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Tuesday, February 07, 2023

BALLOONS

by William Aarnes


                after Ingar Christensen 





blown-up balloons exist 

and celebrations exists 

with their popping party balloons, 

adults as caught up 

in the popping 

as their kids 

 

and helium-filled balloons exist 

and the joyful, worried disappointment 

of their so quickly drifting away 

from outstretched hands 

to land somewhere they shouldn’t 

after they burst 

 

and hot-air balloons exist, 

colorful hot-air balloons 

for the risky thrill  

of being above it all, 

of looking down at the countryside, 

the treetops, the houses, the cars, 

the people puny as can be, 

hot-air balloon rides exist 

for that glorious, if fleeting feeling  

that everything’s yours 

as far as the eye can see 

  

weather balloons exist, 

meteorologists all around the world 

working together, 

twice a day releasing balloons,  

balloons that rise twenty miles high 

before they burst, their radiosondes  

parachuting back to earth  

with all their measurements 

of how cold and windy it is 

up above 

 

and spy balloons exist, 

because people don’t get along 

spy balloons exist, 

keeping track 

of whatever nefarious planning 

and digging and building 

and moving around 

must be going on 

 

and nation-states exist, 

nation-states puffed-up 

and thin-skinned as balloons 



William Aarnes lives in New York. He admires—and thinks everyone should read and reread—Susanna Nied's translation of Ingar Christensen's alphabet.

AMERICAN DAIRY COWS UNDER ATTACK?

by Cecil Morris


Chinese scientists have successfully cloned three “super cows” that can produce an unusually high amount of milk, state media reported, hailing it as a breakthrough for China’s dairy industry to reduce its dependence on imported breeds… They were cloned from highly productive cows from the Holstein Friesian breed, which originated in the Netherlands. The chosen animals are capable of producing 18 tons of milk per year, or 100 tons of milk in their lifetimes. That is nearly 1.7 times the amount of milk an average cow in the United States produced in 2021, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Photo: Workers feed cows at a dairy farm in Handan, Hebei province, China, on November 15, 2021.[Hao Qunying/Costfoto/Future Publishing/Getty Images] —CNN, February 1, 2023


The headline makes me think of Superman,
the Man of Steel, and cows in capes and tights
and an enduring fight for truth, justice,
and the American way (or better
tomorrow). Then, after reading the news
of exceptional Holstein Friesian cows cloned,
I think of Frankenstein and his monster
because, to a suburban boy, Holstein Friesian
already sounds like science run amuck.
I imagine herds of Chinese cow clones
descending like knock-off handbags or phones
on American dairies, udders bulging
with tons of milk, another disruption,
another Chinese plot (just like Tik Tok)
to corrupt our country and weaken us
and, maybe, the high-flying spy balloon
was scoping out farms and dairies and not
our strategic fields of nuclear missiles
and when I read that our own FDA
approves of meat and milk from cloned cows
my mind leaps to deep-state conspiracies
and wholesomeness and the American
way weaponized against our best interests.
What if they clone Tom Brady or Peyton
Manning next? Will tons of passes saturate
our football landscape and forever change
the game we love as much as we love guns?


Cecil Morris, a retired high school English teacher, divides his time between Oregon and California. He has poems in or forthcoming from 3Elements, Cimarron Review, Ekphrastic Review, English Journal, Evening Street Review, Hiram Review, Hole in the Head Review, The New Verse News, Scapegoat, Talking River Review, and other literary magazines.

CAROLINA CALLING

by Earl J Wilcox




Around noon
A balloon
Not from a party
Not from a parade
In full sunlight, it made
Our Carolina palmetto
Shade its eyes,
Smile in surprise:
Chinese February
Fireworks.
 

Earl Wilcox lives in upstate South Carolina where the Chinese balloon was visible from his balcony on February 4.

Monday, February 06, 2023

AGNUS DEI

by Steve Bloom
Inspired by the poem “Agnus Dei” by Edna Shochat, Boise Idaho. Some elements taken directly from that poem with permission.


