3 Poems by Brian Rihlmann



This is the upscale Starbucks

at the base of the mountain, and

they’re filtering in now, dressed in the 

latest ski fashions, eating breakfast 

and sipping mocha lattes.  


The conversations are a bit different here, 

than the one by my job.  There’s no 

construction guys bitching about working 

Saturday, about frozen fingertips and toes,

or a single mom telling a friend how she’ll  

probably have to quit coming here,

and definitely get on food stamps now, 

after her landlord raised her rent 40 percent 

in a jump—if she still can, that is…

if food stamps are still a thing.


Instead, I get to overhear a guy telling 

a friend how they’re eating at home 

more now, because they were spending 

like three grand a month at restaurants, 

and the other responds how he’s bailing 

his girlfriend out of bankruptcy, again,

but “I finally get resentful, having to

write all these checks, you know?”


I’ll just bet you do.

©Brian Rihlmann



even in the so-called best of times

there exist pockets of blight 

here’s one now, beside my local supermarket—

two vacant storefronts with darkened windows


but between them, a beacon—

a payday loan store

glowing bright


a cashier at the counter

smiles as a man shuffles in

his baseball cap pulled low


her smile seems genuine 

she’s young, and I’ll bet she’s new

I’ll bet the boss man fed her a line—

how they provide a valuable service

giving loans to those with poor credit


“we don’t break bones like loan sharks”

he said, with a wink and a grin


though a broken bone would heal

long before this poor bastard

will ever finish paying off these gangsters


they’ll chase him for years

with fistfuls of paperwork

more deadly than a Louisville slugger

but nice and legal


he stands at the window

staring down at the counter

as he hands the cashier his testicles 

through a slot in the bulletproof glass 

and she smiles, again 
©Brian Rihlmann





I hear him from behind the shelves

and I swear

the old bastard

would wither and blow away

unless he was trying to recruit someone

to his side


he tells the new kid

about a homeless guy

at the supermarket near his house

about his overfilled grocery cart

how he just walks around

stands there with his cardboard sign


totally useless he says, laughing


can’t they do something about it?

maybe move ‘em out east….

what’s that place?

sand mountain, yeah…



I guess out there

they’d have no dumpsters

to eat from



do they get food stamps?

they probably sell ‘em for drugs

they oughta drug test ‘em


and the kid says, yeah…

maybe send them to drug treatment

if they test positive


if they test positive, shoot em

says the old bastard



I leave the area, then


I roam the aisles of the warehouse 

pondering the varieties of madness

and circumstance

privilege and free will…


I contemplate the widening cracks

we fall through—

are shoved through

when we’re not quite fat enough


Three Poems by Tracee A. Clapper

Twitter D, Twitter Dumb

orange man with small hands
fills heads empty as air
with hourly birdsong.

© Tracee A. Clapper



Patriarchal Issues

Filled with rage
but smiling wide
I want to scream
but keep it inside.

Alone in my room,
I let the dam burst
rock my screaming body,
moan and groan
’til I have no breath left.

The world is twisting
in on itself –
an orange man
in a white house
rules my country,

an old man
who used to beat me,
mock me
and laugh to see
my red-faced teardrops
rules my schedule,

a young man
I birthed into life
is moving to college.

© Tracee A. Clapper



In Defense of Love Poems

Darkness sings a cloaked melody,
churched southern smiles speak
in rhythm.

Clouds block full moon,
eyes search skies for holes
in black blankets of stilled air.

Outside, humid lungs
drown in smog of hostility–
death comes to visit.

Steepled building invites
a hungry, stalking body
in to pray or prey.

Pale man joins several
shades of brown skinned

Embalmed in venom,
shivering boy on a hot afternoon
wraps fingers around a trigger, pulls.

Bullets explode out
over wooden church pews
fatally pierce nine marks.

Dab blood with handkerchiefs
of poetry, write compassion to ink out hate,
sing broken minds together.

