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Tuesday, July 07, 2020

UNTITLED FOURTH OF JULY POEM

by Roberta Santlofer


Full "Buck" Moon and penumbral eclipse July 4-5, 2020.


It is after midnight
But I wouldn’t know it here
For staying stuck in my apartment
In bed with depression

Bus went –––––
I was just glancing out
My half-open bathroom window
After a warm July day

I often glance out at night
See into the towers along my street
See the low room stuck in
Behind my neighbor’s fallen tree
The branches dividing the light

Yet the brightness
Even more important
& personal
Being low

A lantern
Put up in
The air party
Maybe the moon
Did come down
Stayed in
Helped branches
Avoid the night’s blasting
Bright skies
Lit with Fourth of July fireworks

The moon feeling a little
Tame / timid / small
Among the blasting spectrum
Of color

But the true story of light—
The moon has discreetly mastered it


Roberta “Bobby” Santlofer (1943-2020) was a mother of sons, an avid reader, and a poet. A posthumous collection of her poetry is forthcoming.

WHAT IS THE AIR?

by Ralph James Savarese


Source: The New York Times archive


An elderly person said, “What is the air?” gasping as much
     with her arms as with her lungs.
How could I answer this woman? I do not know what it is
     any more than she.

I guess it must be a mother feeding her babes little morsels
     of oxygen. A clear, blue bib.

Or I guess it’s the wind taking a nap, the clouds a comforter
     letting dreams rain down.

Or I guess the air is itself an elderly person, death’s new
     confidante. What has it heard?

Or maybe it’s a commuter on the breathing Tube. (The rasping
     sounds like medieval German.)
“Stand away from the doors.”

Stand away from each other! The virus is sprouting in broad
     zones and narrow zones, growing among black folks
     as among white (more among black folks).
“I give them the same, I receive them the same,” a super-
     spreader says.

Perhaps the air is a bathhouse for lungs. All the panting they
     could want!
The Right once denounced promiscuous mingling yet now
     promiscuously mingles itself.

The air, madam, is an unregistered weapon. In America
     everyone carries.


Ralph James Savarese is the author of two books of prose, Reasonable People and See It Feelingly, and one collection of poetry, Republican Fathers, due out in October.

COMMONIST PUSSIES

by Mark Williams


Hateboards photo via Campaign


“Hello, Mrs. Baumgart. Is Kyle at home?
It’s me Austin Baggerly on the phone.     No, Mrs. Baumgart.
Dad is still living at his house and Mom and me and Bradley
are living at ours.     Bradley is my turtle.     Yes, Mrs. Baumgart.
I wash my hands after playing with Bradley. Mom says
I’m more likely to get the 19 virus before Bradley makes me sick,
specially since Dad doesn’t believe in masks. He says
masks are for commonist pussies.     Excuse me, Mrs. Baumgart.
But that’s what Dad says. And when he picks me up
he makes me take mine off in the car.     I know, Mrs. Baumgart.
But he’s my dad. He makes me go with him. He says
if the President comes to town he’ll take me.
I would like to go with Dad that day, cause if I see the President
I’ll ask him why he doesn’t care if Grandma Baggerly dies.
I’ll tell him he’s old too, and since alls he cares abouts is him—
Mom says so—he should wear a mask. Then Dad will wear a mask
and I can wear a mask and save Grandma.     Mrs. Baumgart,
do you think Kyle and I will go to school this fall? Do you think
the virus will ever go away? Will there be more viruses after?
Do you think our planet will still be here when I’m old?
Mom says the rest of my life depends on the next election?
Do you think so? Dad says Joe Biden would be like taking a bus
across America instead of an airplane. Mom says if that’s true,
our President is a skateboard.     Mrs. Baumgart,
was it ever like this when you were growing—
Oh, hi Kyle. What’s up?”


Mark Williams wears a mask in Evansville, Indiana. His poems and stories have appeared in The Southern Review, Rattle, New Ohio Review, Drunk Monkeys, The American Journal of Poetry, and in the anthologies The Boom Project and American Fiction. His poems in response to the current administration have appeared in TheNewVerse.News, Writers Resist, Poets Reading the News, and Tuck Magazine.

Monday, July 06, 2020

SYNCHRONICITY

by Elinor Ann Walker


The 2020 Synchronous Firefly Viewing has been canceled due to COVID-19. —smokymountains.com


It is finally July. Tonight I’ve taken the beach chair into the yard
at the top of the slope. It’s also the summer of Covid,
so the chair is free of sand, no beach trip this year.
From here, I can see down the long hill to the woods,
the green beyond broken by silhouettes of darker leaves
against a humid sky. In the last 12 years, the trees
have grown so tall that they surround the house
and yard like guardians, and in them now are millions
of fireflies, lightning bugs as I called them
when I was a child and still do. They are signaling
for love in the underbrush, in the evergreens, among
the hardwoods. For mating, of course, not love.
They are brighter and more numerous than I’ve ever
seen here, even though we’re not far from the Smoky
Mountains where 19 species and their various signature
bioluminescence patterns illuminate the trails. The most
famous are the synchronous species, and the Smokies
the only place in America where they can flash
this way in response to each other. What’s strange,
in an already strange summer, is that normal peak
times for this display are late May and early June.
It’s been a season of unusual and frequent hard rain,
some early cold snaps, and I’m not a biologist,
so I don’t know why now, mid-summer, so many
are flashing, though I’ve read that scientists say
a number of factors determine the peak before
the gradual decline. They only live about three weeks.
It must be urgency, competition, the necessity
of reproduction that require the show. It’s not what you
think, the synchronous patterns. It’s not that they all light
up at once, then go dark, then repeat. Instead, the males fly
and flash. The females are just where they are, stilled
high in the trees, where they respond with their own
light. But sometimes among the random flashes,
short sequences come together at once, bursts
of greenish-yellow dots punctuating and undulating
over and over, then a period of pitch dark, abrupt
cessation. Then they start again, and sometimes you
can detect waves of flashes, up and around, tracing
some invisible lines like a spirograph, while lower,
just above the grass, one may drift, linger, and fade,
almost as if in exhaustion, like we are all trying so hard
to light up together, each other, be light, when everything,
everything else, is asynchronous, on delay,
at a distance, and there is no union, just blank sky.


