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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2020

by Susan Vespoli





Lines of voters came in throngs, moved swift
in crayon box of skin hues, multi-pack,
to sing and chant, hold hands, cause seismic shift—
a tidal wave to take their country back.

Predictions flopped, the race not close in least,
‘cause Gallup erred, forgot the massive group
who came to speak in global tongue of peace
to rid the world of meanness, fear, and dupe.

When all was tallied, good prevailed. Love won.
Red ball caps flew off heads like birds unchained
and clattered crimson into sky toward sun.
Then buckets fell from clouds: baptismal rain

like water dousing evil witch in Oz.
T***p melted, disappeared, like he never was.


Susan Vespoli writes poems, essays, and dreams about the disappearance of Trump. Her work has been published in spots such as Rattle, Nailed Magazine, MER, and Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse.

HOW LIVING WITH A CHIPMUNK IN MY HOUSE IN WHITE RIVER JUNCTION IS LIKE LIVING WITH T***P IN THE WHITE HOUSE

by Sarah Dickenson Snyder




I’m scared. Something from another world
has entered the place I thought was safe.
I am nervous every time I open
a door, feel trepidation turning
corners. I have trouble
going to sleep. I think
about taking sleeping pills
so that I don’t have to think
about the intruder—seeing him
over and over again sitting on his haunches
in front of the refrigerator,
scurrying across the wooden floors,
(lying to news reporters,
his hair fur rustled by wind).
My house seems over-
taken—I walk gently
or at times stomp
with a new anger, a new
sadness, never know
what I will see or hear.
I look down all the time,
not up at the sky or at the art
on the walls of my house
that I love to see. I research
incessantly—how can I get rid of him—
open an outside door,
so eager for him to leave,
I am open for others to enter.
I bought a Have-a-Heart trap,
because I have a heart. I bait him
with things he likes to eat,
wait for the two metal doors to clang,
imagine driving him in the back of my car
to a faraway place where he cannot
ruin a human home. Or maybe
just chuck him & his trap
in the White River, see if they’ll survive
in that water world.
But he’s still here. Somewhere.


Sarah Dickenson Snyder has written poetry since she knew there was a form with conscious line breaks. She has three poetry collections, The Human Contract, Notes from a Nomad (nominated for the Massachusetts Book Awards 2018), and With a Polaroid Camera (2019). Recently, poems have appeared in Artemis, The Sewanee Review, and RHINO.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

AMERICA: MISBEGUN

by Ron Riekki






“Law Enforcement is at the scene of shootings in Gilroy, California. 
Reports are that shooter has not yet been apprehended.
Be careful and safe!”
tweet by T***p, July 29, 2019


“Which amendment?
The Second.
Number two?
Yeah.
Like number two?  Like going number two?
Yeah.”
—conversation overheard on Bay Area Rapid Transit line


“During the Civil War, poetry didn’t just respond to events; it shaped
them.”


and the shape of the U.S. right now is a toilet,
or a gun,
a toilet-gun,
toilet=gun,

and—swear to God—

this morning
my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to go to the Garlic Festival in Gilroy
or the Kite Festival in Berkeley
and we chose the Kite Festival
because it was closer
and after 5pm, when the massive whale kite was lowering,
the kite she said she loved,
it was the same moment when
another shooter—
and there are so many shooters now—
here,
in the U.S.,
because this is T***p’s U.S. now—
let’s call him T.P. for short—
T.P.’s U.S.,
which resembles the worst horror of Peele’s Us,

violence as normal,

and be afraid when

violence is normal,

and we need to repeal

and I’m tired of the violence

and the White House is filling with ghosts,
all of the ghosts
of those
shot and killed

and in EMT school, the best student in the class had a kid who was shot,
a child who was shot,
in Orlando
and she did CPR in the back of the ambulance
and the boy did not live
and she left
the class, because she couldn’t take the violence of America,

and this was a few years before the Pulse nightclub shooting,
which my old ambulance unit helped at—
with 49 killed, 53 wounded,

and I had a guy pull out a gun on me
when I was delivering pizzas
in Charlottesville
because he thought it would be funny
to see my expression
and my expression
was nothing

because my counselor asked,
“Have you ever had a weapon pulled on you?”
And I said, “Yes”
And she said, “When?”
And I said, “Multiple times,”
And she said, “Like when?”
And I said, “Do you want me to list all of them?”

And I had a student at Auburn
who told me he used to get down low
and shoot his gun
so that he’d try to skip the bullet
ever so gently along the water
and I asked him if he thinks he could have killed someone
doing that
and he said, “No, of course not”

and the gun that was pulled out after the basketball game

and the time in Detroit when the guys who were all in line
started sharing their bullet holes,
pulling up shirts and pant legs

and the guy in class who said he shot himself once by mistake
and he can still feel the bullet under his skin
and someone asked, “Didn’t they take it out?”
and he said, “No,”

and the guy who pulled out a gun at a party
and said, “Relax, it’s not loaded”

and my old poetry teacher
in Virginia
who told the class that he shot and killed his brother
by mistake
when they were both little boys

and the guy from my Religious Studies class
at Central Michigan University
who showed me he keeps a gun under his couch
and he slid the gun back under the cushions
and tried to start talking about God again
but God was overshadowed by the gun
where I couldn’t think about God anymore,
just about what direction the gun was pointed right now.


Ron Riekki’s most recent book is Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice (Michigan State University Press).

Monday, July 29, 2019

THE SUE BIRD PLAN

by Carol Parris Krauss




The grass is mowed, the weeds eaten.
Floors are polished and free of cat hair.
I have begun to create lessons for the upcoming
school year while the linens spin, rinse, rotate.
A quick glance at Twitter shows Sue and Megan
being interviewed during the WNBA All Star game.
The superstar couple. So while Baltimore is bashed,
women of color are insulted, Russian roulette spins
our president, and children are caged there is
evidence of love and beauty when Megan
steps aside, pushes Sue into the camera’s eye,
and declares “I’m on the Sue plan.”
Much more than a nutritional regime. Shouldn’t we

all have

someone look at us with those same eyes of
love and passion? Shouldn’t we all be on the
Sue Plan?


