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Friday, March 01, 2024

A JEWISH WEDDING

by Jacqueline Coleman-Fried

Wild lilac orchids frame

a garden curled in jade

rainforest, where two ask,

How are we so lucky when the sons 

of Abraham are fighting?

The state built on ash 

in the desert kills to survive. 

A heel smashes a glass.



Jacqueline Coleman-Fried is a poet in Tuckahoe, NY. Her work has appeared in The New Verse News, Topical Poetry, Consequence, The Orchards Poetry Journal, and Sparks of Calliope.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

LEAP DAY 2024

by Sally Zakariya




In the fourth year the calendar
cracks open and out leaps 
an extra day, neither winter nor spring 
but somewhere on the cusp, 
let’s say the cusp of March, 
itself a cusp of sorts 
somewhere between 
lion and lamb.

So say you have one more day   
this year, another day to add
to your store from birth to death 
over a lifetime, no strings attached, 
nothing expected in return. 

Outside a scurry of snowflakes dance
on the early crocus, neither winter
nor spring but somewhere on the cusp.
What will you do with your extra day?


Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in some 100 publications and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Her publications include All Alive Together, Something Like a Life, Muslim Wife, The Unknowable Mystery of Other People, Personal Astronomy, and When You Escape. She edited and designed a poetry anthology, Joys of the Table, and blogs at www.butdoesitrhyme.com.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

HOW JOURNALISTS KEEP SCORE

by David Feela




For Gail Binkly & the 4CornersFreePress 9/2003 - 2/2024


Sitting in the back row 
at another public meeting 
listening to what’s spoken
hearing what’s not said 
measuring the distance between these goals 
where truth gets kicked around
to make a few cheap points

Every meeting is a scrimmage  
moving a pencil or pen 
pushing a digital button 
collecting every word 
rewinding & fast-forwarding 
late into the night 
until the players are realigned 
in an orderly fashion

As paragraphs emerge 
on a plain white field
the story’s noise gets hushed
an extended replay
an understanding
as if the game depended on more 
than who simply won or lost


David Feela writes monthly columns for The Four Corners Free Press and The Durango Telegraph. Unsolicited Press carries his latest chapbook Little Acres. His out-of-print collection of essays How Delicate These Arches—a finalist for the Colorado Book Award—is available once more, but this time as an ebook.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

WHERE THE WILD THINGS WERE

by Mary K O'Melveny


Flaco, the Eurasian eagle-owl whose escape from the Central Park Zoo and subsequent life on the loose in Manhattan captured the public’s attention, died Friday night after apparently striking a building on the Upper West Side, officials said. —The New York Times, February 23, 2024


At some point we all wanted to be Flaco.
To rise above our circumstances,
escape our confined lives,
take flight in open spaces
once known as dreams.

To perch high enough that our
imaginations cannot be captured.
To gain perspective on those details
of our former lives closer to ground
that went missing each day.

At treetop height, our diary of daily
exploits expands like open secrets,
while our fears are as useless as yesterday’s news.
Watch us in awe as shadows of our wings
recede into the far distance.

Up here, we listen to wind symphonies,
sway to syncopated beats of rain drops
on balcony ledges, fire escapes, water towers.
We watch sunsets morph from marigold to auburn to mauve
Aloft, we leap, linger like Nijinsky.

Some said survival was sketchy.
Wild creatures face too many obstacles –
best to keep them caged for longer life.
But they forgot about the thrill of open skies.
How memories expand when airborne.


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 poetry collections include Dispatches From the Memory Care Museum (Kelsay Books) and Merging Star Hypotheses (Finishing Line Press).

CONFESSION

by Susan Barry-Schulz


The life of Flaco, the Eurasian eagle-owl who escaped from the Central Park Zoo, and who died this past Friday outside a building on the Upper West Side, can be divided into two main chapters. Chapter 1 spanned nearly thirteen years, mostly in the zoo—first in the Temperate Territory near the snow leopards and red pandas, and later opposite the loud chiming of the Delacorte Clock. The second started when Flaco spotted a hole in his cage, evidently made by a vandal, and departed. Flaco, who’d been born in captivity and whose species is not native to North America, swooped and roosted in Central Park, taught himself how to hunt—stunning scientists—and lived more than a year on his own before wildlife rescuers found him unresponsive after an apparent collision with a building on West Eighty-ninth Street. —The New Yorker, February 26, 2024.  Photo: Flaco the owl perched on a water tower above a building in Manhattan in December. Credit: Paul Beiboer via The New York Times, February 26, 2024