Religious Zionism will appoint lawmaker Orit Strock as Israel’s first National Missions Minister… Orit Strock is a leading figure in Hebron’s Jewish community and the founding chairwoman of the Human Rights Organization of Judea and Samaria, a controversial settlement group. Her son, Zvi, previously received a 2.5-year sentence for kidnapping and abusing a Palestinian boy. -Haaretz, December 7, 2022



Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. 

Oh, newborn lamb!

But this time you are not the lamb of God.
No, this time you are merely the lamb
of a young shepherd tending his flock
in the hills of Hebron, born
on this Spring Day in 2007.
Only hours after you emerge from the womb
an armed man—named Zvi Strock
enters your life, enters 
as the angel of your death.
First he captures, blindfolds
your 15-year-old shepherd, tortures him
to the edge of extinction, then 
turns his rage on you,
kicking you repeatedly until
nothing remains—except your remains.

Oh, newborn lamb!
Even in a lifespan of less
than a day you find a way
to take this measure of the evil 
that lurks in our world 

And so you do not see when, 
on his way to serving
a prison sentence of 18 months,
Zvi is toasted as a great hero 
at a “send-off party” organized
by Rabbi Chaim Druckman,
spiritual leader of the religious
Zionist right. I 
would have told you then, 
in the year 2010, 
that Rabbi Druckman 
and his political movement, 
were part of a far-right fringe. 

Oh, newborn lamb!
(Still and forever a newborn lamb)
I hope you rest in peace today,
though I do not when Orit Strock
Zvi's mother takes her post 
along with others who are 
of Rabbi Druckman's political persuasion
as ministers in the new Israeli ruling coalition,
and it dawns on some of us (at least) that those 
who hail Zvi Strock as a national hero
can be called a right-wing fringe no longer.
Today, instead, they take the power,
planning to organize something bigger 
than a send-off party for a young man
on his way to prison, kick the life 
out of more than just a newborn lamb.

Agnus Dei, miserere nobis. 
Lamb of God have mercy upon us. 


Steve Bloom is a New York City based poet, composer, and activist. He is the curator of the "Poetry of Protest and Struggle" videos that appear three times a year.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

MONA’S HEAD SPEAKS

by Tara Menon


A grinning man who decapitated his wife and paraded down the street with her head in his hands has been jailed for just eight years in Iran. Mum-of-one Mona Heydari (above) was just 17 when she was dragged from a car outside the family home and killed in February last year, a court heard. Her husband Sajjad Heydari and his brother Heydar carried out the brutal attack in Ahvaz, the capital of the southwestern Khuzestan Province. Mona, who had been married since the age of 12, had fled her violent husband with another man, the court heard. However, the woman was tracked down in Turkey by her own father - named as Javid in local media - who returned her to her violent husband. The man allegedly used Interpol to trace his daughter and returned her to Iran, where her husband - who is also her cousin - slaughtered her, claiming she had shamed him. —The Mirror (UK), January 19, 2023



How much is my head worth
in my country?
Beheaded that is
with pools of blood.
Eight years?
So little for my murderer.
Why not seventeen
for every year I’ve lived?
Or eighty minus seventeen
assuming I’d have become an octogenarian.

I fled his violence,
but my family lured me back to Iran
with assurances I’d be safe. I was not.
And then my family pardoned my husband
else he’d have been killed by the state.
No woman is free from danger
when unfair laws lurk.
 
Ask Mahsa Amini,
who was killed for showing 
a bit of hair peeping out of her burqa.
 
Look up at the sky
where we hover
waiting to enter heaven
after justice finds its way to earth.
We could blow the clouds, strike lightning bolts,
thunder from above forever.
The weight of our souls burdens hearts, 
but no one knows
we’re also present inside palpitating organs
to get across our message.


Tara Menon is an Indian-American writer based in Lexington, Massachusetts. Her most recent poems have been published in Tipton Poetry Journal, Arlington Literary Journal, San Pedro River Review, and The Loch Raven Review. Her latest fiction has appeared in The Hong Kong Review, Litro, The Bookends Review, Rio Grande Review, and The Evening Street Review. She is also a book reviewer and essayist whose pieces have appeared in many journals.

