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

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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

 

Three Poems by K.S.Subramanian

Time makes a call                                    

Spring’s verdure slowly ebbed

before summer’s breath snuffed

It out;  Time’s footfall tip-toed

a message – “Life’s curves are

hazier than the lines in your palm;

Strain not the brow on what’s in store,

brace up to weather the storm;

Storms leave fading scars on plains;

The Banyan is ruddy on its shore,

knows not where it will spread.

Its bleached branches beyond the seed;

Hearts stagger on jagged strains,

a hopeless hunt for a green moor.

Then encased in thorny silence.”

 

© K.S.Subramanian

 

 

 

Superannuation

 

When the destined place of arrival closes in

a leaf of memory throbs with the long

memento of landmarks reached and missed.

Let missed calls die out in the log.

 

Regrets ever remain in unused folders,

pop up to be trashed into the bog;

Monsoon flies buzzing around the bulb.

 

Up on the winding path skirt the shrubs,

breathe the fragrance of fresh blossoms;

Things lost or denied count less than

trees flitting across the train’s window.

 

Spinning on its thumb the earth has seen

the revolving ends of despair and hope.

On the orb of this rolling circus?

 

© K.S.Subramanian

 

 

 

 The day is done

A vulture winging high in the sky

bristles at the faintest smell of rot,

swoops down in swift, hungry arc.

It lives by instinct, its catch of the day.

Then soars, unstrung by care or compunction.

 

Decibel levels rip open the roof

betraying more rant than reason

boxed into TV screens on fault lines

that had torn apart seven decades.

A sweeping grab of sound bites for the day,

then retire for the night with pockets lined.

They live by instinct, unstrung by none.   

 

A sudden diet of MSP for kharif

leaves voices irascible, the farmer stuck

where he started his journey.

Good or bad is a whistle blown in the wind.  

He too has been manacled in a blind alley.

A minor girl lies torn, eyes frozen in shock,

at the twilight blurred in perversity!

 

The vulture circles so high up in the sky,

trusts only its instincts to smell the rot.

 

© K.S.Subramanian

Three Poems by Joan McNerney

Retired

Gloria sat beside the kitchen window

watching snow fall over sycamores

What could she hope for,  

some good news brought by mail?  

An unexpected call?  

 

Her phone rang with reminders

of medical appointments.   

No mail ever came but bills

from doctors, clinics, hospitals,

ads, charity appeals.  

 

She had grown accustomed to suffering,

inured to the idea that her life was

without much happiness or success.

Accustomed to pain running along

her back, through her knees, her feet,

shortness of breath, cancers.

 

Now in retirement, what was really left?

Just bottles of pills to take every day.

Death used to be something Gloria could

brush off. It happened to someone else.  

Now it seemed so close, as if it might

come any day from some cold hand.

©Joan McNerney

Her

 

Did you see that woman falling

from the escalator at Grand Central

Terminal?  Lying in dark circles of

blood?  Begging the police not to

tell anyone?  She would be alright

when she got up.

 

What about her?

 

Did you see that woman screaming

in front of the newsstand? Hear

those screams of hatred spewing

from her face?  Notice her eyes….

burning slits of light?  Maybe

she can’t be tranquilized anymore?

 

What about her?

 

Did you see that woman walking

across the street?  Wearing those

special shoes?  All the toes

on her right foot cut off?  Isn’t

it awful?  Watch her getting on

the bus, all that pain on her face.

How much longer can she keep going?

 

What about her?

 

Did you see that woman?  Ashen

and still as a corpse.  Lying

by the side of the Palisades

Highway?  Her hair so grey,

her legs so straight. Lying

in the short grass.  She was

always running off schedule

Always trying to be on time.

 

What about her?

©Joan McNerney

 

Eve Speaks

 

Although just one snake is well known

in that so-called paradise,  actually

there were tons of them.

 

When we ran away, I was never so

happy.  My feet no longer touching

swarms of mushy poison.

Fruit smelled to high heaven in Eden but

berries tasted yum yum good as we filled

our faces hurrying happily to the east.

 

Adam replies

 

She’s so beautiful.  I would have

followed her to the ends of earth.

I am her captive then and now.

©Joan McNerney

Two Poems by Kabir Deb

IRIDESCENCE

I have known tragedies, I have seen sins
I forget them for the amnesia inside your packed fins
We have been twined from an age long decade
Kissing every new orbiting barricade

I love the way we share our galactic smile
Spraying our perfume on the old postmortem file
It’s not someone else’s! The file is ours
Where lies a living death over a fiery world of flowers

Death unknown to many, and even to us
Let it stay! Let our sweat and kisses be diverse
Silhouette of yours on the bed as you sew back your skin
Jared body after a night still weans for the queen

My dark circles pierce your Picasso eyes
Charcoals all around paint out a life which never dies
We list out the kisses we are meant to do in a tempest
And the books I have to read on your breast

We gather our belongings and scatter them again
Kissing every beautiful curve of a reshaping rain
Desperate, creepy, erotic, we are filled with all
Let us be with everything, even if we fall

Broken bodies over each other won’t be alone
Many would try to crack what lies beside my bone
Some would guess it as Coptic, some as Hebrew
Die safely as they won’t be able to catch the cue

We haven’t resisted the bed to approach
Neither a new manuscript to form a new “Soch”
Petals have felt the kiss, flower has felt the embrace
Now let’s rest! Let’s dance over our curated palace.

© Kabir Deb

THE ART OF LOVE

I want to see my scared thoughts burning
With carbonated fear shattering and mourning
Once closed mind rising from the imposed coffin
Dancing a pen over white flesh tasting caffeine

Resources feeding the deafening Mantra
To deepen the sword of the mythical Ayodhaya
Bodies swinging to slay the pious serendipity
Fertilising the demons to nibble on fertility

Fear of a so – called Lord hunting over love
Policing over a couple freeing the white dove
Queerabad isolating all the hate feeding fungus
With Frida painting the cupid art of cunnilingus

Once phobic world still stands on the same chapter
With each goon following the same ringmaster
Cross of Bible, Swastika of the Vedas, Moon of the Quran,
Break the code to get back phobia in return

What lies beyond the regularly visited massacre?
Pride of love and a wild hearted protest for hunger
Tea of a Jesus lover slurped by a Kali devotee
Finally to explore the love in homosexuality

Wine of Jesus touches that of feminine Kali
As Muhammad paints their unseen kiss freely
Mother Mary gifts them the most peaceful kiss
Paint cunnilingus, be the red farmer, restore the tulips

That’s all I want to do with my thirsty soul
For I have seen what fear does to empty the scroll
Let’s resist the sedimentary Cross Mooned Swastika
Sailing from the burning Sahara to freezing Alaska.

© Kabir Deb