Elinor Ann Walker holds a Ph.D. in English from UNC-Chapel Hill and teaches online for University of Maryland Global Campus. She considers herself a recovering academic and has published under more than one name. She lives in Tennessee with three dogs and writes mostly on her screened porch, weather permitting. Twitter: elinorann_poet

HE WOULD LIKE TO BE A CONFEDERATE GENERAL

by Howard Winn




but was born in the wrong era
even though he tries to assume the
role in modern times and dreams those flabby
wattles firmed into the mountainous
stone of Mount Rushmore with the
other great presidents where he knows
he belongs as the statues come down
he poses as if he could join one eternal
and turns to the computer and twitter
away as if an eternal mockingbird
that ignores the twenty first century
and will bring back the America
that split into the democracy and the
autocracy supported by the labor
of slavery subject to their murder
in the pretense of maintaining law
and order which masks prejudice
and chauvinism that supports
the fake humanism of the fox
slinks in to empty arenas and
pretends there is always an admiring
crowd of empty seats that do not clap


Howard Winn's poetry and fiction has appeared in many literary journals. A collection of his published poetry will be published in early summer.

WALKING DEAD

by Jeremy Nathan Marks



The Lakota people  consider the Black Hills to be sacred ground; it was originally included in the Great Sioux Reservation. The United States broke up the territory after gold was discovered in the Black Hills. The mountain into which the Rushmore figures wer carved is known to the Lakota Sioux as Six Grandfathers. Photo: Six Grandfathers circa 1905. Source: Wikipedia.


On the eve of the fourth
in Lincoln’s shadow
on sacred ground
of the Lakota and Cheyenne
downwind of the dust
of an unfinished bust
of Crazy Horse
not one of his kin asked for
a sitting president defending
the Stars and Bars
its politicians, generals and adjutants
to extolling chants of

USA! USA!

What do you say to a drop in
from a fortified copter flying
the Great White Father
over crowds of people whose lands
these stone monstrosities smother
carvings made at the hand of a man
who sympathized with the Klan
a troupe of Confederate brethren
keeping alive the dream of Calhoun
interposition, the antebellum masculine
to thwart a more perfect union?

Carve the face of the great emancipator
beside slaveholders and Teddy R.

I think the fourth is in danger of becoming
a mausoleum because we do not vet
the monument builders
history stalks the land like the undead
in a high ratings show many of us watch
on television.


Jeremy Nathan Marks lives in London, Ontario. Recent work is appearing at Isacoustic, So It Goes, Muddy River, Wilderness House Literary Review, and The Right Life.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

HE GETS IT

by Wayne Scheer




My neighbor wanted his five year-old to understand
why so many people,
including himself,
were demonstrating
for George Floyd.

After explaining
what had happened,
he took his son
to a demonstration
near downtown Atlanta.

When his son saw the crowd
he said,
“All these people
think people should be kind.
Cool.”

He gets it.

Why do so many others,
including the president,
find it so hard to understand?


Wayne Scheer has been nominated for five Pushcart Prizes and two Best of the Net. He's published numerous stories, poems and essays in print and online, including Revealing Moments,  a collection of flash stories. His short story “Zen and the Art of House Painting” has been made into a short film.

DEEP SOUTH

by Sari Grandstaff





"I'm concerned about voter registration in Mississippi. The blacks are having lots (of) events for voter registration. People in Mississippi have to get involved, too. —Gail Welch, Jones County, Mississippi Election Commissioner, June 28, 2020.


white water lily
the center of attention
hides its muddy roots


Sari Grandstaff lives in the Catskill Mountains/Mid-Hudson Valley of New York State.  She is a high school librarian and she and her husband are the proud parents of three adult children. Her work has appeared in Eastern Structures, Chronogram, TheNewVerse.News, and NPR among many other places.

DARNELLA'S DUTY

by Laurie Kuntz


Darnella Frazier is the brave young woman who filmed the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. The artwork is from the official Peace and Healing for Darnella Fund at gofundme.


How does it feel to be 17,
and just want to hold your life in your
glistening palm, go to the corner
and buy a sparkling water to quench
a parched mouth that longs to sing?

How does it feel to witness
a purpose too cruel
for all your 17 rotations
around a sun you only want to bask in?

How does it feel to beg a name,
witness a life breaking,
while your opened ebony eyes,
see loss and corruption corralled
to the borderless sky?

And, how does the humid wind feel
as you watch it carry one man's life
to a crevice where only the wind can go?


Laurie Kuntz is an award-winning poet and film producer. She taught creative writing and poetry in Japan, Thailand and the Philippines. Many of her poetic themes are a result of her working with Southeast Asian refugees for over a decade after the Vietnam War years. She has published one poetry collection (Somewhere in the Telling, Mellen Press) and two chapbooks (Simple Gestures, Texas Review Press and Women at the Onsen, Blue Light Press), as well as an ESL reader (The New Arrival, Books 1 & 2, Prentice Hall Publishers). Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her chapbook Simple Gestures won the Texas Review Poetry Chapbook  Contest. She was editor in chief of Blue Muse Magazine and a guest editor of Hunger Mountain Magazine.  She has produced documentaries on the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Law and currently is producing a documentary on the peace process and reintegration of guerrilla soldiers in Colombia. She is the executive  producer of an Emmy-winning short narrative film Posthumous. Recently retired, she lives in an endless summer state of mind.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

VOICES FROM THE PAST

by Gil Hoy




Their homes, cone-shaped poles
of wood covered with buffalo hides.
Set up to break down quickly
to move to a safer place.

