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Tuesday, July 07, 2020

UNTITLED FOURTH OF JULY POEM

by Roberta Santlofer


Full "Buck" Moon and penumbral eclipse July 4-5, 2020.


It is after midnight
But I wouldn’t know it here
For staying stuck in my apartment
In bed with depression

Bus went –––––
I was just glancing out
My half-open bathroom window
After a warm July day

I often glance out at night
See into the towers along my street
See the low room stuck in
Behind my neighbor’s fallen tree
The branches dividing the light

Yet the brightness
Even more important
& personal
Being low

A lantern
Put up in
The air party
Maybe the moon
Did come down
Stayed in
Helped branches
Avoid the night’s blasting
Bright skies
Lit with Fourth of July fireworks

The moon feeling a little
Tame / timid / small
Among the blasting spectrum
Of color

But the true story of light—
The moon has discreetly mastered it


Roberta “Bobby” Santlofer (1943-2020) was a mother of sons, an avid reader, and a poet. A posthumous collection of her poetry is forthcoming.

WHAT IS THE AIR?

by Ralph James Savarese


Source: The New York Times archive


An elderly person said, “What is the air?” gasping as much
     with her arms as with her lungs.
How could I answer this woman? I do not know what it is
     any more than she.

I guess it must be a mother feeding her babes little morsels
     of oxygen. A clear, blue bib.

Or I guess it’s the wind taking a nap, the clouds a comforter
     letting dreams rain down.

Or I guess the air is itself an elderly person, death’s new
     confidante. What has it heard?

Or maybe it’s a commuter on the breathing Tube. (The rasping
     sounds like medieval German.)
“Stand away from the doors.”

Stand away from each other! The virus is sprouting in broad
     zones and narrow zones, growing among black folks
     as among white (more among black folks).
“I give them the same, I receive them the same,” a super-
     spreader says.

Perhaps the air is a bathhouse for lungs. All the panting they
     could want!
The Right once denounced promiscuous mingling yet now
     promiscuously mingles itself.

The air, madam, is an unregistered weapon. In America
     everyone carries.


Ralph James Savarese is the author of two books of prose, Reasonable People and See It Feelingly, and one collection of poetry, Republican Fathers, due out in October.

COMMONIST PUSSIES

by Mark Williams


Hateboards photo via Campaign


“Hello, Mrs. Baumgart. Is Kyle at home?
It’s me Austin Baggerly on the phone.     No, Mrs. Baumgart.
Dad is still living at his house and Mom and me and Bradley
are living at ours.     Bradley is my turtle.     Yes, Mrs. Baumgart.
I wash my hands after playing with Bradley. Mom says
I’m more likely to get the 19 virus before Bradley makes me sick,
specially since Dad doesn’t believe in masks. He says
masks are for commonist pussies.     Excuse me, Mrs. Baumgart.
But that’s what Dad says. And when he picks me up
he makes me take mine off in the car.     I know, Mrs. Baumgart.
But he’s my dad. He makes me go with him. He says
if the President comes to town he’ll take me.
I would like to go with Dad that day, cause if I see the President
I’ll ask him why he doesn’t care if Grandma Baggerly dies.
I’ll tell him he’s old too, and since alls he cares abouts is him—
Mom says so—he should wear a mask. Then Dad will wear a mask
and I can wear a mask and save Grandma.     Mrs. Baumgart,
do you think Kyle and I will go to school this fall? Do you think
the virus will ever go away? Will there be more viruses after?
Do you think our planet will still be here when I’m old?
Mom says the rest of my life depends on the next election?
Do you think so? Dad says Joe Biden would be like taking a bus
across America instead of an airplane. Mom says if that’s true,
our President is a skateboard.     Mrs. Baumgart,
was it ever like this when you were growing—
Oh, hi Kyle. What’s up?”


Mark Williams wears a mask in Evansville, Indiana. His poems and stories have appeared in The Southern Review, Rattle, New Ohio Review, Drunk Monkeys, The American Journal of Poetry, and in the anthologies The Boom Project and American Fiction. His poems in response to the current administration have appeared in TheNewVerse.News, Writers Resist, Poets Reading the News, and Tuck Magazine.

