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Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at]gmail.com. No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

MID-AUTUMN HAIKU

by Sari Grandstaff




mid-autumn snowfall...
entering hostile chambers
brave congresswomen


Sari Grandstaff is a high school librarian and writer in the Mid-Hudson Valley/Catskill Mountains of New York State. Her work has appeared in many print and online journals including New Verse News and Eastern Structures.  She and her husband are the proud parents of three children.

SHE WHO IS IN BED AT NOON

by W. D. Bumsted-Hind


"Girl Asleep" by Martin Wells <@mwportraits>


She has been too near a shooter,
She has fled a forest fire,
She has become a president,
She has lost two classmates.
She is twenty.
She is both strong and weak,
Secure and insecure.
She is happy and sad.
Home in her old bed,
She is nestled up like a cocoon,
Asleep still at noon.
Trying to repair all that’s broken.
Don’t let yourself fall down,
Get up.
Be present,
Be alive.
Put on your war paint,
Iron your hair,
Sharpen your claws,
Fly free again.


W. D. Bumsted-Hind, JD/PhD, is Vice President for University Affairs at the University of Nebraska.  She has published poems in several journals including The Healing Muse and Blood and Thunder. Her poem "My Tattoos" was featured on New York Public Radio.

BE BEST

by Beth McKim




I am the most bullied person on all the world.

And so is my husband, your President.
We are more bullied than the gays, the trans people,
 the blacks, the rapists and murderers from Mexico, the Jews,
(like my step-daughter and her husband.)
We are even more bullied than the mentally handicapped,
than those who aren’t beautiful models like me,
 the poor without pretty clothes or houses,
and people who speak only one language, not like
me who speak five and make my husband proud.

All of you watch me, every move I make.
You don’t like what you saw
when I went to see the immigrant children
in cages at the border of Texas, I wear a coat that say,
I don’t care, do you? Or when I wear my Manolo Blahnik
stilettos to Houston to say hello to the victims of the flood .

Or my white safari suit and stylish Pith helmet
when I go to Africa to visit the  children in one of the shithole
places my husband doesn’t like. You say I look like Imperialist.
I don’t know what that is and I don’t care.
I went to do good and look good.

You see me when I slap my husband’s
hand away, when he won’t open my car door, when
he keeps his umbrella only for himself when it rains, when I
don’t ride in car with him to State of the Union address.

I don’t think it’s fair I should live like this when I never wanted
this job, just like my husband. We should not be bullied
or made fun of. And that is why I have made my only job
to Be Best, stop the hate on social media, make all bullies
stop doing it except for my husband.
He has the right to do this because he is your President.


Beth McKim watches our world with daily astonishment as to what our country has become. Unlike the lady in her poem, Beth is neither wealthy nor a beautiful model and only speaks one and a half languages. She is, however, an actress and a writer and her work appears regularly in niche publications, including on a couple of occasions, the TheNewVerse.News. She reads NVN religiously and is amazed on a daily basis by the insightful poetry that helps us all weather the storms of politics today.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

$1 AN HOUR TO FIGHT LARGEST FIRE IN CA HISTORY

by Ann Bracken


About 1,500 inmates in California prisons are helping the state fight wildfires, including the Camp Fire, for several dollars a day. Yet after inmates with firefighting experience are released, doors at fire departments are often closed. Photo Credit: Stephen Lam/Reuters) —The New York Times, November 15, 2018


Because I’m a prisoner, I put my life on the line
for $2.00 a day + $1.00 an hour when I’m        fighting fires.
I’ve protected California
I saved thousands of dollars’ worth of property—

 I’ve got training in wildland firefighting.
And           I’d love to be a firefighter when I get out.
But I need a few fire science credits
                        &                                 some college courses.
The biggest problem staring me down?
I can’t get licensed
as an EMT
because I have a record.

What kind of sense does that make?
—if all my training and experience
is enough to fight fires          while I’m incarcerated,
it should be enough to fight fires                            once I’m free.

You know how I could live if I was a real firefighter?
I could give my children a sweet little house
Maybe even send them to college                       if I made the $74,000 a year
like a regular firefighter.

You know how I first got here?
I worked in the office, but after awhile,
I knew too much
so they moved me outside to work landscaping.
But I’m real allergic to poison oak.
So if I breathe poison oak in the air
my throat can close up
& I could die.             I figured I might as well be on the fire line if that was the case.

