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Wednesday, August 05, 2020

REVIVAL

by Spatika


People protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill—which allows Hindus from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to get citizenship and exclude Muslims from the same countries—in New Delhi on December 7, 2019. Javed Sultan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images via Vox, December 16, 2019

Are America’s Blacks and India’s Muslims politically comparable? This question has acquired a new salience with the rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, underway for weeks in the US, covering several hundred cities. Comparisons have been drawn with the anti-CAA protests in India, lasting three months after mid-December, rebelling against the attempted demotion of India’s Muslims to secondary citizenship. The mainstream Black argument that Blacks have been treated as inferior Americans, with Whites as the putative owners of the nation, is not altogether distinct. —The Indian Express, July 6, 2020


After a gap of 5 months, anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests were once again back on the streets of Dibrugarh with hundreds of activists of the All Assam Students’ Union (Aasu) taking out a motorcycle rally. —The Times of India, August 4, 2020


I have loved Julius Caesar in stories
from my English friends.
I have despised Julius Caesar in words,
striking upon ages.
I live today in burning home astray, my mother
carries small paper notes in tattered folded hands,
saree sifts light through, the only windows left.
the men in uniform are
almost here, asking for signed papers.
I have none. I wish
they did not have pilots fly overhead in our screams, I wish
the skies did not rain upon our chalk graffiti, because
paint was for rich. I wish
our written word wasn’t flung behind bars
nobody to see, I wish
this had never begun.
Caesar lived through citizen’s strangled breaths.
but today I can hear him say,

“My countrymen never cried,
  for my death. Pilgrims, ragged urchins,
  rum-cupped lips did not bawl from inns,
  ivory clad nobles’ eyelids batted away at dry air,
  but even in those sleeping beneath crumbling columns,
  clothes carried not a
  single tear. there was
  no force, no sheer strength of circus led gladiator,
  no power of cavalier battalion, that brought
  forth water of the bodies that my countrymen wore.
  until
  someone spoke
  Antony, my noble aide, Antony
  the moonlight to remember when my rays
  no longer served people their warmth
  Molten silver, seeping shades of wrong
  and glory mingled in lava beds,
  thorn showers, Antony’s words,
  bitter water came streaming forth,
  chiseled edges, Antony’s words,
  cracks to a country’s soft minds,
  breaking
  stealthily through brittle floodgate woes.”

And thousands of years later, come such
  a time of dark pits laden with the bodies of
            my robed brethren.
  a time of words printed in white against white pages
            the children born with sight never see.
  a time of petty gains made from my father’s caps
            pieces of marble tablet remain, which is mosque, which is tomb?
  a time when nobody can say.
today is here because yesterday was deaf to the pleas
of a thousand years.
are Antonys only built for dictators?
today is here, because the day I had a home, those on
the other side would walk confidently past it.
for when I still found chalk to write,
the only hands that rose was to cover people's eyes.
and now
masks are here to silence us.
a viral emergency is the cloak everyone wears around me,
I was born here and I am to leave,
can tears of rage be washed with bottles of hand sanitizer?
I didn’t need arms to fight,
I needed you, I needed her, I needed many.


Spatika is a fourth year student at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali, pursuing an Integrated Master's in biology. She is an INSPIRE Fellowship recipient, interested in neurobiology and writing. She is also a contributor at Feminism in India, and Delhi Poetry Slam, and a senior editor of her institute magazine.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

ODE TO WHAT WE CAN COUNT ON

by Mark Danowsky


The U.S. Postal Service was out there minding its business until the bully-in-chief took aim at the public service, calling it a joke, demanding it increase prices and claiming that mail-in voting would be compromised. When he was done with all his orange unhinged ranting, Trump did what he’s done throughout his presidency, which is to make sure someone was in place to do his dirty work. Trump’s boy Louis DeJoy became the postmaster general in May. Besides mailing letters and buying the stamps of the Confederacy, DeJoy has absolutely no qualifications for this position, but he did have one quality that has always been impressive to Trump: DeJoy is a huge Republican donor, and more specifically, a Trump donor. Since taking over the U.S. Postal Service, DeJoy is either so inept that he’s fucking things up, or he is actively working to create mail delays and possibly a clusterfuck during election time. Either way, whether accidental or intentional, he’s doing a great job that only benefits the president. Stephen A. Crockett Jr., The Root, July 31, 2020. Photo illustration: Soohee Cho/The Intercept, Getty Images, Alamy.


