Guidelines



Submission Guidelines: Send unpublished poems in the body of an email (NO ATTACHMENTS) to nvneditor[at]gmail.com. No simultaneous submissions. Use "Verse News Submission" as the subject line. Send a brief bio. No payment. Authors retain all rights after 1st-time appearance here. Scroll down the right sidebar for the fine print.

Monday, August 02, 2021

THE FISH ROTS

by Bruce Bennett

“Since when do Republicans care more about criminals in jail than the cops who put them there? Since when do they coddle domestic terrorists? Since Donald T***p. A new report in The Daily Beast shows how the fish rots from the big orange head.” —Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, July 31, 2021


How many hurt? How many dead? 
How many at that rotten core? 
The fish rots from the big orange head. 
 
How many let themselves be led 
by what they rightly should abhor? 
How many hurt? How many dead? 
 
What was it that he did and said? 
What is it that they now ignore? 
The fish rots from the big orange head. 
 
Who should have been in jail instead 
of causing riots most deplore? 
How many hurt? How many dead? 
 
How long are we to suffer dread 
as he pursues his sick, sick war? 
The fish rots from the big orange head 
 
Whose stink continues still to spread 
through regions none can now restore. 
How many hurt? How many dead? 
The fish rots from the big orange head! 


Bruce Bennett is the author of ten books of poetry and more than thirty poetry chapbooks. His most recent full-length book is Just Another Day in Just Our Town: Poems New and Selected, 2000-2016 (Orchises Press, 2017). He was a co-founder and served as an editor of the literary journals Field and Ploughshares. From 1973 until his retirement in 2014, he taught Literature and Creative Writing at Wells College, and is now Emeritus Professor of English. In 2012 he was awarded a Pushcart Prize.

GASLIGHTS

by Jeremy Nathan Marks


Above: In a scene from Gaslight (1944), Brian (Joseph Cotton) demonstrates to Paula (Ingrid Bergman) that her husband has been lying to her in an attempt to drive her crazy. It is the title of this drama that gives us the word that describes the Big Trumplican Lies. 


We need mo’ body armor, Mo
We need the Man on the line, Jim
Andrew, the Shaman says he used Carlson
Wagonlit to book his trip which is proof that
 
It was a tourist visit.
 
Kevin says, Elise, you take it
610,000 examples and it’s up to you
to suggest each one’s fakin’ it
 
We’re setting up an audit
and they’re all gonna turn up
in the same valley of dry bones
where Ezekiel hid the ballots  
Tucker and Laura gonna move the jam
while Sean will provide cover 
urging our supporters to get
 
The jab.  


Jeremy Nathan Marks lives in Canada. Recent work appears/is appearing in As It Ought To Be, Unlikely Stories, Bluepepper, The Journal of Expressive Writing, Sledgehammer Lit, The Pangolin Review, Every Day Fiction, Ginosko Review, Dissident Voice, 365 Tomorrows, and New Reader Magazine. His full length collection Fat Dogs and Amorous Insects is being published by Alien Buddha Press this fall. 

Sunday, August 01, 2021

ANY QUESTIONS?

by Clyde Always




Beware “the Delta”—COVID’s spawn
and, coming soon : “the Epsilon”
(Cyrillic once the Grecian’s gone).
  So, be you willing-to or not,
  you’ll get your monthly booster shot.
 
But, if the needle makes you flinch,
then drop your muzzle just an inch
and brace to feel the slightest pinch…
  Bi-weekly this procedure goes:
  we jam a Q-tip up your nose.
 
If still ill-motives you presume
we’ll lock you in a padded room
where daily lectures via ZOOM
  we hope may help you yet to learn
  your health’s our only real concern.


Clyde Always is an accomplished cartoonist, poet, painter, novelist and Vaudevillian entertainer. His writings and/or illustrations have been printed in the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Light, Slackjaw, Scarfff Comics, etc. etc. You can see his storytelling act, live and in-person, any Friday evening, at the Scott Street Labyrinth in San Francisco, CA.

D IS FOR DELTA

by Mary K O'Melveny




In math, Delta means change.
An isosceles triangle points the way
to changes in quantity:

  more sick
  more hospital beds
  more ventilators
  more dead
  more masks
  more six foot limits:
    apart from each other
    down in the ground.
 
Changes as in differences in.
  As in:
    yesterday there was reason to hope
    last week we went to a concert
    the airport was full of tourists
  As in:
    the rate of change is significant:
    red lines rise on graphs
    there are no lines of people seeking vaccines
    there are now some lines but not enough.

Changes as in variables.
  As in:
    yesterday I met you at a party
    today I am at the doctor’s office
    tomorrow my family will hold a zoom remembrance.
In science, Delta means a sometimes triangular mass of sediment.     
  As in:
     silt and sand lodged in a river’s mouth
     spit into the sea  or a lake  or a plain
        as in Mississippi    or Okavango   or Kalahari
     tides and waves create sandbars and dendritic silt
        as in the Nile   or the Ganges
     estuaries of brackish water form at the confluence of sea and river
        as in China’s Yellow River.
   Some Deltas become abandoned  
the rivers leave   discard their channels   dry up
   that too denotes movement   change. 
  That change is called avulsion:
    As in:
      the sudden separation of mass from one place to another
      the sudden separation of reason from the brain
      the sudden movement from reality to fantasy.
 
Delta can be a girl’s name:
   books of baby names call it appealing   chic  unique
       fit for a child of grace and distinction.
 This too will change. 


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, July 31, 2021

ICE CREAM ACTIVISM

by Alisha Goldblatt
after “The Emperor of Ice Cream” by Wallace Stevens


Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images via The New York Times.


