forests of Siberia burning, the 2 degree Celsius rising.
I'm going to read the entire works of Dickens. I'm going to quit my job and make soap, sleep with young men, plant carrots and onions and store them all winter, sell my apartment and finally go live in France, where I will stand in silence in front of each WW1 monument, and reflect.
You who died for no reason.


Carolyn Wells is a member of Brevitas poetry group in NYC and a contributor to Alimentum. Her book Your Kiss is a River was published by Nirala Press.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

THE WOMAN WHO SWALLOWED THINGS

by Lois Marie Harrod


Image source: Getty Images via Vice.


In high school, the usual which pleased the boys, and in college
the predictable, goldfish and frogs with beer,
and, on a whim or a dare and after a little practice,
swords. Before graduating she became the star of her sorority
when she ate 69 hot dogs in ten minutes. Later,
she swallowed the diamond ring her fiancé put in a Softee—
seems he thought it would be an unusual way to ask for her hand and her throat,
and once she had that kid in diapers, safety pins open and shut.
The day she turned forty-five, she downed the restaurant spoons and forks,
and most recently she feasted on the more than ten thousand lies
told by the President which wasn’t as bad as it sounds
because by then lots of other people were swallowing oddities too—
concrete walls and steel barriers, the Golan Heights, Bears Ears,
Greenland with all its ICE and those nice White Supremacists—

which brought on a national epidemic of distressed intestines
and shut down nearly every hospital and nursing home in the country—
there no longer being medical insurance to cover belly aches,
or for that matter, any poorly paid immigrants to fill the health-care jobs—
unless, of course, you were very rich and had had practice in swallowing it all whole.


Lois Marie Harrod’s 17th collection Woman is forthcoming from Blue Lyra in December 2019. Her Nightmares of the Minor Poet appeared in June 2016 from Five Oaks; her chapbook And She Took the Heart appeared in January 2016; Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press) and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) appeared in 2013. A Dodge poet, she is published in literary journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. She teaches at the Evergreen Forum in Princeton and at The College of New Jersey.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

BIRTHRIGHT CITIZENSHIP

by Alejandro Escudé


The face of the oldest species that unambiguously sits on the human evolutionary tree has been revealed for the first time by the discovery of a 3.8 million-year-old skull in Ethiopia. Above: A partial facial reconstruction using the fossil. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian, August 28, 2019.


“President Donald Trump said Wednesday he was looking ‘very seriously’ at ending the right to citizenship for babies born to non-U.S. citizens on American soil. Trump spoke to reporters as he departed the White House for a speech in Louisville, Kentucky. He said birthright citizenship was ‘frankly ridiculous.’ —Time, August 21, 2019

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” —The 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States


He died beside a river
and now, four million years later,
his cranium—his face, eyes looking through us
as if we were the moon in fog
four million years ago, a Wednesday,
though there were no Wednesdays and no
citizenship, only toddlers climbing trees,
only the chewing of grist,
the rock, the rock, the rock, the tree, the tree, the tree.
For what is birthright? Who belongs to what nation?
Can a nation really exit? Exit what?
Ask Australopithecus anamensis. He will tell you,
that loopy grin, earthy beard. Skin of our skin.
Heart of our heart. What do we feel
for him? Love? Ignorance is intolerance.
Historical, the complete skull.
No Lucy counterpart, a separate being.
What of the son born in a common territory
across the sea? Will he climb trees
with his brothers and sisters? Will he murder
other species of human? Or mate?
We may never know the ancient map-way
of genes that led here— the trail
of skulls shattered by time,
but we have that face, his face,
and we have the love that dissolves time,
and understanding, yes,
our birthright going back to Ethiopia,
our citizenship papers rolled
within the hollow bones of the birds.


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.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

BREATHING LESSONS

by Mary K O'Melveny


“Can’t breathe” by Hong Kong artist Benson Koo at society6.


I CAN’T BREATHE

said Eric Garner, his loosies scattered
like toothpicks on the street, his chest
and neck compressed, his body battered,
then prone, as Daniel Pantaleo pressed
down harder until nothing mattered,
leaving questions for some later inquest.

WE CAN’T BREATHE

said Hong Kong protesters whose lungs
filled with tear gas as police fired
more cannisters and aimed their guns
toward their hearts, hoping they would grow tired
of trying to imagine worlds of other suns
where democracy was still admired.

THEY CAN’T BREATHE

said medics in hospital rooms, as patients
arrived in great numbers, gasping for air
while tobacco CEOs made deals in spacious
office suites for vaping products, aware
that regulations are slim and use contagious,
betting as usual that not enough would care.

SHE CAN’T BREATHE

said the driver who found a woman walking
alone on the roadway as Paradise fires raged,
her car abandoned long before, tires melting.
From his pickup, too hot to touch, he gauged
the odds of rescue and the dangers of stalking
cinders, then leapt out—one catastrophe assuaged.

THEY CAN’T BREATHE

said migrants still floating on choppy seas
about fellow travelers catapulted overboard
flailing, then sinking, while they watched with unease.
They had prayed to gods when they climbed aboard
these flimsy rafts and trembling skiffs. Those pleas
have thinned to terror as they continue seaward.

HE CAN’T BREATHE

said the mother whose wheezing child
struggled for each breath in and out,
while methane gas levels went wild
and fossil fuel fumes expanded throughout
their Appalachian hills. Even with their air defiled.
some still said there’s nothing to worry about.

WE CAN’T BREATHE

said Southeast Asian villagers choking in heat
and smog. Their farmlands cleared for palm oil,
nothing remains to be burned except the peat
which smolders like angry words beneath soil
while carbon fills the air with coppery sleet
and once lush jungles are forever spoiled.

I CAN’T BREATHE

said Mother Earth as Amazonian flames
joined those in Africa and Alaska to devour
her greenest places. As thick forests turned to arid plains
and savannahs, what once were leafy bowers
degraded to dieback deserts. Scientists maintain
some hope but she’s fast losing respiratory powers


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 will be published by Finishing Line Press in January, 2020.