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Monday, June 18, 2018

PLANET HELL’S VERY LAST SUPPER/DEATH MATCH

by David Spicer




Smiling, smoking a licorice cigarillo, the Devil commissions Picasso to paint the Very Last Supper’s megalomaniac orgy, a delegation of twelve lunatics vying for Daddy’s attention. Chairs fill, arguments continue, Hitler at one end of the table opposite Beelzebub, Mussolini to the left of the rectangle stash, Stalin scouting Siberian gulags in his head, Idi squealing like a butchered pig. There’s Mao at his side, chomping on a ribeye. They don’t impress Satan, he’s seen it all, he’s their God they love, the Ayatollah and Rasputin arm wrestling, betting a fruit pie against a lemon cake. And there’s Manson with Putin, followed by a pedophile pope. Just arriving, the two newest members, T***p and Kim, known as T***pkim, slap each other on the back, shake hands for two minutes before the Breezy Bully yanks his mitten from Kim’s vice-grip fist and says, Hey, bud, that hurt. Kim says, Don’t be a Dotard, turd. BB says, I don’t like you anymore, Kimmy. The dictator laughs louder than his pin-stripe suit, grabs Breezy Bully’s red tie, twirls him against the barbed wire cage, waits, drop kicking him, bounces on the bully’s big belly with his big belly, ole Lucifer slamming his huge hand on the flaming floor, One! Two! Three! And the winner is . . . Rocket Man! The vanquished President whines, That’s not fair. He cheated. The bad boys boo, Pussy! Pussy! Grab that Pussy, Kimbo! Mussolini barfs. Hitler screams, Death to the American Weasel! Helter Skelter! Manson shouts. I’ll hear his confession, the holy man whispers. Kim grabs a frat paddle, smacking his former fat bro on the ass, Hahahahahahaha. Mao and the others echo Kim. Hahahahahahaha. Suddenly Stalin jumps on the table, shouts Shuttttuppp!! and grabs the loud loser by his small ears, slams him on the table, scizzors his head with yellow boots: Stay down, do-dad, stay down. Do dad bawls. Everyone laughs. Putin says, You’re with the big boys now, Banana Breath, but we’ll toughen up your pink punk butt. The audience of liberals and me-tooers cheers so deafening the world explodes.


David Spicer has had poems in Gargoyle, Rat’s Ass Review, Reed Magazine, Tipton Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Chiron Review, Easy Street, Prime Number, The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares,  among others, and in the anthologies Silent Voices: Recent American Poems on Nature (Ally Press, 1978), Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing From Homer to Ali (Southern Illinois University Press, 2003), and A Galaxy of Starfish: An Anthology of Modern Surrealism (Salo Press, 2016). He has been nominated for a Best of the Net three times and a Pushcart, and is the author of one full-length collection of poems, Everybody Has a Story (St. Luke's Press, 1987), and five chapbooks, with the latest, From the Wings of a Pear Tree, available from Flutter Press. He is also the former editor of Raccoon, Outlaw, and Ion Books.

SERAFINA'S CHOICE

by Jennifer Lagier


Just released by border patrol @CBP showing the McAllen, Texas detention facility that we were allowed to tour today.  For now, we can only rely on what they give us. They will not allow us inside to film on our own. Why? “Privacy”; they don’t want faces shown. —@DavidBegnaud


"I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for His purposes." – Jeff Sessions


Vindictive politicians cloak cruelty
with misinterpreted bible quotes.
Modern-day storm troopers
rip children as young
as breast-feeding infants
away from their desperate mothers.

Private contractors reap the rewards
of warehousing innocent captives.
Predator-in-Chief and his craven enablers
use families as bargaining chips
in a cynical, racist game
of immigration bill chicken.


Jennifer Lagier has published fourteen books, co-edits the Homestead Review, helps coordinate Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium readings. Newest books: Scene of the Crime (Evening Street Press), Harbingers (Blue Light Press), Camille Abroad (FutureCycle Press), Like a B Movie (FutureCycle Press). Forthcoming: Camille Mobilizes (FutureCycle Press).

