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Thursday, February 25, 2021

ILLUMINATION

by James Schwartz




500,000.

We are not equipped to process this level of grief, the news anchor sighs. Video plays of the President, First Lady, VP and Second Gentleman surrounded by candles. 

500,000.

A statistic surpassing wartime numbers. The day will come, President Biden promises, when the memory of our loved ones will bring a smile before a tear. 

500,000. 

We are an illumination in this dark stillness. One morning we will smile at the empty chair. One morning we will smile. 


James Schwartz is a poet, writer, slam performer and author of 5 poetry collections including The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America. Twitter: @queeraspoetry

500,000

by Cathy Hailey




Ascent and descent
Symmetrical staircases
Move candlelight bent

Flames flicker faces
Pathways towards transcendency
Spirits drifting in

Liminality
A presidential burden
Despite empathy

Comforts multitudes
In national eulogy
Church bell interludes

Ritual “Amazing Grace”
All, Requiescat en Pace


Cathy Hailey teaches as an adjunct in Johns Hopkins University’s online MA in Teaching Writing program and previously taught high school English and Creative Writing in Prince William County, VA. She is northern region vice president of The Poetry Society of Virginia and organizes In the Company of Laureates, a biennial reading of poets laureate held in PWC. Her writing has been published in Poetry Virginia, The Journal of the Virginia Writing Project, Written in Arlington, The Prince William Poetry Review, Grid Poems, and in anthologies associated with ekphrastic collaborations.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

YES,

by Penelope Scambly Schott




yet another one of the poets I have known
now gone under the grass. Lawrence Ferlingetti,
at a hundred and one. I once heard him recite:
   Pity the nation whose people are sheep
   Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
and yet, how we all try
to go on walking.
Who will sell shoelaces down by the seashore?
Mine are torn.




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.

WHALE SONG

by Barbara Parchim


Probing the structure of the ocean crust requires a wave source. The most common source is an air gun, which is effective but potentially harmful for ocean life and not easy to use everywhere. Václav M. Kuna and John L. Nábělek found that fin whale songs can also be used as a seismic source for determining crustal structure. Fin whale vocalizations can be as loud as large ships and occur at frequencies useful for traveling through the ocean floor. These properties allow fin whale songs to be used for mapping out the density of ocean crust, a vital part of exploring the seafloor. —Science, February 12, 2021


now that seismologists know
that different frequencies of whale songs
can map the layers of the ocean floor
to help us study sediment and rock
in areas where earthquakes occur—
can we pause?
 
when their beauty and sentience,
curiosity and gentleness,
is not enough—
has never been enough—
to awaken compassion
 
when the “harvest” of these giants,
some with their young alongside
does not engender adequate empathy
 
now that we have a “use”
for these beings,
for scientific research,
that requires a living, breathing, body
 
now—
can we, finally, stop the slaughter?
 
 
Barbara Parchim lives on a small farm in southwest Oregon. She enjoys gardening and hiking and volunteered for several years at a wildlife rehabilitation facility. Her poems have appeared in Ariel Chart, Isacoustic, Turtle Island Quarterly, Windfall, and Trouvaille Review. Her first chapbook, selected by Flowstone Press, will appear in 2021.

Monday, February 22, 2021

THE UNSPEAKABLE

by Sister Lou Ella


Dianna Ortiz, an American Roman Catholic nun whose rape and torture in Guatemala in 1989 helped lead to the release of documents showing American involvement in human rights abuses in that country, died on Friday in hospice care in Washington. She was 62. —The New York Times, February 20, 2021. PHOTO: Sister Dianna Ortiz in 1996. After being raped and tortured in Guatemala, she helped focus attention on the 200,000 people who were killed or disappeared during that country’s 36-year civil war. Credit: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times


           in memory of sr. dianna ortiz, osu
                         rape and torture victim


friday after ash wednesday
2/19/2021
 
the death certificate read cancer
but i know better
the unspeakable terror
that tortured your flesh years ago
has finally had its way with you
then and then daily the Holy in your body
screamed why have you forsaken me
perhaps you are the saint of the struggle
that wrestling with the command to forgive
but the Holy will also have Its way
It too Unspeakable


Sister Lou Ella has a master’s in theology from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and is a former teacher and librarian. She is a certified spiritual director as well as a poet and writer.  Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines such as America, First Things, Emmanuel, Third Wednesday, and The New Verse 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 and in 2020. Her first book of poetry entitled she: robed and wordless was published in 2015. (Press 53.)