Carol Parris Krauss: Mother. Teacher. Poet.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

A FUGUE

by Martin H. Levinson




is a contrapuntal composition in
which a short argument or fight,
like the one we had on Wednesday
over the meaning of Mueller’s
testimony as to who will get to
govern this great nation that
wasn’t so great for blacks,
women, and gays when I was
growing up in the fifties on
a tree-shaded block close to
Ebbets Field, home of the
Brooklyn Dodgers, a team that
left the borough of churches and
underdogs to watch the McCarthy
hearings on television where a
senator who saw Reds under every
bed got his comeuppance but not
before we took cover under our
desks at school so we wouldn’t
die when the Russians dropped
nuclear bombs on New York City
where short arguments or fights
didn’t stop us from to thinking it

was worse during the Civil War
when instead of quarreling on cable
and social media about whether you
can indict a sitting president or what
constitutes fake news, people were
killing each other, blowing up bridges,
and burning down Atlanta where the
traffic these days makes getting from
one end of town to another a nightmare
in our nation’s history that seems to

some to be coming to an end because
even if a new president is elected the
damage to civil discourse and shared
norms has been so eroded that only
poetry and a knowledge that America
has weathered other crises in its past
will be able to save us, but who these
days is writing poetry or knows much
about our nation’s past?


Martin H. Levinson is a member of the Authors Guild, National Book Critics Circle, PEN America, and the book review editor for ETC: A Review of General Semantics. He has published ten books and numerous articles and poems. He holds a PhD from NYU and lives in Forest Hills, New York.

JUST THE FACTS

by g emil reutter




The shade is always drawn
bland as a meadow hiding from the sun
robin pecks at cracks in dirt
worms deep in hardened soil.

This poem could be about window shades
a meadow, a robin or worms but it isn’t.

Coffee maker gasps and chugs, good to the
last drop, I pour my morning fix. Sun is shy
today, humidity at 83%.

But this poem isn’t about a good cup of coffee
or the weather today.

On Wednesday I watched as the old man spoke
baggy eyes, drawn face. A serious man encircled
by the circus of sound bite panelists. He spoke
the truth, did not perform.

Not a hoax he said, integrity he said, obstruction
true he said, no conspiracy with the enemy he
said, contacts he said. Although there was a
sputter here and there, his just the facts response
reflected courage, the search for the truth.

The Russians are coming again in 2020 he said.

In this time of chicken-hawks, cowardly pols
self-important talking heads, this old man
pushed up the blind, let the sun in.

Down Pennsylvania Avenue, President Bone Spur
squints from the light, speaks of performance
distorts facts, criticizes the heroic old man whose
shoes he could never wear.

And so it is, moisture from the air seeps into the
ground, unrelenting robin hops and listens, plucks
a fat worm through the softened surface. Much as
the old man did on a Wednesday in July of 2019.


g emil reutter can be found at here.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

WINNING OUR AFFLICTIONS

by Mark Williams





Dear Mister President,

My name is Austin Baggerly. I am 9 years old almost.
I am writing about the 4 brown women you told
to go back to the broken countrys they came from.
Mom says they cant go back. They came from here.
They are back. Or here. I am confuzed. Plus
Mom says that with you in the White House
our country is broken and the 4 brown women
should stay and fix it before they go any wheres.
Dad says he wishes they would go back
to where there Moms and Dads came from. Dad says
soon we will walk into for instants Chuck E. Cheese
and it will be filled with brown people
staring at our white butts. Moms and Dads
and my white butt Mister President. Mom says
no one would want to stare at yours. Anyways
since you became President our house broke to.
Dad sleeps with me in my room. He snores.
But since you told the 4 brown women to go back
things have gotten better for me in some ways.
Mom bought me a Perplexus Epic 3D Maze Puzzle.
Dad bought me a Ridiculous Inventions Science Kit.
Mom says that Dads gift is ridiculous cause
he does not believe in science. Anyways
I heard Mom tell Aunt Alice that when Dad
agreed with you about the 4 brown women
he crossed a dipping point. I asked Mom
what is a dipping point. She said ask your father.
I know what Mom and Dad are up to Mister President.
Thanks to you they are trying to win my afflictions.
It is working. I wonder who will buy me
a Fat Brain Toys Chaos Machine. Mom says
you must already have one. Is it fun?
Pretty soon I will have 2 houses to go back to.
If both Mom and Dad buy me a Chaos Machine
I will have 1 for each house. Sweet!

                                                            Yours truly,
                                                            Austin Baggerly


Mark Williams's poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, New Ohio Review, Rattle, Nimrod, Jokes Review, and The American Journal of Poetry. His poems in response to the Trump administration have appeared in Poets Reading the News, Tuck Magazine, and Writers Resist. This is his second appearance in TheNewVerse.News. He would buy a Chaos Machine if he knew it could be set in reverse.

Friday, July 26, 2019

POOL PARTY CANCELED DUE TO HEAT

by Marsha Owens


Above: New York children read the words of their peers held in U.S. Border Patrol facilities.


like cancelling Christmas due to December
we celebrated my friend’s birthday in air conditioning instead
her 2-month-old great-granddaughter slept among us, fourth generation sweetness
all had a turn to cuddle, I held on to her innocence like a prayer
until my mind circled back to those tiny faces in, well, you know, cages
children I take to bed with me every night, every night I see bright lights stalk
     across cement floors, babies in puddled urine (never cuddled in this life)
     tear-streaked faces of 2-year-olds, eyes wide open to terror
suddenly my eyes open wide, I’m underwater, I hold my breath, kick to the
     surface to find I wasn’t in water at all.

I was in hell

children’s arms and legs flailing beside me, trying to stay afloat, I swam to the
     surface stumbled into another day, someone’s birthday maybe, read the headlines:

Life Canceled Due to Hate.

sun blazing over my roof today will cool in September


Marsha Owens’ poems have appeared in both print and on-line publications, including Streetlight Magazine, Huffington Post, TheNewVerse.News, and Wild Word Anthology. She co-edited the newly released poetry anthology, Lingering in the Margins.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE MUELLER REPORT

by Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose


Cartoon by Steve Sack Star Tribune Jul 23, 2019


“We chose these words carefully, and the words speak for itself. The report is my testimony.” 


“I’m just going to leave it as it appears in the report.”



I

Among so many rapid-fired questions
The only obvious thing
is Mueller would prefer to refer us to the Mueller Report.


II

We are of three branches, broken
Like a felled tree
In which there caws the Mueller Report.


III

The Mueller Report spun in the extreme heat and tornados.
(no small part of climate change—but who cares?)


IV

A president and an attorney general
are one.
A Robert Mueller Testimony and a Robert Mueller Report
are one.


