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Friday, October 30, 2020

SENDING POSTCARDS

by Julia Lisella




It’s all history now,
even my walk to the mailbox
to drop the shiny cards into the blue box
little teeth at the edge of the slot – I can hear them
grinding & scraping as I push the cards in
10 at a time. Because
Covid 19 pandemic
because Breonna and George are dead
because T***p lied his ass off
we know this is true all the time, but now?
And I think this is why
I walk to the mailbox
with 50 postcards and I worry
the people who get them won’t
understand my handwriting
when they read “Dear Friend”
they’ll know we are not friends but
Friend please vote, friend
the anxiety of thinking
you won’t vote
makes my fingers ache
the anxiety of thinking
in the quiet, the basil bloom
of evening, the petulance
of late summer, the walk now
more or less guarded
Mostly anxiety I do not think
in prose but in the murmur of fear
the stuttered life of
catch in the throat
the imbalance of what can’t be
how is it now that the shiny postcards
urging
sit at the bottom of a large blue box—
what faith I once had in the box
How I once believed anything in it
would begin its great journey
Will anyone of you 50 desperate cards
released reluctantly by my fingertips
(afraid to touch the box) the confluences
of emergencies
we have acclimated to
will any one of you reach the street
the court, the place, the road, the Tampa,
the Ft. Lauderdale, the Ft. Myers so many forts
the ranch house the apartment building the PO Box
and journey how? and when if it arrives
on your counter, thrown in your car
stuck under a welcome mat?
I press the pen into the card
to make the name and wonder
will it be you, you one soul
who will get my card and lifting it
above the garbage will see and notice
the wobble of my D or F or
the note I squeezed into the left side
of the card, the funny way I write my E’s, my V’s and M’s
you can’t tell apart
you, someone will know I walked down
the quiet Covid street
I pushed the cards through the slot
dear friend released from prison who is not
a murderer or a rapist dear friend who was
desperate and forged a check dear friend who was
naïve and dated a con artist and a drug dealer
Dear friend still alive, released they say
and living in Sunny Florida, please don’t
get sick, please find a job
please vote.


Randy Hudnell raises four fingers to represent Amendment 4, which restored the right to vote to most former felons in Florida who'd completed their sentences. Credit: ALEX PENA/CBS NEWS, October 26, 2020


Julia Lisella’s books include Always (WordTech Editions, 2014), Terrain (WordTech Editions, 2007), and the chapbook Love Song Hiroshima (Finishing Line Press, 2004). Her poems have most recently appeared in Ploughshares, Paterson Literary Review, Mom Egg Review, Nimrod, Exit 7, and Ocean State Review. She writes on modernist women writers, teaches American literature at Regis College and co-curates the Italian American Writers Association (IAWA) Reading Series in Boston. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

DEFIANCE AS THE TREES LET GO THEIR LEAVES

by Laura Rodley




As repetitious as concentric circles
breaking one upon the other, overlapping
but never touching, the outward circles
encroach on the returning circles,
but the swimmer’s hands keep breaking
the smooth skin of the water
sending back more circles,
her breaststroke a circle;
here, at Ashfield Lake, there is no election,
no Prince of Tides, no princes,
just to swim to the brown house
a quarter mile and return
before it gets dark. 


Laura Rodley, Pushcart Prize winner, is a quintuple Pushcart Prize nominee and quintuple Best of Net nominee. Latest books Turn Left at Normal by Big Table Publishing and Counter Point by Prolific Press.

PARROT THERAPY

by Ellen Aronofsky Cole


Credit: Josh Seong / Verywell


The room is fat with jungle sounds.
Haiku runs three-dimensional laps
around her cage, across the floor,
 
up the bars to her food dish, across
two perches, whistles, rings her bell,
repeats. 
 
Okay, I may be turning into Haiku.
 
My manic pacing, the way I roll
and twitch in bed, unceasing motion.
Pamala, the parrot behavior specialist,
 
tells me Haiku’s a fearful bird.
All parrots are, she says. After all,  
they’re prey. So that explains it,
 
my sleepless nights, how I can’t
concentrate, can’t settle.  The congregation
of monsters salivating outside the door,
 
one named COVID, the one we call
World on Fire, the mendacious Cheeto-hued
one bellowing his own name. 
 
My new doctor says we’ll all sleep better
after November third.  Perhaps, but
fear’s a cold bone that runs deep in me,
 
and sleep’s the promised land. This evening
Haiku grinds her beak, a happiness
behavior that precedes sleep. 
 
The sound soothes me. I marvel again
how she twists her head backwards,
buries it beneath her wings.


Ellen Aronofsky Cole has two books of poetry, Notes from the Dry Country (Mayapple Press, 2019) and Prognosis (Finishing Line Press, 2011). Her work has appeared in Fledgling Rag,  Bellevue Literary Review, Little Patuxent Review, Potomac Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Washington Post Magazine, and other journals, and in The New England Journal of Medicine. Ellen lives in Silver Spring, Maryland with her husband Brian and her parrot Haiku.

WAITING FOR THE ELECTION TO BE OVER WITH

by Penelope Scambly Schott


“Frost on the grass,” photograph by Vladimir Axenov.


