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Sunday, January 17, 2021

THINKING ABOUT LOVE DURING COVID AND COUPS

by Susan Vespoli





I’ve been thinking about the Hopi Prophecy as told to me
by a friend, how we would find ourselves in a rushing river,
our body a soggy vessel careening toward the unknown. And the Hopi 
instruction was to notice who traveled beside us, not to flail 

or cling to the shore, but to trust the water. I’ve been thinking 
about the deep bass voice and compelling smell of an armpit, a man 
who sang lyrics into my ear, leaned around me as I washed a pan, 
crooned, I just can’t live without you, sister golden hair surprise, 

how he vanished with that torso he’d spooned around me, 
strapped into his own life vest, his SUV growing smaller 
as it exited the street in front of my house where I’ve stayed 
mostly alone since March, and how the ones who’ve held 

my hand and head above water have done so through Zoom
screens or contained in chiweenie fur or while flouncing 
around the living room in a size 6x little girl’s net skirt. How comfort 
has come via iPhones on speaker, text boxes, Words with Friends 

app chats, or from the masked employees at Jiffy Lube, 
a uniformed ballet of them who unscrew, drain, pour fluid, 
bow, you’re welcome, smile with eyes, say, you’re okay now,
reset the Need Maintenance light that flashed on my dash.


Susan Vespoli has been holed for almost a year in Phoenix, where she's written poetry, led writing circles on Zoom for writers.com, ridden her bike, and walked her dogs. Her work has been published in The New Verse News, Rattle, Nasty Women Poets Anthology, Mom Egg Review, Nailed Magazine, and others.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

PEOPLE LIKE US AND THE DAY YOU WERE BORN

by John Hodgen




Heading in to the Quickie Mart I can tell right away something’s wrong, 

the kid behind the counter with the plexi-glass wrap-around going at it  

with a customer, giving him a piece of her mind, or more. I think perhaps  

she caught him stealing, or worse, but he’s a business guy, gray suit, gray tie,  

and when I open the door it’s not anger at all, it’s passion I’m hearing,   

passion in a Quickie Mart. She’s just a kid, early 20’s or so, hair pulled back,  

masked, oversized glasses fogged up. She’s saying, …when even we can see  

what’s going on, us average people, people like us, then you know something’s wrong.  

And the man doesn’t speak, just nods and turns away, goes past me  

like a broken ghost, back to the world again. And I turn to her in this  

tiny temple where we all come and go for milk and tickets and cigarettes  

and gas, and ask her what it is that all of us should know, all us average people  

who gas and gulp and come and go. She says, …the Capitol, what those people did. 

And I tell her I agree, it’s a sacred place, that they call it the People’s House, 

that Lincoln ended slavery there with the 13th Amendment in the Capitol,  

that when you’re actually there it feels more like a church. And then I can’t stop.  

I tell her it’s good what you did, speaking up like that. I tell her Siddhartha  

says your birthday isn’t really the day that you’re born. It’s the first time  

you stand up to your parents, to anyone with power over you, and tell them  

the truth. That’s the day when you’re truly born, when you first come alive.  

I want to say she was smiling, gleaming like a newborn held up to the light,  

but she was wearing a mask. I gave her a twenty for pump number five. 



John Hodgen, Writer-in-Residence at Assumption University, won the AWP Prize for Grace (University of Pittsburgh Press). His new book is The Lord of Everywhere (Lynx House/University of Washington Press).

