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Monday, August 29, 2016

RELAXING INTO BLACKNESS

by Orel Protopopescu



 “He [Obama] was not always free to relax into his blackness, out of fear that it would frighten white America." —Michael Eric Dyson,  The New York Times, June 24, 2016

Although my winter skin is sallow,
a pale olive the world calls white,
my eyes and ears and pores
absorbed many shades of blackness
in New York in the sixties
in the middle of Long Island.

When I relax into my blackness,
I’m back in the music of the streets,
homes and churches of my childhood,
back with the old folks who called me baby
like they’d given birth to me,
their pupils widened in welcome,
back where doo wop groups sang
in the halls of Hempstead High
and we spilled out of choir to join them.

Where are you now, besides alive in me,
sweet-time brothers Andriamaharu,
who taught me to speak French,
a few words of Malgache,
and how to make a dance of laughter?

Fast and deep run the dark waters
that take me everywhere, bathed
in the fine and mellow vibrations
that forever slip like syrup
from the throat where Billie Holiday
birthed her blues, a fierce beauty,
a deep ease like a pair of taps
laying down paths I never want to leave,
sounds I never want to stop hearing,
like the voice of my then best friend,
abused for “talking like a white”
who said, in her Jamaican lilt,
“I don’t know what color a voice has.”

Oh, to relax again in the hammock
of our blackness, sharing secrets,
dividing the gold of the world between us.


Orel Protopopescu, children’s author, translator and poet, has been published by major houses (Simon&Schuster, FSG, Scholastic) and her book of translations, A Thousand Peaks, Poems from China (with Siyu Liu) was honored by the New York Public Library. Orel won the Oberon poetry prize in 2010. What Remains, a chapbook (2011) followed. Thelonious Mouse, her fourth picture book, won a Crystal Kite, 2012, from SCBWI.  A Word’s a Bird, her animated, bilingual (English/French) poetry book for iPad, was on SLJ’s list of ten best children’s apps, 2013. Her poetry has appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Light, Lighten Up Online, and other reviews and anthologies.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I SHOULD HAVE PLAYED

by Martha Landman





Sir, please accept my apology
for taking up your time.
And the apology of all the others
giving you so much work.
We should have left you
to care for the badly injured.
I was supposed to play marbles
with my brothers in the sand,
but I hid with my family inside.
I was supposed to play with friends— 
enjoy the outdoors, run in the maze.
I would have loved to do it. I’m sorry.
But my parents kept me inside.
They said it was safer in there.
I was meant to tease the girls,
while they were skipping rope
or played with their dolls.
And now there is blood on my hands.
I’m not sure where it is from.
I haven’t done anything wrong, I promise.
And sorry for having made you cry, Sir.
I didn’t mean to do anything wrong.
If there’s any way I can help, let me know;
I do not want to waste your time.


Editor's Note: Efforts to identify the boy [in the photograph] were unsuccessful. He was treated on Tuesday night at the Omar Hospital [in Aleppo, Syria] and released, said Baraa al-Halabi, a citizen journalist who photographed him. None of the medical workers who could be reached remembered the boy, which is not unusual in the overwhelmed hospitals. —The New York Times, August 21, 2016

Martha Landman lives in Adelaide, Australia.  Her work has appeared in various online journals and other anthologies.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

GHAZAL: A NIGHT ALREADY DEVOID OF STARS

by Jackleen Holton Hookway


     

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,adding a deeper darkness to a night already devoidof stars. —Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love

The stars seem dimmer, further away tonight,
the TV finally turned off, the night

moving across the globe, lights going out
in a wave. I wait on my balcony. Tonight’s

forecast: meteor showers. The sky drains
of light. A dying star shoots across night’s

dark screen. Moments ago, a lighted stage,
applause for a man who claimed the night

for himself, promised to keep us safe,
pledged to return violence, multiply night

in the foreign places it hides, all darkness
walled out. But I saw it hiding in plain sight tonight.

Hate can’t drive out hate, Martin Luther King
said. Only love can do that. And tonight

I’m remembering something I read once,
that our blood comes from dying stars. Yes, night

is mingled with the starlight, but we can
be the starlight or we can be the night.