V

No one knew which parts to read first
The parts on collusion
Or the parts on obstruction
The Mueller Report in its entirety
Or just the CliffsNoted testimony.


VI

Pundits twittered
after the barbaric wait.
Whole sections of The Mueller Report
Crossed out.
The omissions
deduced in skittled sentence fragments
   An impeachable case?


VII

O dim subjects of T***pworld,
Why do you dream of singing canaries?
Do you not see how the Mueller Report
Hops all over you?


VIII

I know the difference
between careful words and testimony;
But I know, too,
That the Mueller Report is involved
In what I know.


IX

When Mueller flew the coop
It marked the end
Of many chattering hopes.


X

At the thought of The Mueller Report
steaming on a platter,
the frenzied mobs readied their forks.
Would they eat crow?


XI

The president rode over Washington
In a military parade.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his leaked Access Hollywood tape
For the Mueller Report.


XII

The President and his cronies are celebrating.
The Mueller Report must be flying south.


XIII

We’ve been waiting all year.
They are snowing us.
And we are going to be snowed.
The Mueller Report flapped
For 400 pages. Then nose-dived

            A cooked goose
            A mockingbird
            A raven cawing Never More.


Elizabeth Johnston Ambrose's work appears in The Atlantic, McSweeney's, TheNewVerse.News, The Weekly Humorist, The Satirist, The Belladonna, and many others.  She lives in Rochester, NY and is a founding member of Straw Mat Writers.  Twitter: @libbyjohnston74

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

TELL ME THE AMERICA WE WANTED NEVER EXISTED

by Dwain Wilder




Tell me about Jim Crow and I will read you chapters from "Huckleberry Finn."

Tell me about slavery and I will tell you about Harriet Tubman, John Fairfield, Levi Coffin and a host of hidden hands, and the Underground Railroad.

Tell me about overweening power and I will tell you about the likes of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Seneca Falls Convention, and Frederick Douglas.

Tell me about the worst of racism and I will tell you about a white man, John Brown, losing his life to spark a slave insurrection at Harper's Ferry.

Tell me about oppression and I will ring the rafters with Wendell Phillips,
"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty!
—power is ever stealing from the many to the few…"

Tell me the America we always wanted has never existed,
that people the world over, desperate for refuge
and yearning for it here
are but glamoured and I will show you a gift.

I will show you a present from another people’s dream of liberty,
a lady standing at a harbor raising a torch,
Holding a tablet inscribed with the day we called ourselves free;
at her feet, a few lines from a poem

and point out to you an endless procession of people who rely on her,
the gift of her,
rely on the torch,
rely on the tablet’s date, rely
on the fragment of the poem
and weep bitter gladness at first sight of the harbor.

The public anguish as our President and his henchmen
treat destitute people and their children like criminals,
little more than so much dirt,
for seeking asylum at our borders
—the existence of the America the humble of the world need
is proven by that anguish, its mass, its inevitability.

Your anguish. All it takes is yours. All of it.


Dwain Wilder is a Buddhist activist, editor of The Banner, an online weekly newsletter for grass roots activists working to get our country to acknowledge and respond to the current climate emergency. Dwain has taught meditation at Attica Prison, New York. He is a member of the Rochester poetry community, and builds stringed musical instruments for a living. He lives with his wife, their dog and cat, and a large rowdy macaw, in a quaint cottage beside a large dark forest.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

HOW WE MADE OURSELVES GREAT AGAIN: THE SHORT LIST

by Mickey J. Corrigan


Cartoon by Chris Britt, Mercury News, June 24, 2019


1.  We sent them back
the ones not in cages
without toothbrushes or soap.

2. We sent them all back
like spoiled groceries
browned lettuce, rank meat
even the ones we knew
were born here.

3. We sent them messages
to insult and threaten
taunt and troll
ruin and lie.
Oh, how we lied.

4. We sent them all back
in time to when white
was right and might
and everyone else
could go to hell
or just go home.

5. We sent them all back
and the cities were quiet
roads empty, food scarce
shops closed, homes dirty
our babies cried
nothing worked right
we were so alone
we told ourselves
we were the greatest
the only ones
who mattered.


Originally from Boston, Mickey J. Corrigan lives in South Florida and writes noir with a dark humor. Books have been released by publishers in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. Project XX, a satirical crime novel, was published in 2017 by Salt Publishing in the UK. What I Did for Love will be released by Bloodhound Books in October.

Monday, July 22, 2019

POLITICS IS DOWNSTREAM FROM CULTURE

by Howie Good


Image source: Wicked Local Harwich


This is beginning to feel
like the worst place to be.
Donald T***p just won’t
leave us alone. He howls,

“You die!” He wags
his veiny dick. He clinks
glasses with despots. He brags
about his astonishing ability

to avoid reading. Meanwhile,
the sign over there says,
“Do not swim near seals.”
Of course, people, being people,

do it anyway. I’m suddenly tired
of waiting for the shadow
of archangel Michael to climb
the Empire State Building

or even for ambient sounds
to relay meaning. It’s 12:24 p.m.,
on a Friday, and we’re still no closer
to solving the many crimes of fire.


Howie Good is the author most recently of What It Is and How to Use It from Grey Book Press. He co-edits the journals Unbroken and UnLost.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

(RED) HEAT / HOT / HAT (RED)

by Ron Riekki


“By 2050, the Northeast can expect approximately 650 more deaths each year because of extreme heat, the [National Climate] Assessment found.” —“Dangerous heat wave brings misery to 195 million from New Mexico to Maine,” CNN, July 19, 2019


for Robert Francis, Mark Strand, Hayden Carruth, and Reiko Redmonde


Heat and the colors of heat, like coal-mine hells,
and it gets so hot that the moon looks burnt
and the horizon itself is now a broiler pan
and my girlfriend in Lille says, “The fan broke.”
What about the AC?  “What AC?  We don’t have AC.”
And she tells me a neighbor died.  I say, “How old?
as if that’s an acceptable excuse, as if degrees
represent years.  And I remember a line from
Shakespeare: “the very birds are mute.”  And
I remember a line from a newspaper article today:
“June of this year was the hottest June on record

for the world.”  Temperatures climb and I think
of the moment in Free Solo where the guy fell
and we gasped until the parachute opened up
and we aren’t the ones gasping now, but we're
the ones falling.  And when I broke my ankle
in the military, one of the corpsmen said,
“Put heat on it” and there was another
corpsman there and he said, “No, put ice
on it.”  And they argued about it while I looked
down at the purple and brown and orange
under my skin, wondering if I’d ever walk again.