She sits inside of one of them.
Adorning her dresses, her family’s shirts
with beads and quills.

Watches over her children. Skins, cuts
and cooks the buffalo meat. Pounds clothes
clean with smooth wet river rocks.

When she sees the blue cavalry
advancing, she begins to run again.
Is that what made America great,
back then?

African families working hard
on hot cotton farms. Sunrise to sunset,
six days a week. Monotony broken only
by their daily beatings. By their singing
of sad soulful songs.

Like factories in fields, dependent solely
upon the demands of cotton and cloth.

You could buy a man for a song, back then.
Is that what made America great,
once again?

There are swastikas in our streets today.
Black men being murdered. Whitelash.
While the new man at the top
tweets videos ranting of white power.
While the old man at the top
says he’ll make America great again.

They say the full moon was bigger and brighter
last year than it’s been in 73 years.
Than it’s been since Jackie Robinson
played his first big league baseball game.


Gil Hoy is a Best of the Net nominated Boston poet and semi-retired trial lawyer who studied 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 Right Hand Pointing, Tipton Poetry Journal, Chiron Review, Ariel Chart, Indian Periodical, Rusty Truck, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, and TheNewVerse.News.

Friday, July 03, 2020

RED FLAG DAY

by Buff Whitman-Bradley




With the first wail of the siren
A seismic gasp
Shudders up and down the streets
Of our little town
Here at the base of the forested mountain
Where all the trees
Are named kindling,
Where all the trees are named tinder,
Where all the trees
Are named fire.
So in the midst of a rampaging pandemic
We must worry now
About this too,
That an errant spark
From an ill-maintained power line
Will ignite a rampaging conflagration
Leaving devastation and death
In its wake.

Access is closed to many of the trails
In the watershed
Until the high winds die down
And temperatures drop.
Not long ago
Access was closed
Due to the coronavirus.
Too many people in the woods?
What a thought!
When we could enter again
A few weeks ago
We headed to a favorite spot
On a wooded lakeside trail
Where we could espy an osprey nest
At the very top of a dead Douglas fir
And see if last year’s inhabitants
Had returned during our pandemical hiatus.
And when we found that the pair
Was back home
Our viral gloom briefly lifted
And our spirits did a little jig or two.

The osprey couple will soon be caring
For hatchlings
Who will raise a right old ruckus
Every waking moment
Demanding food from mom and dad
Until one day
Obeying a mysterious call,
An ancient hearkening,
They will perch on the very edge of the nest
Or on the diving board limb
Extending several feet out
Above the water
And after a great deal of fussing
After a great deal of high-pitched pleading
For further instructions,
They will surrender their anxiety
To the primeval urge
And step off into air.

The winds have died down,
There have been no more sirens,
But the red flag will remain hoisted
Until tonight at 10 PM—
And how many more times this summer and fall
Will the scarlet banner snap in the wind
Before the rains return?
The headlines say that COVID 19
Has killed half a million people worldwide
And is showing no signs
Of abating.
We are all exhausted and demoralized
By the constant threat of plague and inferno
But we manage to muster up a little hope
When we picture those young osprey
Dropping straight down toward the water
Then in a transformative instant
Finding their wings and flaring upwards
Into the shimmering day.


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. He podcasts at: thirdactpoems.podbean.com .

Thursday, July 02, 2020

TO THOSE WHO REFUSE TO WEAR A FACE MASK WHEN ADVISED TO DO SO

A WARNING

by Brooke Herter James


Last week I was strolling the banks
of a creek in Montana when,
out of seemingly nowhere,
a sandhill crane exploded
from the tall grass at my feet.
She was fully my height,
her wings wide open,
beating theair,
her long beak pointing—
jabbing at me.

Beneath her, two eggs.

I am a mother,  too. I get it.

Especially right now,
with one child, pregnant,
working twelve-hour shifts
as a nurse in a walk-in clinic
clear across the country.

If you choose not to wear a face mask—
and you get sick—
and you seek care from my daughter
or any of the thousands of health care workers
who are some one else’s beloved child—
thereby endangering them with your selfishness,
I will come after you like that sandhill crane.
It’s that simple.


Brooke Herter James is the author of two poetry chapbooks: The Widest Eye ( 2016) and Spring took the Long Way Around (2019). Her poems have appeared in PoemTown Vermont as well as the online publications Poets Reading the News, TheNewVerse.News, Flapper Press, and Writing in a Woman’s Voice (forthcoming).  She was chosen as a finalist in the Poetry Society of Vermont’s 2019 National Poetry Contest. She lives on a hillside in Vermont with her husband, four hens, two donkeys and a dog.

