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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

SELECTED SHORT SUBJECT

by James Penha


Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them,
his American jailers continued to torment him.
--Tim Golden, NY Times, May 20, 2005



                                                           ESTRAGON
: I wasn't doing anything.
                                                           VLADIMIR: Then why did they beat you?
                                                           ESTRAGON
: I don't know.
                                                           VLADIMIR: Ah no, Gogo, the truth is there are
                                                           things that escape you that don't escape me,
                                                           you must feel it yourself.
--Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot



Like little Lou Costello mistaken
for a man with brains to power
the Frankenstein monster
and so shackled by the undead,
Dilawar stutters to explain
he doesn’t know.
In the audience, we love
fear in burlesque:

           “H-H-H . . . He-He-He . . .” He

swirls his index finger in space
to stir up a scream,
but inspires merely a wheeze or two:

           “H-H-H . . . He-He-He . . .” He

tries two fingers in his mouth
to whistle for help
but only blows:

           “Wh-Wh-Wh- . . .” We

laugh like crazy waiting for it every time:
the sudden esophogeal liberation:

           “Hey, Abbott! Hey, Abbott!”

But when Bud arrives the monsters hide
so Bud too smacks Lou
demanding to know what’s wrong?
when nothing’s wrong!
Without words
for what he can not comprehend,
Lou dribbles
and gibbers,
and we are all as hysterical
as Military Intelligence Buds at Bagram
smacking Dilawar with peritoneal strikes
to get him to holla:

           “Allah! Allah!”

Of course they drop his drawers—
a gag as old as Minsky’s. And ask—
get this:

           “You want some water?”
           Little Dilawar nods.
           “NIAGARA FALLS!”
           And a bucketful is poured on his head.

                                                                                 Boffo!

The bucket hooding his noggin,
Dilawar in the dark loses perspective;
he trips on his own underwear.

                                                                                 Ba dum doom!

We know what’s next--
A few peritoneal strikes and away we go:

           “Hey, Allah! Hey, Allah!”

We just can’t stand it!
Neither Dilawar.
By now every time MI Buds raise him up,
his skinny legs flop and flip like Ray Bolger’s
on a bad straw day.

For the Base sawbones,
MI Buds stretch Dilawar’s arms
round their shoulders
to re-erect him one last time,
before they let him
c
   o
       l                                                                        Plinkety-plunkety
           l                                                                    Plunkety-plunk.
               a
                   p
                       se with a xylophone riff.

           So the doc inquires,
           “Has this happened before?
           Dilawar nods.
           “Well, it’s happened again!”

                                                                                 Da da da da da da
                                                                                 da da da da da da
                                                                                 da da da da da da da da.

And MI Buds figure if Dilawar can’t stand on his own two feet,
they’ll hoist him up with chains
and shackle him to the ceiling
by his wrists
like Houdini.

But the Buds have made a monstrous mistake:

Houdini wasn’t funny.


James Penha edits The New Verse News.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

MY GRADUATION SPEECH

CLASSIC NEWS
from Conscientious Objections (1992)
by Neil Postman (1931-2003)



Having sat through two dozen or so graduation speeches, I have naturally wondered why they are so often so bad. One reason, of course, is that the speakers are chosen for their eminence in some field, and not because they are either competent speakers or gifted writers. Another reason is that the audience is eager to be done with all ceremony so that it can proceed to some serious reveling. Thus any speech longer than, say, fifteen minutes will seem tedious, if not entirely pointless. There are other reasons as well, including the difficulty of saying something inspirational without being banal. Here I try my hand at writing a graduation speech, and not merely to discover if I can conquer the form. This is precisely what I would like to say to young people if I had their attention for a few minutes.

If you think my graduation speech is good, I hereby grant you permission to use it, without further approval from or credit to me, should you be in an appropriate situation.

Members of the faculty, parents, guests, and graduates, have no fear. I am well aware that on a day of such high excitement, what you require, first and foremost, of any speaker is brevity. I shall not fail you in this respect. There are exactly eighty-five sentences in my speech, four of which you have just heard. It will take me about twelve minutes to speak all of them and I must tell you that such economy was not easy for me to arrange, because I have chosen as my topic the complex subject of your ancestors. Not, of course, your biological ancestors, about whom I know nothing, but your spiritual ancestors, about whom I know a little. To be specific, I want to tell you about two groups of people who lived many years ago but whose influence is still with us. They were very different from each other, representing opposite values and traditions. I think it is appropriate for you to be reminded of them on this day because, sooner than you know, you must align yourself with the spirit of one or the spirit of the other.

