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Sunday, February 05, 2023

MONA’S HEAD SPEAKS

by Tara Menon


A grinning man who decapitated his wife and paraded down the street with her head in his hands has been jailed for just eight years in Iran. Mum-of-one Mona Heydari (above) was just 17 when she was dragged from a car outside the family home and killed in February last year, a court heard. Her husband Sajjad Heydari and his brother Heydar carried out the brutal attack in Ahvaz, the capital of the southwestern Khuzestan Province. Mona, who had been married since the age of 12, had fled her violent husband with another man, the court heard. However, the woman was tracked down in Turkey by her own father - named as Javid in local media - who returned her to her violent husband. The man allegedly used Interpol to trace his daughter and returned her to Iran, where her husband - who is also her cousin - slaughtered her, claiming she had shamed him. —The Mirror (UK), January 19, 2023



How much is my head worth
in my country?
Beheaded that is
with pools of blood.
Eight years?
So little for my murderer.
Why not seventeen
for every year I’ve lived?
Or eighty minus seventeen
assuming I’d have become an octogenarian.

I fled his violence,
but my family lured me back to Iran
with assurances I’d be safe. I was not.
And then my family pardoned my husband
else he’d have been killed by the state.
No woman is free from danger
when unfair laws lurk.
 
Ask Mahsa Amini,
who was killed for showing 
a bit of hair peeping out of her burqa.
 
Look up at the sky
where we hover
waiting to enter heaven
after justice finds its way to earth.
We could blow the clouds, strike lightning bolts,
thunder from above forever.
The weight of our souls burdens hearts, 
but no one knows
we’re also present inside palpitating organs
to get across our message.


Tara Menon is an Indian-American writer based in Lexington, Massachusetts. Her most recent poems have been published in Tipton Poetry Journal, Arlington Literary Journal, San Pedro River Review, and The Loch Raven Review. Her latest fiction has appeared in The Hong Kong Review, Litro, The Bookends Review, Rio Grande Review, and The Evening Street Review. She is also a book reviewer and essayist whose pieces have appeared in many journals.

Saturday, February 04, 2023

THE COLD

by Liz Ahl




The wind tries every latch, each seam, but

it’s the knuckle-cracking record-breaking cold 

whose fists pound hourly the walls, the roof, 

cop-heavy menace, tree-fall percussive, 

making the house itself a booming bass drum 

or splintering ax fall or too-close shotgun blast—

anything but a place you'd want to rest your head.


No use trying to bar the door: the cold knocks 

from deep already inside, beneath the stain, 

in the tightest betweens, down in the grain 

where some breath of moisture kept its own counsel 

for as long as it could before it finally froze and fractured, 

abruptly unloading its long-kept secret, releasing

in a compulsive shout what was once unspeakable.


All day and into evening the house tries to undo itself

like this, in some weird winter molt—clapboards and nails 

popping in a deconstruction zone of home-unmaking, 

house un-warming—and so tonight we'll play at sleep, 

pray we'll wake to the still-ticking of the faucets

we left open to slow drip, to prevent the pipes 

from joining the home’s involuntary revolt against itself.



Liz Ahl is the author of A Case for Solace (Lily Poetry Review Books, 2022) and Beating the Bounds (Hobblebush Books, 2016), as well as several chapbooks. She lives in New Hampshire.

FINDING THE WORDS

by Darrell Petska


On the lookout for Chinese balloons for as long as it takes to be photographed.


Where within our nature that calls forth deities
exemplifying boundless love and mercy

Where on intellect’s rich plain that grows
a bounty of life-affirming arts and sciences

Where within the confines of flesh that spark
unbounded imagination and indomitable will—

Where are the words to convince us
that wars are not intrinsic to human nature, 
the road to lasting peace never passing 
through war, arms build-ups, and nuclear threats? 

What words are we missing to let us see
beyond sides to the one and only human side?

The words exist, but unless we find them soon,
we could miss forever our chance to use them.


Darrell Petska is a Middleton, Wisconsin poet. His faith in humanity, though sorely tested right now, holds strong.