Sunday, June 17, 2018

LETTER BY LETTER

by Bill Meissner



That morning of my tenth birthday, I expected
a game, comic books. Instead,
my father lowered an American Heritage Dictionary
into my open palms,
told me he’d give me a small allowance
if I’d learn the definitions from A to Z.
I felt the weight of the book, its embossed leather cover
holding in those 225,000 words.

Caught in the middle of Iowa,
I knew nothing of aardvarks or zzyvas.
So each night, instead of watching TV,
I leaned close to the gold-leafed pages,
studying definitions that often eluded
me, meteors that glowed a few seconds
in the dome of sky before they faded.

     I can picture him now, after work at the used car lot,
     his beige dress shirt creased like the lines in a county map.
     He’d lean back on his La-Z-Boy in the den,
     paging through the latest National Geographic,
     marveling at the ancient mariners who navigated by the stars.
     As a young man, he dreamed of jumping on a freighter
     to ports in Anchorage, Buenos Aires, Caracas.
     Instead, he got a steady job. Instead,
     he wanted his son to learn the world,
     letter by letter, and then
     go there.

Months later, I gave up at F.
I even skimmed some of the blurred pages
just to get all the way to that failure,
then slid the dictionary into a mute dresser drawer.

Dad, I’m sorry. The universe was just too big for me
and I grew away from those words.
But I’m finding them now, years later, for this poem.
Here they are:  each one
like the light from a small, distant
star, finally reaching the earth.


Minnesota writer Bill Meissner is the author of five books of poems.  His forthcoming book of poetry The Mapmaker’s Dream will be published in early 2019. "Letter by Letter" will appear in that collection.  Meissner is also the author of two books of short stories and the novel Spirits in the Grass.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

THE NEW WORLD

by Barlow Adams





It’s not my birthday
but they bring me cake,
a rainbow bearing my name
with candles like lighthouses
on a multihued shore,
welcoming me to safe harbor.
What a beach,
what a holiday we have discovered,
a paradise prescribed through 
HR interventions, signs saying
love is love, we are all one,
Life Gets Better Together.
We get tomorrow off for the parade.

I face the flames, 
wax runs with my mascara
sizzling like sugar.
Caramelized callousness, 
calls back the heat in my shoulder
where a cluster of circles remembers where
my father used to snuff his Pall Malls.
A fag for a fag, here’s a flag
I claim this land, you scallywag.
And none of these brave explorers of equality,
in business casual and formal apology,
realize that they are not the first to arrive,
that I am not an undiscovered country.


Barlow Adams is the author of two novellas. His poetry has been featured by Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel and Dos Madres Press, and is set to appear later this year in formercactus and Finishing Line Press.

Friday, June 15, 2018

THE TROUBLE WITH YESTERDAY IS THAT IT'S NOT TODAY EVEN IF IT PLAGIARIZES YESTERDAY

by Dianna  Mackinnon Henning



Palestinian protesters near the Gaza-Israel border. YnetNews


it won’t be the same. The ironic bay window tires
revealing the picturesque—several fruit trees, aspen and
a roly-poly hillside marred with wildflowers. Shades are
more than pulled blinds. All those Palestinians shot
down. Windows break because they’re glass. Flesh is
not iron. It never will be nor does it aspire such. A young
boy’s boomerang is no weapon. They’ll kill him anyway.
Yesterday’s headlines announced hope. The trouble with
hope is that it shifts positions. Yoga doesn’t mean the body
bows like a field of wildflowers in a bilingual downpour.


Dianna Mackinnon Henning holds an MFA in Writing ’89 from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared in The Moth, Naugatuck River Review, Lullwater Review, The Red Rock Review, The Kentucky Review, The Good Works Review, The Main Street Rag, California Quarterly, Poetry International, Fugue, 22 Wagons, South Dakota Review, Trag, Hawai’i Pacific Review, and The Seattle Review. A three-time Pushcart nominee, Henning has taught poetry through California Poets in the Schools. The William James Association’s Prison Arts Program  gave her the opportunity to teach poetry at Folsom and other CA prisons. Henning’s third poetry chapbook Cathedral of the Hand was published in 2016 byFinishing Line Press.