The man is asleep,
his arm flung back
toward the headboard of their bed.
He snores lightly.
The dog curls warm and small
at the foot of the quilt.
The dog’s ribs move up
and down under fur.
The woman is awake.
She slips out
from under the quilt
and walks to the window.
She pushes back
the white curtain.
Orion is rising over the shed,
his sword tickling
the top branches
of the neighbor’s cottonwood.
The man is still sleeping.
The woman stands at the window.
She knows Mars has moved west
past where she can see it
from this side of the house.
Winter is approaching.
The man’s hair gleams white
in starlight.
The dog’s fur gleams white.
Frost glazes the lawn.
The woman is ready
to step through the glass
in her long white nightgown.
She would lie on her back
in the white frost,
lie there a long time
under stars,
the flesh of her shoulders,
her buttocks,
the heels of her bare feet
feeling the spin of her planet.


Penelope Scambly Schott is a past recipient of the Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Her newest book is On Dufur Hill, poems about the cycle of the year in a small wheat-growing town.

DONALD

by Nan Ottenritter




occupies too much real estate in our heads.
T***p/Pence billboards line our neural highways.
T***p towers pierce our amygdalas, blunting
our love of country, collective compassion.
 
His necrotic amygdala somehow lives on in his head
while our neurotransmitters careen around curves and
our collective blood pressure soars out of control.
Reality’s glare sears through dilated pupils.
 
Our cognitive brains reflect upon where to flee
while, oversaturated with cocktails of our own adrenalin
and miracles of modern chemistry, we continue to fight.
A contribution here, a conversation there; an
 
early ballot here, a court victory there.
The rule of law, shattered, lies at the side of the road.
My American soul runs to the scene, screeches to a halt,
and finds herself saying, yet again:
 
“I can’t wait for this to be over.”  


Nan Ottenritter is a poet and musician who lives in Richmond, VA.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

GAIAN LAMENT

 by Catherine Gonick



            after the hypotheses of James Lovelock
 

The world is broken, the body of the single, gigantic animal
we have become is breaking, we don’t have much time.
The ancient organs and elements hold—
earth is still surface, water deeps, fire burns
in the center, and black space is encircled
by a ribbon of air—but it’s all sick
with wildfire fever, the atmosphere fills
with phlegm, the oceans with pharma,
indigestible soil starves and infects
flora and fauna, both wild and domestic,
our hearts ache, livers swell, lungs become fibrotic,
oxygen fails. Our science was too romantic,
our technology too rude. We looked out
as far as we were able but forgot
the unexpected we couldn’t measure.
The earth would do just fine without us,
and the other animals won’t care, unless perhaps
our dogs. Some of us always knew
we’d end badly, at the end of some endless
kalpa, the death of the last of five suns
carried by snakes of fire. But we expected
a respectable cosmic decline, not this mess
we designed. And yes, science has been
a disappointment. Who wanted to know
the limits of our filtering senses? How much further
we’d have to take our tools, if we can? Intelligence
would be better if purely artificial. Upright posture
and hands made us always want to leave home.

 
Catherine Gonick’s poetry has appeared in literary magazines including Notre Dame Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly,  Lightwood, Forge, Sukoon, and PoetsArtists, and in anthologies including in plein air, Grabbed, and forthcoming, Poemas Antivirus. She was awarded the Ina Coolbrith Memorial Prize for Poetry and was a finalist in the National Ten-Minute Play Contest with the Actors Theatre of Louisville. She is part of a company that fights the effects of climate change.

THE ELECTION DISTRACTION

by George Salamon


"As Colorado wildfires burn, fears that climate change is causing 'multi-level emergency' mount." Photo: Calista Morrill, walking with her dogs Lucy, in front and Ollie, not pictured, watches smoke from the East Troublesome fire become lit by the setting sun in Lyons on Oct. 21, 2020. At the time Morrill, who lives in Lyons, said she had packed her bags in case she needed to be evacuated for the CalWood Fire. —Denver Post, October 26, 2020


"The world both literally and figuratively is burning. The apocalyptic skies of the West Coast only make that sense more real, more threatening. The urgency of the moment is inescapable." —Gary Hooser, "On behalf of my grandchildren" (an open letter to Kamala Harris),  The Garden Island (Hawaii), October 6, 2020


Darkness did not crash down on us
Like thunder, it rolled over us like
The Santa Ana winds, made us sick.
The lingering illness robbed us of
Vision and spirit, smothered the sublime,
Allowed spreadsheets and lists,
Pollsters and pundits to take the place
Of the educated and wise, technology
And efficiency to banish morality and
Beauty from our permanent searching
And seeking and neglect the spaces
That nourished our desire for answers.
The winds are still blowing, but soon
Rivers may refuse to flow, grains refuse
To sprout and the dark of night will fall
On people who no longer know how
To make light.


George Salamon, like Gary Hooser, wants the current captain of our ship of state to return to real estate, but does not think that it will be enough to awaken the humanistic spirit that has gone from "at bay" to moribund in his lifetime.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

NEWS FROM LATE OCTOBER

by Ginny Lowe Connors




Trees still holding their leaves
look all the more brilliant
as their colors flame
against an overcast sky.
The day is nearly windless.
Still, spirals of leaves
gold, russet, scarlet
sail toward the ground all day.
Silent as snowflakes, they fall.
 
In our country, 856 people
died of the coronavirus just yesterday.


Ginny Lowe Connors is the author of several poetry collections, including Toward the Hanging Tree: Poems of Salem Village.  Her chapbook Under the Porch won the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize. Connors has also edited a number of poetry anthologies. She is the co-editor of Connecticut River Review. Connors runs a small poetry press, Grayson Books.

