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Monday, October 23, 2017

OUR FLAG SPEAKS

by Sister Lou Ella Hickman


A homeless man on a park bench in Brooklyn. Credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images via The New York Times.


how many have I seen fall     countless
as every flag has carried into battle
yet you have not asked me
how I should be honored because of them
so I have remained silent  until    now
honor    the word  the thought  the ideal
that raises everyone to something greater  noble   true
however trite that may sound
so I would have honor in other words
those that give voice to the silenced
to speak for the few, the different . . .
even those who oppose your own heart’s path
I am only cloth and color    the value I have is from you
and when you Pledge  make  those words real
for I fly not just for those countless lost or maimed
but also for those whose living defeats them
for everyone whatever stripe or shade of flesh
standing is but a moment   a song  a brevity
let all this honor be your life time  your daily gratitude
for those I saw fall and die


Sister Lou Ella Hickman has been an all-level teacher and a librarian. Presently she is a freelance writer and a spiritual director. Her poems and articles have been widely published in numerous magazines. One of her poems was published in the anthology After Shocks: Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events edited by Tom Lombardo. Her first book of poetry she: robed and wordless published by Press 53, was released in the fall of 2015.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

GLADIATORS REIMAGINED

by Katie Chicquette Adams


Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone on Sunday and may miss the rest of the season. Credit Bruce Kluckhohn AP via The Charlotte Observer, October 17, 2017.


Though the Roman Empire is long
behind us, cultural remnants survive:
we still gorge on gladiators, groomed
for maybe not death, but a definite
kind of destruction
for our distraction.
We are still the Romans
paying the gross
ticket price, shaking our heads
in something like sadness
or shock when men trained to be tough
fail to be gentle enough.



We slaver with feigned concern, 

fans susceptible to the schadenfreude
of modern athletics, anxiously
awaiting the next agile, brawny feats
performed by men of a singular will
who know that in this world,
competing is what they can do well.
They push on, pawns of passion, paid
in glory and more,
hoping for less possessive,
more benevolent owners
who will mete out compassion
over control, respect over derision
for fighters choosing feet,
knees, or absenteeism as the
musical ode to past bloody battles
unnecessarily peals, and viewers believe
theirs to be the worthiest appeals--
because who are these gladiators
to dare to think, to speak, to feel?

These 21st century warriors
we parade and glorify,
degrade and deconstruct. 

We are fiercely invested
in players whose pockets we line,
personally disappointed (though
generally unaffected)
by their platform management
by their life-changing injuries,
disrupting our coveted consumption
of physical prowess
we neither possess nor deserve,
hollering, grumbling, reminding them
it is our needs, our bloodlust
these battered and battering
contenders serve.


Katie Chicquette Adams is an educator and writer in Appleton, WI.  She is a live storyteller with Storycatchers, Inc.; she has appeared or is forthcoming in River + Bay, Mothers Always Write, Heavy Feather Review, the regional radio segment “Soul of the Cities,” and on the regional blog, Storycatchers. She works as an English teacher for at-risk young adults at a public alternative high school, with hopes they will remake their own stories. She can be reached at k.chicquette.adams[at]gmail.com

Saturday, October 21, 2017

AMERICAN INTERESTS

by Alejandro Escudé


Artwork by Lennart Gäbel.


"When somebody says something about me, I am able to go 'bing, bing, bing' and I take care of it," T***p said. “You know, you have to keep people interested.” —CNN Politics, October 20, 2017


In the hours after President Donald T***p said on an Oct. 17 radio broadcast that he had contacted nearly every family that had lost a military servicemember this year, the White House was hustling to learn from the Pentagon the identities and contact information for those families, according to an internal Defense Department email.—Roll Call, October 20, 2017


Escher-like, America block after block,
stairway after stairway, the dead ends,
the verbal multiplicity—the ugly prank
that is this presidency. But I keep my hand
over my heart when we say the Pledge
of Allegiance where I teach high school.
I didn’t say it when Bush was the president.
During W, I abstained, and looked away.
Something in the drug works. I believe
we’re going to be better after the parade
of clowns ends. Holy soldier! I’m thinking
of his body having not known what he
signed up for. How the soul is a wreck.
Those fatherless children. The lights
over the coffin. The echoing of the war.


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.

Friday, October 20, 2017

HER BROTHER

by Penelope Scambly Schott


Abdi Ali Ibrahim speaks during a Reuters interview after burying the hand of his sister Asha Ali Ibrahim believed to have been killed during an explosion that killed hundreds last Saturday in KM4 street in the Hodan district in Mogadishu, Somalia. -- REUTERS/Feisal Omar, October 17, 2017.


He came downtown to hunt for his sister.
He couldn’t reach her on her cell phone.
He can’t find her in any of the hospitals.
Someone has collected loose body parts
and put them into black plastic bags. He
searches in the bags until he recognizes
his sister’s wedding band. Now this man
stands ankle deep in the charred rubble.
He holds all he has–his sister’s left hand.