Today, another bombing in return
for last week’s bombing. Fear is like moonless night.

It obscures everything, makes us lose sight
of truth, conscience, rationale. Yes, the night

is upon us. It will get worse before
it gets better, my husband said last night

after the news: severe flooding, more lives
lost, and still the wildfires burn tonight.

I asked him When? The round moon looked down
the way I looked at our daughter tonight,

bent to kiss her forehead, switched off the lamp,
the glow-in-the-dark stars lighting her night,

and she called me my favorite name. Night, night,
Mommy, she said as I made a wish. Night, night.


Jackleen Holton Hookway’s poems have been published in the anthologies The Giant Book of Poetry, and Steve Kowit: This Unspeakably Marvelous Life, and have appeared or are forthcoming in American Literary Review, Bayou, North American Review, Poet Lore, Rattle, and Sanskrit. In 2014, her poem “Goldfish” won Bellingham Review’s 49th Parallel Poetry Award.

Friday, August 26, 2016

THE RED MAN WITH CLOSED EYES

by Tanmoy Das Lala




You call them rapists, murderers, criminals, mock
            The silence of a grieving mother, yet
The people in the room break into a riot of applause;
            Many more, behind the protection of a television screen
Do the same –bow their heads in silent nods, in case
            Motion spills into the roving eyes of ideological avenge.
It makes me cringe, makes me afraid, feel
Oddly defeated – at this vicious name-calling
Of the ‘un-Americans’; toxic, this culture of exclusion.

I am an immigrant of color, and gay,
            Who came to this hip of land for a better life, to pursue
A world of dreams; ousted by the jurisdiction
            Of divisive laws upheld by my home country –reinstated
To chain same-sex lovers, like myself. It is this narrative
            Of dislocation that is my common history with your forefathers,
Who did the same, who wobbled
            On the nape of cultural dichotomies, to build for you
A better life. Our uprooting, the confusion of fleet,
            Reconstructions of life’s jagged shards, is not
Your lived experience – and I would never wish it upon you,
            Having known the shame behind the name-calling,
Feeling, often, like an engorged specimen under a microscope.

Your pathological view of the illegals, the aliens, I have come to realize,
Is only a small twig of a much bigger tree,
Rooted deeply in your heart, this phobia of the other; this issue
            Of legality, a timid straw behind your slanted vision
Of a White America.

Do you forget, Red Man, how many fingers of aliens
            Have built the legs of your empire?

Do you realize, Red Man, that law is expensive and
            Entire villages of fugitives would’ve bled
Under the hack of death, had they not made the breathless escape
            To the hopeful shores of this country?

Look beyond this universe of fear you have constructed,
            And notice –that many of us are here to help, to settle
In peace, and love the pillars of a fresh vista of freedom.
            Many of us would fight and fight and fight
For a Nation that isn’t ours, because this Nation gives us hope,
            Much more than our own. If you lift the veil
Of constant suspicion, undo the latches barring our dreams, remove
            The talons biting into our collective strength, you will
See, a majority of us, united before the same flag,
Committed to the cause, not different from yours,
Of together, building an even greater Nation. I wish you would see,
            For once, this alternate reality, beyond
The hollow of your eyes, shuttered so closely tight –
            That anything in the living darkness, to you,
Is an all-consuming threat, a wrench, a narrative of greed.


Tanmoy Das Lala lives in New York City, and writes poetry whenever time permits. His works have appeared in Thought Catalog and Chelsea Station Magazine.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

THE AMERICAN CREDO, 2016 VERSION

by George Salamon



The United States, the wealthiest nation on Earth, also abides the deepest poverty of any developed nation, but you would not know it by listening . . . to the major parties' presidential nominees [as] 47 million Americans yearn to reach the middle class. —“The Millions of Americans Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Barely Mention: The Poor," The New York Times, August 11, 2016

Don't be so naive and pity the poor.
The poor, sages tell us, will always be with us.
Today there are just too many people, and
There just isn't enough to go around
For everybody to become Ozzie and Harriet.

