charles rammelkamp

These Days of Simple Mooring by Florence Weinberger

these
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By Charles Rammelkamp
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In “My Very Own Opera,” one of the new poems in These Days of Simple Mooring, Florence Weinberger writes:
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            A cantor’s wail becomes a lullaby my father sang which kicks off
            Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody which triggers La Boheme, shaky
            bridges over troubled waters. It’s all in the shuffle.
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This is an apt description of Weinberger’s creative process, how her poems develop, the associations that drive her verse. It’s all in the shuffle, indeed. In another new poem, “The Prescription,” she writes about her doctor suggesting she eat something salty to combat sluggishness (“Are you kidding me?” Salt, after all, has been a no-no for years – bad for kidney stones, blood pressure, tissues and organs, right?), but –
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            It licks me back home
            to my mother’s kitchen.
            I don’t compare
            the slick of fat.
            I don’t care. I’m told
            to eat salt, to taste
            total recall…
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Memory is a key ingredient to her poetry. At ninety, Florence Weinberger has a long life to draw on.   In a poem from 2010’s Sacred Graffiti called “The reason I don’t visit your grave,” she asks her dead husband, “Are you still listening? I tend to digress.” (“God, I’d love to make a date / to drink wine with your ghost,” she writes earlier in the poem.) Digression is her crabwise approach to meaning, the memories that pile on one another like hamsters in a nest of cedar shavings.
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These Days of Simple Mooring includes selections from four previous collections, The Invisible Telling Its Shape (1997) Breathing Like a Jew (1997), Sacred Graffiti and Ghost Tattoo (2018).  “Mame Loshen, The Mother Tongue,” from Breathing Like a Jew, takes her back to her childhood.
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            Yiddish, my first language,
            you were given to me whole, your wild colors
            intact, your bent humor, centuries
            of bottled-up rage and richly-imagined revenge.
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The poem’s a memory of her father. She writes that she believed in him, believed “his dazzling litany of dirty jokes,” “his poker-player’s paranoia,”
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            because out of this avalanche of language,
            punctuated by deep painful rasps of breath
            as he battled bronchitis and then emphysema,
            still smoking those pungent Turkish cigarettes,
            came the rhythm of my poems, like hard slaps
            with an open palm….
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The rhythm of Weinberger’s poems certainly whacks a reader out of his complacency. “As if all the gods have slashed their wrists at once / your inexhaustible waters pour and pour,” she begins “Iguazu Falls,” an ode to the Argentine waterfall, one of the new poems. “Where are this century’s muses, have they abandoned their vocation, / are they hefting Berettas instead of bone flutes?” she starts another new poem, “”Renew Us to the Mercy of Lyres and Flutes.” Got your attention yet?  How can you help but read on?
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The poem, “Hitchhiker,” from Sacred Graffiti, quintessentially evinces Weinberger’s style. She’s driving her car past “one of those lost unkempt souls  / you see stranded at bus benches trailing / their parcels of loose ends.” Reflexively waving her away and driving on, Weinberger has second thoughts. The girl wasn’t a gang member, after all; she just needed a lift. Weinberger feels a pang guilt.
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            No sooner had I fled the scene,
            I began to play the game of what if.
            I began to take credit
            for that spontaneous kindness.
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“I began to play with a memory already receding,” she writes, “I can no longer tell you what she was wearing.” Memory and imagination conspire to create a poem that a guilty conscience inspired.
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Weinberger’s mother and father – her whole family – are never far from her mind. They are inspirations for so many of these poems, as are Judaism and art. “Mother’s Blood,” a new poem, is a memory of her mother’s help when as a young girl she began menstruating. “My Mother’s House,” from Ghost Tattoo, is a poem about her joy at tracking down the house in Ukraine where her mother grew up, though the actual house is long gone. The joy lies in understanding her mother’s childhood,
            what it is to live in snow and planting seasons,
                        what it is to dig into the earth, milk a cow,
            fear soldiers on horses,
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            drunken neighbors with mouths full of curses,
                        that’s still here, I feel it, her fear,
            I feel her here.