Ron Riekki's latest book is Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice.  On August 25, he appears at Revolution Books in Berkeley with Berkeley Poet Laureate Rafael Jesus Gonzalez and Sacramento Poet Laureate Julia Connor.

FIRE SEASON

by Buff Whitman-Bradley


Since the early 1970s, summertime forest fires—such as the Ferguson Fire last year—have gotten 800 percent larger. Credit: NOAH BERGER / GETTY via The Atlantic


Among the many processes important to California's diverse fire regimes, warming‐driven fuel drying is the clearest link between anthropogenic climate change and increased California wildfire activity to date. —Earth’s Future, July 15, 2019


The creek is drier than dry
The ground is dust upon dust
Every arid hour that goes by
Whispers, “Combust, combust!”
To the forest-covered hills
Where we hike to restore our souls
Jettison aches and ills
And take an hour’s repose.                                
But we know that rainless months
And temperatures gone berserk
Can conjure a blaze all at once
From the merest flicker or spark.
So we walk in the trees without blinders
For we cannot not picture the worst –
A paradise reduced to cinders
Whole biomes expiring of thirst.


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.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

THEY KILLED THE MOON I'D LIKE TO WRITE ABOUT

Photograph: Buzz Aldrin sets up an experiment into solar wind. Credit: Neil Armstrong/AP/Press Association via the Kennedy Space Center


Martha Landman lives and writes in Adelaide, South Australia. Her work has appeared online and in print in UK, US and Australia and she has previously contributed to TheNewVerse.News.

DEAD AIR

by Alejandro Escudé 




There is no man on the moon tonight.
And it is there, golden and full. I spot it above the empty golf course.
And one can watch as many footage hours of the first mission to the moon
as one desires, but they are never going to return.
Instead, they’re still debating our race. Instead, they’re still defining America.
It’s interesting to learn that Armstrong had to pilot over a cluster of boulders
to find a fitting landing spot. It’s interesting to know
that the astronaut suit-makers did not appreciate Buzz’s leaping, kicking up
moon dust.
And it’s fun to think of Collins circling the pale satellite like a giant man-embryo
inside a metallic uterus. But there is little room to be dumbfounded anymore.
Everyday, the internet steals the soul. They try to make us believe there’s an
alternative to coal.
Last week, Manhattan went dark. Just like in 1977. They tell young students they
don’t need to able to sit in a class anymore and to stay home and learn on an
online school.
They sell a long gun that can take out a small, midwestern town.
Our President is a clown-salesman, a weaponized being sent into the hallowed
chambers of a static, broken government. He is a human improvised explosive
device with a ticking mouth.
People still die in floods in the South.
Yet, they project the Saturn V rocket on the Washington Monument,
our country the equivalent of a middle aged man recalling his high school football
victories with rancid nostalgia, while his children have moved clear across the
country to get away from his unpredictable temper and judgement.
The Russians are still rivals.
Sputnik spins around the world yet.
Does time even really happen to us all?
Did Armstrong really come up with that poetry about one small step?
Such a quiet, distant man,
a man on the moon, three hundred thousand miles away, knowing just what to say
and how to say it—with that pause, that dead air between the word man
and the word one.


Alejandro Escudé published his first full-length collection of poems My Earthbound Eye in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches high school English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

Friday, July 19, 2019

PRIVILEGE CONFERRED

by James Hamby


Graphic by Jesse Draxler for The Atlantic from a photo by David Hume Kennerly / Getty


What happens to privilege conferred?

Does it swell up
in narcissistic pride?
Does it demonize everyone
not on its side?
Does it trample to the ground
everyone who is poor,
female, or brown?

Maybe it’s too inept,
too incompetent?

Or does it become President?​


James Hamby is the Associate Director of the Writing Center at Middle Tennessee State University. He has been a finalist for the XJ Kennedy Parody Award and a nominee for the Pushcart Prize. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

SALVADORIAN SAW

by David Radavich


Image source: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints


How best to
sacrifice a child?

Hand him over
to gang-leaders’ guns?
Pay for blood
in coinage?

Or give him to
government forces
in a simple box
I nailed myself?

Open her body
before the cathedral
with a scythe?

Or go to the U.S.
and shiver in a cage
without food
or shower or a bed?

Solomon, tell me
how to divide
this child

so her soul
can sing tomorrow.


David Radavich's latest book is America Abroad: An Epic of Discovery (2019), companion volume to his earlier America Bound: An Epic for Our Time (2007).  Other recent poetry collections are Middle-East Mezze (2011) and The Countries We Live In (2014).  He has served as president of the Thomas Wolfe Society, Charlotte Writers' Club, and North Carolina Poetry Society and currently administers the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

COLORING

by Laura Lee Washburn


This drawing is part of an exhibition in Tucson, AZ of original watercolors and other artworks by kids whose families have fled to the U.S. seeking asylum. Casa Alitas operates a refugee shelter in a former Benedictine Monastery and offers art-making classes to traumatized kids released from detention.


“It’s not what you look at that matters,
  it’s what you see.”
—Henry David Thoreau


In the blue pool with jogging women
every morning this month I’ve seen
in distant tree yellow busted balloon.

I have ridden the packed dirt
on a brown three-speed bike
almost into long black snake.

I have been to the marsh
where green leaves reflect
from brown tannin waters.
I will go there again.

I have felt unease, eaten
too much sugar, sagged
at the loneliness of bad friendships.

I’ve helped light one hundred and forty candles
after dark, listened to testimony, heard
the names of six dead migrant children:

Darlyn, Jakelin, Felipe, Juanito, Wilmer, Carlos.
I’ve read the judicial arguments on soap
and sleep, toothpaste, blankets.

When the green leaves blow,
I watch through bamboo blinds,
live action but dim impressions of bright.

I have driven in blind white
sun on the turnpike’s upward curve
and made it south enough to see again.

I have driven twenty in storm
shocking white water rains
when the pea-sized summer hail
begins to tap.
I have not turned
around at the lake in the road.
 —I have judged and been judged—

Stupid people    this local woman
hosted a vigil because of “images” she saw.
How does she know [How does she know?]
the images are really detention centers?
    people who serve the DARK!
    scum invading      disease and violence
our president taking down the evil
Stop believing or search for the truth
everything is really a lie!