But you must be so naive and
Believe establishment voices
That the market under god dictates
The income of capitalism's leaders to
Exceed the average worker's hundreds of times.

So you must accept, as you nod and sigh, that
The opportunity to share our nation's goods and wealth
Must remain elusive to millions
And poverty must remain
A never-ending curse.


George Salamon professed German language and literature at Harvard, Haverford, Dartmouth and Smith colleges, served as staff reporter for the St. Louis Business Journal and as Sr. Editor on Defense Systems Review. For the past five years he has contributed regularly to Jewish Currents and TheNewVerse.News from St. Louis, MO.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A SCRAP OF FOUND PARCHMENT (TO AN ATHENIAN SWIMMER)

by Jenna Le


Ryan Lochte explains how a Trojan wall ran into his chariot.

Do you believe you deserve your leisure, drunk spraddle-legged
boy? Did you earn it under the walls of Troy?

You boast that laurel wreathes your brow, but neglect to mention
windblown leaves are piled high
on the juncture of your thighs. Well, if one spends enough time outdoors,
plant life isn’t hard to come by.


Jenna Le is the author of Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011) and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Anchor & Plume Press, 2016). Her poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and translations appear or are forthcoming in AGNI Online, Bellevue Literary Review, The Best of the Raintown Review, Denver Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

THE BLOODIED BOY AND THE GAMES

by Jay Sizemore





Can you hit the water like a knife,
so sharp and so quiet
it remains oblivious to the stabbing?
          No somersaults by choice.
          Every building a potential grave,
          a rubble of tombstones disarrayed.

Can you run faster than death,
with a nation of gasps
riding your shoulders and spine?
           Here, a gold medal for a sunrise.
           We wipe the blood from our eyes.
           We dig our children free of debris
           and carry them like bombs.

Are you sure you picked the right God?
Has the arrow loosed itself
from behind your ear
and found the center of the universe?
Doesn’t the ocean sound like applause?
           There are so many that are lost.
           Their names vanish like landscape details
           pulled further and further away.
           This fog makes blind strangers of us all
           bruised bodies hurting to be touched.

Is the world watching?
I’ve balanced my entire life
upon a beam no wider
than the average human foot.
I’ve turned myself into a compass,
a needle floating inside a leaf.
I’ve conditioned my frame,
hardened my senses
through repetition,
becoming an instrument
of precision
lifting fighter jets
up over my head.
Will you fold my indiscretions into a flag,
while a black man bites the curb,
and forgive me for being great?
             Stare into his eyes.
             Dark as polished stone,
             the blank gaze
             of a shell-shocked child,
             his blood dried to his cheek
             like an unwanted birthmark
             not given at birth.
             It’s no mistake that the human heart
             is larger than a grenade.
             Are you sure you picked the right God?


Jay Sizemore writes poetry and fiction. He has been  published in places such as Rattle, McNeese Review, Jabberwock, and Crab Orchard Review. He lives in Nashville, TN.

Monday, August 22, 2016

MY GREAT-GRANDPARENTS & THE BURKINI BAN

by Judith Terzi


Image source: Judith Terzi

after “What people are saying about ‘burkinis’ in France” 
L.A. Times, August 18, 2016


Zipporah. She is covered from head to toe 
with an apron & layers of cloth. 

There is the idea that . . . women are 
immodest, impure, that they
should therefore be completely 

covered. Wool scarves swirl around her 
hidden neck in the black & white 
photo. A headscarf, or a tichel, hides 
every strand of great-grandmother's 

hair. [This] is not compatible 
with the values of France and 

the republic. Zipporah––a bird in Hebrew.
She flew from Russia to a brownstone 
in Baltimore. She sits on a stoop. Even her 
hands are invisible; we see only her 

withered face. She is over a hundred. 
I issued this order . . . to ensure the safety 
of my city . . .  am only prohibiting 

a uniform that is the symbol of Islamist 
extremism. Zipporah––a bird who 
flew to the heavens before I was born. She 
sits next to my great-grandfather 
in the black & white photo. Hasidic white 
beard, a yarmulke between him and 

his God. It is the soul of France that is
in question . . . France does not hide half 
of its population under the . . . odious
pretext that the other half would be 

afraid of temptation. An oversized wool suit 
envelops his body & his fringes. 
In the 32mm film, he blesses my mother 
& her sisters. His body rocks. Back 
& forth, back & forth, as he recites prayer. 
Pious great-grandfather who gave me 
my name. The beaches, like any 
public space, must be  preserved 

from religious demands. Great-grandparents 
covered in faith & fabric.