Penelope Scambly Schott was awarded four New Jersey arts fellowships before moving to Oregon, where her verse biography A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth received an Oregon Book Award for Poetry. In 2013 she had two books published: Lovesong for Dufur and Lillie Was a Goddess, Lillie Was a Whore. Penelope’s most recent book (2014) How I Became an Historian is a lyric examination of the connections between past and future, both in her family and in the larger world.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

PRICK AN AMERICAN

by Zev Shanken


Still from Ang Lee's film of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.


America is bad on health care because
   Americans never get sick.
America favors the rich in taxes because
   all Americans are rich.
Americans carry guns because
   Americans shoot bad guys.

America isn't afraid of war because
   Americans never die, and if they do,
they live forever in half-time shows—
      well worth the sacrifice.

Prick an American, he will not bleed.
Prick him again, he re-invents Hollywood.


Zev Shanken’s poems “The Hora for the First Passover under President T***P” and “High Noon” have appeared in earlier issues of TheNewVerse.News.  A collection of his poems, Memory Tricks, is available from Full Court Press. He co-chairs a monthly poetry reading series, Thursdays are for Poetry,  at Classic Quiche in Teaneck, NJ.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

IN THE MOURNING

by Robert S. King


Detail of a cartoon by Edel Rodriguez used as the cover of Der Spiegel, February 4, 2017.


Some swear this country is not lost.
Not lost but dead, others say.
If the lost can be found
and the dead resurrected,
the climate will heal itself,
and deus ex machina
will shout down the storm.

Lockjaw keeps my mouth shut,
though sometimes liberal booze
can pry it open; sometimes
I’d like to be a meaner drunk.
If my coffee were stronger,
I might have the nerve
for a cup of coup d’etat.
Anything addictive, prescribed or not,
keeps me from doing the right thing,
keeps me half awake, tossing and turning,
knowing why the wind howls.

After storms of nightmares,
I awake to visions of  uninsured corpses
in the street and melted polar icecaps
flooding my front yard, of our lady
of liberty staggering drunk,
of soulless suits having their way with her.


Robert S. King lives in Athens, GA, where he serves on the board of FutureCycle Press and edits Good Works Review. His poems have appeared in hundreds of magazines, including Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, Chariton Review, Hollins Critic, Kenyon Review, Main Street Rag, Midwest Quarterly, Negative Capability, Southern Poetry Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review. He has published eight poetry collections, most recently Diary of the Last Person on Earth (Sybaritic Press 2014) and Developing a Photograph of God (Glass Lyre Press, 2014).

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

NIGHT FELL, BUT SHE DID NOT SLEEP

by Devon Balwit


Photo: Rohingya refugees arriving in Bangladesh after crossing the Naf River this month. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times


In the next violent blur of moments, the soldiers clubbed Rajuma in the face, tore her screaming child out of her arms and hurled him into a fire. She was then dragged into a house and gang-raped. By the time the day was over, she was running through a field naked and covered in blood. Alone, she had lost her son, her mother, her two sisters and her younger brother, all wiped out in front of her eyes, she says. —The New York Times, October 11, 2017. 


It’s a story you tell and tell, each time entering
by a different scar: this the burned baby, this

the clubbed jaw, this the rapes, over and over.
Even when you say nothing, you tell it, your eyes

so loud others turn away, unable to bear it
as you one more flee the burning, naked.

Their own children paint similar pictures,
paining the aid workers: soldiers shooting,

the fallen, red sources, riverine. You drift
like a storm cloud until, again, there is too much

in you to hold, then you break. People fold
down their tent flaps. You understand. What

can be done with you—a hole with a voice,
a ghost with a body, an endless affront?

You shudder canvas as you pass. The next surge
swells. It runs through you. It mows you down.



Devon Balwit is a writer/teacher from Portland, OR. Her poems have appeared in TheNewVerse.News, Poets Reading the News, Rattle, Redbird Weekly Reads, Rise-Up Review, Rat's Ass Review, The Rising Phoenix Review, Mobius, What Rough Beast, and more.

Monday, October 16, 2017

RIVER OF WINE

by Vera Ignatowitsch


A boiling river of wine flows underneath smoldering debris at the Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa, California on Tuesday. —Daily Mail (UK), October 11, 2017


She called me Cabernet
since I liked red      
a busty bold bouquet
my preference.
Our California dream
like lightning led
unerringly downstream      
in deference
to molten lava nights
black cherry style                
oblivious to sights              
of daytime cares
until the bottles burst
and wine worthwhile
spilled over; our lips pursed
consuming air.
The Sauvignon she craved
has all been spilled,            
and wishing we had saved
some, will not serve              
to resurrect the blaze
we poured to build
those dazzling yesterdays
we still deserve.