Saturday, February 04, 2023

THE COLD

by Liz Ahl




The wind tries every latch, each seam, but

it’s the knuckle-cracking record-breaking cold 

whose fists pound hourly the walls, the roof, 

cop-heavy menace, tree-fall percussive, 

making the house itself a booming bass drum 

or splintering ax fall or too-close shotgun blast—

anything but a place you'd want to rest your head.


No use trying to bar the door: the cold knocks 

from deep already inside, beneath the stain, 

in the tightest betweens, down in the grain 

where some breath of moisture kept its own counsel 

for as long as it could before it finally froze and fractured, 

abruptly unloading its long-kept secret, releasing

in a compulsive shout what was once unspeakable.


All day and into evening the house tries to undo itself

like this, in some weird winter molt—clapboards and nails 

popping in a deconstruction zone of home-unmaking, 

house un-warming—and so tonight we'll play at sleep, 

pray we'll wake to the still-ticking of the faucets

we left open to slow drip, to prevent the pipes 

from joining the home’s involuntary revolt against itself.



Liz Ahl is the author of A Case for Solace (Lily Poetry Review Books, 2022) and Beating the Bounds (Hobblebush Books, 2016), as well as several chapbooks. She lives in New Hampshire.

FINDING THE WORDS

by Darrell Petska


On the lookout for Chinese balloons for as long as it takes to be photographed.


Where within our nature that calls forth deities
exemplifying boundless love and mercy

Where on intellect’s rich plain that grows
a bounty of life-affirming arts and sciences

Where within the confines of flesh that spark
unbounded imagination and indomitable will—

Where are the words to convince us
that wars are not intrinsic to human nature, 
the road to lasting peace never passing 
through war, arms build-ups, and nuclear threats? 

What words are we missing to let us see
beyond sides to the one and only human side?

The words exist, but unless we find them soon,
we could miss forever our chance to use them.


Darrell Petska is a Middleton, Wisconsin poet. His faith in humanity, though sorely tested right now, holds strong.

Friday, February 03, 2023

AC-CENT-TCHU-ATE THE POSITIVE

by George Salamon



"After heavy criticism from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the College Board released on Wednesday an official curriculum for its new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies—stripped of much of the subject matter that had angered the governor and other conservatives.” —The New York Times, February 1, 2023


My country 'tis of thee, sweet 
land of hypocrisy, you cannot
make evil look good.
We had our own good try at a
Holocaust of the Indians, Black
slaves were privately owned
properties down home on the
plantation, young immigrant girls
were exploited in sweatshops in
Manhattan's garment district, coal
miners robbed of their meager
wages and their health, and our
bosses and Robber Barons hired
private dicks to beat up those
workers who dared to strike or
protest.
Nine decades ago our president
pushed through laws that brought
relief from capitalism's cruel rule, 
and he was called a traitor to his
class.
That class is back firmer in the
saddle than before, and the publican
politicians want keep our history washed
white of dark stains of blood, 
tears and despair


George Salamon does not think another FDR is waiting in the wings of our political theater, but he wishes one were there.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

IN MOSCOW

by Phyllis Wax


Natalia Samsonova says she imagines the muffled screams of those trapped under the rubble, the fire and smell of smoke, the grief of the mother who lost her husband and infant child beneath the ruins of the building in Dnipro bombed by Russia. She imagines being unable to breathe. That is why she is here, at a statue to the Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka, a largely unknown monument tucked away among Moscow’s brutalist apartment blocks that has hosted a furtive anti-war memorial at a time when few in Russia dare protest against the conflict. PHOTO: A woman holds a placard reading ‘Ukraine is not our enemy, they are our brothers’ in front of a monument to Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka in Moscow. Photograph: Reuters —The Guardian, January 28, 2023


On this poor, indigent ground
I shall sow flowers of flowing colors;
I shall sow flowers even amidst the frost,
And water them with my bitter tears.


Silently                    
they lay their flowers
before the poet’s statue.              

Alone
or in twos
they stand mute.

Thunderous      
in the silence
is their sorrow

their horror
and shame
at what Russia is doing.


Phyllis Wax watches the world from Milwaukee. Much of her poetry comes from her observations. She has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, in print and online.