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Wednesday, August 31, 2005


by Jen Hinton

It wasn’t the prayers
of today that saved them;
but the thousands of
ancient prayers lifted up
from long-ago slaves
for their freedkin 200
years later; waiting
eight hours in a line
of last resort for a
shelter cobbled together
with flimsy hope and
slapdash assurances
that it might be able to
withstand the forces
of Cat 5 tribulations.
Always waiting;
always praying;
always impoverished;
always choiceless;
always fucked.
Was it a city manager
who once stated,
“In any catastrophe,
the poor and the brown
are always the first to die?”
From New Orleans to
New Delhi. So,
the first thing
one must always
learn to do is to
and to pray.

Jen Hinton lives in Schaumburg, Illinois. She has been published in several anthologies, including Skin Deep, Prairie Hearts, and Alternatives: Roads Not Taken.

Monday, August 29, 2005


A Slam Poem
by Anna Witiuk

They see our hate
Using our love to recreate
A world full of overweight cheapskates

Filling bellies with mutilated manipulates

I cry for my freedom
To let our ideas bloom

Hearts consumed

One nations healthy womb

Reported on less cooperation

Inflation of one dictation's fucked-up proclamation

A man’s impersonation
Of one god's hallucination

Intoxication of interrogations
No realization of violations
To our souls

A hopeless fishbowl control
A burning flagpole
Unjustified death tolls

I climb this endless loophole
Trying to find myself
Trying to kill himself

Holding herself
Feeling the political bite

Uptight, neo-white, christianite

Sleep too tight
Politics bite

Anna Witiuk is a fifteen-year-old Manhattan high-school student.

Friday, August 26, 2005


by Sean Lause

The crowd cheers as the first line appears.
The summer’s pride, like the sweet, fragile air
lightning leaves in its wake,
their uniforms fresh and crisply white,
their eyes brimmed with visions
of harems whirling in honey sands.
The crowd longs to touch their prophesies,
but their sidewalk lives lack the kindred power.

The crowd sucks its straws in awe
of the men of Fall with wiser eyes
and graver steps
who refuse to be called a “Syndrome.”
Then the third line steps forward
with less assurance, hair tainted silver,
a look of shock almost comical,
that the betrayed often wear.

Then, while the pale watchers almost turn,
a row of invisible men drifts by
forgotten, though some sense a whispered hope,
since invisibility shimmers with pain.
The crowd excites, ecstatic with beer and popsicles,
as the greatest pass by, remembering proud,
in their eyes a still nobility, flags wagging,
guarding with honor the gold so once believed.

A brass band bangs by
to end the parade---
But then come the uninvited,
and the crowd shivers silent
as before them creep the faded green,
faces like closed fists, necks wrinkled dough,
stumping, as they try to gum the words
of a song no one can remember.

And last, driving the coward crowd retreat,
stagger the warriors of the Lost Cause.
The sun bleeds cancer bones. Overhead
hang the spent ghosts of wasted guns
and a star-crossed flag, blown with holes.
Their heads gleam like hysterical doorknobs.
Beast moans in hollow mouths, hands mere spiders,
their grey coats bleeding pride and sand.

And that night in all the town,
not one child dreamed of old renown.

Sean Lause has published criticism in The Winesburg Eagle: The Official Publication of the Sherwood Anderson Society, fiction in The Mid-American Review and Liquid, Ohio, and poetry in Poetry International, The Minnesota Review, Zillah, European Judaism, Arsenic Lobster, The Blue Collar Review, Bathtub Gin, Epicenter, RUAH, Miller’s Pond, Skidrow Penthouse, Paper Wasp and Frog Pond. He teaches English, Speech and a course in the Holocaust at Rhodes State College in Lima, Ohio .