Vera Ignatowitsch is addicted to poetry, raspberries, and occasionally good scotch. Her poems have appeared in 2 anthologies and a number of publications including The Lyric. She is editor of Formal & Rhyming poetry for Better Than Starbucks Poetry Magazine.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

HACKING ENTERTAINMENT

by Catherine Rauchenberger Conley


‘Game of Thrones’ cast gets no scripts after HBO hack: In recent seasons, actors got their parts through verified email. Then, a few months ago, HBO was hacked and various show files were stolen. The culprits demanded a ransom of several million dollars to prevent episodes from being leaked online. According to [Nikolaj] Coster-Waldau [who plays Jaime Lannister] security for this final “Game of Thrones” season is the tightest yet. Actors in each scene are equipped with earpieces and are fed their dialogue to deliver, line by line. “We’re not even going to get the script,” he said. —Page Six, October 13, 2017

Sometimes,
you let the cat out of the bag.
Other times,
you close the barn door after
the horses have escaped.
In neither event,
Is the past recoverable.

So too with hacking—
It is only discovered,
after the deed is done,
and Everyone knows,
and investigations are launched,
and fingers are pointed,
and security is weakened,
and homelands are sacrificed.

No matter the findings,
the consequences have
run their course,
and whatever the sanctions,
the punishment will never
bring us back to the halcyon days
of happy ignorance and anticipation.

And the hackers become both
Pariah and Hero depending on which
side of the aisle you stand
and how the latest revelations
painted your actions or those
of your idols and enemies.

Except for the latest breach, denounced
By All and which will be prosecuted to
The. Fullest. Extent. Of. The. Law.
Because who cares about what
Edward Snowden might release when
Jon Snow plot spoilers are at risk,
And even Julian Assange knew better
Than to reveal the secrets of Queen Cersei—
For the public is only truly appalled if
Anyone should have prior knowledge
Of what Tyrion, Daenerys, or Jaime,
Might have in store for you next season.


Catherine Rauchenberger Conley is a poet, writer, crafter and high school English teacher. She lives in Queens, New York with her husband and cat. The former supports her writing interests; the latter steals her pens. More of her writing can be found in Tuck Magazine or on her blog. Twitter @CatherineConl18 Instagram @alycatcreations1

Saturday, October 14, 2017

NOT JUST LISTEN, BUT HEAR

by Jonel Abellanosa


Cartoon by Eoin Kelleher


You heart is telling you
Billions of people need this planet, too
Countless animal and plant lives
Live on this planet, too

Your brain is telling you
The desire to join an I.Q. contest
Expired 60 years ago

Your pancreas is telling you
Be compassionate

Your kidneys are telling you
You’re septuagenarian already,
Be humble

Your liver is telling you, be kind

Your blood pressure is telling you
Be understanding

Your future gout and rheumatoid arthritis
If you still don’t have them
Are telling you
It’s okay to kneel
Like it’s okay to be black

Your arterial plaques are telling you
Don’t block the entry of homeless people
People fleeing political persecutions
People who risk their lives
To hold on to dear life
You may drive away people
But you can’t change the course
Of your blood —it will burst
Through a blockage

Even if you don’t like it


Jonel Abellanosa resides in Cebu City, the Philippines.  His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Rattle, Anglican Theological Review, Poetry Kanto, Filipino-American Artist Directory, The McNeese Review and GNU Journal. Early in 2017 Alien Buddha Press published his third chapbook Meditations. His latest poetry collection Songs from My Mind’s Tree is forthcoming (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, New York).  He is a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and Dwarf Stars Award nominee. A number of his poems have appeared in TheNewVerse.News.

Friday, October 13, 2017

AT THE CROSSROADS

by James Cronin


The Seven Acts of Mercy by Caravaggio


The first time I saw "The Seven Acts of Mercy" . . .  I knew I wanted to write a play about it: its generosity, its complications, its aggressive, violent compassion. —Anders Lustgarden in his introduction to the 2016 Bloomsbury Methuen edition of his play The Seven Acts of Mercy.


The artist painted a swarming crossroads where
two alleys, winged heaven and Naples did
intersect; all to show the fruits of fair
mercy, with the knife edge of its need not hid.

The city’s shame is so public, its wanton
cruelty on display. Does it want us
to keep moving, and not gaze at that fountain
replenished on its own? No, the chorus

reaching from the heavens bids us instead
to stare: as a noble hands a cloak to a nude
beggar; a weary pilgrim with a red
beard is pointed to shelter and food;

a servant moves a corpse for burial;
and a prisoner, condemned to starve in jail,
is suckled by his child, a surreal
story of old Rome. All true? Isms fail

where story succeeds. We are numbed
by numbers. Empathy demands a tale,
a face in the crowd. Compassion can’t be summed.
But now, even a clear summons can fail.

Where once only moral truth was needed,
our leader, peacock-brained, sees but his tail.
With miles of devastation unheeded,
his gloried behind dims all loss from the gale.

