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Wednesday, June 30, 2021


by Alejandro Escudé

It looks like a frozen tsunami of ash.
And there are people in that rubble

Like fish tossed out of an old tank.
Was it made out out stiffened moths?

An engineer says it must’ve been
A column—and I’m thinking some 

Support gave way, as support often
Gives way in this country, allowing

For the sudden pancaking of people.
All oversights are finally political.

Oh crumbling moon! What must it 
Be like for the others who overlook 

The site? Am I next? Aren’t we all
In the process of collapse? Come 

Daylight, they heard the banging. 
No voices, only a nebulous banging 

Amid a jumble of metal and granite.

Alejandro Escudé’s first book of poems, My Earthbound Eye, was published in September 2013 upon winning the 2012 Sacramento Poetry Center Award. He received a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis. Alejandro works as an English teacher, having taught at the secondary level for many years. Originally from Argentina, he immigrated to California at an early age. A new collection, The Book of the Unclaimed Dead, published by Main Street Rag Press, is now available on the MSR website. Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his dog, a feisty terrier named Jake.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021


by Matt Witt

Photograph by Matt Witt.

We used to joke
that the old farmer’s horses
were “out standing in their field.”
But now it’s 115 degrees
and it’s all they can do
to breathe.
They’re horses,
so they don’t ask
why it is hot 
like never before
or who stands in the way of
doing something about it.
On the fence that
keeps them in their place
there will soon be signs
with the slogan
“Horses Strong,”
celebrating their “resilience”
and urging them to be proud
that they are somehow surviving
the unnatural heat.

Matt Witt is a writer and photographer from Talent, Oregon.

Monday, June 28, 2021


by Peter Neil Carroll

He was soft-spoken, it seemed
when we first me, this son of
the Osage nation, introduced 
to me by a mentor we shared.
They were drinking Bourbon
at the hotel bar, headquarters
of the annual historical convention
at Chicago’s posh Palmer House.
Bullhead was about 30, though his
smooth skin may have made him look
younger. He knew a lot more history
than I did, but he was still seeking a job.
We met again a few years later, young
instructors, similar interests, but he was
still untenured looking for a safe niche.
He told me he had a plan to get promoted.
After the usual delays, he presented his plan
to the giants of our profession. Why not,
he asked, offer a course on Native American
history equivalent to ancient or medieval history?
Insults began before he finished. Dumb idea.
Worthless. How could Indians who spoke  
Algonquin be compared to Cicero or Duns Scotus?
Besides, a new course would reduce enrollments.
Bullhead interrupted the outrage and withdrew
his proposal, walked quietly to the door, then
slammed it shut like a blast of an atom bomb.
No one ever changed their minds, spoke regrets. 

Peter Neil Carroll is currently Poetry Moderator of His latest collection of poetry is Something is Bound to Break (Main Street Rag Press). Earlier titles include Fracking Dakota and A Child Turns Back to Wave which won the Prize Americana. His poems have appeared in many print and online journals, recently in Cultural Weekly, Freshwater Poetry, Plainsongs, and BigCityLit.

Sunday, June 27, 2021


by Cathleen Calbert

or narrow corridor 
a filament of concentrated moisture
            (like a fire faerie’s little vag)
like Lilith, with so many titles:
tropical connection, tropical plume, moisture plume,
(which I believe was indeed a feminine protection 
            product from the 1970’s),
water vapor surge—I can feel that for sure,
cloud band (the most lightweight heavy metal)
            river in the sky and moody to boot apparently.
whatever. words are fun
until they’re not anymore
            (insurgents stormed the capitol
            and my heart froze over—how’s that
            for wording).
now the country is supposed to forget
what we heard, what we saw. 
we’re onto weather:
unusually huge plops of snow 
fall on poor Chicago
while back at home
the Pacific Coast Highway fell
down the mountainside
as if the dreams of a little MG,
a bottle of wine, rock and rolling 
through the turns in Big Sur
meant nothing. You should know:
when the atmospheric river makes landfall
it releases and transforms
into something we can
touch and call
another name
if we want to.