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


by Laura Madeline Wiseman

I stopped driving the day
man was twice officiated
accidentally. I had given
up on gas, the twitch of
engine, lightheadedness
with a cheap green bike
a greased chain I voted
against the desert glare

Laura Madeline Wiseman is an award winning writer teaching at the University of Arizona. Her works have appeared in 13th Moon, The Comstock Review, Fiction International, Poetry Motel, Driftwood, apostrophe, Moondance, Familiar, Spire Magazine, Colere, Clare, Flyway Literature Review, Nebula, and other publications. She is the Literary Editor for IntheFray and a regular contributor to Empowerment4Women.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


by Bill Costley

for Cindy Sheehan

One sorrowful Mother
dragged her bleeding heart
to a ditch near his retreat

& he would not see her.
Her family disowned her;
her husband divorced her.

O, World, do not ignore
this sorrowful Mother
so disowned by power.

Bill Costley serves on the Steering Committee of the San Francisco chapter of the National Writers' Union.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


by Linda Simone
For Fanny Mbewe
Mchinji, Malawi - In the hours after James Mbewe was laid to rest three years ago, in an unmarked grave not far from here, his 23-year-old wife, Fanny, neither mourned him nor accepted visits from sympathizers. Instead, she hid in his sister's hut, hoping that the rest of her in-laws would not find her. But they hunted her down, she said, and insisted that if she refused to exorcise her dead husband's spirit, she would be blamed every time a villager died.
-- Sharon LaFraniere, New York Times, May 10, 2005

This is for you, Fanny, and all our sisters whose spirits are wiped away by tradition, another patriarchy where women are pawns. From his unmarked grave, even James approves as they drag you from your sister's Malawi hut for the final ritual in your husband's death: forced sex with James' cousin. This they say will save the people of your village from insanity, disease, save you. How did you feel, still nursing the wounds of widowhood, to be submitted to this savagery you must wear like bondage? How would you have felt if you did not agree and your countrymen dropped like flies? Afterward, you washed your most private places, desperate to ward off AIDS, hoping to save your children from becoming orphans. Today you look at me from a front-page photo, 26 years old now, traditional garb, arms crossed, feet firmly planted in dirt. Now you are news because a virus ravages your continent not because your slavery is accepted as custom. What are you asking me to do? 

Linda Simone's poems have appeared in Midnight Mind, Westview and Potomac Review, and in anthologies including en(compass) and Essential Love. She was former poetry editor and managing editor for Inkwell, the literary journal of Manhattanville College and now serves as faculty advisor. Moon, A Poem, her first book for children, was published in 2002.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


by Michele F. Cooper

According to the BBC, according to
the latest storm watch, to those
in the know, alignments will be formed
in hushed tones across the globe
until the flares subside, rock and flame
disturb the atmosphere, show who’s
got a finger on the nation’s pulse,
on the big red button, as the anchor says,
numbers in the black proving
the progress of energy and investment
in this time of national conflict.

According to the president, according
to his spokesman, according to the army
of reporters crowding the olive drapes,
leaning on the white marble for quick,
preliminary notes, the deed is history,
and solidarity is needed toward the world,
no one to see our splinters, they’re
top secret when the stripes are red,
like the edging around the envelope
he can’t show the crowd as he reads
from his slip of paper with three
small bullets digested into pablum.

According to the weatherman, according
to the news from California, big winds
are coming east, enough to shake
the foundations of Washington
and Jefferson smelling the cherry
blossoms before the stink of burnt oil
comes up from the Pentagon.

According to me, according to my friends
and colleagues, according to peace groups
across the country, standing in silence
with their nonviolent candles, according
to our elected rep on the steps
of the State House, standing as tall
as he can to reach the stationary mike
and tell the 6 o’clock news that, according
to the polls, no one wants the war.