THE NUN WAS TORTURED

by Karol Nielsen


The nun founded the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC).


The American nun, who was gang raped and tortured in Guatemala, died of cancer in Washington, DC. She had been helping indigenous Guatemalans when she was captured. The government suspected the indigenous of left wing subversion, with the United States backing the Guatemalan military in its civil war. The nun was burned by cigarettes, exposed to dead bodies and rats, and forced to mutilate another captive with a machete. She jumped out of a car as the man with accented Spanish drove her to a new location. She fled to the United States and struggled to remember her life there. She sued a Guatemalan general who was studying at Harvard. A judge ordered him to pay millions but he escaped to Guatemala. She told a reporter that even though she was Catholic she struggled to forgive.


Karol Nielsen is the author of two memoirs and two poetry chapbooks. Her first memoir was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Her poetry collection was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

SOME DAY, PERHAPS...

IT WILL HELP TO REMEMBER THESE TROUBLES AS WELL.*

by Bonnie Naradzay


*Aeneas to his men, after theirs is the only ship
  to survive a violent storm at sea near Carthage.

         
Friends, a study of The Black Death states the plague 
may have come from outer space. The Mars Rover 
landed in a dried up lake. Perseverance is transporting 
images home from the red planet. On earth, we learn 
that magnetic north and south may be flipping sides, 
an ominous event, according to weakening attractions 
and ancient iron shards stuck pointing the wrong way. 
In Galveston, medical workers asked for a refrigerated 
truck to store the dead bodies. Thousands of turtles 
stunned by the cold have gone to a convention center 
in the backs of station wagons. Ted Cruz got on the plane
in jeans but went the wrong way, or the optics were wrong.
Sweet Thames, and Virgil, flow gently while I end my song.


Bonnie Naradzay leads poetry workshops at a day shelter for homeless people and at a retirement center, both in Washington DC.  Recent poems are in AGNI, New Letters (Pushcart nomination), Kenyon Review Online, RHINO, Tar River Poetry, Tampa Review, Poet Lore, EPOCH, Northern Virginia Review, Anglican Theological Review, Seminary Ridge Review, and The Ekphrastic Review.

KIDNAPPING GODOT

by Richard Fox


"People are bloody ignorant apes." 
—Estragon in Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

1. Polio

Mom makes pancakes for breakfast on a Wednesday.
Gives me a gorilla hug at the bus stop.
At school, we hang up coats, march to the All-Purpose Room.
The nurse smiles, watches us down cups of clear liquid. 
The principal anoints each forehead with a gold star. 

2. Cancer

Mothers quiz me about Gardasil* for daughters. 
I endure HPV*-caused tumors, 
so pegged their expert.
My plea, heed pediatricians.
Inoculate girls and boys by age eleven.
They choose to delay, let their kids ripen. 
Maybe by sixteen, the children can decide.

3. Ba’al

the field of stones 
chiseled memorials
first born sons
throats slit


* Gardasil is a vaccine that prevents the HPV virus from causing oral and cervical cancer. Anti-vaxxers promote false research that a side effect is autism. Because HPV is spread sexually (not necessarily via intercourse), they claim the vaccine is tacit approval for teenage sex.


When not writing about rock ’n roll or youthful transgressions, Richard Fox focuses on cancer from the patient’s point of view drawing on hope, humor, and unforeseen gifts. He is the author of five poetry collections and the winner of the 2017 Frank O’Hara Prize.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

A PANDEMIC PRAYER

by Roderick Deacey




Don’t let me die a COVID death
pinned and tied by wires and tubes,
felled by fear and pain,
enduring dark visions
from potions that numb and confuse,
unable to touch the infinite,
losing the inevitable tussle for breath.