The night I let Flaco the long eared Eurasian eagle-owl out of his enclosure at the Central Park Zoo I was as high as a red-tailed hawk. Earlier I had also downed two long-expired White Claws (one Blackberry and one Mango) and a bottle of Blue Moon from the back of the fridge because I was cleaning it out and I hate letting things go to waste. It was cold and dark and there we were, two creatures with eyes, just staring at each other and breathing in and out. After some time, it became apparent which one of us was the superior being. I was alone, which wasn’t unusual, but wished there was someone around to help me, which was. I hopped the fence no problem, but that stainless steel mesh was no joke. I stayed for a while, hoping the hole I had cut was big enough, but he didn’t budge. I kind of respected that. Later I followed his travels on @ManhattanBirdAlert and other birder accounts that I found by searching his name. At first, Flaco stayed in the park, testing his wings, learning to hunt, hanging out in his favorite oak tree at 104th Street. Then he expanded his reach, exploring the UES, eating rats and pigeons and other small animals, peering into people’s apartments and frequenting fire escapes, construction equipment and air conditioners. There was something about the sound of his hoots—almost like the sound you could make by blowing across the top of a glass bottle—echoing down from the rooftop water towers of Manhattan that made you feel lonely and comforted at the same time. I don’t know. Anyway, now he’s gone. I am responsible either for his death or for the best year of his life. Possibly both. Fly on, brother.

Monday, February 26, 2024

MY BODY DOESN’T BELONG TO ME

by Linda Laderman


The Alabama Supreme Court [pictured above in Night Country] has ruled that frozen embryos created and stored for in vitro fertilization (IVF) are children under a state law allowing parents to sue for wrongful death of their minor children… The 8-1 majority of the court found that it was a long-established precedent that "unborn children" are "children" for the purpose of the 1872 wrongful death law at issue in the case. It said that any doubt about that was removed by a 2018 amendment to the state's constitution, which declared that it was "the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children." —Reuters, February 23, 2024


I tell my husband that my body doesn’t belong to me.
Does it belong to me then, he says. He thinks he’s hilarious,
 
a comedian. That’s what he calls me when I say something 
he finds absurd or annoying. So I say, are you a comedian?
 
Then he asks me to explain. If your body doesn’t belong 
to you, who does it belong to? All sorts of entities, I say.
 
He thinks I’m overreacting after we watched the episode 
of True Detective Night Country, where we (spoiler alert)
 
find out that the frozen male bodies were not murdered
by a demon, but by a group of indigenous women who
 
were rightly pissed that their friend Annie K was brutally
beaten to death after she discovered a truth hidden from her
 
by her lover. I say, good for those women. Those men deserved
to be put out in the cold  How many times have women put
 
their hands on truth’s hot stove, in spite of its capacity to burn,
and ended up paying for it with everything that meant anything?
 
I ask, did you read the ruling from Alabama’s Supreme Court?
and wave my phone with the breaking news in front of his face.
 
Look, I say, Alabama is the spawn of Dobbs. This is not an episode on HBO.
Well, he says, what are you going to do, throw a bunch of naked law-
 
makers into sub-zero temperatures and leave them to freeze to death?
Only if I have the means and opportunity, I say. You are a comedian, he says.


Linda Laderman is a Michigan poet. Her work can be found in many journals, including SWWIM, One Art, The Scapegoat Review, and Mom Egg Review. She is the 2023 recipient of Harbor Review Jewish Women’s Prize and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

