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Monday, October 03, 2022

LIGHTS OUT

by Alejandro Escudé



In 2014, Los Angeles cut its annual carbon emissions by 43% and saved $9 million in energy costs by replacing the bulbs in more than half of the city's street lamps with light-emitting diodes. That year, the Nobel Prize in physics went to three scientists whose work made those LEDs possible. "As about one fourth of world electricity consumption is used for lighting purposes, the LEDs contribute to saving the Earth's resources," the Nobel committee explained when it announced the award.... But that's not how Ruskin Hartley sees it. "The drive for efficient fixtures has come at the expense of a rapid increase in light pollution," he said. Hartley would know. He's the executive director of the International Dark-Sky Association, or IDA, and he's one of a growing number of people who say the dark sky is an undervalued and underappreciated natural resource. Its loss has detrimental consequences for wildlife and human health…. "We've taken a lot of the energy savings and just lit additional places," Hartley said. It's a classic example of the Jevons paradox, in which efficiency gains (such as better automobile gas mileage) are countered by an increase in consumption (people driving more often). —Phys.org, September 23, 2022. Photo Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain


There is nowhere on the Earth left for the human being.
We’re too blue and too bright, we (how to put this?)
destroy the night. It comes to me now, the cruise ship
I was on, northern Mediterranean, lightning-streaks
across the dining room windows as we ate, Titanic scene,
the ship listing to and fro. I went out to see it, to take in 
the storm and the ship’s lights were laying like a mermaid’s
gauzy hair across the tossing waves. I’d be shamed
by many others simply for recounting this trip, mocked
for excursions, games, scheduled meals. I’d think 
of Odysseus in Sicily, duping the Cyclops, hiding his 
men beneath the curly warmth of sheep. Sometimes, 
I also want to hide that way from the weaponizing shame
humanity turns against itself—more lethal than nuclear
weapons, toxic as a leaky oil tanker. We recognize
the firelight and so does the snake, the shoreline plover, 
but we choose the incandescence of daylight at night.
I have been in the center of my worldly city, lost in
absolute darkness, unable to walk my dog, a block
away the foraging lights of shark-like airliners taking
off into the gridded coordinates of the briny sky.
Shall I leap back into my Neanderthal skin yet eschew
the Sahara rat for the naked leaf? Shall I bore into
the ground, further and further, as the rich climb 
diamond-encrusted staircases into Olympus-sized
homes? My children are not guilty of the bright light!
My planet is not above me, and it isn’t below me,
and it’s certainly not flat. I eat LED light bulbs for 
a midnight snack, looking out over the shellshocked 
tapestry, basking in the sky glow, so I may light
the places within me that don’t need to be seen.


Alejandro Escudé published his first full-length collection of poems My Earthbound Eye in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches high school English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

Sunday, October 02, 2022

BLESSING THE ANIMALS

by David Chorlton


On and around The Feast of St. Francis, October 4 this year, many churches organize a Blessing of the Animals to which dogs, cats, bird, bunnies, ponies, chickens, and all creatures great and small are welcome.


Here’s a cat who’d take
the dinner from a china plate but bless
her anyway; she doesn’t know
the rules of etiquette. Consider the coyote
blessed when he stops in the middle of the street
and looks back at a pedestrian
his wildness has touched. Bless the starlings
who were fruitful and
multiplied from coast to coast, and bless
the common pigeon for
turning waste lots into food. Bless
the rattlesnake who curls up at a trail’s edge
by stepping carefully around him,
and save
for the jaguar who returns to
ancient hunting grounds
a special blessing that will follow him through
darkness. Shall we dare
to shower favor on the rats who climb the final
daylight and cavort
in yards and vegetable beds? Or spare
an extra prayer for the Great horned owl
when he is done with ferrying souls
to comfort and a resting place?
When the Cooper’s hawk is waiting
for a mourning dove, be generous as this world
in which an ocean is the predator
and a river is the prey.


David Chorlton has lived in Phoenix since 1978, and has shared home with many cats, birds, and occasionally dogs. The creatures who visit his yard appear frequently in his new book Poetry Mountain from Cholla Needles in Joshua Tree, CA., who also published the poems his white cat Raissa wrote in the late Clinton years (of a very concrete nature) in a little book called Gilded Snow along with her owner's commentary.