And those enablers of killing still stick
to their guns and sanctify murders’ ease.
No compassion! No mercy! What sick
huckster sells as freedom a deadly disease.


After a four decade career in the law, James Cronin returned to his first love, literature. Since his judicial retirement in 2007, he has participated in three poetry groups and has served as a facilitator in numerous courses for a lifelong learning program in Fall River, MA.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

PERVERSE URGES

by Richard Schiffman




Last week on the floor of the U.S. Senate
the Right Reverend Senator Bugger Mugger
called me and my green-bellied ilk
               “tree huggers”
Has that cracker ever got my number!
He said, “Buddy, keep those muddy
mitts of yours on your own kind.”
“Amen sir,” I replied, “only I’m wondering what kind
of kind that is.” Granted I’m a bit confused
               (asexually speaking)
something to do with being raised by a missing planet,
abandoned by an ecosystem at a tender age.
Seems I’ve conceived a perverse urge to mate
with a star, or if that’s too cosmic, with a right whale,
a snail darter, a spotted owl—
any species that’s as endangered
as I’m feeling right now.
But I can’t seem to find an other
that’s other enough to satisfy
               my kinky appetites.
My eco-therapist is trying to suss it out.
Right Reverend says it’s unbiblical,
calls my fondness for nature unnatural,
says marriage is between opposite genders,
not genus, has drafted legislation
to make tree-hugging in public a federal crime.
The measure has broad support from speciests
on both sides of the evolutionary aisle.
Hell, if it passes, I’ll diddle with a river.
Hear that’s still legal in California.


Richard Schiffman is an environmental journalist, poet and author of two biographies. His poems have been published in Southern Poetry Review, Alaska Quarterly, New Ohio Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, and many other publications. His poetry collection What the Dust Doesn't Know was published by Salmon Poetry in February.

ABBOTTS LAGOON, PT. REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE

by Buff Whitman-Bradley




We lean our backs against
A bleached driftwood log
While we eat our simple lunch
And watch the Pacific
Approach and fall back
Approach and fall back
Like a shy teenager
Trying to work up the courage
To ask for a dance.
After our meal
We lie down on the sand
Our small packs pillowing our heads
Our sun hats covering our faces
And fall asleep
For a half-hour or so
Then awaken stiffly and reluctantly
Peering out from under our hat brims
At the glinting ocean,
Listening to the soft splashing
Of gently breaking waves.
As we yawn and stretch
Watching a plastic bottle
Wash up onto the beach
Our sleep-scattered thoughts
Slowly pull themselves together
And we feel the return of grief
For all that is being done
To our wracked and battered Earth,
Our fears for us all
Flooding our hearts once more.
We stand up, hoist our packs,
Brush off the sand,
Take a few deep breaths of sea air
For the road,
Then head out across dunes and pastures
Back to our car
And back to the global struggle
To repair a world out of whack.


Buff Whitman-Bradley's poetry has appeared in many print and online journals, including Atlanta Review, Bryant Literary Review, Concho River Review, Crannog, december, Hawai'i Review, Pinyon, Rockhurst Review, Solstice, Third Wednesdayand others. He has published several collections of poems, most recently, To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World. His interviews with soldiers who refused to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan became the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. He lives in northern California with his wife Cynthia.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

REMEMBERING NICOLAI

by Bob Stanley


Stock vintage photo.


I didn’t forget about the old photo of Nicolai,
or what grandpa said about him,
that tears came easily to his eyes,
and that his oils of snow-capped mountains,
with rivers running behind blue pine trees sold well.
Grandpa told me Nicolai loved men instead of women: he always did.
The Nazis had taken him one evening
as he was going out dressed for the theater,
dressed in a long black coat and fedora.
They took him to camp Mauthausen,
robed him in striped pajamas and gave him a pink triangle for a name.
At the end of the war,
the allies liberated the camp,
but Nicolai was found naked and dead,
nothing left of him but a winter’s husk and dead raven’s eyes.

I often wonder looking back,
if Nicolai and the men he loved
were as happy as the men I saw dancing,
on the paper mache float in the Gay Pride parade:
with their asses exposed in black leather chaps,
red jock straps, green feathered boas, lipstick and heels
and sun-tanned smiles?

Grandpa died last week.

So now, looking at this old photo
of Nicolai and Grandpa at the beach as young men
I’m left to wonder
how I shall pour out what is left of my life.


