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Thursday, June 13, 2024

ON THIN ICE

by Anne Gruner



"[Thwaites], a massive Antarctic glacier, which could raise global sea levels by up to two feet if it melts, is far more exposed to warm ocean water than previously believed, according to a [newly published]study...." —The Washington Post, May 20, 2024.


We knew you were sickly but hoped you'd recover,
not believing you were on your deathbed.
Then we x-rayed you from space, just to be sure,
and like many x-rays they brought bad news.
 
As your shining face peers at the sun,
a deadly disease eats away your soft underbelly—
an affliction we don't fully grasp—
understanding its cause, but not its progression.
 
Warm, salty water seeps into a gaping wound
with every breath of tide you take, 
rising and falling, an eroding necrosis,
accelerating without notice until it's too late.
 
We thought you would live thousands of years,
but now fear your death in decades—
with consequences so dire
we call you "Doomsday."

 
A Pushcart-nominated writer, Anne Gruner's poetry has appeared in over a dozen print and on-line publications, including Amsterdam Quarterly Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Written Tales, and Humans of the World. Anne lives in McLean, Virginia with her husband and two golden retrievers.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

by Thomas J. Erickson




In 30 years no one will remember that it snowed here
52 years ago on the 4th of July and that it was so cold
that the high school band had to play in the school bus
with the windows down.

In 30 years tops or whenever the last of my sons
has left this globe, no one will know my father
never swam in Lake Superior when he was growing up
a few hundred yards from Gitcheegumee
because it was so damn cold back then.

Soon enough, no one but me will even think
about how beautifully fucked up this is: To now be able 
to swim in the turquoise water of the Magic Coves
to dive to the shipwreck off Chapel Rock
to do the dead man’s float in the secluded expanse
off Lonesome Point.

So I hope you find this bottle someday on some shore
somewhere if there still are shores somewhere:

There was an August when I swam far enough out
to get to the sand bar and stood there for a while.
I was surprisingly far from shore and when I turned
around it was endlessly blue.


Thomas J. Erickson is an attorney in Milwaukee where he writes poetry while sitting in court waiting for his case to be called. He spends his summers in a little town on the shores of Lake Superior in Upper Michigan where, in recent years, it's been warm enough to swim come August.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

MY MOTHER IS SUING THE US GOVERNMENT FOR POISONING HER HUSBAND

by Bill Garvey




The government doubts his
cancer was caused by Camp Lejeune.
How do you know he was even there? they ask. 
We lived in New Bern North Carolina, 
she says, and every day Bill took the bus to Cherry Point 
or Camp Lejeune depending on his orders.
 
But even if he was at Camp Lejeune,
how do you know he drank the water?
It was hot, May to September 1952.
I'm sure he drank the water.
Were you with him at Lejeune?
Did you witness him drink the water?
 
Of course I wasn't with him. 
Of course I didn't witness... 
So for all you know he could have quenched
his thirst with an ice-cold Coca-Cola.
Or even a Ginger Ale. For all you know he was never 
exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune. 
 
I was madly in love with a Marine 
with crooked teeth and a cocky grin. 
Every day from May to September he came 
home to me seventy-two years ago,
clean and showered, so handsome 
in his crisp uniform, stepping from the bus 
 
into our tiny apartment, ready for me. 
Embracing me so close I forgot all about the heat. 
I'll always remember how good he smelled 
at the end of a long day, his hair still damp from 
your showers, not a whiff of Coca-Cola—
or even a Ginger Ale—on his lips.



Author's note: This is a true story. My mother is 93, still sharp, and she is suing the US government for my father's death from kidney and renal cancer in 1977, when the world was ignorant to Lejeune.



Bill Garvey's collection of poetry The basement on Biella was published in 2023 by DarkWinter Press. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in Rattle, One Art, San Antonio Review, Connecticut River Review, Cimarron Review, The New Verse News, The New Quarterly and others.