MASK WORK

by Alejandro Escudé


Why Aren’t You Wearing a Mask? by Jen Sorensen at The Nib


T***p “sprays a mask on his face every day for vanity. But an actual mask that would protect other people, that, that, he just can’t do” –Anderson Cooper


Pull yourself up by your mask straps!
I work hard to keep myself and others safe,
but sometimes I too hate to have to reach up
for a mask hung like a hat on a makeshift
mask-rack in my entryway. I feel a strange
sweaty anxiety in needing to “muzzle”
myself, as you call it, and crave the feel
of fresh air on my face, unbridled breath.
But you of all people should understand
the logic of labor, the idea of work, you
who often block “entitlements,” who see
the world simply as divided between
those who can succeed and those who
cannot. I put on my mask of success!
I put on my mask and it is work to do so,
like raising a shovel, like crunching
the numbers, like mowing, like sewing
seeds, like picking stocks. I do my mask-
work because my kids depend on me
surviving and on their grandparents
surviving so that we can continue to work.
And I too am with you, I too put on my
mask and feel its claws dig into my skull.
I too rise in the morning to greet the sun-
disease for yet another day. But I mask.
And I wear my good work on my face.


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.

BREATHING IN FLORIDA

by Mickey J. Corrigan


Fort Myers resident Wilson Cardenas tosses a cast net during sunset at Bunche Beach Preserve on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Saharan dust is blanketing parts of U.S. including SWFL. Photo by Andrew West, The News-Press, July 1, 2020


The sky's a dirty white
Saharan dust brushing
through crusty air
pulsing in and out
bruised blue lungs
crablegs scuttling skin
burnt to the touch.

Weddings are off,
funerals are on again.

You breathe great again
on the sand, in bars, half-naked
bodies clumped around you
over cheap beers, laughs
strained burgundy faces
maskless, so careless.

Happy hour's brisk,
the ERs overcrowded.

Throw dust on the data,
another round to your health!
Joke about the washed out
camped in steamy hideouts
wringing scrubbed hands
germfree and chapped.

Red sunset fireworks
in a sky full of sand.

This is the kind of dirt
you throw at poetry too
making it shine darker
revealing bleak truths.


Originally from Boston, Mickey J. Corrigan writes Florida noir with a dark humor. Novels include  Project XX about a school shooting (Salt Publishing, UK, 2017) and What I Did for Love a spoof of Lolita (Bloodhound Books, 2019). Kelsay Books recently published the poetry chapbook the disappearing selfGrandma Moses Press will publish Florida Man later this year.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

GEORGE FLOYD'S LEGACY

by Crowfeather


George Floyd by Sam Dunn


One life ended
by an unyielding knee
and ice-bound hearts.

One man’s private death,
ghastly and obscene,
stunning millions.

Not just another death,
but maybe a catalyst
for change.


Crowfeather is a 72-year-old woman who writes and tells stories in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

GEORGE FLOYD ELEGY

by KP Liles 


German artist Eme Freethinker has painted a portrait of George Floyd on what used to be the Berlin Wall to honour the unarmed black man killed May 25 by a white Minneapolis police officer, who knelt on his neck for almost 10 minutes.


George Floyd
George Floyd
George Floyd

And so many
buried unheard
we now cannot unhear

Nor can we ignore
revolutions’ anthem
I can’t breathe

Impossible to unsee
George Floyd
that pressing knee

Ahmaud Arbery
jogging Glynn County
Georgia George Floyd

Breonna Taylor
sleeping Kentucky
Less than a meme’s life apart

Eric Garner New York City
Michael Brown Ferguson Missouri
Nia Wilson George Floyd

Oakland California Trayvon
Martin Sanford Florida
Tamir Rice Cleveland Ohio How

many George Floyd George Floyd
until name becomes flood
spilling all the killed Black folks

into brightly lit kitchens
until the dream’s ghost
upends breakfast table

until No
No Some risks George Floyd
do not resolve in mind

So if it is not for me
to lift your body or name
let mourning

be pallbearer
to token grief
minstrel solidarity

Head bowed shouldering memory
let us at long last George Floyd
carry outrage ‘cross that bloody river

end this procession
where we face off
the uniform night


KP Liles has penned two poetry collections, Singing Back the Darkness (NYQ Books) and Spring Hunger (Plain View Press). He currently lives in the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

BALTIMORE HAS MORE POTHOLES THAN BEVERLY HILLS

by Valerie Frost


Graphic from Rolling Stone, June 28, 2020


"I think there's racism in the United States still but I don't think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist.” —William Barr on CBS Face the Nation, June 7, 2020

“There’s overwhelming evidence that the criminal justice system is racist. Here’s the proof.” —The Washington Post, June 10, 2020


I am lost in a sea of
Lily Pulitzers
with their miniature Matilda Janes
and matching hair bows
twice the size of their heads.
Can’t tame my frizzy
Shea Moisture mane
paired with brandless denim pants
from Macy’s Last Chance
Clearance rack.
An ex ruined my 720-score credit
when he co-signed my name
on his gray Impala without permission.
Now I’m raising our kids in public housing
alongside pill abusers and meth addicts.
It’s hard to be financially stable
with two children all alone.
No family to help, can’t own a home.
I have a master’s degree
but that doesn’t mean a thing–
when your digitus medicinalis lacks a ring
they see a pariah, a painted liability.
If I get a raise above subsistence,
strain to put food on the table.
Quick to strip your stamps,
if you dance over
their basic assistance.
They say they don’t see color,
systemic racism is a myth.
Tell that to someone in the struggle,
my white friends don’t live like this.
All lives matter–
only if you’re silent.
When they sold you
that achievable “American Dream,”
they were lyin’.


Valerie Frost lives and works in Central Kentucky with her twin three-year-olds. Her poems have appeared in the Eastern Iowa Review, Headline Poetry and Press, and Dissident Voice, and she has forthcoming pieces elsewhere. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

SOUND BITES

A Found Poem Pantoum of Shit I Read in the News
by Brady Riddle


More Shit found from #TRE45ON


One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.
We inherited a broken test, a dead system
that didn’t work. One of the worst things that didn’t work.
Great marks for handling the infectious source!