MY HEART GOES OUT

by Joan Mazza


The morning after the storm. Photo tweeted by @miguelmarquez.



to those many people who lost
their homes, flattened and inundated
by Hurricane Ian’s smack down.

To people sifting through mud
and debris to salvage what’s useful,
from homes without roofs.

The videos and photos are published
of houses floating away, smashed.
Pets gone. My heart goes out

to the people of Pakistan weeks
after one third of their country
was flooded and now their children

are dying of cholera. Swathes
of forests have burned all over
the world. Whales are eating

plastic because the ocean is full
of it. Covid isn’t over. People
are dying every day, gasping

for breath. My heart goes out
to those too cold or too hot, breathing
mold or dust or smoke and ash.

For my friends Shaun and Karen
in a marathon to outrun cancer.
For Charlotte who said goodbye to her

beloved hound Maggie after sixteen
years. For everyone suffering
as humans always have in a world

that throws us beauty and abundance,
love, pleasure, and plush comforts,
leaves us anticipating, eager for more,

and then snatches it all away.
My heart goes out to you, to us. 


Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist and psychotherapist, and taught workshops  on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self, and her poetry has appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Comstock Review, Poet Lore, Slant, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia and writes every day.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

STRIKETOBER

by Tom Bauer


William Blake (1757–1827) “Behemoth and Leviathan.” Pen and black ink, gray wash, and watercolor, over traces of graphite. Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1903. The Morgan Library & Museum.


New ‘Striketober’ looms as US walkouts increase amid surge in union activity. Support for unions is on the rise as workers take action to raise pay and conditions amid booming company profits. —The Guardian, September 26, 2022


Was that ever a thing in ancient times?
Did it happen building the pyramids?
Those workers weren’t slaves but they didn’t get much.

When did unions really begin? When did
inequities of behemoths begin?
Perhaps it is a species thing. Feels old.

The feeling of, the shape of, a company,
is an old shape dragging a trench across time.

This rough beast shapes us with an owning force,
a power center employing thousands, making
us swarm to assigned tasks for minimal pay
and no share in the gains made by the few.

This behemoth of shape, this company, looming
block with a whip in hand, stands over us still.


Tom Bauer's an old coot who lives in Montreal and plays a lot of board games.

Friday, September 30, 2022

POLICE VIOLENCE IN REVERSE

by Susan Vespoli 




Three bullets pop from the back of my son’s head
shiny, bloodless, sailing up the barrel of a gun

that tucks itself into the holster at the hip
of a 25-year-old policeman who still dreams
of the person he shot 11 months earlier,
still jolts awake screaming,      I’m sorry!
My son, no longer dead, returns to the bus
and falls asleep, traveling to the previous morning          
at 6:00 a.m., where he and his unhoused comrades
 
slumber in the underpass tunnel by the freeway.
No thoughts of bullets enter his head. Cops who arrive

at daybreak look around, say, I’m sorry, do not tackle them, snicker,
arrest them for “sleeping in a public place.” Instead, they pass out blankets,
coffee, flyers for shelters; see the wheelchair, the crutches, the backpacks,

people shivering from the cold, not fear of the badge, the taunt, the violent
ego of those hired by taxpayers to be protectors, peacekeepers.


Susan Vespoli writes from Phoenix, AZ where she believes in the power of writing to heal. Before her son was killed in March 2022, she told him about the poems she wrote about him and addiction in their family. He was quiet and then turned to her and said, "If the poems can help others, then good."


Editor's Note: The New Verse News previously published two of long-time contributor Susan Vespoli's poems about the killing of her son by police: "Before I Knew Adam Had Died" and "My Ex-Husband Calls To Tell Me Our Son Has Been Shot By Police."

Thursday, September 29, 2022

HUBRIS

by Robbie Gamble




News item: scientists are jubilant
as a golf cart-sized hunk of space
payload pulled up and T-boned
a minor asteroid a touch more
massive than Fenway Park—
a veritable bullseye—our first
home entry into the extraterrestrial
demolition derby. Newsfeeds showed
grainy shots of an apparent pumice
stone looming in the void, then
a blank screen, followed by polo-
shirted Mission Control engineers
high-fiving and avowing “This one’s
for the dinosaurs!” as if they
might have changed the course
of paleontology had NASA been
operational back at the end
of the Cretaceous Era. Today
we are watching as Hurricane
Ian, a Cat 4 beast, is slamming
into the Florida Gulf Coast, and I
bet there’s a whole bunch of golf
carts being swept inland with
the storm surge, while the governor
hunkers behind hasty barricades
of banned books, and the Red Sox
might have to relocate for next
spring training. A certain president
floated the notion of nuking hurricanes
back out into open water. Hmm. And
there was also that business of beating
a virus back with bleach. In space,
no one can hear you tee off.


