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One poem by Ethan Goffman

As Notre Dame Burns . . .

 

I am cleaning house

hoisting a tall brass lamp

to sweep away

the accumulated dust

of eons

 

a stupifying crash

like the end of something

 

the lamp’s base has rotted out

lies in

scattered fragments

humpty dumpty

 

This massive lamp was

a lighthouse

guiding us to safety

 

1000 years of Western civilization

crashing down

burning up

the center cannot hold

 

vast chunks of glacier

calving off

England, Hungary, Turkey

spinning apart

the new Europe

the new world order

the ancient civilization

the global Empire

democracy’s last hope

rot

fire

 

Our house a rock

in Rockville

sheltering our tiny family

on a colossal foundation

built in 1952

when gleaming rows

proud houses

sprouted up

on acres of cement

 

from the ashes of war

a new America

a new Europe

 

This bronze, ornate lamp

we will toss away

after a dozen years

lost among the ephemera

of a new world order

built on commerce

endless

disposable junk

a foundation of sand

 

Amazon Prime rushes a new lamp

dealer

for a billion junkies

flotsam from China’s million factories

 

built on a foundation of

cheap labor

 

Our house, our marriage

an unshakeable foundation

in Rockville, a rock

impervious

to the flooding, landslides, heat waves, hurricanes, tornados, malaria, Lyme disease, measles, fear mongering, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, shootings, bombings, slaughter of the lambs

 

Rockville, all American town

sanctuary city of a hundred thousand migrants

Hondurans, Guatemalans

Ethiopians, Iranians

Koreans, Chinese, Indians

Sri Lankans

refugees all

Americans in a flash

 

The smoky remains of the ancient cathedral

stand

wavering yet proud

 

an ancient skeleton

awaiting new flesh.

 

Somehow, a miracle

The crown of thorns

has survived the blaze

 

now each of us must wear it

 

©Ethan Goffman

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Two poems by Rob Plath

 

bullies

perhaps my father
was a bully much
like death is a bully
perhaps my father
was preparing me
for the biggest bully
i spent some time
on the kill floor
of a slaughterhouse
last summer & i saw
a lot of bullies & a lot
of innocent souls
screaming, begging
life is a bully …
death is a bully…

©Rob Plath

 

bushwick, brooklyn, 1973 

my mother hid 
the betting slips 
in my crib beneath 
the blue blanket 
w/ me still in it 
& my father 
passed the pistol 
thru a hole 
in the pantry wall 
just as detectives 
muscled their way 
thru the door 
& my grandmother 
spit in their faces

©Rob Plath

One poem by Camilla Gibson

Untitled

a dead fish floats on clear water
in the shadow of a volcano
a skeleton horse is tied to an ancient tree in a patch of fireflies

graceful and long limbed,
Augustin the monkey,
can do one lap around the tree on his short chain
yellow shit streams from his sick asshole
while pigs wallow on the side of the road, happy for the coolness of the sewage

mysterious forces rule the jungle;
human effort crumbles under the weight of moss
rocky driveways lead to empty lots
while
maria whistles
knee deep in green water
washing the sheets
in the damp shade of the canopy
scared little dogs scatter and bark as we approach

a deep tire track in the mud becomes a pool for a hundred butterflies
that fly up and around you swirling through outstretched fingers in the glittering green breeze

rows of thirty-foot mango trees tower and lean
the smell of rotten mangoes follows you everywhere

nothing is what it seems
the jungle will seep in
through the cracks

fat ticks feed on a sleeping dog
in front of the
dark little store that has what you need
if the road washes away

© Camilla Gibson

One poem by Ken Greenley

 

There’s No Mute in Hell

 

 

There’s no mute in hell

No thermostat either

No climate control at all

But there’s no need to describe the heat

It’s hotter than hell in hell

everybody knows that.

What is truly remarkable is the noise,

the incredible noise there is in hell.

 

There’s no mute in hell 

and you can fully hear 

All the wails and the screams 

and the roar of the flames

All the tenants of hell weeping and shrieking

protesting their innocence

and on the searing wind, you can just hear

the faraway laughter

of Satan himself!