The mail
Morning tea
Afternoon walk
Taco Tuesday
The mail

The mail
Fresh podcast episode
The album drop
The mail

The mail
A morning dose
The mail
An evening dose

The mail
A check-in message
Missed calls
The mail

The mail
The walks
Birdsong
Rainstorm
The mail

The mail
A brief exchange
A trip to the store
Taco Tuesday
The mail


Mark Danowsky is a Philadelphia poet, author of the poetry collection As Falls Trees (NightBallet Press), Managing Editor of the Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Editor of ONE ART poetry journal.

RED DOMINION, THE TRANSITION: RATED R

by Alejandro Escudé


Illustrated | Mark Wilson/Getty Images, Lebrecht Music & Arts/Alamy Stock Photo via The Week


T***p stands at the top of the White House steps
holding an assault rifle: “Say hello to my little friend!”
he screams as the army rushes to arrest him, explosions
everywhere; in the Oval Office desk, dozens of encrypted
Russian messages, a diagram of an experimental aircraft
inside his seven iron, and the button, beneath the bust
of Taft, he pushed to open a passage to a bullet tram
leading directly to Moscow, on the way blasting by
Satan himself, his wild angel wings, demons wearing
MAGA caps raise their claws as he speeds through,
the tram, shaped like the cockpit of a 747, painted black
with T***P in red on its side; the final station is made
of gold, supporters and strippers greet him in Moscow;
police whisk him up a marble staircase to a glass elevator
and into a luxury hotel room near Red Square where
he’s met by a few KGB officials awaiting his last report
which T***p recites in precise Russian as he removes
the prosthetic face he has worn for decades, unveiling
a remarkable resemblance to Lenin; he runs a hand
over his bald head, the window open, sound of traffic
outside. Trump holds up a rumpled wig and smiles.


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.

THE DACHA

by William Aarnes


Ready and waiting, surrounded  
by a golf course (with flagsticks  
of gold), the dacha’s not far 
from Gelendzhik. 

                              The cook 
is comely.  Every maid 
is comely.  The nurse is comely. 

They all speak English. 

All the appointments— 
the chandeliers, the doorknobs, 
the faucets, the toilet seats— 
are gold. 

               The guards at the gate  
are burly.  The gardener 
is burly.  The doctor is burly. 

They all love Russia. 

The gold safe has a dial 
studded in diamonds. 
Inside—at least that’s the deal—      
is every copy of the tape. 




William Aarnes lives in South Carolina.

Monday, August 03, 2020

THIS DANGEROUS PLACE

by Ann E. Wallace


New Jersey’s virus transmission rate jumped to 1.35 and Governor Phil Murphy warned of rising cases due to a lack of compliance with mask and social distancing rules. The state, where cases peaked months ago, is in “a very dangerous place,” Murphy said at a Trenton news conference. Photographer: Michael Mancuso/Pool via Getty Images —Bloomberg News, August 1, 2020


We are standing 
in a very dangerous place
calling the children to peer over the edge
of the precipice
as if it is a class trip
to the Grand Canyon.

We call out be safe,
don’t go too far,
but also 
don’t lag,
you need to be here,
we are here because of you
Yet we know 
that when one falls, 
others, 
perhaps we, 
will follow, 
linked arm 
to arm 
like a barrel
of plastic monkeys
tossed 
over the edge.

And though many 
will break free,
catch themselves
on ledges and climb up 
scraped,
battered, bruised, 
to laugh at the close 
call or scoff 
that it was nothing, 
a breeze even, 
some 
will fall
all the way 
down.


Ann E. Wallace is a longhaul COVID-19 survivor, writing essays and poetry on the pandemic from her home in Jersey City, NJ as she recovers. Her poetry collection Counting by Sevens (2019) is available from Main Street Rag. She is on Twitter @annwlace409.

