Guidelines



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Sunday, May 01, 2016

BILL OF GOODS

by Jill Crainshaw

Donald Trump was asked about his favorite Bible verse in a Thursday radio interview, and he responded by citing an Old Testament law that Jesus specifically repudiated. In the interview on news radio WHAM-1180 in Rochester, New York, host Bob Lonsberry asked Mr. Trump whether there was "a favorite Bible verse or Bible story that has informed your thinking or your character through life, sir?" Mr. Trump responded with a Mosaic law rule an "eye for an eye," mentioned in several books, most prominently Exodus 21 . . . Unfortunately, an "eye for an eye" is one of the few Mosaic Law verses that Jesus singled out in the Sermon on the Mount as overcome, by the New Covenant that His death and resurrection would seal. "You have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other," Jesus says in the famous sermon Matthew 5. —RawStory, April 14, 2016. PHOTO: A billboard cartoon of Donald Trump being promoted by The Community of Saint Luke church in Auckland, New Zealand. CREDIT: The Community of Saint Luke via The Christian Post.


“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried.
“Who’ll start bidding for me?”
That’s the pitch
perfect (if we believe perceptions of perfection’s
promiscuous promise)
prophetic
perhaps
poetic.
“Do I have a deal for you!”
Rhetoric reiterated until routinized
galvanized
disguised
“sharpened to a single atom” to slice,
dice,
overprice
what’s selling today
stolen tomorrow
sold again the next day.
“An eye for an eye.”
“Who’ll make it two?”
The feverish double-edged sword flashes
blinding glint
binds unsuspecting hearts and minds on
the auction block. Never
mind the cost. “Sold to the highest bidder.”


Jill Crainshaw is a professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. Her poems have appeared in *82 Review and Five Magazine and in an anthology by Wicwas Press.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

LAND OF THE LIVING

by Laura Rodley


Image source: Pinterest


It is late April and night peepers sleep;
it is too warm right now for them to weep.

They want a cool night, to turn on spring’s lathe,
awaking in the pond where wood ducks bathe.

Too warm for them and too cold for my Dad
resting in his pond of electric bed, glad

to close his eyes and breathe, oxygen on,
waiting for Rachel Maddow, nighttime fawn

who only speaks through airways, her hollow
full of lights, as though the sun she swallows;

as soon as the lights are dim, she retreats
back into the deep woods on sneakered feet,

a fawn who speaks English, siphons the news,
that now is keeping my Dad living, glued.


Laura Rodley’s New Verse News poem “Resurrection” appears in The Pushcart Prlze XXXVII: Best of the Small Presses (2013 edition). She was nominated twice before for the Prize as well as for Best of the Net. Her chapbook Rappelling Blue Light, a Mass Book Award nominee,  won honorable mention for the New England Poetry Society Jean Pedrick Award. Her second chapbook Your Left Front Wheel is Coming Loose was also nominated for a Mass Book Award and a L.L.Winship/Penn New England Award. Both were published by Finishing Line Press.  Co-curator of the Collected Poets Series, she teaches creative writing and works as contributing writer and photographer for the Daily Hampshire Gazette.  She edited As You Write It, A Franklin County Anthology, Volume I and Volume II.

Friday, April 29, 2016

REMEMBERED WHEN I COULDN'T WRITE THE POEM WHEN I COULDN'T

by Sarah Sadie


“The current slump in frac sand mining has brought about new problems for residents who live near inactive mines because companies have abandoned the sites and are no longer watering huge sand piles to control silica dust. Wright noted two-thirds of the sand that is used in the hydraulic fracturing method of extracting oil and gas in the United States comes from western Wisconsin -- which has led some in the industry to call the region the ‘Saudi Arabia of Sand’.”  —WisBusiness.com, April 21, 2016. Photo: Frac sand mining operation in Wisconsin via Grassroots North Shore.


Remember before Barriques moved—
the one on Monroe, with the warped wood floors, the tables
too big or too small for our laptops, notebooks, notes and soups.
We’d go over submissions, catch up on festivals, phone calls,
calendars, email, whatever came next,
and one table over, the hummus plate overheard,
interrupted, “You’re looking  for someone speaks Spanish?
I know someone, matter of fact,
she’s native, bilingual, looking for work—”

But we were poets with no money to pay,
so no help to her. He shrugged then, “Poets?
You know, you ought to write—” he backed up. “I’m in sustainable ag. You ought to write—this fracking—nobody wants it. Out in Western Wisconsin? None of ‘em want it. But last night they had a meeting, here at the Capitol, vote taken. And no one allowed to speak. No one. What kind of a—You should write about that. About fracking. About what’s happening. And up North, with the mine. You know, people in Madison ought to get out and see, see the devastation out there—then they wouldn’t—”

We muttered something, nodding, We’re trying. Yes. We know. We know.