ASYLUM

by Thomas R. Smith




   Why does my country so often stand
   On the side of the mean and the cruel?
           —Ed Sanders, "Nicaragua"


Sometimes I think these recurring dreams
of insecure wandering aren't personal
at all, but the world dreaming through me.

Again last night, I had no bed, searched
a strange town with darkness falling.
Our country has strayed so far from that

young and fearless prophet it professes
to worship.  Kidnapping children from their
parents at the border, making criminals

of asylum-seekers.  A Honduran man
separated from his wife and child by ICE
kills himself in a cell described as a "kennel."

Does the man who calls himself President
and the cowards and bullies who enable
him really believe they can have power

without responsibility?  The five
percent feeding on forty percent of
the planet arms itself to keep the starving

away from the table.  So we drift toward
our destruction, uncaring, cruel, refusing
to enter into a human future.

In dreams we are relentlessly pursued,
can find no place to lay our heads in this land
of the Ego, the Dollar, and the Holy Gun.

In time our bad faith will make our nation
a prison, in which we serve our sentence
not for having killed, but for having killed

not for survival but for luxury.



A Honduran girl cries as her mother is search and detained near the U.S. Mexico border on Tuesday in McAllen, Texas. Credit John Moore/Getty Images via Slate, June 14, 2018


Thomas R. Smith is a poet and teacher living in River Falls, Wisconsin. He teaches at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. His most recent poetry collection is The Glory (Red Dragonfly Press).

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A CHILD'S PASSPORT

by Rick Mullin
Illustration by Dan Carino for PRI.


Before the monster went away, I told her,
little boys and girls were fingerprinted,
photographed, required to pledge allegiance
to the flag and quizzed on history
at gunpoint in a room without their parents.
All to see how they would hold up under
torture and to gather data points
required to follow every move they made.
Of course I reassured her things have changed,
despite the uniforms and bullet-proof
enclosures for the customs officers
and soldiers and the yellow paperwork.
I told her not to worry when they called
her name. To just let Daddy do the talking.


Rick Mullin's newest poetry collection is Transom.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

LUNCH MONOLOGUE

by Harold Oberman




The A-1 China Super Buffet lacks knives
And we are no longer the leader of the free world.
I’m not sure what disturbs me more.
I imagine an incident at the buffet,
A butter knife attack long ago,
And the owners swearing off the utensil,
Or a loutish mule at the G-7 Summit
Bucking in invective, stamping his wingtips,
Flaring his nose, and bolting for Singapore.
Certainly, the butter knife attack I made up—
It’s probably a cultural thing, allowing forks
Instead of chopsticks is as far as they’ll bend—
But the leader of the former leader
Of the free world is somehow real
And we can’t take his knives away, not yet,
And he’ll be at the feed trough braying for his steak
Well-done, gums exposed, totally uninformed
That mules usually eat hay.


Harold Oberman is a lawyer and poet working and writing in Charleston, S.C.  Most Mondays he can be found at the A-1 China Super Buffet.

Monday, June 11, 2018

ABECEDARIO

by German Dario


“Foster Care or Whatever” by Pia Guerra at The Nib


todos los nombres

child a
came from central american country x
wearing dust
from three countries
and the sweat of his ancestors

child b
came from central American country z

           we think

she was too young to speak
but the twig
she had in place
of the left arm
on her doll
is from a tree
that grows in country z

child c
was just a foot and chancla
wrapped in a serape

child d
was raped
          repeatedly
wants to die
but crossed a line
and got picked up

child e
is running
from
a new family
a gang that tattooed
their brand
on virgin skin
and killed the mom

child f
had a good
hardworking clan
but they were taken
in a van
and closed doors
don't explain
   anything

child g's clothes were on child h

I
           do nothing

child m and n
might be related
by blood
if not by blood
by abuse
from a coyote
with candy
gun
and putrid
acid tongue

o
p
q
r
s

todos los nombres
now
all are safe
behind
fence link
dreamcatchers


German Dario, recently published at The Friday Influence and The Blue Collar Review, resides in Arizona.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

CAN QUIET STILL CREATE SOUND?

by Mary K O'Melveny


Palestinian protesters take cover from tear gas, Kibbutz Nahal Oz, Israel-Gaza border, June 8, 2018. CREDIT: JACK GUEZ/AFP via Haaretz.