Monday, July 06, 2020

SYNCHRONICITY

by Elinor Ann Walker


The 2020 Synchronous Firefly Viewing has been canceled due to COVID-19. —smokymountains.com


It is finally July. Tonight I’ve taken the beach chair into the yard
at the top of the slope. It’s also the summer of Covid,
so the chair is free of sand, no beach trip this year.
From here, I can see down the long hill to the woods,
the green beyond broken by silhouettes of darker leaves
against a humid sky. In the last 12 years, the trees
have grown so tall that they surround the house
and yard like guardians, and in them now are millions
of fireflies, lightning bugs as I called them
when I was a child and still do. They are signaling
for love in the underbrush, in the evergreens, among
the hardwoods. For mating, of course, not love.
They are brighter and more numerous than I’ve ever
seen here, even though we’re not far from the Smoky
Mountains where 19 species and their various signature
bioluminescence patterns illuminate the trails. The most
famous are the synchronous species, and the Smokies
the only place in America where they can flash
this way in response to each other. What’s strange,
in an already strange summer, is that normal peak
times for this display are late May and early June.
It’s been a season of unusual and frequent hard rain,
some early cold snaps, and I’m not a biologist,
so I don’t know why now, mid-summer, so many
are flashing, though I’ve read that scientists say
a number of factors determine the peak before
the gradual decline. They only live about three weeks.
It must be urgency, competition, the necessity
of reproduction that require the show. It’s not what you
think, the synchronous patterns. It’s not that they all light
up at once, then go dark, then repeat. Instead, the males fly
and flash. The females are just where they are, stilled
high in the trees, where they respond with their own
light. But sometimes among the random flashes,
short sequences come together at once, bursts
of greenish-yellow dots punctuating and undulating
over and over, then a period of pitch dark, abrupt
cessation. Then they start again, and sometimes you
can detect waves of flashes, up and around, tracing
some invisible lines like a spirograph, while lower,
just above the grass, one may drift, linger, and fade,
almost as if in exhaustion, like we are all trying so hard
to light up together, each other, be light, when everything,
everything else, is asynchronous, on delay,
at a distance, and there is no union, just blank sky.


Elinor Ann Walker holds a Ph.D. in English from UNC-Chapel Hill and teaches online for University of Maryland Global Campus. She considers herself a recovering academic and has published under more than one name. She lives in Tennessee with three dogs and writes mostly on her screened porch, weather permitting. Twitter: elinorann_poet

HE WOULD LIKE TO BE A CONFEDERATE GENERAL

by Howard Winn




but was born in the wrong era
even though he tries to assume the
role in modern times and dreams those flabby
wattles firmed into the mountainous
stone of Mount Rushmore with the
other great presidents where he knows
he belongs as the statues come down
he poses as if he could join one eternal
and turns to the computer and twitter
away as if an eternal mockingbird
that ignores the twenty first century
and will bring back the America
that split into the democracy and the
autocracy supported by the labor
of slavery subject to their murder
in the pretense of maintaining law
and order which masks prejudice
and chauvinism that supports
the fake humanism of the fox
slinks in to empty arenas and
pretends there is always an admiring
crowd of empty seats that do not clap


Howard Winn's poetry and fiction has appeared in many literary journals. A collection of his published poetry will be published in early summer.

WALKING DEAD

by Jeremy Nathan Marks



The Lakota people  consider the Black Hills to be sacred ground; it was originally included in the Great Sioux Reservation. The United States broke up the territory after gold was discovered in the Black Hills. The mountain into which the Rushmore figures wer carved is known to the Lakota Sioux as Six Grandfathers. Photo: Six Grandfathers circa 1905. Source: Wikipedia.


On the eve of the fourth
in Lincoln’s shadow
on sacred ground
of the Lakota and Cheyenne
downwind of the dust
of an unfinished bust
of Crazy Horse
not one of his kin asked for
a sitting president defending
the Stars and Bars
its politicians, generals and adjutants
to extolling chants of

USA! USA!

What do you say to a drop in
from a fortified copter flying
the Great White Father
over crowds of people whose lands
these stone monstrosities smother
carvings made at the hand of a man
who sympathized with the Klan
a troupe of Confederate brethren
keeping alive the dream of Calhoun
interposition, the antebellum masculine
to thwart a more perfect union?

Carve the face of the great emancipator
beside slaveholders and Teddy R.

I think the fourth is in danger of becoming
a mausoleum because we do not vet
the monument builders
history stalks the land like the undead
in a high ratings show many of us watch
on television.


Jeremy Nathan Marks lives in London, Ontario. Recent work is appearing at Isacoustic, So It Goes, Muddy River, Wilderness House Literary Review, and The Right Life.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

HE GETS IT

by Wayne Scheer




My neighbor wanted his five year-old to understand
why so many people,
including himself,
were demonstrating
for George Floyd.

After explaining
what had happened,
he took his son
to a demonstration
near downtown Atlanta.

When his son saw the crowd
he said,
“All these people
think people should be kind.
Cool.”

He gets it.

Why do so many others,
including the president,
find it so hard to understand?


Wayne Scheer has been nominated for five Pushcart Prizes and two Best of the Net. He's published numerous stories, poems and essays in print and online, including Revealing Moments,  a collection of flash stories. His short story “Zen and the Art of House Painting” has been made into a short film.