“You know why, right?” he asked.
“Because. They don’t want to hear it.
Whatever we’ve got to say, they just don’t want to hear it.”


Sarah Sadie’s chapbook Do-It-Yourself Paper Airplanes was published by Five Oaks Press in 2015 and a full-length collection We Are Traveling Through Dark at Tremendous Speeds is now out from Lit Fest Press. She teaches here and there and hosts occasional retreats for writers and other creative types.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

THE 18-KARAT GOLD

by Howard Winn


An image created by the artist Maurizio Cattelan of his solid-gold toilet. It is to be installed in a bathroom in the Guggenheim Museum in May. Credit Maurizio Cattelan via The New York Times, April 19, 2016.


The 18-karat gold
potty at the art museum,
entitled America in irony,
throne for one in an exclusive
rest room reserved for a
sit down shit on that
cool gold seat while out-
side the line in the gallery
waits and twitches in need
not merely to piss or defecate
but to view this elaborate
priceless commode as a
comment on the pop
art that is kitsch beyond
value summing up what
life and art has become
in the postmodern world
where ostentation and
vulgarity have triumphed.


Howard Winn's work has been published in Dalhousie Review, The Long Story, Galway Review, Descant.  Antigonish Review, Southern Humanities Review, Chaffin Review, Main Street Rag, Evansville Review, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, 3288 Review, Straylight Literary Magazine, and Blueline. He has a novel coming out soon from Propertius Press. His B.A. is from Vassar College. his M.A. from the Stanford University Creative Writing Program. His doctoral work was done at NYU. He is Professor of English at SUNY-Duchess.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

APOSTATE ONLY AM I TRUE

by Peleg Held


“We are shocked and deeply saddened by reports that Mohammad Bashir al-Ajani and his son Elyas were murdered by the militant group Islamic State which had accused them of ‘apostasy’. The deliberate murder of civilians during an armed conflict is a war crime and both those who commit them and those who order them must be brought to justice. We call on all actors involved or with interests in this conflict to use all diplomatic means possible to ensure that no more civilians – including writers – are killed.” —Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.


For Mohammed Bashir al-Aani executed with his son
outside Dier Ezzor in March 2016.


They tear at the strings
and a dew falls into the bright
of the lower skies.
I hear a singing under the blue:
cisterned voices,
thickening amber, welling new
in the combs behind dropped eyes.
There is a weaver this night—
working steady, working through,
weaving strands of the silenced,
binding many to the few.


Author's note: The title is taken from a line of Paul Celan's "Praise of Distance".


Peleg Held lives in Portland, Maine with his partner and his dog Emitt. There is also the semi-feral cat, Smudge. And a kid or two. pelegheld(at)gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

THE OGRE WHO PROMISED US THE WORLD

by David Spicer


Adapted from a DonkeyHotey caricature.



I denounce the day the ogre who promised
us the world arrived, disturbing the village’s
decorum. I witnessed his ancient resolve
as he scolded and attacked the town leaders
to the students’ cheers and drumbeats,
ignored the fact that the shylocks’ siege
had doomed us. He wanted those who
murmured against him imprisoned, chuckled
at and dismissed Vera—his experienced opponent
for Mayor—called her a typist for the shylocks.
He gestured like a conductor of a mad orchestra
in his speeches, pointed at his audiences like
an angry mentor, declared victory to thunderous
fanfare when defeat seemed certain. After we
expressed hope but asked how he’d fulfill his
guarantees, he twitched, paced the interview room,
beet-faced. The day I met him, I had returned
from singing hymns in German trenches,
an asthenic figure, searching for a hero
and ready to serve, and dazzled by his gruff
wail and white-haired pledges: free goldfish
for the children, higher wages for all, a jail cell
for the untouchable shylocks. But he offered no
solutions for our bombed houses without walls,
only those vows that tumbled from his mouth
like the fantasy sausages we loved, before the elders
voted for Vera, who destroyed him at the polls,
and he vanished into the sleepy hills he called home.


