Monday, June 13, 2022

Sleeping and Waking

By Gregg Shapiro 


My husband recently confessed that when he gets into bed 
 every night, pulls the top-sheet and comforter over his legs 
 and torso, locates the perfect pillow groove in which to rest 
 his weary head, he wonders if it will be the last time he ever 
 partakes in such an action. The constantly expanding and 
 evolving inventory of ills, pains, tremors, night sweats, thirst, 
shortness of breath, urgent bathroom visits, restless legs, dry 
 mouth, vocalizations, and recurring teaching dreams, borders 
 on being Encyclopedia Britannica-esque, capable of overtaking 
 every inch of available shelf-space, entire rooms, personal real 
 estate. I don’t tell my husband that since he’s made me aware 

 of this, that I sleep lighter than before. Listening intently for 
 signs of life, spans between inhalation and exhalation, hints of 
 disruption. I never say I worry about where it is his horizontally 
 sprinting legs are taking him. Towards or away from me. Would 
never share that every morning, I’m equally surprised that my 
 own eyes still open, although it takes longer for them to focus 
 than it used to. That when I stand and stretch and greet the day, 
 I am a bundle of knots and nerves, my heart rattling in my chest 
 like the loose seeds in a maraca, an instrument I will utilize for 
 the healing ritual I must perform when the time comes. I was 
 born vigilant, and ready for action when the dire moment arises.  

Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry collection Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). Recent/forthcoming lit-mag publications include The Penn Review, Exquisite Pandemic, RFD, Gargoyle, Limp Wrist, Mollyhouse, Impossible Archetype, Red Fern Review, Instant Noodles, Dissonance Magazine, and POETiCA REViEW, as well as the anthologies Moving Images: Poems Inspired by Film (Before Your Quiet Eyes Publishing, 2021), This Is What America Looks Like (Washington Writers’ Publishing House, 2021) and Sweeter Voices Still: An LGBTQ Anthology From Middle America (Belt Publishing, 2021). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Doctor’s Appointment

By Gary Beck 


The streets are crowded on the way to the doctor’s office,
making me even more nervous,
since no one is distancing.
The nurse takes my temperature,
allows me to stay.
I look suspiciously at other patients.
They are here for sports injuries
but I don’t trust anyone
in a time of pandemic.

Finally I see the doctor
who is detached, impersonal.
He treats my ankle,
gives me a shot
of I don’t know what.
Says goodbye. Leaves.
The nurse bandages me.
Says goodbye.
I rinse my hands with disinfectant,
walk home on crowded streets
and hope I didn’t contract
a fatal disease.

Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn't earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 32 poetry collections, 13 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays and 3 books of plays. Gary lives in New York City.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Beaumont to Detroit: 1943

By Langston Hughes

Looky here, America
What you done done -
Let things drift
Until the riots come.

Now your policemen
Let your mobs run free.
I reckon you don’t care
Nothing about me.

You tell me that hitler
Is a mighty bad man.
I guess he took lessons
From the ku klux klan.

You tell me mussolini’s
Got an evil heart
Well, it mus-a-been in Beaumont
That he had his start -

Cause everything that hitler
And Mussolini do,
Negroes get the same
Treatment from you.

You jim crowed me
Before hitler rose to power -
And you’re STILL jim crowing me
Right now, this very hour.

Yet you say we’re fighting
For democracy
Then why don’t democracy
Include me?

I ask you this question
Cause I want to know
How long I got to fight
BOTH HITLER – AND JIM CROW

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Where do pelicans die?

By Sharon Lopez Mooney 


I’ve never seen a dead pelican on my dock where they fish, 
does a relative or others fly in formation bringing the
body out to sea into the maw of deep currents? 

How do their mates mourn? 
Do neighbor pelicans bring them a catch of the day 
so they don’t have to leave their grieving? 

How about the energetic wrens? Who tends the chubby little body 
when there’s a death, do friends gather in their favorite ficus tree 
sheltered, to keen for the lost youngster who couldn’t sit still? 

I, too, have lost friends over these last years, 
not lovers or family, just lovely friends 
and I felt the quick cut of aloneness wound me anew. 

I cannot go back in time to the first flush 
of that friendship, cannot travel back over miles to 
lay my hand on their door to say good-bye. 

They pass like those fallen pelicans, those friends, teachers, comrades, 
pass from me like the slowing of my gait, the limits of my eyes 
in an ache of loss that hardly shakes the world. 