Hamas has a new array of tactics—violent protest, burning kites and the occasional rocket—to preserve the fire of resistance. While it's uncertain the situation will escalate into military conflict, Hamas alone doesn't decide —Haaretz, June 9, 2018.


Quiet will be met with quiet
said the Israeli officer
and violence with a response
that is appropriate.  Of course
one’s ideas of appropriate
vary widely depending where
one stands.  Rock throwers raise their arms
and lose a leg to rifle fire

based on orders given in private
to fearful soldiers, not philosophers,
who find themselves ensconced
on exploding hills.  Which side is worse,
they have no time to debate.
In moments of silence, they may stare
out at youngsters running toward harm’s
way, lobbing missiles even higher,

wonder what zeal makes them try it,
despite the odds, when a pause occurs
in mortar rounds.  Their nonchalance
is almost thrilling, their voices hoarse
with fury.  Decisions to expropriate
ancestral lands haunt them as they stare
across barbed wire, imaging farms
on hillsides that fuel their ire.

Is anyone willing to defy it,
to announce, when a pause occurs,
that forgiveness is what he wants,
that harm’s antidote might be remorse?
Instead of blood for blood opiate,
perhaps such visions might be shared,
words of peace to close down alarms
before sounds of silence expire.


Mary K O'Melveny is a recently retired labor rights attorney who lives in Washington DC and Woodstock NY.  Her work has appeared in various print and on-line journals.  Her first poetry chapbook A Woman of a Certain Age will be published by Finishing Line Press in September, 2018.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

LAST SUPPER

by Paul Smith





Richard Corey went out to eat
crossed the bridge over the canal
from the Old Quarter
followed a dark street
where suddenly appeared
a place brightly lit
where laughter, grub and cheer
were served
in a room full of shadowy silhouettes
‘What’s good in here?’ he asked
the waiter
‘Wait here’ he said
and brought the chef
a sober man
who told him
‘Not the White Gazpacho’
‘What then?’
‘Not the Osso Bucco’
‘What then?’
‘Not trying to make up for lost time’
‘You, then, chef of chefs’
Richard Corey took the chef’s hand
walked him down the dark street
crossed the dark bridge
over the dark canal
and had dessert


Paul Smith lives near Chicago. He writes fiction & poetry. He likes Hemingway, really likes Bukowski, the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Kinks and Slim Harpo. He can play James Jamerson's bass solo for 'Home Cookin' by Junior Walker & the Allstars.

Friday, June 08, 2018

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: GODDAMMIT

by George Salamon


Shafiqullah, 13, is one of seven children from an extended family wounded in the blast of a rocket left behind after a battle in Afghanistan. Credit: Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times


It was a cruel day, even by the standards of Afghanistan’s long war. By nightfall, four were dead, including Jalil, who had tried to save them all and died at a hospital that night. One 4-year-old girl, Marwa, lost both her twin sister, Safwa, and their mother, Brekhna, who had been nearby making dung cakes for fuel. One of Brekhna’s nieces, a 6-year-old, was also killed in the blast. Seven survivors—three brothers and four of their first cousins—were left to bear the weight of those losses, and more: Every one of them lost a leg, and two lost both. —The New York Times, June 3, 2018


Missiles fly over villages
Of houses and children.
One landed below, picked  up
By a child it exploded in a fireball of
Blood and screams,
Of corpses and severed limbs
And savaged lives.
It happened in a tiny spot
On the map, far away from
The centers of the global economy
And to people who have
No wealth to manage.
There was the usual silence before.
There will be the usual silence after.


George Salamon lives in St. Louis, MO,  where children are occasionally caught in the crossfire of gunfights.