David Spicer has had poems in Yellow Mama, Reed Magazine, Slim Volume, concis, Jersey Devil Press, The American Poetry Review, TheNewVerse.News, Ploughshares, Bad Acid Laboratories, Inc., Dead Snakes, and in A Galaxy of Starfish: An Anthology of Modern Surrealism (Salo Press, 2016). He has been nominated for a Pushcart, is the author of one full-length collection of poems and four chapbooks, and is the former editor of Raccoon, Outlaw, and Ion Books. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.

Monday, April 25, 2016

BAD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN ROOSTERS CROW AND DANCE

by Marsha Owens


Image source: Democratic Underground


the slimy egg, salted and peppered,
slurs sideways on the plate as if to plead
hold on to sanity. Then I see the sign,
whoever killed my hen may you rot in hell,
which is on everyone’s mind these days,
hell
that is, and I had met Shakespeare before
all ruffled red and cock-sure, watched him
prance and dance around the yard, circle
the girls, cluck how he loves them like they love
him,
just like the Donald proclaims insidious love
for his chattel, then adds oh-by-the-way
they must be punished
should their eggs get sucked into some
venomous void, and I watched him mount
the stage with bullets in his skull where eyes
should be, where the soul of Putin, we’re told,
resides, and I sip from my coffee cup the rancid
taste of deceit, I drive by rough-hewn boards
splintered around the yard make-shift
marking the territory where the wall wasn’t built
to keep the hen in whose tiny brain
and chicken feet walked right on down
to Mexico into the hot oil, stewed
into oblivion, a delicacy of chicken
bones just a few miles up the road
from hell.


Marsha Owens lives and writes in Richmond, VA, celebrates her roots in the Chesapeake Bay area, and looks forward to tomorrow.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

THE ANSWER TO THE WHY-DOVES

by Alejandro Escudé


Prince reminds me to be my own prince.
The stage-man and the music he stood behind
like a god, the gold, the purple and the purple stars
under which he danced—

his music was not music when I was a boy,
it was a cathedral under which we dreamed of music,
the sound was not sound but a voice we rode
like a current of wind-guitars—

such is the way with poets; we recall
not the awards, but the bravado that protected us
from the mean people he spoke of, the cold,
the elevator that threatened to break us down
and did not, because of him.





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.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

THE BARD POSTS ON FACEBOOK

 by Earl J Wilcox





Spending way too much time
Counting iambs or rhyming
“thees” and “thous.” Zooks!
Running out of menopausal dames
and horny college students.
Best I put the pen down,
Take a stroll by the old stream.
Maybe I’ll be inspired to dish
Up a clever zinger for the nonce.
Hell. I’ve done it again!
Mumbling aloud like I write.
Gotta stop doing that crap.
Huzzah!


Earl J Wilcox lives in South Carolina, cooks, writes, watches baseball, contributes regularly to The New Verse News.

Friday, April 22, 2016

THE WILD UNGULATES OF TUSCANY,
or ELECTION 2016

by Sherry Stuart-Berman

                                        
Wild boar going into the forest at dusk to forage for food in Chianti, Italy. Credit Nadia Shira Cohen for The New York Times, March 7, 2016.

                                                                     
The Baron says: We need a wall.
Hordes of voracious wild boars
and roe deer suck
our sugary grapes, they forage
our oak and chestnut woods;
there are car accidents, huge holes
in the ground, we can’t harvest
our wine, we’re at war.

For years the hunters
preferred to unleash the dogs,
lure the swine with loaves
of bread and corn, then shoot em’.

But as you can see, folks, that’s not working.
We need steel posts, gas-fueled cannons,
electric wires, and machines to emit
high-pitched frequencies
only animals can hear.
Let’s make Chianti great again!


Sherry Stuart-Berman is a social worker and therapist working in community mental health.  Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Earth’s Daughters, Paterson Literary Review, Blue Fifth Review, Atticus Review, Knot Magazine, and the anthologies, Malala: Poems for Malala Yousafzai, 2 Horatio, and Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books. She lives in New York with her husband and son.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

THE SECAUCUS FIRE

by Rick Mullin


April 19, 2016


It burned for hours on the Internet,
the skyline of Manhattan lost behind
a meadow ghost of plodding smoke, regret,
despair, ennui and memory combined.