IN-SUH-REK-SHUHN

by Rémy Dambron




they said this man was just like them we said he doesn’t feel the same

they said he said that’s just fake news we said this is a dangerous game

they said he’s making us great again while we witnessed his power abuses

they diminished and deflected delivering his excuses

we called this pattern treacherous nefarious hateful nasty

they called him biblical 
patriotic bold and crafty

we said he’s promoting violence 
they said he doesn’t mean it

we showed them clips of footage 
they said we just don’t see it

we said hands up don’t shoot 
black lives matter me too

they said shut up and dribble 
all lives matter back the blue

we plead for justice 
but just us took a knee

so they beat us up with shields batons and false decrees

we said we have our rights 
they said well not today

we said these were our streets 
so they gassed us all away

we protested peacefully 
get your knees off our neck

they called us anarchists
then wrote themselves some checks

we turned out in record 
to win the election

they claimed there was fraud 
pledged their objections

we agreed to a recount 
they cried stop the steal

maskless they rallied 
refusing to heal

they threatened more violence despite our constitution

we said he’s propagating 
they called it lib delusion

then hundreds and hundreds 
with his flags and motifs

assailed the steps
of our nation’s top chiefs

we cried this is madness 
the building’s not secured

they said our take-back has begun and we will not be deterred

we said look at the police 
they’re like ushers in disguise

allowing them to enter 
with insurgency supplies

we saw gates open wide 
with a skirmish or two

then a lonely black cop
with just a stick and film crew

never drawing his firearm 
just clutching his baton

yelling and retreating
his leverage too far gone

they paraded their faces 
took selfies and stole files

besieged and disgraced
our nations state house defiled

they were released without consequence 
set free without question

acquitted of their felonies 
at forty fives direction

we watched in horror for hours
what we had known would come true

his fascist america 
executing their coup


Rémy Dambron is an English teacher, proud husband, and activist whose poetry focuses primarily on advocating for social justice and denouncing political corruption. His work has been featured on What Rough Beast, Writer’s Resist, Poets Reading the News, and The New Verse News.

WILDER MANN

by Martha McCollough




zombie daddy trudges on / grudges flying / bringing you your big chance / to shit in marble hallways / what a land of opportunity / for a sweaty daddy / poor daddy / his pinhole hungry-ghost mouth / starving starving / rubbing up against the teevee / daddy eating up the low-class love / slabface swelling & yelling / nooooooo / bloody crash of murder clown car / tactical antlers tangled / kevlar hooves sliding on the pedals / daddy’s at the wheel singing / all the way to / mother of mercy / is this the end of daddy


Originally from Detroit, Martha McCollough now lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. She has an MFA in painting from Pratt Institute. Her poems are forthcoming or have appeared in Radar, Zone 3, Tampa Review, and Salamander, among others. Her chapbook Grandmother Mountain was published by Blue Lyra Press in October 2019.  

IT'S THE EXOTIC, THE FOREIGN...

by Phyllis Wax




who rouse fear—                                                           
the Egyptian cobra, the black mamba,                                                  
the pit vipers of Pakistan and Afghanistan—                                        
and nativists lump the unfamiliar benign 
with these toxic snakes, want to fence them all out. 
                                                         
But what about the homegrown “patriots”—the domestic
side-armed sidewinding rattler, chattering and clattering           
its venomous views, sowing discord wherever  it chooses?

What about the skin-headed southern cottonmouth
with its deceptive languid accent and aggressive
lashing out?  The klanned coral snake, venomous,         
yet anonymous?  The paranoid tea-                                
stained copperhead?  The credulous shrug them off,                        

consider them crazies,
not dangerous species
to be monitored and tracked.

They slither from under rocks and brush piles                            
in the western hills, cluster in nests in lowland swamps,
ooze out of slimy mics all over the homeland.
The willfully oblivious ignore them—              
even when they rear back and strike.                                                                                                     


Phyllis Wax writes in Milwaukee, WI, where she is now watching in horror as the homegrown snakes are all slithering out at once. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, both online and in print.

BELLY OF THE BEAST

by Donna Katzin
                                             
 


The violence was barely visible to law-makers                                                 
when police squeezed out George Floyd’s last breath
with a knee to his neck, shot their way
into Breonna Taylor’s home,
left her dead on her floor, clicked off
the too-short lives of Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin
with flicks of a trigger.                                        
 
They scarcely discerned it in the eyes of children     
ripped from fathers’, mothers’ arms,
caged at the border, never to see
their parents again.
 