SHIPWRECK OFF THE COAST OF AFRICA

by Eswer El Cubadi


At least 52 people died after a boat carrying around 180 refugees and migrants sank off the coast of Tunisia on Saturday. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is deeply saddened at this latest tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea and is concerned about the high number of people dying on the Central Mediterranean route with over 700 dead or missing so far in 2018. —UNHCR, June 5, 2018; Meanwhile, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini (in photo) says he will stop migrants trying to reach Europe via Sicily. – EPA pic, June 4, 2018.

            "Can I escape from fell Charybdis and ward Scylla off?"
                        —Homer, Odyssey, Book 12, Lines 115, Odysseus to Circe


At Sfax, the news was horrible—five dozen dead—and more,
near to Kerkennah Island off of north Tunisia's shore.
Increasingly the human traffickers launch people from
Tunisia, now that Libya is tighter than a drum.
The boat was packed with migrants fleeing Africa to be
free from the lives they do not like for hope in Italy.
But, o, alas, the relatives of those who learned the worst,
their souls, like Dido's when Aeneas left her, are accursed.
But further off, up north, Salvini said at Sicily,
"We will no longer be the camp for Europe's refugees."

FROZEN TIME

by Jim Gustafson




ICE is the right name
for those whose cold hands snatch
children from their mother,

who deny the suffocating
air, who eat their lunch
in front of the starving.

Don’t speak of laws.
Immorality is not justified
by obedience.

This is not the first time
the wicked have ruled.
Greed driven and cruel,

we return always
to where we have been before.
Nothing moves us forward.

We must face the truth
about ourselves. Listen,
you will hear it spoken

in the constant cries
of the children gathering
at the borders.


Jim Gustafson holds an M. Div. from Garrett Theological Seminary at Northwestern University in his hometown of Evanston, Illinois and an MFA from the University of Tampa. He is the author of Take Fun Seriously (Limitless Press, 2008), Driving Home (Aldrich Press, 2013), Unassisted Living (Big Table Publishing, 2017), and soon-to-be-released Friar Fred’s Diary (Big Table Publishing, 2018). He teaches at Florida Gulf Coast University. Jim and his wife Connie live in Fort Myers, Florida where he reads, writes, and pulls weeds.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

OUR DULY ERECTED PRESIDENT

by Edmund Conti




“Every time I issue a pardon
I get an executive hard-on.”


Edmund Conti writes straight-up poetry.

RUDY! RUDY! RUDY!

by Darrell Petska

Caricature by Josh Ferrin


Hey, He could've shot james comey
and not been prosecuted:
He's the President.
He can say what He wants,
do what He wants:
more power to Him!
He can sleep with your lover if He wants,
steal babies from their mothers,
hell, He can rob an armored bank car
for all I care, and not be prosecuted
while He's the President.
He can pardon chuckie manson,
lee harvey oswald, the golden state
serial killer—whomever He damned well pleases:
He's the President.
He can put jeffy sessions out of his misery.
I mean permanently.
That turncoat trey gowdy, too.
He can cop a feel on sarah what's-her-face
sanders and what could she possibly do?
He's the President.
Just try to indict Him. He'll pardon Himself.
Besides, He can't be guilty of collusion or obstruction
when recollections keep changing.
What are facts, anyway? After three days
they begin to smell.
Allow me, your beloved prince of new york,
to spare you that terrible stench
by uttering the stupidest things—
just as He hired me to do.
(Praise god! I'm relevant again.)
I represent the President,
the One, the Anointed, the Boss,
so take it from me:
you'd better toe the line, amigos,
or He'll strip you of the rest of your rights,
and there'll be nothing you can do about it
while He's the President.
Capiche?


Darrell Petska often doesn't know whether to laugh or to cry at the news. So he tries to laugh.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

HE TOO

by James Cronin




Who could expect they’d get it right,
as if the crimes weren’t crimes before?
From couch to floor, to any site,
each claims she chose, and asked for more.

Rich men, power, office as hotel,
the scene was set so long ago.
Does beauty lust for age? In hell.
Some drugs, of course, to make it go.

Novice trust sets a satyr’s ease,
then a forceful push to get his fun.
From “seduce” to “rape,” a few degrees,
too dark to tell when all is done.