Michele F. Cooper is the first-place winner in the 2002 TallGrass Poetry Competition, second-place winner in the 1999 Galway Kinnell Poetry Competition, a finalist in the 2004 War Poetry Competition; she has won honorable mentions in the 2003 Emily Dickinson Poetry Competition, the 2003 New Millennium Awards, and the 1999 Sacramento Poetry Competition. Her poetry and poetic prose have appeared in many journals including Larcom, Fiction International, Paumanok Review, Pedestal Magazine, R.I. Women Speak American Writing, Nedge, CQ, Faultline, Online Poetry and Story, and in a chapbook, Women on Women. She is the author of two books, founding editor of the Newport Review and Crone’s Nest, and of a chapbook series. She lives on a horse farm (not hers) in Portsmouth, RI.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


WASHINGTON (August 1, 2005) - President Bush waded into the debate over evolution and "intelligent design" Monday, saying schools should teach both theories on the creation and complexity of life.

by H. L. Mencken
from The Baltimore Evening Sun, June 29, 1925


Such obscenities as the forthcoming trial of the Tennessee evolutionist, if they serve no other purpose, at least call attention dramatically to the fact that enlightenment, among mankind, is very narrowly dispersed. It is common to assume that human progress affects everyone -- that even the dullest man, in these bright days, knows more than any man of, say, the Eighteenth Century, and is far more civilized. This assumption is quite erroneous. The men of the educated minority, no doubt, know more than their predecessors, and of some of them, perhaps, it may be said that they are more civilized -- though I should not like to be put to giving names -- but the great masses of men, even in this inspired republic, are precisely where the mob was at the dawn of history. They are ignorant, they are dishonest, they are cowardly, they are ignoble. They know little if anything that is worth knowing, and there is not the slightest sign of a natural desire among them to increase their knowledge.

Such immortal vermin, true enough, get their share of the fruits of human progress, and so they may be said, in a way, to have their part in it. The most ignorant man, when he is ill, may enjoy whatever boons and usufructs modern medicine may offer -- that is, provided he is not too poor to choose his own doctor. He is free, if he wants to, to take a bath. The literature of the world is at his disposal in public libraries. He may look at works of art. He may hear good music. He has at hand a thousand devices for making life less wearisome and more tolerable: the telephone, railroads, bichloride tablets, newspapers, sewers, correspondence schools, delicatessen. But he had no more to do with bringing these things into the world than the horned cattle in the fields, and he does no more to increase them today than the birds of the air.

On the contrary, he is generally against them, and sometimes with immense violence. Every step in human progress, from the first feeble stirrings in the abyss of time, has been opposed by the great majority of men. Every valuable thing that has been added to the store of man's possessions has been derided by them when it was new, and destroyed by them when they had the power. They have fought every new truth ever heard of, and they have killed every truth-seeker who got into their hands.


The so-called religious organizations which now lead the war against the teaching of evolution are nothing more, at bottom, than conspiracies of the inferior man against his betters. They mirror very accurately his congenital hatred of knowledge, his bitter enmity to the man who knows more than he does, and so gets more out of life. Certainly it cannot have gone unnoticed that their membership is recruited, in the overwhelming main, from the lower orders -- that no man of any education or other human dignity belongs to them. What they propose to do, at bottom and in brief, is to make the superior man infamous -- by mere abuse if it is sufficient, and if it is not, then by law.

Such organizations, of course, must have leaders; there must be men in them whose ignorance and imbecility are measurably less abject than the ignorance and imbecility of the average. These super-Chandala often attain to a considerable power, especially in democratic states. Their followers trust them and look up to them; sometimes, when the pack is on the loose, it is necessary to conciliate them. But their puissance cannot conceal their incurable inferiority. They belong to the mob as surely as their dupes, and the thing that animates them is precisely the mob's hatred of superiority. Whatever lies above the level of their comprehension is of the devil. A glass of wine delights civilized men; they themselves, drinking it, would get drunk. Ergo, wine must be prohibited. The hypothesis of evolution is credited by all men of education; they themselves can't understand it. Ergo, its teaching must be put down.

This simple fact explains such phenomena as the Tennessee buffoonery. Nothing else can. We must think of human progress, not as of something going on in the race in general, but as of something going on in a small minority, perpetually beleaguered in a few walled towns. Now and then the horde of barbarians outside breaks through, and we have an armed effort to halt the process. That is, we have a Reformation, a French Revolution, a war for democracy, a Great Awakening. The minority is decimated and driven to cover. But a few survive -- and a few are enough to carry on.