The first group lived about 2,500 years ago in the place which we now call Greece, in a city they called Athens. We do not know as much about their origins as we would like. But we do know a great deal about their accomplishments. They were, for example, the first people to develop a complete alphabet, and therefore they became the first truly literate population on earth. They invented the idea of political democracy, which they practiced with a vigor that puts us to shame. They invented what we call philosophy. And they also invented what we call logic and rhetoric. They came very close to inventing what we call science, and one of them-Democritus by name-conceived of the atomic theory of matter 2,300 years before it occurred to any modern scientist. They composed and sang epic poems of unsurpassed beauty and insight. And they wrote and performed plays that, almost three millennia later, still have the power to make audiences laugh and weep. They even invented what, today, we call the Olympics, and among their values none stood higher than that in all things one should strive for excellence. They believed in reason. They believed in beauty. They believed in moderation. And they invented the word and the idea which we know today as ecology.

About 2,000 years ago, the vitality of their culture declined and these people began to disappear. But not what they had created. Their imagination, art, politics, literature, and language spread all over the world so that, today, it is hardly possible to speak on any subject without repeating what some Athenian said on the matter 2,500 years ago.

The second group of people lived in the place we now call Germany, and flourished about 1,700 years ago. We call them the Visigoths, and you may remember that your sixth or seventh-grade teacher mentioned them. They were spectacularly good horsemen, which is about the only pleasant thing history can say of them. They were marauders-ruthless and brutal. Their language lacked subtlety and depth. Their art was crude and even grotesque. They swept down through Europe destroying everything in their path, and they overran the Roman Empire. There was nothing a Visigoth liked better than to burn a book, desecrate a building, or smash a work of art. From the Visigoths, we have no poetry, no theater, no logic, no science, no humane politics.

Like the Athenians, the Visigoths also disappeared, but not before they had ushered in the period known as the Dark Ages. It took Europe almost a thousand years to recover from the Visigoths.

Now, the point I want to make is that the Athenians and the Visigoths still survive, and they do so through us and the ways in which we conduct our lives. All around us-in this hall, in this community, in our city-there are people whose way of looking at the world reflects the way of the Athenians, and there are people whose way is the way of the Visigoths. I do not mean, of course, that our modern-day Athenians roam abstractedly through the streets reciting poetry and philosophy, or that the modern-day Visigoths are killers. I mean that to be an Athenian or a Visigoth is to organize your life around a set of values. An Athenian is an idea. And a Visigoth is an idea. Let me tell you briefly what these ideas consist of.

To be an Athenian is to hold knowledge and, especially the quest for knowledge in high esteem. To contemplate, to reason, to experiment, to question-these are, to an Athenian, the most exalted activities a person can perform. To a Visigoth, the quest for knowledge is useless unless it can help you to earn money or to gain power over other people.

To be an Athenian is to cherish language because you believe it to be humankind's most precious gift. In their use of language, Athenians strive for grace, precision, and variety. And they admire those who can achieve such skill. To a Visigoth, one word is as good as another, one sentence in distinguishable from another. A Visigoth's language aspires to nothing higher than the cliché.

To be an Athenian is to understand that the thread which holds civilized society together is thin and vulnerable; therefore, Athenians place great value on tradition, social restraint, and continuity. To an Athenian, bad manners are acts of violence against the social order. The modern Visigoth cares very little about any of this. The Visigoths think of themselves as the center of the universe. Tradition exists for their own convenience, good manners are an affectation and a burden, and history is merely what is in yesterday's newspaper.

To be an Athenian is to take an interest in public affairs and the improvement of public behavior. Indeed, the ancient Athenians had a word for people who did not. The word was idiotes, from which we get our word "idiot." A modern Visigoth is interested only in his own affairs and has no sense of the meaning of community.

And, finally, to be an Athenian is to esteem the discipline, skill, and taste that are required to produce enduring art. Therefore, in approaching a work of art, Athenians prepare their imagination through learning and experience. To a Visigoth, there is no measure of artistic excellence except popularity. What catches the fancy of the multitude is good. No other standard is respected or even acknowledged by the Visigoth.