Moguls, solons and comics may
regret they let their morals skive.
Shame might not be enough today,
when indictments and the cuffs arrive.

The days of grace, of men to men,
are gone thank God and here’s the pitch:
found guilty, you’re in jail and then,
whose turn is it to play the bitch?


James Cronin facilitates a course in the art of the short story for The Second Half, a lifelong learning institute in Fall River, MA. His first book of poetry World of Shadows is scheduled to be published this summer by The Poetry Loft Press of Cranston, RI.

THE SORRY STATE WE'RE IN

by Julie Steiner




Apologies this week abounded.
Coffeehouses said, “We’re grounded!”
Starbucks got de-albatrossed.
(Astronomical, the cost.)

Apologies were everyplace
while Facebook went on saving face.
That launched a thousand ads. (Relation-
ships were shown. And desperation.)

Apologies came thick and fast:
“That reckless stage of ours is past.
We’ve reined it in,” proclaimed Wells Fargo;
Disney let a lowered Barr go.

Apologies were this week’s style.
Uber overcame denial.
Since perverts squeezed their bottom line,
they're preaching, "To forgive’s divine."

Apologies, though très en vogue,
are clothes one emperor-slash-rogue
won’t deign to don. He shuns contrition:
bare-faced lies draw less suspicion.


Julie Steiner gets snarky in San Diego.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

TUFF SHED CITY

by Jan Steckel 

It's been exactly one month since the city of Oakland constructed Tuff Sheds to try to house at least some of the city's growing homeless population. . . . During that time, the city has moved out virtually all the tent encampments around them. "We're at 85 percent capacity," said Joe DeVries, an assistant to the city administrator, which runs Oakland homeless outreach program. He says there are only six spaces left in the Tuff Sheds at 6th and Castro. "I guarantee you it's better than a tent," said DeVries. "These things don't leak when it rains. You've got a hard structure. You've got a locking door. It isn't perfect, but its certainly a step up from where people were." In the meantime, the city kept its promise to clean out most of the tent encampments that engulfed the area...leaving former residents with no choice but to move on -- or move in, to the sheds. "It's a good step toward a new life," said Hill. The city admits, this approach isn't perfect and stresses it's meant to be temporary. The goal is to find permanent housing for each resident within six months. —abc7NEWS (Bay Area), June 4, 2018. In the video, Gary Nash offers his version of what goes on at the Tuff Sheds site on 5th and Castro—bullying, inhumane conditions, prison-style rules. His Mom Robiyn has been keeping peace and caring for folks at this community but now the people in power are trying to evict her and Gary who both have medical issues.  —San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center, May 28, 2018.

 “we the former tenants of San Francisco  / dead in jail sleeping under the freeway / out here somewhere / between Stockton and the grave” 
—from “Bang Bang Niner Gang” by Cassandra Dallett

She changed bedpans twenty years at Kaiser Hospital
in Oakland, but the property management company
evicted her for day-late rent so they could double it
for tech workers forced out in turn from San Francisco.
She ran out of her pain meds, started stealing fentanyl
from patients, got fired and banned, now sleeps
in a tent by the railyard, shoots up to deal with it,
trades blow jobs for her supply.

He drove the bus in a twelve-hour shift
until ride-sharing took over and his line shut down.
He got laid off, couldn’t find new work at his age,
lost his home in the housing crash.
He’s in a tent in a sidewalk camp now, where
people keep getting hit by cars at the off ramp.

He supervised parking lots, but his back went to shit,
the insurance cut off the pills, and he started drinking
again to kill the pain. His wife kicked him out.
He cleaned windshields at the corner gas station,
slept under the freeway, got robbed,
still thinks it beats the shelter.

They drove a truck for a queer-owned grocery
until Amazon Fresh drove it out of the market.
They squatted in a condemned warehouse
with other nonbinary people and artists till
a space heater and a tangle of extension cords
burned the place and its queer spirit to the ground.