Monday, October 26, 2020

I AM DRAWING A MAP

by Howard Winn




the little boy said
as he hunched over
his crumpled bit of
paper with the stub
of pencil clutched in
one dirty little hand
of the street he added
so I will know where
all my friends and
enemies live and then
I will know where
it is safe to go and 
where not to go
for there are good guys
and bad ones my mother
says mothers know
she says and my father
agrees and i wonder
how they learned to
tell the good from the bad


A new collection of Howard Winn's poetry has just been published. It is titled Comedy and other observations. Howard Winn continues as Professor of English SUNY.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

ELECTION

 by Marguerite K. Flanders


Photograph by Kim Seng of Red Shoulder Hawk Perched on Live Oak at Riverbend Park in Jupiter, Florida. Via Flickr. Some rights reserved.


 “Soul selects its own society” —Emily Dickinson
 

Oaks are the last to cast their burdens.
Air is full of the athleticism of change.
 
Chickadees greet the end of the straight road
of night with their tally, the decisive chill.
 
The science of what must turn will leave us
bereft. We wait for all to be revealed,
 
as if choosing will shift the relentless
trajectory of stars, restore what has been
 
felled. Hawk, oak, brook, co-trustees
of winter’s approach, know better.


Marguerite Keil Flanders is the Managing Editor of Crosswinds Poetry Journal.  For nine years she was part of the Ocean State Poetry team running a poetry workshop in the Men’s Medium Security prison in Cranston, Rhode Island.  Margie is the author of a poetry collection, The Persuasive Beauty of Imperfection. Her work has appeared in many publications, including Boston Review, Yankee Magazine, Comstock Review, Nimrod International Journal, Connecticut River Review, and Main Street Rag.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

JEREMIAH 2020AD

by Julie Kramer


Immigrant families wait in May 2019 in Los Ebanos, Tex., to be searched and taken to a U.S. Border Patrol station after they were caught illegally crossing into the United States from Mexico. Credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post, October 23, 2020


“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 19:14
 

You put them in cages
    and arm their enemies with AK47s
You take away their food
   and say that it is for their own good
You dirty their air and water
   and point to it as progress
You make their world uninhabitable
   and call their cries a hoax
You let your police
   murder them in their beds
   and say they deserved it
You punish their governors
   for standing up for them
You take away their families’ health insurance
   and say it’s in service of freedom
You beat them in the streets
   because they challenge your authority
You promise them relief
   and present it to the rich
You insult their allies
   and sell out their friends
You sit by as they die of a dread disease
  saying it will just... go away
You defile and debase
   the halls of their government
   with petty criminals and yes men
You make their lives less sane, less safe, and less free
 
You think that their God is sleeping
   do not be deceived
God will bring about his justice
   through the least of things
Including teenage TikTokers
               small dollar donations
                                absentee ballots
                                               and subpoenas.
 

Julie Kramer is a molecular biologist, lay minister, marketer, and mom of three teenagers living in Madison, Wisconsin.  In 2012, she made the unforeseen and disconcerting discovery that she is also a poet. Her themes include family, religion, #me too, and current events. She has had previous work published in the Journal of Women and Religion, and the Wisconsin UCC Conference newsletter.

Friday, October 23, 2020

TODAY

by Earl J. Wilcox




Today when I awoke it was very dark outside.
Today when I got up at 5:30 AM, it was cold.
Today I fumble putting in my hearing aids.
Today my glasses help little with macular degenration.
Today my bladder wants to empty before I arise.
Today I struggle to put on my pants, my shoes.
Today the cats wait patiently to be fed, petted.
Today I see dimly the coffee pot, the faucet.
Today I munch a protein bar, put on a mask.
Today I find my walking stick, unlock the door.
Today I stumble out the door, my knees resist walking.
Today it is still dark as I move toward the street light.
Today I shudder, cough and sneeze, wait for a ride.
Today I hear kids and cars and school buses pass by.
Today a friend stops for me. I hobble to his car.
Today I find his car is warm, his voice hopeful.
Today we ride to a community center across town.
Today I can barely hear or see the place we seek.
Today I wobble down the pavement, smile, anxious.
Today a friendly voice asks if I am “doin’ OK?”.
Today I walk inside a warm hall, hear low, calm chatter.
Today I wait and wait and wait and wait and wait.
Today I wonder if the line will open a slot for me.
Today I arise, my cane is calmer than I am.
Today I hand my photo ID to someone at a table.
Today I am helped to a small machine I barely see.
Today a friendly voice asks if I can see the screen.
Today I barely read, barely hear, barely stand.
Today I feel a rush of joy and peace.
Today my friend puts a small sticker on my sweater.
Today and tomorrow the sticker says I VOTED.
 



This week at age 87 Earl Wilcox voted.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

DÓNDE ESTÁ MI MADRE

by Roger Aplon

 


A child weeps & her cries reverberate throughout the dingy warehouses,
makeshift barracks & swarming
extraction camps, it
 
ricochets across the desolate plains of west Texas & southern California &
southern Arizona & the mesas
of New Mexico.
 
A child weeps & his tears threaten to drown the tongue-tied Christians, Jews
& Muslims, they dampen dinner tables
in Portland, Maine &
 
Poughkeepsie, New York & St. Louis, Missouri & across the Rockies &
across the sea to Honolulu. Children weep &
parents weep &
 
a once-proud people cringes in the wake of what it has allowed & what it
has wrought & what it is to be
dishonored.
 
Between bouts of fear & trembling these kids are heard to ask ¿ Dónde está mi madre?
          —¿Dónde está mi padre?—
¿ Dónde estoy?
 
‘Where Am I?’ rings off-key like a cracked bell—like a symbolic “liberty”
bell, cracked but still resonant, reminiscent
of what has been lost but might still be.
 