Cathleen Calbert’s writing has appeared in Ms., The Nation, The New York Times, The Paris Review, Poetry, and elsewhere. She is the author of four books of poems: Lessons in Space, Bad Judgment, Sleeping with a Famous Poet, and The Afflicted Girls. Her awards include the 92ndStreet Y Discovery Poetry Prize, a Pushcart Prize, the Sheila Motton Book Prize, and the Mary Tucker Thorp Professorship at Rhode Island College.

Saturday, June 26, 2021


by Erik Schwab

Graphic source: The Daily Plant.

It’s not that they’re screaming. It isn’t pain exactly,
in the market garden, these kohlrabis and cabbages,
these garlic scapes: it’s that they’re in shock. Harvest
is our word, theirs must be apocalypse. But another
word is anthropomorphize and someone told me
once I shouldn’t do it and I believed them and found
the stump of my root dunked in a washbasin and divested
of holy dirt. Now near the end of time

I wish medications were poems, I wish I were floating
over lakewater, skipping silver marbles instead of
saying the new things I say every reluctant day: I’m
on the mend, thanks, thanks, I’m grateful for the
prayer, for the sea urchin, for the red beetle, for
the cabinet of curiosities you sent and for the gig driver
who lost three family members while my heart was 
locked behind a thick pandemic door.

The right kind of time traveler would go twenty years back
and plant that tree, but we service-patched cyborgs
haul our untested upgrades in one direction only, toward
the gracious refusal, toward the retirement of connections, until
the building falls in the middle of the night, the slumbering tenants
dreaming of skydiving and waking to astonishment.

Erik Schwab lives in Seattle, WA. Last year he started writing poems for the first time since college, with the invaluable help of a weekly workshop at Community Building Art Works.

Friday, June 25, 2021


by Stephen Barile

Bill told me when he was a boy
Two federal officers and an Indian agent
Came to his parent’s hogan,
And against his mother’s will
Put him on a bus with other Navajo boys
He knew and delivered them to Tolatchi.
On the bus trip there,
From the window, he kept careful watch
Of the position of the sun
In the afternoon sky as a means
To guide him home to Chinle,
He said, pointing to the clouds.
Bill moved closer as he bragged,
Navajo were experts at disappearing
quickly and hiding in the vast lands.
At Chuska Indian Boarding School
He would be assimilated
Into American culture,
Given an American-style haircut,
Dressed in a white child’s clothes,
Forbidden to speak his only language.
From the moment he arrived,
He could no longer be an Indian.
They cut off his hair,
Forbade singing and dancing.
He waited until dark, then ran
In the direction of his family home.
Bill figured he ran south
Near Tse Bonito. At Separate Hill,
A search party nearly captured him.
He kept on running in the night
South to Mexican Springs and Nakaibito
At sunrise, he was west of Kinlichee.
Over the next two days, he found food
And rested, then ran to Nazlini, then Chinle.
It took him three days to get there.
His mother hid him carefully
When Indian agents came around
To check on his whereabouts.

Stephen Barile, a Fresno, California native, educated in the public schools, attended Fresno City College, Fresno Pacific University, and California State University, Fresno. He was a long-time member of the Fresno Poet's Association. Stephen Barile taught writing at Madera Community College and CSU Fresno. His poems have been published in Featured Poets, Santa Clara Review, Kathmandu Tribune, Tower Poetry, As It Ought To Be Magazine, Rue Scribe, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, Metafore Magazine, From Sac Literary Journal, The Heartland Review, Rio Grande Review, The Broad River Review, The San Joaquin Review, Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, and Pharos, among others journals.

Thursday, June 24, 2021


by Jerome Betts

Dominic Cummings, sacked special adviser to Boris Johnson, has been releasing embarrassing WhatsApp
messages exchanged with his former employer. Cartoon by Howard McWilliam.