Robbie Gamble (he/him) is the author of A Can of Pinto Beans (Lily Poetry Review Press, 2022). His poems have appeared in the Atlanta Review, Lunch Ticket, RHINO, Salamander, and The Sun. He divides his time between Boston and Vermont. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

READING ANNE FRANK’S DIARY IN FARSI

by Elane Gutterman


About a dozen teen girls in a secret book club in Afghanistan are reading—and finding comfort in—Anne Frank's diary. Arzou, one of participants, said it was the first time they had read the firsthand account of a teenage girl living through extreme hardship. "I think Anne Frank is like, as a friend for me," she said. Photo: Diaa Hadid. —NPR, September 11, 2022.


I don’t want to live in vain like most people
 
In a basement at the edge of Kabul, at a secret
      book club,
a dozen teenage girls defy the Taliban,
feed their curiosity, exercise their minds,
connect to a Jewish girl from a distant time and
      place.
 
I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people
 
In translated books, the girls find themes to tunnel
      through darkness. 
Volunteer leaders steer the conversations, probe
      with questions. 
Girls like Arzou discover a kinship with Kitty—
      Anne’s diary, relate 
to bickering with mom, crush on Peter, resolve not
      to lose hope.
 
Even those I’ve never met
 
What brave teens, they’ve survived suicide
      bombings, 
losses, terrors, hardships of their Hazara minority.
In the past year, they’ve cried and tried to 
      circumvent 
the Taliban’s intent to cover, confine, undermine
      women.
 
I want to go on living even after my death
 
Masouma finds comfort in Anne’s diary, despite
      her grasp
of Anne’s horrific end. These teenage girls of
      Afghanistan 
now all dream of writing a book. Zahra says,
      “Nobody 
knows how long I will live, or when I will die.” 


Editor's Note: The italicized lines are quotations from Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl.


Elane Gutterman is a trustee and the literary chair at the West Windsor Arts Center. Her poems invoking social justice have appeared in prior issues of The New Verse News. Her first book of poetry, Tides of Expectation (Kelsay Books), was published earlier this year. She dedicates this poem to the brave girls in the secret book club in Kabul and to one remarkable Afghani girl who arrived in Santa Fe, NM this week to begin tenth grade studies there.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

A WOMAN’S FACE

by Ana Doina


Tweet by Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad 9/16/22


Dark clouds covered the sky 

for months before the year 

Troy fell prey to a wooden horse.

 

Scientists now tell 

nothing had been growing 

for years before chieftains  

took their tribes

in search of better pastures,

warring one another for the right 

to greener valleys.

 

Homer decries 

the face of a beautiful woman

for the first war,

but tree stumps 

tell of darkness, drought;

the bowels of the earth tell

of roaming hordes 

drifting, losing their roots.

The underworld 

brings back abandoned hearths, 

jars still full of honey, tools, 

cradles, toys,

weapons

buried where a fighter fell.

 

The scientists can’t yet tell

what covered the sun, what 

drove the peaceful herdsman 

to take up arms and leave 

the simple habits 

of his pasture, 

but back there, where ancient empires

used to thrive, five thousand years on 

and, still, a woman’s face, 

even when veiled, 

is blamed. Is doomed.



Ana Doina, Romanian-born American writer living in New Jersey, left Romania during the Ceausescu regime. Her poems appeared in numerous print and online magazines, anthologies, and textbooks. She won Honorable Mention in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Awards for Poems on the Jewish Experience contest in 2007, and three of her poems were nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2002, 2003, and 2004

Monday, September 26, 2022

CLOUDS FALL

by Hiba Heba

for the flood victims of Pakistan


A heavily flooded home in Rajo Nizamani village, near Jhirk, Sept. 10. Credit: Hassaan Gondal for TIME.
You can help the UN World Food Programme—the world’s largest humanitarian agency—provide life-saving food to the most vulnerable families. CLICK HERE TO DONATE NOW.