NEX

by Jeremy Nathan Marks


In his three years as state superintendent for Oklahoma’s public schools, Ryan Walters, a former high school history teacher, has transformed himself into one of the most strident culture warriors in a state known for sharp-edged conservative politics. Following the death earlier this month of a 16-year-old nonbinary student a day after an altercation in a high school girls’ bathroom, gay and transgender advocates accused Mr. Walters of having fomented an atmosphere of dangerous intolerance within public schools. In his first interview reacting to the death of the student, Nex Benedict, Mr. Walters told The New York Times that the death was a tragedy, but that it did not change his views on how questions of gender should be handled in schools. “There’s not multiple genders. There’s two. That’s how God created us,” Mr. Walters said, saying he did not believe that nonbinary or transgender people exist. He said that Oklahoma schools would not allow students to use preferred names or pronouns that differ from their birth sex. “You always treat individuals with dignity or respect, because they’re made in God’s image,” Mr. Walters said. “But that doesn’t change truth.” —The New York Times, February 23, 2024. A state senator [Oklahoma Republican State Sen. Tom Woods] said during a public forum in Tahlequah that LGBTQ+ people are “filth,” and that he and his constituents don’t want them in “our state.” —Tahlequah Daily Press, February 23, 2024. The police released video of the student, Nex Benedict, recounting the altercation a day before their death, which has drawn national scrutiny. —The New York Times, February 24, 2024
 
 
People insist flyover country 
gets a bad rap. It’s a place of trigger
happy Trumpy fundamentalists 
and bigots, dull and flat, filled with hate
incensed that Jackson could be replaced
by Tubman on the twenty where school 
principals don’t call ambulances 
when students are beaten for being 
who they are and thanks to someone named 
Chaya you can’t access the works of Toni 
Morrison or Kwame Alexander don’t you dare 
mention Harry Potter.
 
In the past I’ve insisted 
you can find fine dining 
excellent wine 
and terrific company anywhere
beauty is in the eye of the beholder
the flatlands are profound places
perfect for soul searching silence 
 
and now there are fine vineyards 
everywhere, even places where few
people if anyone speak French. 
 
But I feel prepared to recant 
any previous defense 
because you won’t be killed 
for using a bathroom
just anywhere. 
 
The State of Oklahoma has decided 
it officially, legally hates people 
who see themselves as people 
first, rather than female or male
 
and so a person 
—aren’t we all people first—
named Nex died 
after they 
a person 
used a bathroom for girls 
but some other girls backed
by the State of Oklahoma 
decided Nex shouldn’t 
because they wouldn’t 
say (like Beyoncé once did) 
if I were a boy 
 
it makes me think of the old bad days 
when people of color had to piss 
their pants because of No Service 
they could not be caught taking a leak 
in the street or out back of a building 
since the law 
always in vigilante hands  
would catch them dead 
for answering nature’s call. 
 
Oh, nature. Evil since Eve ate the apple. 
The State of Oklahoma seems to think 
nothing has changed since fictional Adam
couldn’t die when someone reached into 
his chest cavity—in a time before antiseptics—
and stole his rib, to plant in the Earth 
all so this curious miracle could be betrayed 
by one of only two genders. 
 
I want to ask those legislators 
in flyover Oklahoma and the 10  
states whose lawgivers spend their 
time snooping in stalls
(I want to ask my question preferably 
to their face)
 
And who’s the snake?  


Jeremy Nathan Marks lives in Canada. Recent work appears/will appear in Terrain.org, Belt, Rattle, Wilderness House, Mad In America, Writers Resist, Poetica Review, and Unlikely Stories. Jeremy’s latest book is Flint River published by Alien Buddha Press 2023.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

IMAGINE

by Steven Croft


AI-generated graphic for The New Verse News by Shutterstock


If instead of munitions, we could send Ukraine a spring
without war,

see Russian soldiers march off singing, "There is No Rank
Higher Than a Soldier's Mother," as mothers

who love them call them back home,

As the Dnieper thaws, let Ukraine beat its swords
into ploughshares for its golden fields of wheat, the farmers
no longer molested by fighter jets,

Let its cities be beautiful European cities again, free of
shelled and crumbling buildings, with

vibrant commerce and carefree nightlife, let people
sit idly in cafes, reaching calmly for coffee cup, newspaper,

its list of dead gone – for now,

Unwind stacked car graveyards of burnt-out husks,
bomb-twisted chassis, put them new again on roads
unpocked by explosion,

Let the countryside host tortoiseshell butterflies and roe deer,
the sound of bees visiting flowers, instead of armies
of tanks,

Let unstartled horses and cattle whip their tails idly in pastures
behind mended fences,

Let Ukraine part the dark curtain of daily anticipatory death,
box up the war strategy, the screams of wounded and dying, grief
of the living, tape them shut—for now,

Send home its stretched-thin, worn-out army of war,

Let its President wear a suit again, let his face cast off its war
fatigue, his body the green battle fatigues,

All over Ukraine let bells of peace and respite ring from the shingled
belltowers of wooden churches, let them dance the hopak

with fevered joy.