I didn’t volunteer to go to prison.
I didn’t volunteer to go to fire camp
and fight fires.
I volunteer to reduce my time—I
I want to go back to my family
to my children.


Ann Bracken is an activist with a pen. She’s started over more times than she can count and believes that she possesses a strong gene for reinvention driving her desire for change. She’s changed her job and her mind, but never wavers from her commitment to family, friends, writing, and social justice. She’s authored two poetry collections—The Altar of Innocence and No Barking in the Hallways: Poems from the Classroom, serves as a contributing editor for Little Patuxent Review, and co-facilitates a Wilde Readings Poetry Series in Columbia, MD. Her poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in anthologies and journals, including Bared: Contemporary Poetry & Art on Bras & Breasts, Fledgling Rag, and Texture among others. Ann’s poetry has garnered two Pushcart Prize nominations. She offers writing workshops in prisons and community education centers.

Friday, November 16, 2018

I WAS WONDERING . . .

by Tricia Knoll 


A cadaver dog named Echo searches for human remains in a van. A husband-wife team, Karen and Larry Atkinson, worked their way through devastated properties near Eden Roc Drive in Paradise with their dog Echo, an English lab. Echo dashed ahead, nose to the ground, and then returned to Karen, who would point the dog toward the next place to be searched. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester, November 14, 2018.


Of course, I was wondering
but you don’t just pipe up
to ask this about these fires
that everyone is explaining
for why the forests are dry,
why these houses stand
in the wildland interface,
what climate crisis ramps
up the drought. And now
I don’t have to ask where
are the cadaver dogs
doing their work?
They are there, sniffing.


Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet who responded to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans as a public information officer—a few weeks after the cadaver dogs had come and gone. A friend of hers worked with his dog on this hard job after major hurricanes in Florida two decades ago. More responders with more hard jobs.

A MURMURATION

by Buff Whitman-Bradley


Cars destroyed by the Camp Fire sit in the lot at a used car dealership on November 9, 2018 in Paradise, California. CREDIT: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images via CBS News


Driving north on Highway 101 from Marin to Sonoma County, I notice a small flock of starlings rise above a fallow field into the dystopic, ashy, leaden sky to perform their liquid choreography come hell or high water or filthy air. To the north and east of us, a vast, murderous fire rages in Butte County, wiping out entire communities and killing many trying to escape the flames. The smoke from the inferno has plastered our sky for several days now, air quality is abysmal, and we (old people) and young children in particular are warned to stay indoors until the pollutants dissipate. We’re headed to pick up our little granddaughters and spend a few hours with them in the air-conditioned-and-filtered library. Like all of us who pass a significant portion of each day in the out of doors, the little ones are feeling cooped up and antsy. As I watch the astonishing flow of shapes the starlings create high above the field, swooping and soaring and wheeling in the angry air, I imagine their tiny lungs being assailed and assaulted and overwhelmed by the noxious particulates through which they are moving. Will they die premature, unnatural deaths because of toxins inhaled while performing their ancient ballet? Probably. As will many others of all species, including our own. Whether or not any particular fire is merely accidental in origin, the conditions that support and sustain the increasing number of disastrous wild fires we have endured over the past few years are no accident, but the result of the warming of our climate due to the maniacal consumption of carbon. Droughts turn trees and other plant material to kindling; increasingly high winds spread conflagrations with deadly alacrity. Scientists have told us all this for years, have warned us that such out-of-control blazes will occur with increasing frequency and intensity. So what malfunction in the mental circuitry of the gluttonous petroleum mongers causes them to lose sight of their/our common humanity, of their/our interconnectedness with all life? Why continue driving this biocidal juggernaut? What the fuck is going on?


Buff Whitman-Bradley's poems have appeared in many print and online journals. His most recent books are To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World and Cancer Cantata. With his wife Cynthia, he produced the award-winning documentary film Outside In and, with the MIRC film collective, made the film Por Que Venimos. His interviews with soldiers refusing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan were made into the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. He lives in northern California.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

TO A PHYSICIAN KILLED BY GUN VIOLENCE

by Jenna Le


You climbed the stairs to middle age
and just beyond, your footsteps trained
to make no creaking noise, your veined
hand mute upon the balustrade

so that your snoring spouse, his cage
of matted hair propped on a doubled
plinth of pillows, could sleep untroubled,
your daughter with her snaking braid

doze undisturbed when you returned
from work. You wore your own hair short,
like shadow—nothing here to court
notice, to creak or squeak or glint

or gleam. Those seeing you discerned
no youth, no unformed possibility;
they only saw someone who willingly
did the work until she didn’t.