© Tracee A. Clapper

Three poems by Anais Osipova


Mom always said,

“Don’t ever give them the satisfaction of seeing you cry”

I swore I’d take that to the grave 

And the first time you saw me cry I felt so ashamed

But I don’t want a heart of stone 


©Anais Osipova



I drove for hours just to fall asleep in your bed 

I haven’t slept in days, and insomnia has riddled me into a ghost

But I drove, and I kept driving

Because this is my sleepy-eyed homecoming


Hindsight may be twenty twenty, but mistakes in the moment weigh double 

Six more months and I’ll be home for good 

But I keep telling myself six more months every day

And every day it’s six more 

Until then I’ll keep driving just so I can fall asleep in your bed

Because for this past year I’ve been dragging this corpse around

But this ghost will finally have her sleepy-eyed homecoming


©Anais Osipova



All she wanted was to dance

But with being a single mother

All she could do was rock her baby to sleep in the wee hours of the morning

And pretend she was swaying in the arms of a lover during the twilight


©Anais Osipova

3 Poems by Janette Schafer

A Venezuelan-American’s Guilt

            after “Survivor’s Guilt” by Nick Stanovick


A tugboat—

overcrowded, ravaged by waves

moans in travail, the timber

bent until its burden

of refugees is scattered—


Seabirds circle, await a feast,

bloated bodies of the misspent drowned,

their old suitcases, backpacks, and clothes

strewn like buoys.


© Janette Schafer




Venezuela is a ruined womb.

4 million have discharged through her lining

in clots and tissue of aborted potential.

Those who love her fear she will bleed out

from the hand grenade lodged in her belly.


© Janette Schafer



A shooting in Caracas

Not even beauty queens are safe

from bullets.  What were those

last, wild thoughts of survival

and pleading as lead entered

the soft, pliable tissue of flesh,

scattered the features of her face

onto the cracked pavement

as their child slept in the back

of the family car?


Was she instead relieved, resigned—

diving from existence to oblivion

with eyes opened, arms extended.


When he turned his weapon inward,

was this too a respite, a way to say

I will not suffer.

I will no longer cause my wife to suffer.

My daughter will not suffer.

Their baby sleeps,

and their baby sleeps,

even as their blood pools

on the surface of the pavement


their baby sleeps.


© Janette Schafer

One poem by Husain Abdulhay

Clogged Sandglass

morn, noontide ‘n’ nighttime
dry land’s denizens and benthos
disport,  distress, and dismay
menfolk of chore born of early bird
sanguine at dayspring depart to lustrous lakes
on their backs sway small straw baskets
lopsided laden with cupful of berley
for lakers belike to lick the luring viveres
where drowsy ambuscading alligators
able-bodied predestined wunderkinder
lolling benighted by the umbriferous lakeside
settled into proper place for a fortuitous fine time
beckoned betimes by unbidden sizzle of baits
thereupon tiddly trochilus spring-clean their behemoth maws
as if ordained for congenial courtiers of cringing concierge
and anglers make for the shore ill-starred empty-handed
afflicted with mistimed misadventure mayhap
trudge up steeps skipping sun sideways on
and seek out ointment to mend their meniscus before dark


© Husain Abdulhay

One poem by Margery Parsons

Song for Oscar and Valeria

River river

took the baby

drank in her beauty

brown eyes hopeful smile sweet curls

the river swallowed whole

a beautiful loving little girl

river river

took her father

currents of cruelty and crazy

took them both

wrapped around their bodies

dragged them down strangled

their last breaths

river river

waves of lies and barbarity

covered them where they lay

face down on the shore among weeds

her arm around his shoulder

no not rapists not drug dealers not murderers

a little girl and her father

fighting for their lives for a future

river river

rivers of blood rise around us

babies in cages bodies in deserts corpses in floods

fear denial indifference acquiescence

drag our morals in the mud

history is a witness

to where that will lead

river river

carry the call

for a new generation of fighters

with  anger with love with defiance and science

to fight for a better world

for all humanity for the billions of us

and for Oscar and Valeria

in remembrance.


©Margery Parsons

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




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


disposable junk

a foundation of sand


Amazon Prime rushes a new lamp


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


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


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

Two poems by Rob Plath



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


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
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