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Friday, December 31, 2021


by David Chorlton

An Ariane 5 rocket second stage deployed the James Webb Space Telescope shortly after launch on Dec. 25, 2021. It's 'humanity's last view' of the new observatory, says NASA PAO Rob Navias.

A cloud filled with shadow
floats up towards the gods
veiled in shades of cold
who look out from the mountain
and talk among themselves
about creation and energy
channeled to become this slender ridge
as the first step to infinity
and home for the coyotes
who come out every night to ask the stars
for guidance through the dark.
Word has it
from the hawks ascending
that a rocket has left the Earth
to go so far back in time
that all remaining to be seen
are the final ashes from
the cosmic dawn. What
a flash and what an echo
must have issued from the moment,
they reflect. And yet
not a single mockingbird
and no woodpeckers flew
from the crash. The day
is chilly but beautiful in how
the sheets of rain drift past
each other, and crossing
the peaks are the souls
the fates could never capture for themselves.

David Chorlton is a longtime resident of Phoenix, who continues writing, painting, and keeping track of the local bird life. His newest book is Unmapped Worlds, a collection of rehabilitated poems from his files of the past.

Thursday, December 30, 2021


by Martin Elster 

A newfound species of millipede (Eumillipes Persephone) has more legs than any other creature on the planet—a mind-boggling 1,300 of them. The leggy critters live deep below Earth's surface and are the only known millipedes to live up to their name. Image credit: Paul E. Marek, Bruno A. Buzatto, William A. Shear, Jackson C. Means, Dennis G. Black, Mark S. Harvey, Juanita Rodriguez, Scientific Reports via LiveScience, December 16, 2021.

We look for life on Mars, yet deep below
our feet she’d crept unseen, a creature blessed
with far more legs than any life we know:
thirteen hundred plus! With a great zest
for fungi, she was the world’s cellar-dweller,
ginormously antennaed, lacking eyes—
a tendril. Her recycling skills were stellar
(although she wasn’t looking for a prize!). 
Earth’s only millipede uniquely “milli,”
she was the slenderest and longest weed  
that we had ever hauled up willy-nilly.
We’ve christened her “Persephone.” Indeed,
although she led a life of utter gloom,
our little cousin helped the flowers bloom.

Martin Elster, who never misses a beat, was for many years a percussionist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra (now retired). He finds contentment in long woodland walks and writing poetry, often alluding to the creatures and plants he encounters. A full-length collection, Celestial Euphony, was published by Plum White Press in 2019.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021


by Bill Sullivan

on the anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre,
December 29, 1880

From the Collection of Colby College Museum of Art: Albert Bierstadt, "View of Chimney Rock, Ohalilah Sioux Village in the Foreground" (1860).