Koyal chirps / in the dark street /
Leaves / barks / magnolias / roofied by the dark street /
The moon is blighting / the sky / in this poem / this poem is a dark street /
We played cricket / in the same desolate / streets /
I bled / between my legs / bled the size of a vat / in this dark street /
 
Tonight I dangle / my legs over the railing / thinking / mourning /
O Dark Street / how loud is your thunder / of desolateness /
even the clouds /  denounced it /  they rained / raged / bled /

In Urdu when it rains / we say / badal baras rahe hain:
the clouds are falling / falling / tearing through /
the fearful blue / of the dark street /

Every night I call Daisy / home / from my kitchen’s old window /
every night / she prances over the railing / then in my arms /
I trust these long / misleading / dark streets /
the streets hold / together / our tenderness /

When a mother wades / through the cloudy / deluge /
ululating the names / of her children / Musa / Musa / Musa /
she knows all / that has drowned / will eventually
be found / when the clouds ascend / even the tenderness /
now holding itself / against / the koyal-gloom / of the dark street /


Hiba Heba is a Pakistani poet who recently launched an online business, RepairInk, that provides editing and proofreading services. She was the first runner-up for the New Feathers Award 2021. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Eunoia Review, Fragmented Voices, The Ofi Press and Poetry Wales, among others. Hiba has a micro-chapbook, Grief is a Firefly (Origami Poems Project, 2021), and her debut full-length poetry collection Birth of a Mural will be published by the US-based Golden Dragonfly Press in October, 2022. 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

NOT OVER

by Dion Farquhar 





I’m Omicron, son of Delta

I skipped generations

from four to fifteen

letters of the Greek alphabet


I’ve outrun Delta

gone after 200,000 more

surpassed a million  

despite decrees, desires


for the old normal

—that hell

for everyone (but the dead)

to get back to work


forget your boosters

travel bans and masks

after all this time 

you still don’t get what global means


you may be faster

smarter now

but after two and a half years

so am I


your rich country as backward

as the ones you’ve impoverished                                                                           

but you win again, America

tally the most dead


so dream on about “herd immunity” 

your unvaxed forty percent

still my gateway

and I’m here to stay



Dion Farquhar has recent poems in Non-Binary Review, Superpresent, Blind Field, Poesis, Cape Rock: Poetry, Poydras Review, Mortar, Local Nomad, Columbia Poetry Review, moria, Shifter,BlazeVOX, etc. Her third poetry book Don’t Bother is in press at Finishing Line Press, and she has three chapbooks. She works as an exploited adjunct at two universities, but still loves the classroom, and she is active in the University of California Santa Cruz adjunct union, the UC-AFT. 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

HAIKU

There were emotional scenes in the eastern Siberian republic Buryatia as drafted men said goodbye to their families. Credit: Ayuna Shagdurova, The Guardian, September 23, 2022



Earl Wilcox is a Korean War vet, a retired university professor, and contributor to The New Verse News since 2005. 

Friday, September 23, 2022

NEW FOSSILS

by Dustin Michael


It's not often you find a bright side to drought, but in Texas, the heat and lack of rain have uncovered dinosaur tracks from 113 million years. The tracks were unveiled at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas — about an hour's drive from Fort Worth. The park is known for its dinosaur tracks, but these newer ones are usually covered with water from the Paluxy River and aren't visible. NPR, August 25, 2022



In the photograph you perch atop your tall chair,
a Mesozoic predator with a smaller dinosaur–in this case
a plastic stegosaurus mailed to you by your Uncle Richie.
Your skin pallid, papery like a new fossil exposed to air,
your lifeless smile a museum skeleton, you were four years old, 
my son, and it was just spring, and no one knew you
had leukemia or how close to death you were. 

The floods arrived, tests and tears, swift currents 
sweeping you across town to the children’s hospital 
clutching your favorite things. I discovered you each day 
washed up on the bank of your hospital bed, wires and tubes 
twisted around your withered limbs like prehistoric vines.
  
For our home, you became a mysteriously vanished creature, 
a question sleeping at the end of a trail of footprints,
and I became a scientist logging your every trace,
following your ancient tracks, cataloging your fragments 
while your nurses and doctors reconstructed you. 