It was not obvious to them when 350,000 souls—       
disproportionately black and brown, immigrant, indigenous—
were extinguished by the virus
the president heralded as a “hoax,”                      
as ICU’s, hearses, morgues choked on bodies
and ambulances were ordered not to stop
for “low-probability” passengers.                                    
 
It took broken glass and guns at the Capitol,
ghost-faced rioters in MAGA hats, banners, swastikas,
sporting toxic slogans spawned and spewed
by the Commander-in-Chief.
 
It took hordes single-minded as Atilla the Hun
or shock-troops of the Third Reich storming
up the marble stairs beneath idyllic landscapes,
portraits of iconic heads of state,
pushing past police who never imagined 
the possibility of a white mob
forcing their way into chambers constructed,
polished to protect the rule of law,
wielding shotguns and rifles,
wrapped in bullet-proof vests.
 
It took the legislators in lockdown
little time to detect the pattern,
crouching behind their chairs, calling
loved ones, clutching gas-masks,
as they were herded to hidden locations
while the president’s minions lounged
in their offices, read their mail,       
trashed their papers, took selfies.
In the fray below five people died.
 
It took them only hours to declare a breach,
recalibrate the rules, call for silencing,
impeaching the author of the action
to pluck out the bad seed.
 
But still, in the white wilderness of our minds,
tiptoe home-grown terrorists nurtured                  
with our blindness, lethal legacies,
assumptions of supremacy—             
the hate so deeply sown                                     
in our own hearts.


Donna Katzin is the founding executive director of Shared Interest, a fund that mobilizes the human and financial resources of low-income communities of color in South and Southern Africa.  A board member of Community Change in the U.S., and co-coordinator of Tipitapa Partners working in Nicaragua, she has written extensively about South Africa, community development and impact investing.  Published in journals and sites including The New Verse News and The Mom Egg, she is the author of With the Hands, a book of poems and photographs about post-apartheid South Africa’s process of giving birth to itself.  

Friday, January 15, 2021

NOW THE DYING WHO ARE ALMOST DEAD, ARE DEAD

by DeWitt Clinton


“The end of the earth,” acrylic painting by Tobi Star Abrams


The end?  Well, we could hardly call it that, as if
Whatever just happened, isn’t found in an old
Paper thin tome nobody’s read for a zillion years,
Instead, the end, or The End, just keeps blistering
The heck out of nearly everyone, though some
Are immune, and will never know when any End
Is just around, looking for hopeless dopes like most
Of us are now, prayers done with, floors mopped
With Clorox, as if that would scare anyone away,
But the Bugs like that deep inhalation we take when
We walk into any room, like sniffing lighter fluid
Right into the lungs where it plans to stay and stay
Until all of us are turned over onto our stomachs
By the kindest of medical staff, hoping the deep
Breaths will pull us out, but most of us have already
Died, and had no clue anything was like The End as
So many are whispering about now, as if Breaking
News isn’t about a new political cataclysm, but rather
Breaking the hearts of so many in so many hugely
Different parts of our world, everywhere even in
Antarctica, and who brought the Bugs in to such a
Pristine, icy world anyway?  ICU’s are now in gift
Shops, chapels, parking lots with unique tenting
Materials and refrigerator trucks behind and out
Of sight, keeping all the dead quite cool until we
Find a place that will prepare the dead without
Ending up as the prepared dead.  That’s our new
World with the best hopes of looking ahead nearly
Two or three years out, and even then, new varieties
Will awaken all of us again, those who aren’t quite
Living any more, but just waiting, you know for what
Don’t you, call it what you want but here, it’s The End.


Recent poems by DeWitt Clinton have appeared in Lowestoft Chronicle, The New Reader Review, The Bezine, The Poet by Day, Verse-Virtual, Poetry Hall, Muddy River Poetry Review, Across the Margin, Art + Literature Lab, One Magazine, Fudoki Magazine (England), and The New Verse News.  He has two poetry collections from New Rivers Press; a recent collection, At the End of the War; and By a Lake Near a Moon: Fishing with the Chinese Masters, poetic adaptations of Kenneth Rexroth’s 100 Poems from the Chinese.  He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater, and lives in Shorewood, Wisconsin.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

THAT IS NOT WHO WE ARE

by Robbie Gamble


“Oh, Really” by Keith Knight via Kottke.Org


“That is not who we are.”
That is: not.
Who we are, that is.
Not who!
We are?
Are we?
We are who we are;
that we
are who we are
is that.
Not that!
Are we not?
We are.
We are that.
That!
THAT!