Eighteen sixty—in his Manhattan studio
Albert Bierstadt studies his year-old photographs
and oil sketches of the Great Plains and foothills
of the Rockies. He then turns to his images of 
the Lakota, the Oglala Sioux and his collection
of their artifacts. He pauses, fills his brush with
oil paint, approaches the board sitting on the easel,
saying silently, "Everything must glow, must shine
like the soft rays of the sun." He adds more dove gray
to the last of the low clouds; steps back, saying, “Yes,
it's all there and more, the luminous amber sky,
the aquamarine river, the lush green bushes
on the bank, the soft shadows, the warmest of suns."
And there are the two horsemen in the shallow water,
one with child mounted in front, the other to his right
relaxed, but with a rifle at his side. Far right a woman,
water to her waist, ready to do the morning wash
and on the bank three tepees, shelter for this band
and just beyond another man riding off for the day's
hunt. And all the carefree children and unleashed dogs
scattered about. It is family, clan and tranquility,
life beyond what is and will be and he knows that.
Knows that when he includes Chimney Rock—
a storm shaped relic of a violent volcanic past,
a weathered cone that rose some three hundred feet
above the prairie grasses and became a marker for  
the fur traders, Mormons and pioneers tramping a trail
west—to Oregon and California. Knew it when he
and the government surveying team followed the North
Platte River reached the structure, examined the gifts,
messages and drawings left by previous travelers—
determined dreamers who heeded the prophets' call:
"Go west! Our destiny!  God's will! This land, ours from
the Atlantic to the Pacific." Now the creaking oxcart
and wagon, soon the hiss and steam of the locomotive.
He places the prominent rocky tower in the distant
background, makes it appear insignificant,
but knows his idyllic world would soon bleed.
He did not conjure up the brutal chapters then—
the butchery, expulsion, internment, deprivation
and suffering. But his life spanned the tale. Yes, he
lived long enough to read the reports of the massacre
at Wounded Knee. Lived long enough to examine
the photos of the corpses—men, women and children—
being tossed into a mass grave—lived long enough
to ponder the photo of Chief Big Foot's frozen body
lying in the blood-soaked snow—his cupped hands
outstretched as if reaching out for his slain followers.
And what did Albert say that late December day?
Did he think of that halcyon scene he had painted
thirty years earlier? Did he shrug his shoulders,
conclude that it had to be, or did he weep?       
Before retiring to Westerly, Rhode Island, Bill Sullivan taught English and American studies at Keene State College, the University System of NH. He has co-authored two studies of twentieth century poetry and co-produced two documentary films. Here Am I, Send Me, The Journey of Jonathan Daniels, aired by numerous PBS stations, streams at His poems have appeared in numerous print and on-line publications. Loon Lore: In Poetry and Prose was published in 2015 by Grove Street Press. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021


by Ken Purscell

I heard his laugh before I heard the news,
But recognized who made that laugh and why:
He'd overcome their power to refuse
His ballot. Now his laugh could finally fly
Unhindered. Yes, there still was all the pain
Of truth to face. And reconciliation?
Never easy. Yet gentle as the rain,
He worked to foster healing to a nation.
But that one moment, joy sprang out in laughter
Because he’d laughed a thousand times before–
Despite the past behind, what might come after–
Holding tight the faith that was his core:
Christ’s mercy conquers every evil thing,
So even before the news arrives, we sing!

Ken Purscell is a retired retail cashier, adjunct professor, and preacher. He and his wife Koni live in the suburbs of Chicago. He still claims his greatest accomplishment is that he once made Victor Borge laugh.


by Mary K O'Melveny

Told it like it is    Like it was
  if we had been paying better attention
Made us see what she saw   and be grateful
Stared into storms  wearing night vision goggles
  in case we missed some essential point
Exposed each slant of light    tone of voice   shadowed figure
Crafted a perfect sentence   Drafted a fine line
Saw that a paragraph can hold more weight than gold
  if it opened our eyes wider   and we did not blink
Spoke with timbre of choruses and echoing canyons
 we could hear her whispers cutting through darkness
  in case we lost the soundtrack of our own lives
Understood more than most   Less is more
  there is little room for error   restraint can be operatic
   understatement can be perfect   is often preferable
Laid out the sorrowful news that we will not survive
  recast such tales as memoir   you always lose what you need
Told us don’t bother to weep    Timing is everything

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.

Monday, December 27, 2021


by Harsimran Kaur

Several women’s organisations across [India] have opposed the government’s move to increase the age of marriage of girls from 18 to 21 years, which has been ironically touted as a measure of women’s empowerment. … Similarly, ‘Young Voices: National Working Group’ formed in response to the task force, comprising 96 civil society organisations, in its report published on July 25, 2020, had also opposed this move. The report brought out after surveying about 2,500 adolescents across 15 states stated, “…Increasing the age of marriage will either harm or have no impact by itself unless the root causes of women’s disempowerment are addressed.” —Flavia Agnes, “Increasing Marriage Age for Girls May Only Strengthen Patriarchy,” The Times of India, December 19, 2021

my friend got married at seventeen
singing the hymns her mother sang some
twenty-five years ago

on a cold day in January
her henna – impolite
her body wrapped in Red
her tiny legs blurting out of her salwar:

“maybe it’s too soon.” i don’t know
her forehead smeared in red
eyes black, cajoled
driven out of existence.