Lick the sins of countries past,
the thrown stone, and gather your pints
in unbleached paperboard, crisp waffle cones.
Sell hazelnut play on words that
signal virtue and decadence, and
slick the tongue divine, smooth on spoon.
Let slingshots rile the bull market.
The only flavor is a flavor of fear.

In the modern white freezer, vats 
blister thumbs from the plastic scoop
whose spring-back lever neatly cleaves the ice.
The Green state, the Holstein cows, the fourteenth star.
Shirtsleeves cuffed, tough and chocolate stained
to show how cold we are, and numb.
Let the melting be violent and swift. 
The only flavor is the flavor of fear. 


Alisha Goldblatt is an English teacher and writer living in Portland, Maine with her two wonderful children and one lovely husband. She has published poems in the Common Ground Review, Literary Mama, and Burningword Literary Journal, among several others. Alisha writes whenever she can and gets published when she’s lucky. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

DRONING ON & ON & ON

by Art Goodtimes


In 2013, Daniel Hale was at an antiwar conference in D.C. when a man recounted that two family members had been killed in a U.S. drone strike. The Yemeni man, through tears, said his relatives had been trying to encourage young men to leave al-Qaeda. Hale realized he had watched the fatal attack from a base in Afghanistan. At the time, he and his colleagues in Air Force intelligence viewed it as a success. Now he was horrified. It was such experiences, Hale told a federal judge in Alexandria, Va., on Tuesday, that led him to leak classified information about drone warfare to a reporter after leaving the military. “I believe that it is wrong to kill, but it is especially wrong to kill the defenseless,” he said in court. He said he shared what “was necessary to dispel the lie that drone warfare keeps us safe, that our lives are worth more than theirs.” U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady sentenced Hale, 33, of Nashville, to 45 months in prison for violating the Espionage Act, saying his disclosure of documents went beyond his “courageous and principled” stance on drones. —Washington Post, July 27, 2021


Ironically perverse, ’inn’it
that the whistleblower descendant
of our first patriot spy Nathan Hale
who blew up the U.S. drone program
 goes to jail for four years
 
Convicted & sentenced for exposing
to the light of citizen discernment
our American guide to extrajudicial killings
& their collateral
extinguishment of innocents
 
While, feted followed & showered
with speaker fees
Bush Obama Trump Biden
go on being hailed as leaders
given awards
 
But we the people know whatever the hui
as they’d say on Kauai
with a hang-loose flash of the fist
whatever the name of the game
they gotta keep to the Free World's
bipartisan new normal
 
Mass murders on a scale outweighing all recent
incidents of personal gun violence
in the ol’ U.S. of A
 
So, on we go, in spite of lies
insurrections deceptions liberal
cant & fundraising junk mail
 
On & on. Targeting terrorists
in ever-widening circles of definition


Editor’s Note: For more on Daniel Hale, go to: the sparrow project, the intercept, and Stand With Daniel Hale.


Art Goodtimes is a Western Slope poet, former Green elected official, and constituent of Rep. Lauren Boebert in Colorado's Third Congressional.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

ELEGY FOR THE LUNG

by Robert Américo Esnard




The sun streaks a dull rust 
over the Hudson, 
the dusty air shimmers metallic,
and I am overcome 
with awareness of my own blood.
 
I can feel it, not rushing, but crawling,
a slow advance. 
My whole body a fleshy host.
Incredible, 
the small power of a protein 
 
to sustain a whole body: 
to capture, 
to carry, to climb, to clear. 
We, less thankless 
more heedless. I rarely consider:
 
the shape of a fluid forms 
its function.
A tiny shift is enough to poison 
a whole body: 
to capture contagion, to carry 
 
contaminants through the blood. 
A breath of rust 
climbing as the branches burn,
a body overcome,
making a slow advance to dust.


Robert Américo Esnard was born and raised in the Bronx, NY. He studied Linguistics and Cognitive Science at Dartmouth College. His work has been published by or is forthcoming in Alternating Current Press, Alternative Field, Cutbank, Glass, Lunch Ticket, New York Quarterly, and several anthologies. He is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet.

THE MAN AND THE IRONIC LUNG

by Ron Riekki




It’s your coffin now —Sharon Olds, from “Satan Says” 
 

My brother says there is nothing funnier than Steven Crowder 
having a collapsed lung, and I tell him I would never use 
the word “funnier” with Steven Crowder, that only “misery” 
works with that guy, how he supposedly re-created George 
Floyd’s murder by having a guy dressed as a cop lightly 
kneel on his neck and how my brother said he’d like to kneel 
on Crowder’s neck for real, & then a few months later & he has 
a collapsed lung, how fitting, how perfectly fitting, this feeling 
that God is listening, how a thirty-four-year-old doesn’t have 
a collapsed lung from nothing, how divine that intervention is, 
the irony of all the hate that came out of Rush Limbaugh’s lungs, 
how it makes sense that he’d go that way, how words can be 
cancerous, how hate speech affects the lungs, the throat, the heart. 


Ron Riekki co-edited Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice (Michigan State University Press).

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

POEM WITH REPEATED WORD

by Renée M. Schell    




                                    for Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles
 
What if we all practiced saying no?
 
What if every street corner
had a microphone
for the practice of saying no?
 
No, I won’t keep my mouth shut
No, I won’t choose between food and rent
No, I won’t use my body as an ATM to cross a border
 
The no’s would ring out, streaming
like ribbons up and over each other
weaving an ornate shawl
a handmade rebollo
a silk sari
a second-hand skirt
a torn scarf
 
They’d hear No in Amarillo
No in the pueblos of Mexico
No in Iowa,
No in the middle of nowhere,
No in County Kerry
No in the Sahara
No in Angola
No in Afghanistan
 
The microphones would pick
up the tiniest no,
the no of infants,
the no of eight-year-olds,
the no of a mother separated
from her child
at Fort Bliss.
 
