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

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
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
on the blank
like a pea
on a serving
These days
this bus ride is
the closest
come to


©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