The inferior man's reasons for hating knowledge are not hard to discern. He hates it because it is complex -- because it puts an unbearable burden upon his meager capacity for taking in ideas. Thus his search is always for short cuts. All superstitions are such short cuts. Their aim is to make the unintelligible simple, and even obvious. So on what seem to be higher levels. No man who has not had a long and arduous education can understand even the most elementary concepts of modern pathology. But even a hind at the plow can grasp the theory of chiropractic in two lessons. Hence the vast popularity of chiropractic among the submerged -- and of osteopathy, Christian Science and other such quackeries with it. They are idiotic, but they are simple -- and every man prefers what he can understand to what puzzles and dismays him.
The popularity of Fundamentalism among the inferior orders of men is explicable in exactly the same way. The cosmogonies that educated men toy with are all inordinately complex. To comprehend their veriest outlines requires an immense stock of knowledge, and a habit of thought. It would be as vain to try to teach to peasants or to the city proletariat as it would be to try to teach them to streptococci. But the cosmogony of Genesis is so simple that even a yokel can grasp it. It is set forth in a few phrases. It offers, to an ignorant man, the irresistible reasonableness of the nonsensical. So he accepts it with loud hosannas, and has one more excuse for hating his betters.

Politics and the fine arts repeat the story. The issues that the former throw up are often so complex that, in the present state of human knowledge, they must remain impenetrable, even to the most enlightened men. How much easier to follow a mountebank with a shibboleth -- a Coolidge, a Wilson or a Roosevelt! The arts, like the sciences, demand special training, often very difficult. But in jazz there are simple rhythms, comprehensible even to savages.


What all this amounts to is that the human race is divided into two sharply differentiated and mutually antagonistic classes, almost two genera -- a small minority that plays with ideas and is capable of taking them in, and a vast majority that finds them painful, and is thus arrayed against them, and against all who have traffic with them. The intellectual heritage of the race belongs to the minority, and to the minority only. The majority has no more to do with it than it has to do with ecclesiastic politics on Mars. In so far as that heritage is apprehended, it is viewed with enmity. But in the main it is not apprehended at all.

That is why Beethoven survives. Of the 110,000,000 so-called human beings who now live in the United States, flogged and crazed by Coolidge, Rotary, the Ku Klux and the newspapers, it is probable that at least 108,000,000 have never heard of him at all. To these immortals, made in God's image, one of the greatest artists the human race has ever produced is not even a name. So far as they are concerned he might as well have died at birth. The gorgeous and incomparable beauties that he created are nothing to them. They get no value out of the fact that he existed. They are completely unaware of what he did in the world, and would not be interested if they were told.

The fact saves good Ludwig's bacon. His music survives because it lies outside the plane of the popular apprehension, like the colors beyond violet or the concept of honor. If it could be brought within range, it would at once arouse hostility. Its complexity would challenge; its lace of moral purpose would affright. Soon there would be a movement to put it down, and Baptist clergymen would range the land denouncing it, and in the end some poor musician, taken in the un-American act of playing it, would be put on trial before a jury of Ku Kluxers, and railroaded to the calaboose.

The wit and passion and power of the prose of H. L. Mencken (1880-1956), the most prominent journalist of his era, remain incomparable and timely.

Monday, August 08, 2005


by Latorial Faison

they have been strewn all about me
my bed, my children, my home, my life
dusty pieces of denial that cling to us

as my children wander into our kitchen
for cool glasses of milk and into our arms
for comfort, the memories stick like grit

as we caress one another from head to toe
we still feel the fear of yesterdays filled with
so much unknown, uncertainty, unrest

there are too many sands of sadness, yet
we pick up the pieces every day to move
on from what carried us so far away

Latorial Faison is the founding editor of and the author of two books. She is a native of Virginia who currently travels the globe with her husband, a soldier, and their two children. Faison teaches college English and provides motivational speeches to community groups. Through poetry Faison speaks out on social, political and religious issues of our time.