How famous
do you have
to be 
for your no
to be
heard?

 
Renée M. Schell’s debut collection Overtones is forthcoming from Tourane Poetry Press. Her poetry appears in Catamaran Literary Reader, Literary Mama, Naugatuck River Review, and other journals. In 2015 she was lead editor for the anthology (AFTER)life: Poems and Stories of the Dead. She holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University and teaches second grade in a diverse classroom in San Jose, CA. 

UNSENT LETTER TO HIDILYN DIAZ, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST

by Jonel Abellanosa




How much more weight
should you lift off our poverty
of belief, how much more heavy lifting
before we know ours is the golden
heart we lost before birth?
 
We pine, nostalgic for the home
we never knew, strangers to our own
archipelago. The beauty we see hidden
in plain sight, stolen long before
we’re old enough to question.
 
Long our memory of plunder,
recall homeless when the monsoon
season rages. We’re too preoccupied
to remember. How much the dearest
question we learn to ask, dear
 
as restless days at a high cost, heaven-high
anxiety we can’t wrap to give our children.
How much, how much more? Enslaved
to more, we open our chests, shocked
our hearts have been stolen.
 
Nor do we have the chest to live by
during months when rain drains all warmth.
How many of us don’t know you emerged
victorious against the heavy burden?
How many of us are still searching
 
for the heart that elsewhere beats
the way living in comfort beats and makes us
hear music, the pursuit of happiness
a birthright equal not just for the few?
For the shortlasting you found our hearts.
 
For a moment
wear it
like a medal
for us
all.


Jonel Abellanosa lives in Cebu City, The Philippines. His poetry and fiction are forthcoming in The Cape Rock and Poetry Salzburg Review and have appeared in hundreds of magazines including The New Verse News, Thin Air, Chiron Review, The Lyric, Poetry Kanto, and The Anglican Theological Review and have been nominated for the Pushcart, Best of the Net and Dwarf Stars prizes. His poetry collections include Songs from My Mind’s Tree and Multiverse (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York), 50 Acrostic Poems (Cyberwit, India), In the Donald’s Time (Poetic Justice Books and Art, Florida), and Pan’s Saxophone (Weasel Press, Texas). He is a nature lover, with three companion dogs, and three other beloved dogs who have passed on beyond the rainbow bridge. He loves all animals. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

THE BOOTLEG FIRE IS CREATING ITS OWN WEATHER

by Francine Witte


As the Bootleg fire in Southern Oregon rages on, the massive wildfire is creating its own weather systems. "The fire is so large and generating so much energy and extreme heat that it's changing the weather. Normally the weather predicts what the fire will do. In this case, the fire is predicting what the weather will do," Marcus Kauffman, a spokesman for the state forestry department, told The New York Times. —EcoWatch. Photo: A pyrocumulus cloud from the Bootleg Fire drifts into the air near Bly, Oregon on July 16, 2021. PAYTON BRUNI / AFP via Getty Images via EcoWatch.


Smokedrift and sunblot
from the fire spreading
like deathpain, the heat
so hot it spins the wind,
pinches lightning out
of the sky. Used to be
the wind would tell
the fire where to go.
 
Here in the east, we watch
the fire on TV. The silhouettes
of houses falling cardlike,
the bare hands of trees reaching up
in useless prayer. The weatherman
tells us the clouds we see
in the New York sky aren’t clouds
but smoke from out west.
 
It makes me think of other weathers,
the ones that weren’t weathers,
the storm of my father leaving so fast
the windows quaked, and then, the quiver
 
of hospitals filling up again, the rain
in the eyes of the left-behind.
The quiet drought of a man,
somewhere, shaking his head
sending the word “hoax” into the
air like a butterfly.
 

Francine Witte’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, and Passages North. Her latest books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press), The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction), and The Theory of Flesh (Kelsay Books). Her chapbook The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (flash fiction) will be published by ELJ in Fall 2021. She is flash fiction editor for Flash Boulevard and The South Florida Poetry Journal. She lives in NYC.

Monday, July 26, 2021

UP UP AND AWAY

by  Judy Juanita


Billionaires space race published July 12, 2021 by Dave Whamond.


Billionaires millionaires the amerikkkan dream
Up, up and away onto the edge of space
Horatio Alger wins again
Rags-to-riches
Poor boy sandwiches
Raggedy Ann dolls
Immigrants in shacks 
Children in cages
We love it all, eh?
Up, up and away
The bigger the better
The farther from the crime scene 
The better. And the edge of space is
The Mall of America.
Opportunity our national anthem
Except except Tulsa in 1920-when? 1921
Black people black dynasties
Black millionaires buying and flying
Their own airplanes
Black businesses black prosperity
And we prostrate ourselves
For a black face on the $20 bill
   Eh?
Ask the black Okies
About the grand downtown they built
Especially for the bombs
Dropped especially on Tulsa

Listen to the sound of bombs
The bombs bursting in air
That Francis Scott Keys conjured
Ask the black Oakies
Then forward to Philly in 1990-what? 
1990-when? 1990-why?
Because a black mayor dropped bombs
On wild haired Ramona Africa 
An American millionaire, no?
Rags to riches, no?
Horatio Alger, no?
MOVE the antithesis of progress
Cleanliness
We, the clean, deodorant-rich country
Watching  televised spectacles 
Little blue-and-white suited people
Blast past the boundary of space as
The richest man in the world
Thanks his wage slaves and customers
For paying for it all

And all is forgiven because why? Because
When the land ran into the Pacific Ocean
Manifest destiny shot into space


Judy Juanita's latest book is Manhattan My Ass, You’re In Oakland,  a collection of poetry. Her semi-autobiographical novel Virgin Soul chronicled a black female coming of age in the 60s who joins the Black Panther Party. Her collection of essays DeFacto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland examines the intersectionality of race, gender, politics, economics and spirituality as experienced by a black activist and self-described "feminist foot soldier." The collection was a distinguished finalist in Ohio State University's 2016 Non/Fiction Collection Prize. Her seventeenth play, “Theodicy,” about two black men who accidentally fall into the river of death, won first runner-up of 186 plays in the Eileen Heckart 2008 Senior Drama Competition at Ohio State University.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE NEW YORKER CARTOONS?

by Earl J. Wilcox


From the current issue of The New Yorker. 