all i know is that she is my friend
who loves Jell-O, baked cookies & comfy blankets
i don’t know who taught her marriage
i didn’t know a red bindi on her forehead before

& seven pairs of bangles made from glass
hanging loose from her wrists
two for one.
brought from the corner shop with no name

i didn’t know red grew in a land that
burns, buys, believes, blue
& meanders our lives 
like the Ganges

Harsimran Kaur is a seventeen-year-old author of three books. Her work has been recognised by The Royal Commonwealth Society, Oxford University Press, and the International Human Rights Art Festival. She is currently a senior in high school in India.

Sunday, December 26, 2021


An Erasure Poem by Jen Schneider

Derived from "Appalachian Elegy" (Sections 1-6) by bell hooks (1952-2021)

Activist & writer bell hooks (Gloria Jean Watkins) by SMiLE on the wall at Falafel King Restaurant, Boulder, CO (2017).

Appalachian Elegy (Sections 1-6)



hear them cry

the long dead                                 

the long gone

speak to us

from beyond the grave

guide us

that we may learn

all the ways

to hold tender this land

hard clay direct

rock upon rock

charred earth

in time

strong green growth

will rise here

trees back to life

native flowers

pushing the fragrance of hope

the promise of resurrection




such then is beauty


against all hope

you are here again

turning slowly

nature as chameleon

all life change

and changing again

awakening hearts

steady moving from

unnamed loss

into fierce deep grief

that can bear all burdens

even the long passage

into a shadowy dark

where no light enters



night moves

through the thick dark

a heavy silence outside

near the front window

a black bear

stamps down plants

pushing back brush

fleeing manmade


roaming unfettered


any place can become home

strutting down

a steep hill

as though freedom

is all

in the now

no past

no present




earth works

thick brown mud

clinging pulling

a body down

heard wounded earth cry

bequeath to me

the hoe the hope

ancestral rights

to turn the ground over

to shovel and sift

until history

rewritten resurrected

returns to its rightful owners

a past to claim

yet another stone lifted to

throw against the enemy

making way for new endings

random seeds

spreading over the hillside

wild roses

come by fierce wind and hard rain

unleashed furies

here in this touched wood

a dirge a lamentation

for earth to live again

earth that is all at once a grave

a resting place a bed of new beginnings

avalanche of splendor




small horses ride me

carry my dreams

of prairies and frontiers

where once

the first people roamed

claimed union with the earth

no right to own or possess

no sense of territory

all boundaries

placed by unseen ones

here I will give you thunder

shatter your hearts with rain

let snow soothe you

make your healing water

clear sweet

a sacred spring

where the thirsty

may drink

animals all




listen little sister

angels make their hope here

in these hills

follow me

I will guide you

careful now

no trespass

I will guide you

word for word

mouth for mouth

all the holy ones

embracing us

all our kin

making home here

renegade marooned

lawless fugitives

grace these mountains

we have earth to bind us

the covenant

between us

can never be broken

vows to live and let live


Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. She is a Best of the Net nominee, with stories, poems, and essays published in a wide variety of literary and scholarly journals. She is the author of A Collection of Recollections (Next Chapter), Invisible Ink, On Daily Puzzles: (Un)locking Invisibility and On Crossroads and Fill in the Blank Puzzles (forthcoming, Moonstone Press), and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups (forthcoming, Atmosphere Press).

Saturday, December 25, 2021


by Peter Neil Carroll

For most of the 19th century, the celebration of Christmas with Christmas trees and gift-giving remained a marginal phenomenon in American society. Most Americans remained skeptical about this new custom. Some felt that they had to choose between older English customs such as hanging stockings for presents on the fireplace and the Christmas tree as proper space for the placing of gifts. It was also hard to find the necessary ingredients for this German custom. Christmas tree farms had first to be created. And ornaments needed to be produced. The most significant steps toward integrating Christmas into popular American culture came in the context of the American Civil War. In January 1863 Harper’s Weekly published on its front page the image of Santa Claus visiting the Union Army in 1862. This image, which was produced by the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast, represents the very first image of Santa Claus. —Thomas Adam, “How Christmas Became an American Holiday Tradition, with a Santa Claus, Gifts and a Tree,” The Conversation, December 6, 2021