Monday, June 10, 2024

GAME CHANGER

by Felicia Nimue Ackerman


Major League Baseball’s embrace of the Negro Leagues is now recognized in the record book, resulting in new-look leaderboards fronted in several prominent places by Hall of Famer Josh Gibson and an overdue appreciation of many other Black stars. Following the 2020 announcement that seven different Negro Leagues from 1920-1948 would be recognized as Major Leagues, MLB announced [in May] that it has followed the recommendations of the independent Negro League Statistical Review Committee in absorbing the available Negro Leagues numbers into the official historical record. —MLB. Above: Portraits of Satchel Paige (left) and Josh Gibson by Graig Kreindler from the collection of Jay Caldwell via MLB.


Let's hear it now for Satchel Paige,
Installed on baseball's center stage,
And see Josh Gibson top Babe Ruth
When baseball tells the simple truth.


Felicia Nimue Ackerman is a professor of philosophy at Brown University and has had over 280 poems in places including American Atheist, The American Scholar, Better Than Starbucks, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Down in the Dirt, The Emily Dickinson International Society Bulletin, Free Inquiry, The Galway Review, Light Poetry Magazine, Lighten Up Online, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Daily News, The New York Times, Options (Rhode Island's LGBTQ+ magazine), The Providence Journal, Scientific American, Sparks of Calliope, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and Your Daily Poem. She has also had five previous poems in The New Verse News.

Sunday, June 09, 2024

RED LINE

by Lynn White


Thousands circle White House to demand Biden enforce Gaza “red line.” Demonstrators said that if President Biden would not draw a “red line” after Israeli forces began an assault on Rafah, they would draw the red line for him. —The Washington Post, June 8, 2024


It was thin at first,
the line of blood
hardly a trickle
easily crossed
though visibly
to those paying attention.

But with each crossing it widened
a stream bleeding out into a river
and then a sea
bleeding out
from the river to the sea
stronger and stronger
wider and wider
every crossing
widening it.

Making a line that can never be crossed
however many times it is crossed
its crossing becomes impossible.


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.

PARTNERS IN GENOCIDE

by Steve Bloom




New York City,
Israel Day Parade,
June 2 2024,
I see the flag, take a photo,
tell myself I will write
a poem titled:
“Partners in Genocide.” 

Find, however
that no additional words
by me
are needed.


Steve Bloom is a New York City based activist, poet, and composer. He is curator of the Poetry of Protest and Struggle video series that comes out three times a year and can be found on his YouTube channel.

Saturday, June 08, 2024

DON'T BLAME IT ON THE SHRIMP!

by Gordon Gilbert


Angry that your favorite Red Lobster closed down? Wall Street wizardry had a lot to do with it. Assigning blame for company failures is tricky. But some analysts say the root of Red Lobster’s woes was not the endless shrimp promotions that some have blamed. (See The New Verse News, June 1.) Yes, the company lost $11 million from the shrimp escapade, its bankruptcy filing shows, and suffered from inflation and higher labor costs. But a bigger culprit in the company’s problems is a financing technique favored by a powerful force in the financial industry known as private equity. —NBC News, May 25, 2024


It was not the little shrimp alone
that took their giant lobster cousin down.
Oh no!
 
Red Lobster was the victim of a larger predator.
Private equity’s the one to blame.
Oh yes!
Golden Gate Capital it was
that stripped Red Lobster of its hard-shell assets,
its molting soft-shell vulnerable to any and to all.
In the end, the little shrimp were just the last and latest,
all it took to do Red Lobster in.
 
So let’s not blame it on the shrimp!
 
Leveraged buyouts often do drive corporate defaults.
Private equity's a graveyard where 
too many good companies go to die:
Sears, Mervyn’s, Shopco, other retail chains;
Steward Healthcare, Manor Care
and other hospitals and nursing homes;
and now, most recently, another food chain:
Red Lobster.
 