Once, they were not just cutting edge,
They were the edge. Timely, clever,
Witty, observant of contemporary politics,
Our mores (for better or worse)—
Fresh, unique, without peers in other
Mags. (I could go on listing adjectives
Suggesting their demise, but you get the point.)
 
Was it the pandemic? A change in editors at
The storied mag? Perhaps all the good cartoonists
Died or became so out of touch or old or both
They no longer know what’s funny and what’s
Just a quaint take on our times.  I long for a return
To those good old days when The New Yorker 
Made me smile out loud at least three times
Each week. Or is it just me?
 
When did I stop seeing humor in politics and people,
In our pain and our poignant moments, our sass,
In all that’s worth seeing in human nature, even
Occasionally cruel jesting at our sores and warts,
our meanness. So many sexy innuendoes in those
Cartoons one could publish a book (as the mag’s
Editors have done several times over!) Such
Terrific and precious or precocious punch lines.
Is such pleasure taken from us forever?
Is this the way the world may end, not
With a SHAZAM but a New Yorker
Cartoon blaaah?
 
 
Earl Wilcox discovered The New Yorker cartoons about seven decades ago.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

DISTANT WILDFIRES

by Geoffrey A. Landis


The map above, based on modeling from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows how the smoke from Western wildfires spread across the country. —The New York Times, July 21, 2021


High in the sky
the gibbous moon blushes pink—
distant wildfires.


Geoffrey A. Landis is a poet, science-fiction writer and scientist. His poetry appears in places from ArtCrimes to The Year’s Best Fantasy, and he is the author of two poetry collections: Iron Angels from VanZeno Press and The Book of Whimsy from NightBallet. In his spare time, he fences épée, because he likes to stab strangers with a sword.

PRAYER AGAINST HEALING

by Liz Ahl


A satellite view of the Bootleg Fire burning in Oregon last week.Credit: NOAA, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, CIRA via The New York Times.

 
While flash floods hurl  
muddy torrents elsewhere, 
this NYC-sized fire lets loose  
its own brand of torrent,  
floods the drought-dried mountains 
with its hungry spill. 
 
I broadcast a cruel variant  
of prayer: that the destruction  
wreaked by the last big fires 
is still stark moonscape enough  
to refuse this newest ravaging;  
 
that the forest hasn’t recovered enough yet, 
that the masochistic cheatgrass  
hasn’t sprung up enough in between  
the skeletal remains of the trees,  
that the Winter Ridge—awful wish!
might still be more barren wound than healed;  
that it can’t offer enough fuel yet  
to carry such a conflagration further 
or to deliver its blazing deluge all the way 
to the shrinking shores of the lakes 
or, somehow, beyond. 
 
That we won’t have to wait or pray 
for the too-late balm of October rains.  
 
That this ongoing ruin  
might have some use against itself. 
 

Liz Ahl is the author of Beating the Bounds (Hobblebush Books, 2017), as well as several chapbooks of poetry. Much of her recent published work was composed or revised during visits to the Playa Artist Residency Program, on the shore of Summer Lake, currently threatened by the Bootleg fire. She lives in Holderness, New Hampshire.

Friday, July 23, 2021

A LESSON IN PASSIVE VOICE

by Lauren Haynes




The Capitol was breached while I  
taught preteens the art of  
language, to bend and  
provoke, to  
evade and  
slice.  
The order of a sentence and its  
implications. The difference between  
“The letter was mailed to me by my grandparents.” and  
“My grandparents mailed the letter to me.”  
Inconsequential until remote learning tabs to  
the real world.  
Miss, they say,  
the offices of high-ranking members  
of Congress were entered.  
Miss, they say,  
the American flag was removed and replaced:  
MAKE AMERICA                              AGAIN.  
A bomb was planted.  
A coup was staged.  
Where is the subject?  
Miss, they say,  
Who is doing the action?  


Lauren Haynes holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Western Kentucky University and has been an English teacher for years.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

NEW SHEPARD

by Monica Mills




the billionaire space race
is one without a finish line.
space tourists auction star
costs, haggle down heaven,
as latitude chokes the poor.
on supersonic joyrides white
collars pray greed into hemisphere.
on Earth oceans thrash aflame.
souls without homes look for sky.
find smog. find dollar signs
disguised as constellations.
the shepherd is a wolf. steals the herd.
no scapegoats are leashed
in fields of crumbling infrastructure.
rampant thistles, dandelions,
leeches of the grain root deep
into soil and call themselves farmers. 


Monica Mills is a Jamaican-American writer and poet. She is from Maplewood, New Jersey and has a bachelor’s degree in political science and English from Rutgers University. Monica’s work appears in journals such as The West Trade Review, The Anthologist, The Normal Review, and The Quiver Review among others. She enjoys rainy days and ginger tea. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL 2.0

by Paul Smith

Cartoon by Nick Anderson.