Now, it must be obvious what all of this has to do with you. Eventually, like the rest of us, you must be on one side or the other. You must be an Athenian or a Visigoth. Of course, it is much harder to be an Athenian, for you must learn how to be one, you must work at being one, whereas we are all, in a way, natural-born Visigoths. That is why there are so many more Visigoths than Athenians. And I must tell you that you do not become an Athenian merely by attending school or accumulating academic degrees. My father-in-law was one of the most committed Athenians I have ever known, and he spent his entire adult life working as a dress cutter on Seventh Avenue in New York City. On the other hand, I know physicians, lawyers, and engineers who are Visigoths of unmistakable persuasion. And I must also tell you, as much in sorrow as in shame, that at some of our great universities, perhaps even this one, there are professors of whom we may fairly say they are closet Visigoths. And yet, you must not doubt for a moment that a school, after all, is essentially an Athenian idea. There is a direct link between the cultural achievements of Athens and what the faculty at this university is all about. I have no difficulty imagining that Plato, Aristotle, or Democritus would be quite at home in our class rooms. A Visigoth would merely scrawl obscenities on the wall.

And so, whether you were aware of it or not, the purpose of your having been at this university was to give you a glimpse of the Athenian way, to interest you in the Athenian way. We cannot know on this day how many of you will choose that way and how many will not. You are young and it is not given to us to see your future. But I will tell you this, with which I will close: I can wish for you no higher compliment than that in the future it will be reported that among your graduating class the Athenians mightily outnumbered the Visigoths.

Thank you, and congratulations.


Neil Postman was a prominent American educator, media theorist and cultural critic. In 1971, he founded the program in media ecology at the Steinhardt School of Education of New York University, attracting a large audience for his lectures and writings over the years. His books include Amusing Ourselves to Death, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, The Soft Revolution, The Disappearance of Childhood, Conscientious Objections and The End of Education.

Friday, May 27, 2005

THE DEATH OF HUNTER S. THOMPSON


hst-1
Originally uploaded by J.Olson.
by Michael Brady


At night on longish sweeps of coastal road,
as fog and dampness coat the graveled path
and ocean winds caress the broken shore
with summer mists that wash the evening clean.

The engine roar ablates an icy steam
as man and bike now drift to catch an edge;
the drop-off deep, its concrete railings worn,
the centerline now vague and mostly gone.
The engine redlines, clutching up a gear,
as silence screams beneath a rubber smell.

The black Madonna two-wheeled gypsy whore
on meaty beast of iron polished bright,
soft helmet flapping loose against the wind
as haunches flex to seat him for the slide.
His fears a focused symmetry of time
as seconds tick in hours yet to run.

With speed, the secret gift the gods allow--
it bites in chattered twisting as it pulls,
and hops, and jerks, and burns the ground in touch . . .
then digs-- its soul a solid angered thrust.

It snaps upright and scatters broken rock
and leaves the touch of edges razor cut.

He rolls his chair in stagnant kitchen heat.
The wordy bastard lifts a loaded gun,
and turns the engine's key to stop, and steps,
and makes the slide to edges lonely death.

The edge, a force we walk along in life,
inspired torch that burns an honest truth . . .
A way to fight the coming of our end,
The way we carve our names among the dead.


Michael Brady is a 50 year old Journalism Major at San Jose State University--a senior.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

SCHOOLDAYS

by Stuart Salomon

AUSTIN, Texas - May 18, 2005 - A pre-kindergarten student
brought a handgun to school, where it was seized
by a fifth-grader and turned over to the principal,
school district officials said Tuesday.

Bobby had a shiny gun,
It looked so awesome gray,
He brandished it in nursery school
And joined the NRA.


Stuart Salomon is an English teacher at Jakarta International School. He has not been awarded any Purple Hearts for teaching.

Monday, May 23, 2005

THE WAL-MART PARKING LOT OUT OF GREENWOOD, MISSISSIPPI

by Joe Wilkins


They called up the Mississippi National Guard
in early April, the war still

new and dazzling as the dark faces
of these cotton town Delta boys.

There must be a thousand of them!
And all the sleek busses,

their bellies filling with children.