Laura Lee Washburn has taught how to tell creditable sources from biased sources, has never been held in a cell, and donates her time to a Southeast Kansas organization that helps women in poverty resolve crises.

NO RACIST BONE IN MY BODY

by Tricia Knoll


Image source: PoliticalForum


My, my, you old fool.
Of course, bones aren’t racist.
We’ve seen the pictures.
Kennewick man, skull sort of yellow,
sort of green, sort of gray.
All the bones at the end
come to some sort of pale.
You know, Alas, poor Yorick.

It’s the brain, you fool.
The synapse connections
met out of bounds, sparks
you must have learned
as a child. Who is good,
who is not so good, who
should vote, not vote,
breathe, not breathe,
share the earth, molder
in cages. The concept
of division rest in a brain.

I’d give you credit
for not having a racist
big toe. Although... I fear
the boots you might put on.

No racist bone
in your body. Get real.
Look at your heart.


Tricia Knoll is a poet as tired as so many Americans of lies, cruelty, and idiocy.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

WRITTEN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY

by Richard Garcia



Image source: The Navage Patch


On this day I say Happy birthday Mom. She died a long time ago. But she was always dying. You'd say Good morning Mom, how are you? I'm dying. she would say. What's for dinner? You'd ask. I'm dying, she would answer. She died so much that when she did die we hardly noticed. Of course, she had a long life since she was born a long time ago. She was the cleaning lady at The Continental Congress in Philly in 1776. She did such a good job cleaning up, all the dirt and dust and ashes and spittoons and bathrooms, that the founding fathers gave all their slaves that were working the concessions and greeting the carriages and grooming the horses and cleaning up, their freedom. My mother was from Mexico and much cheaper than the slaves, and all they had to do was feed her pancakes, which she thought were Yankee tortillas. The founding fathers were so happy with my mother's work that they named Independence Day for her birthday, the Fourth of July. The slaves that had been freed that day were really spies for the English. They were happy too and went back to England and became butlers and grooms and were paid for their work, not a lot but the English had good pancakes and lodging and the workers had insurance and a retirement plan.


Richard Garcia is the author of The Other Odyssey from Dream Horse Press, The Chair from BOA, and Porridge from Press 53. His poems appear in many journals, including The Georgia Review, Poetry and Ploughshares

Monday, July 15, 2019

BOXCUTTER BLUES

by Damian Balassone


They put me in these overalls
They put me in these shoes
Yeah, they put me in these overalls
They put me in these shoes
They handed me a Stanley knife
Said, ‘son it’s time to pay yer dues’

Well, the stock is rolling in
And the stock is rolling out
Yeah, the stock is rolling in
And the stock is rolling out
I’m walking like a branded slave
When all I wanna do is twist and shout

Well, mama get me outta here
This ain’t the life I choose
I said mama get me outta here
This ain’t the life I choose
I’m shackled to this factory
Lord, I got the boxcutter blues


Damian Balassone is an Australian poet whose work has appeared in over 100 publications, most notably in The New York Times.  He is the author of three volumes of poetry, including the forthcoming Strange Game in a Strange Land.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

IRON RULE OF DAS DRUMPF TRUMPF FUHRER

by Matthew Scott Harris


Image source: YouTube


Tell me this haint no nightmare, or refashioned twenty first
century episode of the twilight zone from the outer limits
of believability! Reiteration of oft told hankering before
these forty eight contiguous established whirled wide webbed
surveyed enclaves (plus Alaska and Hawaii) wove a tapestry
withal as one benightedly August democratic continent got
trampled, sear suckered, and punched thru with utter jingoism,
narcissism, and racism, activating ramifications radicalizing
homegrown terrorism (where hot pockets of anarchy a minor
threat during last Democratic dénouement), now finds nearly
every citizen righteously bear arms to the teeth, so please do
feel at ease to question me if ye will be so brave of heart to risk
your life and limb to hear mine kempf redolent recitation, when
(by George) bushwhacking days of yore, this generic garden
variety guy revisits (ha, then how populace did quail!) at scant
qualification of post Clinton dynasty, now appears quaint in
retrospect, and my parlaying such opprobrious opinions
condemning, damning, and emasculating current Baby loving
T***p (as aired in this communiqué), could find me punished
for note treason at all in attempt at expression per usurpation of
dereliction against the rubric of our forefathers furtherance for life,
liberty and pursuit of happiness, free trade and TruMark brand
(ye oh man lumpenproletariat feigning deprecation loathing)
pacification since day one, there rumbled a seismic shock, a
throwback to King Kong, chest pounding oppression, now illegal
immigration stopped dead in the tracks viz secret service agents
privileged with narco-trafficking leeway in collusion with forced
emigration, such public events commander in chief warrants,
whereby notification amongst G-men stationed at every and any
strategic borderline for maximization, the White House a coven
and denizen grooming henchmen toward lionization catering,
favoring, inculcating, levying taxation without representation
privately parlaying billions of dollars per proscribed philanthropy
(pivotally predicated upon particular political partisan programs—
there’s no app for that), where said action committees passively pander
(provided penthouse suites as an incentive) to cozy up and keep in
Czech insubordinate slow vox sing traitors, who v lad lee host pewter
tinned (miniature Taj Mahal) shaped coffee cakes (tea total ling
participants) possibly celebrating a birth err day, and/or crowning
of baron ness (exhausting government coffers) behold Kenya bully
eve klatch cha feted victory, pillaring (with figurative little rocks).


Hi (Matthew Scott Harris—berthed January xiii, mcmlix). Hi yam juiced a penniless dime a dozen bitcoin (a chip off the ole nick culled blockchain) bending, bloviating, branching... off the rushing limb bough tree (shawn of ha nitty conformity) with men dos city skeined webbing courtesy humanity.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

CONTINUOUS MIGRATION

by Joanne DeSimone Reynolds 


“[At McAllen TX detention center on July 12, 2019] VP saw 384 men sleeping inside fences, on concrete w/no pillows or mats. They said they hadn’t showered in weeks, wanted toothbrushes, food. Stench was overwhelming. CBP said they were fed regularly, could brush daily & recently got access to shower (many hadn’t for 10-20 days.) Facility we saw earlier in the day with children was new & relatively clean and empty. There were cots & medical supplies & snacks. Children watched TV and told Pence through translator they were being taken care of. But at least two said they’d walked for months to get here.” —Josh Dawsey @jdawsey1 White House @WashingtonPost

The species depends on the freedom of movement
It's in the DNA
Wings of the fathers and fathers and of the mothers and mothers too
All come for one milk
Metabolizing a weed's poison to foil enemies
Five generations to complete the journey
Butterflies like bees tell the harvest

The species depends on the freedom of movement
It's in the DNA
Baja or ports of call or the Bering Strait
All come for one milk
Who knows the many generations to complete the journey
Fear a poison to a nation's people
Children like blossoms tell the harvest


Joanne DeSimone Reynolds is the author of a chapbook, Comes A Blossom published by Main Street Rag in 2014.