Amid a widening partisan divide over coronavirus vaccination, most Republicans have either stoked or ignored the flood of misinformation reaching their constituents and instead focused their message about the vaccine on disparaging President Biden, characterizing his drive to inoculate Americans as politically motivated and heavy-handed. —The New York Times, July 20, 2021


O beautiful for spacious skies
America I speak no lies
Although I wish no harm to none
He who holds his arm back
dies
 
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
that tread upon the soil that’s blue
a thoroughfare
for arms that ache
while you over there
vacillate
prevaricate
until
real soon
it’s just too late
 
You who claim our fruited plain
is really red
and complain
and caterwaul
that this hoax is live
and science is dead
woe be to you
in twenty-two
 
You’re going to those halcyon skies
twice as fast as us guys
your electorate
is shrinking faster
than a speeding myth
count the votes
do the math
your crimson retreats
are no longer alabaster
 
In twenty twenty two or four
there will be more of us than you
your votes have shrunk
so go get drunk
and raise a toast
two years hence
or maybe four
our purple mountains
will all be blue
sad but true
sad for you
your selfish gain no longer stains
from coast to plain to turquoise coast


Paul Smith is a civil engineer who has worked in the construction racket for many years. He has traveled all over the place and met lots of people. Some have enriched his life. Others made him wish he or they were all dead. He likes writing poetry and fiction. He also likes Newcastle Brown Ale. If you see him, buy him one. His poetry and fiction have been published in Convergence, Packingtown Review, Literary Orphans, TheNewVerse.News, and other lit mags.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

TOXIC REDUX

by Diane Elayne Dees


Video: Britney Spears’ full opening testimony during her conservatorship hearing. She speaks directly to Judge Brenda Penny and asks her to end the conservatorship.


“I want to feel heard, and I’m telling you this again so maybe you can understand the depth and the degree and the damage that they did to me... ” —Britney Spears


Hysteria was said to be cured 
by having sex. Or giving birth. 
Or having the Devil cast out
of a woman’s body.
Or being touched by magnetic hands.
Or hanged from a tree until dead.

“Don’t worry your pretty head, take this pill”—
and they danced as fast as they could,
then wound up shaking and quivering
in hospital rooms, sweating in bedrooms, 
and dazed in the dark rooms inside their heads.

“No one did that to you—the therapist put it
in your head.” 
“It’s your imagination.” 
“Why would you say those things about our family?”
“Stop acting like a child.”

Crazy women make good stories, 
good movies, good punchlines, 
good alibis.

You can drug them, wind them up, 
watch them dance, and steal their money.
All you need is a judge, a doctor, a lawyer,
some nurses, and the right genitalia.

The court declared you a protector—
of a mind, a uterus, a woman.
But crazy women everywhere know
that what is protected 
are your bank account,
your delusions, and your secret desire
to cast the Devil out of all of us.


Diane Elayne Dees is the author of the chapbook Coronary Truth (Kelsay Books) and two forthcoming chapbooks. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana, also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women's professional tennis throughout the world.

Monday, July 19, 2021

AS EMPATHY FAILED

by Imogen Arate


Cartoon by Nate Beeler (Cagle Cartoons) via Tulsa World.


Let them face the insecurity of not knowing 
if home will remain haven 
in the hours separating dawn and dusk
Let them taste the bitter metal of cruelty
that tosses life into uncertainty
while hiding behind secured gates
Let them be exposed without retreat
to ready canines famished for sinking
into the bleeding of abused flesh

As empathy could not sway
the concrete heart
let them be cast into the weight
of lead shoes drowning 
without fail in the muck 
below the azure of waterlines

Let the stirring chaos made
by unsympathetic hands
swallow their owners 
into the whirlwind they 
conjured with others in mind

Let this ouroboros birthed
in ill intent latch onto
its diseased umbilical tail 
and ensnare those who
envisioned its callous trap
in its tightening coil


Imogen Arate is an award-winning Asian-American poet and writer and the Executive Producer and Host of Poets and Muses, a weekly poetry podcast that won second place at National Federation of Press Women's 2020 Communications Contest. She proudly hails from an immigrant family whose previous undocumented status and associated economic burdens nearly robbed her the opportunity to pursue higher education.  She has written in four languages and published in two. Her works were most recently published on the Global Vaccine Poem Project and Documented Experiences and in The Opiate. You can find her @PoetsandMuses on Twitter and Instagram.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

CLICKING

by Sari Grandstaff




Sari Grandstaff is a high school librarian. Her work has been published in many print and online journals including The New Verse News, Prune Juice, and Modern Haiku. Sari and her husband are weathering out their storms in the Catskill Mountains/Mid-Hudson Valley of New York State. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

A SATURDAY MATINEE OF SELECTED SHORT SUBJECTS


BILLIONAIRE SPACE(KU) DEUX
by Scott C. Kaestner


Cartoon by Marian Kamensky Tweeted by Advaid അദ്വൈത് @Advaidism, July 14, 2021. 


(1)
Shoot them into space
And redistribute their wealth
To heal our planet

(2)
Orbit the greedy
To build a brighter future 
For all of us here


Scott C. Kaestner is a Los Angeles poet, writer, dad, husband, and forgetful mind magician who can’t find the rabbit or his hat. Google ‘scott kaestner poetry’ to peruse his musings and doings.






In a Nutshell
by Melissa Balmain


“Big Jake, the World’s Tallest Horse, Dies in Wisconsin” 
USA TodayJuly 6, 2021.

“Untethered to reality, T***p lies over and over about the 2020 election at CPAC” 
CNN, July 12, 2021.


The biggest horse is sadly dead and gone.
And yet, the biggest horse’s ass lives on.


Melissa Balmain edits Light, America's longest-running journal of comic poetry. Her newest book of verse is The Witch Demands a Retraction: Fairy Tale Reboots for Adults (Humorist Books).