Joe Wilkins is currently enrolled in the MFA program at the University of Idaho, and his work has been previously published, or is forthcoming, in Talking River Review, California Quarterly, Touchstone, Vox, Mankato, Concho River Review, and Plainsongs.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

CYCLUS INTERRUPTUS

(an alternative ending to our flash non-fiction “Protocols” posted on May 18)

WASHINGTON, May 20 [by Elisabeth Bumiller, NY Times ] Laura Bush said today that her husband should have been interrupted on a bicycle ride last week and told that an off-course plane had prompted a frantic evacuation of the capital.

Friday, May 20, 2005

BATTERED AT THE SHELTER

by Britton Carducci


Mother’s Day
Dinner for the battered,
Downtrodden, homeless.
I expected worn faces
But was still struck:
By the weatheredness of them:
The cane-walking twenty-eight year old;
The newborn mother,
Whose sadness was visibly throbbing.
Glad I brought the bag of brand new infant clothes,
My baby never-born philanthropy.
I was struck
By the humany smell that saturated the room.
Know this: homeless women smell
Like old shit and greasy hair and vagina.


I cut the fat boy’s, the neglected boy’s steak,
I brought him mashed potatoes, more soda.
I made him laugh. He looked at me
Like I could be the mother he never had.
For that moment, I was.
He was mine. I was his.
I was stability. I was love. I know that, and I know
These are the moments that will kill him,
Deader than the father-inflicted cigarette burns
I saw there, plain as day, on his forearm.
Quicker than the mother sitting next to him,
Saying nothing but shutthefuckup shutthefuckup .

For him-- the fat boy, the neglected boy, the glimpses
Of what we take for granted:
These moments dangling before his nose
Like a carrot on a string--
These are the moments that will kill him,
And too, the children he will put cigarettes out on one day.

And I wish I had made some difference.


Britton Carducci is a recent graduate of Rutgers University. She is an aspiring poet and fiction writer who is eternally rubbing balm into the rope burn on her palms. She is the winner of The Crucible's National Flash Fiction Contest and has been published in Objet D'art, the literary magazine of Rutgers College. Despite the blisters, she hopes to slowly but surely learn the ropes of the publishing world.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

PROTOCOLS

FLASH NON-FICTION
by Scott McLellan & the White House Press Corps
12 May 2005


Q: Scott, yesterday the White House was on red alert, was evacuated. The first lady and Nancy Reagan were taken to a secure location. The Vice President was evacuated from the grounds. The Capitol building was evacuated. The continuity of government plan was initiated. And yet the president wasn't told of yesterday's events until after he finished his bike ride, about 36 minutes after the all-clear had been sent. Is he satisfied with the fact that he wasn't notified about this?
McCLELLAN: Yes. I think you just brought up a very good point -- the protocols that were in place after Sept. 11 were followed. The president was never considered to be in danger because he was at an off-site location. The president has a tremendous amount of trust in his Secret Service detail. ...

Q: The fact that the president wasn't in danger is one aspect of this. But he's also the commander in chief. There was a military operation underway. Other people were in contact with the White House. Shouldn't the commander in chief have been notified of what was going on?
McCLELLAN: John, the protocols that we put in place after Sept. 11 were being followed. They did not require presidential authority for this situation. I think you have to look at each situation and the circumstances surrounding the situation. And that's what officials here at the White House were doing. ...

Q: Even on a personal level, did nobody here at the White House think that calling the president to say, by the way, your wife has been evacuated from the White House, we just want to let you know everything is OK?
McCLELLAN: Actually, all the protocols were followed and people were -- officials that you point out were taken to secure locations or evacuated, in some cases. I think, again, you have to look at the circumstances surrounding the situation, and it depends on the situation and the circumstance. ...

Q: Nobody thought to say, by the way, this is going on, but it's all under control?
McCLELLAN: And I think it depends on each situation and the circumstances surrounding the situation when you're making those decisions.

Q: Isn't there a bit of an appearance problem, notwithstanding the president's safety was not in question, protocols were followed, that today, looking at it, he was enjoying a bike ride, and that recreation time was not considered expendable to inform him of this.
McCLELLAN: Well, I mean, John mentioned 36 minutes after the all-clear. Remember, this was a matter of minutes when all this was happening. ...

Q: But has the President even indicated that even if everything was followed that he would prefer to be notified, that if the choice is: tell the commander in chief or let him continue to exercise, that he would prefer to be informed?
McCLELLAN: Again, it depends on the situation and the circumstances. And you have to take all that into account, and I think that's what people were doing here at the White House, as well as those people that were with the president.