Roger Aplon has published thirteen books: one of prose poems & short fiction: Intimacies twelve of poetry, including the recently published: Mustering What’s Left—Selected & New Poems—1976 – 2017 from Unsolicited Press. He lives in Beacon, N Y & publishes the poetry magazine: “Waymark – Voices of the Valley.”

OCTOBER 2020

by Roberto Christiano 


"Fear of Pain," oil painting by Igor Shulman


I have heard the sirens falling
falling like the songs of sorrow
I have seen the black man hobbled
hobbled by the blues of bullets
I have smelt the forests burning
burning till the ashes whiten
 
I have seen the mermaids leaving
leaving as our rivers rumble
I have heard the children crying
crying with our cupboards empty
I have smelt the fear of winter
winter with the sirens calling
 

Roberto Christiano won the 2010 Fiction Prize from Northern Virginia Review. He received a Pushcart Prize nomination for poetry in Prairie Schooner. His poetry is anthologized in The Gávea–Brown Book of Portuguese-American Poetry (Brown University). His chapbook Port of Leaving was published by Finishing Line Press. Other poems have appeared in The New Verse News, The Washington Post, Writer.org, and The Sow's Ear.

IN LOVE AND POETRY

by Indran Amirthanayagam


“Hope,” a painting (1886) by George Frederic Watts and assistants.


Call it now. Out loud.
Without shame. By
its name. Call it

this morning on waking
in the still dark. Call it
reading last night

your words on the screen.
Call it banishing sleep.
There is no energy

more sweet that sustains.
Call it for the one
who corrects these verses.

Call it on streets of
suburb and city,
in the fields. Call it

in front of the Capitol
on top of Mount Baldy
on Waikiki Beach,

by Lake Superior.
We are going far my dear
and we are walking back

home for Thanksgiving
Let us invite Kamala
and Joe to the table.

Let us boil sweet potatoes,
serve elderberry jam,
make a bean and onion stuffing,

let our friends know
the meal will not involve
killing a turkey

or any other fowl.
Let us give thanks God
for this vitamin flowering

in the early dark, guiding
our fingers as we write,
saying call it now.

in the day, at night,
to friends and enemies
alike. In love and poetry

we are going to make
table and bed, and
we are going to write

our songs in these days
of the plague until
we see light come up

above the trees on fire,
the befogged clouds,
until the back of beyond.


Indran Amirthanayagam writes in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. He has 19 poetry books, including The Migrant States (Hanging Loose Press, 2020) and Sur l'île nostalgique (L'Harmattan, 2020). In music, he recorded Rankont Dout. He edits The Beltway Poetry Quarterly, is a columnist for Haiti en Marchewon the Paterson Prize, and is a 2020 Foundation for the Contemporary Arts fellow.

JOY IN THE TIME OF COVID

by Rebecca Leet


“Joy of Life,” a painting by Alexandra Romano.


Joy has deep, soft texture these days,
like going barefoot on a carpet so lush
you almost feel you’re walking on air.
Its sound is soft, too—no brass bands,
 
no clashing cymbals. More like sweet air
passing through spring leaves. Its color
is the wash of a water-color painting—
nothing bold. To claim joy feels slightly selfish
 
but how can I feel other when—as I write—
all whom I love are healthy and those dearest
I can hold with my eyes—un-Zoomed—
and with my arms. I cradle my granddaughter
 
and inhale her infant perfume, draw each daughter
hard against my breasts. Randomly, a quiver
of Covid concern causes pause until—
like warm sun on my face in winter—
 
time dissolves into the eternity of now
and I breathe in the joy of the moment.
 

Rebecca Leet has been writing poetry for five years since retiring from the media-policy-politics world of Washington, DC. Her first book of poetry is Living With the Doors Wide Open. She has been published in Canary, Passager, Bourgeon, and elsewhere.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

COVID ABATTOIR

by Philip C. Kolin



Above: Family members of JBS USA meat packing plant employee Saul Sanchez watch as his casket is lowered during his funeral after he died of Covid-19 in Greeley, Colo., on April 15, 2020.Jim Urquhart / Reuters via NBC


“Meatpackers deny workers benefits for virus-related deaths, illnesses.” 
NBC, September 29, 2020


Upton Sinclair is roiling in his grave.
Things have not changed in Packingtowns
across America. Covid has just made them worse.

The virus works well in these damp, cold, sun-
blocked meat processing plants where droplets can settle 
and slay much longer. Gigantic fans whirl and spread 
saturated foul air as workers breathe each other's
infected coughs and sneezes.  Loud machinery demands
they must talk louder and farther to announce Covid's arrival.

All in cramped spaces.
Packed shoulder to shoulder, workers have to
butcher in non-stop 10-12 hour shifts, no plexiglass
or strip curtains between them. Processing lines
move at race car speeds, leaving workers even  more
vulnerable thanks to exhausted breath, great Covid hosts. 
It's a lung-breaking job. And sharing knives
and hammers means shaking hands with coworker Covid.

Like the animals they eviscerate and de-hide,
these meat processing workers leave the plant
with slaughtered lives, their lungs and hearts offal.

It's a jungle in these plants.


Philip C. Kolin is the Distinguished Professor of English (Emeritus) and Editor Emeritus of the Southern Quarterly at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has published more than 40 books on Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, African American playwrights as well as ten collections of poems. His most recent books are Reaching Forever: Poems in the Poiema Series of Cascade Books and, forthcoming from Main Street Rag, Delta Tears.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

SUBURBAN WOMEN

 by Laura Winkelspecht




Suburban women wake up early to exercise,
load the dishwasher while brushing their teeth,
and dress their kids on the way out the door.
 