Friday, February 03, 2023

AC-CENT-TCHU-ATE THE POSITIVE

by George Salamon



"After heavy criticism from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the College Board released on Wednesday an official curriculum for its new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies—stripped of much of the subject matter that had angered the governor and other conservatives.” —The New York Times, February 1, 2023


My country 'tis of thee, sweet 
land of hypocrisy, you cannot
make evil look good.
We had our own good try at a
Holocaust of the Indians, Black
slaves were privately owned
properties down home on the
plantation, young immigrant girls
were exploited in sweatshops in
Manhattan's garment district, coal
miners robbed of their meager
wages and their health, and our
bosses and Robber Barons hired
private dicks to beat up those
workers who dared to strike or
protest.
Nine decades ago our president
pushed through laws that brought
relief from capitalism's cruel rule, 
and he was called a traitor to his
class.
That class is back firmer in the
saddle than before, and the publican
politicians want keep our history washed
white of dark stains of blood, 
tears and despair


George Salamon does not think another FDR is waiting in the wings of our political theater, but he wishes one were there.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

IN MOSCOW

by Phyllis Wax


Natalia Samsonova says she imagines the muffled screams of those trapped under the rubble, the fire and smell of smoke, the grief of the mother who lost her husband and infant child beneath the ruins of the building in Dnipro bombed by Russia. She imagines being unable to breathe. That is why she is here, at a statue to the Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka, a largely unknown monument tucked away among Moscow’s brutalist apartment blocks that has hosted a furtive anti-war memorial at a time when few in Russia dare protest against the conflict. PHOTO: A woman holds a placard reading ‘Ukraine is not our enemy, they are our brothers’ in front of a monument to Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka in Moscow. Photograph: Reuters —The Guardian, January 28, 2023


On this poor, indigent ground
I shall sow flowers of flowing colors;
I shall sow flowers even amidst the frost,
And water them with my bitter tears.


Silently                    
they lay their flowers
before the poet’s statue.              

Alone
or in twos
they stand mute.

Thunderous      
in the silence
is their sorrow

their horror
and shame
at what Russia is doing.


Phyllis Wax watches the world from Milwaukee. Much of her poetry comes from her observations. She has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, in print and online.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

CONSIDER THE COMET

by Sally Zakariya





Some night a lucky few of us may spot
a comet poised in the northern sky,
its large body of dust and ice flaring
out behind it, trailing packets of light
we see as green.

They call it Comet C/2022 E3,
a mouthful of a name, and it hasn’t
come by for fifty thousand years,
cruising its elliptical orbit around
the sun in its own good time.

I read somewhere that life is held
together with imprecise words
and inexact thoughts, but
scientists seem pretty precise,
pretty exact, about this comet.

Or maybe it’s just life down here 
on earth that we ponder inexactly, 
imprecisely.

Maybe it’s just our worldly trials 
and tribulations that we approach 
guardedly, side-eyed, warily,
so much this, so little that.

Who can know what’s coming?

Perhaps it’s different for comets.
At any rate, unless its giant orbit 
takes it beyond our solar system, 
we can welcome old C/2022 again
fifty thousand years from now.


Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in some 100 publications and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her publications include Something Like a Life, Muslim Wife, The Unknowable Mystery of Other People, Personal Astronomy, and When You Escape. She edited and designed a poetry anthology, Joys of the Table, and blogs at www.butdoesitrhyme.com.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS ON CHATGPT

by Ann E. Wallace




Tell me about Tyre Nichols.
 
I don’t have any information
about Tyre Nichols as a person 
or a notable public figure.
 
Can you provide more context 
or details about who Tyre is 
or what you’re looking for?
 
Tell me about Tyre’s life.
 
Skateboarding appeals to young men
for several reasons:
     Independence
     Creativity
     Community
     Adventure
     Freedom
 
Skateboarding provides 
a sense of freedom. 
 
Tell me more.
 
Photographing sights of beauty within the city can be
a creative and rewarding hobby for young men.
 
Here are some reasons why:
     Creative outlet
     Exploration
     Documentary
     Social engagement
     Personal growth
 
Photography can help young men 
develop new perspectives, as they learn 
to see the world through a lens 
and express themselves.
 
Tell me about Tyre’s pain.
 
Crohn’s disease 
is a type of inflammatory bowel 
disease.
 
Symptoms include: 
     Pain
     Rectal bleeding
     Weight loss
     Fatigue.
 
Assault, such as being punched
or kicked, can cause intense physical pain,
further exacerbating these symptoms.
 
Tell me about his heart.
 
Parenting a 4-year can be both rewarding
and challenging. 
     Encourage independence.
     Foster creativity.
     Set boundaries. 
     Encourage physical activity. 
     Promote language development. 
     Use positive reinforcement. 
     Show affection.
     Be patient.
 
To help a 4-year old grieve
     Be honest
     Keep the memory alive
     Take care of yourself
 
To help a mother grieve
    Listen
    Respect her feelings
    Be patient

Tell me.
 
To help a nation heal
    Address the root causes
    Encourage reconciliation
    Foster
    Encourage
    Support
    Address
    Foster
    Encourage action
 
These steps are not exhaustive.
Process your emotions
Seek information
Take action
Stay informed
Practice Self Care.
 
Please tell me something about Tyre.
 