Author’s Note: Italics indicate direct quotes from French governmental officials, including the Prime Minister, the Minister for women's rights, and the Mayor of Cannes.

Judith Terzi's poetry has appeared in a wide variety of journals and anthologies including Caesura, Malala: Poems for Malala Yousafzai, Raintown Review, Spillway, Unsplendid, and Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond. If You Spot Your Brother Floating By is her most recent chapbook from Kattywompus Press. Her poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and Web.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

MUSE IN ALFALFA FIELDS

by David Spicer




I roar through Utopia in my steroid
Chevy, cram a baguette in this gorge
of a mouth, a poster boy for broccoli
haters, climbing Hesitation Hill
to the cliff. I’ve declared myself
a winner, the empire below,
the valley with the ultimate prizes—
ruler of this huge county, thousands
following me, migrating to Utopia
to work for me, and women who
think I’m a sweetheart, holding
daisies’ secrets—and I’ve decided this
is the time: I can’t be their gatekeeper
because the face in the cracked mirror
no longer listens to reason, I’m tired
of spewing poison spit from my
darkened haze. No longer a cinch
to win, tired of foes who ruffle
my ego, I’m leaving the keys
in the ignition and detaching the bicycle
from the Chevy’s roof to hop on a nut
cruncher of a seat, riding to the beach
in the rain. Maybe one day I’ll hop back
on the train, but until then, take a tip
from me: when work stops being a gas,
it’s time to muse in alfalfa fields
and disappear to another county.
Not in this dream, you gullible lemmings.


David Spicer has had poems in The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares,  Gargoyle, Mad Swirl, Reed Magazine, Slim Volume, TheNewVerse.News, The Laughing Dog, In Between Hangovers,  Easy Street, Ploughshares, Bad Acid Laboratories, Inc., Dead Snakes, and in the anthologies Silent Voices: Recent American Poems on Nature (Ally Press, 1978), Perfect in Their Art: Poems on Boxing From Homer to Ali (Southern Illinois University Press, 2003), and A Galaxy of Starfish: An Anthology of Modern Surrealism (Salo Press, 2016). He has been nominated for a Pushcart and a Best of the Net, is the author of one full-length collection of poems, Everybody Has a Story (St. Luke's Press, 1987), and four chapbooks. He is also the former editor of Raccoon, Outlaw, and Ion Books. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

WALT WHITMAN AT THE 2016 OLYMPICS

by Bob Katrin



O for any and each the body correlative and attracting.
Singing the muscular urge and the blending…
the welcome nearness… the sight of the perfect body.

The splendor of the opening ceremony and around the
corner the reeking-of-life favelas monitored by
Praetorian Guards with automatic weapons. Keep out
the riff raff, the plenty persons near but not
the hot, the right ones.

The corruption of city-states, the poor, the beggared,
and the rich, the corporate and the incorporate; the
dopers, tokers, and politicians.

The athletes, lithe, lean, and lovely, and the “bulge.”
Ah! The fit-witless and the bulge of youth, the beauty
anyway and incorruptible discipline and dedication
irrelevanced by “commercials.”

And on Copacabana Beach, “We don’t need a stadium
to play volleyball.”

Oh Latin America, Oh Columbus, Columbanumbus!
The New World screwed screwing itself.

The hungry gnaw that eats me night and day…
I need another glass of cachaca and a plate of feijoada.

Tonight I dance with the dancers and drink with the
drinkers. Everyone is my friend even the crooks
on the Olympic Committee.


Bob Katrin is a writer and poet living in Southern Pines, NC.