Sharon Lopez Mooney, poet, is a retired Interfaith Chaplain, who worked in the death and dying field, now lives in Mexico on the Sea of Cortez, and visits family in northern California. Mooney received a 1978 CA Arts Council Grant for a rural poetry series and helped publish a regional arts journal and has produced poetry readings and performances. Mooney’s poems are or will be published in The MacGuffin, The Muddy River Poetry Review, The Avalon Literary Review, Adelaide International Magazine, Galway Review, Ginosko Literary Journal, California Quarterly, Hags on Fire, The Ricochet Review, Roundtable Literary Journal, Visible Magazine, NewVerse News, Evening Street Review, among others.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Two poems by Karen Loeb

Glamour in the Age of the Pandemic 

 
My short hair grows 
longer, and longer still.
The ends remember
they have cowlicks,
curling, some up, some
under. There’s no limit
to their acrobatics.


Baking in the Age of the Coronavirus

The dough had a mind
of its own. It was bread
all right, but it was going
to rise on its own terms.
With no yeast to be had
each baker, solo at home,
had to improvise. 


Karen Loeb finished a two-year stint (2018-2020) as writer-in-residence for Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Gyroscope Review, Halfway Down the Stairs, Hanging Loose, Pinyon, and other magazines. Her writing has won both the fiction and poetry contests in Wisconsin People and Ideas. Poems about the pandemic have appeared in Quaranzine, Volume One and forthcoming in March 2020 in a Bent Paddle Press anthology Sheltering with Poems.
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Monday, November 29, 2021

América

By Richard Blanco

I.
Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half-a-dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.

II.
There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year's Eves,
even on Thanksgiving Day—pork,
fried, broiled or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips and yuca con mojito.
These items required a special visit
to Antonio's Mercado on the corner of 8th street
where men in guayaberas stood in senate
blaming Kennedy for everything—"Ese hijo de puta!"
the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue
filling the creases of their wrinkled lips;
clinging to one another's lies of lost wealth,
ashamed and empty as hollow trees.

III.

By seven I had grown suspicious—we were still here.
Overheard conversations about returning
had grown wistful and less frequent.
I spoke English; my parents didn't.
We didn't live in a two story house
with a maid or a wood panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marcia;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke's family wasn't like us either—
they didn't have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn't have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.

IV.

A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain's majesty,
"one if by land, two if by sea"
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the "masses yearning to be free"
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.

V.

Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamà set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolus,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworths.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
"DRY", Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly—"esa mierda roja," he called it.
Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie—
pumpkin was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then Abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered—
it was 1970 and 46 degrees—
in América.
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.
Tío Berto was the last to leave.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

October

By Robert Frost 
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Monday, October 18, 2021

I Will Not Speak Your Name

By Marilynn Carter

You spread
around the world
like weeds
infiltrating every
   country
      state
         city
            town
rich and poor as equals
none spared

Joined all as ONE
searching to reclaim
normalcy, health, freedom

Silence fills the air
deserted streets
occasionally 
a siren or passing car
echoing on the wind

You have a name
everyone whispers
written everywhere

I cannot, will not
speak your name
fuel its power

Despite your ferociousness
responders tirelessly work

Massive quarantines
restrict movement

indoors
separate, alone
we turn inwards
self discovery 
enfolds

outdoors
social distancing
virtual hugs
becomes new norm

Masked and gloved
embarking on
necessary activities

Elders
compromised
  weak
    immune
      systems
overwhelmed
   organs
ravaged
   bodies
squeezing
   breath from life
those you touch

Many forced to leave
   far to soon
      some without family goodbyes
overworked healthcare workers
   hold hands
      lend comfort
        til last breath
          little pieces of self
            fall away
              lost

Recharging
   important
      fill in emotions
         empty spaces
            overwhelming
               loss
  
Earth, shuddered, shifting
   changes needed
      for way to long

Appreciation for Mother Nature and ourselves
   healing now begins

We see, feel, smell, know
the earth and us
   together experience transformation
      our true selves unearthed
together
   better
      stronger

Mother Earth adjusts
  We follow

Springtime virus dissipating
bringing us together again
filling us up with
   Forgiveness
   Gratitude
   Compassion
   Love of Life
         FOR 
                  ourselves
                  each other
                  the world
                  the Earth
 
We are forever recreated and changed!

Marilynn Carter is a holistic health practitioner, teacher and life coach at Many Paths for Health; co-owner of Maat Publishing; and author of two books, No Fret Cooking, and Experience the Love Light Wisdom of Reiki. Her poetry has appeared in Trouvaille Review; the Merrimac Mic Anthology II: Going with the Floes; Lunation, A Good Fat Anthology of 114 Women Poets; and Klarissa Dreams Redux: The Illuminated Anthology; at the Metheun Arts outdoor poetry installation, Words by Winter Waterfall; Word Play, a virtual exhibit of poetic art and Trouvaille Review. Additionally, she had an essay on dowsing published in Lobster Tails. Her first chapbook of poetry will appear in 2021.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Closed Deals

 By Maed Rill Monte 

Mama splashes cheap cologne all over your work uniform,
affirms her reminders and
you leave unkissed —
some twenty years?
Your face is darkened
by the rooftop rising
caught in the sun,
after a burst of foliage,
the dead, yellow leaves
wedded into nipa roof,
spiderwebs and fly carrion.
I see the inner child, tense
beneath the face mask,
the face shield, and
the fatherly features.
He's upset today's another
no-play day. There are
mouths to feed,
bills to pay,
and a world
he conceded to.