I watched it at my desk. I shared the link,
anticipating mayhem on the Path
to Hoboken, a donnybrook outside
the Railhead Bar, a cavalcade of wrath
and rank confusion. Madness. Suicide.
The Erie Lackawanna on the brink

of nothing, I would learn at 5 o’clock.
An unremarkable commute. The crowd
was not in crisis mode. The normal shock
and shuffle led upstairs to where no cloud
of earthly origin drove Jerseyans to drink.


Rick Mullin's new poetry collection is Stignatz & the User of Vicenza.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

OCTOBER SURPRISE

by Ed Goodell



Photo: Susan Walsh/AP/Corbis via New York Magazine


a dramatic dialogue
dedicated to "Lyin’" Ted Cruz
and that "Sniveling Coward," Donald Trump


Speaker 1

Did Jupiter blink when the sun slid low
In the fall of a savage year?
Or was it something else, a weight, I fear,
That subdued what truths we did know?

Speaker 2 
Your concerns are of no concern to me,
Less real than an effervescence.
This purchase you seek bespeaks no presence –
Let us trust in fortuity!

Speaker 1

I never questioned the unintended,
Nor held certainty above chance;
But this is head-knocking, not providence:
Little fists, duress, lies tendered.

Speaker 2 
Trifles trifling! Change inevitable!
These old gods – we’d never progress!
From a future of ease you would digress,
Your plaints most plainly pitiful.

Chorus

New alliances forming, landscapes shifting,
Nestlings stay nested as trees take wing;
For November winds bring indefinite things
When the leaves are adrift and drifting.


Ed Goodell is a teacher of English and Journalism at Jakarta Intercultural School in Indonesia. When not in Jakarta, he makes his home in Olympia, Wa.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A SYSTEM

by Gary Beck

“In the United States of America there are companies that profit if you go to jail. These corporations spent over $45 million in lobbying to make sure when you get sent to jail, you go to their jails. They are so good at this that there was a 40% increase of private prison detainees between 2002-2012. They are currently outpacing state and federally funded prisons. Yet there is no evidence that there are any savings in the use of private prisons. . . . Stewart Detention Center (SDC) in Lumpkin, Georgia, is one of the largest immigration detention facilities in the United States with the capacity to jail 1,752 people. Although the facility is owned by Stewart County and is contracted as an IGSA (Intergovernmental Service Agreements), the facility is actually operated by CCA. SDC houses immigration violation detainees who are mainly Hispanic, from Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina and had the highest count of inmates partly because of its capacity. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents detain men, women and children suspected of violating civil immigration laws at these facilities. Most of those held at the 250 sites nationwide are illegal immigrants awaiting deportation, but some green card holders, asylum seekers and others are also there. A recent report on conditions in immigrant detention centers such as Stewart finds a systematic and ongoing failure by the government to adequately inspect facilities run by public and private contractors. The report entitled 'Lives in Peril: How Ineffective Inspections Make ICE Complicit in Immigration Detention Abuse,' alleges a pattern of basic human rights violations leading to deaths, suicides, violence and sexual assaults in facilities that were given a clean bill of health by federal inspectors.” —Father Jeremiah J. McCarthy, Southern Cross, March 16, 2016

While Chris Matthews grilled Trump during the most recent townhall, the GOP candidate uttered one of many outrageous statements regarding the country’s prison system that went unchallenged and largely unnoticed. “I do think we can do a lot of privatizations, and private prisons it seems to work a lot better,” said Trump when asked how he planned to reform the country’s prison system.Matthews didn’t ask Trump to elaborate or explain why he believes giving prisons a profit motive to lock people up is a good idea. But the fact of the matter is that the private prison boom in America has been so disastrous that even members of the Republican party have began speaking out against them. —Raw Story, April 3, 2016 
Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group avoided a combined $113 million in federal income taxes in 2015 alone, according to an analysis of federal financial filings by the racial and economic justice group Enlace. The prison business is booming despite efforts to reduce the nation's prison population, which has exploded in recent decades and forced the government to contract with private prison companies to meet demand. Last year, CCA reported $222 million in net profits, and GEO Group reported $139 million. CCA and GEO Group have enjoyed increased profits per prisoner housed in their facilities since 2012, when both companies began converting themselves into special real estate trusts that are exempt from the federal corporate income tax, at least in the eyes of the IRS. —Truthout, April 8, 2016.


