Guidelines



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Friday, November 30, 2007

VAJAYJAY

by Donna Hilbert


Everyone calls it vajayjay
now, you know, down there.
I read this in the New York Times.
Oprah says it.
Steinem has weighed in
hoping it contains the nervy bits
the real V-word ignores.
Me, I love the childhood name
taught by Mom and Mimi:
Whatsa-doodle-dandy!
Big happy word
that rhymes with candy.


Donna Hilbert’s latest poetry collection is Traveler in Paradise: New and Selected Poems, Pearl Editions 2004. Ms. Hilbert appears in and her poetry is the text of the short film, “Grief Becomes Me,” the first in a trilogy of her poems to be included in a documentary on her work and life by award-winning filmmaker Christine Fugate. She lives in Long Beach , California, where she is working on a play and conducting a master class in poetry.

GRIM FAIRY TALES FOR MODERN TIMES

by Nancy Caronia


If, at the beginning of the 21st century, Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on the spinning wheel—a cursed act that anesthetized an entire kingdom—there would be no prince to climb the thorny walls and plant a kiss. Contemporary male royalty gets too horny planning the next invasion, entering (or exiting) rehab or trolling bars (or executive offices) searching for the perfect mouth to kiss their cocks goodnight. No one, it seems, wants a relationship anymore. A fetishistic furor might be whipped up if the kingdom’s itinerant administration—set up at the time of the prick in faraway New York City’s Gramercy Park—put the Beauty’s slumbering figure on the Internet, but her body would need to be stripped—creamy flesh exposed to the masses of insensitive gawkers who only hoped to catch a glimpse of the numbed out princess awakening to an autoerotic act. There would be no conversation of her award-winning spinning skill. Her kindness to orphaned children in land-mined countries would be lost amidst the stream of anesthetized techno-bloggers who only noticed how one breast was spread out like margarine melting in the hot summer sun. Their blogs would espouse theories as to the scar near her pubis: was it from a secret botched abortion or her father’s tight fist—the rumor being that the former WWF wrestling champion was never able to keep his hands to himself? Mainly though, enthusiasm would wane once Snow White’s dilemma was broadcast—that Wicked Queen breaking down on Oprah’s couch, The mirror made me do it, the mirror made me do it! Or the stepsisters’ revealing to Larry King how Cinderella cheated and stole their rightful place to the crown: She didn’t go into rehab for nothing, they’d sniff. Once the child abuse charges against the Old Woman in the Shoe appeared on every major news channel including the Fox News Network all eyes would turn towards the kids’ anguished faces. The youngest, fathered by the Old Woman’s fifth or perhaps sixth paramour, would blubber, Of course she’s got no husband, who would want to live with her? Then there would be the harrowing tale of Hansel and Gretel—cannibalism in modern times. Oh my! Anderson Cooper would get the scoop on that pair escaping with their lives, minus a few fingers and toes. Perhaps if the fairy witch who cursed Sleeping Beauty shot a video, her hair sheathed in a white turban and dressed in a navy suit, white button-down shirt, and red power tie, where she threatened to do it again, people might fathom the predicament of an anesthetized town lost to a familial curse, but then again, they’d probably rather view the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where the deposed Emperor would hawk his memoir, Finding Fabric. C’mon, Jon would say to the Emperor, You’re telling me you took so many pills you had no idea you were walking around so that your boys were hanging for anyone to see? It’s a little hard to believe, if you know what I mean. The Emperor would smile sheepishly, Yes, Jon, exactly. It was harrowing once I grasped that everyone was witness to my pound of flesh.


Nancy Caronia’s work has previously appeared in Coloring Book (2003 Rattlecat Press), Don't Tell Mama! The Penguin Book of Italian American Writing, and Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food and Culture (Feminist Press). She writes the monthly Lesson Plans column for Government Video magazine.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

SEATS OF POWER

Visual by Jeff Crouch
Text by Christopher Woods


Christopher Woods is the author of a prose collection, Under a Riverbed Sky, and a collection of stage monologues for actors, Heart Speak. His play, Moonbirds, about doomed census-takers at work in an uninhabited desert country, received its New York City premiere at Personal Space Theatrics. He lives in Houston and in Chappell Hill , Texas .

Jeff Crouch is an internet artist; he lives in Grand Prairie, Texas . Google “Jeff Crouch” to see what he currently has on the internet or go to: http://www.blueprintreview.de/6jeff_crouch.htm.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

TO DIE IN JERUSALEM

A Documentary
by Sondra Zeidenstein

Make the smallest distinction…
And heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
--The Faith Mind Sutra

Two mothers in Jerusalem: one Jewish, Israeli, one Muslim, Palestinian.

The daughter of one, a suicide bomber.

The daughter of the other, victim of her bomb.

Rachel and Ayat. Both seventeen. Same dark long hair, large dark eyes,
same color skin, same height.

They didn’t know whose body parts belonged to whose body.

For four years since the bombing, Rachel’s mother seeks to meet the
mother of Ayat,

to convince her to condemn the act of her daughter, to urge “her people”
to turn against violence.

She needs her daughter to have died for something.

For four years the mothers are kept apart: impassable checkpoints, fear
of the camp’s dark streets.

Finally they meet, each in front of a camera crew.

They speak to each other’s faces on a tv screen, the covered mother and
the uncovered, each one with a speech

put together over a lifetime:

Say it, that your daughter did wrong. Say you want peace.

When I have a home, when I have my land back, when the occupation
is over.

back and forth:

When you stop, I’ll stop.

No, you stop first.

Terrorist.

Occupier.

My land.

No, my land.

The grooves of language.

Rachel was always at my side. She helped me, always.

Ayat was distinguished. She loved her studies. I would not have let her,
I would have held her back if I knew. But this is what she chose.

Each side given full voice. Even handed. No tanks, no bombs, no stones.

This is not Israel. This is my country.

This is not your country. Just say your daughter is wrong.

Just say you’ve taken my country. Just live in a camp as I do.

Just say peace comes first.

This is bedrock, ground--two pairs of dark eyes grief worn.

I listen until there is no right or wrong.


Sondra Zeidenstein's poems have been published in magazines, journals and anthologies, and in a chapbook collection entitled Late Afternoon Woman. A Detail in that Story is her first book; Resistance is her second. She is editor of several anthologies including A Wider Giving: Women Writing after a Long Silence and Family Reunion: Poems about Parenting Grown Children, and publisher of Chicory Blue Press, a small literary press, now twenty years old, that focuses on strong writing by older women.