Q: I think there's a disconnect here because, I mean, yesterday you had more than 30,000 people who were evacuated, you had millions of people who were watching this on television, and there was a sense at some point -- it was a short window, a 15-minute window, but there was a sense of confusion among some on the streets. There was a sense of fear. And people are wondering was this not a moment for the president to exercise some leadership, some guidance during that period of time?
McCLELLAN: The president did lead, and the president did that after September the 11th when we put the protocols in place to make sure that situations like this were addressed before it was too late. And that was the case -- that was the case in this situation. ...

Q: I have one more question. When we walked out of this door yesterday, when those of us who heard that there was a situation, when we walked out of the door, we heard aircraft, jets overhead. There is a concern that that plane came closer to the White House than the White House said, more -- it came within the three-mile radius, it was closer than you --
McCLELLAN: Yes, I said that it came within three miles.

Q: OK, but you said three miles. How close --
McCLELLAN: Yes, it came within three miles.

Q: How close was it? Because someone has taken a picture of a plane being escorted on K street. How close was the plane?
McCLELLAN: Yes, I mean, if the Department of Homeland Security or FAA has any additional information, I'm sure --

Q: Scott, how close was it?
McCLELLAN: April, it was within --

Q: You know how close it was. Please tell us.
McCLELLAN: Yes, within three miles. I don't know beyond that. Go ahead.

Q: Might there be something wrong with protocols that render the president unnecessary when the alarm is going off at his house?
McCLELLAN: That's not at all what occurred, Ken. And I would disagree strongly with the way you characterize it for the reasons I started earlier, and that I talked about. This was a situation where the president was in an off-site location. He was not in danger, a situation where protocols have been put in place to address the situation. The protocols were followed. ...

Q: And those protocols are OK with the president despite the fact that his wife was in a situation where she might have been endangered?
McCLELLAN: She was taken to a secure location, as were some other officials.

Q: And wouldn't he want to know about that as it was happening?
McCLELLAN: He was briefed about the situation.

Q: After it happened.
McCLELLAN: He was briefed about the situation, Ken. And I think that he wants to make sure that the protocols that are in place are followed. The protocols that were in place were followed.

Q: Scott, to follow on the same line of questioning, if there is a possibility that a plane may have to be shot down over Washington, doesn't the President want to be involved in that type of decision?
McCLELLAN: Well, Keith, I think again, it depends on the circumstances in the situation. You have to look at each individual situation and the circumstances surrounding that situation. There are protocols --

Q: Doesn't the President want to be involved in what could be a decision to shoot down a plane over Washington?
McCLELLAN: To answer your question, I was just getting ready to address exactly what you're bringing up. The protocols that were put in place after Sept. 11 include protocols for that, as well. And there are protocols there. They're classified. But they do not require presidential authority. ...

Q: They don't require presidential authority, but they don't obviate the need for presidential authority, do they? They don't say the president cannot be involved --
McCLELLAN: Like I said, that depends on --

Q: -- wouldn't he want to be involved --
McCLELLAN: It depends on the circumstances and it depends on the situation.

Q: And wasn't there a possibility that a plane headed for the White House, that this was the leading edge of some broader attack, isn't the president concerned that maybe he should have been alerted to the fact that this could have been the beginning of a general attack?
McCLELLAN: That was not the case, and I think the Department of Defense yesterday indicated that they didn't sense any hostile intent on the part of the plane, so again --

Q: How did they know -- how did they know this plane wasn't laden with WMD or some other type of weapons like that? Did they get reassurances from the pilot? Or how did they know that?
McCLELLAN: Well, again, if you want to give me a chance to respond, I'll be glad to. The protocols were followed. This situation, as you're well aware, turned out to be an accident. The Department of Defense pointed out yesterday that they didn't sense any hostile intent on the part of the plane. There were fighter jets scrambled. There was a Blackhawk helicopter scrambled, as well, to get in contact with the plane. ...

Q: So if it was assessed that there was no hostile intent on the part of this aircraft, can you tell us why 30,000 people -- 35,000 people were told to run for their lives?
McCLELLAN: Because of the protocols that are in place, John. We want to make sure that the people in the area of the threat are protected. After --

Q: But what was the threat? You just said there was no threat.
McCLELLAN: John, after Sept. 11, we have to take into account the world that we live in. We live in a very different world than we did before Sept. 11. And the president is going to do everything in his power to make sure we are protecting the American people and to make sure that the people in areas that could be high-risk areas are protected, as well.