Friday, July 12, 2019

HAS ANYBODY SEEN THE RESISTANCE?

by George Salamon





"For their heroism was that they had to conquer themselves first."
—Albert Camus, "Letters to a German Friend: First Letter"


The word is everywhere,
Action remains nowhere.
Consciousness is raised,
Resistance demands deed,
Not just correct creed.
Occupy Wall Street troubled
No one on the actual street.
Call it protest, call it outrage,
Only oneself does it assuage.


George Salamon supports many of the protests and marches, but thinks "resistance" requires what the protestors and marchers are not (yet?) willing to risk. Can't blame them. He lives and writes, often politically incorrect stuff, from St. Louis, MO.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

MAYBE IT STARTED WITH A HAMSTER

by Judith Terzi


and maybe the two albino rats
came next. And the rock collection.
Smooth oblong rocks he'd paint
faces on. And maybe shells came
next, and then stamps, though
he hardly knew where the countries
were on his globe. He liked
the biggest stamps the best, ones
with faces on them, faces of men
he could become. And maybe
the aquarium came next––red-tailed
sharks lurking behind rocks in his
bedroom with Jack Dempsey
cichlids and sucker fish. And maybe
the model building came next:
ocean liners with tiny people he'd
wave at, fighter planes with grounded
toy pilots. And tanks with soldiers
he would salute, but who never
saluted back. The tanks––stuck
between his childhood bed, with its
beige striped bedspread, and a shiny
maple highboy where he shoved
all of his desires, all of his heartache.
For later.


Judith Terzi is the author of Museum of Rearranged Objects (Kelsay Books, 2018) as well as of five chapbooks including If You Spot Your Brother Floating By and Casbah (Kattywompus Press). Her poetry appears widely in literary journals and anthologies, has received nominations for Best of the Net and Web, and has been read on the BBC. She holds an M.A. in French Literature and is a former educator who taught high school French for many years as well as English at California State University, Los Angeles, and in Algiers, Algeria.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

EQUAL WORK / EQUAL PAY

by Tricia Knoll





They won the applause. And the little trophy.
And the Nike swooshes on their uniforms.
They took it hot and humid, running.
Heart and soul. Heads and heels.
We waved our flags.
We painted our faces.
They won the games:
one after another won.
New York throws a ticker tape
down the Canyon of Heroes
and confetti rains down
on their ponytails and bobs.
(Who’d want to go
to the White House?)

Now the big question
is not skill, commitment,
drive, energy, or strength:
will they get equal pay?
The golden question.





Tricia Knoll has held feminist ideals aloft for many decades, rejoices in the strength and athletic prowess of all the womens' teams who competed in the World Cup, and celebrates the success of the U. S. Women's Team and their friendships.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

THINKING OF MIGRANT DETENTION CENTERS WHILE ON LINE FOR THE SIMPSONS RIDE AT UNIVERSAL STUDIO

by Alejandro Escudé




A Wednesday, early July, and the line is over an hour long
for the ride at the kitschy, Hollywood theme park
based on Bart, the lovable, ironic, cigarette-shaped prig
whose story lines challenge the very economy that swindled
the crowd to pay hundreds of dollars to sit in a shaky vehicle
while images of a roller coaster create a roller coaster.
On a wall, a sign reads: max capacity 1023, and right behind me
a Mexican family speaks Spanish while they’re seven-year-old
stares up at me with big, luminous, and questioning eyes.
He could be one of those confined to cages at the border, his mother too,
and his aged father with the cracked, bemused smile. Hundreds
are gathered here. It could be the detention center itself; the heat,
standing-room only, the fussed-with chains meant to hold us in place.
There’s a strained happiness, but as the line meanders that happiness
fades into boredom and even to the hint of dicey mob anxiety;
we wind around one room then wind in another. I comprehend
the Mexican family, yet the lilting accent begins to grind in my ears.
I don’t like what they sound like. I don’t want them behind me,
and the father has thrice bumped into my backpack in which I carry
a water bottle and my daughter’s cap, a gaudy thing displaying
a bling-ed-out American flag. It’s a mass of snaking families, many
are foreigners actually, come to see and taste and touch
the America America sells abroad. But it’s now late in the day,
and I’ve grown tired of the French, with their self-assured le français,
the Chinese groups who jolt into you moving to and fro in the line,
the out-of-state whites, fathers with blurry, meaningless tattoos,
the stone-faced, beefy mothers with sunburned, thick, freckled arms
and their giant sons, who are always trying too hard to be funny,
the triads of pretty teenaged girls, maybe local, wearing
denim shorts so small they barely veil their immaculate vaginas,
firm buttocks bulging out from below the frayed threads.
I think back to the mothers, fathers, and kids in detention centers,
the lawyers and senators gawking at them, inhaling the human stench
of days on end without proper hygiene care: piss, shit, and sweat.
Here, in the line, it smells of sweat too, sweat and ratty impatience.
Homer helps himself to a frothy beer mug, Bart whips out a snarky comeback,
and Marge floats into the scene, deeply flawed yet motherly,
a cartoon version of Mother Mary—the three of them holy in their hilarity.
Krusty the Clown—the greedy villain, the threat that threatens us all.
We board a claustrophobic vehicle, lower the snug safety bar,
and below appears a field of fluorescent, Springfield palette hellscapes
we fall breathlessly toward then rise (we believe) abruptly from.


Alejandro Escudé published his first full-length collection of poems My Earthbound Eye in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches high school English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

Monday, July 08, 2019

WITH EARTH OUR FLESH, WATER OUR BLOOD

by Darrell Petska



Extinction Rebellion is an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and mimimise the risk of social collapse.


 "It's the least I can do." Into my ears,
starving bees hived. Deep in my lungs
nested gun-shy doves.

In droves came reeling beetles and butterflies,
evicted toads and frogs—these to my heart's
several chambers, while in the burrowed
turnings of my gut, bait-sick
gophers and ground hogs found refuge.