UNTIL THE PHOTO WAS DEVELOPED

by B.E. Kahn

In the Judean wilderness, Israeli farmers—
growers of grapes, dates—invite Arab shepherds
there to graze their sheep.
--Item, unreported by any press

In the Judean Desert
there are leopards.

One, in fact, attended
a wedding. He sat in a tree

during the whole affair.
No one knew he was there.


B.E. Kahn, native Philadelphian, now lives in Wynnewood, Pa. Her poems have appeared in Harrisburg Review, CQ, California Quarterly, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Mad Poets Review, Earth’s Daughters, Bridges, A Jewish Feminist Journal and in the June/July 2007 online Tupelo Press Poetry Project as well as other publications. Her awards include First Prize for Poetry at the Philadelphia Writers Conference, a Pennsylvania Council of the Arts Grant and a Pew Grant for Studies in the Humanities.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

IN DARFUR

by Yolanda Coulaz


little girls don't wear lace
or play with dolls.
They are taken,
taken by the janjaweed,
taken with the women
with the camels
with the cows.
Some return;
some are never seen again.

In Darfur
in a lawless land
the mango tree falls
crops burn
carcasses float in the wells
wadis are bare, broken by bombs.

In Darfur
across a scorched earth
Satan rides a stallion, and the
white bird does not come in peace.


Yolanda Coulaz is a poet, photographer, editor and founder of Purple Sage Press. Her poetry has won a number of awards and has been widely published. Her signature poem "Cool, Cotton Comfort" won first place in the Mattia Family 8th International Poetry Competition. Coulaz has published an anthology of animal poems For Loving Precious Beast to help benefit Loving Touch Animal Rescue. Her first book of poetry Spirits and Oxygen was released in 2003 and is currently being use in an advanced course in poetry at SUNY Stony Brook.

Monday, November 26, 2007

THE NEWS AT 11

by Howie Good


The world is a rifle butt
smashed in your face,

a panting hand reaching
for your only child.

And now the weather.

What if our hearts weren’t
such paper-thin bags

of blood and vomit,
what if they were shiny,

like the water-bright coats
of prancing red horses.


Howie Good, a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, is the author of three poetry chapbooks, Death of the Frog Prince (2004) and Heartland (2007), both from FootHills Publishing, and Strangers & Angels, forthcoming from Scintillating Publications. He was recently nominated for the second time for a Pushcart Prize.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA

for Upton Sinclair


by David LaBounty


there were anarchists
and socialists just as

there was blood
in the hearts and
in the streets and

the poor got richer even though

the rich stayed rich.

later.

now.

the rich are getting richer
and I'm getting poorer

and the network news has kept
all the anarchists and socialists

far,

far away.


David LaBounty's recent poetry has appeared in Dogmatika, Word Riot, Pemmican, Unlikely 2.0, Outsider Writers and other journals.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

POSTMODERNISM'S RITUALS

by Marcus Bales
(after W.S. Gilbert)


Postmodernist:
I am the very model of postmodernism’s rituals
My world is made of language reinforced by strong habituals --
There’s nothing really out there, and there’s no one who exists for me –
And any people hearing this are other solipsists for me.
The world is in my head, I don’t believe in physicality;
I brilliantly create it all with magical reality,
Rejecting all experience with mystical depravity –
Ignoring Alan Sokal’s twenty-storey test of gravity.

Chic Chorus:
Ignoring Alan Sokal’s twenty-storey test of gravity.
Ignoring Alan Sokal’s twenty-storey test of gravity.
Ignoring Alan Sokal’s twenty-storey test of gravity.

Postmodernist:
It used to be that science was the tool for every liberal
To use to show that kings and priests were selling mystic gibberal,
But now we want our new-age crystal-gazing fuddy-duddying
Not lectures, labs, experiments, or -- goddess save us! -- studying.

Chic Chorus:
But now we want our new-age crystal-gazing fuddy-duddying
Not lectures, labs, experiments, or -- goddess save us! -- studying.

Postmodernist:
Postmodern art is anything an artist may assert it is;
It isn’t hard to see what kind of formless blowhard blurt it is.
Where nothing’s good or bad there’s only infinite variety:
Your deepest held belief is someone else’s impropriety.
And even that’s not really real, your brain is just achieving it
Through language, fear, and habit, and believing in believing it --
Which means respect the rules of which each local god has sent a list:
You cannot be postmodern if you’re not a fundamentalist.

Chic Chorus:
You cannot be postmodern if you’re not a fundamentalist.
You cannot be postmodern if you’re not a fundamentalist.
You cannot be postmodern if you’re not a fundamentalist.

Postmodernist:
We don’t distinguish good from bad – we can’t be preferentialist --
And sneer at beauty, justice, truth, and balance as essentialist.
Reality is all made up, and truth’s a triviality,
And science isn’t anything but jumped-up mysticality.

Chic Chorus:
Reality is all made up, and truth’s a triviality,
And science isn’t anything but jumped-up mysticality.

Postmodernist:
When I can claim there’s no there there, it isn’t verifiable –
Which means that any claim that I put forward’s undeniable;
When I can claim that making claims is meaningless is meaningless --
As if to try to sanitize a hospital by cleaning less;
When all I need to do is spout some double talk for victory
By claiming contradiction is itself a contradictory,
When all that science claims is that it’s merely hypothetical
Then heresy is always truth and every truth heretical!

Chic Chorus:
Then heresy is always truth and every truth heretical!
Then heresy is always truth and every truth heretical!
Then heresy is always truth and every truth heretical!

Postmodernist:
And so therefore we’ve cleared away the sciences’ dementedness,
And we are left to celebrate our contentless contentedness:
Our world is made of language reinforced by strong habituals --
We are the very models of postmodernism’s rituals.

Chic Chorus:
Our world is made of language reinforced by strong habituals --
We are the very models of postmodernism’s rituals.

Friday, November 23, 2007

IN DEFENSE OF SENATOR CLINTON

by Anne G. Davies


When candidates look for a victim to pillory
Donkey or elephant—they all point at Hillary
Giuliani says she’s slippery and pushy
Edwards says she’s a closet Bushie
Romney says she’s keen on abortion
Obama says her ego’s out of proportion
They all say her positions are inconsistent
And complain that she seems attack-resistant
They resent the white-haired guy who’s coaching her
And find endless reasons for reproaching her.
They all hotly deny it’s a matter of gender
So no gentleman need rise to defend her
Though she may not deserve to be the winner
In the mix she’s hardly the greatest sinner.
Like all the others she has flagrant faults
But she alone is subject to such assaults.
What drives them berserk is the thought of a female
With POTUS.gov the address on her email.