In Memphis, the sunsets in January 
are usually beautiful, 
a stunning display of warm
and vibrant colors.
 
The angle of the sun 
is lower in the sky,
which can result in longer
and more dramatic sunsets 
as the sun takes longer
to dip below the horizon.
 

Author’s noteI composed this poem by curating language from the AI platform ChatGPT's responses to a series of questions (not exclusively those in the poem) about Tyre Nichols. ChapGPT, an incredibly powerful artificial intelligence resource that has been touted as able to handle the most complex challenges, cannot begin to capture who Tyre Nichols was and what his life meant. It fails, just like humans so often do, to measure a life.


Ann E. Wallace is Poet Laureate of Jersey City, NJ, where she is an English Professor at New Jersey City University. Her work has appeared in The New Verse News, Huffington Post, Wordgathering, Gyroscope Review, and many other journals. Her published work is available online at AnnWallacePhD.com and on Instagram @annwallace409.

STREET CRIMES OPERATION TO RESTORE PEACE IN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS (SCORPION)

by John Whitney Steele





The predatory arachnids of the order,

Scorpiones, sit and wait for prey

to move, unknowing, into the ambush zone.


Once the prey has been detected 

they turn, run, and seize it. 


    If the prey

is perceived to be aggressive or active, 

they inject it with their venom.

Otherwise they simply hold and eat it.


The victim’s body parts are broken down,

liquified, and sucked into the scorpion’s 

stomach. 


The victim is gradually reduced

to a ball of indigestible 

material, 

which is cast aside.



John Whitney Steele is a psychologist, yoga teacher, assistant editor of Think: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction and Essays, and graduate of the MFA Poetry Program at Western Colorado University. His chapbook, The Stones Keep Watch, and his full length collection of poetry, Shiva’s Dance were recently published by Kelsay Books. John lives in Boulder, Colorado and enjoys hiking in the mountains.

Monday, January 30, 2023

HOW DO YOU DEFINE AN ENDING?

by Mark Danowsky


“Never-Ending Road” painting by Elizabeth Kenney


After three years, The New York Times announces that close coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic is coming to an end.


What has ended, I wonder,
And what has not?
 
So many with prolonged illness
Know the battle rages on 
 
And those soon to fall ill
And those who will fall ill
 
I count myself 
Among the lucky 
 
Recall my sureness
That I would not survive
 
Of course, few foresee
The deft hand of death 
 
His scythe, at times, the edge
Of visible—a bullet 
 
Stops the heart 
Without just cause
 
The needle droops 
In a useless arm 
 
Tires spin on ice
And metal crushes metal
 
A cloud opens up 
For tears to flood


Mark Danowsky is Editor-in-Chief of ONE ART: a journal of poetry. He is author of the poetry collections As Falls Trees (NightBallet Press), JAWN (Moonstone Press), Violet Flame (tiny wren lit), and Meatless (Plan B Press). Recent poems in Red Ogre Review, Green Ink Review, The Broadkill Review, anti-heroin chic, Harpy Hybrid Review, Otoliths, and elsewhere.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

WHAT THE DOOMSDAY CLOCK SAID

by Howie Good


As of January 24, the Doomsday Clock sits at 90 seconds to midnight. Jamie Christiani /   Bulletin of Atomic Scientists



The chemistry set I got for my 10th birthday came with glass test tubes and small bottles of dry chemicals in jewellike colors, plus a booklet with precise instructions on how to rubberize a hardboiled egg. It was the era of the Space Race. The scientist in the white lab coat held the Cold War rank of cultural spokesperson for progress. We were taught in school to worship science, as thousands of years ago a many-eyed beast with a body like a leopard’s and feet like a bear’s was worshipped. The clock declares it’s now nine seconds to midnight. Down in the street, an addled homeless man waves his arms around while remonstrating with a vicious-looking companion only he can see. 


Howie Good's latest poetry book is Swimming in Oblivion: New and Selected Poems from Redhawk Publications. He co-edits the journal UnLost, dedicated to found poetry.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

"WORSE" THAN RODNEY KING?

by L. Smith




56 baton blows.
6 neck kicks.
5 white officers.
A broken leg. Multiple facial fractures. Bruises. Contusions. Laser gun burns.
Worse than Rodney King?
If only we could ask Rodney King—
King who was jumped with expert-level lack of restraint and professional lack of protocol by five white officers—Koon, Powell, Wind, Briseno, and Solano—
King who was jumped so well and so wildly, with his body writhing with each raging blow, that all semblance of protect and serve faded to black.
And, 32 years post “the-video-that-changed-everything-and-nothing,”
A new video we watch—we waited to watch, sat on edge for its release while it was advertised and hyped up like it was the big fight—a new
video we watch
to rank and to compare
two police beatings
32 years apart
of motorists. Unarmed black men.
King and Nichols, both jumped initiation style by blue-cloaked vigilantes
and folks are watching and analyzing blows like this is the big match up.
Ranking police beatings? 
Is this the pic-a-nic culture of the not too distant south?
 