 

There’s no mute in hell, boy

and it’s really noisy

everybody yaps in hell

about nothing at all,

as loud as they can

the cacophony of millions of stupid, evil idiots

All day

every day

For all eternity!

 

And you look and look and look

for that mute

But it can’t be found anywhere like in a bad dream

Then demons appear and keep waving you

into different rooms, telling you the remote is in there

sometimes they look an old friend or a favorite teacher 

or like your mother or your father

and the rooms they wave you into

turn into these weird, bizarro rooms

distorted, like mirrors in the funhouse

that are long and low and slanted

or stretched high and narrow

and there’s no mute in there

and the yakking and yapping 

and the protests of innocence

and the noise of the flames and the shrieks

get louder and louder and more and more piercing….

 

There’s no mute in hell;

I suggest you remember that.
© Ken Greenley

Two poems by Connie James

Pearls of Joy

 

I thought the ghosts that haunted me 

had a will of their own,

but  I discovered they are swimming in a substance

fed by me and only me.

 

I would put them on the stage

whenever I needed them to perform.

Now I’ve noticed lately they seem very tired,

and weary of it all.

The pain was my suffering.

This treasured wound

had become egoless. 

 

Darkness is the mystery of the unknown,

that holds a world all of its own.

I faced this unknown not with a warrior’s model,

or a saint’s disposition,

but with a life becoming a prayer dream.

 

Like a waking dream into a nocturnal prayer,

the remembered dream or the unremembered dream

is always healing,

once it is in your loving heart.

 

Thus darkness and light

face all the ghosts with an embrace,

holding strong by stringing each pearl

with a kiss.

 

©Connie James

 

 

Coat of Woven Gold

 

In sleep I wish to rest,

but find in dreams

I am awake.

 

The words are following not-

to care upon my bosom’s ache.

 

In flowers I find sight

and fruit is always sweet,

but to know how far

a wind might blow a seed away

is difficult to reach.

 

With twisting rogues 

can a deal only be made

to feel each side a loss,

yet in a maiden’s heart

games are played for fun.

 

She weaves threads if gold

that will not tarnish;

in heaven her body is buried

and the earth is reflected by a glow.

 

Lonely she will never be;

she at last has found happiness.

 

I being she, or she being the maiden,

who but I feel both climbs,

for all things touch

but some do not feel a truth

without a hand.

 

Thus my castle now

is in heaven,

waiting to let me

wear her coat of woven gold.

 

©Connie James

 

One poem by Marianne Szlyk

Elder on the Express Bus, 2040

An elder, with blue hair
and a discreet tattoo
above the ankle,
takes the bus
to the end
of the line.

After disembarking,
they stiffly
pace the platform.
They observe
the scenery
down to the grass’
thick fingers
pushing through
thin cracks.

They then imagine
the lifeless ocean.
It exists to the east
of these vacant stores
that have been
repurposed
as homes
for climate refugees
from Kiribati
and Vanatu.


There’s nothing
to see but windows
polarized against
the sticky sun.
There’s nothing
to smell but food
too rich and spicy
for the elder to eat.

Speakers play
the thump
and whistle
of once-new music,
the closest thing

they’ll find
to the ocean.

They shrug
their shoulders
and return
to the bus,
to a book
of one-word
poems, each
centered
on the blank
page
like a pea
balanced
on a serving
platter.
These days
this bus ride is
the closest
they’ll
come to
travel.

 

©Marianne Szylk

One Poem by Yoby Henthorn

O God,

we look at the multiverse with a microscope
and quarks with a telescope.
But do You still look at us?


I have my suspicions.


The wax holding the wings 

of mind are melted.

 

I think you like being among Atheists.  

Are You hiding incognito at the biker bar?
Everyone comes here to leave their past behind.
Anonymity is the motto in this state.

Did you,  tire of being punished, retire from the miracle business, 

leave a sign, “Go save yourselves.”

I’m fearful of how I’m made

crashing down to Sheol to lay on this sour bed,
my sharp bones piercing through muscles,
I toss and turn,  sweating holy oil  through these sodden sheets. 

