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Saturday, June 12, 2021

PUBLIX

by Ron Riekki


In a Royal Palm Beach, Florida Publix filled with lunchtime shoppers, a man Thursday walked into the produce section, fatally shot a woman and her young grandson, and then turned the gun on himself, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said. —Palm Beach Post, June 10, 2021 [Photo credit: GREG LOVETT/palmbeachpost.com]


Another shooting, this one at the grocery store where I go 
every week. Sixty separate shootings throughout the US 
today, and the day’s not done, except the day is done, a day 
shot, shit, really. Forty-five injured today. Forty-five. I hate 
that number. Jolts into my mind, cold, the radio announcing, 
TV announcing, ex-girlfriend announcing, Isn’t that the store 
you always go to? A grandmother dead, her grandson dead, 
a one-year-old boy, in “the produce section.” And what does 
America produce? Twenty-one killed today. So far. Suffer 
is what we do. Grandmother. One-year-old grandson. Blocks 
from me. I went there yesterday, bought bananas, bread, beer. 
My ex- says, you know, I’ve never read a poem where some- 
one wrote simply, ‘Fuck the NRA.’ You should do that. She’s 
Haitian, hates guns, has this way of saying curse words where 
you feel Shiva is in the room. My ex- before my ex- had 
a brother who committed suicide, how she died after that, 
disappeared in my hands, turned to ghost, still alive, but I 
felt her slip through my arms, gone, like morning. I drove 
by the store, the tape around it, sign saying Closed to Sunday
how empty inside, and not, how if felt filled with ghosts, so 
many of them that you couldn’t see anything but the dark 
of the dead pressed together in the heat of the day. How hot. 
My air conditioner in the car broken. How hot. Drowning 
in it. Forty-five. Twenty-one. Three. And one headline 
that sticks out from two days ago: “‘Our kids are becoming 
faster rate than years past.” Far. I’m south Florida. So far. 
And the fear is that we’re numb, that we’re OK with numbers 
now, how we’ve gotten used to this. How hot. How hot.


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

Friday, June 11, 2021

A DEADLY BEAUTY

by Geoffrey Philp


 
    
When the MV Express Pearl, carrying twenty-five
tons of nitric acid and seventy-eight tons of plastic
pellets, lurched into the port of Colombo, sailors
 
released carbon dioxide into the hold to put out a fire
that had been smoldering for two weeks. But it was too late.
The ship keeled from an explosion of the acid and hurled
 
the plastic pellets into the air, which descended on the yellow
sands of Sri Lanka in a flutter of plastic snow that glittered
at sunrise, like the stone Devair Alves Ferreira bought
 
from two junkyard scavengers. Intrigued by the blue
light, Devair shaved granules from the stone and shared
the poison of cesium 137 with his family and friends
 
in Goiânia until his wife’s hair fell out in clumps
on the bathroom floor. And while the Brazilian police
arrested the men responsible for the theft of a radioactive
 
canister from an abandoned cancer lab, competing
adjusters shift blame to India and Qatar, which denied
entry to their harbors because they “didn’t want
 
the problem in their backyard.” But tell that to the soldier
scraping debris from the backs of crabs, and who fears
the pellets will raise the temperature of the sand in nesting
 
grounds of turtles, and a generation of single-sex hatchlings
will crawl into the sea. Or tell that to fishermen who can no longer
feed their families as the ship sinks and the ocean burns.


Geoffrey Philp is the author of five books of poetry, two novels, two collections of short stories, and three children's books. His poems and short stories have been published in The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse, sx salon, World Literature Today, The Johannesburg Review of Books, The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories, Bearden's Odyssey Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden, Rattle: Poets Respond, and Crab Orchard Review. A recipient of the Luminary Award from the Consulate of Jamaica (2015) and a former chair for the 2019 OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry, Philp's work is featured on The Poetry Rail at The Betsy—an homage to 12 writers that shaped Miami culture. He is currently working on a graphic novel for children, My Name is Marcus. Twitter: @GeoffreyPhilp / Instagram: @geoffreyphilp

Thursday, June 10, 2021

A WREATH OF HAIKU

by Karan Kapoor


Children’s shoes and toys were placed in front of the former 7 after the remains of 215 children, some as young as 3, were found at the site this past week. Photo credit: Dennis Owen/Reuters via The New York Times, June 7, 2021.


