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Tuesday, June 30, 2020


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


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


by Alejandro Escudé

The day is too
to go out

and besides
the virus
is out there

hiding in little
political pockets
of air

to the media
it looks

like a red
spiky globule,

a planet,
if hell were a planet

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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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 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

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

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


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.  


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


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
one by one.
Corporate fathers
take a knee
in insincere
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


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


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

Friday, June 19, 2020


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

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


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, brown, bilingual, dual citizen, naturalized citizen, undocumented, Democrat, liberal, atheist, 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.


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.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020


by Shirley JonesLuke

Detail from “Answers to Your Protest Questions” by Chelsea Saunders at The Nib, June 12, 2020

Inequality is store security following
It’s the inconsistent punishment from
a teacher for breaking a class rule
it’s the number of times you were stopped
by the police, as you walked or drove home
It’s being fired & taking twice as long to find a job
It’s being an ex-con and no one wants to hire you
It’s having a name on a resume—Jaquita, Kamal, or Rayshawn then being placed in the circular file.  It’s listening to your grandmother tell stories about the marches in the sixties or your mom telling you about being called nigger when she was a freshman in college during the eighties or how even now you hold your child tightly as a police car rolls by, watching your every move. It’s being Black in America and bracing for battle every time you leave the house. Or it’s forgetting your roots & embracing the shucking & jiving that Society wants to see. You entertain & you live another day. You resist & they’ll kill you. It’s a living death versus death. A burden Black folk carry & they can’t carry it anymore.

Shirley JonesLuke is an activist, essayist, and poet living in Boston, Mass. She has an MFA from Emerson College. Her work focuses on culture, race, and society. Shirley has attended workshops at Breadloaf, Tin House, and VONA. She is working on a poetry manuscript.


by Lee Patton

The Harriet Tubman $20 was a redesign plan, advanced during the Obama administration, that was supposed to have rolled out in 2020 to mark the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. That plan, like so many others for the year, has been shelved, and one of the reasons given for the delay was concerns over counterfeit security. The new Tubman $20 is now set at the earliest for 2028. Of course, Tubman enthusiasts and those supporting feminism and racial justice have been rightly suspicious that this is the actual reason for delaying the redesign, given the current administration’s lack of interest in race and gender equality, not to mention the president’s actions in hanging a portrait of Andrew Jackson—the seventh U.S. president, who currently fronts the $20—in the Oval Office while recently refusing to unveil a portrait of Obama, the first black U.S. president and his predecessor. Symbols and symbolic actions matter.Nonetheless, does a Tubman $20 matter as a symbol? There will be those who will say Harriet Tubman on the $20 would not have changed the circumstances leading to the death of George Floyd. But consider this. George Floyd was killed over an imagined counterfeit $20 in a country that can’t keep its promise to place Tubman on the $20, counterfeit security issues or otherwise. Which is the real counterfeit here? George Floyd’s $20, Harriet Tubman’s $20 redesign or a country that still pretends there is “liberty and justice for all”? —Janell Hobson, Ms., June 16, 2020

A genocidal maniac stares back at us
on our twenty dollar bill—native killer,
ethnic cleanser extraordinaire. Plans to put
a slave liberator in his place got erased—

Miss Tubman, ever poised for glory, will
not suffice. Our leader admires the killer,
even placed his portrait to grace his office.
Franklin and Hamilton, our currency’s

sole non-presidents, were at least fun guys—Ben,
teenaged runaway, Alex, Caribbean bastard—
but unlike civilized lands, we have no artists,
no philosophers, no scientists on our cash.

Our basic buck poses an honest slavemaster—
zealot of forced labor, profit, and the lash.

