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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

BROKEN WINDOWS

by Alan Walowitz


The New York City police officer whose chokehold led to Eric Garner’s death in 2014 was fired from the Police Department and stripped of his pension benefits on Monday, ending a bitter battle that had cast a shadow over the nation’s largest police force. Commissioner James P. O’Neill’s decision to dismiss the officer, Daniel Pantaleo (pictured above in May), came five years after Mr. Garner’s dying words—“I can’t breathe”—helped to galvanize the Black Lives Matter protests that led to changes in policing practices in New York and around the country. Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Associated Press via The New York Times, August 19, 2019.


Some more fake news from the great American fable:
a baseball shatters the neighbor’s window
into a bullseye of splinters
as the old guy emerges, face on fire,
newspaper rolled into a cudgel clutched in his paw.
But a pussy cat at heart,
he’ll remember when he was young and will smile.
Or a doughy lady gets launched like a pinball
after too much slow-baking,
and more than a little tippling,
her apron aflutter and rolling pin awag,
but she’ll offer cookies to the kids.

In our tale, the window always heals itself
or gets forgotten in the false fever
of our Mayberry dreams—
We’ll make America great again.
Turns out it never was about the window,
only a way to get our next episode rolling.

If you attend to a broken window
the whole neighborhood’ll get fixed
and America made great again.
Tompkinsville on Staten Island’ll
become Short Hills, Grosse Point, Scarsdale,
or even Lake Success, right near me,
where the cop who pulls you over
doesn’t know from loosies
what a lustrous word for a dark occupation,
a guy trying to make a buck on the street.

But just the same the cop might be thinking,
I’d like to strangle this guy,
as he writes you up for driving distracted
by that cracked windshield
you haven’t found the time or money to repair.
But he’s friendly enough
for all his formality
about rights and recourse.
See you in court, he says,
sneering in your rearview mirror
as he waves you on.
We’ll make America great again, alright,
Just be sure you’re white and bring plenty of cash.
We don’t take credit cards or checks.


Editor’s Note from Frontline: The 1980s-era theory known as “Broken Windows” . . . argues that maintaining order by policing low-level offenses can prevent more serious crimes. But in cities where Broken Windows has taken root, there’s little evidence that it’s worked as intended. The theory has instead resulted in what critics say is aggressive over-policing of minority communities, which often creates more problems than it solves. Such practices can strain criminal justice systems, burden impoverished people with fines for minor offenses, and fracture the relationship between police and minorities. It can also lead to tragedy: In New York in 2014, Eric Garner died from a police chokehold after officers approached him for selling loose cigarettes on a street corner.


Alan Walowitz has been published various places on the web and off.  His work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017 and 2018 and he is a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry.  His chapbook Exactly Like Love is available from Osedax Press, and his full-length book The Story of the Milkman and Other Poems is available from Truth Serum Press. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

THE BIRTH OF AMERICA

by Sally Zakariya


Above is the logo of The 1619 Project, a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. The Project aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.


Not 1492 when Columbus landed
not 1607 when settlers founded Jamestown
but 1619 when twenty-some Africans
arrived in chains

Port Comfort their landing place
proved no comfort for them

That’s when America began
land of freedom but not for them
land of plenty but not for them
land of everlasting shame
for us but not for them

Twelve million stolen from their homes
two million died on the Middle Passage
half a million sold into slavery here

They cleared the land and built
the plantation houses
they cleaned and cooked and toiled
to make white people rich

They picked cotton for my grandfather
a white-starched-collar lawyer
in Memphis who didn’t have to bend
his back or dirty his hands

They fought for this country
their country and ours
and now … and now …

Four hundred years is time
to admit our history
time to make things right


Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in some 75 print and online journals and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her most recent publication is The Unknowable Mystery of Other People (Poetry Box, 2019). She is also the author of Personal Astronomy, When You Escape, Insectomania, and Arithmetic and other verses, as well as the editor of the poetry anthology Joys of the Table.

Monday, August 19, 2019

GHOST LIGHT

by Kelley White




We settle into worship. Is it better to pray—
or to listen for the voice of God?

Is it better to wait on God
with eyes closed, cast down, or open to light?

I seek light in the meetinghouse’s tall
windows, the faces of gathered friends—

when Jondhi breaks Quaker silence to speak
of the Nicetown shootings we all know

it is too real—his, our, Healing and Transformation
Center, the Center for Returning Citizens

is a block from the crime scene.
He heard the sirens, he saw the masses

of police, the stunned neighbors, children
evacuated from day care centers.