Friday, August 19, 2016

SOBERANES FIRE 2016

by Jennifer Lagier


#SoberanesFire #Monterey #BigSur Image source: KPCC Fire Tracker


Concours d’Conflagration: Day 15, 35% containment

Overnight, another five thousand acres vanish,
vaporized by voracious fire’s roiling run.
Dani Ridge, Jackson Camp and Post Summit are tinder,
will soon blaze into charred oblivion.

Crews doze, back burn East Molera Ridge,
protect campgrounds, cabins, cliff-side resorts
while incoming caravans of Bentleys, Rolls Royces,
Ferraris, Maseratis, clog all the roads.

Carmel Valley and Big Sur smolder as
the Concours d’Elegance, an annual car show
for arrogant millionaires and their groupies,
carelessly rolls into town.

Evacuation of Big Sur: Day 17, 45% Containment

A reverse 911 call comes at 3:11 a.m.
Fire has jumped the southern containment line.
Flames ignite ridges east of Mt. Manual,
revisit terrain devastated in 2008 by the
Basin Complex/Ventana Wilderness burn.
Consumed acreage swells.

The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office orders
a mandatory evacuation for the Big Sur Area
from Point Sur Lighthouse to Deetjen’s Inn,
Henry Miller Memorial Library and Nepenthe
in its fiery path, both sides of Highway 1.

Tourists are allowed free access
to evacuated areas while residents
are ordered to pack necessities, hit the road north.
In Carmel Valley, air tankers and helicopters
load supplies, hot shot crews, finally take flight.

Smolder: Day 19, 50% containment

By now, over 67,000 acres have burnt.
Smoke wreathes coastal ranges.
Fire runs into Big Sur Valley.
Satellite sweeps reveal heat perimeter
expanding south and east.

Rumors and second guessing abound.
Were air tankers erroneously stopped
from scooping ocean water because of
sanctuary status of Monterey Bay?
What if cell phone coverage had been available
permitting faster reporting, response?
Why didn’t crew commanders enlist assistance
from locals familiar with rugged terrain?

Hand lettered signs, commercial banners
thanking fire fighters line street shoulders.
One friend cynically posts on social media
“How could one little campfire possibly hurt?”

Firing North Coast Ridge Road: Day 23, 60% Containment

Hotshots with drip torches ignite underbrush,
work their way along rugged dirt road.
Crews labor twenty-four hour shifts, inhale ashy smoke,
backburn from containment line, deny advancing blaze
vulnerable homes, chaparral, any flammable fuel.
They focus, not on orange flames, but on green,
look for fly-away sparks.
We give thanks for morning’s drippy fog,
Ventana Double Cone’s granite face.

Officials move staging camp from Carmel Valley
to California State University, Monterey Bay,
nearly an hour north of where needed,
repurpose golf course to accommodate carriers
for upcoming Car Week’s expensive designer vehicles.
Therapists offer free PTSD counseling.
Local poets and musicians raise funds
to assist the displaced.

Combustion vs. Carmageddon: Day 26, 60% Containment

Highway 1 south reopens as CalFire continues
removing blasted redwoods, burnt vegetation.
Portions of roadway have buckled from heat.
The power company replaces destroyed poles, melted wire.
In Cachagua, crews begin restoration, evaluate charred terrain.

Twenty-six miles north, Carmel barricades side streets
and main thoroughfare to permit an all-day display
of vintage Porches and Ferraris.
Monterey erects a tent over Custom House Plaza,
Sotheby’s auction site, to prevent falling ash from
marring the paint of rare luxury cars.


Jennifer Lagier has published twelve books and in literary magazines, taught with California Poets in the Schools, co-edits the Homestead Review, helps coordinate Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Newest books: Scene of the Crime (Evening Street Press), Harbingers (Blue Light Press). Forthcoming chapbook: Camille Abroad (FutureCycle).

Thursday, August 18, 2016

HARNEY PEAK

by Amy Brunvand


“A federal board on Thursday renamed Harney Peak in the Black Hills to Black Elk Peak, saying the name of the state's highest peak was derogatory to Native Americans because Harney was a general whose soldiers massacred Indians. Basil Brave Heart, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, proposed the change to Black Elk Peak as a tribute to a Lakota spiritual leader who died in the mid-20th century. —Rapid City (SD) Journal, August 12, 2016. Photo: Black Elk Peak Summit Tower via summitpost.org. Insert: Nicholas Black Elk via Rapid City Journal.