Bob Stanley lives in Pickerington Ohio and works for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles as a civil servant. Personal heroes include brother Joey, brave companion in the fiery walk of the family past and what is to come, and his late mother Lillian who demonstrated both the healing and destructive power of imagination, and his father Jack who instilled the value of hard work.  Bob is currently working on his first novel and his first collection of poetry.  Bob likes to remind people that Franz Kafka and Herman Melville were also civil servants.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I AM PUERTO RICO

by Kathleen A. Lawrence



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I am not an island

surrounded by big water

but shimmering shores

lapped by the tears of my people

I am not a dirty barrio
but a street strung

with a clothesline filled
with aprons and smocks

I am not mud caked

but the color of rich clay

and sparkling amber gemstones

I am not a gray swirl of storm
but a lovely ocean breeze

I am a centipede with countless legs
moving together to make repairs

I am the evening breeze
whistling come home

I am the chartreuse fern
bowing to our emerald palms

I am the indigo sky

fluttering like a dancing petticoat

I am the contented sigh

in our silver-edged moonrise

I am the sweetness

of our plump, clementine sun

I am joyful as I play
hide and seek behind
our rolling, laughing hills

I am strong like the backs of our beetles
I am flying with rainbow wings

I am as quick as our waterfalls
I am as spirited as the acid green coqui

I am Puerto Rico


Kathleen A. Lawrence has had poems published in Rattle (Poets Respond), Eye to the Telescope, Scryptic, Silver Birch Press, haikuniverse, Silver Blade Magazine, The Wild Word Magazine (Germany), Altered Reality Magazine, Undertow Tanka Review, Silver Blade Magazine, TheNewVerse.News, and Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, among others. Recently two of her poems were nominated for 2017 Best of the Net awards, and another was nominated for the 2017 Rhysling Award of the international Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA). In 2016 she won third place for “Even Happy Ghosts are Scary Ghosts When You’re Seven” in the SFPA poetry contest. She was a Poet of the Week at Poetry Super Highway in January 2017.

Monday, October 09, 2017

THINKING ABOUT MARILOU

by Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco



Of all
people I

should be more
sympathetic, should

be kinder to
The Woman Who Loved
Wrong—after

all, I have
been her,

sitting next
to a dark window

on the plane,
with the shadow

of the plane
lost in the ocean

with the person

I loved
lost

to all kindness. But
I can’t


get past her picture (not

her fault), how she

is smiling
and a fingertip of white hair

on her forehead (not
her fault)

shows she didn’t touch
the color up

and blue is all
around her like a
halo, and she’s

happy, and I

hate her
hate her
hate her

because, then,
she didn’t know

because
she wanted
to be loved

because it’s too hard
after all
to be so

sad.


Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco lives in California's Central Valley, and co-edits One Sentence Poems. Her chapbook Various Lies is available from Finishing Line Press.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

THE PAIN IN SPAIN

by Jerome Betts




BARCELONA — The leader of Catalonia said Wednesday night that he wanted a negotiated settlement to the region’s conflict with the Spanish government, but he did not offer to shelve his secessionist plan. —The New York Times, October 4, 2017


Catalonia's vote was galvanic.
On the ship of state's bridge there is panic.
   Madrid seems to envision
   Not a minor collision
But the iceberg that split the Titanic.


Jerome Betts lives in Devon, England, and edits the quarterly Lighten Up Online. His verse has appeared in a wide variety of British magazines and anthologies as well as UK, European, and North American web venues such as Amsterdam Quarterly, Angle, Light, The Asses of Parnassus, TheNewVerse.News, Parody, Per Contra, The Rotary Dial, and Snakeskin.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS GO OUT TO YOU

by Melissa Balmain


Well, of course your mom was precious and I'm sad she's not alive, 
but the answer's not to confiscate my HK MP5—
it's to hand all moms their own! You'd still be Mama's honeybun
if, instead of brunch on Mother's Day, you'd thought to give a gun,
give a gun, give a gun, give a love-your-mama gun.

As for spouses, yours was beautiful before her head blew off—
how I wish you'd bought yourselves a his-and-hers Kalashnikov,
and avoided parties, films and other useless couples' fun.
Friday night's for weapons training, it's a chance to date a gun,
date a gun, date a gun, date a hot-o-matic gun.

And your little boy? Adorable—a shame he couldn't bolt.
He's our proof that every teacher ought to have the latest Colt,
plus a practice range where tire swings and tetherballs once spun.
Skip those silly games at recess till each Teach can aim a gun,
aim a gun, aim a gun, aim a Core-required gun.

So come on, quit being haters, don't you give my rights a shove.
There's a way for me to keep my gun, and you the folks you love!
All it takes is recognition that your highest goal, bar none,
is to plan your daily lives around my need to own a gun
that is deadlier than any used from Vicksburg to Verdun,
while ensuring that this right belongs to nearly everyone,
even online-shopping crazies who buy rifles by the ton.
Love my gun, love my gun—you're the planets, it's the sun—
Love my gun, love my gun: if you don't, you'd better run.


Melissa Balmain's poems have appeared in such places as American Life in Poetry, Lighten Up Online, Poetry Daily, and The Washington Post's Style Invitational; her prose in The New Yorker, The New York Times, McSweeney’s, and Success. She's the author of Walking In on People (winner of the Able Muse Book Award).