Instead, let me choose a worm’s death,
gently stilling movement
in the warm black soil.
Feeling the earth shiver and move
as it wraps me in its vast body
and cradles me
in its perpetual swing around the sun.

Or let me walk into the ancient forest
and sense the slow sap of centuries
sliding through the rough bark I lean against.
Let me mark the deep rhythm of the wood
as I feel myself slowly sink
into the tree’s heart,
to rest serene among leafy limbs.

Best of all, let me die a bird’s death,
swooping and swirling
high in a star-pricked sky
not even aware
of tumbling flesh and feathers falling
as I joyously fly on
toward that brilliant rainbow slash of dawn.


Roderick Deacey is a performing poet in the DC area, based in Frederick, MD. In normal, non-viral times, he regularly performs with his drummer/percussionist and bass-player, presenting “neo-beat” poems inspired by the Beat Poets’ poetry and jazz forays of the nineteen-fifties. His beat poetry chapbook neo-beatery ballads was published in 2019. Deacey was awarded the 2019 Frederick Arts Council Carl R. Butler Award for Literature. Crossing genres, he won the Gold Award for best lyrics in the 2020 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest held by the Songwriters Association of Washington.

Friday, February 19, 2021

WHAT IS HERE

by Mary K O'Melveny




Perseverance
has landed today
on Mars.
Curiosity will have company.
Everyone is eager for news:
Red cinnamon rocks.
Long dead grey lakes.
Dust filled grooves.
Caves chiseled into canyons
like a Henry Moore garden.
Layers of mystery
embedded in swirls of rock
marbled as a fine steak.
We are always looking
for something
to make sense of.
Something that explains
our odd and quirky selves,
the reasons we love and lose,
fight over nothing sensible,
torture and torment.
We are always looking
for history,
for memory,
for stories,
for permanence,
for renewal.
The deeper we dig,
the less happy we are.
So we fly off
to other realms
hoping to learn more
from long dead planets.
Hoping there is something
new under the sun.


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.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

FAMILY VALUES LIMBO

by Chad Parenteau


Cartoon by Steve Brodner for Mother Jones, March 6, 2009.


Angry Dad is dead.
The rush is on

to see who now has
the loudest voice.

Auditions begin
at dinner table. 

Women fill glasses
from bottom to brim.

Contents spill over
on flag tablecloths.

New father figure 
finds this affront,

sets air above table
aflame, scatters dishes,

sends all to bed
without supper.

There they'll fester,
rewrite old declamation

overheard piecemeal
from fighting parents.


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 second collection, The Collapsed Bookshelf, was released in 2020.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

REALITY CHECK

by Marc Swan




for Jane Ferguson


Birds shriek, buildings fall,
body counts mount
in Beirut, Kabul, Baghdad,
parts of Africa, South Asia.
Where have all the flowers gone
I think in the quiet of my office
on a quiet road in a quiet village
along the coast of Maine. I try
to imagine reporting live 
from these hostile locales, 
most importantly staying alive. 
I think of a Special Correspondent
for PBS, an Irish-British journalist 
with long blond hair tucked 
under a head scarf, jeans 
and a military-style jacket
treading lost roads in leather boots
with another woman, camera in hand.
We never see her, but know
she’s shooting the footage
we’ll see on the nightly news.
In recent reports, the Taliban 
armed to the teeth 
seem more than willing to speak 
on camera as the journalist 
asks hard questions in Arabic, 
translated for us in the comfort 
of heated living spaces unaware 
of what is truly seen, heard, 
felt in places of unending conflict—
what does constant fear smell like?


Marc Swan’s latest collection all it would take was published in May 2020 by tall-lighthouse. Poems recently published or forthcoming in Gargoyle, The Stony Thursday Book, Queen’s Quarterly, MockingHeart Review.  He lives in coastal Maine with his wife Dd, an artist and yoga teacher.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

AVERSION TRAINING

by Robin S. Axworthy


Photo credit: Bette Ferber via The New York Times.