Today isn’t my holiday;
neither did the Puritans celebrate Christmas—
only after huddled masses, tempest tost
slipped through Ms Liberty’s golden door
did Santa tumble down the chimney.
So what? says the bored look
in my child’s eye. All day we shall suffer
her shame, born to pagan parents,
she will see us through the eyes
of little friends who believe.  
Yes, Virginia, today we will dash to church.
Not to pray, mind you, but to see the unseen
wretched refuse lining on cold sidewalks  
and to serve those we will have
with us always, strung out
like light bulbs at St. Anthony’s.
At noon, we dollop beans and rice,
turkey, spuds, chopped carrots and greens.
Everyone polite, clean, stiff-backed,
without voice or tune
or jingled bell, only the scrape of chairs,
spoons tinkling in tepid cups.

Peter Neil Carroll’s newest collections of poems are Talking to Strangers: Poetry of Everyday Life  (Turning Point, 2022) and This Land, These People: The 50 States (Press Americana) that just won the 2022 Prize Americana. He is currently Poetry Moderator of and lives in northern California.


by Sam Barbee

Nothing at stake this Christmas morning. 
The grate glares cold ash. I sip coffee
and recall family visits and apparitions
demanding reprise. Holiday lights
warm cedar branches with efforts to stay jolly. 
Outside, snowflakes soothe, fresh confection
masterpiece balanced beyond our threshold. 
Chill peals across the snow. Narrow drifts
shiver from the boughs. Yard gnomes grin.
Birdbath idles, basin propped against the pedestal.
Our tiny saints sing rounds of Jingle Bells
and toss snowballs. My son slings boyhood
My daughter casts off little sister caution—
Sublime wintering, no need for Merry New Year. 
Icicles hang from soffits, false prisms for icy shadows. 
I sort glossy holiday cards. 2021 slumps by the day.
Silence graphs this past year, this dreadful year,
when smallness thrived. My holiday paunch
swollen by a year I etched as edible—
my holiday efforts to burnish shiny days
and belittle others until we shutter failings.
I petition for the New Year's messiah with strategies
to charm next year's calendar, already highlighted
with celebrations and pursuits. The moon wanes,
shudders with a gut punch.  Shall I toss the diary?
Put the fresh word-a-day calendar in a drawer?
Will I placate the next world with old tricks?
Or tease tonight's marrow. I dream of easy
installments: a bit strapped for cash, my angels
flap their wings and cheer my unraveling day.
I stir the hearth ashes. And imagine a single
perfect morning when carols dance in the chimney
and risk sleeps in. Admire art gifted to one another,
hung on stark walls like flawless bliss trying to take hold.
Merriness found in a new masterpiece revealing old joy. 

Sam Barbee has a new collection, Uncommon Book of Prayer (2021, Main Street Rag).  His poems recently appeared in Poetry South, Literary Yard.  His collection That Rain We Needed (2016, Press 53) was nominated for Roanoke-Chowan Award as one of North Carolina’s best 2016 poetry collections; a two-time Pushcart nominee. 


by Laura Rodley

She panhandles at the long traffic lights
on corners of Federal and Main,
easier to have people drop money
into her hands.
She used to sell odd homemade clay jewelry
while sitting on the sidewalk,
leaning against the Martial Arts studio.
No one’s buying now.
Today, she’s dyed her hair dark brown,
holds her cardboard sign: Homeless, anything helps,
sits to the left of the entrance of Green Field’s Market.
They rarely ask her to move.
I have no change, not even for the meter,
and walk towards the market door.
“Hey, hey,” she calls, “They’ll give you a ticket.”
“I don’t have any change,” I say.
“Here, I do,” she says, unzipping her tracksuit pocket.
“No, no, I can’t take any money from you.”
Inside the store, I shop, use my debit card,
extract money for her, return.
“Here, thanks for protecting my car.”
“I do it for everybody,” she says. “It’s not good
to get a ticket, it goes against your license.”
“What’s your name?” I ask.
“Wendy,” she answers.
Wendy, all grown up, no longer led into Neverland,
protecting my car, sitting
on the cold hard sidewalk,
teeth chattering.