Lee Patton, a Denverite, writes fiction, poetry, drama and commentary.  His newest novel Every Summer Day is in pre-release from Bold Strokes Books.


by Elizabeth Spencer Spragins

The city of Fredericksburg, Virginia, has removed an auction block marking the spot where African Americans were once displayed and sold as slaves. —CNN, June 13, 2020

Blackened gold
Smolders where the slaves are sold.
Shackles lacerate each limb;
Children whimper unconsoled

And taste fear.
White-washed faces laugh or leer,
Peer at teeth and backs stripped bare.
Captives stare at auctioneer,

Gaveled god,
Passing sentence with a nod,
Smiling when his skills inflate
The going rate for unshod

Doltish brutes.
Chattel’s role is buffing boots,
Groveling at each command,
Plowing fields and plucking fruits.

Evil’s hold
Burns the human heart with cold.
Only embers banked from pain
Melt the chains of blackened gold.

Elizabeth Spencer Spragins is a poet and writer who taught in American community colleges for more than a decade. Her tanka and bardic verse in the Celtic style have been published extensively in Europe, Asia, and North America. She is the author of With No Bridle for the Breeze: Ungrounded Verse (Shanti Arts Publishing) and The Language of Bones: American Journeys Through Bardic Verse (Kelsay Books). "The Auction Block" is an example of a Rannaigheacht Ghairid.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020


by Peter Nohrnberg

Illustration by Chris Riddell, The Guardian, June 6, 2020

Now gather round ye faithful Folk
For I have a tale to tell
About a righteous POTUS who
Like Jesus harrowed Hell!

When terrorists (Antifa trained)
Assembled in the Park
And cast a shadow on his House
Of White with all their Dark

He gathered up his Family
(They helped with his Election)
And said without a trace of fear
“It’s time for an Inspection!”

Down and down, far underground
Where mole rats make their home:
He ventured to an Underworld
deep within Earth’s loam.

Fathoms below The People’s House,
A Bunker built for crisis:
With plumbing, air con, freezers full
Of tea and cake and ices;

Clocks, computers, radios,
Guns and knives and tasers,
flashlights, nightlights, bowling balls,
and triple-bladed razors.

One musty room was full of shelves
That held strange leather things.
The President took one of them
And ruffled its mottled wings.

“Now what the hell is this thing here?”
He asked with scornful look.
Quoth the Secret Service Man,
“Sir, it’s called a Book.”

Behind a shelf then stepped an Aide
Whom none recalled descending:
His face obscured by sunglasses,
His jerkin needing mending.

“Some say strange powers Books possess,
Hold wisdom of the ages:
Tales of the past for future use
Contained within their pages.”

The President just gave a shrug
And dropped it on the floor.
He walked right out and asked to see
If there was anything more.

He passed through many well stocked rooms
All suitably provisioned
For the year-long nuclear Winter that
Dr. Strangelove had envisioned.

A Room much vaster than the rest
held medical supplies.
And when He spied a Ventilator
The scales fell from his eyes.

“This shithole bunker is the pits,
It’s ugly and it’s dim,
I wouldn’t put Kim Jung-un up here
Let alone my next of kin.

No Twitter, Big Macs, tanning beds:
How could I have a life?
The pornos in the home theater
Are older than my wife!”

And so with that the President
Ascended from the Cave.
He rose up from that deathly place  
Like our Savior from the Grave!

He claimed a tax deduction on
The bunker’s cancelled lease,
Then heard ten thousand Citizens
All protesting in Peace.

“What the hell? They’re still here?
I thought they had gone home!
Bring me General William Barr
It’s time to flood the zone!”

Out of a pond in Garden Rose
Hopped forth a wondrous sight:
A Bullfrog clad in Brooks Brothers,
Croaked he, “Unite the Right!”

His toady eyes betrayed no shame
From out his tortoiseshell glasses.
He whispered into the Joint Chief’s ear
“It’s time to kick some asses!

For all those gathered fail to see
Our Savior Has Arisen!
Bring me our Proud Boys with batons
From the Texas Bureau of Prisons!”