Crime, more violent,
more sophisticated
innovates new ways
to injure the helpless,
defraud the innocent.
Protection is haphazard,
except for the privileged
and punishment is futile
without rehabilitation,
meaningful alternatives.
So the penal industry thrives
as other businesses go broke,
leaving citizens abandoned
on vulnerable streets.


Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director. He has published chapbooks of poetry (Days of Destruction, ExpectationsDawn in Cities, Assault on Nature, Songs of a Clerk, Civilized Ways, DisplaysConditioned Response, and Resonance) and fiction (A Glimpse of Youth). Fault Lines, Perceptions, Tremors and Perturbations will be published by Winter Goose Publishing;  A Glimpse of Youth by Sweatshoppe Publications. His novels include Extreme Change (Cogwheel Press), Acts of Defiance (Artema Press), and Flawed Connections (Black Rose Writing). Call to Valor will be published by Gnome on Pigs Productions; Now I Accuse and Other Stories by Winter Goose Publishing. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. He currently lives in New York City.

Monday, April 18, 2016

THE HOMOPHILOUS GENE

by James Penha





“You’ll see people complaining that the media doesn’t give as much prominence to terrorism atrocities outside of Western Europe as it does to those that take place in cities like Paris or Brussels. The data shows it is much, much harder to get people to read those stories.” 
—Martin Belam, Medium, March 28, 2016


I shall always New York. And on Marathon Day I stand again
with Boston, and #BlackLivesMatter in every Charleston nightly.
Bien sûr je suis Paris parce que j’aime Paris chaque instant,
chaque moment de l'année. Bruxelles?  Bruxelles est assez
de français pour moi d'être Bruxelles maar ook
Vlaams naar Brussel elk moment van het jaar.
Last summer I devoured simit and baklava at Taksim windows
and petted sprawled dogs in the shade of the Obelisks: İstanbul'u
(but to Ankara I have never been).
Part of me must be Lahore. Remember? it was Easter after all
although I cannot find a timely # for that attack 3 weeks ago
(#PeshawarAttack impertinent; #PakistanBleeding obsolete) and
if میں نے پاکستان تھے whenever a bomb explodes in Pakistan
how to find the time to face Java and Bali?
islands where I love a Muslim whose faith in  الله 
is sighted darkly at every Western checkpoint, mall, hotel,
monitored whitely by attendants on Southwest Airlines,
and so I will—must—be Aleppo, Hit and Lashkar Gah 
walking dead from graves cracked open by exceptional shocks
of retribution and survival 
of the selfish.


James Penha edits TheNewVerse.News .

Sunday, April 17, 2016

IDEALISM AND AUTHENTICITY

by Gil Hoy



In buildings along the park, New York University students and workers pressed against windows to watch Senator Bernie Sanders and the vast crowd below on the chilly night. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times, April 13, 2016.


Idealism and authenticity
speak to river crowds.

Huddled hopeful men,
women, children,
Some old, mostly young,
mostly middle class;

They've come to gaze
into his eyes, to look through
Lens bridge and frame—
wanting to believe again;

To drink the speak
of a political revolution
Where everyone is worthy;

Listen to unfeigned songs from
the white-stranded consistent

Wrinkled doors of a skinny,
slight, only-man who dares to
Challenge the status quo;

The speaker's crescendo
voice rises, then falls, cracks from
Human fatigue, then rises again,
just before he exits the stage.


Gil Hoy is a Boston trial lawyer and is currently studying poetry at Boston University, through its Evergreen program, where he previously received a BA in Philosophy and Political Science. Hoy received an MA in Government from Georgetown University and a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law. He served as a Brookline, Massachusetts Selectman for four terms. Hoy's poetry has appeared (or is scheduled for publication) most recently in Right Hand Pointing-One Sentence Poems, The Potomac, Clark Street ReviewTheNewVerse.News and The Penmen Review.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

THE DEAD PILE UP

by Jay S Zimmerman


Civilians are dying in Syria in new indiscriminate attacks despite the “cessation of hostilities” that began on February 26, 2016. One of the deadliest was the government airstrike on the town of Deir al-Assafir on March 31, killing at least 31 civilians, including nine women and 12 children, local civil rights groups and rescue workers reported. Three witnesses told Human Rights Watch that there were no military targets nearby. On April 5, armed groups fired mortars, locally made rockets, and other artillery into Sheikh Maqsoud, an Aleppo neighborhood under the control of the Kurdish People's Protection Units, in likely indiscriminate attacks that killed at least 18 civilians including seven children and five women, and wounded 68, according to the local Sheikh Maqsoud council. —Human Rights Watch, April 12, 2016. Photo: A wounded Syrian receives medical attention at a makeshift hospital, following Syrian government air strikes, on March 31, 2016, in Deir Al-Assafir. Credit: Getty Images.