Internal emails, swift to write, 
Whose speed can spread more heat than light
And tempt a PM in too deep
With words the media used to bleep,
You cheer us when we note with glee. 
His post in peril from D.C.
O linen stained with dog-eat-doggery
Put on display in public bloggery,
May you prove fatal in the end
To both buffoon and faithless friend
So evermore we shall be free
Of  Tweedle B. and Tweedle D.

Jerome Betts lives in Devon, England, and edits the verse quarterly Lighten Up On Line. His work has appeared in a wide variety of British magazines and anthologies as well as UK, European, and North American web publications such as Amsterdam Quarterly, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, The Asses of Parnassus, Better Than Starbucks, The Hypertexts, Light, The New Verse News, and Snakeskin.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021


by Aryan Ashory

Hey Talib a stain of shame in our history 
You didn’t show mercy to our newborn babies
You didn’t show mercy to our students
You didn’t show mercy to our pregnant women
You didn’t show mercy to our old white-bearded fathers
You didn’t show mercy to our wise sisters and brothers
I wish for this slaughterhouse generation to be destroyed
I wish for our notebooks to be no more tainted with blood
I wish that we lose no more our kin and our beloveds
I wish for no more crying, collapsing, tears and pain
I wish that our education be no more cloaked in blood
I wish that we no more be the page of sorrow in the history of the world 
I wish that our goals no longer be cut short before their fulfillment
I wish our hills be no more filled with the corpses of students
I wish those living to be coloured no more with red

Aryan Ashory is a 16-year old poet and filmmaker from Afghanistan. She spent two years in Greece, before moving with her family to a refugee camp in Germany. Her poems are in Dari, English, Greek, and German. One of her short films, about her experience of Coronavirus and quarantine in a refugee facility, was among 15 finalists for the Girl Rising Competition and is available here

Tuesday, June 22, 2021


by Earl J. Wilcox

Photo by Jeff Curry/USA Today via Sports Illustrated.

I know I can divorce you,
being unfaithful and untrue.
This late June—barely real 
summer yet—you tease me
with a rare afternoon win,
heat up the Division for a day
or so, cause me to sweat &
and swear I will never leave you.
Lately, tho, you break my heart.
I feel deceived when you bring up
players from the farm team, send
down better hitters you’ve been
flirting with. Last week, I
almost went to seek a lawyer
when you simply rolled over
for a bush-league, slutty team.
What happened to our spring trainin’
plans, hopes, and dreams, that you’d be
faithful this season, give me your
best, not waste scarce money on
players like that stud from out west--
You know the one I mean—look what
it got us. Hank Williams was right
about cheatin’ hearts, they do tell
on you, make us feel so lonesome
we could die. I’m getting’ in my truck,
pick up some brewskis no matter what
some say, there’s a lot of crying in baseball.

Growing up country in the American South, Earl Wilcox thrives on Cardinals baseball, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and some Elvis.

Monday, June 21, 2021


by George Salamon

“Severe heat and drought the hallmarks of a changing west… Unless people drastically reduce planet-warming emissions, the world faces a future of increasingly frequent and severe environmental disasters: coastal flooding, mass extinctions, deadly hurricanes, uncontrollable wildfires.” —The Washington Post, June 20, 2021. Photo: Boats sit unused in Lake Oroville, Calif., on Tuesday. A severe water level drop in the lake has forced about 130 houseboats to be removed. (Melina Mara / The Washington Post)

The worship of money
and machines made us
vile and ugly, nobility
and beauty live in
inanimate things, in
flowing waters and in
moving clouds, in
animals of the wild
green and blue depth,
we sold our souls to
delusions that kept the
people marching down
to nothing at the end of
their dream.
A poet wrote that he'd
the future." The future
has arrived, and we'll 
burn in its fire.

George Salamon lives and writes in St. Louis, MO.