Friday, October 06, 2017

BREAKING POINT

by David Chorlton




He was there to play, not to party. The night before the shooting, Mr. Paddock made two complaints to the hotel about noise coming from his downstairs neighbors: Albert Garzon, a restaurant owner visiting from San Diego, and his wife and friends. Mr. Garzon, who was staying in 31-135, directly beneath Mr. Paddock, said security guards knocked on his door around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday and asked him to turn down his music, country songs. When he asked where the complaint was coming from, pointing out that the nearest rooms on either side were far away, the security guard said, “It’s the guest above you.” —The New York Times, October 4, 2017


He was a quiet man, a man
who worked with numbers and amassed
more money than he had use for
so he spent some on guns
which made him feel bigger
than he was, but still quiet.
No known affiliations
to a cause or a religion
whose god ordered him to kill.
He liked to play against machines, to watch
the cards and count the winnings.
Otherwise, he kept
to himself.
He needed to sleep to concentrate next time
around.
      Suppose
it wasn’t the sense of a mission
that made him stack
his weapons in the room, suppose
he simply liked to carry them around
just in case
he ever needed them, you know,
for some spontaneous and banal reason
such as the noise
rising from the concert stage thirty-two floors down
and when it went on too, too
long, he smashed the window
and didn’t have to aim.


David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications online and in print, and reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. His newest collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press, and late in 2017 The Bitter Oleander Press will publish Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

STARING AT A SHELF OF BOURBON

by Megan Merchant 




Three days later my husband is on his way
home from Vegas. I stop to buy bourbon, the expensive kind,

as if this is just a movie and I can pour it into the wound
to keep it from spreading. I sketch words to avoid using—

blood, gun, bodies until there is at least a scab,
and the grip of nightmares have lost their choke-hold.

I ask the guy which kind packs the most punch, hearing again
my husband’s voice breaking into tears, worried he did not do enough.

Bulleit, his says, without wincing, the shelf stocked full enough to sterilize
any feeling, to stupor any change.


Megan Merchant lives in the tall pines of Prescott, AZ.  She is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Gravel Ghosts (Glass Lyre Press, 2016 Best Book Award), The Dark’s Humming (2015 Lyrebird Prize, Glass Lyre Press, 2017), four chapbooks, and a forthcoming children’s book with Philomel Books. She was awarded the 2016-2017 COG Literary Award, judged by Juan Felipe Herrera, the Poet Laureate of the United States.

EARLY MONDAY MORNING

by Peg Quinn



Every screen screams another mass shooting.
I lug a bucket of water saved from
warming my shower to a begonia,
its blossoms neither red, or magenta but
a bright blending of the two together.

Soft clouds dance a brisk parade cross the sky.


Peg Quinn is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, mural and theatrical set painter and award-winning quilter.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

THIS TIME

by Heather Newman


A police officer directed a bystander off the crime scene on the Boston Common. JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE, September 12, 2017


1.

On a mid-September afternoon
in historic Boston Common
multiple gunshots were fired
near the bandstand, among bystanders, a brazen act,
police called it, locals say this never happens in Boston,
                                    it’s a college town.
A nineteen-year-old Hyde Park man
was critically injured. The shooting triggered
chaos in one of the nation’s oldest parks.
Police chased a man into a trolley tunnel at Arlington station,
a gun was recovered, three are in custody.              
Police believe it was not a random act.
But this is not a poem about terrorists or home growns
or viable solutions for
public safety.
Authorities say an argument preceded the shooting,
all people involved in the incident are known to police
                                    and it’s unclear if it’s drug or gang related.
This is a poem
about those who dodge a bullet and
those who are not dead, yet


2.

She calls me crying, barely able to speak, and I fear the worst.
Twenty minutes before, we had been chatting. She was
                                    on a mission to discover
a farmers market. She loves her classes, her roommate.
I’m thrilled; this wasn’t her first choice of schools.
Please, God, don’t let it be rape.
She tells me she ran from gunfire but she’s safe, back in her dorm.
I’m relieved. School is in lockdown.            
On the internet. Looks like they caught the shooter.
She says she thought about playing dead instead of running.
We had discussed this right after Sandy Hook.
                                    I’m in New York City and I’ve never run from gunfire.
Twitter says two of the three suspects fled on mopeds.
Impossible, she says. Those guys on the red vespas were not the shooters.
Are you sure you want to get involved?
She spent hours at police headquarters, couldn’t sleep for days.
I flew her home for the weekend, took her shopping.
                                    Statistics say this shouldn’t happen to her again.


3.

“When you hear ‘active shooter,’ you run . . .”
this epidemic, these pleas, how many die before
                                    another one
“It sounded like fireworks . . .”
flags lowered, legislation, time for congress to enact
                                    another one
NRA, massacres, stranglers, bombers, revolutions
prove we can’t stop
another one  
“These are happening too much, these shootings,”
thoughts and prayers, in God we trust
                                    another one


4.