the dead pile up
wrapped in sheets
sticky with clotted lives
lost in marketplaces
asleep in dreams
cries are the music
of mourning
no end
the song of terror
never resolves
plays through the crying hearts
of the lonely
living among
abandoned scattered
body parts
along dusty streets
children play
until the whistling sound
explodes their eyes
blows them
to the winds


Jay S Zimmerman came to poetry from his life as a visual artist, composing poems to go with his art, finding as much joy in painting with words as with other visual tools. He has recently been published in Three Line Poetry, I am not a silent poet, and Flying Island. He is an artist, photographer, psychologist, social justice advocate.

Friday, April 15, 2016

THE BOMBING OF ALEPPO

by Cally Conan-Davies




Clashes around Syria's second city Aleppo have killed at least 16 pro-government fighters and 19 members of al-Qaeda's affiliate and allied rebel groups, according to the Syrian Oservatory for Human Rights. Inside Aleppo, the Observatory said barrel bomb strikes by government forces on Sunday hit the northeastern neighbourhood of Al-Haidariyah, injuring a number of people including children. —Middle East Eye, April 11, 2016


For ten minutes every hour, a light shines on
this gorgeous Ardabil carpet covering the floor.
Seated near it, waiting for my spell of illumination,
I close my eyes and dream of flying
on a rug ‘of singular perfection . . .
logically and consistently beautiful’ as William Morris saw it.
Before I was timewise, as a child, beautiful
Persian carpets existed wholly to transport me,
who believed that things behave on purpose
to pick us up and set us safely down in far off places,
the perfumed journey made in the blink of an eye
because weren’t we riding carpets, on which we sat
with our legs crossed, listening, rapt,
to tales of lamps and princes, thieves and flying carpets.
Nothing could unseat the singular perfection
of our balance in the wind, we didn’t even have to hold on—

the light comes on, I blink, now Assad’s forces carpet bomb
Aleppo, and here are children ravished by the carpets,
intensifying beauty at the knotted borders, and here
the weavers who warped it, and here a storied museum
where an old carpet on the floor is logical
as dust, and near at hand, and difficult to reach.


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

Thursday, April 14, 2016

DREAM SONGS FOR THE GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN

by Ned Balbo


Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is accusing his staffers of lying to him about lead and other contaminants in Flint’s drinking water supply. Snyder has long accused state environmental and health regulators of giving him incorrect information about the safety of the Michigan city's water after its switch to using the Flint River in April 2014 until late last year. But on Monday, he accused employees at the state agencies of lying to him. —The Hill, April 11, 2016


1.
Why is our boiled water brown?
Our bottled water’s running out. 
Will it be safe to drink again?
Why shouldn’t water touch our skin?

The water mains still underground
belong to a forgotten age—
The records we’ve retrieved so far
don’t always point to where they are,

and, yes, we have a deficit—
which means we can’t repair them yet.
But rest assured: your water’s safe.
True, there are problems with its taste,

color, and smell, but samples show
lead levels are extremely low.
We hear you. We’ve conducted tests.
The wheels of government are slow.

2.
When water from the tap won’t clear—
When families forced to cook with it
get sicker, do we share their rage?
Or do we share in their defeat

when hydrants flush the streets metallic
orange—one more tainted purge?
When residents desperate to sell
are turned away by realtors?  

Water, once thought a public good,
is now one more commodity:
expendable, like those who live
in devastated neighborhoods.

3.
Why change a city’s water source
to one inarguably worse?
You know why: it was cheaper. Summer
days, pools fill with teenage swimmers,

laughter, lead. How soon will daughters,
showering, watch hair fall out
in clumps that catch in rusted drains?
How will the elderly, the poor

assured it’s safe, protect themselves?
Stop washing when their rashes burn?
Or let caregivers sponge their flesh—
the toxic river’s toxic touch.

We know this water’s poisonous.
Who’ll stop or redirect its course?
We’re told we have to wait. How long?
Who’s listening, if anyone?