Q: Right, but there seems to be so many disconnects here. You've got a plane that was assessed as not being a threat, you've got 35,000 people evacuated, you've got a person who you claim is a hands-on commander in chief who is left to go ride his bicycle through the rural wildlands of Maryland while his wife is in some secure location somewhere, it's just not adding up.
McCLELLAN: Well, John, I disagree, and let me tell you why: You have highly skilled professionals who are involved in situations like this, in a variety of different fronts, from our Homeland Security officials to our National Security Council officials to our Secret Service officials and to others and to local officials, and they work very closely together. The protocols that were put in place were followed, and I think they were followed well.

Monday, May 16, 2005

IN THE ZONE (SOUTHERN GAZA STRIP)

by Alicia Benjamin-Samuels


The current issue of Harper’s Magazine reports that a company commander gave orders in January 2005 to shoot and kill any Palestinian found in an “inappropriate location” near Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. The commander faces a maximum of three years in prison for his part in this crime of overseeing the killing of a ten-year-old Palestinian girl and calling for the death of children.


“Arab”
female spotted
inside Israeli zone.
[Gunfire]. Soldier: “You dropped her.”
“Down. Kill confirmed. Over.”
“Girl under 10?”
“Roger.”
“If you
see movement in
the zone-even a three
year old-don’t hesitate to kill,”
Company Commander
said. “Stay in the
Zone!”


Alicia Benjamin-Samuels is a poet and performer who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her family. Her poems have been published in London’s X Magazine, Black Arts Quarterly, WarpLand, Philadelphia’s Open City: A Journal of Community Arts and Culture, Yale University’s Black Ivy, and Web zines: The Eintouist and SeeingBlack.com. Her poem “The Way of a Lover” was featured in Londonart.co.uk’s 2005 Art of Love exhibit.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

RESPECTABLE WAGE

by allan a. hawks


Shine dis moanin’ mistuh?
Let me check ya baggage
What about a nice cologne?
Thank you fo’ da cabbage.
Sho’ dis here b enuff
What you talk’n ‘bout?
Kinda tip you give’n me
Make me jump n shout
JESUS! Hallelujah!
I’m so glad I’s free
But now here dis Mexican
Undercutt’n me
Holy JESUS MASSUH!
What I gonna do?
‘sides dis here humility
I ain’t gotta clue
Gangstas fill yo prison
Competition stiff
Still I needa eat today
Gotta find a griff
Sho’ b a fine suit you got
Business you b in?
Look to be about my size
Here we goes agin
GRIN!


allan a. hawks: Freelance, activist poet from NJ. Couple chapbooks dat's all.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

HARD TIMES, COME AGAIN NO MORE

CLASSIC VERSE NEWS (from 1855)
by Stephen Foster (1826-1864)

A federal bankruptcy judge approved United Airlines' plan to terminate its employees' pension plans on Tuesday, clearing the way for the largest corporate-pension default in American history. That will save cash-strapped United an estimated $645 million a year, part of the $2 billion in annual savings it says it needs to line up enough financing to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy as soon as this fall. But the cost will be painful to its employees, many of whom stand to lose thousands of dollars annually off their pensions when they are assumed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
--Dave Carpenter, AP Wire Story, 11 May 2005


While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,
There are frail forms fainting at the door.
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh! hard times, come again no more.

Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor.
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears,
Oh! Hard times, come again no more.

Chorus.
Hard times, come again no more.
'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
Oh! Hard times, come again no more.

There's a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away
With a worn heart whose better days are o'er.
Though her voice would be merry, 'tis sighing all the day -
Oh! Hard times, come again no more.

Chorus.
Hard times, come again no more.
'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
Oh! Hard times, come again no more.

'Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,
'Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore,
'Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave -
Oh! Hard times, come again no more.

Chorus.
Hard times, come again no more.
'Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door.
Oh! Hard times, come again no more.


For information on the life of Stephen Foster, follow the . . .

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

THE DUMPSTER

by c harvey


Bring it on!