Jenna Le is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011) and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Indolent Books, 2018; 1st edition published by Anchor & Plume Press, 2016), which won 2nd Place in the 2017 Elgin Awards. Her poems have also appeared in AGNI Online, Bellevue Literary Review, Denver Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and West Branch.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A RECIPE FOR MORE ABORTIONS

by Gemma Peters


A record number of women—mostly Democrats, many of them galvanized by the threat the Trump administration poses to reproductive freedom—were swept into Congress during in the 2018 midterm elections. The results were still being tabulated on Wednesday when Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services quietly finalized two rules empowering employers, universities and nonprofits to refuse birth control coverage to women. A third rule, also announced Wednesday, would require insurers on the Affordable Care Act marketplace to charge women a separate monthly bill for abortion coverage—a change that advocates say would be so prohibitively expensive it could force insurers to stop offering the procedure altogether. —Rolling Stone, November 8, 2018. Photo: Supporters of birth control coverage rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on March 23, 2016. AFP/Getty Images via Vox.


Let prim employers only pay the bills
for men’s, not women’s, sex-related pills.
To interfere with impotence is fine,
but contraception counters God’s design.

Tell alpha males who spew their DNA
unchastely, “That’s not good, but that’s okay.”
Defend those men too strong for self-control.
Let boys be boys. Virility’s their role.

Be sure to slut-shame women who decide
to not end unplanned pregnancies. Deride
those harlots. Praise the girls you think are pure.
Imply it’s best they seek a secret cure
in trouble, since they won’t have your support.
Keep up your “pro-life” pressure to abort.


Gemma Peters writes in Rancho Peñasquitos, California.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

PARADISE IS BURNING AND NUMBERS ARE RISING

by Jean Varda




9 drops of rain
one for each of
the people who
died in the flames

Do not burn candles
for the dead
they represent fire
and fire killed them

4 of them burned up
in their cars as the exodus
left single file not fast
enough to escape the flames
on all sides of them, even
licking across the road
under the tires

Buildings collapsing
trees like matchsticks
so unreal
watching from car windows

Hearing explosions,
transformers
propane tanks
bombs going off
like a war

One turned back to
rescue her cat
that was hiding in terror
she checked under the
beds in the closets
while flames enclosed her
roared in the windows
and smoke blinded

Another was delayed searching
for a folder that contained
her advance directive, the
property deed and her children’s
birth certificates
the roof of her house collapsed
in one heaving sigh

A mother turned her car
down a side street to pick
up her child from daycare
the building already gone
the children and teachers
ahead of her on the road out
she didn’t make it

The one who forgot to let
the horses out
so they could flee the fire
as horses will
He couldn’t get back
into his place, fallen trees
on fire blocked the road
he got out and ran into
the open mouth of hell

An elder decided to sit it out
she was old and this house
was built by her grandfather
She was born in it as was her
mother her grandmother
and her five children
this house had a soul
she couldn’t leave it
So she made tea and sat
by the wood stove
rocking till she and the
house disappeared in
roaring flames
that left only a flat
black scar on the earth

This is why I can’t light
the 9 white candles
and watch their tiny
steady yellow flames
But rather place a small
pearl lined shell
beside each unlit candle
and in each a drop of water
for the lives that
burnt up in flames


Jean Varda’s poetry has appeared in The Berkeley Poetry Review, Poetry Motel, Manzanita Poetry & Prose of the Mother Lode & Sierra, Avocet  A Journal of Nature Poems, California Quarterly, Third Wednesday and The Red River Review. Her poem “Naming Her,” published in River Poets Journal 2012, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has taught poetry writing workshops, hosted a poetry radio show and sponsored poetry events at cafes. She also is a collage artist, her way to escape words. She presently lives in Chico, California where she works as a nurse and writes her memoirs.