He asks about community. About
the roots of drug crime. Fear. Economics.

Unemployment. I close my eyes. The ghost
light of the windows a negative beneath my lids. Then

D., who like Jondhi has done serious time, lifts his
walking stick to his lips: I see it

decorated with feathers and red paint, a line of holes
punched along its shaft—

and it is actually a flute, with a voice so pure and deep
it returns me to silence, to my lit darkness, truce.


Author’s Note: J. Jondhi Harrell is the Founder and Executive Director of The Center for Returning Citizens (TCRC) in Philadelphia. Twitter: @JondhiTCRC . “D.” is a pseudonym.


Kelley White, a member of Germantown Friends Meeting is a pediatrician working about 2 miles from the ‘active shooter incident’ this past Wednesday, August 14, in Philadelphia’s Nicetown neighborhood.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

TARZAN HAS A TAN

by Alejandro Escudé 




During a faculty meeting icebreaker, when I raise my hand to volunteer the song I’ve had stuck in my head, one man yells out: “Ahh. Sing it!” in front of my colleagues. I hear his voice as brassy, sarcastic-toned. Simultaneously, I think of the photograph on the news site today
of the three people (a family?) witnessing the nuclear explosion in Russia—the fire cloud off in the distance, like a huge, rotten orange. 

There are moments when 
you realize you’re job is like that too, a rotten orange. Only you’re stuck inside of it, pushing up against the rind. Or, maybe your job is like Russia and its oligarchs. And sometimes, you and your colleagues are like that family watching the explosion of a missile pregnant with a nuclear reactor. A whale carcass. A room with bones for support beams. Hanging flesh. 

We were asked, at the faculty meeting, to recall a song we had stuck in our heads this summer. And I said I had the Tarzan camp song repeating in my head; that call and response song I had to lead my second graders with— when I was a twenty-year-old camp counselor. 

“Tar … zan,” it began, and they repeated. “Swinging on a rubber band … Tar … zan … fell into a frying pan.” 
I sang it again with my daughter, seven years old, now that she’s in summer camp. The words have changed, slightly. But I think once more of that colleague who sarcastically yelled out that I, sing the song, 
as if I were telling some untruth, or trying too hard impress the room. 

Maybe, later on, someone informed that man that I had kids. That I’d just gotten divorced after seventeen years of marriage. That my kids visit me on weekends and it feels as though half my soul were missing from my body and I only become whole again when I am with them. 

But I don’t think 
anyone told him. He probably thought I was just trying to be cute. I guess, I’ve always tried to be cute. I guess the Russians are trying to be cute as well, installing nuclear reactors inside of missiles that have the ability to reach Alaska, and beyond. 

“Fell into a frying pan,” my daughter repeats. 
“Now Tarzan has a tan. Now Tarzan has a tan.”


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, August 17, 2019

WHO OWNS THE EARTH?

by Martin Elster


From “The Untold Benefits of Climate Change” by Kendra Wells at TheNib.


Renowned Harvard entomologist E.O. Wilson has said that without insects the rest of life, including humanity, “would mostly disappear from the land. And within a few months.” 
National Geographic, August 6, 2019


We own the earth. We buzz or hug
you in your bed, at times will bug
you when you taste like toothsome prey.
We flit around your cold buffet.
We’re sweat bee, darner, skeeter, slug,

the flea that’s pestering your pug.
We’re everywhere. You might go, “Ugh!”
when centipedes cruise by. Yet, say
we left the earth.

Perhaps you’d shout with glee, or shrug.
But think: no cherry, apple, mug
of honeyed tea, nor silver tray
of leafy greens would come your way.
You see, Big Brain? Don’t be so smug!
We own the earth.


Martin Elster serves as percussionist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Honors include co-winner of Rhymezone’s 2016 poetry contest, winner of the Thomas Gray Anniversary Poetry Competition 2014, third place in the SFPA’s 2015 poetry contest, and three Pushcart nominations.

Friday, August 16, 2019

WATER MUSIC

by Judith Steele


“The Murray-Darling river system managed by NSW [New South Wales, Australia] . . . is ‘an ecosystem in crisis’ which is on a path to collapse and urgent reforms are needed to save it, a review has warned.” —The Guardian, July 23, 2019. Photo: Exposed water height markers on the Darling River reveal the depth of the crisis at Wilcannia. Credit: John Janson-Moore in The Conversation.