Anne G. Davies is a fund-raising writer by profession and a writer and versifier by avocation. Her work has been published in local and regional papers. She lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

22 AND 44

by George Held


Our age is numerical—lists of numbers,
Numbers crunchers, statistics, numerical
Compilations and projections—
And this is the 44th anniversary of JFK’s
Assassination on November 22, 1963 .

Thanksgiving would be late that year
And gloomy, like your mother’s
First birthday a week after she died.
This year Thanksgiving is the earliest
A fourth Thursday in November can fall.

In a classroom in Kapalama Heights ,
Where an unexploded Japanese bomb
Fell on December 7, 1941 , I was teaching
My first period English class to cadets
At The Kamehameha School for Boys.

On the ancient intercom the voice
Of Principal Allen A. Bailey crackled
As he calmly reported the shooting.
He asked us to stay in our classrooms
Until further notice while he piped in

Walter Cronkite’s radio coverage
Of the unfolding events. I turned
To look at the glamorous color picture
Of the President and the First Lady
That I’d tacked on the bulletin board.

My students’ eyes, some tearing,
Gazed at me as intently as if I were
Reading “To be or not to be, that
Is the question.” The company commander,
The boys who would be shot up in ’ Nam ,

The future head of the school’s trustees,
The airline pilot, the suicide—all looked
To me for assurance that the President
Would recover, the government would not fall,
The world would not end that day.

Kennedy would be the last president
Whose portrait I’d put up, the last president
Whose spirit inspired us to welcome
Our better angels, the last president
Whose virtues seemed to exceed his flaws.

His voice ringing in our ears, his wit,
His vigor in the face of chronic pain,
The sense that this sailor was truly
At the helm still inform our memories.
Dare we compare Number Forty-three?

Today we are thankful for those memories,
Much as they haunt us. Today we mourn
The death that made the bell toll for us,
For the dream America is Number One,
For the people we once believed we could be.


George Held has previously contributed to The New Verse News. His latest poetry collection is The Art of Writing and Others (www.finishinglinepress.com, 2007).

DELOVERLY

PoeArtry by Charles Frederickson


DEbate dangling from rusty hook
    Squirming worms champing sound bytes
        Big fish eat small fry
            DEvouring lines & sinkers swallowed whole

DEcoy shysters lame duck quacks
    Almost Live Larry King DEvotees
        “I may not always be
            Right but I’m never wrong”

DEbrief Obamama bananana split bikini
    Topless baby oil massage message
        DEbunked mud wrestling off-key slingalong
            Who’s taking dirty dancing lead

DEcay to tell the tooth
    False dentures stale breath Hillarytosis
        Flip-flop foragainst DEbacle true lies
            Double-faced coin supporting both sides

DEfrosting chill-out heat turned up
    Halliburton riggers siphoning off gas
        Oily motive foul-ups spin-off follow-ups
            Attention to budget DEficit disorder

DEfeat Bigfoot shoes to fill
    Wonky donkey party feud wannabes
        Sock it to DEfamed GOP-GAP
            DEliberating DEciding DEmanding DElivering D.C.


Dr. Charles Frederickson: Name: D. Mentor Stan Doubt; Nickname: Nun; Address: Genial Devilry State of Denial; Zip: B9-1-1; Phone: Taco Bell; Faxhole: telepathetic moonsense UFOcult; Sexile: manimal; He-male: e-diot dot commie; vagabondAge: Ironic; Blood: Taipei; Vision: 20-20-20; Religion: Born Against trance-incidental Vegetation; Education: U-Nique BSer IV Leak Overachiever; Major: Mickey Mouse Pad Commuter Séance; Club Memberships: A, AA, AAA, AAAA, AAAAA; Special Abilities: Unmentionable Listless Hypist; halluciDate: Blind Man’s Bluff TGIF.

Monday, November 19, 2007

PUPPET SHOW

by Marcelle Kasprowicz


It's almost time
Last touches to the mask
A rose between the teeth
to neutralize
the dubious fragrance of words
Angels
invisible
are already clutching
the puppet's hair
blowing a suffused aura of truth
through their trumpets

On the right shoulder
or the left
--to perch in the middle
is nearly impossible
The head is claimed
by angels--
On a shoulder then
a parrot
at its post
ready to repeat
into the puppet's ear
the latest trigger word
the punch in a sound bite
Ah, not to forget
Smiles smiles smiles
They must be perfect
-- A little bit of sugar...
You know!

The audience is a spoiled cat
It likes to be scratched
behind the ears
to have its belly rubbed
but her whiskers still quiver
at the sight of a chase
at the irresistible lure of gore
Still it won't lift a paw
to de-bone its own prey
It prefers it served in a cup
as a mousse

If you can make it purr
it is hypnotized
ready for the real show
The one where the old charlatan
with the unctuous voice
offers his latest love potion


Marcelle Kasprowicz was born in Niort, France. She received an M.A. from UT at Austin. She is an Austin resident. She writes in English and French and also translates her French poems in English. In 2001 she was awarded first prize for her poem "House of Bones" in the Austin International Poetry Festival Anthology. She had her poems published in Ascent Aspiration, Farfelu, The Texas Poetry Calendar, Languageandculture.net (on line). She is the author of Organza Skies, a book of poems about the Davis Mountains of West Texas, published in 2005.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

THE CIRCLE

by Katherine West


Who were the Minoans?
        Dolphin queens
        Worshippers of the bee
        Sharing the honey

Who were the Old Europeans?
        Builders of Stonehenge
        Calendar of sun
        Circling the perfect

Who were the cave painters?
        Shaman artists
        Leading the village
        In prayer

Who were the Romans?
        Metal smiths of the perfect sword
        Metal smiths of the perfect slave
        Minters of the perfect coin
        Golden profiles

Who are the Americans?
        Children of slaves
        Blinded at birth
        A coin in one hand
        A sword in the other

No, who are the Americans?
        Daughters of dolphin queens
        Sons of shaman artists
        Apprentice to Stonehenge builders
        Blind tinkers patching the calendar
        Tapping out dents
        In the four directions

No, who are the Americans?
        Metal smiths of the perfect
        Minters of prayer
        Golden pain
        Crucible of slaves and
        Swords
        Tempered mind
        The circle cast
        Unbreakable
        This time


Katherine West is a poet presently living in northern Colorado and teaching Creative Writing at the local community college, museum, and Naropa University, which is in nearby Boulder, Colorado.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

CHANGE

by David Chorlton


In a quiet moment among the vehicles
parked outside the Safeway store
a man approaches with his whispered plea
for change. Just released from Marana he says and they dropped me at Thirty-fifth and Van Buren. It’s a hundred degree day.
Got family in Colorado. He’s been in prison
for years, and it hardly matters to him
what time the bus to Denver leaves. He can wait,
but not walk in this heat. They left me without money or water, can you spare . . . ?
We stand between those SUVs
with too much power for the city, the ones
that shine and brag about their owners
while waiting for them to finish
shopping. Buying a new car means choices
between making an impression with size
or investing in modesty, paying more to save
on gas later or paying more not to care.
I could call my brother to wire me something
says the man, whose incarceration began before
anyone spoke much about fuel efficiency.
He swallows just to feel the moisture in his throat.
For a dollar and a quarter you can take the bus to the station I tell him and present the two crumpled bills
I have left. He takes them and thanks me
before I remind him that seventy-five cents
won’t buy a bottle of water anymore.
He’s free now, which means choices.


