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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

2 Poems by Sol Camarena Medina

Mourning of the lesbian body

 

The way mourning’s discretion settled on the padding inside my throat

and now little girls avoid my stories. All of my poems speak of someone who’s dead

even if they don’t name it – all of my metaphors of dust and birds

are actually a way of praying for a sky that cradles me down there

to a God whose face I’ll never be able to see. I’m tired

of looking all the way up.

 

I’m tired of skyscrapers and their large windows, tired

of the way no house smells of home anymore

and I’ve got the nicknames my grandparents gave me

hanging from my ears like they’re the earrings that I never wear. Don’t you get me? They didn’t pierce my ears when I was born

and I’m already way too much of an expert

in body profanation.

 

Ask a lesbian about a body

and she’ll reply with a question – ask me about a body

and I’ll reply with a battery of nonsense

but all it means is, for me too, after so many years

writing with these fingers

the mechanics moving them still remain a mystery to my eyes.

 

When sunset comes we beg for it to finally dawn

and Father nags us for the impatience. mum curls up into a ball and cries meanwhile pneumonia wraps her in her gold thread arms

I travel into the future and find myself torn apart at my parents room doorstep

after telling them I slept with whirlwinds just to be moved. This lesbian

speaks so much of respecting herself, for someone who doesn’t even know

how to be polite to her own mourning. I shake it and throw it into the river bank

and I push it and at the last minute I cling to its blades. I don’t want

to be left alone. I wouldn’t want

to be the only one. But it pains me so much

for other hinds to cry the way I’ve cried.

 

© Sol Camarena Medina

 

To say monster is to say woman

who does not breastfeed – who tears off her own chest – who dyes her long hair a gothic color

to shave off her crane skull afterwards and get rid of all locks. To say monster

is to say I love you and then

I loathe you right after, since someone installed a ceiling fan on my heart

in order to keep the air moving even in the midst of the stickiest summer

and now every time I beat my insides squirm because of the wind

and everything I’ve ever wanted to say I say backwards.

 

Medusa

doesn’t ever read my poems. She’s busy

crying – and i’m busy shouting at Nothingness – and Nothingness

is busy dissolving in the fire

which doesn’t cauterize the wounds

anymore because each and every contusion

results in dead women. I wanted to scratch this stinging

and my hand turned into a claw and I tore my pelvis. I wanted

to kiss my own shoulders

and suddenly I’m all fangs

and there’s no neck

to help turn my head

and so I’m only looking at you.

 

I didn’t want

to dedicate this poem to you. Monster woman

retires. Monster woman

wonders why it is that she always ends up saying ‘goodbye’

instead of ‘stop it’. Backing up

in her own land. I’m about to urinate

on each and every table leg, I tell myself. I’m about

to carve out my initials, in bites, on each and every

tree trunk

in this forest. But I never do so. But I always sob.

 

© Sol Camarena Medina

2 Poems by Ellen Huang

m i n o r i t y

 

calling minorities 
reverse-racist 
for wanting representation
or recognition
is like calling the poor 
materialistic 
for wanting 
a crumb
of 
what 
you 
have.

 

©Ellen Huang

 

 

INCENSE[D]

 

A white man taught our youth one day

How hungry are you? Miracles, all you can eat

Pray for a vision, wipe doubt off your brow, pray

Call the boys brave and call the girls sweet.

 

A white man taught our youth one day

Crossed off all our fears, no excuse

Pray for an image, think of it this way

You’re on the safe side, not those who refuse.

 

A white man taught our youth one day

Told stories of a village haunted, possessed

Pray for a dream, like the dragon I slay

I dreamed of the devil, I saved them from death.

 

A white man taught our youth one day

I asked of the dragon, which the East holds good

Pray for the truth, whole cultures can be swayed

Culture, I don’t think he understood.

 

A white man taught our youth one day

Kept asking what race our youngest one was

Pray o’er the city, eyes closed and hands raised

Christianity is as the Christian does.

 

A white man taught our youth one day

A dysfunctional heart if you don’t jump up in praise

Pray for extraversion, for spiritual highs and craze

Introversion is lukewarm, getting in your way.

 

A white man taught our youth one day

He shouted so loud and scared us as kids

Pray for the nations, we’re all in the same fray

Persecution is whether they frown or forbid.

 

A white man taught our youth one day

Testimony of evil incense destroyed

Wonder if he knew incense was how they prayed

But at least he told of butterfly tattoos for the Glory.

 

A white man taught our youth one day

Second time story, I heard more completely

Pray for the human beings, trapped in tradition’s way

Redemption and beauty, I could feel more deeply.

 

A white man taught our youth one day

His words from a man of color in the Middle East.  

I’m praying that this generation knows they were saved

Not from their heritage, their roots are no beast.

 

A white man taught our youth one day

His words taken from a man who welcomed us all  

Who prayed that these beloved, these friends not behave

But embrace and rejoice and adore again, in whole.

 

 

©Ellen Huang

A poem by Ken Greenley

It’s the Amps that Kill Ya

 

It’s the amps that kill ya

When you’re sitting there

in the electric chair

Strapped in Old Sparky

Feelin kinda snarky

Waiting for the jolt

wishing you could bolt.