Monday, November 12, 2018

LITTLE THINKING

by Kathleen A. Lawrence



Source: Boedaq Lieur



Little boy man
with hair of straw
and bubble gum cheeks
hollers at the crack of dawn
for not coming when he called,
orders the morning plans changed
so he can ride his Flintstone car
for 9 holes of golf instead of work,
but pouts if the clouds don't shade
his eyes from happy, babbling brooks.
(he hates the sound of laughing water,
“stop laughing at me” he bellows)

Little big shot
with sticky hands
in ill-fitted Brooks Brothers suit
snaps at the afternoon sun
for not shining bright enough
to polish his dull and tarnished lies,
screeching at the nap time hour
refusing to quiet down
to let the world sleep.
(“shut up” he squawks like a magpie
awake and wanting attention
through the autumn air)

Little baby boss
with sleep in eyes
red helicopter cap
wails at the Man-in-the-moon
calling him names, mocking his craters
blaming him for not casting
a longer shadow
on his tiny little form,
turning his back on the North Star
for stealing his limelight.
(“Damn, stupid moon”
who said it could orbit his earth?)

Little brat-in-chief
with mouth full of teeth
to chew his candy lips
stomps around the penthouse
screeching to the shimmering stars
for sparkling too much,
cursing out the rotating planets
for moving too quickly
and without his permission,
“I get to sign the documents.”
(Swatting at the constellations
like he was bringing down
pesky spider webs that had startled him)

Little monster boy
with orange mask
concealing scary supervillan
who rages at the grass
for growing too soft and green,
and screams against the mountains
for looming tall, purple, and majestic
and breaking the view
from his expensive toy plane.
(in a tantrum he insists that
“everybody sit down, sit down,
so I’m the tallest!”)

Little baby man
with giant demands
snaps his tiny, itty-bitty fingers
demanding the help clean up
his messes while fixing more food,
gobbling treats and tonguing
disapproval he claims his greatness
“I’m big— really, really big”
and the rest of us are just losers.
(he folds his arms and turns away
saying "you're fired" and “dumb,
really really dumb”)


Kathleen A. Lawrence likes the idea of writing poetry under a Cortland apple tree on a crisp afternoon, lifted by a scented autumnal breeze. She longs to write of love and beauty inspired by the loveliness of the world. However, she typically is compelled to write while watching the news explode reality across her flat screen, in her small suburban bungalow, painted an optimistic shade of periwinkle blue. 

ARMISTICE COMMEMORATION IN PARIS

by Alan Catlin




T***p appears disengaged,
outside of the spotlight, except
when greeting Putin and his thumbs
up salute.  Forced to listen to solemn
solo by cellist Yo Yo Ma, the day after
failing to lay a wreath on graves of
the fallen due to inclement weather,
he seems  preoccupied. Compelled to
listen to President Macron deliver
a speech decrying Nationalism, directly
criticizing him, T***p appears tired
as if formulating new ways to become
unchecked and balanced as autocrat-
in-chief, electoral defeats, and late night
television viewing, is wearing him down. 
Protestors raise new trial balloons of baby-
in-diapers-T***p to see if anyone salutes.


Alan Catlin is poetry editor of online journal misfitmagazine.net. His latest book of poetry is American Odyssey from Future Cycle Press.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

BREATH OF DAMNATION

by Phyllis Klein


Plenty of people in The City, including this man walking on Market Street, donned a mask Friday due to bad air quality as smoke from the Camp Fire in Northern California drifts down into the Bay Area 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner, November 10, 2018)


After the fire fractures its invisible
borders, the air going south becomes
a death powder. The Anna’s hummingbirds,

white-breasted nuthatches, the western
meadowlarks all disappear as if the atmosphere
pushes them indoors. Ominous vapors grab

oranges on their bushes with fingers visible
as ghosts in a dimly lit room. The sun, our lady
of perpetual light, glares down through a haze,

murky blue. Nothing wet. Or shiny. The dirt
tries to move, no wind, no dust, only rocklike
rusty brown with cracks.  Everyone knows this

feeling, a drought, field drained of water,
perdition place of nightmares. Here it is: our
dread of Hades, right outside the window, real

enough to taste, to smell.


Phyllis Klein writes, lives, and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Silver Birch Press, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, TheNewVerse.News, Chiron Review, Portside, and Sweet, a Literary Confection. She also has poems forthcoming in I-70 and 3Elements. She believes in artistic dialogue as an intimate relationship-building process that fosters healing on many levels. And the healing power of anything as beautiful as poetry.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A MOTHER'S LAMENT FOR AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

by Shirley J. Brewer




Gun shots punctuate country music.
An endless series of ragged wounds
ruin amber waves of grain.