David Chorlton lives in Phoenix, writes and paints and keeps track of local wildlife. His newest book, The Porous Desert, was published this summer by FutureCycle Press, and testifies to his having internalised the desert during the past twenty-nine years. Some of his art work can be seen at http://www.davidchorlton.mysite.com/.

THOUGHTS OF AN OLD MAN, IN A DRY SEASON

by Earl J. Wilcox


Here in the forever and ever sunny South,
we still elect Republicans and a
few Democrats. We still cook grits,
chitlings, pigs’ feet, liver mush, and
a few other things the rest of the world
never ate. We also send our sons and
daughters to a war, which we have not forgot.

But what’s on our minds today is not
war or exotic food, or even the writers’
strikes in NYC and Cal-E-fornia. We
are dry. We need rain. We pray for water.

Our lawns have dried up because we
can’t water them. Our trees are dying
because we have had no rain in months.
(Forget our beautiful flowers and shrubs.)
My neighbors’ wells are drying up, and they
have little money to dig deeper, even if water
were somewhere down there close to China.

When you say your prayers tonight, it’s OK
to mention Iraq, especially all those moms and
pops who have lost children there. It’s OK to
dream of a long and happy life with someone
you love. Our best dreams are just dreams.

But before you say amen, ask for some rain.
If we don’t get some soon, we’ll be moving
To where you live to drink your water.


Earl J. Wilcox founded The Robert Frost Review, which he edited for more than a decade. His poetry was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Friday, November 16, 2007

MEATBALLS

by Rochelle Ratner


It was what she thought of first when she met her husband. Here's a man with balls. Here's a man fighting to protect their city. Look at those biceps. But he was more than brute strength. And they began a family. Then his firefighter brother was killed at the World Trade Center. Two of his former partners died. He became a detective. He was often late getting home nights. Taxis drove by trailing Cop Shot reward offers. He was more committed to his work than his children, and there would be grandchildren soon. She didn't want to play with them alone. She heard talk about random drug tests. Two or three times a week she cooked him meatballs. And she was a good cook.


Rochelle Ratner's latest poetry books include Leads (Otoliths Press, 2007), Balancing Acts (Marsh Hawk Press, 2006), Beggars at the Wall (Ikon, 2006) and House and Home (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003). She is the author of fifteen previous poetry collections and two novels (Bobby’s Girl and The Lion’s Share) both published by Coffee House Press). More information and links to her writing on the Internet can be found on her homepage.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

TIRESIAS LIED: A MINI PLAY

by Christine Panas


On television, Tiresias said
                 Domino Effect!

The generals checked their calendars
  flipped a coin

The chorus of frogs croaked
                Beware, the helicopters!

The chorus of old men grunted
                That one is too fond of sacrifice

Tiresias repeated
                The Domino Effect, you fools!

His pet alligator clapped its jaws
  gnawed at its polished nails

Fats Domino sued for slander
The case was dismissed
It was a rumpling moment

Tiresias declared
                No worry! We have the Jolly Green Giant!
                Armies of sprouts!

When the helicopters did arrive
  the Cyclops had eaten
    all the young sprouts
All 50 thousand!
Tiresias disappeared
(He had to)

The chorus of frogs cried out
                We told you so!

The Chorus of old men griped
                This script will never work

Ten years of:
Finger pointing
Video Tape
Bickering generals
Not one domino was found

A generation of new sprouts
  greened the fields
Tiresias returned
  to television
Resurrected by a PR firm
  stylish suits and watches
Blood sacrifice
  back in fashion again

His pet peacock fanned, preciously
  preened, pecked at
    cobs of rolled up paper

Tiresias said
                Axis of evil!

The dominos responded by
  falling into place

He explained
                I was at Troy,
                On the Dardanelles; it was
                Protracted, but you know
                No one thanked me

Chorus of Frogs & Old men
                We gotta get a new Prophet!


Christine Panas curates & often hosts "The Biscuit Readings Spoken Word Series" at Biscuit BBQ in Park Slope Brooklyn (the Brooklyn sibling of Cornelia Street Cafe). A former academic trained in the archaeology of Greece and Rome, she now pursues poetry and short fiction.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

DRAWING

by Barbara Daniels


I’m drawing the sun I drew as a child—thick yellow rays.
A house that can’t stand up, wind beginning, smoke
blown back in dark and fog. When I first moved

to married students’ housing, each Tuesday noon
a couple parked in front of our building, first in two cars,
then in one. In the late afternoon they came back together

and left alone. They had to be lovers. So I believed,
standing in the folds of gold curtains, watching
shadows begin and lengthen, the woman’s car, blue,

empty, all afternoon. I draw till my arm numbs.
I could have died for love. But I didn’t.
I draw coffee sour on the table. There’s a war

on television. It cancels the sky. There’s a train,
a quiet station, a grain elevator. Names of the dead
on a plaque in the park. The woods fill with lights

from my neighbors’ houses. I write your name
and then erase it. I draw the march into gunfire. Men
walking. The breasts of hills. Fingers red with blood.


Barbara Daniels' book, Rose Fever, will be published by WordTech Press in 2008. The Woman Who Tries to Believe, her chapbook, won the Quentin R. Howard Prize and was published by Wind Publications. Her poems have appeared in The Louisville Review, Natural Bridge, Tattoo Highway, and many other journals. Barbara Daniels received two Individual Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

THE EVERYDAY NEWS OF OUR LIVES

by Pat Maslowski


Today is November seven, two
thousand and eleven, the sky
is a topaz blue, chill, though
the sun warms us into a drowse.

Public radio, KUNC, is playing
jazz, no news until three
while the dog's dreaming
memories behind my desk.
I found a mouse, drowned
in the sink this morning,
Judge Mukasey has been
confirmed by the Judiciary
Committee. We're assured he
will be confirmed by a docile
Senate, even though he refused
to say water boarding was torture.