FAREWELL MS. B

by Jen Schneider





Morning greetings spill through speakers, one per room - affixed to paint chipped ceilings – Good day, All - beside a single ceiling fan - in each of our building’s fifty-three rooms. Stocked with metal chairs on rusted legs, boxes of No. 2s, and books – many Requirements, more Favorites. Ferdinand and Potter. Mice and Men and Huckleberry Finn. Rosa, Ruby Bridges, and Malala, too. Most passed down for generations of classes before. Don’t consume. Critique, Ms. B. said, as she’d stock our stacks with book swap finds. Ms. B. fought hard – her 4 feet 11 inches - alerting officials – in formations six yards wide and six feet tall - at evening school board meetings – monthly. For years. Fifteen and counting. Until the counting stopped. Teach us to fight for what’s right – through the written word, library research, and careful fact-finding. 

I want to be a Teacher. And a Writer. And a Reader, Ms. B. Uncover injustice. Just like you.

Chuckling over inside jokes of hidden closets and earlier versions of ourselves from classes prior. Missing room No. 54. Did you see…? Misplaced backpacks, clear by compliance – it’s regulation. Did you hear…? Uninhabited chairs that squeak. Each room, a relic from the 1920s. Ms. B.’s magic made each home to no less than thirty-four warm bodies of all shapes and shades. 

Principal – Ms. B. - shares updates on weather – cloudy with a chance of rain – isn’t it always the case? – and schedules – extended time for third period – stomachs flutter, mandated tests, extra review – Algebra, U.S. History – with Ms. B.’s extra readings, so that we learn the truth – cells away, pencils out - no options for pass-permitted bathroom breaks – I’d rather not say why.

Always closing with words – the reason I - We – all eighteen hundred plus of us, united by zip code and respect for Ms. B. – show each day and on time.

No matter what, Remember, you are loved. Ms. B.

Static. Click. Now done. Silence. A single chair squeaks. Rubber-soled shoes shuffle. Someone coughs. With nothing more to say, we do as Ms. B. would. With space between us, we write.
Adjust elastic around ears. Reset cloth masks. Watch silent tears drop. Pick up broken No. 2s

We love you, too, Ms. B.

Rip sheets of lined paper from spiral notebook. Crumple, tight. Place in right front pocket. Wash.
For fifteen years and counting, kids like me would know the voice of kindness. Syllables streamed through pie-shaped speakers – tone of warm blueberry cobbler and savory chicken soup. In servings and portions perfect for all. Never too hot. Never too cold. Always just right.

Always Ms. B. 

Until now. Last week’s Board meeting was Ms. B’s final chapter. She set down her glasses, capped her blue inked pen, and returned her key. Want only to Unlock Lives and Unleash Learning, she spoke clearly. Lose No One, she continued. No One. Through tears. Confidently. With Conviction. Just like she taught us. Want only to pile on Love. 

Cannot police young bodies. Cannot risk more lives. 

Microphone off. Static. Then Silence. 

Good night, Ms. B. Good night, all.


Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Her work appears in The Popular Culture Studies Journal, unstamatic, Zingara Poetry Review, Streetlight Magazine, Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

THE AMERICAN GOSPEL (2020 EDITION)

by Avalon Felice Lee





In the beginning…
January judgment 
Red hat, white lies
"The flu is worse!" he scorns
as his gavel cudgels China, the blue-faced, the blue-lunged
The pen of law
holds the ink for healthcare blueprints. 
The dough in his fist
for swab tests; for the people. 
              
February denial
Nailed wrists, or tied hands?
Our savior, or an excuse?
Americans,
             repent!
                          Beware of
                                       fake news
                                                    sham gold
                                                                 idols— 
Nothing to worry about! Nothing at all!
Come to the altar, worship whoever’s crowned
The winged choir guard the American garden
from Wuhan fiends
And so, nib unscathed
Pockets heavy

The Gospel
Good thing he cares for his shares 
The yeast for His bread
unrisen, decayed
So, He Marches forward
And trumpets that “the numbers are good” as is
apparently
contrarily

But April showers make faith dour.
Just in case, behind Jericho bricks
He breaks bread
for swab tests; for His people
crumbs

Oh, you sinner
Cast doubt from your mind!
May you rejoice!
The Savior saves His people!
Good thing he cares for his shares.