Then from Ivanka’s ruby Lips
These honeyed words did drop:
“O Big Daddy ain’t it time
For an upbeat photo op?”

Another mayonnaise-faced Damsel
(She was yclept Hope Hicks)
Recalled a hallowed Church nearby
To help Him in His fix.

The Photographer urged getting there
before the sun had set;
So they smoked and gassed those uppity Folks
In the Park of Lafayette.

Once the acrid air had cleared
The President took his stroll:
O what a wonderous thing to see
An upright walking Troll!

He stood before the ancient Kirk
In a suit that did not fit;
Ivanka from Max Mara Purse
Pulled out the Holy Writ.

She handed Him the booky thing
He did not know its function.
He held it high above His Head
Like a bidder at an auction.

He did not read a single Verse,
Nor recite a Psalm.
The cameras clicked and no one spoke;
There was an eerie calm.

The Nation watched the scene unfold
From start to finish brief.
Those who could breathe, they held their breath
In total disbelief.

POTUS tried to find his groove,
He tweeted “Law and Order!”
Around His Keep He built a Wall
Just like at the Border.

His House of White He made a Jail,
Himself its Detainee:
Like a Castaway on a desert Isle,
Or a Strongman wannabee.

But He had been a Prisoner
Before this tale was told.
His mindforged Manacles were wrought
Of twenty-four carat Gold.

The White House dark, the Streets alive;
The Pundits have their answer.
Come November our Prisoner-in-Chief
Will be awaiting transfer…

A scholar of literary modernism specializing in James Joyce, Peter Nohrnberg also writes poetry and satire. He has served as poetry ambassador to the City of Cambridge, MA, and his poems have appeared in Notre Dame Review, Wisconsin Review, Oxford Poetry, and Oberon, among other journals. He currently vents his spleen on .

Monday, June 15, 2020


by Peter Witt

The Painting of Breonna Taylor was done by Linnea Tobias, a Spokane artist. It is used with the permission of the artist.

Eight bullets riddled her young body
in the dead hours of a Louisville night
she didn't have to die that way

When demanding police reform
remember to say her name
she didn't need to die that way

Police refuse to release their files
yet from all we know to date it's clear
she didn't need to die that way

Search revealed no suspected drugs
men police sought were already in jail
she didn't need to die that way

Another mother is left to ask why
a young EMT was killed in a spray of bullets
she didn't need to die that way

Charged boyfriend with shooting at police
thinking they were home invaders
she didn't need to die that way

Now three officers under investigation
charges against boyfriend dropped, police chief fired
she didn't need to die that way

Add Breonna's name to the list we chant
at endless rallies demanding change
she didn't need to die that way

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

Sunday, June 14, 2020


by Michael Mark

The Major League Baseball Players Association informed MLB on Saturday night that they are done negotiating and want an answer by Monday on how many games they’ll play and when to show up for work. —USA Today, June 13, 2020

In earlier news:
Baseball released a thorough health and safety protocol to help protect its players during the 2020 MLB Season. But there’s one new rule that will certainly be tough to follow: No Spitting.
Fansided, May 22, 2020

Crude are the subtleties of the double play
compared to the majestic hock and graceful spray
of spittle professionally spurt. Slaver to

mound, slicking home plate—wet thwack
of saliva oiling well worn mitts. See that!  I’d say
after a bulky loogie—caught on TV

back in the old days (last season). Leaping
from the couch, I’d grab the remote, hit
playback and slow-mo

the slobber projectile. Freeze frame
itsemergence, rising flight and Pollack splatter.
“See that cheek suck, check out that lips purse,
that thick tongue flick—that bountiful gush!”

O beautiful for spacious fly!

If you don’t understand the spit you don’t understand baseball.
If you don’t understand baseball go back to the shithole
you came from—to toss around today’s cheap seat
banter from the trash talker in chief.