Oil today at nearly one hundred
dollars a barrel. Pakistan beats
protesters in the streets. Coal
fired plants in China are raining
sulfur dioxide on Japan and here.
Our own are also distributing
the same on Utah, Arizona,
Colorado, and New Mexico.

A neighbor died of cancer
two weeks ago. A former student,
expelled from school twenty years ago
was arrested for methamphetamine.
Last month one hundred and sixty-six
new jobs were created. The income
disparity between poor and rich
is greatest here except for Hungary.
And I wonder if love is really possible
in our tiny lives as ephemeral as day
compared to geologic time and galaxies,
knowing we can control nothing at all.


Pat Maslowski lives in Drake, Colorado. She is a retired teacher and librarian.

Monday, November 12, 2007

TERRORISM: CALL & RESPONSE

by Cortney Davis

In the ICD-9 book used for coding medical diagnoses, terrorism is code E979: Injuries resulting from the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population or any segment thereof.

Aircraft used as a weapon
aircraft burned
exploded
shot down
crushed by falling aircraft
munitions not otherwise specified
burning building or structure:
collapse of
fall from
hit by falling object
in jump from
conflagration
fire causing:
asphyxia
burns
melting of fittings and furniture
smoldering building or structure
fragments from:

That’s what I did for months after— blessed the body parts. The beautiful body parts.

Artillery shell
bomb grenade
guided missile
land-mine
rocket shell
shrapnel
machine gun
carbine
blast effect
fireball effect
gases, fumes, chemicals
unspecified vapors:

There were so many of them, so many hands. I imagined them moving.

Analgesics, barbiturates
direct and secondary effects
hypnotics
sedatives, tranquilizers
other medicinal substances
corrosive and caustic:
handgun
shotgun
military firearm
other unspecified
explosives
accidentally or purposely
inflicted:

I imagined them moving— you know, the fingers. In my mind’s eye I could see them, opening.


Cortney Davis is a nurse practitioner, author of three poetry collections, most recently Leopold's Maneuvers, winner of the Prairie Schooner Poetry Prize and co-editor of two anthologies of poetry and prose by nurses from University of Iowa Press, Between the Heartbeats and Intensive Care. Her collection of essays about the art of nursing, Letters to a Young Nurse, is forthcoming from Kent State University Press.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

VETERANS DAY

by Robert M. Chute


The man by the pond who seemed to be
saluting the opposite shore was merely
shading his eyes against the glare
but it seemed the bare November trees
stood at attention with him, inspecting
the afternoon sun as it passed
in review. Seven ducks in precision
formation flew over to honor
the nameless dead. There are always
the nameless dead where ever you are.
Where ever you choose to stand can be
your reviewing stand. On the far shore,
wave tops detached, ducks beating low
splash in, a sudden patch of whitecaps.


Robert M. Chute (USAir Force, WW II) has a book from JustWrite Books, Reading Nature, of poetry based on scientific articles, that is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

11.

by Michelle Morgan


Self Identification. Ego in Balance.

November:

Da De Los Meurtos, Marraskuu,
in Finland and Japan, in Mexico and the Philippines,
a common bulk of earth grabs attention
as it struts down the wide white corridor
toward the light at the end and halts,
unsure whether it should go on.

In Pueblo people crowd the streets,
dance in cemeteries, surrounded by
orange-yellow light from red candles
that caress images of the Virgin Mary
stacked and piled on top of one another,
sky blue robes and gold leaf,
prayers in soft murmurs ghosting
around stones and marigolds.

Here is Maria Galeana and her three small
sons whose father has been dead 2 years,
suffocated in the back of the box truck
that was to buy their independence,
snorting on his own vomit as his lungs
exploded fireworks and barbed wire
through his brain.

Here is the 22 year old soldier’s funeral,
a coffin draped with the flag
and the gun salute of 11 rifles,
who died protecting our glorious country
against the eternal they with their
eternal burn.

We lay the dead on carts
where we can push them from one end
of our mind to the other: neat, compact
rows of dead women and children,
grandfathers, the sick and frail,
all beyond our reach.
We try, we tell ourselves, we try,
but you just can’t help those who
don’t want to help themselves,
how much can one person do?

Never do we see our own body wracked
limp on the cart, dirt smudging the cheek
of our wide-eyed daughter, dead beside us
but not before she was raped by the enemy,
still clutching her small pink scrap of doll.

Never do we ask: for whom do we die?

In the eleventh hour of the eleventh day,
who will be left to remember us,
to leave cakes and money on our graves,
we of precious life and freedom?


Michelle Morgan lives in Auburn, Maine, and will be attending the University of Southern Maine for her MA in American & New England Studies in the fall of 2007. Her poems and artwork have been published or are forthcoming in JMWW, The Banyan Review, Salt River Review, The Aurorean, Off the Coast, Wolf Moon Journal, Plain Spoke, and will be included in the forthcoming anthologies: Through the Kitchen Window: A Sense of Home and Outside Voices’ 2008 Anthology of Younger American Poets. She is Editor of the online lit/arts journal Panamowa: A New Lit Order.

NORMAN MAILER: ICONIC VOICE

by Earl J. Wilcox


When Norman Mailer walked into a room,
nobody yelled “Norm,” to him as the old
Cheers gang did to one of its characters.

When Norman Mailer walked onto a stage,
everybody waited with bated breath to see
what he’d focus his rage on that day.

When Norman Mailer wrote and wrote and
wrote, we all took notice of his pugnacious
style, his wit, his verve, his energy, his talent.

When Norman Mailer left his imprint upon
our culture, we knew it would be impressive:
an authentic American voice, now gone quiet.


Earl J. Wilcox founded The Robert Frost Review, which he edited for more than a decade. His poetry was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

WHEN JOHNNY

by Debra Kaufman


Draping the flag
over her shoulders
she said red is for blood
white for innocence
blue for the eyes of my Johnny-o

When Johnny comes marching
comes flying comes stumbling
comes home lost
behind his eyes so blue
so distant so furious so murderous

we'll give him a hearty welcome then
hoorah hoorah


Debra Kaufman is a poet and playwright. She is author of three poetry collections: Family of Strangers, Still Life Burning, and A Certain Light. Her poems have appeared in many literary magazines and several anthologies.

THOSE WE BURIED, THOSE WE SENT HOME

by Laurie Kuntz


They flash the dead on the screen,
Faces shining like an autumn harvest,
Their serious smiles, framed against stars, against stripes.

The parades this week are cast
With those who returned, they step to the podium,
This bruised harvest, their gait gingered.

One’s eye sockets are melted shut,
Like the waxy remains of a holiday candle.