In my small flat
I hear daily rhythms
of neighbours’ water
as they hear mine.
Our toilets flush torrents,
our showers are waterfalls.
Washing machines gurgle
while kettles whistle.

Water washes things away
in the morning cleansings.
In swimming pools and seas
gives health and relaxation.

In floods and tsunamis
brings death and desolation.
Luckier countries
send neighbourly help.

But if there is no water?
If you live near a river that’s dried
because someone upstream
has diverted it to profit?
Even in a lucky country, it seems
nothing neighbourly remains
between up and down stream.

All over this nation
the pattern repeated
the up and the down,
their distance increasing.

Where are the neighbours?
What can be done
to wash this away?


Judith Steele lives in South Australia Her poetry or prose has most recently been published in the print journal Gobshite Quarterly (Portland OR); and on the website Nine Muses

Thursday, August 15, 2019

DEATH OF A CHILD

by George Salamon



Xavier Usanga was about 15 hours away from a new school year as a second grader at Clay Elementary when he was fatally shot Monday, August 12, 2019, while standing near an 18-year-old who was also shot but survived. The 7-year-old’s death makes him the 11th area child killed in a shooting since June. About half of them attended St. Louis Public Schools, said Kelvin Adams, superintendent of the St. Louis Public School District. In the above photo,  provided by Alderman Brandon Bosley to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Xavier Usanga is pictured during a LINKS St. Louis Neighborhood event in Hyde Park in July 2019.


A child smiling,
A child so new.
He came out to play,
Not ready for death.
Not "in the confines
Of his home, or "on
A street not known
For violence." How
Is it we don't choke
Speaking these words?
How is it a part of us
No longer dies at
The death of a child?
We dare not ask.


George Salamon lives in St. Louis and has most recently published in Dissident Voice, Proletaria, The Asses of Parnassus, and TheNewVerse.News.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

THE OLD COLOSSUS CLARIFIES HER SONNET

by Prince Bush





Oxidized, and stronger with patina, Libertas
Repeats herself, white supremacy is a storied

Pomp, dull-headedness, not welcome
In my country, but where I’m from—

The sea: Let prejudice sink beside that skin
Purported as porcelain, yet in any light, soft-paste—

A white clay and ground glass heart. I hope I am clear;
I hope this will end the fallacy, unnative white

Persons who trespassed & raped & carried cannons &
Smirkers & pigs & criminals & drugs & odious slavery.

Admittedly, older now and more of a sophist,
I want the door of gold to lead to anywhere:

I want to consolidate my lamp with the sun, console
Every soul, except those who publicly charge hate.


Prince Bush is a poet in Nashville TN with poetry in *82 Review, Cotton Xenomorph, Ghost City Press, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Pleides: Literature in Context, SOFTBLOW, and elsewhere. He was a 2019 Bucknell Seminar for Undergraduate Poets Fellow.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE

by Pepper Trail


Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast


"The new [Endangered Species Act] rules also give the government significant discretion in deciding what is meant by the term “foreseeable future." 
The New York Times, August 12, 2019


The Administration has announced that the following are no longer to be considered part of the “foreseeable future:”

Ice for polar bears to stand on
Safe and legal abortions
The concept of objective facts
Efforts to reduce the burning of fossil fuels
An act of political independence by any Republican member of Congress
Revulsion against separating immigrant children from their mothers and imprisoning them
Glaciers in Glacier National Park
Condemnation of white nationalism by the President of the United States
Any evidence of compassion or empathy from the President of the United States
Elephants
Nuclear arms control
The languid flight of monarch butterflies over a summer meadow
The survival of human civilization

However, the White House assures anxious Americans that the following can still be relied upon:

Inaction on gun control
Unrestricted influence of money on politics
Uncontrolled corporate power

Be sure to visit this site for regular updates


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.

Monday, August 12, 2019

JUST A NORMAL HIGH SCHOOL LOCKDOWN

by Ed Gold




In the fifties, in first grade,
I learned that crouching under my desk
would protect me from the blast
of an atomic bomb,
dropped on the playground.

In the sixties, in seventh grade,
I learned that when a knife is pulled
anywhere near me to run
and not look back.
But I never saw a gun.

Today, in twelfth grade,
my niece has learned the protocol
for when the shooter enters,
texting her parents every five minutes
so they know she is still alive.