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Weinberger writes in “The Power of My Mother’s Arms”:
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My mother’s death changed the alchemy of food.
Holidays run together now like ungrooved rivers.
I forget what they are for.
I buy bakery goods.
They look dead under the blue lights.
I forget what they are for.
I buy bakery goods.
They look dead under the blue lights.
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“What’s mine was my mother’s first,” Weinberger concludes the poem “Whole Grains and Hard, Harmonious Ways.” “How do I spend these final years?”
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“Smoking with My Father” from Sacred Tattoo is another affectionate memory of her father, teaching her how to smoke cigarettes. “Years later
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a man in a Max Beckmann painting
holding a cigarette European style
reminded me how my father and I
bonded, when I was sixteen….
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A mother herself, her two daughters and their offspring also figure prominently in the poems. “My Daughters Tell Their Friends,” one the new ones, and “My two daughters drop me off at the museum” are two titles, the latter poem, from Ghost Tattoo, also highlighting Weinberger’s interest in art, as the poem weaves in and out of various thoughts, with Weinberger-esque association.
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These Days of Simple Mooring includes at least a half dozen ekphrastic poems, including “A Common Grayness Silvers Everything,” with references to Diane Arbus, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and other photographers; “Unraveling Darkness,” which, like “My two daughters drop me off at the museum,” involves Mark Rothko; “Picasso’s Four Bulls”; “Ejaculate Trajectory I, II, III,” works by the transgressive photographer Andres Serrano; “Revisiting Ozymandias,” sculptures by Albert Szukalski; “You Remind Me of Someone,” Maria Lassnig’s painting, Du Odor Ich.
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Judaism and Jewishness are important themes in the poems as well. The rituals of mourning, of eating (“Let me fashion prayer from a piece of dough,” she writes in “The Power of My Mother’s Arms”), references to the Torah, survivors of the Nazi death machine, modern-day Israel. “Where I Was When Yitzhak Rabin Was Assassinated,” an elegy for the murdered peacemaker, is a memory of being in Las Vegas at the time. “I am in the city of chance, city of sham and amnesia.”
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These Days of Simple Mooring concludes with “Announcement,” a musing about a sort of DIY obituary, like rescuing her own memory: her very own opera, indeed!  Florence Weinberger’s unique voice and verse make for an impressive read.
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Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. His most recent releases are Sparring Partners from Mooonstone Press, Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books and Catastroika from Apprentice House.
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Muddying the Holy Waters by Chocolate Waters

muddy

By Charles Rammelkamp

Without putting too much emphasis on the cleverness of the title, the words “muddying” and “holy” stand out as the labels of Chocolate Waters’ new collection. “Holy” is an apt description of her outlook, an almost spiritual, if comic and irreverent, voice that spins the narrative of her life; “muddying” certainly pinpoints the details of growing up in a dysfunctional family in the strangling conformity of a Republican small town, being the outsider everywhere, generally.

Muddying the Holy Waters is made up of two parts. “Impossible” is about an unrequited love affair with an unnamed woman. “I’d Rather Be a Toad,” subtitled “(the Curse and the Blessing of Mount Joy, PA),” is about her family, about growing up. Consisting of poems, essays and photographs (mostly in the second part, snapshots of her parents, siblings and herself), the collection is a retrospective of her life, as she enters her 70’s. Her goal in putting this collection together, she tells us in concluding essay, “The End is the Beginning – Muddying Your Own Holy Waters,” is to get to “the authentic bottom line of [my] life experiences,” to “explain how difficult it is for me to be vulnerable, to go beyond expressing my default reaction which is just to be majorly pissed off.”

“My life has been about rejection,” Waters writes in her introduction to “Impossible.” She also tells us about the origin of her name, the taunts of her classmates calling her “Choc-o-lotta Weirdo,” but also, living less than half an hour away from Hershey, named for “the religious racist chocolate magnate,” had something to do with it. (Spoiler alert: her parents named her Marianne, which I learned from reading the caption to a newspaper photograph of her as the Douglas High School spelling bee champion, in the second part.)

But rejection is at the heart of “Impossible,” in which she describes the evolution of her sexuality, from rejection by high school boys to eventually identifying as lesbian. She’s one of the first openly lesbian poets to publish in the United States, part of Second-wave feminism, which flourished in the 1960s and 1970s. First-wave feminism focused on voting and property rights; second-wave expanded the debate to include issues of sexuality, the workplace, and family.