DEEP SOUTH

by Sari Grandstaff





"I'm concerned about voter registration in Mississippi. The blacks are having lots (of) events for voter registration. People in Mississippi have to get involved, too. —Gail Welch, Jones County, Mississippi Election Commissioner, June 28, 2020.


white water lily
the center of attention
hides its muddy roots


Sari Grandstaff lives in the Catskill Mountains/Mid-Hudson Valley of New York State.  She is a high school librarian and she and her husband are the proud parents of three adult children. Her work has appeared in Eastern Structures, Chronogram, TheNewVerse.News, and NPR among many other places.

DARNELLA'S DUTY

by Laurie Kuntz


Darnella Frazier is the brave young woman who filmed the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. The artwork is from the official Peace and Healing for Darnella Fund at gofundme.


How does it feel to be 17,
and just want to hold your life in your
glistening palm, go to the corner
and buy a sparkling water to quench
a parched mouth that longs to sing?

How does it feel to witness
a purpose too cruel
for all your 17 rotations
around a sun you only want to bask in?

How does it feel to beg a name,
witness a life breaking,
while your opened ebony eyes,
see loss and corruption corralled
to the borderless sky?

And, how does the humid wind feel
as you watch it carry one man's life
to a crevice where only the wind can go?


Laurie Kuntz is an award-winning poet and film producer. She taught creative writing and poetry in Japan, Thailand and the Philippines. Many of her poetic themes are a result of her working with Southeast Asian refugees for over a decade after the Vietnam War years. She has published one poetry collection (Somewhere in the Telling, Mellen Press) and two chapbooks (Simple Gestures, Texas Review Press and Women at the Onsen, Blue Light Press), as well as an ESL reader (The New Arrival, Books 1 & 2, Prentice Hall Publishers). Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her chapbook Simple Gestures won the Texas Review Poetry Chapbook  Contest. She was editor in chief of Blue Muse Magazine and a guest editor of Hunger Mountain Magazine.  She has produced documentaries on the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Law and currently is producing a documentary on the peace process and reintegration of guerrilla soldiers in Colombia. She is the executive  producer of an Emmy-winning short narrative film Posthumous. Recently retired, she lives in an endless summer state of mind.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

VOICES FROM THE PAST

by Gil Hoy




Their homes, cone-shaped poles
of wood covered with buffalo hides.
Set up to break down quickly
to move to a safer place.

She sits inside of one of them.
Adorning her dresses, her family’s shirts
with beads and quills.

Watches over her children. Skins, cuts
and cooks the buffalo meat. Pounds clothes
clean with smooth wet river rocks.

When she sees the blue cavalry
advancing, she begins to run again.
Is that what made America great,
back then?

African families working hard
on hot cotton farms. Sunrise to sunset,
six days a week. Monotony broken only
by their daily beatings. By their singing
of sad soulful songs.

Like factories in fields, dependent solely
upon the demands of cotton and cloth.

You could buy a man for a song, back then.
Is that what made America great,
once again?

There are swastikas in our streets today.
Black men being murdered. Whitelash.
While the new man at the top
tweets videos ranting of white power.
While the old man at the top
says he’ll make America great again.

They say the full moon was bigger and brighter
last year than it’s been in 73 years.
Than it’s been since Jackie Robinson
played his first big league baseball game.


Gil Hoy is a Best of the Net nominated 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 Right Hand Pointing, Tipton Poetry Journal, Chiron Review, Ariel Chart, Indian Periodical, Rusty Truck, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, and TheNewVerse.News.

Friday, July 03, 2020

RED FLAG DAY

by Buff Whitman-Bradley




With the first wail of the siren
A seismic gasp
Shudders up and down the streets
Of our little town
Here at the base of the forested mountain
Where all the trees
Are named kindling,
Where all the trees are named tinder,
Where all the trees
Are named fire.
So in the midst of a rampaging pandemic
We must worry now
About this too,
That an errant spark
From an ill-maintained power line
Will ignite a rampaging conflagration
Leaving devastation and death
In its wake.

Access is closed to many of the trails
In the watershed
Until the high winds die down
And temperatures drop.
Not long ago
Access was closed
Due to the coronavirus.
Too many people in the woods?
What a thought!
When we could enter again
A few weeks ago
We headed to a favorite spot
On a wooded lakeside trail
Where we could espy an osprey nest
At the very top of a dead Douglas fir
And see if last year’s inhabitants
Had returned during our pandemical hiatus.
And when we found that the pair
Was back home
Our viral gloom briefly lifted
And our spirits did a little jig or two.

The osprey couple will soon be caring
For hatchlings
Who will raise a right old ruckus
Every waking moment
Demanding food from mom and dad
Until one day
Obeying a mysterious call,
An ancient hearkening,
They will perch on the very edge of the nest
Or on the diving board limb
Extending several feet out
Above the water
And after a great deal of fussing
After a great deal of high-pitched pleading
For further instructions,
They will surrender their anxiety
To the primeval urge
And step off into air.