A damaged boy in black
takes aim behind his killer toy.
Gone our purple mountain majesties.

All the years I spent nurturing my child
dissolve in puddles of blood.
America! America!

Without solace, alone I become
a maternal vigilante.
Till all success be nobleness
and ev’ry gain divine.

A grieving parent, I want to destroy
weapons of rage throughout this land.
Oh, beautiful for heroes proved
in liberating strife.

My mission: Annihilate the guns.
Let the alabaster cities gleam
undimmed by human tears.

My child’s life matters.
Will you help me, please?
America? America?
From sea to shining sea.


Shirley J. Brewer serves as poet-in-residence at Carver Center for the Arts & Technology in Baltimore, MD. Recent poems appear in Barrow Street, Comstock Review, Gargoyle, Passager, Poetry East, Slant, and other journals. Shirley’s books include A Little Breast Music (2008), After Words (2013), and Bistro in Another Realm (2017).

Friday, November 09, 2018

MEMO TO JEFF SESSIONS FROM WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

by Wilda Morris




I warned you in my famous play
what happens when you grasp the coattails
of a sociopath drunk on the possibilities of power,
one who hides evil intent behind the scriptures
he quotes, sows seeds of division,
spreads false gossip, multiplies lies
while boasting his achievements, faith
and truthfulness. Had you read Richard III
and heeded Buckingham, you would have realized
that one brief pause before fulfilling all demands,
one little bit of conscience, and you’d be doomed.
You were destined, like him, for the axe
by your recusal.


Wilda Morris lives and writes in the Chicago area. Her blog provides a contest for poets each month.

TO THE POLITICIAN WITH A MICROPHONE DRIBBLING THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS

by Tricia Knoll





I have my hand up in your face, you crazy motherfucker!
I do not want your prayers and thoughts.
Yes, my son was inside that school. Drawing peonies.

What did you say? I said it was my son dancing
in that bar. I’m sick of your platitudes and droopy eyelids.
He was line dancing and you tap dance about amendments.

He was in the yoga studio doing sun salutes.
That’s what I said and yes, I’m yelling at you.
He was stretching for breath to live in peace.

Yes, he was at Shabbat. Next to his grandmother.
And at the Baptist church. And the nursing home.
And the trucking office. And the Waffle Company.

And you’re out here with your microphone
crooning what a terrible shame
that so many people suffer mental illness

and that your people, the ones in their desks
piled with law books, are going for the death penalty
as if that says something other than you don’t know

nothing. This shooter shot himself.
And I don’t want the other ones
dead, I want them loved by someone

and I want YOU to stop making it sooooo easy
for them to buy the guns that make every
single room in this country dangerous to be alive.

We are all in this together. I was there too.
So was my neighbor and his daughter.
And his neighbor in the wheelchair.

Where were you? Playing golf?


Tricia Knoll is a Vermont poet living in a quiet woods.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

WHEN WEASELS HOLD OFFICE AND RATS WEAR ROBES

by Michael T. Young





The great slap away the hand
that reaches out; the great know
the need of a migrant child is not
their need, and to imprison them
will make a country great.

The great watch the news but
spit foul words, praise the attacker,
the killer of journalists because this
will make a country great.

The great bellow of unity and love,
parrot Amazing Grace while grabbing
women between their legs because
this will make a country great.

The great speak their mind, act
from the gut, then deny everything—
brag because the great let no one
forget they’re great and this
makes a country great, like them.


Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection The Infinite Doctrine of Water was published by Terrapin Books. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and his chapbook Living in the Counterpoint received the Jean Pedrick Award.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

I VOTED TODAY

by Kathy Conway

Walked wearily to the polling place at town hall
ignoring the peak foliage bursting color
in every direction on a fall day here in southern
New England.

I returned home on a street lush with trees -
maples, birches, elms, chestnuts, sumacs.
Windy yesterday yet warm and drizzling today,
I tread on a magic carpet of leafy shapes and colors.

Bright yellow birch leaves cover the sidewalk,
gradually changing to intense reds, then amber,
deep gold and rust.  I strolled wet-faced beneath trees
hanging heavily with colorful offerings.