Senator Edward Markey says beware!
Already they are coming for your healthcare!  


Gordon Gilbert is a writer living in NYC's west village.  During the pandemic, he often found solace and an inner sense of peace by taking walks along the nearby Hudson River.  

Friday, June 07, 2024

THE FORTRESS, MY UNCLE

by Indran Amirthanayagam


President Biden announced an executive order on Tuesday to essentially block asylum at the southern border, a major shift in how the United States has historically handled claims for protection. The move, a suspension of longtime guarantees that give anyone who steps onto U.S. soil the right to seek a safe haven, is intended to deter illegal border crossings, an issue that has weighed on Mr. Biden’s political fortunes as he heads into the November presidential election… Immigration advocates have said the changes, taken together, amount to a virtual suspension of the asylum system for people crossing the border. The Biden administration “is eliminating key protections to prevent refugees from being returned to harm through imposition of this ‘shout test,’” said Robyn Barnard, a lawyer at Human Rights First. “It will be a recipe for disaster and certainly result in refugees being sent to danger or worse death.” —The New York Times, June 4, 2024


The fortress, the wall, thou shalt
not enter these rolling hills and 
grasslands where bison and 
Natives once roamed. You will 

not drink at the rancher’s 
trough or sleep in the sanctuary 
city’s single residency hotel. You 
will not get bussed to the liberal

East where a temporary home
waits until shelter services stop 
at sixty days and you find
yourself on the proverbial street

unless you have relatives willing 
to keep you off the public books. 
This is no grand illusion, no 
welcome, but you have left 

your local gangs to find 
a safer and more fitting union, 
turned into a red and blue 
wall. Incredible failure 

of the big heart to open, 
to say we will find a way 
to allow the Dream free again 
as in the old poems and movies 

that led our fathers and mothers 
to make the trek west and east, 
north and south. Goodbye 
to all that jazz America. Goodbye.


Indran Amirthanayagam is the translator of Origami: Selected Poems of Manuel Ulacia (Dialogos Books). Mad Hat Press has just published his love song to Haiti: Powèt Nan Pò A (Poet of the Port). Ten Thousand Steps Against the Tyrant (BroadstoneBooks) is a collection of Indran's poems. Recently published is Blue Window (Ventana Azul), translated by Jennifer Rathbun. (Dialogos Books). In 2020, Indran produced a “world" record by publishing three new poetry books written in three languages: The Migrant States (Hanging Loose Press, New York), Sur l'île nostalgique (L’Harmattan, Paris) and Lírica a tiempo (Mesa Redonda, Lima). He edits The Beltway Poetry Quarterly and helps curate Ablucionistas. He hosts the Poetry Channel on YouTube and publishes poetry books with Sara Cahill Marron at Beltway Editions.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

HAIKU

by Richard L. Matta




colossal dark crane 
where there was a wrecking ball
a star 
















Richard L. Matta grew up in New York and now lives in San Diego. Some of his work is found in Ancient Paths, Dewdrop, San Pedro River Review, Third Wednesday, Gyroscope, and many international haiku journals. 

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

ON THE HOWLER MONKEY DEATHS IN MEXICO

by Pepper Trail




Their howls were pure vowel, shapes
in the mouth of existence: Here, here, we are here,
bringing the forest to monkey-life,
vibrating the leaves of caoba and pochote,
the fruits of zapote, guarumo and nanche,
howls that named the family, organized the world.
 
Yes, there was always heat—but now
different, a heat that makes silence 
through the night, through the day,
loosens the baby’s grip, then the mother’s.
They fall from the trees like rotten fruit,
their open hands holding nothing but questions.



Author's note:  As a field biologist, I have shared tropical forests with these monkeys, have been awakened in the night by their prodigious howls, have marveled as they leap from tree to tree with their infants on their backs. The news that we have made the planet too hot for these fellow primates, superbly adapted to the heat and humidity of the tropics, is tragic and terrifying. How can we not understand that we are next?