“There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.” —Black Elk


A horned white ghost
Stinking of piss and musk

Drifts on muffled hooves
Through the ruined tower

Alert for fires blazing
In the hoop of the world.

Tattered scraps
Of faded red cloth

Knotted on the boughs
Of an ancient juniper

Flutter in bitter wind
Whispering prayers

For the people who came
To tie them there.


Amy Brunvand is a librarian, writer and part-time nature mystic in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

TROPES

by Sarah Russell


Left: Four policemen in Rome cooked pasta for an elderly couple after their loneliness and television news caused them such distress they were overheard crying. —The Independent, August 8, 2016. Right: Mary Knowlton, 73, holds a fake blue training firearm prior to a Punta Gorda (FL) Citizen Police Academy role-playing exercise during which she was shot and killed by K-9 Officer Lee Coel. Punta Gorda Police Chief Tom Lewis said authorities were “unaware” that live ammunition was available during the exercise. Photo source: Sue Paquin/Charlotte Sun via Wink News, August 10, 2016.

      "'Sometimes the loneliness melts into tears...'
say the Rome police in a statement.”
The Independent, August 8, 2016.


Italian police still use metaphors in their reports.
In Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, guys with guns
(or not) scare the tropes out of cops, make voices
strident in the no man's land of barred windows,
triple locked doors.  A librarian in Punta Gorda
volunteers to play the law in a “shoot/don't shoot”
like on TV, but the bullets aren't a simile.  In Italy,
the police make old folks pasta with cheese and butter,
sustenance assuaging isolation.  In Punta Gorda
the trope gets tangled, like on the streets
in the allegory of black and white.


Sarah Russell has returned to poetry after a career teaching, writing and editing academic prose. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Kentucky Review, Red River Review, Misfit Magazine, The Houseboat, and Shot Glass Journal, among others. Her poem “Denouement” won the monthly Goodreads poetry contest.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

RIBBED FROM THE HEADLINES

by Jill Crainshaw


When they strolled in the garden alone while

the dew was still on the apple blossoms, the
man gave the woman all the credit. “She
gave me fruit. I ate.” But as limelight
illuminates Olympic garlands “There’s the guy

responsible for it all!” Her husband. Take a rib
from a Bear’s side; “Wife Wins Medal!” Suture

buttons on free-flowing fabrics to dress up
mannequins on mega-fashion magazine covers;

thirteen cents an hour in undisclosed
back rooms. No one will ever know. Sew up a

presidential nomination; plunge a whetted needle
through “abrasion resistant” waxed canvas ceiling. The
morning headlines? “Clinton claims nomination” stitched
on the front page of the Tribune, history pocketed

in a photo of him, not her. Her clothes asked for it after all,
buried on page twelve bottom left

next to an ad for half price laundry detergent.


Jill Crainshaw is a professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity and a Presbyterian minister. Her work has appeared in Star 82 Review, Mused: Bella Online Literary Review, and Panoplyzine. She is a frequent contributor to the Unfundamentalist Christians blog.

Monday, August 15, 2016

THE WATER PARK IN AUGUST

by Melissa Fite Johnson






I. Before

After Kansas City soccer, Children’s Mercy
Park, we drive south for home, two hours away.
The world’s tallest water slide looms at Schlitterbahn,
lit green at night, the spiral walk-up staircase
Godzilla’s head and body, the slide its tongue
unfurling.  Who would ride that monstrosity,
my husband and I joke, and it is a joke, menacing
as that structure is, because we’re safe in our car,
or feel we are at least, our breakable bodies and soft flesh
dashing down the highway in our aluminum bubble.

II. After

I imagine the boy they found in the pool
also felt safe, at least initially, strapped in his raft.
Higher than Niagara; faster than a cheetah;
steeper than any ski slope!  The website called the slide
jaw-dropping.  The website called the slide
gut-wrenching.  I shouldn’t read the stories.  They don’t
bring him back.  They all show the same picture:
brown eyes freckled nose dark hair baseball cap.
Baseball bat on his shoulder.  Ears like mine, elfish
tips that stick out, tinged red from the sun warming his back.