Looking up, awed by a crimson Japanese Maple,
wet-black limbs foil to the beauty of its ruby red -
a canopy fit for a bride or a queen.  And I remembered that
change is the only constant; that this too shall pass.

The seasons come, go; heat and cold begetting
winter snow, spring green, summer blossoms, fall stipples.
Buoyed by the brilliance and brisk walk, I return hopeful that
my fellow Americans vote to effect change.


Kathy Conway splits her time between a cottage on the coast of Maine and her home outside of Boston. She's taught memoir poetry in Maine and Florida. Besides her chapbook Bacon Street about growing up in a large family, she has poems in themed collaborations.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

PROPOSITION EIGHT

by T R Poulson




Who is she, the woman whose blue eyes reach
out in ads, voice strong, hair blonde?  Her clinic
at stake, she says a thousand lives beseech

me, the voter-hero, to Vote No. I remain the cynic.
Draped with red-filled tubes like snakes, a man bids me
Vote Yes! Gown-wrapped clients refer to unhygienic

rooms where unseen life forms lurk and kid me
not.  Gloves, urine, needles, machines, puddles,
fill my mind along with missing kidneys,

those pulsing beans now shriveled, blood now muddled.
I die without dialysis, a man’s voice proclaims.
My barre-toned back holds twin flesh-cuddled

organs pulsing, cleaning. This vote-luring campaign
forms paths and forks that twist and feel the same.


T R Poulson lives in San Carlos, California.  Her work has appeared previously in TheNewVerse.News, along with Rattle’s Poets Respond, Verdad, Trajectory, J Journal, The Meadow, Delaware Review, and Raintown Review.  She enjoys windsurfing, basketball, and horse racing.

POETRY READING AT CHURCH ON ELECTION DAY

by Earl J Wilcox


Source: Chicago Women Take Action


Munching chicken salad, sipping sweet tea,
they chat amiably, push their food gently
around white china plates, look slightly harried.
They are not their usual relaxed and friendly
fellowship souls. It’s Election Day, this first
Tuesday of November. Though T***P himself
is not officially on the ballot this year, he is
there in candidates who walk like him, talk
like him, spew vile like him, scream like him,
lie like he does. No wonder church members
waiting to hear poems about hope and trust
and honesty and charity and faith—these
and other truths of the human heart—are
sober and vexed on this Election Day.


Earl J Wilcox will try to write a poem today, but even if that does not work out, he will definitely vote!

SONG OF THE SEA: MEXICO 2018

by Donna Katzin


"Mexico town devastated by earthquake welcomes thousands from migrant caravan. Migrants from Central America are fleeing poverty and violence and are still weeks away from reaching the US." —The Guardian, October 30, 2018. Photo: Central Americans fill their water bottles with juice while waiting in line to receive donated food in Niltepec, Oaxaca. Photograph: Rebecca Blackwell/AP via The Guardian.


In your unfailing love you will lead
    the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
    to your holy dwelling.
—Exodus, 15.1


A human river,
they come in shirts and sandals,                           
children holding their hands, 
mochilas bearing their only belongings.                                           

They come in shirts and sandals,                           
hunger in their hearts,
mochilas bearing their only belongings,                                             
turn their backs on beatings, gunshots in the night.

Hunger in their hearts,
they trudge through wilderness,
turn their backs on beatings, gunshots in the night --
leave the land that gave them life.                     

They trudge through wilderness,         
envisioning a Promised Land,
leave the land that gave them life.
Together they cry out to their god.                                       

Envisioning a Promised Land
like passengers of the St. Louis,
together they cry out to their god
when the border slams shut.                                                 

Like passengers of the St. Louis,           
refusing to turn back                   
when the border slams shut,
they surge in search of a miracle.                                                                         

Refusing to turn back,
a human river,
they surge in search of a miracle,
children holding their hands.

                                                                                             
Donna Katzin is the founding executive director of Shared Interest, a fund that mobilizes the human and financial resources of low-income communities of color in South and Southern Africa.  A board member of Community Change in the U.S., and co-coordinator of Tipitapa Partners working in Nicaragua, she has written extensively about South Africa, community development and impact investing.  Published in journals and sites including TheNewVerse.News and The Mom Egg, she is the author of With the Hands, a book of poems and photographs about post-apartheid South Africa’s process of giving birth to itself.