He hoarsely speaks of serving with pride,
But his words are slurred, as are parts of his memory.

The next boy speaks too loudly, says he has no regrets,
He accepts the injuries, a totem of honor,
his left ear blown off by grenades,

He folds and refolds the yellow lined paper,
Notes to himself on what must be said,

When his speech ends, he sees the clapping,
But cannot hear the applause,
or the few in the audience beginning to gasp.


Laurie Kuntz’s bio is as elusive as her estrogen levels. Sometimes she remembers she is a poet and sometimes not. During her five minutes in the sun Laurie has done the following: She is the winner of the 1999 Texas Review Chapbook Contest and her chapbook, Simple Gestures, is published by Texas review Press (2000). Blue Light Press published her chapbook, Women at the Onsen, in 2003. Edwin Mellen Press published her poetry collection, Somewhere in the Telling in 1999. She is the author of two English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) books, The New Arrival, BKS. 1 &2(Prentice-Hall, 1982, 1992). She was the editor of the University of Maryland's Asian Division's literary magazine, Blue Muse, and was a contributing editor to Hunger Mountain Magazine. Currently, she is a contributing editor for RockSaltPlum online literary magazine. In 2003, three of her poems were nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize. More on her life and poetry can be seen on lauriekuntzpoetry.homestead.com. Pining for the tropics, she works and writes in Northern Japan.

Friday, November 09, 2007

N.Y. VOTERS ACCIDENTALLY GET 2 A.M. PHONE CALLS

by Rochelle Ratner


It's two a.m. Do you know where your children are? Do you realize you're less than an hour's drive from New York City. Or did you plan it that way, so your kids could have the best of both worlds? The bars don't close until four. Do you know which ones they frequent? Have you raised them to be Democrats or Independents? Surely they can think for themselves. Surely they're old enough to vote, or they wouldn't be out this late. Please rest assured, as part of the state legislature, I'll always have their interests and safety uppermost in my mind. At all hours.


Rochelle Ratner's latest poetry books include Leads (Otoliths Press, 2007), Balancing Acts (Marsh Hawk Press, 2006), Beggars at the Wall (Ikon, 2006) and House and Home (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003). She is the author of fifteen previous poetry collections and two novels (Bobby’s Girl and The Lion’s Share) both published by Coffee House Press). More information and links to her writing on the Internet can be found on her homepage.

REPUBLI-GUNS

poeArtry by Charles Frederickson


Republi-guns coming out smoking crackpots
    Shooting from Lip-GOP Hip-hop Flip-flops
        Bent straight mavericks gunning for
            Oval Orifice Reagan stingray-gun wannabes

Cross-dresser skirting ex-ex-wife swap conflicts
    Briefly married to own Superego
        Photo oops windblown hairless comb-overs
            Cell phone set-up delusional fake-believe

Two positions on every issue
    Stem rethinking cells NRA inductee
        Ex-pro/anti-gay pro-choice pro-life crock hunter
            Dithering reborn-again Mormon Osmonds endorsed

Ham what am role-playing gigs
    Ex-senator D.A. caveman presidential stand-in
        Titanic victim lifeboat sprung leak
            Hot wife cheerleader mouth-to-mouth resuscitation

Camp-pain hemorrhaging dollars cents-less broke
    Overgrown Beach Boy belittling jerk
        Gagging on Chelsea – Janet gibes
            Bombing Iraq is no joke

Bush-league Cheney gang swift boating
    Exploiting 9/11 for political gain
        White elephants jumping through loopholes
            Ameri-neocon XS hypocrisy hang Right


Dr. Charles Frederickson. Name: D. Mentor Stan Doubt; Nickname: Nun; Address: Genial Devilry State of Denial; Zip: B9-1-1; Phone: Taco Bell; Faxhole: telepathetic moonsense UFOcult; Sexile: manimal; He-male: e-diot dot commie; vagabondAge: Ironic; Blood: Taipei; Vision: 20-20-20; Religion: Born Against trance-incidental Vegetation; Education: U-Nique BSer IV Leak Overachiever; Major: Mickey Mouse Pad Commuter Séance; Club Memberships: A, AA, AAA, AAAA, AAAAA; Special Abilities: Unmentionable Listless Hypist; halluciDate: Blind Man’s Bluff TGIF.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

CITY HALL

by Sarah Lazare


"Do you think we are animals—
that you can just throw us onto the street?"

I imagine these words ringing through the city council meeting,
Letting loose a shudder
before disappearing into the transcripts.

"The city is tearing down the housing projects in New Orleans
after thousands of black people have been killed and displaced."

The councilmen will thank them for their comments.

The land has already been sold.


Sarah Lazare is a 24 year old union organizer living in San Francisco. She previously lived in Washington, DC, where she worked as a writer and researcher for a magazine that monitors and exposes corporate abuses. She grew up in Springfield, Illinois.

WAITING FOR GODOT IN NEW ORLEANS

by Alan Catlin


In November 2006, [Paul] Chan was invited to lecture at Tulane University. During his stay, he toured the flood-ravaged city. The stark landscape led him to think of New Orleans as the perfect setting for an outdoor version of Godot. "In the (Lower) 9th Ward and parts of Gentilly, you saw these barren streets," he said. "In Godot, the only setting is a road and a tree." But Chan, who lives in New York, said it was "not only a visual sensation that suggested (Samuel) Beckett's play, but the sense of waiting, waiting for Road Home money, or friends in Houston and Atlanta, waiting for them to return."
--"Artist Paul Chan brings his 'Godot' to a waiting city,"
by Doug MacCash and David Cuthbert, NOLA.com November 06, 2007

staged in
hurricane

wasteland
9th Ward

audience
members

say, "Waiting,
I can tell you

about waiting."
Waiting for rescue

waiting for FEMA
for Red Cross

for National Guard
all deployed to Iraq

Waiting for housing
waiting for jobs

for new schools
Waiting for Bush


Alan Catlin's latest chapbook is a long poem, "Thou Shalt Not Kill", an updating of Rexroth's seminal poem of the same name. Whereas Rexroth riffs on the abuses of the Eisenhower adminstration, the update observes abuses of power in the current administration with particular attention to the cynical, criminal behavior towards the Katrina hurricane victims. One year later, the victims are not forgotten. No matter how many candles the Bushes light, the appalling lack of humanity and the blatant hypocrisy of the folks in charge is as apparent as the disenfranchised, the homeless, and the poverty stricken people of the Gulf states.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

NO REGRETS

by Persis M. Karim

On hearing of Paul Tibbets’s death--November 1, 2007

You could say “I’ve seen it all baby”
and no one could dispute that.
At 92, you’d lived to say “I have no
regrets”-- even while remembering
the blue flash of light, the mushroom cloud
you must have seen as beautiful and clean
when the plane you piloted
circled the dark island one last time.