Fill me baby
My mouth is one
gaped mouth cocksucker
squawking CAW! CAW! CAW!
Fill me, baby
stale cookies sour milk coffee grounds
shitty diapers bloodly godly knives toxic kotex
Fill me, baby
secret war papers soaked in piss
whole cakes and uneaten pies
unshredded general ledgers
sick poems dead novels
Fill me, baby
Your old televisions still playing
the lies of Leave it to Beaver and
And “Whites Only” Andy Griffith--
had they thought, they would have
air brushed the freckles off Opie.
Don’t forget your shoes and dead babies
crawling with maggots
Fill me, baby
with those twin towers
knocked down and set afire
with Arabic malice and spleen
Oh how I choked on that glass and guts
but I got it down my belly
steel girder and lovely arm
swallowed whole.
Fill me, baby
with the diabetic legs of old soldiers
and the young arms blown off in Baghdad.
My maggots crawl up the columns of
1600 Penn Avenue
See the boys and that black gal inside
slapping their red necks
HAW! HAW! HAW!
I’m a dumpster in America, baby.


c harvey is a poet and fiction writer residing in Houston Texas. He has been published in various places--The James White Review, The Ontario Review, Shade, Soulfires. He is working on a novel called The Road to Astroworld, and a poetry collection called out of the blue.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

FOR STEPHEN FUNK, IN PRISON FOR PROTESTING THE IRAQ WAR

by Shaindel Beers


Stephen-in-your-cell, would you forgive me
if from now on, I promise to be brave?
When I picture you alone—and lonely
I wonder how I could have been so weak
to have gone home the first time I was asked.
Protesters should be made of stronger stuff.

Lately things have made me question the stuff
I’m made of. What is it that makes me me ?
Would I give my life for a cause, if asked?
What is it within us that makes us brave
or, in my case and many others’, weak?
And is it true that the strong die lonely

since those who stand for something stand alone?
I wonder what you think of all the stuff
in letters from all of us outside, weak-willed
well-wishers sending thanks, signing meekly
in shaky script, supporting your bravery
from the comfort of our homes. When asked

to protest the war, I failed. One guard asked
me to stop leafleting—so all alone
I put the flyers in my car (such brave
work here) and rewarded myself by stuff-
ing my face with soy burger and fries. My
spirit was lifted—good deed for the week

accomplished. I wasn’t faced with my weakness
until the next day when I was asked
about the protest, how it went, and my
stammered answer made me feel so alone
in a world of heroes who’ve done great stuff
and deserve to live in this “home of the brave.”

Stephen, from your story, I’ve learned bravery.
I’ve resolved never again to be weak
when it comes to things that matter, the stuff
of life and death. If someday someone asks
you was it worth it? know you’re not alone
anymore, because you’ve proven to me

and others that if asked, we can be brave,
that our weakness is not made of different stuff
than courage; it’s just us, sure we’re not alone.


Shaindel Beers is currently a professor of English at Seminole Community College in Florida. She previously taught composition, literature, and liberal studies courses at College of Lake County in Grayslake, IL and Roosevelt University in Schaumburg, IL. Her poetry, fiction, and social commentary have appeared in numerous journals, and she serves as poetry editor of Contrary Magazine. Her poem "A Brief History of Time" has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and she has been the featured poet on "Poetic Logic," the Orlando area's NPR show which features local and visiting poets.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

about rainfall

by Alisa Gordaneer


he loves the bottles, the blue glass, green ones
with names like rivers, a mountain spring.

he buys them by the six-pack
at the superstore out in the suburbs
with his wife, who likes to shop

on the way home, swallows them in
great glad gulps as windshield wipers drum messages
of wet. of wet. of wet.

on the radio, children dying from heat.
he fiddles the dial, drinks

washes away toxins, traitorous cells.
he will live forever
with enough exercise.

but his jog is ruined
by torrents, rain rushes gutters
stands in storm drains clogged with empty grocery bags.
someone, he says, should do something
about all that plastic.

on the radio, drought somewhere:
crops wither like babies born too soon.

he showers in a stinging shush
that drowns the news
makes him clean


Alisa Gordaneer is the editor of Monday Magazine, an alternative newsweekly in Victoria, BC, Canada, where she lives and writes on an urban homestead with her family. She is currently working on a novel and a collection of poems.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY AMERICAN DREAM

by Scott C. Kaestner


sometimes hours seem like years and days like minutes
     nonsense makes sense and sensibility - a lost art in history
amidst tumultuous tsunamis of imbecility and perceived
                    omnipotence
         the world appears destined to spin off its axis
and I'm left behind trying to hold onto whatever remains of this
                                    life as we - as I know it to be