Steven Croft lives on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia. His latest chapbook is At Home with the Dreamlike Earth (The Poetry Box, December 2023). His work has appeared in Willawaw JournalSan Pedro River ReviewSo It GoesAnti-Heroin ChicThe New Verse News, and other places, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Friday, February 23, 2024

DREAM

by Tricia Knoll





“Our biggest dream is to just be able to stand by the windows.” —Saleem Aburas, a relief coordinator with the Red Crescent near Al-Amal hospital in Khan Younis, quoted in Two Hospitals in Southern Gaza Are Left Barely Functioning," The New York Times, February 19, 2024

 
To stand by a window. To see my neighbors water their geraniums 
on the stoop. To watch traffic, the old blue cars and the new cars
going off to work. The children waiting at the front doors for
a mother to walk them off to school. To watch my wife in the
garden. At night to watch moths flutter at the street lights. 
 
Of course it’s holidays with family. Feasting foods after fasts. 
The hug from my cousin who owes me money. My hug to him.
A first drink of cold water after sleep. It’s all these things,
 
plus those moths fluttering at the street lights who think
dreams come true. 


Tricia Knoll welcomes the arrival of her new book of poetry Wild Apples from Fernwood Press this week—poems that tell stories of downsizing, moving 3000 miles from Oregon to Vermont, running into Covid and welcoming two grandsons.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

A VAST SHROUD

by Trina Gaynon


The late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, seen here smiling during a 2021 court appearance, never lost his sense of optimism and joie de vivre behind bars, says Ilia Krasilshchik, a Russian journalist who exchanged letters with him in prison. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images via CBC).


If they’re told to feed you caviar tomorrow, they’ll feed you caviar. 
If they’re told to strangle you in your cell, they’ll strangle you.
                                                                                    
Aleksei A. Navalny

 


Exile begins when the law is broken.

Don’t let them tell you your arrest

will be followed by a bail hearing.

There will only be bank accounts seized

and a shuffling between prisons,

There will only be a pen and paper,

sometimes held up to prison windows

by your attorneys, sometimes transmitted

through an outdated digital system.

Don’t let them tell you there will be

a trial, an impartial jury, an unbiased judge.

There will only be executioners slipping 

poison into your tea, shoving a knife

into vital organs as you walk the streets,

or releasing a little nerve gas in your cell.

Don’t let them tell you death will erase you,

every sacrifice in vain. Call out the lie.

 


Trina Gaynon's poems recently appeared in Poetry EastTomahawk Creek Review, and Clepsydra. More can be found in The Power of the Feminine I, Volume 1 Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, other anthologies, numerous journals, and a chapbook An Alphabet of Romance from Finishing Line. She received an MFA in Creative Writing at University of San Francisco. A past volunteer for literacy programs in local libraries and WriteGirl in Los Angeles, she currently leads a group of poetry readers at the Senior Studies Institute in Portland.

A VOICE FOR NAVALNY

by Charise M. Hoge


Irina Ratushinskaya in 1986. Photo by Jane Bown/The Observer.


What would Irina say,
Irina Ratushinskaya,
poet in a prison camp
in 1983?

She saved her art
with a matchstick
and soap––
carving stanzas,
committing
to memory,
washing
away evidence.

Would she capture
the omissions,
the dying brilliance,
as she did the pattern
of frost from the gulag?
 
Would she take
the matchstick
of our outrage?

Would she put
soap in the mouth
of untruth?


Charise M. Hoge is a dance/movement therapist, writer, and performing artist. She is the author of Striking Light from Ashes and Muse in a Suitcase. Her poetry is also featured in Next Line, Please: Prompts to Inspire Poets and Writers (edited by David Lehman, Cornell University Press), as well as various journals. Charise is poet-in-residence for Art on Cullers Run (Mathias, West Virginia) and Art All Night H Street (Washington, DC). 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

THE WITLESS MAY PROCEED

 by Steven Kent




Hearings, we hold hearings by the score;
In fact, no time is left for legislation.
Our tools are slander, smear, insinuation,
Red herring, shady witnesses, and more.