"It's the least I can do." Lodgeless muskrats
and beavers sheltered in the round
huts of my armpits, harried owls and hawks
took to my shoulders, even swooning
flowers and trees I drew to my nostrils.

I took all in, as many as I could, and still
others pressed near, threatened and sore,
until at last I cried "I've done all I can!"

Oh, but then my grandchildren came running:
"Grandpapa, Grandpapa, save us!"
Into my arms my loved ones curled,
soft and vulnerable, and I realized
much more I yet could do.

My feet stepped forth, driven by the lives
within and about me, all earth becoming
my flesh and its waters my blood.
No fears of failure could enter my mind
when life, lived large or small, is all we have.



At the core of Extinction Rebellion’s philosophy is nonviolent civil disobedience. "We promote civil disobedience and rebellion because we think it is necessary—we are asking people to find their courage and to collectively do what is necessary to bring about change."


Darrell Petska, a Wisconsin poet, sees hope in concerted action for a livable planet. His five grandchildren make that effort ever-more urgent.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

COLLECTOR

by Jonel Abellanosa





I own three mountains of garbage
between pavements that have
memorized our footsteps. Five angels
follow me, sleep where I sleep,
bark, wag like the president.

People are generous, my mountains
tall whether moon or sun. My tin cup
runneth over, furbabies and I drinking
laughter. Leftovers full and fill.
Bones for them, sometimes toys.

I’m a discoverer. I know shards
of glass draw sunlight. I’m an explorer.
For each dig, I find brass or bronze.
I breathe new life to batteries.
Books remind me of Alexandria.

When it rains their yelps make me
cry, and I’m richer. They love sackcloth
for the freeze. They tell me secrets.
Debating politicians need us, so they
can speak in tongues and be bold.


A regular contributor to TheNewVerse.News, Jonel Abellanosa lives in Cebu City, the Philippines. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals including That Literary Review, Poetry Kanto, The Lyric, The McNeese Review and Star*Line and been nominated for Pushcart, Best of the Net and Dwarf Stars awards. His poetry collections include Meditations (Alien Buddha Press), Songs from My Mind’s Tree and Multiverse (Clare Songbirds Publishing House), 50 Acrostic Poems (Cyberwit, India), and his politically-progressive collection In the Donald’s Time (Poetic Justice Books and Art). His first speculative poetry collection Pan’s Saxophone is forthcoming from Weasel Press.

HUNGRY, SCARED, AND SICK

an erasure poem by James Penha
from "Inside the Migrant Detention Center in Clint, Texas," 
The New York Times, July 6, 2019


Clint is known for holding what agents call U.A.C.’s, or unaccompanied alien children—children who cross the border alone or with relatives who are not their parents. Ilana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times


the stuff of nightmares
scabies
shingles
chickenpox
stench
orders to take beds away
from children to make more space
"unaccompanied alien children"
as young as 3
as young as 5 months old
lacking diapers
toothbrushes
toothpaste
soap
children crammed into
a prison environment
My God, these are babies
They are keeping babies here


James Penha edits TheNewVerse.News.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

THEY CAME

by Robert Knox




First they came for the immigrant children
And we looked away
Because the Leader's toady told us, "Those are not
our children"
And we looked at our own children,
and were reassured

Then they came for the people who cover their heads
or pray too much
And again we looked away
Because we were not Iranians, or Iraqis, or Gazans,
or children of the West Bank detained indefinitely without charges
And, as the man said,
those are not our children

Then they came for the abused, and those who accused their abusers,
and for the accusers' advocates,
and for those who fought against their abusers,
breaking into their hidden armories to take away their guns
            But we looked away, and jested at the comedie humaine,
because we were not ourselves the victims of abuse
or the advocates for the abused,
and, after all, we are "not his type"

Then they came for the ones who would never
play ball with Der Leader
The ones who would always be trouble
because they were cheated out of their land
or, perchance, had been enslaved
or who had once owned a country that the slave-owners wished
            to possess for themselves
or who, we feared, were willing to work
            for too little money
or who loved the wrong people
or who were unwilling to remain in their positions
            and to perform the tasks
for which they had been created by the distant Creator—
those varied and disobedient creations
of that stable genius
            somewhere in the sky

And then because no one else remained standing
            in our diminished patria,
neither advocates,
nor scribblers with their pencil over the ear,
nor Enemies of the People with their hand-held devices,
nor party of the workers
nor defenders of the beaten, humiliated and disappeared

able to kick the ball from his feet,
nothing was left for us to do
but to lay our own bodies before His feet
            As the painted, spiked, and horny-headed demons of extinction
cheered, and drank, and laughed, and danced upon the bodies
of their victims
and ran up history's score


Boston area writer Robert Knox is a contributing editor for the online poetry journal Verse-Virtual in which his poems are regularly published. His poetry chapbook Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty has been nominated for a Massachusetts Book Award for poetry books published in 2017. Also a fiction writer, his novel Suosso's Lane, a story of the Sacco-Vanzetti case, was published in 2016. His novel Karpa Talesman recently won a competition for speculative fiction and will be published by Hidden River Arts.

Friday, July 05, 2019

SONG OF WATERS RUNNING RED

by Bill Sullivan




“Spirit, help me to see
their broken stories…”
                                                                   The Wound in the Water, libretto by Euan Tait.



And the oceans, seas and rivers bled, then and now.

                                  1

So many unshackled black bodies,
hauled topside, dragged to the rail like sacks
of trash, worthless cargo when breathless or ill.
Unshrouded, unblessed, tossed to the sharks.

Lost: your freedom, your fields, family, friends,
songs and dances, your chanted village score,
your matching parts. Separated and silenced
you descend to the unknown ocean floor.

                                    2
Now a coyote says, “This far and no further;
A raft is there by the Rio Bravo.” Death threats,
and poverty marched the family north to the churning
spring waters, hoping to elude the border’s net.

“We will not be separated, will stay a family,”
Mid river, the rapids sank the raft, the dream.
Four will never know the opposite shore. Lost—
father, daughter child, and infant, swept downstream.

                                  3
The Mediterranean Sea, the reddest of borders,
graveyard for countless non-Europeans fleeing torture
and war.  First an embrace from the host, then rejection.
For a time, heroic rescues at sea, then cessation.

Thank the Turkish soldier who kindly retrieves
the lifeless body from Bodrum’s shore, who cradles
Aylan, in his arms, a three-year-old Syrian Kurd. Mother,
sister lost at sea; only the broken father left to grieve.