She wears a bullet-blocking backpack
her mother ordered on the internet
pricier than the bullet-resistant model.
It won't protect her from an assault rifle,
but every little bit helps.


Ed Gold is originally from Baltimore, got an M.A. from the writing seminars at Hopkins, taught poetry at U of Md for years, and is now down in Charleston, SC, writing happily and madly. He has one chapbook, Owl, and about 80 poems published in TheNewVerse.News, Kakalak, Ekphrastic Review, Window Cat Press, Rat’s Ass Review, Cyclamens and Swords, and elsewhere. Active in the Poetry Society of South Carolina, he runs the Skylark Contest for high-school poets and co-chairs its two-week poetry series at the Dock Street Theater for Piccolo Spoleto in Charleston

Sunday, August 11, 2019

FOR THE OLD WHITE POETS

by Joan Colby


     “But I’m also torn between my pleasure at seeing part of American culture take significant strides toward equality and my sorrow due to the diminishment of interest in my work.” —Bob Hicok (above left), "The Promise of American Poetry,” Utne Reader, Summer 2019.

     “Why did a white poet see the success of writers of color as a signal of his own demise?” —Timothy Yu, “The Case of the ‘Disappearing’ Poet,” The New Republic, August 7, 2019


Dedicated to Bob Hicok


So now you know how those sonneteers
Must have felt, quietly posting along the
Bridle path with their rhyming dictionaries
And penchant for inversions, when you came along
Riding your free verse helter-skelter, breaking
Lines without regard like a mounted militia
In full rebellion. With your red wheelbarrow
And petals in the metro. White men of privilege,
You’re passe as the people of color race by on motorbikes
Down the crowded lanes where you used to
Summon a rickshaw. Plus ça change. And women
Shouting hands-off! Poems by non-binary
People who use the pronoun they
And where are you now with your forlorn
Confessions that cannot be absolved. This
Is penance contributor: the immigrants
Crossing the river on innertubes
Taking the risk you took once
Writing the word fuck flat out as a racehorse
Hitting the wire and snorting blood.


Joan Colby’s Selected  Poems received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage was awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Her recent books include Carnival  from FutureCycle Press, The Seven Heavenly Virtues from Kelsay Books and Her Heartsongs from Presa Press. Her latest book is Joyriding to Nightfall from FutureCycle Press.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

HIJACKED

by Karen Neuberg


Demonstrators assemble outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in Louisville. (Luke Sharrett/Getty Images via The Washington Post, August 7, 2019)


A breakdown, as in
corruption,

mind-feed, firearm soul.
We can’t get

the automatic
weapons

out of our hands.
The ability

to think
taken over

and with it
ourselves. What’s

it called
when democracy dies.

It’s called
my country.


Karen Neuberg is a Brooklyn-based poet. Her full length collection Pursuit is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. Her latest chapbook is the elephants are asking (Glass Lyre Press, 2018). Her poems have previously appeared in TheNewVerse.News. She is associate editor of the online poetry journal First Literary Review-East.

THIS IS NOT A GUN

by Mary K O'Melveny




                        …El Paso (this time)


This is a video game gone quite wrong.
This is a prayer turned to a theme song.
This is a mental health problem.  A strong
response will allow us to move along.

This is a city where migrants have long
been welcome, in serape or sarong,
where border crossers shop for daylong
Walmart bargains—our US torch song.

They sell weapons there too that stoke real fears—
bumpstocks and bullets and bandoliers.
But apparently all is not as it appears,
even as these are checked out by cashiers.

The enabler-in-chief and all his peers
report that we must cover up our ears.
The silencing of rifles would set back years
of cold cash from NRA financiers.

Republicans, whose loyalty is owed
to makers of shiny things that explode,
hide from the press as the mark is towed
while innocents reap what their greed has sowed.

Where bones have shattered and blood has flowed,
these folks blather past each grim episode.
Their words are camouflaged in secret code
while still more angry white men lock and load.


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.

RED FLAG

by Tricia Knoll








































You stepped in the doorway.
Come, you said, to comfort me.

A long way to come without
having gone anywhere new,

I thought, the nurse watched
over me to help me contain

my anger, but I could not.
The background: strangers

arrived to check out a victim.
Such a long way to come

without moving an inch.
My fingers searched

for a red flag to hold up
when I spit out

ban assault rifles,
don’t let white men

use them as banners
for hate.

The hate you wave
at every turn.


Tricia Knoll asks how she might feel if she were in a hospital bed after a shooting and the President arrived.