All of them ended up in a West Oakland tent city
where neighbors emailed City Hall daily
demanding their removal. One night
someone set the tents on fire.
Now the City’s herding them into plastic
gardening sheds that used to be for storing
rakes and lawnmowers. Broken tools, all of them.


Jan Steckel is a former pediatrician who stopped practicing medicine because of chronic pain. Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Her work was nominated three times each for the Pushcart and Sundress Best of the Net anthologies, won the Goodreads Poetry Contest three times, and won various other awards. She lives in Oakland, California.

Monday, June 04, 2018

REVISION

by Alan Walowitz


'Palestinian Volunteer Medic Killed, Dozens Wounded' in Latest Protests on Israel-Gaza Border —Haaretz, June 1, 2018. Photo: Palestinian protesters flee from incoming tear gas canisters during clashes following a demonstration along the border with Israel east of Khan Yunis, Gaza, June 1, 2018. Credit: SAID KHATIB/AFP via Haaretz.


You must change your life, Rilke said.
But what did he know about moving toward a fence
in such ragged order, armed with rocks and kites,
where live arms will greet you,
their 19-year-old bearers trained in this same theater
and are in receipt of their rules of engagement
and memorized the battle plan
like lines in a drama where the outcome is certain,
which will only make the ending more rich, more real?
Yet, how can you tell what these supernumeraries will feel
once the curtain comes down, and the dead are not mannequins
and are moved instead to the theater of the ground?

Much like this nation where I’m told,
—even if I’m the son unable to ask—
I can return any time I’d like,
I’ve been on this earth the allotted three score and ten.
I assure you, from vast experience,
to change a life requires more than one’s full portion.
But to revise, to see yourself again,
that can be an everyday miracle, if only we’d try.
Some of our fathers tell us we’re not quite chosen,
but just to be certain, we had better be better
and a light unto the nations.
This is hard work, the toughest there is,
but, didn’t I hear God say, in some unrecorded verse,
Hey, pal, isn’t this what you signed up for?


Alan Walowitz is a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry. He teaches at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY and St. John’s University in Queens. Alan’s poetry chapbook Exactly Like Love is in its second printing available from Osedax Press.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

CALLING THE ROLL

by Pamela L. Sumners


'Black lives don't matter,' lawyer says after jury awards $4 in police killing. —CNN, June 1, 2018. According to Lawyer John M. Phillips, Greg Hill “opened and closed his garage door deescalating the situation. Police shot through his closed garage door.” —CBS, June 1, 2018. Photo at the gofundme designed to provide for Greg Hill’s children.


Let me be the curator on the day
In the long hot summer
When all hell breaks loose.
Someone needs to be in charge.

Ferguson!  Hands up or I’ll shoot.
Don’t think I won’t do it, either.
Charleston!  Stop crying.
You put that thing down right now
Or I’ll give you something to cry about.

San Bernardino, you’re in time out.
Go to your mat.  Baton Rouge!
Redstick—go get me your switch.
Orlando, I told you you’d get burned
If you touched that.  I told you
A burned child dreads the fire.

All of you!  Back up.  Get down.
Show of hands.  Show me your hands.
Keep everything where I can see it.
Dallas—Dallas, now what did I tell you
About parade routes and snipers?

Pay attention.  Listen.  Settle down,
All of you.  Use your indoor voice
But use your words.  You have to
Use your words.  Meantime, what
We need—are you listening to me?
is a little
order
here . . .


Pamela L. Sumners is a civil rights and constitutional lawyer who writes poems. She lives in St. Louis with her wife, teenage kid, several dogs, and unwanted mice.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

THE CHILDREN MAKE THEIR PRAYER RUGS

by Tricia Knoll





Make new the angel’s carpet.
Nezami Ganjavi, twelfth-century Iranian poet


Their lesson aimed more at special space
than Islam. Rough sketches to begin –
where an arrow might point to more than home
or maybe home: an old oak with withered ways,
a swing or jungle gym, grandfather’s path
toward twilight. For Marcus the soccer field,
boot to ball. One drew lines of fields of maize.
Another lupine. Lines they erased of bullets
flying, having learned the word trajectory,
painted over with the flame-gold of stars.