We inherited a broken test, a dead system:
You got it wrong! They didn't use tear gas.
Great marks for handling protesters there!
Pepper spray is not a chemical irritant. 

You got it wrong! They didn't use tear gas—
riot control agents make people unable.
Pepper spray is not a chemical irritant. 
These THUGS dishonor Peace, on his knees, hands up.

Riot control agents make people unable
to rally against the death, the outrage.
These THUGS dishonor Peace, on his knees, hands up.
False and misleading claims, most of them from the past

rally death, outrage, control, downplay the situation—
that didn’t work. None of the things even worked.
False and misleading claims, most of them from the past
one day, like a miracle, will disappear.


Brady Riddle currently resides in Shanghai, China where he teaches secondary English at Shanghai American School. His poems can  be found in Lean Seed (San Jacinto College, Houston, TX), Ottawa Arts Review (University of Ottawa Press),  Spittoon Collective (Beijing, China), and most recently A Shanghai Poetry Zine.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

CORONAVIRUS PLANET

by Alejandro Escudé




The day is too
bright
to go out

and besides
the virus
is out there

hiding in little
political pockets
of air

according
to the media
it looks

like a red
spiky globule,

a planet,
if hell were a planet

orbit-less
in outer space.


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.

IN SEARCH OF ALIEN CIVILISATIONS

by Martha Landman


According to a new study in The Astrophysical Journal, scientists at the University of Nottingham estimate that there is a minimum of 36 communicating intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. —CBS News, June 18, 2020


sitting on the veranda the other night
enjoying a hashish pipe
I got dreamy
and disappeared into the Milky Way
passing Venus and Mars
I didn’t stop this time
because they had a domestic quarrel   again
                                      palm to palm
my sky map forged me ahead      to Orion
who offered beer and cigarettes, chips and cheese
Conselice was staying the night
his nephew E.T. played with his Rubik’s Cube
                     trying to solve the Drake equation
we sat on a mega rock   Orion and I had a long chat
                                           between wake and sleep
about alien galaxies meandering around
when his laser phone detonated three loud shrills
it was Peter Backus wanting us to know
“we live in a very quiet neighbourhood”
Orion’s eyes were large      I tried to pacify him
quoting Rumi: “Love is the breath of the cosmos”
he took out his horoscope and zoomed in
                                      on other galaxies
stars were born as we looked at them
alien galaxies were signed in different languages
in front of No 23 a sign on a large wooden gate
said in Hebrew:  תישאר בחוץ לעזאזל – “stay the heck out” -
this is holy land      we assumed
         we needed an exit strategy
we weren’t going to make a covenant with hypocrisy
or with gypsies on walking sticks    their blood green
so we flowed down lava tubes through pigeon holes
                                into a glorious dystopia


Martha Landman writes in Adelaide, South Australia and has previously contributed to TheNewVerse.News.  Her chapbook Between Us was published by Ginninderra Press in November 2019.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

THE SUPREME COURT JUDGES GO TO THE GARAGE

by Gabriella Brand


File Photo from Tumblr


The blue work shirt.
The logo for City Motors.
Then her name.
The name which used to be Jim,
embroidered over the left breast.
The left breast which used to be flatter.
The voice, which used to be deeper
Oh, they teased, those other mechanics,
put tampons in the tool box,
wrote Jennifer in brake fluid
under the lift, on the toilet mirror.
The garage owner ticked off, weighing the trouble
yet knowing Jennifer was good,
better than good, reliable,
on time, quick to figure out
the rattle, the hum, the tinny sound that the
others missed.
Jennifer, not Jim. Now holding up her head.
Doing her job.
The shirt. The name. The breast. The voice.
A turn of the wrench, a law upheld.


Gabriella Brand’s work has appeared in over fifty literary magazines. Her latest poems and short stories can be found in Rockvale Review, Aji, and Comstock Review. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Gabriella lives near New Haven, Connecticut, where she teaches foreign languages and runs a writing workshop. In normal times, she travels the world on foot.

Friday, June 26, 2020

PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS

by George Salamon


Graphic by Know Your Meme


"Put your money where your mouth is."
by Howard Washington Odum. 
Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1928: 132.


Words and gestures demand no sacrifice:
BLM marches for criminal justice,
We could sure use more of that.
Corporations commit to workplace equality,
We could sure use more of that.
Progressives call for wealth redistribution,
We could sure use more of that.
Liberals seek equality in healthcare access,
We could sure use more of that.
But what are they doing to get more?
I propose 10 years of a tithe for justice
And equality at work, in the doctor's office,
In courts of law, in schoolrooms and
Lecture halls across our divided nation,
Ten percent for ten years, collected from
The institutions, organizations and persons
Now placing ads, shouting and painting
Slogans, writing columns and letters and
Op-eds advocating a life of dignity and
Freedom from want for the working poor,
The unemployed poor, the homeless poor,
For Black and Brown, Yellow and White
People in the Rust Belt, in Appalachia and
On Farms, in crowded and sunless apartments,
Sleeping on kitchen or bathroom floors or in
Shelters seeking a safe place for themselves
And their children, blocks away from the condos
Where the CEOs, COOs, CFOs, Esq.s, MDs,
CPAs, MBAs and their lobbyists allow a few
Crumbs to fall off their richly laden tables for
Those "less fortunate" at Thanksgiving and Xmas.
Put your money where some of you have put your
Mouths and signatures and contribute from your
Billions in assets to gradually transform a decaying
Society into a working community, acknowledging
That "happy days" are not the privilege of a very
Few in a land of vast natural and human resources,
And that we will never be in the American experiment
Or enterprise together unless you do better by
Doing good.