Suburban women drive to office jobs
in late model crossover vehicles
and pick up overpriced coffee on the way.
 
Suburban women schedule family vacations,
manage doctor appointments and oil changes,
and plan pregnancies in between potty training.
 
Suburban women attend soccer games,
take turns at carpooling to school,
and organize fundraisers and family reunions.  
 
Suburban women decorate for each holiday,
nurture their prized sourdough starter,
and sew masks for everyone in their family.
 
Suburban women host socially distant barbeques
with their brown neighbors two doors over
and promise play dates with genuine smiles.
 
Suburban women tolerate condescension
with tight-lipped smiles and long memories. 
They register voters on the weekend.


Laura Winkelspecht is a poet and writer from Wisconsin who writes with the hope of finding lightning among the lightning bugs. She has been published in Anti-Heroin Chic, One Sentence Poems, Rat’s Ass Review, Poets Reading the News, and others. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee.

SIMILE

by Gil Hoy




So now he's said:
 "Maybe 
I'll have to leave 
the country 
if I lose the election." 

You mean 
like a fleeing felon 
trying to get away?

All of America's birds
gone South

Will then be seen 
flying north.

Every hibernating thing
will be waking early.


Gil Hoy is a Best of the Net nominated Boston poet who studied poetry at Boston University through its Evergreen program. Hoy previously received a B.A. in Philosophy from BU, 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 4 terms. Hoy's poetry has appeared in Tipton Poetry Journal, Chiron Review, Ariel Chart, Right Hand Pointing, Indian Periodical, Rusty Truck, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, The New Verse News, Rat's Ass Review, the penmen review, and elsewhere. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

THE CAN'T-WORRY TALES (EPILOGUE)

by Richard Hacken




Whan that panne-demie with her virrus bittre
the lande with Mericanne courpses did littre,
and swathed thus visages with couvre-masque,
of which vertu for manye was too bigge an asque;
Whan Donaldus (eek!)  with his love for selfe
putte bleech and snaque's oil on ev'ry shelfe
for tendre eldres with prievyus conditiones
held oute to driy at cause of his foul perditiones;
and with electiones at halfe cours yronne,
twentie-milles of lyes he'd alreddie sponne, 
So priketh hem the truth from toe to tooth
which longeth folk to goon to voting booth,
or mail-personnes who neith in raine nor sleete do faile
to delivere ballotts by the U.S. Mail;
And specially from every stayte and districke
of Vespucci-Lande at the urn they pick
the hatefulle, hurtfulle jerke away to sende
that in an SDNY gaol he might justlie ende. 


Richard Hacken is a librarian-poet with degrees in German literature and past appointments at U.C. Davis, Oregon State, University of Kansas and BYU. He has translated Austrian short fiction and the poetry of a Tuvan poet from Mongolia who publishes in German. He claims to have found this Chaucer epilogue in the wash.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

DEMOCRACY AS AN ACT

by Mary O’Melveny


Ardeth Platte, Dominican Nun and Antinuclear Activist, Dies at 84. Sister Ardeth spent years behind bars for her beliefs and was the inspiration for a character on the Netflix hit Orange Is the New Black. Photo: Sister Ardeth, left, and hr friend Sister Carol at the White House in 2019 protesting plans for a military base in Okinawa, Japan. —The New York Times, October 8, 2020


Who can say what lines cannot
be crossed? What laws must be obeyed?
Most days, it feels as though we
are all complicit in our world’s great ills.
 
Who can say how we will react
when guilt cannot be assuaged
in ways that “they” deem polite?
Safety in numbers does not always save.
 
I have wielded bolt cutters
and climbed cyclone fences to search
for a more peaceful planet.
They had to wash my blood from missile silos.
 
I wore white until orange
was chosen for me by others
who mistook my acts for threats.
Humility can flourish in many colors.
 
Who can say what bravery is?
I was just afraid we would
all expire from carelessness,
that we would disappoint by despairing.
 
I always loved my life here,
even strip searched and shackled.
My convictions were the dues
I paid to earn my right to be a truthteller.
 
Who can say how we best serve
as stewards of our earthly time?
I never judged others’ paths
but I knew my own footsteps were not enough.
 
In the end, we are all fellow
travelers trying to bend
the moral arc toward justice.
Who can say for sure that we will not succeed? 


Mary K O'Melveny is a recently retired labor rights attorney who lives in Washington DC and Woodstock NY.  Her work has appeared in various print and on-line journals. Her first poetry chapbook A Woman of a Certain Age is available from Finishing Line Press. Mary’s poetry collection Merging Star Hypotheses was published by Finishing Line Press in January, 2020.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

ODE TO THE OCTOBER PUMPKIN



Earl Wilcox is a regular reader and contributor to The New Verse News.