Let the bowlers groan, yuk, eww, gag, groan, gross!
If you ban spittin’ seeds—you might as well outlaw outs,
strikes, fouls, hits. What’s next, Commissioner?
Crotch grabs and sack realignments?

It’s an American fan’s right to recount celebrities of sputter
and spew: Why, have a seat my child, I’ll tell ya
about Legendary Lefty the Lip
who could launch a loogie further than the Bambino’s

most prodigious rip and was every bit as accurate –
pointing out his expectorant’s dart, arc
and splash-down. O yes! To the very speck
of red dirt he’d swamp

with juicy Tennessee chaw—outta
both sides of his maw.
Not to your taste? Take a walk.
Good as a hit in the score book.

So, when you see a crappy pitch, take it, kid.
Like the old timers said, “just spit on it.” That’s how
the greats played this hard-scrabble, historic game.
It’ll be sad not to know shit about spit—

soon just a dried-up old asterisk. I for one
will rise from my chair - let the chips fall—
sing proud our national hymn
and hum a prayer:

Play ball againboys! But please take care—
we don’t want anyone hurt by squirt
in dirt or thin air. And remember it’s still legit—
here, my heart does thump—
behind your MLB approved Covid masks –
to holler, Kill the ump!

Michael Mark’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Copper Nickel, Michigan Quarterly Review, Salamander, Salt Hill Journal, The Southern Review, The New York Times, The Sun, Waxwing, The Poetry Foundation's American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily. He’s the author of two books of stories including Toba and At the Hands of a Thief (Atheneum). @michaelgrow

Saturday, June 13, 2020


by Jane Yolen and Peter Tacy



So, sit down on this stoop,
not that close,
I can hear you through your mask.
The words are familiar,
that hoarse enthusiasm,
your passion for the cause.
Even old legs can march,
though not run away.
Do you have your water bottle?
City map?
My cell phone number?
The lawyer’s?
I have yours.
the arc bends towards justice.
It’s not what we stand against.
It’s what we stand for.


I learned early—close to home;

What’s wrong—what we all know
To be wrong—can’t be accepted.

My grandmother said it:
Accepting doesn’t just mean
You agree, either; it means
You’ve done nothing to stop wrong.

Wrong, she said, is not static, or
Passive; its impulse is to grow,
To add mass and momentum.
So we have to stop wrong, she said.

If we don’t stop wrong, then
Wrong will grow like a cancer
And consume us all, even if we
Hate wrong. That’s what she said.

I’ve found ever since that she
Was right. So—when I see wrong,
I don’t just sit there. Like she said,
Good intentions don’t equal good.

But what she didn’t say, and I
Know now, is that fighting
Wrong doesn’t establish good.

You’ve got to let your living
Teach you good. Live with the pores
Of your soul, your empathy, open —

Your sense of wonder and awe
Open like a trawl-net, to find good.

And whenever you find some good,
Hide it in your heart.  Because with it
Hating wrong no longer equals hatred.
A miracle happens—and hate

Transmutes to love. My grandmother
Never said that to me; but now
I know she lived it. How? My grandkids
Have taught me—as I did her.


Or as I always said
to my kids
and grandkids:
Leave the world
a better place
than you found it.
Not so hard now.
Or maybe harder.
You dropped your inhaler.
I’ll help you stand.
It will be a long walk.
But we’re used to them.
And the company—
all those young people—
the best.
In case enthusiasm
distracts them,
we’re here to remind:
it’s not what we stand against,
but what we stand for
‘cause the arc of justice
doesn’t just bend itself, you know.