I have grown used to the moisture of my own breath 
on night walks, the mask, the sound of my own breathing 

pushed up past my ears.  Used to my own company at home, 
with only husband and sometimes daughter.  Used to any other

contacts as just the glass and scratch of microphone, letters 
appearing and sorting into sense on a screen. Used to touch

as poison to be scraped clean with alcohol and friction.
Accustomed now to nearness an electric buzz of warning

away from flesh, ears so used to staccato whine they have forgotten 
rippling waterfall of open mouth, mouth forgotten how breath 

feels naked and dry, thin in the bare air, my hands so used to solitude 
they’ve forgotten how to find their way to warmth.  


Robin S. Axworthy has been published in various anthologies including, most recently, Dark Ink: An Anthology Inspired by Horror (Moon Tide Press) and Is It Hot in Here or Is It Just Me? Women Over Forty Write on Aging (Beautiful Cadaver Project). Her chapbook Crabgrass World was published in March 2020 by Moon Tide Press. 

WHAT WE LEARNED IN 2020

by Katherine West




The globe of Earth has shrunk, a small balloon
losing air sinking against the blue blue sky
to land exactly in my hand, all mine 
to know the pain of every land, all you 

and you and you, all me in mirrors new 
as stars on windy nights of sharpened light 
that cuts my chest that makes me bleed your time
cut short then so is mine the years so few 

now less the globe a shriveled wrinkled skin
I cup as gently as a fallen bird 
my own true love I carry home to bed 

I tuck you up, I slide beside so thin
we fit, an old and folded map, a world 
of continents that kiss, of coasts that wed.
 

Katherine West lives in Southwest New Mexico, near Silver City.  She has written three collections of poetry: The Bone Train, Scimitar Dreams, and Riddle, as well as one novel, Lion Tamer.  Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Writing in a Woman's Voice, Lalitamba, Bombay Gin, The New Verse News, Tanka Journal, Splash!, Eucalypt, and Southwest Word Fiesta.  The New Verse News nominated her poem "And Then the Sky" for a Pushcart Prize in 2019.  In addition she has had poetry appear as part of art exhibitions at the Light Art Space gallery in Silver City, New Mexico and at the Windsor Museum in Windsor, Colorado.  Using the name Kit West, Katherine's new novel When Night Comes: A Christmas Carol Revisited has just been released, and a selection of poetry entitled Raising the Sparks will come out in 2021, both published by Breaking Rules Publishing.  She is presently at work on the sequel to When Night Comes. It is called Slave: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Revisited. She is also an artist.

Monday, February 15, 2021

RE-ACQUITTED

by Imogen Arate




Dying stars burn the brightest

Europe's birth rate is falling
Italian towns offer abandoned 
homes on the cheap

Even in a COVID year
nearly 1-0-0-0 
wo/men and children
died on the Mediterranean
in pursuit of safety

The Sonoran took its biggest gulp
in 10 years
as desiccated remains are picked
from between its gritty teeth
to stage a caravan

One in five American households
speaks a language other than English
but my people can’t get in a
Best-Pic nominee
without the label “foreign”

Be grateful that you are now 
presented with a choice between 
Black and    White

Prostrate melaniferous bodies 
weave into a shroud
covering the distance between 
George Floyd and today

Be grateful for crumbs that drop
from the high table
as we scramble
and gladiate in spectacle
for droppings

Half a million seemed like 
an impossible number
Last year   Valentine’s Day
was still lonely 
but in person

Be grateful
Why aren’t we grateful
Why are we so ungrateful
We are given a choice now
Isn’t it enough

A cloth cover is the real
hindrance to liberty
The 2020 “I voted” sticker
a high-priced memorabilia
for the lives risked
to those other than minorities
forced hyphenation 
worn as a crown
trudge past other saintly feasts
lay bare the sacrifice

Be grateful for the little things
The big ones are for the rarified
the falling birth rate
the fear of extinction
I guess they always knew

Dying stars burn the brightest
Rage
rage against the dying of the light


Imogen Arate is an award-winning Asian-American poet and writer and the Executive Producer and Host of the weekly poetry podcast Poets and Muses. She has written in four languages and published in two. Her work was most recently featured in the Global Poemic, Rigorous and The Hong Kong Review.