Friday, October 16, 2020

OCTOBER 17, SWEETEST DAY

by Ron Riekki

or, this year, Sweatiest Day, how hot 
 
the goddamn gowns and gloves are in- 
side the war of the COVID wards, how 
STUPID are the anti-maskers, the 27— 
at my current count—White Housers 
positive, and here I’m a pessimist, 
seeing the ramifications, seeing the 
ventilators, seeing the conventions, 
 
packed with people; or maybe it’s 
 
the SWATest Day, the ICEist day, 
these days of mass pollution/mass 
arrests for immigrants just trying 
to go to mass, or to work; or may- 
be it’s the Sleepiest Day, the mass 
hypnosis of this world, being told 
that this virus will just "go away," 
 
told by someone who, by the way, 
 
could get re-infected, someone who 
just had a runny nose, but now who’s 
running for President when he has 
never yet actually been President, 
or been presidential, just swinging 
pendulums in front of our eyes, 
telling us we’re feeling sleepy, so 
 
sleepy; or maybe it is, as I said, 
 
the Heat-est Day, the Hottest Day, 
the hottest October 17 that’s ever 
been recorded, because, sadly, 
that’s the theme of this year, how 
there haven’t really been any holi- 
days this year, just evil-days, sad- 
days, maydays, doomsdays, play- 
 
days where kids can’t touch, birth- 
 
days where we can’t hug, because 
we’re on an expressway to hell if 
we don’t stop the way we treat 
the world and the way we treat 
each other, if we fall for the tricks 
that led us to this collapse, the tricks 
of 2016 where the U.S. was covered 
 
in red.  Honestly, aren’t you, too, tired? 


Ron Riekki's latest books in 2020 are Niiji (Cyberwit, co-written with Sally Brunk), i have been warned not to write about this (Main Street Rag), and The Many Lives of It (McFarland).

SERVE

by Akua Lezli Hope


via GIPHY



Her smirk
not a quirk
an expressive face that moves
knows the dance in a glance
an intellectual twerk
displays the staunch resilience
of the endowed but denied
civility’s proprieties
resistance to a jerk
who made exchange real work
those demeaned, those denied
who manage but won’t hide
constraints placed on contempt
silence endless drumbeats to genuflect
accommodate, excuse, cow-tow
duck and shamble, indulge the ruse —
all ignored in the arch of her brow
skew of her lips, pursed
and parsed along the narrow band
of behavior deemed seemly
she could not unmean what she meant
nor unintend the message sent, she would
proffer her passion extolling another
yet not relent and we, her many
cousins laugh and apprehend this
semiotic vent, who know well
the sly, deliberate tell
 
 
Akua Lezli Hope is a creator and wisdom seeker who uses sound, words, fiber, glass, metal, and wire to create poems, patterns, stories, music,  sculpture, and peace.  A third generation New Yorker, her honors include the NEA, two NYFAs, SFPA, Rhysling and Pushcart Prize nominations.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

LAST CHANCE TO REMEMBER

by KP Liles


United States Post Office, Miami FL, 1922 Photo by William Arthur Fishbaugh,1873-1950


You could vote
and laugh
with dragonfire force.

You could mail letters, 
medicine, the Hope Diamond,
at the Post Office.

You could dine out
indoors. You could visit
splendid national parks.

You could chat
or argue with neighbors
then shake hands afterward.

You could travel
anywhere you could afford.
If you were Black,

Muslim, or loved someone
counter to expectations, 
you could

prove greater joy.
You could imagine. 
You could hear more

than one voice, one name
night and day, in print, 
onscreen, on-air 

or in dreams.
You could feel
faith’s traction.

We had global foods.
Unlimited entertainment.
Such glorious sport—

you’d start cheering
at “land of the free...”
That crowd’s roar!

You could give children
roof, ice cream, ambition
and sleep well for it.

More or less everything
was possible
if you could believe.


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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

THIS IS NOT NORMAL

by Jeremy Nathan Marks 




I will not forget what happened earlier today/last night/yesterday/
last week/last month/last year/this past decade 

I will not un-hear “I can’t breathe” I will not un-see “I can’t breathe”
Now I can hardly mouth “take a knee” 

I will not overlook the seizing of children from the arms 
of their mothers and their fathers at the border
met with a jacket that said, I really don’t care do u?

I will not pretend there was no Merrick Garland 
Birtherism, “Lock Her Up,” “Commie,” “Monster” 
and “Nasty Woman” 

I won’t overlook Access Hollywood and Charlottesville 
Muslim Bans and “Stand Back/Stand By”

I do recall Russia, Ukraine, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn
William Barr, the emoluments clause, impeachment and tax returns

I won’t forget “Send Her Back” or ignore all those phoney words of outrage 
by Senators and Representatives who now walk in complete lockstep 
playing the country for fools with Judge Barrett and how “he’s learned his lesson” 

I will not un-see the Second Lady of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
accosted buying groceries, called the n-word because she’s of color 

I cannot reconcile how Covid became a “blessing from God” 
because the right man contracted it at a hugging party for a judicial coup d’état 

This is not normal
none of this is normal 
there is more to democracy
than just the news cycle
There is the world 
and our place in it 
there is a country, burning
This is not normal 


Jeremy Nathan Marks lives in London, Ontario. New work appears this fall in So It Goes, Boog City, Unlikely Stories, The Journal of Expressive Writing, The Last Leaves, Chiron Review, Dissident Voice, Ginosko, and Bewildering Stories

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

HUMPTY DUMP T

by Mickey J. Corrigan


A microscopic view of 293T cells derived from embryonic kidneys, which several companies are using to develop Covid-19 therapies. The treatment for Covid-19 received by Mr. T***p—a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies he described as a “cure” in a celebratory video posted on Twitter—was developed using human cells derived from a fetus aborted decades ago. Photo credit: Juan Mabromata/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images via The New York Times, October 8, 2020