Melissa Fite Johnson’s first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book.  Her poems have appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Rust + Moth, Broadsided Press, velvet-tail, and elsewhere.  Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband in Kansas.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

PROFESSOR FROM DAMASCUS

by Devon Balwit 


Image via Pinterest.


He places his hand on his heart, says Shukran
            for the English lesson,

this specialist in childhood education, their earliest
            formation, in a country

where children scavenge rubble or carry bodies
            of wounded siblings.

He has written six books, he says, six, his hand on his heart.
            this is creative, my talent,

the words delivered with gentle precision, the delicacy of one
            who works with children.

My other students listen politely from a distance, teenagers
            from Japan, Chile, Azerbaijan.

None of us know what it cost him to share our white desks
            at this school in Oregon,

know the Syrian children ruined in Aleppo, while his heart beats
            beneath fingers as he says Shukran.


Devon Balwit is a poet from Portland, Oregon.  Her poetry has appeared before in TheNewVerse.News as well as in other journals.

WHAT PASSES FOR PEACE IN ALEPPO

by Cally Conan-Davies




In the war, the play goes on

underground

brother and sister rolled and buried

underground

up above, a gutted building

underground

sacks of jumping children

underground

the dead are staying dead

underground

the war is overhead

underground

is the safest, deepest place

underground

no sound is a dropping sound

(and this is when the courtyard suddenly thunders.)


Cally Conan-Davies is a writer who lives by the sea.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

THE DONALD SONNETS

by Llyn Clague


IMAGE OF OUTFIT VIA DEAGOSTINI / GETTY; PHOTOGRAPH OF TRUMP BY JOHN TAGGART / BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY. Detail of photgraphic result published in The New Yorker, Daily Shouts, October 28, 2015.


Sonnet LXXI

No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Than flitting across your screen you see my obit
Announcing I am gone.  No smarmy op-ed
Will weep that I have left this hypocrite
World.  No, if you peruse these lines, do not think
Of me who wrote them: so great is your love
Of self I would not give them cause to wink
At you for my shortcomings, and so shove
You off the cliff of their so precious hauteur.
If, I say, you look back upon this verse,
My smallness must not reduce your superior
Vision of greatness, of better, not worse.
Let not the wise world mock your glory
By tying you to my too ordinary story.

Sonnet XCI

Some glory in their birth, some in their wealth,
Some in their cleverness, or in a pretty face,
Some in bodily strength or personal health,
Or cars and yachts boosted in this rat race.
Every type has its particular niche
Where it finds its special gratification.
But these trifles – even, Donald, your riches,
to me but means to ever greater action –
Are nothing: with your love of self you trump
Smooth cleverness,  a beauty-pageant chest,
The bulge of biceps, and arrogant assump-
Tions of birth certificates. I boast I’ve the best:      
Wretched in this alone, that, losing, you take
Self-love away, and wretched my heart will break.

Sonnet XXIX

When, disgraced by boss, society, and fate,
Along with others filled with helpless rage,
I cry to heaven with my unbounded hate
And look upon myself as a rat in a cage,
Haply, Donald, I think on thee, and my heart,
Like hope in a gambler in your casino,
Leaps up into a sweet realm apart,
Made magic by almighty, endless ego.
When I revel in the inebriation
Of your inspired take-downs, smears and sneers
And abandon myself to the elation
Spreading far and wide with all your cheers,
Then, bathed in the glow of your Caesarian
Narcissism, I scorn compassion from any man.


Llyn Clague is a poet based in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY.  His poems have been published widely, including in Ibbetson Street, Atlanta Review, Wisconsin Review, California Quarterly, Main Street Rag, New York Quarterly.  His seventh book, Hard-Edged and Childlike, was published by Main Street Rag in September, 2014.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

BABES IN ARMS

by Rasma Haidri


CBC News photo of Munich mall shooting mourners superimposed over Munich Beer Hall photo from Muenchen.de.