 

Too late

You’re in a 1930s movie execution scene

First showing a silhouette on the wall

Of the condemned prisoner (you)

being strapped to the chair

The executioner

Placing the electrode on the prisoner’s head

He gives the nod to the other guard

A big rough-looking dude

Who throws the big switch on the wall

The lights blink on and off

A loud buzz fills the room

The onlookers look on

Fascinated, but with the proper sense of regret

but you can tell they’re digging it deep down

Then all is silent

The prisoner slumps forward in ol’ Sparky
See that—it’s painless

 

You sit there in the chair

still imagining this

They haven’t thrown the switch yet

Your mind is moving so much faster

than the action surrounding it
Still alive and thinking

Still waiting for the jolt

 

It’s the amps that kill ya,

That’s what you’ve been told;

So you sit there

hoping for high voltage and low amperage

Fingernails dug into the arms of the Chair

Saying to yourself over and over,

It’s the amps that kill ya

It’s the amps that kill ya

©Ken Greenley

Three Poems by Gary Beck

Shattered Stillness

Shoppers crowd city streets

burdened with packages

jostling each other

on Fifth Avenue,

where they push and shove

to get a closer look

at the Christmas tree

in Rockefeller Center,

ornate symbol

of what we lack,

peace on earth,

good will to men.

 

©Gary Beck

 

 

Lunacy Quatrain

Children went to school one day

for the usual work and play

but a madman shattered their class,

with rampage, the American way.

©Gary Beck

 

 

 

Ritual Proceedings

Millions of voters

are given the choice

of who to vote for

on election day,

which makes Americans proud

of their democracy,

even though candidates

are selected and purchased

by special interests,

more concerned with profits

than the needs of the people.

©Gary Beck

5 Poems by Heath Brougher

The Fury of Night

 

The fist of the night smashes

the dusk into faded flamed-out pieces

that fall below the horizon.

The darkness is here with

a vengeance. The darkness

is prowling the newborn night

growing darker by the second.

 

The sky is black

as a hole.

 

The trembling moon hides itself

behind the clouds, not wanting

to feel the wrath of that furious fist.

These are the hours when the cold night wind

rips the leaves from the trees.

Bats asymmetrically fly as the raccoons

scamper and rummage through the garbage.

 

A revelry among the simultaneous cantankerousness

and sleepiness. Deeper and deeper into night it goes until…

the omnipresent shadow reaches its deepest

depth of darkness and dies off

so surprisingly sudden and powerless as the blades

of a newborn dawn begin to spread across the sky.

For the broken light has repaired itself

and has come back to show the night

that violence springs only from inferiority.

 


 

A Poem for Those Shipped in Boxes

 

I call this poem the unspeakable poem.

I think a big black X should be written over it.

I think it should be scalded, erased, burned at the stake

or maybe frozen in the quivering moments before it’s lit into flames.

I think it should be drowned, its breath taken away.

I think it should be erased so the page remains white and lifeless.

I think people should turn their heads, not read a word,

for an uncouth sentiment may run through the ideas herein contained.

I think it should be censored, prodded by evenists, automatons,

razed of all its meaning or theme to fit the standards of convention;

stripped of any straightforward truth and coated in cuddly falsehoods.

I think its content should be altered so as to not offend.

I think it should be a disgrace to poetry and to life itself.


 

Almost Curtains

 

I will take

whatever relief there is

from these

searing nerves caused by this overdose of reality;

endless miles and unending fields

of worry crawl out before me endlessly

endless; the heart raises, races;

 

there is no tunnel—

I see only darkness ahead;

 

this is just poetic lamenting;

this is just rotten verse;

these are just brain-cysted croonings—

I cannot fill a page anymore;

I cannot even move.


The Mechanics of Madness

 

Looking out the trapezium-shaped window

I notice the postman going from house to house,

so heavily steeped in the abstraction

of Humanity’s tar pit of false realities.

The predetermined societal trappings

have consumed him.

He knows nothing of actual Truth.

He is just another lost cause

among the masses massive disregard

of the omnipresent Universal Truth


Dwarfed

 

Once you reach the top of the world

that’s when you realize

 

just how big

this Universe really is

 

and how insignificant

you Truly are!

 

 

Two Poems by Margery Parsons

 

Ghazal, November, 2016

Fat flakes of obfuscating snow fall on the land,

disturbing everything, so hard to see or stand.

When I look out my window, trees, cars, doorways,

faces I knew yesterday, I don’t today, don’t understand.

 

Everything seems so shaky. When I water my plants

they are quaking, fragile stems can barely stand.

 

Boats in the harbor wait for things to blow over,

but how much furor could they withstand?

 

How can you know the best way forward when the wind

changes direction many times a day. To move or stand?

 

The rumble in the basement is insistent,

walls crumbling, the foundations of this building may not stand.

 

Near the lake I see geese gathering to go, in formation,

like a valiant team rising from the court, making a stand.

 

©Margery Parsons

 

Marching with Aylan

I carried a picture of you in a march today

to drive out the Trumpocracy.

I carried your small, drowned body

in my hands,

death-jacket, shorts and velcroed shoes

among the detritus on the beach,

your face and soft hair in the sand,

the waves gently washing over you

like a baby-blanket made of sea.

I can’t tell you what that picture did to me.

You could have been my child, my grandchild, anyone’s child.

I wanted to hold you,

comfort your father

tripled over with grief.

I want the insanity that killed you

to cease, and those responsible

driven from power.

So I marched today carrying your picture,

with your name, Aylan,

beautiful little boy.

And like the water

that washed you up on shore,

face-down, not breathing,

I hope it will carry you

to every corner of the world

where there are human hearts

still beating.

©Margery Parsons