a radar 
penetrates the ground:
215 little corpses

not corpses
remains
skeletons and screams

unmarked—
all burial sites
are not graves

laughter of children 
at a school,
a concentration camp

an escape plan:
jump
from the highest balcony

riddle: a four-letter word
with six more letters:
indigenous

let's play a game
stick out your tongue—
pins and needles

bless the Lord
you who serve Him,
undoing His will

we are children of god
let us show you the light
six feet underground


Karan Kapoor is the author of a novelette Maya and the co-author of a novel The Dreaming Reality, both independently published. Long-listed for Toto Funds the Arts awards, his poems have appeared in The Indian Quarterly, G5A Imprint, Stride, The New Verse News, and elsewhere. He's currently working on his debut poetry collection. When not reading or writing, he is obsessing over classical music. Currently in his final semester of MA in Literary Art Creative Writing, he wants to continue to live a life devoted to music and literature.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

AMONG THE DEAD SEQUOIAS

by Pepper Trail


In this April 22, 2021 photo provided by Sequoia & Kings National Parks is a stand of burned sequoias in Sequoia National Park, CA following the 2020 Castle Fire. At least a tenth of the world’s mature giant sequoias were destroyed by a single California wildfire that tore through the southern Sierra nevada last year, according to a draft report by scientists with the National Park Service. Photo credit: Tony Caprio/Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks via AP and KTLA.


When the immortals die
The thousand-year trees
When they burn
 
It is time for the climate scientists
All the deepest thinkers
To gather, to bring their life's-work
Their most elaborate models
Their most detailed simulations
To meet in the grove of fire-blacked giants
Clasp each other's shoulders, bow their heads
Scatter their predictions among the ashes
And return the way they came, empty-handed
 
Now at last we know: we know nothing
We have killed the world of our understanding
And our future, a lifelong lesson in grief


Pepper Trail is a poet and naturalist based in Ashland, Oregon. His poetry has appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Kyoto Journal, Cascadia Review, and other publications, and has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards. His collection Cascade-Siskiyou was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

AS TIME GOES BY

by DeWitt Clinton




 "A sigh is just a sigh."    
—lyric by Herman Hupfeld


Some of us may have made it, or we at least pretend
We have made it, though all of us know we’re just
Kidding ourselves, but what else is there now that
A few of us can fill our lungs without stinging bats
That somehow did not find their way down into us.
We could also take the next hour (day) (week) (year)
To remember all those who have fallen, who did not
Know what in the world was inside of them, but it
Was inside them, and many who were nearby have
Also fallen down, some in the most hopeless places
Of the world, and as well, some in the most luxurious
Rooms not everyone could dream about, but still,
It might do us all some good to just remember what
None of us could ever imagine happening just like
That.


DeWitt Clinton taught English, Creative Writing, and World of Ideas courses for over 30 years at the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater. He is a student of Iyengar Yoga, and occasionally substitutes as a Zoom yoga instructor for seniors in The Village of Shorewood, Wisconsin. His four collections of poetry include The Conquistador Dog Texts, The Coyot. Inca Texts (New Rivers Press), At the End of the War (Kelsay Books, 2018), and By a Lake Near a Moon: Fishing with the Chinese Masters (Is A Rose Press, 2020). A fifth poetry collection has been accepted by Word Tech Communications.

Monday, June 07, 2021

TAKE AWAY THE ACCOUTREMENTS, GET TO THE ESSENCE

by Barbara Simmons


Photo source: Flash Art


for Anna Halprin, dancer/choreographer
born July 13, 1920, died, May 24, 2021


In this picture you’re barefoot on your deck,
a wooden acre wrapped around your home,
your natural dance studio, where cloud and sky and sun and blue
help bodies became dancers, where singular experiences
beyond the body find their way inside,
becoming gesture, movement, giving answers
to why we move this way, not that, into, around,
under the others on the deck, the patterns of their limbs,
and feet, and hands, letting story enter body, exit dance.
You teach by showing that you move for love, to share
what lives inside your heart, so others find what lives in theirs.
You write that when you eat a carrot
you eat the sun, that we are but the human dance
of life, recycling everything we see and touch and feel 
into the you and you and you we brush past 
on this deck, beyond this deck, into the trees, into
the ecstasy of branches reaching.  I watch you move
others to move themselves to be more, feel more, 
uncover ways we can connect, to treat
the very ground we stand upon as holy, the feet that
touch it then and now and hence as sacred, the hands 
that reach above our heads potential wings that soar,
that share, that speak the only message that will matter,
that we all have mattered here.