Ohtani of Oz
by Earl J. Wilcox



 
No hidden  smoke screens
No sticky stuff  in his glove
He pitches. Then hits. Bam!
 
 
Earl Wilcox—amazed at Ohtani’s wizardry—lives in South Carolina.


Friday, July 16, 2021

MORTALITY EVENT

by Erin Murphy


Scientists Still Searching for the Pathogen Behind the East's Songbird Epidemic: In a new report, experts ruled out a range of causes, but they still recommend taking down feeders until the source of the disease is identified. —Audubon, July 8, 2021. Photo: A young Blue Jay admitted to the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center in Virginia with an unknown illness. Credit: Blue Ridge Wildlife Center via Audubon.


Songbirds stumble,  
crusty eyes gunked shut  
with conjunctivitis.  
 
Out of an abundance  
of caution, we remove  
feeders where they cluster  
 
like us to cluck about  
the latest scuttlebutt.  
Hands gloved, we dump  
 
the double-bagged dead,  
muttering that it’s redundant.  
We who have too much  
 
do not fund hungry children  
but grumble when unable  
to fuss over cardinals  
 
in lush gardens. We suffer  
from an abundance  
of abundance. 


Erin Murphy’s latest book, Human Resources, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Diode, The American Journal of Poetry, Southern Poetry Review, The Georgia Review, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and elsewhere. Her awards include the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, The Normal School Poetry Prize, and a Best of the Net award. She is Poetry Editor of The Summerset Review and Professor of English at Penn State Altoona.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

REFLECTION

by Greer Gurland


Mike Hoffman, 27, was ejected from a Jeep and killed by a drunk driver in New Hampshire Tuesday afternoon, authorities said. Photo Credit: Facebook/Mike Hoffman —Middlesex Daily Voice, July 7, 2021.


When I woke today, someone had died.
A driver drunk. 
The car rolled over and the others are alive, 
but not the son of the gym teacher.
Mr, Hoffman.
Mr. Hoffman does not write poetry or songs
far as I know.
He’s not Shakespeare but who's to say 
who loved more? 
What will he do now? What will he do?
I know. Be still 
kinder to the children. 
He will eek it out, give more, and mark 
the joy in open eyes. The rain will cover 
the windows covered with metal bars
but not enough. 
So funny, but before that, during the night, 
I spoke of my parents 
in the past tense
as if to convince myself I will survive.


Author's Note: Mr. Hoffman is a teacher at my son’s new school which serves kids with special needs. Although I have yet to meet Mr. Hoffman, I can tell from the staff’s grief that Mr. Hoffman is beloved.


Greer Gurland is a graduate of Harvard College (‘91) where she was Managing Editor of The Harvard Advocate and lucky enough to study with Seamus Heaney. She recently returned to writing and earned her MFA. She has two chapbooks: It Just So Happens …Poems to Read Aloud (Finishing Line Press 2018) and In the crowded future (Finishing Line Press 2021). Most recently, Greer was a finalist for the Moon City Book Prize.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

IN FIVE STEPS: THE ROUTE TO ESCAPE MARTYRDOM

by A. C.




1.     Do Not Mourn. Especially faces who have long endured
old style glass frames in spectacles. Glasses foraying into
the future, your uv tinted ones can never hope to testify
about. Vision for the sake of the land forsaken kind.
‘Deprived of rights over natural resources’ kind.
 
2.     Do Not Hope. For the Mahars (you are allowed to read
the fine print spelled D-A-L-I-T) to be commemorated
in reverence of plaques. For the girl whose soul may still
giving their lives to see they live or die a notch better.
For the law to be your friend. Or for anything that may
well feed your spine. With the contraband fruit of justice.

3.     Do Not Plead Not Guilty. You are, for the matter. Guilty
of unlawful actions unheard and unseen of. Till one evening
men and women in uniform storm your doors, seizing you
by the collar. Or wait till you survive the guilt
once your child points at the face of an old grandfather
permeating all over the news.
Let them ask you then, “aren’t we taught to respect our
Elders”?
 
4.     Do Not Feel Shame. For watching over typed phrases, statements
and words supposed to inform you. Of an octogenarian’s contraction
of something the world understands as pandemic. But within custody
of course, disease runs trivial. What’s Parkinson's anyway?
Just another condition, neurodivergent, doesn’t kill eh!
So, up to you to believe or refuse if the octogenarian
had his share of sippers, straw, medicine and treatment
in custody! Lucky if you believe, sad if you do not!
 
5.     Do Not Think. Let your cognitive power focus upon
your yoga sessions, parallel world of a post pandemic vision.
Trips to catch up, the how to of a self-reliant nation. Who cares?
of UNDP rants on sustainable development, inclusivity of the
indigenous population? There are governments for that, honest
and fair. Meanwhile sleep peacefully, Human Rights often fear
the ivory towers.


Author's Note: Father Stanislaus Lourduswamy breathed his last in judicial/government custody after spending his entire life working for the uplifting of the Adivaasi community in India (especially in Jharkhand). He prepared a report titled ‘Deprived of Rights Over Natural Resources’ highlighting the plight of the Adivaasi landless population. He had been implicated in a case under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) still pending in court and kept in jail despite his age and other pre-existing health conditions. His death in custody speaks volume of the present situation of democratic dissent/treatment in the country.


A. C. writes from India. Her work has appeared in The Alipore Post, Life and Legends Journal, and elsewhere. She has been a contributor in an anthology titled Narratives On Women’s Issues In India: Vol 1 Domestic Violence published by the IHRAF, New York and a global feminist anthology, Looking Glass Anthology Vol. 2

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

PYROCENE THIS TIME

by Corey Weinstein

 


Nowhere winds bluster cloudless skies
blistering skins of rattle-windowed homes,
The parched air bites through wilted gardens,
Dry lightning judges the boiling world,
Heaven’s fiery tongues crackle the air
that booms the world without drenching grace,
Bestowing 8,000 square mile conflagrations,
Gaia’s retribution for dragging incendiaries
up from her breast with mine and pump,
Ripping off mountain tops, greasing her fissures,
Terra not Firma shakes our foundations.
 