It was you, Mr. Tibbets who pushed the button
and let drop the “Little Boy,”
that made history for you and it,
ended one kind of war and started another.
And that the thing beneath you slipped out
like a baby, waiting to be born,
overdue and eager to make contact
with life, made it somehow less regrettable.

Even in death, you’ll be murmuring,
“I have no regrets,” in the belly of the plane
where they’ll drop your ashes
over the great ocean to avoid
a burial site, a headstone
that would attract detractors who still assert
that any man who spreads death,
no matter how and in what form,
whether in the cockpit, under a heavy vest
of munitions, or sitting behind a round table—
cannot say, “I have no regrets.”

No, you didn’t invent destruction
and you didn’t perfect it either.
Before you partnered with the cold machine
that you gave your mother’s sweet-
sounding name, “Enola Gay,”
plenty of others before you let loose
their furor and terror.
They were never heroes though, never
given the power to think
their beautiful violence
would save somebody, save
this shattered world
from more shattering.

And many more came after
who never lost a wink of sleep
when their blankets of death
covered a corner of the planet.
Men like Pol Pot and Kissinger,
Pinochet and Bin Laden.
All of them resting easy
in warm beds or some other
place they might call heaven.

Mr. Tibbets, I bid you a hero’s farewell
and say I’m sorry
that you didn’t get to know
how much more human a man is
when he lives to regret
some things.


Persis M. Karim lives in the Berkeley, CA with her husband and two sons. She teaches literature and creative writing at San Jose State University and is editor and contributing poet to Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora (2006). She can be reached at http://www.persiskarim.com.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

RESIGNATION

by Patricia Brooks

This poem follows my summer trip to D.C., to do a hunger strike (following my successful three-week strike from home last fall) in the galleries of the House and Senate. I ended it because no water is allowed inside the Capitol Building (a glass an hour is required to maintain the body while not eating) and my body let me know it would not go through that again. But by then I was also convinced that there was no way the Democrats were going to take responsibility for this war on their own shoulders while that burden is now borne by the Republicans. I couldn't see a single soul on the floors of either house who would do anything they feared unwise politically. I've been a peace activist all my life, and am now resigning.

Leave me be, America,
I cannot hope
to save you
anymore.

Your bombs have burst
my eardrums, popped
my nerves like junkies’ veins.
They’re now as numb.

In my youth,
I faced down bigots’
shotguns for
your honor.

Whatever happened
to that honor, America?
Did you trade it
for this power?

Leave me be, America,
I cannot hope
to save you
anymore.

Two wars ago,
you gassed me on the
steps of your five-sided
house of terror.

Now your gases
poison soils and air
everywhere. What will you tell
the children who get ill?

Will you slap the hands
that reach to you for care?
All our riches cannot
make them well?

Leave me be, America,
I cannot hope
to save you
anymore.
You keep building prisons
for your forever-slaves and
desperate others. Their walls
are ringed by hired rifles.

No room left for your latest
self-made enemies; you ship them
all off-shore, like the mansions
of those CEOs who own us.

Your first flag of ownership
was planted on the moon, has now
proliferated to the homes of every
frightened patriot and invaded land.

This year, they say, on Hiroshima Day,
some offered our apologies. The reply of
their descendents: now our lust for conquest
has passed to you. Thank you.

I cannot hope…
I cannot hope…
I cannot hope
to save you

anymore,
America.


Patricia Brooks was Fiction Editor of the Northwest Review during the three years she spent in the MFA program at the University of Oregon. She has published two novels,and had a play produced in Edward Albee's workshop at the Circle in the Square Theater in NYC. Her poetry has appeared in an assortment of journals, large and small.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A BOWL OF LESSONS FOR HALLOWEEN

by Frank Sloan


My neighbor, the prison guard, aims a .22 Ruger at a crater on
thet fat yellow moon that
hangs low above a row of spooky hedge trees.
He probably believes he can hit it from here.
He’s very fond of his delusions, gets them wholesale from Fox TV News.

“My nephew borrowed a hundred bucks and never paid it back, so I took his gun! I don’t need another gun, but he needs the lesson!” When he pulls
the trigger nothing happens. The gun’s not loaded. “All you kids
need to wake up to the real world.” (I’m three
                                          years younger than he is.)

I live in a gun happy state. We live in a gun happy country. My neighbor feels comfortable with a house full of guns, and I found my Halloween costume: a wounded
moon leaking her luminous guts into a vast bowl of gunpowder.



Ex-firefighter, ex-beat cop, ex-dirt farmer/cowhand/bouncer and current garden center flunky; Frank Sloan lives and writes in a small shack near the heart of the American empire. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he believes it’s a heart that merits salvation.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

MALIBU FIRE

by Tamara Madison


A red boil rises
in the eastern sky to show
a film of ash on asphalt:
your wedding photos
your tax returns, the couch
you could not get rid of.

Like a timid snowfall
the flakes sift down:
your closets full of clothes
for each of your changing sizes;
a decade of newspapers stored
in neat columns in your spare
garage; a marriage full
of Christmas ornaments.

When the wind is right
The sky shows its shy blue face
until the smoke returns
bringing with it your law books,
your socks, your brand new
king size bed.

Flames glitter on the hillside:
This is something big,
they tell us, We are stronger
than you will ever be.

And they bring us their booty:
all those ancient phone books
the magazines you had no time
to read, the bible you held
at confirmation, your mask
and snorkel, your careful
landscaping, and plastic,
all that plastic.


Tamara Madison teaches French in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She is a long-time participant in Donna Hilbert's poetry workshop in Long Beach, California. Her chapbook The Belly Remembers won the Jane Buel Bradley Chapbook Award in 2005 and is available through pearlmag.com.

GREEN TEA

by Al Simmons


Once upon a time, between
Love affairs,
On an island called Alameda,
He sat drinking green tea.

Real ducks, not rubber ones,
Swam in the pool,
And the morning sounds
Were vibrant
And interrupted only by the roars
From jet planes taking off from Oakland
International.
They used to take off above
Industrial Hayward to the south.

The mighty scream and quake from the GE Jet P.
Engines were the sounds
Of filth, systematically applied
Layer upon layer upon layer,
Upon our community, without rest.

Aviation
Industry of Filth.

This Sunday morning
On the coast, it’s 62 degrees,
Pleasant, sunny and mild.

I don’t fear death,
I fear being cheated
Out of life.