Barbara Simmons grew up in Boston, resides in California—finding the coasts inform her writing. She graduated from Wellesley College, received an MA in The Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University. A retired educator, she continues to explore the communion of words as food for memories. Publications have included Santa Clara Review, Hartskill Review, Boston Accent, OASIS, Common Ground, Soul-Lit, Hamline Literary Review, Writing it Real, NewVerse News, and CAPSULE STORIES.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

DIASPORA SPEAKS

by Indran Amirthanayagam


A Palestinian girl in the rubble of her home in Gaza.Credit: Fatima Shbair/Getty Images via The New York Times, June 2, 2021


Who controls the narrative, the media space, the buzz?
Who dominates headlines, chats with editors, balances
the story? Who reduces trauma to numbers, who has not
experienced pulverizing stones, his parents' home razed
at close hand? You and I who read together in safe
countries, saved by fleeing parents in search of peaceful
neighborhoods to raise their children. Now, we face a cousin
across the water crying I want to be a doctor, a nurse,
to save my family, now this. What am I to do with this?
With this stone, this shrapnel, this broken washbasin?
What am I to do, to play hide and seek with ghosts?
Do something, people. Stop the killing now. Stop
the killing here, everywhere. Stop the killing.
The poem has a purpose, these words are not useless.


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). Indran Amirthanayagam's Blue Window/ Ventana Azul, translated by Jennifer Rathbun,  is about to be published by Lavender Ink/Diálogos Books. 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.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

WIFE OF IDLIB

by Steven Croft




Hammers echo now from the rebuilding of houses,
pounding at my heart as I carry tea to the patio, stare
down at the tiles you laid. Tear-filled eyes raise—
who moves through the terraced almond trees on the hill,
their clouds of white flowers? Alas, it is only today's dream.
If Allah allows, may you one day walk into this daily dream
of your return. You were no terrorist, only a man
who loved the warmth of the land, wheat and barley,
the green joy of lettuce. When the planes bombed the fields
you ran to the town square to tell the protesters. Then,
the security men knocked at the door, and I kneeled before God,
but they dragged you out while my heart stopped.

Now, I wait in bed for the creak of our door, a call, again,
from the kitchen that you are leaving for the fields, anything
to bring you back into existence. My soul is a leaden weight.
Our country is a corpse. How can hammers sound? How can hope
trouble us anymore? Let our dead hearts rot. Just let our loneliness,
like the bombs' fires, burn us away.


Steven Croft lives on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia. He is the author of New World Poems (Alien Buddha Press, 2020). His poems have appeared in Willawaw Journal, San Pedro River Review, The New Verse News, North of Oxford, Anti-Heroin Chic, and other places, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Friday, June 04, 2021

LOSING THE LAND

by Barbara Parchim


In 1964, a Vermont farmer burned himself and his farm, rather than surrender his land. Photo: Romaine Tenney on his farm. Credit: Weathersfield Historical Society via The New York Times, May 27, 2021


eminent domain:
the Jack-in-the-box surprise
when you discover
what you thought was yours
never was
 
no matter the 64 years
born and raised on this fertile soil
working the farm, living off the grid
with some draft horses
a herd of dairy cows and a couple of dogs—
the only life you’ve known
 
what remains to be done
when they come to pile
your belongings out in the dusty road?
loose the horses and cows to the field
torch the barns
then return to the house,
send the dogs outside,
nail the doors shut and set it afire
 
eminent domain:
when men sitting at a boardroom table
decide what will become of a man’s life—
take away home and livelihood
in a gesture as simple
as signing a document
and then wonder why
the final chapter ends
with a gun and a pile of bones
in the cellar of a burnt-out house
 
a hill country farm
lies buried beneath the interstate—
the maple that bore witness 57 years ago,
cut down this week as a hazard tree,
a memorial made from the wood
may be erected in this spot,
where parking lot
meets what was once called home
 

Barbara Parchim lives on a small farm in southwest Oregon. She enjoys gardening and wilderness hiking and volunteered for several years at a wildlife rehabilitation facility caring for raptors and wolves. Her poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Ariel Chart, Jefferson Journal, Isacoustic, Turtle Island Quarterly, Windfall, Allegro Poetry, Trouvaille Review, Front Porch Review, and others.   Her first book has been selected by Flowstone Press to appear in 2021.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

MYANMAR MILITARY IN PURSUIT OF POETS

by Phyllis Klein

including two excerpts of incriminating lines


Poetry remains alive in Myanmar, where unconventional weapons are being used to fight a military that has killed more than 800 people since it staged a coup on Feb. 1 and ousted an elected government. For some democracy activists, their politics cannot be separated from their poetry. Sensing the power of carefully chosen words, the generals have imprisoned more than 30 poets since the putsch, according to the National Poets’ Union. At least four have been killed, all from the township of Monywa, which is nestled in the hot plains of central Myanmar and has emerged as a center of fierce resistance to the coup. Photo: Ko Chan Thar Swe, who had left the Buddhist monkhood to write poetry, was killed in March. —The New York Times, May 28, 2021