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.


by George Salamon

We have not yet been touched by
the better angels of our nature,
I hear the music of our time
singing songs of ill will, waging
campaigns of hate, shouting
murderous chants, but few
angels singing.
Let us wake them up and let
them sing of peace and good
will and join them by sharing
fruitcake and gingerbread
by the same tree in the
spirit that  has been fleeing
from our land.

George Salamon hopes those better angels will touch America on both sides of the many-sided divide that has settled upon our lives.

Friday, December 24, 2021


by Lynn White

From allegations of cursing the king’s ships, to shape-shifting into animals and birds, or dancing with the devil, a satanic panic in early modern Scotland meant that thousands of women were accused of witchcraft in the 16th-18th centuries with many executed. Now, three centuries after the Witchcraft Act was repealed, campaigners are on course to win pardons and official apologies for the estimated 3,837 people–84% of whom were women–tried as witches, of which two-thirds were executed and burned. After a two-year campaign by the Witches of Scotland group, a member’s bill in the Scottish parliament has secured the support of Nicola Sturgeon’s administration to clear the names of those accused, the Sunday Times reported. The move follows a precedent by the Massachusetts House of Representatives in the US that proclaimed victims of the Salem witch trials innocent in 2001. —The Guardian, December 19, 2021

Scotland was not the place to be a witch,
it really wasn’t.
There were more than four thousand witch trials
in Scotland
putting Salem to shame,
the Witch-Finders boasted.

One would suppose that 
wise women did not become witches,
but it seems,
many did
and paid a hot and heavy price.

So not many would be dancing,
even at Christmas,
even in spirit 
few would rise
for the occasion
only the bravest
would celebrate.

But this Christmas in Scotland
there is something more
a vindication,
a recognition of innocence
that does not require bravery to celebrate.
Even though it’s three hundred years late.

Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality and writes hoping to find an audience for her musings. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Peach Velvet, Light Journal, and So It Goes.

Thursday, December 23, 2021


by Mike Mesterton-Gibbons

It's déjà vu again. The Omicron—
That Covid rookie—dumps us all back at
Square one. We social-distance, masks full on,
Dictated to by rules ... A caveat:
Enactments are not uniformly tough—
Jabs may not be compulsory. If they
Are not, because persuasion's not enough,
Vax uptake is too low to save the day ...
Unshakeable aversion to the vax
And being glad that others got their shots
Goes hand in hand with dodging paying tax
And taking, all the same, from public pots.
It long precedes the age of me and you—
No wonder there's a sense of déjà vu!

Mike Mesterton-Gibbons is a Professor Emeritus at Florida State University. His acrostic sonnets have appeared in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Better Than Starbucks, the Creativity Webzine, Current Conservation, the Daily Mail, the Ekphrastic Review, Grand Little Things, Light, Lighten Up Online, The New Verse News, Oddball Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, the Satirist, The Washington Post, and WestWard Quarterly.


by Ruby Rodriguez

The climate crisis is killing migrants trying to cross the US border, study finds. Many undocumented migrants trying to cross the Sonoran desert into the US from Mexico are dying of dehydration and organ failure. Photo: A group of migrants cross the US-Mexico border in Otay Mesa, California. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images via The Guardian, December 16, 2021

a catarina sits like a cardinal
in a black and white movie
       on my window 
in front of a city of concrete 
       and metal and one giant 
intersection, this city
is nothing but grey cars and roads.

barbed wire is also grey,
morally, physically, 
       it exists only in the brown
of the Sonora desert dirt
and in the brown of our faces,
       white faces have fences
       brown faces have walls.

but the catarina is too red
the roses in tia’s garden are too 
the jalapeños in my fridge are too 
all faces bleed catarina red.