I wasn't born yesterday
I wasn't born at all
sacrificed for the future
sacrificed on the steel table
a precious budding knot
of unfolding potential
of stem cells used
to create the line
to create the path
to saving human lives

not mine I was just 
enough for the 293T
enough for the Per.C6
cells from the laboratory
cells from the dark years 
in secret dingy rooms
brave men in white coats
brave women in masks
brave enough to help
young girls weeping
salty ocean tears, all
in fear for their future
in fear for their lives
I didn't have one

so decades later—
decades of growth
decades of greed
decades of bloat—
he could be saved
he could live on
breathless and hardened
fat egg that won't break
perched on a wall of power
on a balcony above us
casting aspersions and lies
with elite impunity
with no responsibility
no respect for ideals
the common good 
I gave my life for

what he disregards—
laws made to be broken
laws like offshore trawlers
laws to be scoffed at—
lives cut short by whim
lives cut short by him
but not his
life

saved by others' sacrifices 
like mine
like yours


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 self. Grandma Moses Press will publish the poetry chapbook Florida Man later this year. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

JUMP

 by T. R. Poulson




   for Eddie Van Halen


When I think of punches
I think of unrealized 
dreams and a concert, way back
in 1984, those numbers in lights against
the dark. We could only record
it in our minds. Eddie riffed like a machine

except no machine
could have held its own, punch
for punch, with him. Those songs from records
made even better with so many fans, really
getting into it, hands in the air, hands against
hands, girlfriends held up on the backs

of shoulders. Mom bought us tickets way back
in the seats, safe from those machine-
like fans on the Minidome turf—against
my will. I thought I’d taken my punches
by then, was ripe for real
lessons in love. For the record,

I was a kid, too young even to record
a first kiss or palm on the small of my back.
“I’ll Wait,” I sang, and willed it to be real,
always impatient with the machine
that was time. I believed love had no punches,
just a “Pretty Woman” winning against

mean girls, but what mean girls? Us against
them? Those riffs, both recorded
and live, erased all life’s punches
rendered us all, one of us. I want to go back,
to find a time machine
that will take me away from the real

of today, to the rose-colored real
of then. I want to fight against
the way we inflict pain like a machine
I want to stop and record
that first palm on my back.
This time, I would throw the right punches.

Roll with the punches, get 
to what’s real. I got my back 
against the record machine.


T. R. Poulson, a University of Nevada Alum and proud Wolf Pack fan, lives in San Mateo, California.  A previous contributor to The New Verse News, her work has also appeared in other journals, including Booth, Rattle, The Meadow, The Raintown Review, J Journal, Verdad, and Trajectory.

PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

by Juditha Dowd


Moon Behind the Oak, a photograph by Alinore Rose


Instead I watched the moon. I watched the moon climb up
the branches of the Rosenbauers’ oak and lift off into open sky.
By then a few stars and planets had pierced the urban night,
their sparkle suggesting forward movement as I viewed them
alone from our porch—it seemed they were headed somewhere.
Soon I was so caught up in thinking about their voyage
I forgot about the frost and the ruined tomatoes and the ruin
of where we’re headed here on earth, driven by barking dogs.
Is it better now that we understand the stars? Was it easier to believe
that all is preordained and all we need to do is bow our heads
and go along? I watched the moon find the windows of every house
on our block. Same moon, same light. I watched until it crested
and fell down our hill toward the college. Then there was nothing
to do but go back in.
 

Juditha Dowd’s latest book is Audubon’s Sparrow (Rose Metal Press, 2020).

AS THIS ELECTION APPROACHES, I PUT MY THOUGHTS IN SMALL PLACES

by Penelope Scambly Schott




The green birdhouse
has a high tin roof

The green birdhouse
hangs crooked on the fence

The green birdhouse
has a hole and a perch

but I am too heavy
to perch on the perch

and I am too wide
to squeeze through the hole

and look, the birdhouse
is packed with sticks

which is why I can’t hide
in the green birdhouse 


Penelope Scambly Schott is a past recipient of the Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Her newest book is On Dufur Hill, poems about the cycle of the year in a small wheat-growing town.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

OCTOBER 12: INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY

by Sister Lou Ella




am i too white to mourn with you
Indigenous Peoples
of the terror my people
created in your lives  your nations
of the wound you still carry
a weariness called so slow to trust
yet
what if my people never came
would today look like today
we are here     
this complicated now
would that it be simple
but it was simple then
                     as terror is always simple
for we came   we saw    we conquered
yet we are here today
complicated  costly
as we, too, carry a wound
the terror we refuse to see and mourn


Sister Lou Ella is a former teacher and librarian. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines such as America, First Things, Emmanuel, Third Wednesday, and TheNewVerse.News as well as in four anthologies: The Night’s Magician: Poems about the Moon, edited by Philip Kolin and Sue Brannan Walker, Down to the Dark River edited by Philip Kolin, Secrets edited by Sue Brannan Walker, and After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events edited by Tom Lombardo. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2017. Her first book of poetry entitled she: robed and wordless was published in 2015. (Press 53.)

Saturday, October 10, 2020

I TAKE NOTES

by Maria Lisella




I take notes … 

… on my iPhone as if it were a reporter’s notebook, efficient and cool.
Detached, my voice raises itself to inquire to questions I already know the answers to, skull-filed so many decades ago for future reference.

Reams of notes record incidents: calls to 911, a tossed chair, hunger strikes, “behavioral” issues they call them, I surmise when he can no longer tolerate

The cinderblock walls, the fenced-in windows, the odors of bleach and Pine Sol and alcohol, the wails and wants of other residents looking for a way home.

This time I even suggest sedation, but before that, attention.

In this pandemic his thwarted life has shrunk to Lilliputian size—no socializing in the  halls, no dance or music classes or current events discussions—no smoking on the deck on cool nights.

Just this: a metal-framed cot-like bed with his poppy-printed gleeful sheets he received for Christmas to remind him he is special after all.