That is that.


Robbie Gamble’s poems have appeared in Coal Hill Review, Whale Road Review, RHINO, Poet Lore, and Rust + Moth. He was the winner of the 2017 Carve Poetry prize. He divides his time between Boston and Vermont.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

THIS DAY WILL NOT JUST LIVE IN INFAMY

by Michael Mark


Shutterstock


For Lolo
 
Because it is your birthday, I’m going to ignore 
the four thousand people in our country who will die today. 
 
Because it is your birthday, I’m going to erase from my mind 
the insane president and treasonous riot he instigated
                                 
and the love video he put out to his thug followers as five people died 
during the siege of the Capitol, and pretend the polls are fake 
 
that say 45% of Republicans believe the breaking 
and entering was the right thing to do, and I’m going 
 
to drive to the card store – the good one, not the grocery
or the pharmacy with their picked-over puns,
 
but the fancy one that specializes in fine crafted, highly artistic 
expressions of earnest emotions, featuring 
 
only the cutest kitten and puppy pics, and charge 
at least six dollars and ninety-nine cents for ironic yet sincere stuff like: 
 
You’re not getting older—oh wait!—I just checked 
your sun dial—yes you are! Because it is your birthday 
 
I’m not going to even wonder if we should be celebrating 
considering today’s particularly disappointing jobs report
 
and the unnerving delay on stimulus checks and vaccines. 
I’m going to interrogate every rack on every aisle to pick out 
 
your perfect card, and because I can’t stop the riots 
or bring back the dead, or deliver the checks or administer the vaccine, 
 
I will, because it is your birthday, light the candle, and watch 
you close your eyes to the whole world and make your wish. 
 

Michael Mark’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Arkansas International, Copper Nickel, Michigan Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Salamander, The Southern Review, The Sun, Waxwing, and The Poetry Foundation's American Life in Poetry. He’s the author of two books of stories including Toba and At the Hands of a Thief (Atheneum).

SERMON FOR THE SIRENIAN

by Jenna Le


State and federal wildlife authorities were investigating after a manatee with “Trump” on its back was spotted in Florida on Sunday. Credit: Hailey Warrington, The New York Times, January 11, 2021.


A manatee is no cartouche.
A manatee is not a blimp.
No pharoah's name or Nike swoosh
carved in her flanks shall ever crimp 

her honey-languid swimming strokes.
She is no singing telegram,
no contrail, and no ad for smokes.
The same way you would treat the lamb, 

thus you shall treat the manatee,
whose every breath's a stinky huff,
who shuffles upstream clownishly.
Love's not just for the pretty stuff, 

a fact I thought you'd understand.
Man's what he is, yet God loved man.


Jenna Le is the author of Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011) and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Indolent Books, 2017), a Second Place winner in the Elgin Awards. She was selected by Marilyn Nelson as winner of Poetry By The Sea’s inaugural sonnet competition and by Julie Kane as winner of Poetry By The Sea’s sonnet crown competition the following year. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in AGNI, Denver Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, and West Branch

DON'T MOCK HITLER'S MUSTACHE

by Jon Wesick




At Yalta,
while America wore olive drab
or Navy blue, the ad man wore a silk tie
and jacket of vicuña wool.
After Stalin left, the ad man spoke
to leaders of grounds fertilized
by a half-million dead from bullet,
bomb, and flame.
 
Words hurt!
How can we heal
by saying the Master Race
ran Death Camps? How about
the Predominant Genealogy
hosted Repose Resorts instead?
Appointing Adolf Eichmann
head of Health and Human Services
would be seen as a gesture of goodwill.
 