Who is this people, these fire starters
that bespoil their nest and neighbor’s land?
In bands they were heroes of ice time survival
in pleasant harmony with their birthing world,
Now their fires are hidden in machines,
Personal aluminum hundred horse teams.
              Firepower unbound
                              Industrial pyro-pathologies
 Burning day and night
                      Blind to deluge and drought
                 Billions          Coal
     Tons             Gallons               Gas
           Billions     Daily     Billions!    
                Unimaginable bounty
                  Essential inferno.
 
A world melting into a grandchild’s future.


Corey Weinstein is a retired physician whose poetry has been published in Vistas and Byways, The New Verse News, Forum, and Jewish Currents. He currently attends writing classes at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in San Francisco and hosts their Poetry Circle. Weinstein has also been published in a number of medical/academic publications. He is an advocate for prisoner rights as the founder of California Prison Focus, and he led the American Public Health Association’s Prison Committee for many years. In his free time, he plays the clarinet in a local jazz band.

Monday, July 12, 2021

I SHOULD BE ABLE TO WRITE A PROTEST POEM

by Margaret Rozga


Cartoon by Steve Sack, Star Tribune, July 7, 2021


I should be able to write a poem
about Afghani interpreters being given asylum
or rather not being given asylum, being dangled
the delicate hope of asylum for whatever that is worth.
 
Asylum acquired narrow connotations
as in insane asylum, not a refuge
but a silencing, an abandoning.
 
I should be able to write
with the insistent beat of a heart on fire,
the passion of Whitman’s barbaric yelp,
the precision of an accountant
totaling the debt to be repaid.
 
Airlift Afghani allies to the Field Station
where I write of black-eyed susans
counting their thirteen brilliant petals
flower after flower, utterly dependable.
 
We should. I should. What is power for?
What are words for?
 
If they do not set deeds in motion,
if they do not celebrate good,
if they do not open up space,
if they allow moral failure
if they do not uncover names
of the unnamed who throw up
obstacles to justice,
        then
be forever silent.
 

As 2019-2020 Wisconsin Poet Laureate, Margaret Rozga co-edited the anthology Through This Door: Wisconsin in Poems (Art Night Books, 2020) and the chapbook anthology On the Front Lines / Behind the Lines (pitymilkpress, 2021). Her fifth book of poems is Holding My Selves Together: New and Selected Poems (Cornerstone Press, 2021).

Sunday, July 11, 2021

MELT

by Chad Parenteau

“Heat Check” by Headlines at The Nib, July 8, 2021.


If the earth
is warming

why is there
still ice?

It’s summer.
Leave affairs

to boil on
picnic table.

Why else our
country a pot

if we’re not
to pour in?

Stand ground,
plant feet

in malleable
tar roads.

Cook skin
to bronze,

be own
memorial.


Chad Parenteau hosts Boston's long-running Stone Soup Poetry series. His work has appeared in journals such as Résonancee, Molecule, Cape Cod Poetry Review, Tell-Tale Inklings, Off The Coast, Ibbetson Street, and Wilderness House Literary Review. He is a contributor to Headline Poetry & Press and serves as Associate Editor of the online journal Oddball Magazine. His latest collection The Collapsed Bookshelf was nominated for a Massachusetts Book Award.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

SELECT COMMITTEE

by Claude Clayton Smith


Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announces her appointments to a new select committee to investigate the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 1, 2021. From left are Rep. Elaine Luria, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, Rep. Pete Aguilar, Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Rep. Bennie Thompson. Rep. Liz Cheney also accepted Pelosi's invitation to join the committee. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP via abc news.


A singularity occurs but once in time
and space: the Big Bang, for instance;
 
or at a point of infinite mass density
where gravity distorts such time and space
into the final state of matter as it’s
black hole bound;
.
or when the derivative of a given function
of a complex variable does not exist, but
every neighborhood of which contains points
for which the variable does exist.
 
And now comes a new singularity:
a select committee to investigate
whether a house divided against itself
can stand, or if the point at which all
concepts that give life meaning
become irrelevant.
 

Professor Emeritus of English at Ohio Northern University, Claude Clayton Smith is the author of eight books and co-editor/translator of four others. His own books have been translated into five languages, including Russian and Chinese.

Friday, July 09, 2021

SPACE-TIME DESIRE

by Art Goodtimes


Tweeted by @SciencepornPics


More than the spark
of the 4th’s faux bombardments
 
it’s the dark
with its slow burn
of thousands of nuclear fires
 
that makes me appreciate
the exploding population of stars
that we imitate
 
That all nature mimics
 
This space-time desire
to expand beyond all limits
 
That colors our lives
vermillion and gold
and speeds our demise
as a billionaire species
 
Beautiful
Deadly
Perplexing
 

Art Goodtimes was an Earth First! poetry editor before getting elected to five terms as a Green county commissioner in Southwestern Colorado, where U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Rifle) now represents the Third Congressional district in Congress. Art is co-director of Talking Gourds, a local and regional poetry program under the non-profit aegis of the Telluride Institute.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