Apart from the rest, for he gets company and kisses and snacks and cigars, jeans and peanuts, Irish Spring soap and coconut shampoo.

He smells like a tropical breeze, is clean and fresh all day long.

He withdraws from the halls to the sounds of the Greek language as his blind fingers make love to Alexa and he mouths the words of a country he dreams of but will never see.


Maria Lisella is the recipient of a Poet Laureate Fellowship from the American Academy of Poets; she co-curates the Italian American Writers Association readings and is a travel writer by trade.

CHEMICAL WARFARE

 by Gil Fagiani





Introduction: Hallucinations, defined as the perception of an object or event (in any of the five senses) in the absence of an external stimulus, are experienced by patients with conditions that span several diagnoses but most often show up in those suffering from schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorders. This poem is based on such a patient.


Richmond Center for Rehabilitation, Staten Island
 

I’m affected by the crisis of terrorism. I don’t want to put a burden on you, but I have a burden on me. The staff here is mean and sneaky, and uses laser guns to shoot poisonous chemicals in my room. They are immigrants who come from the countries that President T***p says export terrorism. The smells are powerful and cause my nose to be stuffed. The staff is aggressive, and if I say anything to defend myself, they write me up. That means I lose my privilege to order Chinese food on Friday night! The director says I talk over her and refuses to speak with me. If I complain to the other staff members, they say I’m “popping shit” and try to frame me. Look at my record: I’ve never bothered anybody here. The only one who understands me is my social worker. I’m having some lucha—struggle—with the poisonous gas and smoke in my room. I could use a garlic necklace and a water pistol filled with holy water. I’m forced to leave the toilet unflushed and my bathroom door open. This way, the smell of my waste products can block out the poisonous smells. I’ve seen homeless people in subway tunnels burn fires to get rid of poisonous smells. I’m trying to get in contact with organizations like Greenpeace, the Greek Orthodox Church, Amnesty International, and Jews for Jesus—to ask for help.
 

Gil Fagiani (1945-2018) was a translator, essayist, short-story writer, and poet. He  published six books of poetry including his Connecticut Trilogy: Stone Walls, Chianti in Connecticut, Missing Madonnas; as well as his collections Logos, A Blanquito in El Barrio, and Rooks; plus three chapbooks, Crossing 116th Street, Grandpa’s Wine, and Serfs of Psychiatry. 

Friday, October 09, 2020

WE CAN STILL DREAM

by Katherine West


American Dream, mixed media in resin artwork by Raphael Mazzucco.


            "I have a dream... we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."  —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1963


Last night I dreamed of rain
It overflowed the culverts 
It washed out the road in waves 
Like a sea in the desert 

It filled the arroyos like a lover 
Or the tide before love the opening 
Before the opening the flower 
Dreaming of the bee dreaming 

Of pollen generations of honey 
The wealth of the hive 
And the queen humming 
Her birth song of infinite flight 

Over a globe of no boundaries 
One garden all colors 
A palette of rainy territories 
Mixing new shades forgetting borders 


Katherine West is the author of three collections of poetry and one novel: Scimitar Dreams, The Bone Train, Riddle, and Lion Tamer, respectively.  She has had poetry published in Bombay Gin, Lalitamba, Tanka Journal, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, and TheNewVerse.News who nominated her poem "And Then the Sky" for a Pushcart Prize in 2019.  She lives in the mountains outside of Silver City, New Mexico where she translates Mexican revolutionary poetry and creates custom, hand-made poetry chapbooks.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

ST. PETER'S PENCE



Edmund Conti is as old as the hills and older than the candidates.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

by Peggy Landsman


 

To be a Jew
has little to do
with you,
who you are,
what you believe in.
 
To be a Jew
has everything to do
with the world…
 
Is it big enough
for us
to live in?

 
Peggy Landsman is the author of a poetry chapbook, To-wit To-woo (Foothills Publishing). Her work has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including The Muse Strikes Back (Story Line Press), Breathe: 101 Contemporary Odes (C&R Press), Nasty Women Poets (Lost Horse Press), Mezzo Cammin, The Ekphrastic Review, and a previous issue of The New Verse News. She lives in South Florida where she swims in the warm Atlantic Ocean every chance she gets.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

KAKISTOCRACY

by Susan Terris




THE ONLY WAY TO WRITE ABOUT THIS IS TO USE ALL
CAPS FOR THE RAGE I FEEL ABOUT HAVING A GOVERNMENT
 
FILLED WITH INLAWS. EX-LOBBYISTS, STOOGES AND A PRESIDENT
WHO IS UNQUALIFIED FOR THE JOB. IT’S THE WORST OF
 
THE WORST. My husband, who has left this world, used 
to say what we needed as a president was not 
 
a politician but a businessman. I may have to dig under
the birch tree to find his ashes and try to tell them 
 
just how wrong he was.


Susan Terris’ recent books are Familiar Tense (Marsh Hawk) 2019; Take Two: Film Studies (Omnidawn) 2017, Memos (Omnidawn) 2015; and Ghost of Yesterday: New & Selected Poems (Marsh Hawk) 2012. She's the author of 7 books of poetry, 17 chapbooks, 3 artist's books, and one play.  Journals include The Southern Review, Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, and Ploughshares. A poem of hers appeared in Pushcart Prize XXXI. A poem from Memos was in Best American Poetry 2015. Her newest chapbook is Dream Fragments, which won the 2019 Swan Scythe Press Award. Ms. Terris is editor emerita of Spillway Magazine and a poetry editor at Pedestal.