Sunday, June 20, 2021


by Laura Rodley

His heart is carefully tendered,
a stent maintaining a constant
opening in his left descending
artery, the artery that was
completely blocked three years
ago causing his heart attack,
before his surgery. His heart has
healed to full sixty percent ejection
fraction: normal. He takes his meds
regularly, calls me, his wife, to say
he’s taking them while on the road,
a way to remember what is so easy to forget.
Before his heart attack, the pumping action
of his heart was just an afterthought, a given,
no monitoring or overseeing required.
Now he is father to his heart, constantly
aware of its pulses, aware of pains that were similar
to his neck pain, the nausea, when his heart
was blocked, a pearl spun of his own plaque
blocking the flow. He will always be watching
the rhythm of his heart, aware of its working, or not.
His heart is no longer a child released out
into the world like his son and daughters.
His heart rides with him everywhere,
has special needs: low salt, no butter, only
olive oil, a specific regimen he must follow
to not fail his heart so his heart won’t fail him.
Though, if, in spite of this, his heart fails,
it would not be his fault: it’s genetics, an inherited
weakness that overtipped the cart, but now he’s
pushing it, all of it, his heart, his father
who had four heart attacks, his being father
to his own heart, making sure it wakes up
on time, beats on time, he’s never closing the door.

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 As You Write It Lucky Lucky 7, a collection of 11 writers' work.

Saturday, June 19, 2021


by Flavian Mark Lupinetti

Good idea, Sweet Lou. 
No need to nuke the moon. 
Just… scooch it over a little. 
Like you said, make it travel 
in a slightly bigger circle. 
Or a slightly smaller one, 
whatever, let the Forest Service 
guys figure it out. 
Oh, I know you know it’s an ellipse. 
Just… adjust it. 
The foresters have the know-how, 
not to mention a whole lot of 
picks and shovels, right? 
Sure, you could ask NASA 
to do the job with rockets. 
But I see what you’re after. 
Change the moon’s orbit, 
but do it in an artisanal way. 

Flavian Mark Lupinetti, a writer and cardiac surgeon, received his MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.  His fiction and poetry have appeared in About Place, Barrelhouse, Bellevue Literary Review, Beltway Poetry Review, Briar Cliff Review, Cutthroat, The Examined Life, Neon, PROEM, Weber—The Contemporary West, and ZYZZYVA

Friday, June 18, 2021


by Mary K O’Melveny

Jeff Bezos will soon soar out to deep space.
Someone with thirty million to spare
will join him in that endless place
we all struggle to comprehend, stare
at as if we could know it, trace
its contours, fix its borders. Where
does it end, this endless cash some chase?
As workers sweat and toil in nightmare
warehouses, such wealth will outpace
most whose dreams must rest elsewhere,
whose week’s small paycheck is embraced,
then quickly dispersed. Some might declare
the super-rich have every right to showcase
their successes. Others will despair
our grave inequities—just in case
one missed them—say it is quite unfair
to celebrate when most of the human race
struggles, starves, resides in threadbare
dwellings with no breathing space,
much less leisure time or medical care.
For most, three jobs won’t outpace
the bills. Yet, our daily news fare
carries front page tales without a trace
of irony about travels of billionaires,
as if their exploits might displace
raw fears, needs, demands, the wear
and tear of days grounded in place.
Still, our imaginations can take us there
even without cash for shuttle fares to space.
We can visit vast black holes that appear
to consume all light, marvel at defaced
meteorites, search long dead stars where
memories lie fallow waiting to be traced.
We can follow spurts of sunspots, the flare
of celestial meteor showers. There’s grace
in that truth. Almost like an answered prayer.