As a front-line warrior, she experienced plenty of rejection. But this sequence focuses on a particular love interest that never developed the way she wanted. From poems like “Encounter #1” and “First Rush” (“longing to / ingest you / whole or / bit by bit”), in which her desire takes hold, to “Apology” and “Dirty Karma” she confesses her hopes, only to have them dashed in “Things I Won’t Have to Do (since I’ll never see you again)” and “Bang Bang” (“She shot me down / as I was talking on the phone / She shot me down as I was washing the dishes / as I was watching Netflix / as I was peeing”). The bitter reactions morph: “You Don’t Deserve Me” begins:

You know you don’t
The nights I howled over your rejection
What tossing me out the window did

Then, in the “Afterthoughts” section come the episodes of drunk dialing. The rejection still hurts.

The first section also contains a sometimes-funny, mostly sad series of poems about the dead animals in her life, from a favorite collie to her faithful cat Scruff-o (“for seven years he loved me”). We’ve all lost pets. Waters captures the heartbreak with real sensitivity.

The second section, “I’d Rather Be a Toad,” is by far the more affecting sequence, starting with the essay, “How Mount Joy Transformed Me into a Pisser Poet.” This section is all about her parents and siblings. If she is often unsentimental in her assessments of family members, she is always forgiving, affectionate. To her brother Bob she writes:

you are so terrified
of me
pagan dyke poet telling my truth in a bar
as i am
of you
good christian
telling yours in a church

Chocolate confesses her shortcomings as an older sibling, growing up in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, her impatience, but she concludes her short essay, “What Good Are Brothers?”:  “So what good are brothers? More than I thought, more than I have the ability to say.”

But it’s the poems about her mother and father that cut the deepest.  Her dad was a bigamist, a second family they only learned about later. He was also a real prick to his wife. They both essentially hated each other but stayed married.  When her father died, Chocolate was heartbroken. He was her favorite. She writes in “waiting room”:

I was in the waiting room w/uncle billy
down on my knees in public
crying unabashedly
gasping so hard
my tears strangled me
praying to a god I didn’t believe in

About her mother, she is not so teary. Though she recognizes her mother was a victim, she still can’t quite forgive. In “pauline’s daughter” she writes,

it was impossible having you for a mom
no way you could have mothered wild-child
brilliant
pissed-off
melancholic me
i ran more circles around you
than a venn diagram
but what was it like for you
left alone to parent four young children

abandoned by your husband
who preferred the company
of any woman but you

In “Mommie Dearest” she addresses Pauline who is lying in her coffin: “”What do I say to your dead body?” No breast-beating at this bedside.

The Mount Joy poems are bookended by the “Curse” poem – “I ran away / oh the freedom in escaping / the christian republican evangelists” – and the blessing:

two kinda of people live here
the ones who go to church and
the ones who go to the bar
had i stayed
i’d become a raging alcoholic
or a hallelujah

Chocolate Waters clarifies her muddied waters in this affecting collection, so we can see ourselves down there at the bottom as well.

You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Muddying-Holy-Waters-Chocolate/dp/0935060111

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. His most recent releases are Sparring Partners from Mooonstone Press, Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books and Catastroika from Apprentice House.

Casualty Reports  by Martha Collins

cas reports

By Charles Rammelkamp

Martha Collins’  new collection is dedicated to “the casualties of Covid-19; to the casualties of racism inflicted by the police and others in the United States and throughout the world.” The poems shine a light on the casual cruelties the powerful inflict upon the vulnerable, the exploitation, the inhumanity, the total lack of empathy.

The book is also dedicated to the memory of her father, William E. Collins, whose similar stories of exploitation in the coal industry are highlighted as part of the thematic thrust of Casualty Reports.

The tone is necessarily elegiac but the verse is written in a style that is at once allusive and expository, suggestive and explicit. Several poems in the final section, “And Also,” are indeed elegies for lost friends.  In fact, Casualty Reports is finally dedicated to Collins’ late friend, the peace activist/poet Lee Sharkey, whose collection I Will Not Name It Except to Say, which likewise addresses injustice and inhumanity, was published in 2021, after her death in October of the previous year.