Then to measure fabric cut for a lay-down,
a tribute to their sizes. Refuge trimmed to fit.
Help with sewing on a fun of fringe.
Though they could not spell reverence,
a girl with braids cut and pasted spaniel eyes.
The boy who lisped drew his mother’s cello.
Lilacs appeared here and there as the blue vase
in the classroom broadcast May.
Timothy made a map of where his bicycle
could and could not go.

The template suggested a centered door,
open to what lies inside.
Lily drew her heart caught in a rib cage.
Aneshia, the stone library at story time.
John, his father gone to war.
Alejandro, his mother on the other side.

Low, slow background tunes of flutes
and piano. Soft the teacher made the mood
for work, then lowered shades for rest
in a world which all knew well
floated no magic carpets.


Author’s Note: Recently I heard a Unitarian Universalist spiritual education teacher say that kids in her classes were going to make their own prayer rugs in celebration of Ramadan. That sparked my imagination: what would it be like to make your own prayer rug in the days of so many school shootings and the separation of young children from their parents due to immigration injustices. 


Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet. Her most recent collection is How I Learned To Be White—poetry that explores the roots of white privilege in education, ancestry, childhood and culture. 

Friday, June 01, 2018

MAYBE WE NEED TO ASK HARDER QUESTIONS

by David Feela


A student from Gary Comer College Prep school poses for a portrait after Pastor John Hannah of New Life Covenant Church lead a march and pray for our lives against gun violence in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott


Like what is it about
the culture inside our schools
that breeds these
hard kernels of contempt?
How is it a broken heart
inspires a lockdown shooting?
Why does bullying
lead to a beating with bullets
instead of fists?
Have we equipped our children
with a fully automatic
version of intolerance?
Have we taught them
life is so short
it starts with a bang
and ends with
an empty casing?


David Feela writes a monthly column for The Four Corners Free Press and for The Durango Telegraph. A poetry chapbook, Thought Experiments, won the Southwest Poet Series. His first full length poetry book The Home Atlas appeared in 2009. His new book of essays How Delicate These Arches released through Raven's Eye Press, has been chosen as a finalist for the Colorado Book Award.

PLUS ÇA CHANGE . . .

by George Held

by Cardow, Ottawa Citizen

Gun control support fades three months after Florida massacre 
Reuters/Ipsos poll May 23 2018


This time it was going to be different.
This time the losers were going to win.
This time the good guys were named Emma
and Cameron and David and the survivor
parents were hip, articulate, determined.

And then they ran into the NRA,
the intransigent bought legislators,
the Second Amendment zealots and the
nation’s sense of titanic inertia in
favor of the status quo, and nothing changed.

The wise guys were right: No massacre, like
Sandy Hook or Las Vegas, will change
the deep culture’s love of guns and aggression,
winners and losers…plus c’est la même chose.


George Held, a longtime contributor to TheNewVerse.News, writes from New York. His twentieth collection is Dog Hill Poems (Seattle, 2017).

A GIRL MUST BE BRAVER THAN WE EVER ASK OURSELVES TO BE

by Michael Brockley


by Cardow, Ottawa Citizen


I wasn’t surprised, just scared. Chaos hides wild cards in its holster. An heirloom is twice as valuable when broken. My hair covers my eyes as I lean into the reporter’s mic. Those saxophone solos I listened to, those mad songs with titles I no longer remember. C’est la vie. I always expected it would happen here. I can no longer tell where you begin and I drop out. I fled past the echo of gunshots. Past the corpse of my first boy friend. Before a detective outlined his body with chalk.  I used to write poems with line breaks but now I write broken poems. The time we wasted on love songs. Thoughts and prayers. Chaos slipped a joker into my purse as I smiled the way one does when monsters hold five aces. When I found the jester entangled in my last kleenex, I read on the card the vow Chaos always honors: “Let me introduce you to your bogeyman.” 


Michael Brockley is a semi-retired school psychologist who works in rural northeast Indiana. His poems have appeared in Flying Island, Third Wednesday, Gargoyle, Atticus Review and TheNewVerse.News