SELF-SATISFIED SONNET

by Joe Crocker


Graphic source: Geopolitical Intelligence Services.


The pandemic continues to widen income and wealth inequalities worldwide. The world’s richest five billionaires enjoyed a 59% increase in their combined wealth between March and September 202022 at a time of higher global levels of unemployment, poverty, and debt.16 Around 435 million women and girls will be living on less than $1.90 (£1.40; €1.60) a day in 2021, with 47 million in poverty as a result of covid-19. … These increases in private wealth have corresponded to decreases in social wage (the goods, services, and payments that the state provides to all residents as a basic right). Combined with the commodification of food, land, seeds, and essential services, austerity policies that have reduced social protection measures have had a devastating effect on vulnerable groups and, during the pandemic, increasingly on the middle class. Social protection measures introduced during the pandemic, such as tax relief, cash transfers, unemployment benefits, and food and nutrition assistance, have mostly been inadequate as they have excluded or been inaccessible to those who need them the most, such as informal workers, migrants, young people, and displaced and indigenous populations. An 82% increase in hunger levels is predicted as a result of the pandemic, and the number of people facing acute food insecurity is expected to double, especially in countries affected by conflict, climate change, and economic crisis. —The British Medical Journal, January 29, 2021


I wonder what the fuss is all about.
As far as I can see, not much has changed.
The paper comes each morning and, no doubt,
I’ll read it. But it’s groundhog day again.
 
My shares are on the up, my trousers tight
Mummy’s with us now. We sold her house.
It fetched enough to more than see her right.
The dog still gets his walk. And I get out.
 
The cleaner comes and does. We chat a while.
A sweetie. Molly? Mandy? I must ask.
Her eyes look oddly tired these days; her smile
a little less sincere behind her mask.
 
I spend the afternoons upon my arse.
I am retired and upper middle class.


Joe Crocker is retired and middle class and feeling guilty. Lockdown re-awakened his interest in poetry, and he has been published in Snakeskin

Sunday, February 14, 2021

MANDATE

by Laura Rodley




My eyes see the road but my hands

steer the wheel, car ahead,

snow banks to my right,

more snow falling. It feels 

like a hundred years

now and still I have not

heard from you my daughter.

The daughter that was just a wish,

a dream, an incessant urge,

a tug to the infinite

and so I reached my hands

up and pulled you down

from clouds full of precipitation,

the month was November that

you were born, the isle of snow,

but conceived in February

on Valentine’s Day, my hands

full of the eyes of your father,

the sky filled with snowflakes.



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, Counter Point by Prolific Press, and just off the press, As You Write It Lucky Lucky 7, a collection of 11 writers' work.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

MASKED AND DISTANCED

by Howie Good


Photo of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp from the archives of the Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen.


The avenue is near deserted, no parades,
few people, everyone a possible biohazard.
 
I sit at home in front of the computer
rather than be masked and distanced.
 
 
When I lift my eyes from the screen,
it always seems to be night and raining.


Howie Good is the author of more than two dozen poetry collections, including most recently The Death Row Shuffle (Finishing Line Press), The Trouble with Being Born (Ethel Micro Press), and Gunmetal Sky (Thirty West Publishing).

Friday, February 12, 2021

THE FLORIDA CASE BEFORE THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION

by Lavinia Kumar


If Cornelia Fassett were here today,
she’d have painted a disputed election even larger.
 
The piece would have Facebook friends and tweets,
shown her Supreme Court chamber streamed live to millions.
 
Samuel Tilden won many more votes
but Rutherford Hayes fought the Electoral tally—

with twenty Electoral votes too short
he claimed voter intimidation and all sorts of fraud.
 