The winds have died down,
There have been no more sirens,
But the red flag will remain hoisted
Until tonight at 10 PM—
And how many more times this summer and fall
Will the scarlet banner snap in the wind
Before the rains return?
The headlines say that COVID 19
Has killed half a million people worldwide
And is showing no signs
Of abating.
We are all exhausted and demoralized
By the constant threat of plague and inferno
But we manage to muster up a little hope
When we picture those young osprey
Dropping straight down toward the water
Then in a transformative instant
Finding their wings and flaring upwards
Into the shimmering day.


Buff Whitman-Bradley's poems have appeared in many print and online journals. His most recent books are To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World and Cancer Cantata. With his wife Cynthia, he produced the award-winning documentary film Outside In and, with the MIRC film collective, made the film Por Que Venimos. His interviews with soldiers refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan were made into the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. He lives in northern California. He podcasts at: thirdactpoems.podbean.com .

Thursday, July 02, 2020

TO THOSE WHO REFUSE TO WEAR A FACE MASK WHEN ADVISED TO DO SO

A WARNING

by Brooke Herter James


Last week I was strolling the banks
of a creek in Montana when,
out of seemingly nowhere,
a sandhill crane exploded
from the tall grass at my feet.
She was fully my height,
her wings wide open,
beating theair,
her long beak pointing—
jabbing at me.

Beneath her, two eggs.

I am a mother,  too. I get it.

Especially right now,
with one child, pregnant,
working twelve-hour shifts
as a nurse in a walk-in clinic
clear across the country.

If you choose not to wear a face mask—
and you get sick—
and you seek care from my daughter
or any of the thousands of health care workers
who are some one else’s beloved child—
thereby endangering them with your selfishness,
I will come after you like that sandhill crane.
It’s that simple.


Brooke Herter James is the author of two poetry chapbooks: The Widest Eye ( 2016) and Spring took the Long Way Around (2019). Her poems have appeared in PoemTown Vermont as well as the online publications Poets Reading the News, TheNewVerse.News, Flapper Press, and Writing in a Woman’s Voice (forthcoming).  She was chosen as a finalist in the Poetry Society of Vermont’s 2019 National Poetry Contest. She lives on a hillside in Vermont with her husband, four hens, two donkeys and a dog.

MASK WORK

by Alejandro Escudé


Why Aren’t You Wearing a Mask? by Jen Sorensen at The Nib


T***p “sprays a mask on his face every day for vanity. But an actual mask that would protect other people, that, that, he just can’t do” –Anderson Cooper


Pull yourself up by your mask straps!
I work hard to keep myself and others safe,
but sometimes I too hate to have to reach up
for a mask hung like a hat on a makeshift
mask-rack in my entryway. I feel a strange
sweaty anxiety in needing to “muzzle”
myself, as you call it, and crave the feel
of fresh air on my face, unbridled breath.
But you of all people should understand
the logic of labor, the idea of work, you
who often block “entitlements,” who see
the world simply as divided between
those who can succeed and those who
cannot. I put on my mask of success!
I put on my mask and it is work to do so,
like raising a shovel, like crunching
the numbers, like mowing, like sewing
seeds, like picking stocks. I do my mask-
work because my kids depend on me
surviving and on their grandparents
surviving so that we can continue to work.
And I too am with you, I too put on my
mask and feel its claws dig into my skull.
I too rise in the morning to greet the sun-
disease for yet another day. But I mask.
And I wear my good work on my face.


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.

BREATHING IN FLORIDA

by Mickey J. Corrigan


Fort Myers resident Wilson Cardenas tosses a cast net during sunset at Bunche Beach Preserve on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Saharan dust is blanketing parts of U.S. including SWFL. Photo by Andrew West, The News-Press, July 1, 2020


The sky's a dirty white
Saharan dust brushing
through crusty air
pulsing in and out
bruised blue lungs
crablegs scuttling skin
burnt to the touch.

Weddings are off,
funerals are on again.

You breathe great again
on the sand, in bars, half-naked
bodies clumped around you
over cheap beers, laughs
strained burgundy faces
maskless, so careless.

Happy hour's brisk,
the ERs overcrowded.

Throw dust on the data,
another round to your health!
Joke about the washed out
camped in steamy hideouts
wringing scrubbed hands
germfree and chapped.

Red sunset fireworks
in a sky full of sand.

This is the kind of dirt
you throw at poetry too
making it shine darker
revealing bleak truths.


Originally from Boston, Mickey J. Corrigan writes Florida noir with a dark humor. Novels include  Project XX about a school shooting (Salt Publishing, UK, 2017) and What I Did for Love a spoof of Lolita (Bloodhound Books, 2019). Kelsay Books recently published the poetry chapbook the disappearing selfGrandma Moses Press will publish Florida Man later this year.