They shoot down hands filled with artilleries
of verse, beat up feet filing into lines
of protest. They shoot at heads

but they do not know that revolution 
lives in the heart. In darkness, in daylight,
minds and hearts bulleted, to make them 
stop. But no silence. Poetry sharpens its quills, 

aims arrows into its targets. They began to burn 
the poets when the smoke of burned books could
no longer choke the lungs heavy with dissent. 
Now their smoke is everywhere as poets are doused
and matched. And still they write. Scratch words 

into cell walls with rocks, or with metal on plastic— 
bitter-cold vinyl ballads. Or memorized signposts
of the mind, indelible. Troubadours of protest 
in waves of heat. In monsoons on horizons. 

On every street in the world. Pursued by silver-ribboned 
militias climbing up a tyrannical ladder. Nibs filled 
with poison-to-the-wicked-ink. Fingerprints cupping my

face, your face, walls of alarms clanging 
against silence, revolutions of clocks’ hands.


Phyllis Klein’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is a finalist in the Sweet Poetry Contest, 2017, the Carolyn Forche 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 that just won honorable mention for poetry from the Eric Hoffer Book Award, 2021. 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.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

WILLOW WEEP FOR ME

by Joanne Kennedy Frazer


Caribou calves in the Utukok uplands in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. Photo Credit: Patrick Endres/ Design Pics Inc., via Alamy and The New York Times.


The Biden administration defended in federal court the Willow project, a huge oil drilling operation proposed on Alaska’s North Slope that was approved by the Trump administration and is being fought by environmentalists… The multibillion-dollar plan from ConocoPhillips to drill in part of the National Petroleum Reserve would produce more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day until 2050. It is being challenged by environmental groups who said the Trump administration failed to consider the impact that drilling would have on fragile wildlife and that burning the oil would have on global warming… In a paradox worthy of Kafka, ConocoPhillips plans to install ‘chillers’ into the permafrost—which is thawing fast because of climate change—to keep it solid enough to drill for oil, the burning of which will continue to worsen ice melt. —The New York Times, May 28, 2021

on the other hand... 

The Biden administration on Tuesday suspended oil drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge… The decision sets up a process that could halt drilling in one of the largest tracts of untouched wilderness in the United States, home to migrating waterfowl, caribou and polar bears. —The New York Times, June 1, 2021


Mother Nature’s
non-human earthlings
 
cultivate in the hearts    
of those
     who pay attention    
 
this wisdom:   
as we have co-evolved    
with human dwellers
they have relied   
on our nurturance
and guidance.
Earth now demands    
reciprocation. 


Joanne Kennedy Frazer is a retired peace and justice director and educator for faith-based organizations at state, diocesan and national levels. Penning her life’s passions into poetry has become the delight and vocation of her silvering years. Her work has appeared in several Old Mountain Press anthologies, Poetic Portions 2015 anthology, Soul-lit Journal of Spiritual Poetry, Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine, Panoply Literary Zine, Snapdragon Journal, Whirlwind Magazine, Kakalak, Red Clay Review and The New Verse News. Five of her poems have been turned into a song cycle entitled Resistance by composer Steven Luksan, and performed in Seattle and Durham. Her chapbook Being Kin was published in 2019.  She lives in Durham, NC.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

THE SACKING OF DELHI, 2021

by Joy Dehlavi


Photo by Joy Dehlavi while delivering baked goods to an oxygen camp with medical personnel and Sikh volunteers.


Timur-lane rides again,
to gut the golden bird;
Dilli my jaan
will have the last word.

With just a smidgeon
of his novel potion;
The bandit can bludgeon
an entire nation. 

Bringing no horsemen
with bow and scimitar;
He leaves hordes behind
in Samarkand durbar.

Of defending Delhi,
they have lost all clues;
India’s overlords
charading as world gurus. 

In cold corrupt hearts,
no patriotism stirred;
Dilli my jaan
will have the last word. 

The billboards are huge,
but the vision small;
The news is fake
and economy in free fall.

Bumbling babus
and malicious middlemen;
Let native immunity wane
and bastions broken. 

Timur plots unguarded
burg’s checkmate;
He gently lets loose
the taj plague outbreak. 