4.
Hair white, startled from sleep, a man
who should have known pads down the stairs,
thirsty. What does he see at night?
Iced-over windows, mandalas

of frost on glass. He pours and drinks—
fresh water from the faucet, cool
and clear: the least that he deserves.
What do the least of Michigan

deserve from those responsible?
If citizens are customers
and nothing more, then, yes, they’re lost.
What should they ask this Governor,

and others like him? Shouldn’t water
wash us clean and nourish life?
Who sent this poison to our homes,
as if to kill or scatter us?

Don’t turn your back in disbelief.


Ned Balbo's The Trials of Edgar Poe and Other Poems received the Poets' Prize and the Donald Justice Prize. His previous books are Lives of the Sleepers (Ernest Sandeen Prize; ForeWord Book of the Year gold medal), and Galileo's Banquet (Towson University Prize). A new book, Upcycling Paumanok, is due out soon from Measure Press. He currently teaches in the MFA program in creative writing and environment at Iowa State University.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

HANDING DOWN TRADITIONS

by Rebecca Evans

Image source: Olde Colony Bakery


Olde Colony Bakery, “home of the original Charleston
benne wafer,” boasts a website where you can buy
benne wafers online. “Our 3oz Benne Wafer
Standup Pack is our medium-sized gift option!”
                    Early 18th century slaves brought benne seeds
                    from Africa to the Carolina sea islands,
                    cultivated them in hidden, forbidden gardens,
                    a staple food seed for rice cookery.
                    Their rice was the bread of life.

At Charleston City Market and Edisto Island
beautiful, costly sweetgrass baskets are sold.
“Our baskets bring African flair into your home!”
Works of art crafted by gifted black hands, a skill
handed down from Sierra Leone slave ancestors.
                    Large, flat, utilitarian marsh grass baskets were
                    coiled tight enough to hold water, fanners woven
                    by slaves to winnow the rice they harvested
                    on swampy, low country plantations.

Mother Emanuel church stands less than a mile
from the Old Slave Mart, where, around the corner
the old Huguenot Church honors my ancestor
on a bronze plaque, his dates, 1720 – 1774.
                    Rev. Francis Pelot, Baptist minister, was very rich,
                    owner of three islands, thousands of mainland
                    Carolina acres, plantations, “a great number
                    of slaves and stock in abundance.” Owned
                    a valuable library, devoted time to books.

What kind of wealthy master he was, we’ll never know,
A Baptist intimate friend deemed him “a worthy man,”
“in his family, a bright example of true piety.” But
Frederick Douglass writes that religious slaveholders
“are the worst,” describes the cruelty of an evangelical Methodist.
my ancestor in Maryland, the Rev. Rigby Hopkins
                    who boasted of his whipping slaves "with
                    what wonderful ease . . . to alarm their fears.
                    And yet there was not a man any where round . . .
                    that prayed earlier, later, louder
                    than this same reverend slave-driver."

When television broke the news from Charleston
last June, I joined the nation’s shocked mourners,
grieved the loss of the massacred nine, cut down
while heavenward bound in forgiving prayer, and
pitied the white boy dreaming a race war dream
to spread conflict sown by slaveholders like my ancestors
and handed down the line to sons, along with their slaves
and slave gifts of benne seeds and beautiful basketry.


Rebecca Evans, a retired journalist and editor who helped aspiring writers get published, has taken up poetry reading and writing and finds inspiration in Peggy Rozga’s class at UW-Waukesha. Rebecca now hosts a regular gathering of poet friends to share their writing at her dining table in Greenfield, Wisconsin.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

FOODIES ABROAD AND DOWN THE STREET

by Lee Ann Pingel



Image source: China Highlights


            On Calvin Trillin’s “Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?”
            Published in The New Yorker, April 4, 2016


Maybe “province bagging” is a thing, foodies
like tourists collecting cathedrals.
No wonder the ancient countries
and their children
take offense at our forgetting
these places are sacred,
these dishes are mothers.
May we all—all, no matter
our birth, our skin, our standing—
remember to open our souls,
let them expand with each site or bite.
Let us be pilgrims,
let us repent of devouring,
learn to savor.


Lee Ann Pingel has lived in Athens, Georgia, since 1994 and works as a freelance editor and writer. She earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from UC San Diego and holds graduate degrees in political science and religion from the University of Georgia. Her work has been published in the anthologies Motif 2: Come What May from Motes Books and Crossing Lines from Main Street Rag, as well as in The Fib Review, Plainsongs, TheNewVerse.News, Contemporary Haibun Online, and other journals.