A Commission stood to create a miracle,
and debated nine days about voters in four states.
 
And, lo, they sought and found the needed,
which switched the Electoral College to Republican.
 
Ah, yes, it is said that history repeats,
but ghosts will tell that is not true of miracles.


Lavinia Kumar is currently interested in writing of unsung women of the past, Her poetry has appeared in US, Irish, & UK publications. Her books include Hear Ye, Hear Ye: Women, Women: Soldiers, Spies of Revolutionary and Civil Wars and No Longer Silent Women: the Silk and Iron of Women Scientists.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

SKUNK HOUR

by Martin H. Levinson


 

His lawyers inept,
meandering, defending
the indefensible dimly
and dully, doing everything
they can but talk about the
constitutional question of
whether an out of office
president can be tried for
inciting insurrection, as the
Senators sitting in judgment
suffer their ambling, rambling
arguments made in response
to the House Managers logical,
precedent-based contentions
that a carny US Chief-of-State
can be punished for stirring up
mob violence and an invasion
of the Capitol that a video
montage has detailed in all
its nauseating horror.


Martin H. Levinson is a member of the Authors Guild, National Book Critics Circle, PEN America; the book review editor for ETC: A Review of General Semantics, and a contributing editor to The Satirist. He has published nine books and numerous articles and poems.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

WHEN IT IS OVER

by Katherine Tian




A weekend afternoon, the park near my room,
the stone table where my friends and I used to sit is covered with a thick layer of dust.
Untrodden weeds cross the dirt path.
When it is over,
we will come together like a wind gust.
Our friendship will only bloom.
 
After a long day at work, a nurse mother goes home with a sigh of bliss.
She can only embrace her toddling daughter with her gaze and tears,
close at hand, but on opposite sides of the canyon.
When it is over,
my little dear,
Mom will hug you in her arms with a long kiss.
 
During a festival, I walk on the empty square,
music and fragrance that once wafted through the restaurant disappear like a cloud.
Now only cold wind blows through.
When it is over,
the long-lost crowd
will gather again to breathe the free, healthy air.
 
Golden wedding grandparents pass away in isolation, looking at each other like new lovers.
The memory and close goodbye can only dwell
in the relatives’ sorrow hearts.
When it is over,
the belated remembrances and farewells
will turn into rainy tears and falling flowers.
 
I miss the sound of my teacher's marker scratching on the white board,
the crowd in the hallway,
the morning flock of school buses.
When it is over,
to my dear teachers, I will say,
in the back of the classroom, I will never fall asleep or get bored.
 
The early spring flowers are about to sprout.
The birds in the trees are singing happily as they cheer.
At this darkest moment of the pandemic,
my dear friends,
can you hear
the footsteps of the warm sunshine behind the heavy cloud?


Katherine Tian is a senior at Ward Melville High School on Long Island, New York. She is a long-time dancer and a long-term volunteer at a local elder-care center.

LUXURIOUS FEAR

by Rebecca Leet


Source: We Do Geek


My head sinks into the pillow
and fear floats forward
like a ghoul set to stalk my dreams
 
so easy to keep ghosts
tautly moored when sun shines,
before night ingests hope.
 
I worry past the present pandemic
past the wild, sad souls ensnared
by visions of prurient perfidies
 
to a time closer than we dare declare
when swelling seas, infernos of forests,
acres of arid, fallow farmlands
 
push civilization to survival of the fittest
and my newborn grandchild, one day,
must claw over others or succumb.
 
Then morning comes and as I sip tea
news reports speak of children suffocating
from poison gas in Syria        girls kidnapped
 
by Boko Haram in Nigeria      a boy killed
in a random shooting five miles away.
And I realize my fear, today, is a luxury.
 

Rebecca Leet lives a stone's throw from Washington, DC.  Her collection Living with the Doors Wide Open was published in 2018.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

JANUARY SIXTH

by Diane Vogel Ferri


The Jan. 6 rally of Trump supporters before the assault on the Capitol.Credit: Nina Berman/NOOR/Redux via The New York Times.