 

I wonder if I made you up because I am lonely.

 

©Yoby Henthorn

 

3 Poems by Megha Sood

Living Nightmare ( Child Sex Trafficking)

 

She was snatched from the

warm embrace of her mother

joy rides from her father

from her cradle of innocence

naked,

she stands now

stripped of her emotions

 

Baring her broken and shattered soul

at every lecherous eye

and fornicated look

she is a grown up woman

too early too soon

 

Her pretty little dolls have

scratches on her face

and stained with the

memories of the dark moon

 

Her pure soul

is still denying  the

blisters on her body

she still can’t believe her ears

when people call her whore

 

Licking her wounds every day

and dolled up for the night

she has got pretty good

at hiding her sores

 

The dream of that

fairytale prince and

the first time rapturous kiss

has been shattered

so many times more

 

She still has faint memories

of the sun

drenching her face

jumps in the puddle

to scare away those frogs

 

But no matter how much she

screams and screeches

her reality is slowly

turning into the

a living nightmare

she abhors.

 

© Megha Sood

 

 

 

 

An exercise in futility 

 

Be a ladylike,

eye pleasing appearance

enough to gulp down the lies

down your swan bottled neck

oh! only to be bejeweled by the pearl necklace

and the bright possessions

he dons you with

 

Don’t bother to breathe

when it’s not ladylike

that your chest heaves violently

to the truth you fail to contain in

It’s not social to use expletives in your

aristocratic language

you will be burned at the stake

for speaking your truth

your scraps will be fed to wolves

 

Don’t wear your truth on your sleeves

which is naked and bold

it can’t hold a gaze

with their shameful eyes

too hard to please;

too simple to ignore

 

Sit with your legs crossed

my mom used to say.

don’t let that pointy opinions of your

evade your crisscrossed arms

to become an easy prey

 

Don’t give them enough reasons

your piercing opinions

to point at your ribcage

they will choke you with

their blatant lies

will tear your heart apart

with their hungry eyes

 

Oh! look at him

he is remorseful

with his flagrant lies

he goes to church on Sundays

lives with his two daughters and his wife

that is enough for him to

seek the blessings of the male privilege

those damn vultures in disguise

 

Where the validity of your truth never mattered

it would never be

your reality will always be a grain of sand in

their eyes of ignorance

too hard to ignore

too painful to acknowledge.

an exercise in futility.

 

© Megha Sood

 

 

 

 

Saintly ( Social Inequality)

 

Failed virtues of the people today

nothing can be fixed 

going to church every day

 

You’re a Catholic

and I’m pious

and we still have our fingers 

dipped in the blood 

of our desires

 

What makes you more saintly than me I ask

Oh! I pray and confess twice in the last pass

I repent my sins 

and donate to charity 

to evade taxes 

cause I can’t stand in the stinky lines

of the soup kitchen

to feel those empty glances 

 

I’m looking at the God

and still stripping you with my eyes

they say I’m a man of the cloth

who has burned every desire

 

Lighting up candles

kneeling to make my wishes come true

I can kill a person’s desire to live

but I can make a saint out of you.

 

Reading the holy scriptures

and accepting the truth in the gospel

we are camouflaging so beautifully

hiding the devil so well.

 

So what makes you feel

so saintly and

makes me a devil

please, pray tell.

 

© Megha Sood

 

 

 

 

Two poems by Elena Botts

 

what aches

of extremities are laid out like winter trees shivering in a nonexistent breeze,

blood has an end to it. i could watch where it runs frantic

but i do not mind and tend these aches like the premature child

that i am this is only a skeleton of thoughts

no longer color but an in-utterable light that is the fluctuation of your ribs when there is

so little air in them and a heart that slows like the soft feeling of the moonrise just over

the hill which was once dark in a way that was like no other darkness that we might

remember but that does not make it so

i am tired, everlastingly. a vacant sun today and the sky just 

a vast haze. i would take you to my heart but that is in the hinterland that i am

not blessed or cursed to roam any longer. i cry for elizaville, and milan, yes,

and the lake of the deli which is god the surrealist’s fond memory.

i have lost my sound, the crows flung out like dusk

and the waterfalls now pooling only in my veins

underneath the skin, unbruised and perfect. this is ruin,

to be unloving, to be taken out of suffering,

to be a fool giving nothing to the world. this is 

deepest surrender. 