But back to the Common.
This story won’t be found on CNN or Fox News,
The New York Times or The Washington Post.
It was just another boy
not enrolled in a college, somewhere in critical condition.
And three unnamed others, who knew each other and were known to police;

                                    they were released the next day.


Heather Newman is an MFA candidate at The New School (NYC.) Her work has appeared in Voices from Here, Vol. II, TheNewVerse.News, The Potomac, Two Hawks Quarterly, Aji Magazine, Matter, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and eChook.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

SWAMP POEM

a sonnet by Cindy Hochman


Add caption

Throw your old comb & hairbrush into the swamp.
Throw your hamper full of dirty laundry into the swamp.
Throw that bad poem you wrote this morning into the swamp.
Throw your shattered-after-the-breakup heart into the swamp.
Throw your mother-in-law into the swamp.
Throw your cataracts, your ulcers, your tumors into the swamp.
Throw war and all its symbols into the swamp.
Throw all Rebel statues, from Virginia to Alabama, into the swamp.
Throw the lawyers, the bailiffs, the judges, and the guilty defendants into the swamp.
Throw the press secretary and her podium of mendacity into the swamp.
Throw the rolled heads of recently departed staffers into the swamp.
Throw the hurricanes’ fallen branches, and the West Wing’s executive branch,
  and the Great Lawn with its Easter Egg Roll and pardoned turkeys into the swamp.
And the president, that no-goodnik, into the fetid, putrid, malodorous, stinking swamp.


Cindy Hochman is the president of "100 Proof" Copyediting Services and the editor-in-chief of the online poetry journal First Literary Review-East. She is on the book review staffs of Pedestal magazine and Clockwise Cat. Her latest chapbook is Habeas Corpus (Glass Lyre Press).

Monday, October 02, 2017

WHAT FEEDS US

by Amy Strauss Friedman

Each morning I reach into a bag of broken hearts
to feed my dog. Chicken biscuits in fragments
from freighting. He devours them whole
as if his survival hinges on love, on ancestry,
an ancient civilization that still remembers him.

He chews them rabidly as news of Las Vegas
bleeds through the television screen, another omen
of our dying planet. Our stars have left the scene
for the night, and in their wake the smoky scars
of the newly dead. We feast on broken hearts.
It’s all we have to feed us.


Amy Strauss Friedman is the author of the poetry collection The Eggshell Skull Rule forthcoming from Kelsay Books, and the chapbook Gathered Bones are Known to Wander (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2016). A two-time Best of the Net nominee, her poems have appeared in The Rumpus, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Escape Into Life, decomP, and elsewhere. Amy lives in Denver, Colorado where she teaches English at Columbia College.

TAKING A KNEE

by Martin Ott



You could be getting knighted or holding a ring,
the sun lined up squarely in the sights of your throw.
I have worn a uniform, positioned flags at half mast,
and aimed a rifle in the air while caskets are lowered.
You could be praying or imagining how white stripes
press down on blood lines basking in a field of stars.
They are balancing on caps that could break in battle,
warriors throwing themselves at the one holding on.
You could believe in silence that speaks to us in mass.
Wind whipping our flag is the same no matter the stand.


Martin Ott’s most recent book is Spectrum, C&R Press, 2016. He is the author of seven books and won the De Novo and Sandeen prizes for his first two poetry collections. His work has appeared in more than two hundred magazines and a dozen anthologies. He tweets and blogs.

WHEN JESUS TOOK A KNEE

by Alejandro Escudé




When Jesus took a knee
beside the palm tree
and the Romans there
paused, gulped the air,
no one could believe
Pontius Pilate’s decree
that all those who
did the same, who
took a knee as Jesus
did, those dividing us,
meaning the Romans,
should be treated as
traitors to the empire
and be set on fire
or hung upon a cross
which is cut of cypress.

A vision was bestowed
to those alive, glowed
a white H upon a field,
with a ball, oval-shaped,
alighting over the center
emitted by a gladiator
below, a ball or a skull,
one couldn’t really tell
but watched it soar high
as a crowd sprang nigh
to cheer the spectacle,
the human-like tentacle,
a wingspan to the bars
and then the long limbs,
finally the head, eyes
like blackened starlight,
the man hanging there
for all to witness, bare
save for a shoulder pad
nimble and heavy, a hood
red-gold, an eagle spread,
a man who cried, bled.


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 01, 2017

SHIP-WRECKED MEXICANS

by Gil Hoy



All those
American citizens

With no food,
No water

On an island
Surrounded by
Big water

Ocean water,

Are getting
rowdy and unruly.


Let the wild winds howl,

Let the flooding rains run.


Editor's note: The title is an epithet defined here.