Let us not forget 
how we heard the crack of the breach
in every state, the unholy war

with bloated flags waving
dishonorably, whipping
in the felonious wind

Let us not forget
the terrorism of groupthink
the righteous pounding and shattering

the victims in their glory
holding blue-line banners
while violating blue lives

Let us not forget 
what we saw in real-time
the slurs we heard

the trashing of Jesus
of our tax dollars
our house a crime scene

Let us not forget
the present disremembering
of the big lie

how it is in the past now
consequences suffered only
by the dead


Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet, and writer living in Solon, Ohio. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Stories, Yellow Arrow Journal, and Good Works Review among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals such as Plainsongs, Rubbertop Review, and Poet Lore. Her previous publications are Liquid Rubies (poetry), The Volume of Our Incongruity (poetry), The Desire Path (novel) and her newest novel No Life But This: A Novel of Emily Warren Roebling.

Monday, February 08, 2021

PILGRIMS PROGRESS

by Deborah Gorlin


Phineas Pratt's Grave in Charlestown MA


The inscriptions a kid could cartoon
on a gravestone, crude and simplistic,
the skull-soul effigy a kind of gothic lithic
Jack-o-lantern, wide hollows for eyes,
triangle for nose, slotted mouth,
snaggle-toothed, Medusa-like heads
winging hair. A second childhood
for the Puritan church as some feature
breasts, amen, as God-besotted poet
Edward Taylor wrote unblushingly,
his syntax, don’t ask, “to put these
nibbles, then my mouth into and suckle
me therewith humbly pray.” Gravestones
that put one in mind of crumbly English
biscuits, taken at teatime. Their headboards
face east towards the sunrise, when the dead
will wake one fine Sunday morning to the smell
of pancakes the Lord makes at a sleepover.
 
But the news today tells me they won’t
wait—rebranded their black white outfits,
buckled shoes, top hats, dressed this time
as the half-naked shaman in bear skins,
horn helmet, face paint, just like their old
enemies the Indians, why not, it’s on their land,
the Senate floor, to save us from those devils
in Pederast Forest. Fake 'em out. Boys. 
An impatient breed these new pilgrims, grown
young, who, in their first iteration, claimed
that specters in dreams and visions, those
with a third nipple, an ugly birthmark, a black
cat familiar, were evidence in a court of law
for burning witches and warlocks. Emboldened,
always exceptional, they invent new ways to rise
from their shallow graves of history, their scraggly
tombstones askew, who refuse, even their God, to die.
 

Deborah Gorlin is the author of two books of poems, Bodily Course (White Pine Poetry Press Prize) and Life of the Garment (Bauhan Publishing, winner of the 2014 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize). She has published in a wide range of journals including Poetry, Antioch Review, American Poetry Review, Seneca Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Harvard Review, Green Mountains Review, Bomb, Connecticut Review, Women’s Review of Books, New England Review, and Best Spiritual Writing 2000. Recent poems appear in Plume, On the Seawall, Chicago Quarterly, Trampoline, and the Ekphrastic Review. Emeritus associate faculty of the Writing Program at Hampshire College, she serves as a poetry editor at The Massachusetts Review

Sunday, February 07, 2021

LOOKING FOR AMERICA

by George Salamon 




I looked for the American character,
and I saw the contours fading, the
words to sing of it sour or drab, I
seek refuge in old photo albums, 
capturing dignity and pride, coming
together in many kinds of work and
fulfillment, revealing what we had or
what we thought we had, now that
we're seeking the causes of our loss
as if our minds had shut down and our
hands and feet were bound, yet no
cause is so deep it cannot be found.