For effective messaging use these substitutions:
Not Antisemitism but Aryan Pride
Not National Socialism but Civic Communitarianism
Not Totalitarianism but Discipline and Order
Not Sneak Attack but Dazzling Advance
Not World War but Macrocosmic Contest
Not Holocaust but Extermination Engineering
 
With my strategy, you’ll win the War of Ideas,
I mean, the Altercation of Abstractions.


Jon Wesick is a regional editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual. He’s published hundreds of poems and stories in journals such as the Atlanta Review, Berkeley Fiction Review, Metal Scratches, The New Verse News, Pearl, Slipstream, Space and Time, Tales of the Talisman, and Zahir. The editors of Knot Magazine nominated his stories “The Visitor” and “A Story for the Rest of Us” for Pushcart Prizes. His poem “Meditation Instruction” won the Editor’s Choice Award in the 2016 Spirit First Contest. Another poem “Bread and Circuses” won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists Contest. “Richard Feynman’s Commute” shared third place in the 2017 Rhysling Award’s short poem category. Jon is the author of the poetry collections Words of Power, Dances of Freedom and A Foreigner Wherever I Go as well as several novels and short story collections. His most recent novel is The Enigma Brokers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

AFTERMATH

by Dana Yost


No Mercy” by Mariusz Kozik


It’s turned me 

into a steel blade,

cutting people from my life

without hesitation, without doubt,

just a quick slice and they are gone.

I’m not a heartless man. Rather,

the opposite: forgiving, understanding.

But not this time, not this time.

Some things are too sacred.

The Constitution, for one.

I believe. I defended it

my entire career. If you choose

to denigrate, or violate, or ignore

it, you face the blade that my life

has taken on: it will cut you

out, send you into the outer darkness

of my life where I may never see

you again, never think of you again.

I’m sorry—no, strike that.

I do not apologize. I am steel,

on this, I am steel. And the blade

cuts fast.


Dana Yost was an award-winning daily newspaper journalist for 29 years. Since 2008, Yost has written six books, including last year's poetry chapbook In Your Head.

YEAR OF THE RANT

by Robert Knox




In a year in which only personal realities 
are consulted by humans, 
in which only over-sized creatures are heard 
and they merely grunt

In a year in which the hogs that grunt 
are only human, 
in which it can be seen that 
their blinkered eyes are rightly suspicious
and monitor the intrusive attentions 
of folks with cameras,
who are neither journalists nor tourists, 
but uniformed executioners bearing witness on themselves
 
In a year in which the words of the truly reproachable  
bear witness against themselves,  
in which the words of the prophets 
are everywhere and too numerous to recall
amidst the blinding lights of the next enormity,
too large for even the wiser among us to believe, 
or the most gullible
 
In which even the loudest of unsanctioned mouths 
fall silent,
for there is simply too much to say
 
and no lack of overpaid oath-breakers 
clamoring to bear witness against themselves.


Robert Knox is a poet, fiction writer, Boston Globe correspondent, and the author of a novel based on the Sacco and Vanzetti case, titled Suosso's Lane. As a contributing editor for the online poetry journal Verse-Virtual his poems appear regularly on that site. They have also appeared in journals such as Off The Coast, The Journal of American Poetry, South Florida Poetry Journal, TheNewVerse.News, Califragile, and Unlikely Stories. His poetry chapbook Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty, published in 2017, was nominated for a Massachusetts Best Book award. The chapbook Cocktails in the Wild followed in 2018. He was recently named the winner of the 2019 Anita McAndrews Poetry Award.

HAWLEY

by Robert West




One sworn to shield you soon would die,

but you, your cynic’s fist held high,

proclaimed your solidarity

with those for whom the thought they’re free

now trumps all law and love and reason.

You spurred them on, then cheered their treason.



Robert West is the author of three chapbooks of poems including Convalescent (Finishing Line Press, 2011); the co-editor of Succinct: The Broadstone Anthology of Short Poems (Broadstone Books, 2013); and the editor of both volumes of The Complete Poems of A. R. Ammons (W. W. Norton, 2017).