Worse than Rodney King?
If only we could ask Rodney King—  
Here’s a thought:
Was disciplinary action against the
5 white officers who beat Rodney King
worse than the disciplinary action against the
5 black officers—Haley, Mills, Martin III, Smith, and Bean—who beat Nichols?
5 black officers swiftly dealt with—
dealt with in a way that’s worse than
5 white officers who beat Rodney King—
5 black officers swiftly fired for excessive use of force,
Failing to intervene and
failing to render aid.
 
32 years ago, we had
5 indictments.
5 acquittals.
3 days of violence.
60 people killed.
Thousands injured.
Millions of dollars of property destroyed.
32 years post “the-video-that-changed-everything-and-nothing” we again have
1 unarmed black man
1 traffic stop
5 officers
1 brutal beating
1 unarmed motorist who was not so lucky.
“Rodney King was lucky.”
Was he really, though?
56 baton blows?
6 neck kicks?
5 white officers?
A broken leg? Multiple facial fractures? Bruises? Contusions? Laser gun burns?
Constitutional rights violated is luck?
Assault times five is luck?
“Rodney King lived.”
Did he though?
32 years apart from each other, are
2 motorists—unarmed, black men
brutally beaten by
5 officers
while traffic-stopped and the world later watched
and ranked and forgot the
five white acquitted officers—Koon, Powell, Wind, Briseno, and Solano—who jumped Rodney King.
Worse than Rodney King?
If only you could focus on the right scales.


Lynette Smith, a New Orleans native, is a writer, multi-certified, English and master reading teacher, who has freelanced for local newspapers. She has an anthology of poems and prose set to publish spring 2023 that her mother and daughter created space for her to write. She also has begun this blog for writer teachers.

MURDER IN MEMPHIS

by Jean Varda




We all felt it when the
men in uniform
tore him from his car,
threw him on the
pavement pressed his
face into the sidewalk.
We all felt it when they
tased and pepper sprayed
him as he ran for his life.
We all felt it when they
punched kicked and
stomped him.
We all heard him when he
called for his mother,
as he felt his life spiral
away from him
and we heard her
heart break.


Jean Varda's poetry has appeared in The New Verse News, California Quarterly, Evening Street Review, Raven's Perch, and Boston Literary Magazine. She recently published an anthology of her poetry titled: Oracle. She resides in Northern California where she leads writing groups and is writing her memoirs.

BINGE-WATCHING

by Daniel Romo




For Tyre
 
 
While viewing the reality show in which contestants
make knives from piles of metal, I think of the latest
 
group of police officers posing as contestants on their
own reality show where they compete by beating and
 
hammering out their victims, not to create an edge
sharp enough to slice through water bottles and sugar
 
cane, but to see which cop can deliver a kill shot of
their own. At the end of round one, the blades are
 
presented to the judges and whoever created the blade
that needs the most correction is eliminated, while in
 
round one, the cop on the scene that shows the most
acts of compassion is gone. In round two, handles are
 
added for grasping and the creator of the knife that
hurts the hand while being wielded is sent home and
 
in round two, the man in blue who tries to grip his
colleague into submission after repeated body blows
 
to the victim is asked not to return to the division.
The final round consists of the forgers returning
 
home to replicate a sword or ax or other weapon used
in battle by an extinct civilization. Upon returning to
 
the stage and after being tested and evaluated to see
who made the most accurate and devastatingly brutal
 
replica, the winner is selected and awarded $10,000,
while the winning police officer is determined by who
 
gets the most media coverage and who abused their
authority in the worst way all while finding the most
 
innocent man to kill.


Daniel Romo's latest book is Bum Knees and Grieving Sunsets (Flowersong Press 2023)

AGAINST THE DAILY NEWS

by Tom Bauer




Who raised these people to use sticks against
their fellow human beings and neighbors?
Who taught the stick to join a team and fight,
to bruise life and chase the lie of honor?

Who made these sticks and guns the tools of men?
Who tells them they have enemies to fight?
Who tells them to hit and kill their neighbors?
Who tells the lies that form the fighting teams?

Who gives them guns and laws to do these things?
Who tells them they can kill people on the streets?
Which of We The People will own their part?
Which leader? Voter? Parent? Teacher? Judge?
The enterslainment of the day? Who will
own that they, that We, have sanctioned these things?


Tom Bauer lives and works in Montreal.