Ruby Rodriguez is a bilingual transgender Latina writer from San Antonio, Texas. Her work has been previously published in La Prensa Texas, at the America Library of Poetry, at the McNay Art Museum, and she is the winner of the Best Poem in Spanish in the second Aline B. Carter Poetry Contest (all under the name of Ricardo, however). She is the poetry and Spanish editor of the digital literary magazine, The Bunker Review.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021


by Marilyn Mathis
in memory of Wong Ching Ping

HONG KONG — Under the cover of darkness early Thursday, authorities in Hong Kong tore down a public sculpture dedicated to the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre, accelerating a campaign to erase the crackdown from public recollection and stamp out dissent in a city that until recently was one of Asia’s freest. The 26-foot-tall artwork, known as the “Pillar of Shame,” had stood at the University of Hong Kong for nearly a quarter-century and honored the hundreds, if not thousands, of students and others killed on June 4, 1989, when the Chinese military crushed pro-democracy protests. —The Washington Post, December 23, 2021

You send the kite skyward,
If it will fly or fall.
You speak
In Hong Kong
Unknowing if you will last the day.
But the kite,
Saying only a single word,
Is still an opinion,
A dangerous breath.
See, already winter branches have stopped it.
Fluttering desperately.
Silk and paper? Or a living bird?
It is of no matter.
The State will remove it.
Marilyn Mathis’ poem “On Turning Seventy” was published in 2021 by Sylvia Literary Magazine, U.K. She is the winner of the 2020 Ageless Authors Poetry Prize, third place, for “White Bird” which remained unpublished until now. She received international awards in writing, magazines and promotional projects throughout her career in corporate communications. Marilyn has edited a nonfiction book, Thriving Beyond Survival by Martha Germann. She has authored local and national magazine and newspaper features. She is currently at work on a mystery novel, several short stories and more poetry.


by Amy Small-McKinney

The shootings never stopped during the coronavirus pandemic, they just became less public, researchers say. —The New York Times, December 1, 2021

Let’s say you are struggling to speak.
A six-year-old has been ensnared by a shooter
in the sights of his makeshift automatic.
Let’s say you don’t understand his language of righteousness.
You look for oxygen.
For the locust that grows nearly twenty-feet tall.
Let’s say his mind empties body disconnects
returns astonished by his own rage.
Let’s say you want to walk a path
through the black locusts that survive drought lousy soil
pollution sea spray light and shade its clusters of white or pink
fragrant as your own body once was.
Let’s say the shooter turns his back, decides not to kill.
Notice how the locust’s treetop becomes a bear holding its cub.
Now, a bird. How the Arctic tern lives longest
and travels in its lifetime
almost three times around the moon.
Let’s say you loved this path, following your beloved
onto another trail that looped past a waterfall then a stream
where human figures loomed above in the distance
and you could only guess if they held
guns or each other.

Amy Small-McKinney’s chapbook One Day I Am A Field written during Covid after her husband’s death, is forthcoming with Glass Lyre Press. For the 2020 virtual AWP, she co-moderated an interactive discussion, Writing Through Grief & Loss: The Intersection of Social and Personal Grief During Covid.  Her second full-length book of poems, Walking Towards Cranes, won the Kithara Book Prize (Glass Lyre Press, 2017. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, for example, American Poetry Review, Baltimore Review, Connotation Press, and SWWIM. She was the 2011 Montgomery County Poet Laureate, judged by poet Chris Bursk. Her poems have also been translated into Korean and Romanian.  Her book reviews have appeared in journals such as Prairie Schooner and Matter. Small-McKinney resides in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021


by John Kaufmann

The enemies of American democracy? Big lie, big anger and big money. Saving American democracy will require stopping these three powerful forces already on the way to destroying it. —Robert Reich, The Guardian, December 19, 2021