George Salamon casts a cold eye on what our "meritocracy" is doing to, but not for, working-class and middle-class Americans,  but will wait and see how many mean what they now say—at least for a while, in St. Louis, MO.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

OPEN CARRY

by Michael L. Ruffin


“‘I Need People to Hear My Voice’: Teens Protest Racism.” High school students have organized protests in California, Maryland and Michigan. In one Texas suburb, three teenagers led hundreds of people in a march, and they say they aren’t done organizing. —The New York Times, June 23, 2020


My sisters and brothers,
I declare to you that we
have practiced concealed
carry for too long. The
time to practice open
carry has arrived.

Henceforth, let us openly
carry our right to speak
freely, our right to assemble
peaceably, and our right to
petition the government for
a redress of grievances.

A suggestion: this time,
when our grievances seem
to have been resolved, let’s
not conceal our rights of speech,
assembly, and petition again.

Not ever. Never.


Michael L. Ruffin is a writer, editor, preacher, and teacher living and working in Georgia. He posts poems on Instagram (@michaell.ruffin) and prose opinions at On the Jericho Road. He is author of Fifty-Seven: A Memoir of Death and Life and  of the forthcoming Praying with Matthew. His poetry has appeared at TheNewVerse.News and is forthcoming in 3 Moon Magazine and Rat's Ass Review.

THIS IS NO TIME FOR SILENCE

by Katherine West




It is time to get up and do something
Time to make a flag and wave it
Not a banner of boundaries, not that tired old striped thing
Maybe an aspen sapling against a pure sky, lit

From above so it seems to pray
Maybe an image will sing louder than words
Something troubadour and chaste
Speaking quietly of return

Can we take it to a new world again?
Plant it on the beach, come in peace?
Can we make a second chance to begin
To turn the world green

Instead of blood red?
Or is this the end?


Katherine West lives in Southwest New Mexico, near the Gila Wilderness, where she writes poetry about the soul-importance of wilderness, performs it with her musician husband, Yaakov, and teaches seasonal poetry workshops that revolve around "wilderness writing."  She has written three collections of poetry: The Bone Train, Scimitar Dreams, and Riddle, as well as one novel, Lion Tamer.  Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Lalitamba, Bombay Gin, and TheNewVerse.News  which recently nominated her poem "And Then the Sky" for a Pushcart Prize.

ANYMORE

by Frederick Wilbur




We don’t tolerate ripples in window glass anymore,
the waving landscape smoothed out.
Switchbacks of moral choice are GPS’ed
as Robert Frost never conceived. Now we drive
for miles with turn signal blinking right,
then U-turn back to well-traveled interstates.

Scarecrows don’t hide in corn fields anymore,
each tassel-top chemicaled to a plastic crown—
nature is an industry, a corporation,
littered with hashtags, threat assessments,
sentimental cemeteries for passed pets.

Silence isn’t noticed much anymore,
too many ringtones, beeps, and bling,
seepage from ear buds, drones overhead—
distraction, distraction, distractions, distractions.

Wisdom isn’t countenanced anymore,
everything digitalized, Googled, auto-corrected, auto-filled.
Compassion is granted by proxy, by on-line donation.

No sincere grief anymore,
as opinions bully and greed and hate rule,
even Free Speech shows up with a gun.

But if we rant out of fear, we are not free anymore.


Frederick Wilbur has authored three books on architectural and decorative woodcarving, and a poetry collection, As Pus Floats the Splinter Out. His work has appeared in many print and on-line reviews including Shenandoah, Main Street Rag, Comstock Review, The Dalhousie Review, Rise Up Review, and Mojave River Review. He was awarded the Stephen Meats Award by Midwest Quarterly (2017). He is poetry editor for Streetlight Magazine.

HEAD HEART HANDS

by Howie Good




And this is how
democracy dies—

leisurely, with head
and hand making
outward gestures

while the heart
continues frozen inside.


Howie Good is the author of The Death Row Shuffle, a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A HOUSE ON FIRE MIGHT BREATHE A PHOENIX TO LIFE

A Protest Poem From the Homefront
by L. Rose Reed


Khyra Parker raises her fist during nine minutes of silence during the sixth day of Denver protests in reaction to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. June 2, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)


Light, as globes, with my glasses off
is grainy and golden like champagne
served in a round crystal bowl.

The champagne bubbles unfold like
radiant paper birds, floating downstream.

I like to take off my glasses
and watch the bowls of light float
downstream—

through the crack in the windshield where the world gets in.

Tonight the city is alight with anger.

I saw a fire on my cracked phone screen
A police car burned
in the video Tweet box, its orange and red blooms
more vibrant than any windowbox firelily.

White lilies are graveyard flowers.
They are growing in someone else’s city,

but also in mine.
Have you checked yours?

Were the lights turned off, when you last checked?

Better put your glasses on
and open your eyes wide to the lights
in your city,

those red and blue bubbles
bursting like strange fire

upon the righteous multitudes.

The people clamor, “Justice!”
their fists raised high

like the empty hands of Liberty
waiting to grasp their torches.

When I squint past the curve of the world
and into tomorrow,
I can almost see that sweetest cup of light
as it resolves into an upraised

Black fist

—that brightest of beacons,
from which Revolutions
unfold.


L. Rose Reed is a historian and former teacher. She writes queer YA speculative fiction and narrative poetry. When she isn’t taking home too many books from her job at the library, she is rehearsing for her community chorus’ next concert. Reed currently lives in Aurora, Colorado with her siblings-of-choice and a clutter of cats. You may find her at her beloved spinet piano, or online and on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

1+1+1+1+1+3+1...= 120,000 AND COUNTING

by Peter Witt


ADAM ZYGLIS, THE BUFFALO NEWS, NY


120, 000 U.S. deaths
a big number,
about equal to the population of
Norman (OK),
Columbia (SC) or
Odessa (TX)

Does this get your attention?