Monday, November 05, 2018

A ROCK IS NOT A RIFLE

by Akua Lezli Hope




A rock is not a rifle
a jackass is not a genius
hysterical raving is not fact
might is not right

a caravan is not an invasion
a child is not a commodity
a refugee is not refuse
a rock is not a rifle

resentment is not democracy
fear is not strength
denial is not affirmation
a rock is not a rifle

commitment is not a joke
accords are not accidents
science is not opinion
a rock is not a rifle

abuse is not a right
hate is not a right
murder is not a right
a rock is not a rifle

a rock is not a rifle
though you be goliath
and we are david
a rock is not a rifle


Akua Lezli Hope is a creator who uses sound, words, fiber, glass, handmade paper and wire to create poems, patterns, stories, music, adornments, sculpture and peace whenever possible. She has published 125 crochet designs. Her new Word Works poetry collection Them Gone is now available.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

HALLOWEEN FOR A NEW GENERATION

by Lois Leveen


Photo by Sarah Gould.


It's odd to dress up
as a Jew when you
are already a Jew
but I do. Costume
myself in calf
length skirt, bright blue
blouse, covered head. The nose
I have with me always.
At my throat, sixteen
carat  מָגֵן דָּוִד shield of David
dangling from rope
chain. I clutch prayer
book instead of purse.
Apply make up to make
a bullet hole between my eyes, another
at my heart.

When I arrive at the party
vampires and zombies
snub me. Skeletons turn
their scapulared backs.
A werewolf at the punchbowl
mutters asshole.
Undaunted by the undead
I search the crowded room for a black
kid killed in the park by a cop,
queers of color gunned down
on the dance floor, teacher
and students schooled
to death by a lone shooter, any one
of fifty-eight massacred country
music festival attendees. But not even
the Sikh slain for being
Muslim has come. You're a fright
to behold! screams
the glow-in-the-dark tshirt of the ghoul
who tells me to leave. A fright not
to be held in this house
of horrors, I step into the dark
and stormy night of America. America opens
its arms to ones like me.


Lois Leveen is old enough to remember when adults didn’t go to Halloween parties and children to go through active shooter drills in school. She is the author of the novels Juliet's Nurse (Simon and Schuster) and The Secrets of Mary Bowser (HarperCollins). Her poetry and short prose have appeared on/in Ars Medica, The Atlantic, Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal, The Chicago Tribune, cloudbank, Culminate, Hawai'i Pacific Review, The Intima, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, Monkey Puzzle, The New York Times, NPR, and The Southhampton Review; one of her poems is inscribed on a hospital wall.

TREE OF LIFE GRANDPARENTS

by Matt Witt


The poet's now-deceased grandparents Edna and Irv.


Our olive tree when I was growing up:
an icon in our Jewish neighborhood,
easily a hundred years old,
with rough-barked branches shading the entire yard.

Women in modest dress
stopped to harvest the olives,­
not so much to save money
as to remind them of home.

Under this tree of life
passed my Jewish grandparents
when each came to visit.

Ida was old country,
her parents from Poland,
her old smells and
old Yiddish expressions
foreign to my growing interest in
The Twist,
Mr. Tambourine Man,
a­nd protests against The War.

Edna and Irv had left their heritage behind,
hosting us on Christmas,
not Hanukkah,
and wearing hippie beads to
a “happening” in the park.

One morning I walked the family dog
past a neighbor’s lawn.
A cross had been burned
into the grass the night before.
It stared at me every day
until new seeds grew in the spaces.

Soon after, I sat under our olive tree
filling out a college application
that asked my religion.

“Should I mark ‘none’?”
I asked my mother.

“You have to put ‘Jewish’,”
she said.

“Put Jewish, or else
people will think you are
trying to hide it.”


Matt Witt is a writer and photographer who lives in Talent, Oregon. He was recently selected a Writer in Residence at Mesa Refuge in California and has been selected an Artist in Residence at Crater Lake National Park, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, and PLAYA in Summer Lake, Oregon. His writing has been published in the The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, the literary journal Cirque, and many other publications.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