A pallet of salt,
a bucket of chlorine, cement blocks,
two-by-six, one-by-two, shims, PVC, Pex.
I measure you by dollar figures, volume,
weight, time (although that’s the same
as money). Weigh
me, you say. Feel me.
Skirting panels, J-channels, trusses,
purlins, OSB.  A rust-bucket
excavator and a skid steer.  That was big.
I buy you because the lid
tends to blow off. Pipes burst, roofs collapse, septics clog.
Things fall apart. That’s 9,999,999 years
of kidney stones and payment plans,
and another 666,666 of holes you can’t stop digging.
And it gets worse;
it’s the fine print that will kill you,
but it’s the finer print that will grind you down. 
Pipe cutter, jig saw, ozone machine, tamper—
I buy you to shape the world, 
but the world shapes me.
Still, I use you to bang against it.
A caudillo with hair the color of a lion, a gaze
blank and pitiless as I-don’t-know-what and stubby hands
is moving his greasy thighs among the indignant desert birds—
but it’s not in Egypt this time. It’s here,
in the cracked septic tanks, the water mains made of electrical conduit and duct tape,
the shoddy foundations, the rotting window frames and leaky roofs.
It’s in the kung flu, the water boiling
slowly as the frogs hump, the Vulpine
chants to lock her up—or him—someone, please—
We have traced the call, ma’am, and it’s coming from inside the house.
Nuts, bolts, washers, screws (“I love you”, they say),
Wingnuts, eye bolts, U-bolts, hanger bolts, sex bolts.
Common nails, box nails, roofing nails, brads. I love you, too.
Not because you’ll bind us together. We are fated to spin out
like a bunch of Balkan states, a rogue galaxy or a pyrotechnic display.
I love you for the way you ding! when I drive you home, the way
you marry your two halves when I tighten you, how
you cleave a roof panel to a truss and how you bite into cement.
I love you because you don’t budge—because you
stay put while we are thrown against the fan, emerge
and float off into blue heaven, scattered.

John Kaufmann is a former lawyer, current mobile home park owner who lives in southern New York State.  His writing has been published in The High Plains Register, Off Assignment, Litro, The Journal of the Taxation of Financial Products, The Journal of Taxation of Investments, and Tax Notes


by Milton Jordan

The Biden administration sued Texas…to block its new congressional map, accusing the state of gerrymandering to shut out nonwhite people in violation of federal voting rights law. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the enforcement action at Justice Department headquarters, saying the redistricting plans Texas adopted in recent months “deny or abridge the rights of Latino and Black voters to vote on account of their race, color or membership in a language minority group.” The Dallas Morning News, December 6, 2021

The relentless repetition of lies
so soured the air that creation’s breathing
and the functions of our equipment falter
while once adequate systems repeat 
failures we had designed them to avoid.

Well practiced pretenders used just enough
bones and limbs from these dismantled structures
to obscure their exclusionary purpose
and deflect all critical review
of lines of demarcation to limit
participation to their chosen few.

Milton Jordan lives and writes with the musician Anne Elton Jordan in Georgetown, Texas.


by Tom Bauer
Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) announcement that he will vote against the Build Back Better Act rocked the political world on Sunday, with Democrats slamming their fellow colleague and Republicans celebrating the centrist senator’s decision, which effectively kills the party’s chances of passing the behemoth legislation. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said [Joe Manchin], the West Virginia Democrat is “gonna have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia” because he “doesn’t have the guts to stand up to powerful special interests.” —The Hill, December 19, 2021

Dooms the final plan with a nail, like Christ
was doomed, cross-wise, in plain view of all,
and also for the greater good of all.
There’s always a bad guy, the one to blame.
Is he the leader? He’s the visible one
making decisions for the ruling class,
the plant, the guy on the working-class team
who plays for the money team, the real team,
the ruling team with access to the rules.
Majority must mean majority of those
who rule the majority, because there’s no
majority of those who own the law.
We pray and bend our knees, but it is doomed,
and those few in control keep hammering.

Tom Bauer grew up playing violin and listening to spoken word recordings. When he was ten, he rashly announced he was going to be a poet. He did a bunch of university and stuff. He's had some poems published. He lives in Montreal and plays board games.