Setting sight on crowds,
the virus veered;
Dilli my jaan
will have the last word. 

Lethal contagion wafts
in balmy breeze;
Hard to hide,
from its viperous squeeze. 

Smiting shanty and manor,
mandir and masjid;
Slithering softly with breath,
a malady horrid. 

Froth-corrupted lungs
straining for breath;
Denied relief or air,
no dignity in death. 

Stranded on sidewalks,
calling to be cured;
Dilli my jaan
will have the last word. 

Smoke chokes the city,
from roaring fires;
Trees turn to timber,
feeding endless pyres. 

Remorseless racketeers
cashing in on misery;
Floating carrion speak
of untold butchery. 

Widow women, orphan kids,
aged losing help;
The tormented hear
forsaken pariah's yelp.

Isolation and penury,
pestilence delivered;
Dilli my jaan,
will have the last word. 

Donning face shields 
and suits of plastic armor;
An army arrives
to battle the vile vapor. 

Feeding, sanitizing,
testing and vaccinating;
All castes come together,
in fraught fighting. 

Selfless service ingrained
in their blood;
Steely sardars serve
oxygen to the cursed. 

In succoring the sick,
they dread no hazard;
Dilli meri jaan
will have the last word. 

Ceding sleep and lull,
medicos risk their all;
Even chiefs fall
to the jagged green ball. 

"No one sleeps"
tending the breath machine;
"I will win," says
the nurse to spike protein. 

Hours sweltering,
in stifling protective gear;
They keep on healing,
feeling no fear. 

Dehliwallahs rise up,
audaciously undeterred;
Dilli meri jaan,
will have the last word. 

Soulless charlatans
getting masses misled;
Crack crack crackles
the sky over their head. 

Profiteering politicians
filled with conceit;
Thud thud trembles
the ground under their feet. 

Timur finally falls,
to the common cold;
Heart of Bharat beats,
beautiful and bold. 

With head held high,
it moves forward;
Dilli meri jaan
will always have the last word. 


Author's Note: Dilli is another name for the city of Delhi. "My jaan" means "my life" in Urdu and Hindi. Usually used to address a lover. "Meri" is Hindi for "my". As the poem takes a turn and starts describing positive things that are happening around me, I change to "Dilli meri jaan" as a more intimate way of refering to the city I grew up in. There was a tourism jingle " Dilli meri jaan" used to promote the city to foreigners about 30 years ago. Most people in Delhi or Dehli still use this expression to express their love for the city.


Glossary:

·      Babu - A mid to low level government functionary or clerk (Hindi)

·      Bharat - Another name for India (Hindi)

·      Burg - Medieval fortress or walled city

·      Caste - Stratification system in Indian society with some history of difficulty in working together.

·      Dehliwallah - One who belongs to Dehli/Delhi (Hindi/Urdu)

·      Durbar - Royal court (Hindi/Urdu)

·      Mandir - Place of worship for Hindus (Hindi)

·      Masjid - Place of worship for Muslims (Hindi/Urdu)

·      Native immunity - Scientific term for innate resistance to infections

·      Sardar - Members of the Sikh community known for their courage and charity (Hindi/Punjabi)

·      Taj - Crown or Corona (Hindi/Urdu)

 

References explained:

·      “Crack crack crackles the sky over their head” and “Thud thud trembles the ground under their feet” —Adapted from Urdu poem “Hum dekhenge” by Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Frequently used as protest anthem against government policies.

·      “Froth-corrupted lungs” — From “Dulce Et Decorum Est “ by Wilfred Owen. Author described effects of poison gas on unmasked soldiers during The Great War.

·      “No one sleeps” and “I will win”— Lyrics translated to English from “Nessun Dorma,” the aria from Puccini’s Turandot popular in Europe as a rallying cry to encourage frontline healthcare workers during the first coronavirus wave in spring of 2020.

·      “With head held high” — Adapted from Bengali poem “ Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo” by Indian Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore. He wrote this as his vision of new and awakened India.

·      Golden bird (Sone ki Chidiya in Hindi) — Refers to the wealthy land of India in medieval times that made it a target for many plunderers from Central Asia.

·      Timur or Timur-lane — Turco-Mongol conqueror who mercilessly sacked ineptly defended Delhi in December of 1398. Infamous for indiscriminate massacre of a large number of city residents.


Joy Dehlavi wrote “The Sacking of Delhi, 2021” drawing from his experiences during the coronavirus spike lockdown that he spent in Delhi, India. Born in India, he now lives in the USA.