A VETERAN POKÉMON GO TRAINER LEAVING BAGRAM, AFGHANISTAN, WRITES HAIKU

by Randy Brown


Digital rodents and abandoned Pokemon presided over the streets of Bagram Airfield on the day news broke that U.S. troops had left the base. All U.S. forces have left Bagram, which for much of the past 20 years was the largest military base in Afghanistan, U.S. defense officials announced Friday. But the animated critters and some of what’s left on base are visible in digitally animated form through the game app Pokemon Go. The game allows players to walk to real-life locations and catch or battle digital monsters, who can be found using the app’s barebones version of Google Maps. Some of the Pokemon left by U.S. soldiers remain at their posts.  —Stars and Stripes, July 2, 2021


1.
at the Pink Palace
our old brigade headquarters
Jigglypuff awaits
 
2.
in a clamshell gym
sweating in treadmill safety
I was Wartortle
 
3.
old Russian minefield
where I caught my Charizard
best day of my war
 
4.
after deployment
I can speak more Pikachu
than I can Pashtu
 
5.
farewell, Poké-stan
we leave you a ghost army
stardust and candies


Randy Brown embedded with his former Iowa Army National Guard unit as a civilian journalist in Afghanistan, May-June 2011. A 20-year veteran with one overseas deployment, he subsequently authored the 2015 poetry collection Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire. He also co-edited the 2019 anthology Why We Write: Craft Essays on Writing War. He is a three-time poetry finalist in the Col. Darron L. Wright Memorial Writing Awards administered by the literary journal Line of Advance. His poetry and non-fiction have appeared widely in print and on-line, including most recently in the graphic anthology True War Stories published by Z2 Comics. As “Charlie Sherpa,” he blogs about modern war poetry at www.fobhaiku.com, and about military-themed writing at www.aimingcircle.org

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

LEFT BEHIND IN AFGHANISTAN

by Tricia Knoll


“Taliban Try to Polish Their Image as They Push for Victory: The insurgents are trying to rebrand themselves as effective governors as they capture new territory. But there is more evidence that they are unreformed.” —The New York Times, July 6, 2021. Photo: Members of the Taliban in Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan last March. Credit: Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times.



American stuff. Artificial Christmas trees. Humvees. 
Boots that mark the Afghan soil with the treads
of Americans. Little shops sell discards
like aluminum mugs. No longer sell the body armor. 
They do sell Jif peanut butter, alarm clocks, 
backpacks festooned with swooshes, 
instant coffee, exercise stretch ropes, 
hand sanitizer and tea bags. 
 
Bagram first the pulverized Soviet airfield, 
turned burgeoning American stronghold
with Pizza Huts and Subways, field hospital
and a prison gifted to the Afghan defense ministry.  
 
Then the women left behind. What will they be asked
to wear, to think, to learn? What will divide urban
women from rural? Will medical care advance?
What happens to the voices of the poets, activists,
radio DJs, victims of domestic violence? What music
will they hear? What input to the terms of peace? 
Will electricity return as swiftly as sharia justice? 
When women hold up half the sky,
never leave behind the hope of soaring.


Tricia Knoll is a feminist poet who never takes for granted the freedoms she has enjoyed while advocating for the role of women in our world. Her poetry appears widely in journals and anthologies. 

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

FOSSIL FUGUE

by Dustin Michael


Researchers in Australia have confirmed the discovery of Australia's largest dinosaur species ever found. Australotitan cooperensis was about 80 to 100 feet long and 16 to 21 feet tall at its hip. It weighed somewhere between 25 and 81 tons. For comparison, the Tyrannosaurus rex was about 40 feet long and 12 feet tall. Photo: Scott Hocknull and Eromanga Natural History Museum Director Robyn Mackenzie hold a model of what the humerus of the dinosaur would have looked like next to the fossilized remains of the humerus. Credit: Eromanga Natural History Museum via NPR,June 8, 2021.


What is the price for a puppet show with 
fewer puppets but more stories? Always 
the same story endlessly staged, 
every age’s marionettes and the same 
tired tale, a shifting cast of shadows 
behind the age-old screen.

Study any desert, and behold 
that same sun blistering their backs,
baking their bodies and bones, the breadcrumbs 
of immigrants, their grim trail markers and that same
the docile plodding rhythm, a drumbeat of footsteps 
from the fossil record ringing through time. 

Here is another variation. 
They walked, shielding their young 
with their own bodies, their necks 
like cracked leather, craned high
toward new skies, the breath
of hunger, thirst, and danger fogging 
each footfall, their scaled feet disturbing 
the dust, scattering already ancient rocks, stale
wind whistling faint melody in the world’s eternal 
fugue.

The news reports these dinosaur bones came 
from creatures as big as basketball courts
whose Patagonian ancestors crossed connected 
continents and arrived in Australia. 
No boats to be turned back, no papers to be denied, 
no armed agents or bureaucratic barriers to halt them—
only land in stretches longer 
than even their tales and necks,
and vengeful heat, and hungry earth
whispering Not to worry, not to worry, 
even if they never find all of your bones
the story of your journey 
will always be retold. 


Faith-based groups are working to protect migrants and honor those who have died while attempting to cross the southern border from Mexico into the United States. Humane Borders is an organization that sets up water stations in the Arizona desert on routes used by migrants to cross the border. The group also works with Pima County chief medical examiner Dr. Gre Hess to document the discovery of bodies of those who died on the journey. According to the Associated Press, Hess's office received the remains of 79 border-crossers this year as of late May. In 2020, Humane Borders documented 227 deaths, the highest in a decade after a record hot and dry summer in Arizona. Activists fear this year will be even worse. —Newsweek, July 5, 2021. Photo: Unidentified bones found in the desert and suspected to be that of a migrant are assembled together for examination at the Pima County Medical Examiner's forensic labs in Tucson, Ariz. Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press via The Journal, July 5, 2021.


Dustin Michael lives in Georgia and teaches college writing and literature. His work has appeared in numerous literary journals and his favorite dinosaur is stegosaurus, not that anyone asked.