Pepper Trail is a poet and naturalist based in Ashland, Oregon. His poetry has appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Kyoto Journal, Cascadia Review, and other publications, and has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards. His collection Cascade-Siskiyou was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry.

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

CONVICTION IN XXXIV MOVEMENTS

by Erin Murphy




Altoona, Pennsylvania—May 30, 2024
 
I.
We are sitting in a tavern by the railroad tracks when the verdict is announced.
 
II.
A wave of gasps ushers in a hush as patrons scurry to check their cellphones.
 
III.
Like when a hawk swoops through a copse of trees and all breeds of birds chirp warnings, then fall silent.
 
IV.
Overheard: I’ll bet all the jurors were Democrats.
 
V.
In our town, 2020 election signs are still staked in lawns like tombstones.
 
VI.
When we moved here, people asked Whose house did you buy? Surely they knew the previous owners, went to church with their parents, played football with their brother or cousin.
 
VII.
Overheard: Hot damn! He’ll raise even more money now!
 
VIII.
Here, even the rain moves slowly. Some days it’s pouring in our front yard and dry in the back.
 
IX.
A few evenings ago, two women with clipboards came door-to-door encouraging registered Republicans to vote. Wrong house, I said and urged them to Take the rest of the night off—better yet, the rest of the year.
 
X.
Overheard: He can just pardon himself.
 
XI.
Overheard: I don’t think he can pardon himself for a state crime.
 
XII.
Overheard: When he’s re-elected, he’ll change the law so he can pardon anyone he wants.
 
XIII.
Spitting distance from this bar in 1855, the first spark of the Civil War when two men leapt from a moving train: runaway slave Jacob Green and slavecatcher James Parsons.
 
XIV.
Overheard: He’ll send ’em all back to where they came from.
 
XV.
Overheard: Do not pass go, do not collect $200!
 
XVI.
Overheard: More like $200 million—that’s how much they’re stealing from us.
 
XVII.
Overheard: laughter.
 
XVIII.
Townsfolk confronted Parsons, demanding he prove Green wasn’t a free black, and in the scuffle, Green was able to flee. Parsons was charged with kidnapping, infuriating the South.
 
XIX.
Mason Dixon Line.
 
XX.
Blood line.
 
XXI.
Toe the line.
 
XXII.
Cross the line.
 
XXIII.
Line one’s pockets.
 
XXIV.
Bottom line.
 
XXV.
Flatline.
 
XXVI.
New York Herald headline, Jan. 31, 1856: “Threatened Civil War Between Virginia and Pennsylvania.”
 
XXVII.
From the Herald article: The common courtesies of life, good-neighborhood…should have been sufficient to induce the State of Pennsylvania to aid the people of Virginia to enforce the rights of her citizens to such property.
 
XXVIII.
Earlier this spring, a local middle school cut “Lift Every Voice and Sing” from its choral program after parents complained that the song was “divisive.”
 
XXIX.
Let our rejoicing rise/
 
XXX.
High as the list’ning skies
 
XXXI.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us/
 
XXXII.
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
 
XXXIII.
Overheard: That judge better have a good bodyguard.
 
XXXIV.
And yet. Last month we landed in L.A. during the solar eclipse. Under the baggage claim atrium, I pulled out the sleeve of eclipse glasses I’d packed just in case. I looked up. There it was: what Wordsworth called something night and day between. Is there a word for the urge I felt to share it with all my fellow travelers? As weary passengers came down the escalator, I offered them glasses, summoning the word sun in every language I knew: sol, soleil, sonne. Some hung back skeptically as others eagerly pressed the dark lenses to their eyes. Flight attendants and pilots from Russia, Korea, Poland, Japan, Tahiti. A man with a handmade ukulele. A maintenance worker with a walkie-talkie. Parents, children, young adults who ran to retrieve their grandparents in wheelchairs. Tio, you have to see this! one teen told her uncle. A boy said Mommy, Mommy—the moon is like Pac-Man taking a bite out of the sun! Even a few skeptical passengers shyly came around. So many ohhhhs. So many smiles. So many faces tilted toward the same sky.