Friday, August 05, 2005


by Bill Costley
from his ongoing Benny the Vatican Rat

"His subtle seductions are barely noticeable,
because of that, deeply affect (children),
corrupt Christian faith in souls even before
it could properly grow," hisses Benny

the Vatican Rat, deep-dissing Harry Potter,
spawn of J.K. Rowling, corrupter of souls,
indulging himself in what children enjoy:
fantasy power. Opus Dei incinerates Harry

in the square of faithful cities & towns,
pissing on the boy wizard's paper ashes:
"No boy wizard shall escape burning, no
corrupter of youth shall escape fire."

Bill Costley has just been elected to the Steering Committee of the San Francisco chapter of the National Writers' Union.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


by Millard Lampell/Lee Hays/Pete Seeger

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jul 26, 2005 (OneWorld) - Two major unions broke away from the AFL-CIO Monday, stripping the premier U.S. labor federation of nearly one-fourth of its membership in what appeared to be the largest shakeup of the nation's organized workforce since the Great Depression.

“At a time when our corporate and conservative adversaries have created the most powerful anti-worker political machine in the history of our country, a divided movement hurts the hopes of working families for a better life,'' [AFL-CIO President John] Sweeney said.

Now, if you want higher wages let me tell you what to do
You got to talk to the workers in the shop with you.
You got to build you a union, got to make it strong,
But if you all stick together, boys, it won't be long.
You get shorter hours, better working conditions,
Vacations with pay. Take your kids to the seashore.

It ain't quite this simple, so I better explain
Just why you got to ride on the union train.
'Cause if you wait for the boss to raise your pay,
We'll all be a-waitin' 'til Judgment Day.
We'll all be buried, gone to heaven,
St. Peter'll be the straw boss then.

Now you know you're underpaid but the boss says you ain't;
He speeds up the work 'til you're 'bout to faint.
You may be down and out, but you ain't beaten,
You can pass out a leaflet and call a meetin'.
Talk it over, speak your mind,
Decide to do somethin' about it.

Course, the boss may persuade some poor damn fool
To go to your meetin' and act like a stool.
But you can always tell a stool, though, that's a fact,
He's got a yaller streak a-runnin' down his back.
He doesn't have to stool, he'll always get along
On what he takes out of blind men's cups.

You got a union now, and you're sittin' pretty,
Put some of the boys on the steering committee.
The boss won't listen when one guy squawks,
But he's got to listen when the union talks.
He'd better, be mighty lonely
Everybody decide to walk out on him.

Suppose they're working you so hard it's just outrageous
And they're paying you all starvation wages.
You go to the boss and the boss would yell,
"Before I raise your pay I'd see you all in hell."
Well, he's puffing a big seegar, feeling mighty slick
'Cause he thinks he's got your union licked.
Well, he looks out the window and what does he see
But a thousand pickets, and they all agree:
He's a bastard, unfair, slavedriver,
Bet he beats his wife!

Now, boys, you've come to the hardest time.
The boss will try to bust your picket line.
He'll call out the police, the National Guard,
They'll tell you it's a crime to have a union card.
They'll raid your meetin', they'll hit you on the head,
They'll call every one of you a goddam red,
Unpatriotic, Japanese spies, sabotaging national defense!

But out at Ford, here's what they found,
And out at Vultee, here's what they found,
And out at Allis-Chalmers, here's what they found,
And down at Bethlehem, here's what they found:
That if you don't let red-baiting break you up,
And if you don't let stoolpigeons break you up,
And if you don't let vigilantes break you up,
And if you don't let race hatred break you up,
You'll win. What I mean, take it easy, but take it!

Millard Lampell, Lee Hays, and Pete Seeger (to the right of Woody Guthrie in the photo), founders of The Almanac Singers, wrote this song in 1941. The Almanacs' songs were indistinguishable from their politics—pro-labor and anti-war.