Now, each time I think I have you adequately described 
and slouch toward the podium of my heart to proclaim,
“I hereby present my findings so the world will know
this child, my little boy, who roamed this very Earth—”
more evidence appears, the sediment of my hours 
is scoured away to reveal more mundane marks 
made sacred by distance, disaster, the old economics 
of despair: your preschool mat on the floor like a shed skin, 
your crayon drawing of our family, crumpled, a primordial leaf, 
your t-shirt sleeve peeking like an ancient tooth 
from the laundry pile, and the wondrous sets of trackways 
I found one afternoon when I collapsed face-down on the floor 
near where you and your puppy used to play, 
the tiny footprints tell where you both scurried in 
from a sudden storm, faint mud on laminate flooring, 
puppy and boy, a cataclysm of joy frozen in time. 

Spring was a hundred million years ago and in every second since
I have lived a life of hope and mourning. These new tracks emerged 
from behind my tears like your toys when I would drain the bath. 
Where do they lead? Perhaps to the children’s hospital 
and your den of blankets and tubes, or to the counter 
and the photo of your dying child’s smile,
or into an uncertain future where I 
cannot see you, surely because
you are only bounding ahead. 


Dustin Michael lives with his family in Georgia, where he teaches English writing and literature. He and his wife share blogging duties at https://phinphans.blogspot.com/, where they write about their son, Phin, who was recently diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.




Thursday, September 22, 2022

DROUGHT’S HIGH DESERT HOWL OF THE WOLF

by Dick Altman


“Megadrought in the American south-west: a climate disaster unseen in 1,200 years.” -The Guardian,  September 12, 2022

D-r-o-u-g-h-t
Whenever I see the word—
I want to dismantle it                                
Dthe letter—is easy—
delete and destroy
the most unforgiving letter—to me—
letter O—like a wolf’s maw—
whose mandible blades the heart—
as I watch high desert’s drought
wolf whatever’s in reach
of its insatiable jaws… 
                       
            Golden seas of shimmering
cow-pen daisies
Billowing swarms of insects
that sustain night hawk and bat
Purple Russian Sage beloved
of bees
Acequias—historic hand-dug
streams—feeding pasture
and crop
Rio Grande turned
into a waterless highway
of sand
Weakened pine—long needle
and short—decimated
by bark beetle
Every dead tree a depleted
trove of oxygen
                         
If drought were a song—I’d hear  
a one-note elegy of unyielding spareness—
a flameless fire unfurling in three-quarter
time—a waterless flood whose silent
music swallows all it touches—insistent
waltz whose slow cadences fool hope—
clouds swollen with broken melodies—
cisterns hollow with minor-key emptiness—
Aspen’s metallic yellow of fall chorusing
a month too soon
 
Call me a fool to plant a small forest
of trees—when I build here at seven-
thousand feet in Indian Country—half
of these children—if I may call them that—
fail to survive—no defense against a force
ghostly—merciless in its fury to gorge
on blood from leaf/petal/earth—flame
never seen—flood never felt—rapacious
lupine shadow hidden in the dark of light


Dick Altman writes in the high, thin, magical air of Santa Fe, NM, where, at 7,000 feet, reality and imagination often blur. He is published in Santa Fe Literary Review, American Journal of Poetry, riverSedge, Fredericksburg Literary Review, Foliate Oak, Blue Line, THE Magazine, Humana obscura, The Offbeat, Haunted Waters Press, Split Rock Review, The RavensPerch, Beyond Words, The New Verse News, Sky Island Journal, and others here and abroad. A poetry winner of Santa Fe New Mexican’s annual literary competition, he has in progress two collections of some 100 published poems. His work has been selected for the forthcoming first volume of The New Mexico Anthology of Poetry to be published by the New Mexico Museum Press.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

INFLATION

by Harold Oberman




This poem doesn’t go as far as it used to.
In the past, twelve lines would wrap it up,
Say all we wanted to say,
But now each word buys a little less,
Each syllable strains to make a complete sound,
And we’re left wanting,

Hungering in the margins,
Left short each stanza,
Straining to make it work,
Straining to just get by
In an economy
With a fixed amount of words
But extravagant combinations.


Harold Oberman is a poet and lawyer writing in Charleston, S.C. He has appeared recently in The New Verse News, The Free State Review, An Anthology of Low Country Poets, and has been honored by the Poetry Society of South Carolina.