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, June 17, 2021


by John Van Dreal

The modal jazz—a soothing sound in my earbuds. I navigate 
the determined roots of a white oak clawing their way 
through a sidewalk fracture then stumble and glimpse at the 
edge of the bridge, tucked just under the concrete steps 
leading to the park, a man resting, shrouded in a blue plastic 
tarp. A garbage bag sits, spilling soiled socks, tattered 
underwear, a pair of truly distressed denims over the damp 
grass. A Starbucks paper cup, stuffed with candy bar 
wrappers, lies next to his hand. His sleeping bag is strewn 
over the stair railing, drying in the sun. A few feet away, a 
shopping cart adorned with strands of decayed ivy, wet rags, 
an orange safety cone, a dog leash, and silver tinsel leans 
against a bridge post. The tinsel doesn’t make sense.
My mind mutes the tune—its moderate, melodic tempo 
transposing to the smell of dampness and urine. It reminds
me of the high school locker room when I was fifteen. It’s 
not a nostalgic smell.
Compassion fatigue. I’ve become numb to these scenes—the 
new normal in my city.
In the past, I was acutely concerned. Each person living on 
the street advising me on guilt—their threadbare accessories 
and refuse a reminder of my failed humanity. I often felt 
compelled to do something, but secretly wished they would 
return to the trees, out of sight.
I know there must be a middle ground, between passion and 
I head back to town, through the park, focused on the music. 
Miles reminds me that it’s just blues. That’s all it is. My 
thoughts turn to a book on Andrew Wyeth. My life has 
always been a painting composed collaboratively by the 
gods of biogenetics and my parents but left for me to add 
color, value, form. Now, my kids add glazes of translucent
monochromatic tone, like thin, colored slices of stained glass 
held over the entire canvas. Each layer subtly unifying the 
whole. There is an awkward aesthetic, but so far it is 
working. It could have been different, though. It still could 
I look back at the resting man. That’s me in a different 
universe. That’s any of us.

A third-generation artist, John Van Dreal began painting and writing at age seven. He earned his formal education in Fine Arts at Humboldt State University and Brigham Young University and educational psychology at Brigham Young University, maintaining careers in both fields while writing. A musician and award-winning artist with work featured in collections throughout the Pacific Northwest, Van Dreal uses his creative vision and accessible writing style to explore both the darker and quirkier sides of human behavior. He resides in Salem, Oregon and is currently composing his first novel.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021


by Marc Swan

"You say you want a revolution... " —John Lennon

Thoughts turn to the Founding Fathers
an oxymoron perhaps. I envision 
them around the hearth,
wooden tankards, pewter mugs in hand 
contemplating the future of this new land. 
Did they foresee manifest destiny—
a two-coast country, 
French and English speaking to the north, 
Spanish speaking to the south, 
expanse of prairie, native beasts hunted 
down, more importantly 
Indigenous peoples decimated 
in the name of a united states? 
What of states, 
offshoots of a federal land grab—
thirteen to start then the quest began. 
In framing that constitution written 
so long ago— 
a two-party system 
now stuttered and stalled,
amendments sporadic, difficult 
to achieve, did they envision
blue states on edge, thick-bellied
red center, chaos, political turmoil, 
climate wracked by indifference.
Settled in front of my hearth,
feet resting on the ottoman,
thoughts turn to 2022—
rivers rise, forests burn,
a black sky holds the night.

Marc Swan’s fifth collection, all it would take, was published in 2020 by tall-lighthouse (UK). Poems forthcoming in Chiron Review, Gargoyle, Steam Ticket, Coal City Review, among others. He lives in coastal Maine with his wife Dd, a maker and yoga teacher.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021


by Nathan Porceng

U.S. Roman Catholic bishops are due this week to discuss whether politicians, including President Joe Biden, should receive Communion while supporting abortion and LGBTQ rights, a debate that has divided the clergy and laid bare internal cultural rifts. —Reuters, June 15, 2021

and his air smells funny
and his art looks funny
and his wine tastes funny
but you try not to offend him,
for you’re dining in his house.

You exchange pleasantries.
You catch up a bit.
You ask about Gabe,
and Michael
and all the other boys
from yard days past
and he tells you they’re
even made a bit of money,
though they don’t come
around as often as they should,
and you try not to offend him,
for you’re dining in his house.

And it’s Eastertime,
or Christmastime,
or all another holy time.
He asks if it’s been a rough year?
“You don’t look so well.”
“You used to be so giving.”
You swill your wine.
You swallow.
“Yes, it has been a rough year,”
you spit,
but you try not to offend him
for you’re dining in his house.

He tells you
he likes you 
better in person.

You tell him
you like him 
better by mail.

He nods.

He appreciates your candor.