To understand 120, 000
let's break it down
to 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1...
you get the idea,

with each 1 representing a life,
a real person,
someone from our community,
someone's family member.

1 was Yu Lihua, an important
Chinese American writer -
wrote mainly late at night,
smoked True menthol cigarettes.

1 was Valentina Blackhorse,
administrative assistant
for the Navajo Nation,
dreamed of one day
leading her tribe.
Family now raises her
one year old daughter.

1 was James Mahoney,
ICU doctor in New York,
cared for patients
through the HIV/AIDS epidemic,
9/11, the swine flu.
Due to retire
stayed onto help,
he saw it as his duty.

Another 1 was Judy Wilson-Griffen,
clinical nurse who cared
for nursing black women, helping
bring future generations
into the community of St. Louis.

Peter Bainum was 1,
aerospace engineer, who taught
at Howard university for 30 years.
sending students onto NASA
and the aerospace industry.

3 were Nicky, John, Leslie Leake,
Nicky planning wedding,
John the family cutup,
Leslie, dotting mother,
grandmother, great grandmother -
died within 20 days of each other
in Washington, D.C.

and not least was 1 Paul Cary
lifelong paramedic and firefighter,
drove 27 hours from Colorado
to the New York epicenter.
He was carried home in a succession
of ambulances, before his colleagues said
we have the watch from here.

1+ 1+ 1+1+1+3+1 until we have 100,000,
the count goes on,
...1 + 1 + 1+1...

120, 000 is a big number
made up of little numbers,
each of whom
we should never forget.


Author’s note: Life stories were taken from "Faces of the Dead," The Washington Post, May 28, 2020.


Peter Witt is a retired University Professor and 2020 Poet Laureate for the International Poetics Foundation.  

THE RIGHT TO REFUSE TO WEAR A MASK

by William Aarnes





the right to distrust
               expert advice, the right
                              to discount the facts,

the right to lie,
               the right to ignore
                              the common good,

the cherished right
               to intimidate with guns,
                             the right to infringe

on women’s rights,
               the right to profit
                              from wrecking the Earth,

the right to insist
               you’re better born
                              than others, the right

to hate whoever
               you wrong, the right
                              to yearn for tyranny


William Aarnes lives in South Carolina.

Monday, June 22, 2020

AUNT JEMIMA

by Betsy Mars


Cartoon by Matt Davies, Newsday


“Brands Pretend They Just Learned Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben's Are Racist” 
VICE, June 18, 2020


Stripped of her name
and branded,
her onyx pearls
dropping
one by one.
Backlash.
Corporate fathers
take a knee
in insincere
solidarity.
A belated Mea Culpa,
treacle spilling
from the lips of execs
once the deck was stacked
like flapjacks, they scurried,
transparent as lace,
finely collared,
ready to erase
the mammy
they embraced
in the race to be virtuous,
awakened just in time—
the tortoise at the finish line—
when it impacts their bottom line.


Betsy Mars is a poet, educator (prior to the pandemic), photographer, and occasional publisher. She is currently working on her second anthology to be released by her press, Kingly Street Press, this summer. She is also finishing a book co-written with friend and poet Alan Walowitz entitled In the Muddle of the Night, coming soon from Arroyo Seco Press. She has one chapbook, Alinea (Picture Show Press), to her name, as well as numerous publications on the web and in anthologies, most recently in Verse-Virtual, The Blue Nib, Kissing Dynamite, and The Poetry Super Highway. Her childhood years in Brazil gave her a deep appreciation for language and culture, a love of travel, and an early awareness of the disparities that exist throughout the world. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

PLACES OF SAFETY

by Pepper Trail


"There Is No Safe Place" by Amanda Lea Sidor


Iowa small town, the Methodist sanctuary, stained glass and bright wood
The scent of lilies,  smiling voices loud, "Great is Thy Faithfulness"

Pizza place down the block, always busy, orders shouted backward
Line at the counter, stomachs growling good, quick hit of gossip

Bear curled in its den, cubs asleep and suckling, living warmth
Above, outside, snow shadow of Denali climbing the white sky

Lafayette Park, high school groups, hormones and democracy
The White House in its dignity, old church tower looking down

North of the river, Estados Unidos, breath held no more at last
The child in your arms, shivering but safe, but safe

What we thought we knew, we did not know
Where we thought we were, we are not


Pepper Trail is a poet and naturalist based in Ashland, Oregon. His poetry has appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Kyoto Journal, Cascadia Review, and other publications, and has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards. His collection Cascade-Siskiyou was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

JUNETEENTH WORDS

by Sally Zakariya


Arlington County [VA] workers power washed away Black Lives Matter chalk art in front of a home in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood this morning. An outraged neighbor posted on social media about the removal of the chalk art, which featured words and phrases like “There comes a time when silence is betrayal,” “Justice 4 All,” “MLK,” and “BLM.” A portion of the art was on the county-owned sidewalk and road, while the rest was in the home’s driveway. “I am both saddened and outraged. My friend and colleague at Ashlawn has had a formal complaint made about her daughter’s chalk art on the driveway, sidewalk and street in front of their home,” wrote Dana Crepeau. “I spoke with the Arlington County employees, who did not want to remove the chalk but were told they must. I asked permission to post their photos.” —ARL now, June 19, 2020. Photo Credit: @dcsingerdc/Twitter)


There comes a time when silence is
betrayal.  –Martin Luther King Jr.