Jane Yolen is a Hatfield writer with over 389 books published. 10 of them books of adult poetry. Peter Tacy, Yiolen’s fiancé, lives both in Hatfield and Mystic Ct and has been an educator and writer/poet for most of his life.


by John Hodgen

Welcome back, Martin. How’s the noggin?
(Laughter.) (Applause.)
You really used your head this time, big fella. Careful when you log in.
Taking one for the team, Martin. Way to go. One for the cause.
And great job with the Fake Blood Pellet in the Ear trick.
And the old Backwards Trip and Fall Stutter Step. Worked like a charm.
All that practice paid off. A perfect 10 from the Russian judge. Terrific.
Wall to wall on OANN. And you got the CNN and MSNBC crowd alarmed.
You’re a meme now. More people have seen you fall than watched the Towers.
Score one for ANTIFA. Talk about defunding the police. Fight the power.
And you even got all the police scanner info with your secret decoder ring.
Proud of you, big guy. Let’s get started now for your next gig.
Mar-a-Lago. The old swan dive under the golf cart. Do your thing.
This is going to be big.

Editor's Note: The 75-year-old man hospitalized after he was pushed by a police officer during a peaceful protest last week in Buffalo, New York, suffered a brain injury as a result of the incident, his lawyer revealed Thursday. Kelly Zarcone said her client, activist Martin Gugino, "is starting physical therapy," which Zarcone called "a step in the right direction. As heartbreaking as it is, his brain is injured and he is well aware of that now," Zarcone said in a statement. "He feels encouraged and uplifted by the outpouring of support which he has received from so many people all over the globe. It helps. He is looking forward to healing and determining what his ‘new normal’ might look like." The New Verse News offers this poem to cheer him and those who have come to know and love Martin for his work and sacrifice. We wish him all the best.

John Hodgen is the Writer-in-Residence at Assumption University in Worcester, MA.  Hodgen won the AWP Donald Hall Prize in Poetry for Grace (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005).  His fifth book The Lord of Everywhere is out from Lynx House/University of Washington Press.


by Lisa Vihos

Looking over
the top of my mask
my glasses already steamed,
I meet your eyes, stranger,
and we smile.

We cannot see these smiles
but we know we are smiling.
The twinkle in the eye tells all.
We raise our hands in silent salute.

Nothing could have prepared us
for this moment, or maybe
everything did.
If only our hands could meet,
right here, we’d become a prayer.

We know we are members
of the same tribe,
fighting an insidious evil
that flourishes on the breath,
on the wind, and has run
unchecked in all the lies of now,
and in all the lies past.
Let it be unchecked no more.

In the journey towards justice,
there is just us, essential prophets
seeing beyond the mask.

Lisa Vihos has four chapbooks and her poems have appeared in numerous journals, both print and online. She is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the poetry and arts editor of Stoneboat Literary Journal. Just this past week, Vihos was named the poet laureate of Sheboygan, WI—the city's first—where she also serves as an organizer for 100 Thousand Poets for Change 

Friday, June 12, 2020


by Sarah Haufrect

Trump administration won’t say who got $511 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus loans —The Washington Post, June 11, 2020

Home base
Roman antiquities
Registered handguns
Textbooks about history
Rx drugs from the bathroom cabinet
Extra sample-sized cups of self-serve frozen yogurt
Jury selections
Boards of directors
Acceptance letters to elite universities
Higher scores on their kids’ SATs
Streaming television services
National elections
Little packets of Splenda from the coffee kiosk
Years off their ages with fillers and Botox
Intellectual property
Internet porn
Venture capital
Overpriced gourmet popcorn
Foreign passports
Someone else’s taxi
Personal identities
Supreme courts
Nuclear arsenals
Corn subsidies
Workers risking their lives to feed their families
Presidential pardons
Computer algorithms
Jewelry at Nordstrom
Detroit techno
(Never crack)
Always cocaine
Indigenous land
Basic civil and human rights
Living wages
Immigrant children still locked up in cages
Bars and dance clubs alive with innocent bystanders
Black lives that matter that matter that matter

Sarah Haufrect is a 2020 graduate of the MFA Writing program at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Her poems have been featured or are forthcoming in the Berkeley Poetry Review, Medusa's Laugh Press, Lucky Jefferson, and others.


by CeCe NeQuai

Photo by SOLIDCOLOURS via Louisville Business First, June 12, 2020

My People stand
in the streets with masked faces
and painted signs,

to rage against,
not the “dying of the light,”
but the dying of our kind.