Gil Hoy is a Boston trial lawyer and poet. He received a BA in Philosophy and Political Science from Boston University, an MA in Government from Georgetown University, and a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law. Hoy served as a Brookline, Massachusetts Selectman for four terms. His work has appeared, most recently, in Third Wednesday, The Write Room, Clark Street Review and TheNew Verse.News.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

I DON'T NEED ANY MORE FACTS

by Ann Bracken




Time unfurls like a faded banner
and drops me into a world of flim-flam
reasoning where ancient politicians
offer the same centuries-old fleecing techniques
to justify war.

I no longer labor to understand
Vietnam
with its random horrors, permanent scars
on people, on land, on psyches.

Images fuse to my heart
as I watch a few hours of Ken Burns’
latest epic.

An American soldier sits on a river-bank
his feet planted in the deep, black water.
He stares blankly, ignoring the upturned
face of a questioning toddler
who places a small hand on his knee.

And somewhere else in time
a young soldier flicks his Zippo
lighter and sets flame to a hut—
the family cowering on the ground,
covers their eyes and cries for mercy.

Time cleaves open an old lexicon—where
bodies count towards victory
and pacification destroys both hearts and minds.
Shame and powerlessness
burn my soul like napalm.


Ann Bracken is the author of two collections of poetry: The Altar of Innocence and No Barking in the Hallways: Poems from the Classroom. She serves as the deputy editor of Little Patuxent Review and offers writing workshops in schools, community centers, and prisons.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

THEY DON'T REMEMBER WHEN WE WERE . . .

by Maria Lisella




… the immigrants, the sharecroppers,
the unskilled laborers standing on corners
waiting for work, maybe it was the Hell’s Gate Bridge
or the dangerous bowels of the subways.

Sharing low-lit tenements with men piled high
swapping pillows, sheets and beds as they returned
from the morning shift, the evening shift

The stench of those men-filled quarters
No women to dress for, to clean for,
to shave for, a society of men clammy

in winters, sultry in summers, saving
meager wages split with padroni
and landlords, before sending bits and pieces

Home to bring wives and children
here to this foreign place, trying
to remember why they left home,

Was it that bad? Yes it was, wives don’t tell
the men in their letters, of the famine,
the deaths, a silk thread of hope spanning

The Atlantic, to feel whole again
not so alone, to be human instead
of imitating animals in the daily routine:

Wake, work, sleep, nothing in between
no rises or falls or celebrations or
clean towels or bread on the table

Set for four, six or set at all.
Eating while standing becomes a skill
on the corners waiting for the work

If the policeman doesn’t move them
to another corner, stepping into strangers’
cars, a dangerous deal for a day’s work

Now the men speak with accents from:
Mexico, Guyana, India but they are not
so different from our grandfathers and uncles

Shifting from one foot to the other to keep warm
expecting a day’s pay by nightfall, but who can tell?
they have no choice.

My mother recalls the stories of her father, brothers.
She cannot understand the nieces, nephews
who don’t see their ancestors’ faces before them.


Maria Lisella is the sixth Queens Poet Laureate 2015-2018. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Poetry Prize, her collections include Thieves in the Family, Amore on Hope Street, and Two Naked Feet. She co-curates the Italian American Writers Association readings, is a NY Expert for USA TODAY, and contributes to La Voce di New York.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A DIVIDER NOT A UNITER, T***P WIDENS THE BREACH

by Ron Riekki

Nick Anderson / Cagle Cartoons


            “A Divider Not a Uniter, Trump Widens the Breach”
                        --Peter Baker, The New York Times, Sept. 24, 2017


T***p’s a caesura, a seizure,     a thing that goes a-sailing
and assailing but needs desperate restraining; I think
of the psych ward patients in horror films but reimagine
them as reenactors, the way the Civil War never ended,
and a sort of clown makeup hairdo skin cross, no, crucifix
between John Wayne and John Wayne Gacy.  T***p’s
a business man, wise with pennies.  Let’s call him Penny-
wise, for short.  An It man.  In the whitest house ripping
the country in have and have-nots.  A snot Prez, a denier,
the dernier person we’d want to wed to the Presidency,
a David Duke of Earl.  But a part of me doesn’t blame
T***p, but rather blames the T***p voter who set up
for this country to be torn apart . . . You see racists hid
right in the word supremacists, hid right in the voting
booths.  The waitress approaches, says, Would you like
a John Wilkes table or a John Wilkes booth?  The sick
temper of his Sic semper tyrannis Oedipus train wrecks.
Even the Republicans at work are finally mumbling,
This guy’s a friggin idiot.  His only talent is garnering
media tension, ad nauseam.  You ever see a supposed
strong man rip a phone book in half?  It’s really sort of
highly                                                            unimpressive.


Ron Riekki wrote U.P.: a novel (Great Michigan Read nominated) and edited The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book), Here: Women Writing on Michigan's Upper Peninsula (2016 Independent Publisher Book Award), and And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press, 2017).