This poem was first published in Too Well Away.  

Friday, September 3, 2021

Right to Life

By Marge Piercy

A woman is not a pear tree
thrusting her fruit into mindless fecundity
into the world. Even pear trees bear
heavily one year and rest and grow the next.
An orchard gone wild drops few warm rotting
fruit in the grass but the trees stretch
high and wiry gifting the birds forty
feet up among inch long thorns
broken atavistically from the smooth wood.

A woman is not a basket you place
your buns in to keep them warm. Not a brood
hen you can slip duck eggs under.
Not the purse holding the coins of your
descendants till you spend them in wars.
Not a bank where your genes gather interest
and interesting mutations in the tainted
rain, any more than you are.

You plant corn and you harvest
it to eat or sell. You put the lamb
in the pasture to fatten and haul it in to
butcher for chops. You slice the mountain
in two for a road and gouge the high plains
for coal and the waters run muddy for
miles and years. Fish die but you do not
call them yours unless you wished to eat them.

Now you legislate mineral rights in a woman.
You lay claim to her pastures for grazing,
fields for growing babies like iceberg
lettuce. You value children so dearly
that none ever go hungry, none weep
with no one to tend them when mothers
work, none lack fresh fruit,
none chew lead or cough to death and your
orphanages are empty. Every noon the best
restaurants serve poor children steaks.
At this moment at nine o'clock a partera
is performing a table top abortion on an
unwed mother in Texas who can't get
Medicaid any longer. In five days she will die
of tetanus and her little daughter will cry
and be taken away. Next door a husband
and wife are sticking pins in the son
they did not want. They will explain
for hours how wicked he is,
how he wants discipline.

We are all born of woman, in the rose
of the womb we suckled our mother's blood
and every baby born has a right to love
like a seedling to sun. Every baby born
unloved, unwanted, is a bill that will come
due in twenty years with interest, an anger
that must find a target, a pain that will
beget pain. A decade downstream a child
screams, a woman falls, a synagogue is torched,
a firing squad is summoned, a button
is pushed and the world burns.

I will choose what enters me, what becomes
of my flesh. Without choice, no politics,
no ethics lives. I am not your cornfield,
not your uranium mine, not your calf
for fattening, not your cow for milking.
You may not use me as your factory.
Priests and legislators do not hold shares
in my womb or my mind.
This is my body. If I give it to you
I want it back. My life
is a non-negotiable demand.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Three short poems by Carl Palmer:

August Forecast


Looking like the usual foggy summer morning 
of our Puget Sound town just south of Seattle,
normally burning off to sunshine before noon,
however this is smoke from the California fires.

Air quality level shows us worst in the world,
no protection provided by coronavirus masks
as we pray for a rain to wash them both away.

To Do

On my workbench a list of tasks to tackle,
projects put off since at least last summer,
hoping to find the time to do them this year.

Pandemic mandate means I must stay home
these past six months of days filled with time,
plenty of time, yet my jobs remain undone.


normalcy in chaos

hearing her harping 
on all that’s changed
since this virus struck
makes me appreciate
that she has not. 


Carl “Papa” Palmer of Old Mill Road in Ridgeway, Virginia, lives in University Place, Washington. He is retired from the military and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enjoying life as “Papa” to his grand descendants and being a Franciscan Hospice volunteer. 


Friday, May 21, 2021

Good Bones

By Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real s---hole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People are Dying

By Noor Hindi 

Colonizers write about flowers.
I tell you about children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks
seconds before becoming daisies.
I want to be like those poets who care about the moon.
Palestinians don’t see the moon from jail cells and prisons.
It’s so beautiful, the moon.
They’re so beautiful, the flowers.
I pick flowers for my dead father when I’m sad.
He watches Al Jazeera all day.
I wish Jessica would stop texting me Happy Ramadan.
I know I’m American because when I walk into a room something dies.
Metaphors about death are for poets who think ghosts care about sound.
When I die, I promise to haunt you forever.
One day, I’ll write about the flowers like we own them. 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Lady Lazarus

I have done it again. 
One year in every ten I manage it— 
 
A sort of walking miracle, my skin 
Bright as a Nazi lampshade, 
My right foot 
 
A paperweight, 
My face a featureless, fine 
Jew linen. 
 