                                           4
Who knows who first pressed the knife’s tip in, opened
the wound? But slave trader, captain and merchant pushed
it deeper.  And despots, dealers, war lords, smugglers twisted
it more than a turn or two—then, hope and story severed.

If you don’t turn your head, you will see children confined,
crying out for their parents, drowning in a sea of abuse,
but also gaze at the perp’s or the collaborator’s eyes,
black and blank, a passageway to the dying soul’s cries.

                                          5
The spirit, the sea—eternal and universal; every creature
a part of the tale.  The sea, the womb; life’s origins.
Joined, at birth, our ties soon severed by Mammon’s legions.
Exiles and lords, cast apart, songless in a wounded sea.

Who in that sea will sing the first note of the song
that sparks the afflicted, that turns the cruel and greedy,
that invites every voice to join, that note by note stops
the bleeding, purifies the water, rewrites the wrongs?


Bill Sullivan taught English and American Studies at Keene State College. He co-authored two studies of twentieth century poetry, co-directed two documentaries.  His poems have appeared in a number of print and online publications.  His Loon Lore: In Poetry and Prose was published by Grove Street Books in 2015. He retired to Westerly, RI and turns to the ocean and gardens when times turn bleak.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

FLAGS, BARBEQUES, AND FIREWORKS

by Gil Hoy



He strode
into America’s
Birthday Party

with an air
of power
and privilege

befitting
a nobleman
who had learned

a thing or two
about governing,

a thing or two
about the strengths

and weaknesses
of Republics.

He looked up—
approvingly—

at America’s
Stars and Stripes:

a more sophisticated,
but equally treasured
and defended

symbol for
a democratic state

as the vexillum
his armies
had used.

He smelled
the meat
grilling,

inhaled
the intoxicating
smoke—

and again saw
the happy
smiling faces

of a nation’s
citizenry.

Like victorious
feasts on great
battlefields,

in days of old
long since
vanished,

after glorious battles
had been waged,
fought and won.

He cringed a bit
when he heard
the strange sounds

of fireworks
exploding overhead,

fearing that his legions

might again
be under attack.

He had already
seen and knew
too much

about destruction
and death—

about the destruction
and death
of Republics.

Upon learning
it was America’s 243’rd,

He paused
for a moment,
in earnest,

and then declared:

"She will meet
the same fate
as my own,

if her leaders
are not wise
and not true.

Democracies,
like their leaders,
are fragile,

and do not
last forever.

They’ve flown
and are fleeting.”

….

And, with that,
He was gone.


Gil Hoy is a Boston poet and semi-retired trial lawyer studying poetry at Boston University through its Evergreen program. Hoy previously received a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from Boston University, an M.A. in Government from Georgetown University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. He served as a Brookline, Massachusetts Selectman for four terms. Hoy’s poetry has appeared most recently in Chiron Review, Ariel Chart, TheNewVerse.News, Social Justice Poetry, The Potomac, The Penmen Review and elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

THE COMMISSIONER OF TRANQUILITY

by William Aarnes 


                       

from the 2019 Independence Day speech


What’s troubling shouldn’t trouble us.  Whatever the news,
only the seditious believe the caging of refugee children

will go on too long.  Maybe, in some subversives’ imaginations,
addicts will keep overdosing.  Maybe storms will devastate

the islands where we vacation.  Maybe dictators will stay
in power in some foreign countries, countries where the rich

can count on the police but the poor can’t.   Maybe
in the once murky past hard-working laborers couldn’t pay

their rent—but never in this land of promise, never
in the comfort of our time.  We’re blessed we can focus

on the inspiring resolve of those families rebuilding
their burned-out homes. We’re lucky we can relish

hearing a decorated veteran belt out our national anthem
as if she’s cured of her PTSD, the athletes singing along,

all of them with hands on their hearts.  And aren’t we charmed
by the fourth-grade teacher who’s earned a raise

by bringing a gun to school?  Why give a moment’s thought
to hardships suffered by people who deserve them?

Didn’t our parents say, “Look on the bright side”?
Only those who belong elsewhere would deny that life

in our beloved country is the epitome of the bright side.
Why should we put up with any doubt?   Everyone’s happy

that what’s happening can never happen to us.


William Aarnes lives in South Carolina.

ALL THOSE PATRIOTIC SONGS

by Alan Walowitz





. . . In a democracy, you can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it.                                                
                                                                                                         --John Boehner


Grammar School we sung them 
till the vocal cords popped from our throats,
such scrawny things we were, 
Adam’s apples bobbing, toes tapping,
the girls lined up the other side of the room
their skirts gently swaying in the breeze the radiators made—
all to please those witches, either evil or kind,
who had us in their clutches all day, a year at a time,
these ladies out of Normal School—Miss Johnson and Cochran,
Mrs. Murtaugh and Golsner—with their black high-top lace-up shoes
and penciled brows and rouged cheeks
that always made them look like they’d come through a storm—
and in the wake of the war, maybe they had.

My Country is of Thee—what the hell did that mean?—
O, say does the Star Spangled Ba-a-nner yet wave?
Just look in the corner of the room
where the flag’s hanging limp as the janitor’s mop.
God Bless America, never mentioning the guy who wrote it
was born on the other side.
And shouting the refrain, This Is My Country,
giving it all we had, just like the Mitch Miller record
we’d learned it from. 

They even said we might get to build it.
Though one look now, soft and creaky most mornings,
lovers of the easy life—you’ll know we didn’t help much. 
But our grandparents and parents did—
after hunkered down in steerage, a long, bitter crossing.
Still, that’s not walking from Guatemala
one kid in hand and another tugging at her breast,
and climbing in the back of a rickety old school bus 
to cross pitted roads and streams
and sleeping in rotted VW vans 
along with the hosos and the other takers
who might as soon rape you as get you there.
That’s courage worthy of sparklers and Roman candles
and bottle-rockets whistling, and bombs bursting in air.  

All those patriotic songs--
This is my country! we sung, sometimes even shouted.
Loud and proud, our teachers told us.
Build that wall, my ass!
We say, what Woody Guthrie said,
This land is your land, this land is my land—
you can only hold us off so long. 


Alan Walowitz has been published various places on the web and off.  His work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017 and 2018 and he is a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry.  His chapbook Exactly Like Love is available from Osedax Press, and his full-length book The Story of the Milkman and other poems is published by Truth Serum Press.