My Brother stands
eleven years old, holds
my hand when I

cry, because
the tear gas and bullets are loud,
and we can’t hear the chants of the crowd.

My Grandma stands.
Watches at the door when I go,
because the people

in our town that
she doesn’t know
look too much like they might call me

The system stands
on the backs of its people.
On those who scream proud that

We want change.

That we want chains gone.

To be equal.

CeCe NeQuai is an Ohio based creator of poetry, fiction, screenplays, and films. She is a writing, film, and media student at Bowling Green State University. Keep up with CeCe NeQuai via Twitter at @nequai_


by Thomas J. Erickson

It’s confounding having a hearing while I’m sitting
in my living room. I have a pandemic beard
and unruly bangs and am wearing boxer shorts
while I position the camera just so to catch
my face and my coat and tie.

Within reach are framed photographs,
books I have loved on the bookcase,
my poetry journals.

My client is on video from the jail. A young
black guy wearing a white mask that gleams
out of the grain. The symbolism is so heavy
it makes me want to reach for my pen.

Thomas J. Erickson is an attorney in Milwaukee.  His fourth book, The Lawyer Chronicles, is forthcoming from Kelsay Press this fall.

Thursday, June 11, 2020


by Marilyn Peretti

A boxy white truck with the blue eagle
pulls up to the curb, the postal vehicle
I observe most days.

Today I’m absorbed in tv, at the same time
view the driver through my window—
her pale blue clerk’s shirt, a billed cap,
and the blue-gray summer shorts
showing her shiny brown legs
through the open door.

Fleetingly I wonder what mail she’ll
bring me. But back to the Houston
funeral of George Floyd, victim
of city police brutality.

The choir, distancing themselves
due to the pandemic, the speakers,
the pastors lowering their safety masks.
The organ, the hymns, the brothers.

Then Rev. Al Sharpton, “‘I can’t breathe’
he said, and was choked for 8 minutes,
46 seconds — Breath is how God gives
you life, it is sanctified, it is sacred.”

She’s still sitting in the truck
looking down intently at her device
it seems. I watch the congregants,
hear sad and glorious words, lifting
George up, praising his honesty,
his leadership, his faith.

After 15 minutes she climbs out
of the truck, opens the rear door,
lifts the mail tub out for our building,
interrupting her concentration—
she our civil servant, an essential worker,
experiencing this near-personal funeral
on the job.

More songs, more lifting up of George.
She returns to the truck, empty tub
over her head, protection from the
sudden June downpour.

In her seat again, she stares at the device,
mourning in the postal truck. After
some time, I see the red brake light
come on, and she pulls away.

Marilyn Peretti of Glen Ellyn, IL, does too much thinking. And probably feeling. She has been published many times before at TheNewVerse.News.


by Joanne Kennedy Frazer

no vaccine for this condition

ever present     sucks out life
      soul      erases biographies

one knee
8 minutes, 46 seconds
   Momma, I love you

lifeless daughters, sons of God

our grief       anger
   guilt       emptiness

to resurrect
     to re-breathe you

Joanne Kennedy Frazer is a retired peace and justice director and educator for faith-based organizations at state, diocesan and national levels. Her work has appeared in several Old Mountain Press anthologies, Poetic Portions anthology, Soul-lit Spiritual Poetry, Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine, Panoply Literary Zine, Snapdragon Journal, Whirlwind Magazine, Kakalak, Red Clay Review and Gyroscope Review. Five poems were turned into a song cycle, Resistance, by composer Steven Luksan, and performed in Seattle and Durham.  Her chapbook Being Kin (CreationRising Press) was published in 2019.  She lives in Durham, NC.