Peel off the napkin 
O my enemy. 
Do I terrify?— 
 
The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth? 
The sour breath 
Will vanish in a day. 
 
Soon, soon the flesh 
The grave cave ate will be 
At home on me 
 
And I a smiling woman. 
I am only thirty. 
And like the cat I have nine times to die. 
 
This is Number Three. 
What a trash 
To annihilate each decade. 
 
What a million filaments. 
The peanut-crunching crowd 
Shoves in to see 
 
Them unwrap me hand and foot— 
The big strip tease. 
Gentlemen, ladies 
 
These are my hands 
My knees. 
I may be skin and bone, 
 
Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman. 
The first time it happened I was ten. 
It was an accident. 
 
The second time I meant 
To last it out and not come back at all. 
I rocked shut 
 
As a seashell. 
They had to call and call 
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls. 
 
Dying 
Is an art, like everything else. 
I do it exceptionally well. 
 
I do it so it feels like hell. 
I do it so it feels real. 
I guess you could say I've a call. 
 
It's easy enough to do it in a cell. 
It's easy enough to do it and stay put. 
It's the theatrical 
 
Comeback in broad day 
To the same place, the same face, the same brute 
Amused shout: 
 
'A miracle!' 
That knocks me out. 
There is a charge  
For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge 
For the hearing of my heart— 
It really goes. 
 
And there is a charge, a very large charge 
For a word or a touch 
Or a bit of blood 
 
Or a piece of my hair or my clothes. 
So, so, Herr Doktor. 
So, Herr Enemy. 
 
I am your opus, 
I am your valuable, 
The pure gold baby 
 
That melts to a shriek. 
I turn and burn. 
Do not think I underestimate your great concern. 
 
Ash, ash— 
You poke and stir. 
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there-- 
 
A cake of soap, 
A wedding ring, 
A gold filling. 
 
Herr God, Herr Lucifer 
Beware 
Beware. 
 
Out of the ash 
I rise with my red hair 
And I eat men like air. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Rider

By Naomi Shihab Nye

A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn't catch up to him,

the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.

What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.

A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Guest House

 

This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Conditional

By Ada Limón

Say tomorrow doesn't come.
Say the moon becomes an icy pit.
Say the sweet-gum tree is petrified.
Say the sun's a foul black tire fire.
Say the owl's eyes are pinpricks.
Say the raccoon's a hot tar stain.
Say the shirt's plastic ditch-litter.
Say the kitchen's a cow's corpse.
Say we never get to see it: bright
future, stuck like a bum star, never
coming close, never dazzling.
Say we never meet her. Never him.
Say we spend our last moments staring
at each other, hands knotted together,
clutching the dog, watching the sky burn.
Say, It doesn't matter. Say, That would be
enough. Say you'd still want this: us alive,
right here, feeling lucky.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

The Dream of Knife, Fork, and Spoon

By Kimiko Hahn 

I can’t recall where to set the knife and spoon. 
I can’t recall which side to place the napkin 

or which bread plate belongs to me. Or 
how to engage in benign chatter. 

 I can’t recall when more than one fork— 
which to use first. Or what to make of this bowl of water. 

 I can’t see the place cards or recall any names. 
The humiliation is impressive. The scorn. 

No matter how much my brain “revises” the dinner 

to see if the host was a family member— 
I can't recall which dish ran away with which spoon.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Soul has Bandaged moments –

By Emily Dickinson 

 
The Soul has Bandaged moments –
When too appalled to stir –
She feels some ghastly Fright come up
And stop to look at her –

Salute her, with long fingers –
Caress her freezing hair –
Sip, Goblin, from the very lips
The Lover – hovered – o’er –
Unworthy, that a thought so mean
Accost a Theme – so – fair –

The soul has moments of escape –
When bursting all the doors –
She dances like a Bomb, abroad,
And swings opon the Hours,

As do the Bee – delirious borne –
Long Dungeoned from his Rose –
Touch Liberty – then know no more,
But Noon, and Paradise –

The Soul’s retaken moments –
When, Felon led along,
With shackles on the plumed feet,
And staples, in the song,

The Horror welcomes her, again,
These, are not brayed of Tongue –

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Love and Memory

By Yehuda Amichai

How we made love in the memorial forest for the Shoah dead
and we remembered only ourselves from the night before!
The forest did the remembering for us and gave us leave to love.
You remember how we threw off our clothes in the madness of desire:
The outer garments flew like heavy birds to the branches of the trees,
and the underwear remained on the forest floor
clinging to the springy briars of the thorny burnet, like snakeskins.
And our shoes stood nearby, mouths open in psalms of praise.