He makes a little joke.
He tells you he has it on the BEST of authorities
that this is FINALLY the year
that your team
(Panthers, Pirates, Penguins... )
will win it all.

In years past,
you’d fake a smile,
and try not to offend him,
but you can’t even manage

He plays you a song.

He ushers you out.

You leave his house,
feeling emptier for it.

Nathan Porceng is a Washington-based poet, songwriter, and submariner. As part of the band Bridge Out, he won first place at the 2014 Northeastern Songwriter Festival in Brookfield, CT. He firmly believes Joe Strummer gave us all the tools we need to save the world.

Monday, June 14, 2021


by Charles Rammelkamp

After the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921, whole neighborhoods such as the Greenwood district were destroyed. Photograph: Universal History Archive/Getty Images via The Guardian, May 30, 2021.

“Every year it was one of the most stolen books from the Tulsa library system. Every year I would send them a new box.” —Scott Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921

In the late fifties I was teaching history 
at Booker T. Washington High in Tulsa 
when I told my students 
about the massacre in 1921.

“The whites came over the tracks,
machine guns blazing, wiped out Greenwood,
probably more than three hundred dead.”
In fact, I told them, they’d used this building,
Booker T. High, as a hospital for colored folks.

“I don’t believe that!” one of my students shouted,
a pool hustler named Don Ross.
“How come don’t nobody know nothing about it, Mr. Williams?”

But I remember. I was sixteen,
fighting next to my father,
trying to save our building, our business,
Williams Confectionery, down the block
from our other business, Dreamland Theater,
corner of Greenwood and Archer.

The whites finally overwhelmed us.
They marched me down Greenwood,
my arms reaching for empty sky.
I watched a white boy running from our house,
a fur coat belonging to my mother 
clutched to his chest like the pelt
of some animal he’d just killed.

Next day I showed Don Ross the pictures,
charred corpses and burned-out buildings,
took him to meet other survivors.
How come don’t nobody know nothing?
I told Ross: “Because the killers
are still in charge of this town, boy.”

Author's Note: My source for the true story of W.D. Williams is Tim Madigan's "American Terror" in The Smithsonian.

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore. Two full-length collections were published in 2020: Catastroika from Apprentice House and Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books. A poetry chapbook, Mortal Coil, was published earlier this year by Clare Songbirds Publishing.

Sunday, June 13, 2021


by Jen Gupta

Cartoon by Mark Knight, Kids News, May 28, 2020.

Everything was in twos this year, 
split into a before and after: 
two versions of each kid, one virtual 
forehead, pale ceiling, one real— 
three dimensional and so loud, silence 
something they saved for their homes.

At first, school had no home
lived on a bed or kitchen table, a year 
where every one was a muted silence,
a vacant square and it wasn’t until after
the panic, that we all became real,
more than a nuisance, virtually

everything changed when we were virtual,
each student tucked into a different home
life, some warm and orderly some real 
terrible, some a black and blue year
hidden under a black square and after 
it ended, they stayed silent.

Even us teachers were silent,
working nights to make virtual
every paper worksheet, after 
all, we had nothing at home,
just head down waiting for the year
to end, wishing for children more real

and then, finally, they were real,
the shattering of silence 
like September at the end of the year,
voices piercing through the virtual
nightmare, everyone happy to leave home,
to feel smiles under their masks, after

so long apart, we were sensitive. After
it ended, we couldn’t believe we had really
seen the insides of each other’s homes,
killed time in so much silence,
only known each other as virtual
in this gritty imitation of a year.

After the silence of this virtual year, 
we found home in each real moment, 
in the noise of three dimensional bliss.

Jen Gupta (she/her) is a middle school English teacher, writer, avid hiker, and horse lover. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with her husband and their seven houseplants. Her work has been published in Anti-Heroin Chic and is forthcoming at Sledgehammer

Saturday, June 12, 2021


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/]

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


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


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
skeletons and screams

all burial sites
are not graves

laughter of children 
at a school,
a concentration camp

an escape plan:
from the highest balcony

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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    

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


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.


·      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.