THE MINUTEMAN

by Peter Nohrnberg


HOUSTON (AP, October 27, 2018) — Militia groups and far-right activists are raising money and announcing plans to head to the Mexican border to help stop the caravan of Central Americans, echoing President Donald Trump’s attacks on the migrants making their way toward the U.S. Exactly how many militia members will turn out is unclear, and as of Friday, the caravan of about 4,000 people was still some 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) and weeks away from reaching this country. But the prospect of armed civilians at the border — and the escalating political rhetoric over immigration — have fueled fears of vigilantism at a time when tensions are already running high because of the mail bomb attacks against some of Trump’s critics. The U.S. Border Patrol this week warned local landowners in Texas that it expects “possible armed civilians” to come onto their property because of the caravan. Photo: Volunteers from the Minutemen militia say they will be positioned along the U.S.-Mexico border to help stop migrants from entering the country illegally. (Jeff Topping / Getty Images)


It’s nearly sun-down, and I’ve been walking out here
All day with my binoculars, walkie-talkie and beer.
Today I pulled in just a father and his teenage son, but
some days I’ll see a van with blacked-out windows
And notice its tires flattened on the pavement and know
I’ve hit the motherlode, with seven or eight muchachos in it.
The way I see things, I’m not just keeping watch over
Our homeland but I’m also doing them a big favor,
Though I don’t suppose they’d see it that way
Even when I find them in the late hours of the day
half mad with thirst, shoeless in the scrub grass.
In truth I feel bad for them, knowing that they’ve tossed
Their savings to some snake who says he’ll get them across
no problem, walking over rattlesnakes. But who knows
the things they might be trying to smuggle in in all those
baskets they carry on them—maybe cocaine or marijuana,
or orders from Al Qaida or rabid Chihuahuas or God knows what!
Mostly you track them by the trash they leave behind:
broken glass and plastic bottles, dirty diapers and orange rinds.
I give them a sip of agua and put them in the truck to take them back
across the border, though where that is ain’t always so easy to tell
with nothing but yucca spread out across the land. Sometimes
there’s no telling where our country starts. The fence will serve
us on that front, but I doubt it will do any better than me
and my fellow minutemen in keeping out illegals.
A two-thousand mile chicken-wire run, Ed calls it.
I suppose it makes the Congressmen in Washington think
they’re doing something, spending the taxpayers’ dollars. Shit,
they don’t know a thing about life out here in West Texas
where the fill-up stations that sell cold beer are few and far between
or the little border towns where the food is good, hot and cheap.
In Marfa the pretty brown-eyed women put wild flowers in their hair
and everything’s in Spanglish . . .  What I need’s another drink.
The jokers on the nightly news announce that one in three
sneaks by, but what I say is for each one that we catch
an American keeps his day job. Hell, I’ll likely lose mine
if I don’t remember to throw these empties out the truck.
Did I say this ain’t the first time I’ve caught those two amigos?
Damn it’s getting late. I can hardly see to take a leak.
I guess I’ll stay and watch the Texas sky fill up with stars and UFOs.


Peter Nohrnberg is a scholar, poet, and father of two children. He lives in Cambridge, MA, where he served as “Poetry Ambassador” to the city last year.

Friday, November 02, 2018

INSCRIPTION FOR A BURNING BOOK

by Sarah E. Colona


On October 19, Paul Dorr checked out some books from the Orange City, Iowa library. Mr. Dorr was offended by our nation's founding principles of freedom of information and the First Amendment, so he decided to burn books he didn't like - deliberately destroying public property. The Orange City Library strives to "enrich a vibrant community by providing a comfortable space for the community to discover their roots, express creativity, and celebrate diversity through literacy, information, and technology." Through its mission, the library has included LGBT+ literature, which Mr. Dorr found incredibly offensive because he does not value the First Amendment. Because Mr. Dorr chose to censor thought and derail freedom, we would like to restore the books he burned to the Orange City Library. To make sure he will not censor speech and attack the LGBT+ community, we seek to replace the books with five copies each. All other funds will be donated to the Orange City Library to protect the freedom of thought and information. —Orange City LGBT Library Fund gofundme page. To donate, click here.


dearest pop & sizzle
     under an arsonist’s touch
          I came alight

shelf by shelf licked at hinges
     unleashed ills
          art & prayer combat

ignorance must devour
     tuck heat
          within each hateful act

carbon’s signature extinction
     what’s past is prologue
          most forget


Sarah E. Colona lives and teaches in her home state of New Jersey. She is the author of three poetry collections: Hibernaculum (Gold Wake Press, 2013), Thimbles (dancing girl press, 2012), and That Sister (dancing girl press, 2016).