George Salamon live in the heartland of America, St. Louis, MO, and contributes to The Asses of Parnassus, One Sentence Poems, and The New Verse News.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

TO KNOW A MONARCH

by Phyllis Klein




To know it only as a photograph, a memory.
Never to witness again a community of millions clustered 
on Eucalyptus branches, now empty.
These fragile slivers of stained glass
no longer clinging to winter respites.
What is a world that would allow
this extravagant pollinator to die off?
This migrational miracle. 
Rumi says, You were born 
with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?
I want a humanity that weeps 
copiously for this animal who starts off 
in a crawl, shows us how to fly. I want
processions, dirges everywhere,
want to howl over milkweed, bereft, without 
purpose. So much loss. I want to rend my garments.
Burn kaleidoscopes of butterflies into my skin.
What good would that do? Or I could slice
open the sky, so their ghosts torrent down. 

What do I know of softness—my origins 
in an ice-house, in a tradition of cruelty,
of abhorration, torn appendages. Where
are the wings for this? Where the flashes 
of orange slipped through our fingers?


Phyllis Klein’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is a finalist in the Sweet Poetry Contest, 2017, the Carolyn Forché Humanitarian Poetry Contest, 2019, and the Fischer Prize, 2019. She was nominated for a Pushcart prize in 2018 and again in 2020. She has a new book, The Full Moon Herald  from Grayson Books. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 30 years, she sees writing as artistic dialogue between author and readers—an intimate relationship-building process that fosters healing on many levels. 

Friday, February 05, 2021

THE WHITE SUPREMACIST IN MY LIVING ROOM

by Lesléa Newman


staring out of my TV screen is white
of course. He has dark Charlie Manson hair,

a scraggly Unabomber beard,
and an old black dog with big black eyes

sprawled across his lap and gazing
up at him with absolute adoration.

The white supremacist on my TV screen
sits under the gun on his wall at ease

in his easy chair, leaning back
peering out at the camera intently.

He has a message for me but I do not care
to listen. Instead I prefer to watch

the watchful eyes of the old black dog
who is hanging on his master’s every word.

The white supremacist has unruly hair
that falls across his forehead into his eyes.

He rakes his long skinny fingers
through his long stringy hair

and then lets his hand float slowly
down toward the old black dog

who sits up straight, every atom
of his ancient body quivering

with joy as if he has been waiting all his life
for the white supremacist’s hand

to land on top of his head so gently
and with such genuine tenderness

that the old black dog’s mouth drops
open, showing his old black tongue

and jagged yellow teeth. The old black dog
is grinning. He is in on the joke.

His old black eyes look out at the camera
for just an instant as though he wants

to make sure I am seeing this great show
of affection before he turns back

to the white supremacist who warns
the world at large to beware of what lies

ahead. And now the white supremacist
removes his hand from the old black dog’s head

and rests it on the arm of his chair
and the old black dog rests his head happily

on the white supremacist’s knee
shutting his eyes and sighing a sigh

completely content and safe
in the knowledge that all is right

with the world. So much love.
So much hate. I turn my TV off.


Lesléa Newman has created 75 books for readers of all ages including the poetry collections, I Carry My Mother and I Wish My Father (a pair of memoirs-in-verse) and October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard  (novel-in-verse); and the children’s books, Sparkle Boy and Heather Has Two Mommies. She has received poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, two National Jewish Book Awards, the Massachusetts Book Award, the Sydney Taylor Award, and half a dozen Pushcart Prize nominations. From 2008 - 2010, she served as the poet laureate of Northampton, Massachusetts. Currently she teaches at Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

HANDS

by Ruth Lehrer


Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny makes a heart gesture with his hands while in a cage in the Moscow City Court on Tuesday. His suspended sentence from his 2014 criminal conviction was ultimately converted to a prison term. (Press Service of Simonovsky District Court/Handout/Reuters via CBC)


He’s in a glass box right now they call it the aquarium we can’t hear him 
    can he hear us
the judge pretends to read judgment the news already knows already 
    prints her words
before they exit her mouth leave her tongue like a corrupt mind meld 
    two years eight
months in a prison colony with his silent hands he flashes a heart to his wife 
    who takes
off her mask and waves.


Ruth Lehrer is a writer and sign language interpreter living in western Massachusetts. She is the author of the novel Being Fishkill and the poetry chapbook Tiger Laughs When You Push.