The snap from Munich shows my daughter, her boyfriend,
a guy with glasses, all holding plastic beakers
of beer, half empty or half full (depending, right?)
She texts:         Nice today, no clouds!
                        Spending afternoon at music festival
                        in the neighbor village

I peer over her shoulder at the tiny crowd of bare legs,
shorts, tank tops
      Text:                BE CAREFUL!
then try to find a smiley that means: I don’t want to be one
of those mothers but baby, please
don’t go to a music festival in a Bavarian village,
not this week - I send the one with gritted teeth, maybe
that’s how I feel, follow it with pink hearts, just in case
   
      She texts:         Haha I will smiley heart kiss
New snap: crowd closer, I see eight and a half full
bodies, five times that many heads, myriad arms and legs,
it’s a mass of youth - always young people these days, at camp,
a mall, concert - how will she be careful? And why do the men
in this crowd have no faces? They block each other, look down,
turn away from the camera, all but that guy: black eyes, but no
backpack, or that one gazing at nothing, what he’s thinking?
I don’t know, I don’t even know what ‘careful’ means

Three thousand miles away, all I can do is practice
my tenet of blind faith
      Text:                HAVE A GREAT TIME!
add, as sacrament, the smiley with cool shades, scroll
with invented optimism to get the party hat and dancing senorita,
musical notes and microphone, and because she is still my daughter,
not one of the numbered in Munich last month, write       I LOVE YOU!

She sends two more snaps
                              Really nice here smiley heart kiss
                              I love you too!

and I see him: baseball cap, at the edge of the frame
or there, left center, wearing a fedora, dark beard, or at least
a five o’clock shadow, and he’s carrying something big and black,
a bag, and wearing a watch - or that guy staring straight at me
around the shoulder of a wild 1960s shirt, he’s got that
clean-shaven Anders Behring Breivik look

Ding, alert: in the final snap they are on the ground,
boyfriend, sister, my daughter between them, screaming
smile, wide surprised eyes, making that pose
all millennials make, the ones who grew up seeing themselves
on digital screens in fun Mountain Dew commercial scenes

I stare at the photos, it was just such a concert last week,
a village in Bavaria like this, a young man like him
or him, or that one under the tree -- there are so many
standing in groups or alone
looking down at the screens of their phones
as I do here, at my own

they are scanning the crowd for Pokemon
I am looking for the kid with the gun


Rasma Haidri grew up in Tennessee and makes her home on the arctic seacoast of Norway where she teaches British and American studies. Her poems and essays can be found in anthologies by among others Pudding House, Seal Press, Bayeux Arts, Marion Street Press, The Chicago Review Press and Grayson Books, and in literary journals such as Sycamore Review, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Fourth Genre, Runes, Kalliope and I-70 Review. Her most recent poetry can be found in, Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

TO SEE OURSELVES AS OTHERS SEE US

by John Beaton


Get Ready for the Perseids Meteor Shower: ‘It Will Rival the Stars in the Sky.’ NASA estimates that between 160 and 200 meteors will ignite in Earth’s atmosphere every hour during the display’s peak on Thursday night and Friday morning. . . . In this case, the debris were ejected when Comet Swift-Tuttle visited in 1862 or earlier.—The New York Times, August 10, 2016. Photo: A Perseids meteor streaking across the sky near Pirdop, Bulgaria, early on Aug. 12, 2015. Credit Nikolay Doychinov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images via The New York Times


We’ll view the night-sky Perseids this week;
the shooting stars are back to entertain
with showers from the swift Swift-Tuttle's streak,
those particles which comet tails entrain.
They fall, though most are small as grains of sand
and very few much bigger than a pea,
as fireballs which, though they seldom land,
burn bright enough for all the world to see.

What might we think if we were on that rock
and flew by less than each one hundred years?
Our city lights would shine more with each pass.
Perhaps those meteors don’t turn to smoke
and, like the strike that killed the dinosaurs,
they’ve pocked poor Earth with fire and poison gas?


John Beaton, a retired actuary who was born in Scotland, is a widely published poet and spoken word performer from Vancouver Island, Canada.