Justice for all–wise words chalked
in bright yellow down the driveway
spilling onto sidewalk and street

Words we must heed in these days
of reckoning, of reassessment
of long-delayed reparations

Black lives matter–words washed
away by county workers with power
hoses on this day of all days

Saddened and outraged say neighbors
who grab chalk and paint to make
words bloom from house to house

Silence is betrayal–it’s time
for us all to speak up


Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in some 75 print and online journals and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her most recent publication is Muslim Wife (Blue Lyra Press, 2019). She is also the author of The Unknowable Mystery of Other People, Personal Astronomy, When You Escape, Insectomania, and Arithmetic and other verses, as well as the editor of a poetry anthology Joys of the Table. Zakariya blogs at www.butdoesitrhyme.com

Friday, June 19, 2020

FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SEESAW

by Richard Fox


“SeeSaw” by Leyla Murr (2009)


Ronnie approaches me. I point the tip of my cane at him.
Oops, he says. Forgot you’re one of those social distancing freaks.
Don’t worry, You walk your side of the street and I’ll walk mine.

I wear a mask and face shield. His face is uncovered.
He sneezes. No problem, man. Just allergies.

I lower my cane, ask Ronnie how he’s doing with the quarantine.
He shakes his head, steps towards me, stops, hold his palms out.

Oops. Keep screwing up. I can’t deal with this Coronavirus crap.
How many people you know who’ve died? How many had their lives messed up?
Like me. I’m down to three days a week at work. Masks are mandatory.
My boss comes by when I have mine down—trying to get some oxygen—
sends me home. I lose another day’s pay for this bullshit.

He spits on the sidewalk. I twirl my cane.

Like, you need a mask. You’re sick—so protect yourself. That’s cool.
But why do healthy people have to wear them? Don’t I have rights?

I wonder how his family’s doing.

Little Kenny and I watch Korean baseball. Only game in town.
Daphne complains. Wants to do jigsaw puzzles or watch kid’s movies.
Thinks we should take this opportunity to paint the inside of the house.
I’m tired from all this doing nothing. Can’t go out to eat. Or to the bar.
Hey—did you sell your Prius? My Porsche is for sale.

I tell him my license was pulled after neurosurgery. Deficient vision.

Oh wow. You’re stuck home—forever. That sucks.
But hey—how you doing with that cancer?

I answer—stable.

Oh wow! You’re in remission? Outstanding. Congratulations!

I say, No, not remission. Stable. Cancer’s still in my lungs.
It’s not going but it’s not growing.

Damn it! replies Ronnie. Oh man, that’s shitty. I’m sorry I asked.
Not trying to upset you—you look great, especially for...um...

I think, someone who’s dying. Flash an invisible grin.

Nah, Ronnie. Stable is excellent cancer news.
A good scan means ninety days on vacation until the next one.
Like the Red Sox, I get to play this summer.

I swing my cane like a Louisville Slugger.


When not writing about rock ’n roll or youthful transgressions, Richard Fox focuses on cancer from the patient’s point of view drawing on hope, humor, and unforeseen gifts. He is the author of four poetry collections, the latest embracing the burlesque of collateral damage (Big Table, 2020). His poem "Skating on the Edge of Flesh" won the 2017 Frank O'Hara Award.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

TRUMPNACHT

by Sonya Groves


Residents gathered this month on a corner in Coquille, Ore., in anticipation of rumored (nonexistent) busloads of antifa activists.—“When Anifa Hysteria Sweeps America” by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, June 17, 2020. Photo Credit: Amy Moss Strong/The World


And when shall Kristallnacht occur and whose bodies will he pull into the street...black, brown, bilingual, dual citizen, naturalized citizen, undocumented, Democrat, liberal, atheist, poor...how shall he kill us, with the good book in his hand, with the poison on his tongue, with the chaos that follows him, snaking through our fiber pipes dumping hate, candy from a dispenser? When shall our night of terror begin or has it come and gone and we dying in our walled ghetto from tear gas, spittle from his unmasked minions, and ignorance on how to turn it off, turn it all off, walk into the light and reach for a hand out of the pit and onto the surface of compassion. Because we are dying down here, I am dying down here and the bodies are piling up, up so high he never has to see anything, anymore.


Sonya Groves is a teacher in San Antonio. She has poetry publications in over 20 journals, including  TheNewVerse.News, La Noria, The Voices Project, Aries, Carbon Culture Review, and FLARE: The Flagler Review.  Currently she is pursuing her PhD at The University of Texas San Antonio.

THE NIGHT BEFORE JERICHO BROWN WON THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR POETRY

by Claudine Cain




for Ahmaud Arbery


I did not write poems that night. My hands were as cold as my feet and I had to help mother’s sons find their way. I had heard the news, but some things are easier to know than see. Sometimes the children tarry too long in the place where it happens, after. I had to hold his hands, speak in the music of tongues he had forgotten, and wipe away his fears. I asked him if he knew that Jericho Brown was going to win the Pulitzer prize for poetry.

He said, no | yes.

I asked him if he’d like to stay or go back and, perhaps, be a poet too.

He said, I am.

I thanked him for remembering. He wanted to stay then, to let all of the warmth that never ends find its way back into him. So he sat down between mother’s knees and rested his head in her lap. She sang a song and began counting the strands of his hair.

He wanted to know, if it wasn’t too much trouble, if it would be possible for him to have wings.

Mother said, yes.


Claudine Cain lives in North Carolina where she attends UNC Greensboro. She is the former editor of Black Elephant literary journal. Her fiction, art, and poetry have appeared in Riggwelter, Eunoia Review, Dime Show Review, Public Pool, and elsewhere.