Ukraine's on hold, and Israel to boot;
The "crisis" we decried down at the border
Seems not so pressing after all: Trump's order
To wait till post-election we salute.

Impeachment, though—Mayorkas—couldn't wait,
While hopes today are really, really ridin'
On hints and whispers aimed at Hunter Biden
(Since we've found zero evidence to date).

Hearings, we hold hearings by the score;
We talk the talk but balk at taking action.
We work instead through media distraction--
Real governance these days is such a bore!


Steven Kent is the poetic alter ego of writer, musician, and Oxford comma enthusiast Kent BurnsideHis work appears in 251, Asses of Parnassus, Journal of Formal Poetry, Light, Lighten Up Online, New Verse News, Philosophy Now, Pulsebeat Poetry Journal, and Snakeskin. His collection I Tried (And Other Poems, Too) was published in 2023 by Kelsay Books.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

CAGED BIRDS SINGING

by Lynn White


Songbirds have long been popular among Gaza’s population for their colour and song, but now they’re natural soothers against the thunder of Israel's relentless war [Mohamed Soleimane/Al Jazeera] February 17, 2024


She asked me why the caged birds sang.
I couldn’t tell her,
not for sure.
No mate will arrive this year,
just like last year.
I wonder if they remember,
perhaps they still
live in hope. 

She asked me if they heard the bombs falling
and if they felt fear.
I couldn’t tell her, 
not for sure.
Perhaps peace will arrive this year,
unlike last year.
I wonder if they remember peace,
perhaps they still
live in hope
as we all do here 
where the bombs never stop falling. 

She asked me if they knew
they brought us comfort.
“I think that’s why 
they still sing,”
I said.


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.

Monday, February 19, 2024

DEL’ MONOCLE TALES

by R Longfield


AI-generated graphic for The New Verse News by Shutterstock


Prologue

In the monthe of March, as the Ides blew colde,
Climbers of Capitol Hille, younge and olde,
And woerkers of the grate howse whyte would meet,
Their sorrows to drowne with wynes so strong and sweet,
Or bourbon’s amber anodyne in glass,
To make all sadness and trouble quickly pass.
Del’Monocle was called this wondrous place,
With its olde-tyme feel and ambient grace,
And I as the host of these raconteurs,
Their stories I will attempt to preserve.
The first, a staffer, an assistant younger,
In the grate howse whyte, so demure in tongue,
Yet so strong and brave in manner of speech,
Her spirit of golde let no man impeach.
Then, was an intern of the people’s howse,
Fair of face and hair, but a flitter-mouse,
Paled in comparison to what she heard,
Oh how she did clingge to every word.
A reporter of news was in their midst,
His drinkes, the strongest, and always a twiste,
Just like his stories and searches for truthe,
His favorite remedy was in vermouthe.
A cooke was among those in this party,
His laugh was loud, his appetite hearty,
For Oysters, Manhattans, and Cowboy steaks,
His favorite saying was, “Them’s the breaks.”
Next to the reporter, a Fixer sat,
His clothing was dark, his demeanor flat,
His eyes looked downe, his vicissitudes were blacke,
As if a large target were attached to his backe.
Beside the Fixer sat an Aesthetician,
Whose countenance was far from patrician,
Her language was flowery, to say the least,
While comparing her client to a beaste.
An ancient Senator joined them later,
Upon his escape from the high chamber,
Flaccid was his face of whyte, thin, his haar,
His half-pied clothes, from no Haberdasher,
Behind him a ladye from Georgia, faire,
With bleached wyhte teethe and badly tinted haar,
Many were her tayles of conspiracies,
Laysers from spayce and other such theories.
Last in the group, an insurrectionist, 
His convictions stronge, a long, written listed,
With grievances many, his anger and rayge,
Spewed forth from his mowth, discretion uncaged.

All of these pilgrims here rested awhile,
Each told a tale with various style,
Before heading home or travelling south,
To kisseth the ring of the man with the mowth.
The man with the mowth and the bright orange fayce,
Their object of worship, some seen as disgraced,
At least, this is what was told me tonighte,
Their tales I recount here as best I might,
Read on as you please, with scorne or delighte.


R Longfield was born in Atlanta but has lived nearly all her life in Southern California. She believes in magic and the power of laughter to bring tyrants and buffoons down to size. Down to an extremely small size.