 

©Elena Botts

 

cultural productions

 

if you were to be on the hill, or if you were to see-

there is a ghost ship moored not far from here-

it is tethered by a strand of wind,

weighted by the dawn of the world,

which is tomorrow. maybe i will see you there

and all the ones i knew before 

though no time could keep us there,

hours still somewhere in your heart

which, like a strange unlikely realm

lingers on in the dry 

winter. the world does not thaw

just for you- 

we are not moved by any particular breeze

there is a light on just beyond these naked trees

do not name it mine, do not name it yours

as it comes on and then goes

 

©Elena Botts

Three poems by Brian Rihlmann

NOTHING IS WORSE

 

the first ones that came here starved

and ate rats and leather

and later their dead

 

so maybe that did it

a horror seared

into our collective memory

 

but the solution

of more

eventually results

in the problem

of too much

 

when the solution

to too much

is a prescription

of still more

you have insanity

 

we call it “America”

 

but would i dare complain?

 

i love our megachurches

and superstores

the comforting familiarity

of our corporate brands

arches and mermaids

dotting the landscape

like crucifixes

along the old roman road

 

and god bless

our gas guzzlers

big screen TVs

and McMansions

and the limitless ocean

of credit at our fingertips

 

tap and click

and millions of packages

keep moving

and everyone’s working now

 

our cities spread

like desert landfills

and even the seagulls

grow too fat to fly

 

so let us praise

our brazen leaders

and businessmen

with their selfless ways

 

for they are thinking

only of our best interests

when they shout “heretic!”

at anyone who dares

utter the word

“finite”

 

because nothing

nothing

is worse

than not enough
© Brian Rihlmann

 

 

 

 

 

THE COMMONS

 

Downtown, across the street

from The Sands,

the yellow claw of a backhoe

tears at the cinderblock wall

of an old flophouse motel,

called home until recently

by people who couldn’t afford

much else, now gone

somewhere.

 

The cold metal jaws

take bite after indiscriminate bite.

Clouds of grey dust fill the air

as chunks of concrete fall.

 

A half eaten room lies bare,

dissected,

its guts exposed:

a dresser, a TV,

cardboard boxes,

perhaps old photos,

love letters left behind.

 

Tough to fit all that

in a shopping cart,

or carry it on your back.

 

A gaggle of residents

from a nearby motel,

a motel just like this,

wanders over

for a closer look.

 

They stare in taut faced silence,

watching the demolition,

the inevitable cost

of progress.

 

A man places his arm

over his woman’s shoulder,

pulls her close,

whispers in her ear.

 

In a year or two,

new high rise apartments

will fill this space,

or perhaps a mini mall

called “The Commons”,

with five hundred dollar

shoes and purses

in the window,

 

looking exactly like

a green pasture

where the poor townsfolk

could graze their livestock

for free.

 

© Brian Rihlmann

 

 

THE PRICE OF SUNSHINE

 

they had set the price

for his hours

for days he would now spend

within a new set of walls

 

it hardly seemed fair

but he was in no position to bargain

with the unemployment nearly gone

and the rent coming due

 

and anyway

it was shameful

to be on the dole

(everyone said so)

to spend days in the sunshine

drinking beer by the river

playing his guitar

or staying in bed

with his girlfriend until noon

 

but here was dignity

a good steady job

forty hours plus overtime

half hour for lunch

to be belittled and shoved around

by the boss man and told

“we’re working twelves this week”

and if he didn’t like it

“there’s the door”

 

but every two weeks

came the big reward

 

he remembered as a boy

hearing a man talk about the future

and how machines would do all the work

and everyone would lead lives of leisure

 

he thought about that

as he worked the first

of many long days

moving cardboard boxes

from one place

to another

 

© Brian Rihlmann