Erin Murphy’s latest book of poetry, Fluent in Blue, was published by Grayson Books in April 2024. She is professor of English at Penn State Altoona and serves as Poetry Editor of The Summerset Review

Monday, June 03, 2024

2045

by Zev Shanken


AI-generated image by Shutterstock for The New Verse News.


In the year 2045 my great grandson will ask
what it was like when people really believed
they were in charge if they watched the news,
called in C-Span, and voted.
 
Well, son, I’ll say, you’ve read about when
everyone in Europe knew their place in 
Christendom and thanked God 
for giving life meaning?
 
Yes, grandfather. The Dark Ages. 
 
Well, son, that’s what it was like.
Only in our day we had History
and thanked our Founding Fathers. 
 
Did you pray?
We voted.


 Zev Shanken’s  two full length books Memory Tricks (2016) and If I Try to be Like Him, Who Will be Like me? (2019) are available on Amazon. The New Verse News has published three of his poems in the past.

Sunday, June 02, 2024

THE INNER LIFE OF A HENCHMAN

by Michael Brockley


Photo by Amy Volovski at Birds&Blooms.


The cardinals nesting in the barberry bush beneath my bedroom window work together as if they have fledged many chicks during their brief lives. The mother, dusty brown and patient, approaches her chicks through aerial feints. And by hopping from lower branches to the upper fork where the hatchlings await the spiders and crickets she delivers. The scarlet male darts and barrel rolls toward its forage with what I pretend is pride. 

Soldiers were once children in such a hurry to fly. I was such a boy aiming toy bazookas and sniper rifles at Lincoln Log forts under siege. Now I celebrate the appetites of five hungry gullets, hoping the chicks survive the neighbor cat’s overnight prowls. If I can’t protect the spring’s latest brood, how can I save the children of Jerusalem and Rafah.


Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who lives in Muncie, Indiana. His poems have appeared in The Parliament Literary Journal, Stormwash: Environmental Poems, and Barstow and Grand. Poems are forthcoming in Of Rust and Glass, Ryder Magazine, Otherwise Elsewhere Literature and Arts Journal, and The Prose Poem

Saturday, June 01, 2024

CHAPTER 11: THE SHRIMP WINS

by Katie Kemple


Red Lobster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week citing $1 billion in debt, according to court filings. The announcement comes after a disastrous 2023 endless shrimp promotion in which, for around $20, patrons could order as much shrimp as they wanted, prompting eating challenges by users of TikTok. But while it brought customers to stores, it also put the chain $11 million in the red. —Vox, May 26, 2024


Who knew Red Lobster could be undone 
by its small cousin? TikTokers gone wild 
eating 70 shrimp at a time. Everyone 
desperate for a deal anywhere we can find 
it. All-you-can-eat-shrimp a sort of shrink-
flation in reverse. As our dreams squeezed 
shrimp size. Smaller houses. Apartments. 
We don't own them. Freelance gig status. 
No benefits. Red Lobster underestimated 
how desperately the rest of us needed that 
20-buck offer. We ate the chain out from 
under her majestic claws. Loved her too hard. 
Cracked her so humbly. She never saw it 
coming. Like that time, we borrowed my 
aunt's kayak, and her neighbor let us pull 
their lobster trap. How it tasted within 
the hour, boiled and full of ocean. How 
we cracked it and shared bites between 
the four of us. The best deal ever. I wore 
those lobster leggings. The seafood lover 
in me, loving the serendipity. The trap, 
the chain, in full view, we knew what we 
were doing, the freedom of it. The feeling 
we'd stepped outside of the capital, not
targets or markets. Not eating a commodity.


Katie Kemple is a poet based in Southern California.