                                    twenty-first century american dream
                                             a new-age nightmare
                                                      where...

false deities dance in darkness
pumping their iron fists of fury
swinging at everything in sight

almighty machine-fed fascists
igniting their lightning rods
upon the powerless masses

operation freedom explodes globally
and locally cities of lost angels
cry for an evolving revolution

see the meek inherit mother earth
while the arrogant are intent
on destroying her at last

mine her fields - strip her jewels
drill her sands - suck her nipples dry
to inject petroleum into junkies vein

tear down all screaming trees
and erect concrete walls and
mini-malls on every acre

open all the gates to flood
the markets with mass
distribution of absolutely nothing

immense profits gobbled up by
pot-bellied capitalist pigs
wallowing in their piles of shit

richy's riches play hard
and the poor pray softly
for salvation only miles apart

shadows of ourselves roam
boulevards of broken dreams
looking for something to eat

the doomed are damned
the rich get richer
and politicians are false promises

bombs aren't for free
and either jesus or jihad
is coming soon to one and all

the ghettoes are angry
the suburbs are numb
and civility has fled the coup

marxists march in desperation
hippies take another hit
and anarchists clash with police

poets spit truth in anonymity
while so-called reality
bites the tv trip flick

and an infinite flock of sheep
swallow vagina sandwiches with
sticky-sweet phallic desserts

only to vomit their semen
n' eggs and lie naked
in empty gardens of eden

and reproduce and reproduce
and reproduce and reproduce
and reproduce and reproduce

the same-ole' story
spinning forever round
and round the same-ole' conclusion

the world appears destined to spin off its axis
and I'm left behind trying to hold onto something I should have
                                    let go of - long ago - so

                                    goodbye...
                                    lost
                                    civilization

                                    goodbye...
                                    lost
                                    nation

                                    goodbye...

                                    my eyes
                                    are wide
                                    open.


Scott C. Kaestner is a poet/spoken word artist who resides in West Hollywood, California. His poetry emanates from a strong voice and is inspired by the strange yet sublime nature of life on this planet. His poems have been published in Poesy, The Blind Man's Rainbow, Mastodon Dentist, Alpha Beat Soup, Confused in a Deeper Way, Poetic Diversity, the San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, Struggle, and various anthologies along the way. He recently published his first chapbook, The Great Charade, and appeared on the upcoming television pilot Lyrically Speaking. To purchase a copy of The Great Charade or for information about upcoming publications, chapbooks, and events - please e-mail coastalcubby@earthlink.net

Sunday, May 01, 2005

WHEN THE POPE SPEAKS

by Bill Costley


When the Pope speaks, ex cathedra ,
he's no longer the man he once was.
Nothing He once said matters anymore.
Everything He says now is infallible.

If you can't accept this, you aren't
a Roman Catholic in good standing,
even if you kneel to the Papal tiara,
bow to the old archepiscopal crook.

You must cut the Pope infinite slack.
If you don't, you're excommunicated.
Say no more. He's deaf to you, now
that you're spiritually dead to Him.


Note by the poet : Every Vatican strategist (clerical/not) claims the media are deliberately misrepresenting the new Pope. George Weigel, interviewed on MSNBC-TV Sat. nite, 23 APR 05, when asked whether the new Pope is 'God's rottweiler' rebutted: "Reiterating Catholic doctrine is merely being a good, believing Christian; frankly, I don't see where this cartoon that is being reiterated everywhere by the media is coming from. I've known him for many years and he is nothing at all like that."

Weigel deliberately didn't directly answer to the new Pope's ultramontane authoritarianism (Rom ueber alles), which has been well-documented for decades, so that when the media quote the pope's own words, they're told they don't count because they were spoken/written before becoming Pope, when, actually, they are the very reasons why he was elected Pope, his bona fides, then & now.

Since
temporal cause & effect are officially meaningless in Roma Aeterna, out of passive courtesy, the Vatican expects they mean nothing to the media & to you, too. Its "Give the New Pope a New Chance" propaganda campaign is double-distilled Vatican-doubletalk, utterly faithful to is its 'eternal' essence.


Bill Costley writes a "Letter from Santa Clara" for the San Francisco CALL.