I sit,
Drink green tea,
Write poems,
Take a walk,
Promise myself
Not to befoul anything
This entire day.


Al Simmons was born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 21, 1948. He studied with Ed Dorn at Northeastern Illinois University. He was faculty assistant and student aide to Ted Berrigan, who replaced Ed Dorn at Northeastern Illinois University. In the early 70s he was part of the Stone Wind Poets who began the first regular poetry reading series in Chicago since Sherwood Anderson. He won several Illinois Arts Council Awards as Editor for Stone Wind Magazine. He served as Artist-In-Residence City of Chicago Council on Fine Arts, 1979-80, he is recognized as the founder of The Spoken Word Movement, Commissioner of the WPA/WPBA, World Poetry Association, and the World Poetry Bout Association, creator of the World Heavyweight Championship Poetry Fights, Co-Producer of the Taos Poetry Circus from 1981-2000. His column, "Coasting," appeared in Strong Coffee Magazine, Chicago, from 1994-1997. During that time he was also a regular contributor to The Temple and Exquisite Corpse. He has two books, King Blue and Care Free. He currently lives in Alameda, California.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

LOOK THE TERMINATOR, THAT WAY

by Steve Hellyard Swartz


Adults in Australia
Are filling up the lists
Of artful orthodontists
To look a certain way

Aussie realtor, twenty-something
Kimmie B.
Says: In my profession it makes all the difference in the
World to look a certain way

Which way is that?
Wonders the Iraqi girl who hears Kimmie B. quoted on the BBC

Which way, the girl in Baghdad wonders as she lies on her bedroom floor
and opens a map of the world
Which way, the girl in Baghdad wonders, imagining Kimmie B. halfway
     around the world
Imagining Kimmie B. praying to
Diamonds on the map, east west north south, all the rough paper stones
     she's heard about,
this girl
in dreams that gag her in the dark of night, one two three thousand times

What, the girl wonders
kneeling on the world
did Kimmie B. mean when she said:
I need a celebrity mouth

The Iraqi girl was told by her mother just yesterday not to look left or right,
     not up or down,
but only straight ahead
Let your nose guide you, Mama said
There are dead bodies everywhere
On the streets of the girl’s neighborhood
There is nothing you can do
If the men come to pick them up, good, if not

The girl looks at the map
The girl sees California and thinks about looking a certain way
from Australia to California and all around the sun splashed world
There is a poster of Disney World on her wall
There is a poster of Arnold Schwartzenegger as The Terminator
If the men come to pick up the bodies, we are very, very happy
If not, there’s nothing to say, nothing to do
If not, then you just have to look a certain way
And go on


Steve Hellyard Swartz is an award-winning filmmaker, broadcaster, and poet. This year, he won an Honorable Mention in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards. His poetry has been published in The Kennesaw Review, levelpoetry.com, switched-on guttenberg, and Haggard and Halloo.

Friday, November 02, 2007

VETO POWER

by Sondra Zeidenstein

for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

My father always had veto power over his wife and four daughters
and, backing him up, like when I ran away, underage, to be with my boyfriend,
the police, the handcuffs, the cop car to search me out and bring me home,
where my mother had taken to her bed in disgrace,

big,Tudor style house on the corner, shaken to its laundress-inhabited cellar.
My mother never once spoke back to my father.
Mostly, she’d turn a blank face to his constant sniping,
but once, when he threw a fork at her across the table

because she didn’t serve the dishes in the right order or at the right pace,
or didn’t put a separate set of salt and pepper shakers by his plate
so he, stutterer, halted by s’s, wouldn’t have to keep asking
pass the salt,
she ran upstairs to the third floor, as far away as she could get,

her daughters crowding in behind her, quivering, and called her mother.
I’m putting my money on Nancy Pelosi, her courage to talk back
to the men, the despots, my father all over again, on her unsmudged
wet lipstick, her wide mouth, such shiny white teeth,

flat, pink, clean tongue, on the cut of her silk blouses in every color,
under a soft jacket, over a skirt, her legs still beautiful. On the pearls.
I’ve never seen a woman of seventy, attractive, sexual,
look with such confidence in the eyes of a man in power and claim her opposition,

you are wrong, your policies are blunders,
in slow, clear sentences. True, she’s had a hard time.
After months at the gavel, her eyes are set deeper,
her neck is thinner, strands of her coiffed, dyed hair fall out of place.

When the Senate whip, her ally, stands too close beside her in front of the mike,
puts his arm around her back, his fingers coming up over her other shoulder,
she keeps her trained face poised for the camera,
but her eyes flicker, to all of us, her disdain.

Not like my downtrodden mother,
rough-skinned, plump, penniless without my father,
in that secure hold at the corner of Bryant and King,
never standing up for herself or her four skinny, fidgety daughters.


Sondra Zeidenstein's poems have been published in magazines, journals and anthologies, and in a chapbook collection entitled Late Afternoon Woman. A Detail in that Story is her first book, Resistance is her second. She is editor of several anthologies including A Wider Giving: Women Writing after a Long Silence and Family Reunion: Poems about Parenting Grown Children, and publisher of Chicory Blue Press, a small literary press, now twenty years old, that focuses on writing by older women.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

AND NOT A SYMPATHY CARD LEFT IN THE EMPTY BINS

by Rochelle Ratner


We Card Everyone, the sign at the register says. It’s what they teach employees. And high school girls with pimply faces working for minimum wage are proud to have learned it.

At the back of the market, two Marines home on leave from Iraq are trying to get together a poker game. The father of one has a deck of cards, government issue, with all the names and faces of the terrorists sought right after 9/11. The names are unfamiliar. The bearded faces all look the same to them. The cards were bought on eBay.

They’re told there will be new cards soon. Cards meant to teach the soldiers about historic sites and artifacts. Diamonds for artifacts and treasures, spades for archaeological digs. Whispering, of course, steal this, or take this home with you. Something besides their wounds to show the family. If the family can bear to look at them.

A 77-year-old man, who vaguely remembers one boy as a child, eavesdrops as he steps around them to fill his cart with six packs of Coors and Miller Light, refreshments for the book club at the senior center. They say he looks young for his age. He keeps his weight down. He’s been shopping at this market for over 40 years. When the cashier asks for proof of age it all becomes too much for him.


Rochelle Ratner's latest poetry books include Leads (Otoliths Press, 2007), Balancing Acts (Marsh Hawk Press, 2006), Beggars at the Wall (Ikon, 2006) and House and Home (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003). She is the author of fifteen previous poetry collections and two novels (Bobby’s Girl and The Lion’s Share) both published by Coffee House Press). More information and links to her writing on the Internet can be found on her homepage.