Revelation
Though idols dine in violet silkone day
the synthetic dye will blanch
Dress in your Sunday best, filter masks
Earth will soon steal the recipe for
manna
Sacrifice pedestrian beer
for communion wine, Purell
June bugs, heathens, see the sunup
The world ends not with a virus!
(But by the folly of man.)


Avalon Felice Lee is an Asian-American Californian. She has been writing poetry and prose since the age of eleven. Her works have been published in The Heritage Review, Kalopsia Literary Journal, and elsewhere.

TWO DEGREES

by Ralph James Savarese


Murder hornet photo tweeted by @Elvis_Trump

                                                                                           
Let us now praise the Japanese honey bee, Apis cerana,
which alone cannot defeat the much larger

and more vicious “murder hornet,” Vespa mandarinia.
Just one or two of the latter can destroy an entire hive,

moving in like winged, up-armored Cossacks.
After decapitating the honey-makers, they stuff

their yellowish-orange mouths with larvae and pupa.
Yet a miracle, not so much on ice as in the oven,

sometimes occurs. The honey-makers practice a technique
called “bee-balling,” which involves swarming

their attacker and collectively cooking it alive.
The bees move their flight muscles to generate heat;

they can withstand temperatures two degrees higher
than the hornet…. How about we try this with that predator

in the White House? Surround him with human warmth;
kindle him, you might say, with kindness? Of course,

the American honey bee hasn’t yet developed such a defense,
perhaps because it’s insufficiently eusocial and maybe

even indifferent to the fate of the hive. (“I’m not gonna
wear a mask, and there’s nothing you can do to make me!”)

As the seas rise and infection marauds the planet,
can you not hear the soft buzzing of wings, the earth balling

to save itself?


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.

WATCHING A WASP THE DAY AFTER JOHN LEWIS'S FUNERAL

by Linda Gelbrich




A small yellowjacket joins me
at the patio table this morning,
absorbed in the pinch of sausage
I set aside on the tablecloth
a short distance away.

It wraps its body
halfway around the morsel,
its legs and jaw clamped on,
and the sausage begins to roll
toward the table edge.
I stop the rolling with my notebook.
The wasp hangs on.

The second time it rolls to the edge
both fall to the deck,
and the wasp hangs on
until it bites off a small piece,
flies away, then returns for more.

All this happens
while I finish breakfast,
get out my pen and begin to write,
wondering if I, too, could be
so absorbed in anything
that I’d keep on with my work
no matter who or what
sat near me,

no matter the rolling and falling
that surely would happen,
that I’d keep on, even
if bruised and battered,
that I’d want something so much
I could not be deterred,
would not give up,
as long
as I still
had breath.


Linda Gelbrich is a retired Clinical Social Worker and adult educator living in Western Oregon.   Her poems have been published in numerous anthologies, on notecards she creates, and in chapbooks.  Her spiritual reflections have been published in books of daily readings.

Saturday, August 01, 2020

AT THE LECTERN

by Alan Elyshevitz


Photograph by Al Drago / NYT / Redux via The New Yorker


you need to articulate and oppose. And timing,
you need that, and enough blank space. Expel
the breath in prorated bursts like x-rays dosing
the bones. Advisers weigh in on the controversy
of whether to use the emphatic body—forearm
offensive, fingers poised in their swiveling
launcher—or hold the body still, allowing
ejections to speak for themselves. You need
not shout. The interior of any room is a multiplier—
its walls and angles—the right words both vicious
and acoustic when they undergo a truculent
bounce. The aim, of course, is not to persuade
but to level. The aim is disquiet. To impel
the president of Russia to send a lacquer box.


Alan Elyshevitz is the author of a collection of stories, The Widows and Orphans Fund (SFA Press), and three poetry chapbooks, most recently Imaginary Planet (Cervena Barva). His poems have appeared in River Styx, Nimrod International Journal, and Water~Stone Review, among many others. Winner of the James Hearst Poetry Prize from North American Review, he is also a two-time recipient of a fellowship in fiction writing from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.