Casualty Report is made up of five sections, two titled “Legacy,” which deal with coal – coal mining, coal miners and unions, pollution, propaganda – and two titled “Reports,” which focus on other injustices for which we have a collective accountability – racism, poverty, war, gun violence among them.

The first poem in the first Legacy section – the first poem in the collection – is called “In Illinois” and deals with her family’s history in the coal mining business, great-grandfather and grandfather dating back to 1871.
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             My father whose mother kept   him out of the mines kept
             his father’s fathers oil lamp   kept his father’s carbine
              & safety lamps kept a box   of wicks-picks-globes kept
              his father’s 50-year union   pin his first aid pin his
              flashlight safe for use kept   manuals papers This lamp\
              was given all labeled This pin    was given kept it all it was
              .
              his legacy labeled dated   1965 & signed & kept for me
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Two poems later is “A History of American Coal Through the Lens of Illinois,” largely a prose description of organized labor – United Mine Workers of America – with a mention of Mother Jones, and the largest private-sector coal company in the world, the Peabody Coal Company. Subsequent poems – “Du Quoin,” “Herrin,” “Virden” – highlight the brutal massacres of miners in parts of southern Illinois, union members and Blacks. Poems like “Store” and “Model Miners (2005)” allude to Merle Travis’ celebrated country song, “Sixteen Tons” (famously covered by Tennessee Ernie Ford) about the virtual slavery of the miners to the coal companies for which they worked (“Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go / I owe my soul to the company store”).
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Collins does for coal mining what Herman Melville did for whaling in Moby-Dick, an exhaustive overview and close examination of its history and its global implications, from “A History,” which cites references to coal in the Oxford English Dictionary from as far back as 1387, to “Types of Coal Mines,” which include coal picked up from the surface, to mines going deeper and deeper, more intricate and elaborate, to the controversial practice of mountaintop removal mining, which devastates the landscape, turning lush forests into barren moonscapes. “Burning” focuses on the poisons and pollution.
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            the mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen
            oxides from burning coal that fill
            our air & fall upon us as acid rain—
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            the selenium, arsenic, lead from coal
            ash stored in coal ash ponds that leak
            & spill & pollute our waters—
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            but most of all the carbon dioxide
            released by burning that captures
            heat that warms our air & melts
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            our glaciers, lifts our seas & warms
            them, dries our land & fuels fires,
            strengthens rainfalls & hurricanes….
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The previously mentioned “Model Miners (2005)” is a poetic transcript of a propaganda piece General Electric made to depict coal miners as sexy Marlboro men and women, who are concerned about the environment and global warming. The advertising clip can be seen here – https://pophistorydig.com/topics/tag/ge-model-miners-ad/.
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The poems in the two “Reports” sections concentrate on other forms of worldwide injustices. The five-part poem, “Lamentations,” modeled, Collins tells us in an endnote, after the Biblical Book of Lamentations, was written in response to an interdisciplinary project about guns and gun violence. The first part begins:
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            America   more guns   more   than us
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            Bullets   bullets   bullets   bullets   more
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            Children in school   boy in park   no sorrow
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The subsequent parts allude to Trayvon Martin, mass shootings in locations across America (El Paso, Dayton, Midland Odessa), hate crimes and gang violence. It ends, part five, echoing Lamentations, with a call to remember the dead:
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            Remember our people killed by guns
                                                                                    we have more guns than people

.             Remember our 100 people killed each day

                                                                                                      the shot and injured
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            Remember our 1000 killed each year by police….
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“For Gaza” is a poem about the shabby treatment of the Palestinians by the Israeli government. “Blue” is a poem that refers to the Vietnamese monks who set themselves on fire in protest in the 1960’s. The poem, “Like Her Body the World” sums up our inherent responsibility in the whole mess. Collins writes:
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            we are part of the body we forgot
            we thought we lived outside like a brain in a jar
            we thought we were pure like thought nothing to lose
            but we are losing too we are losing parts.

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The poems in the final section are more personal, saying goodbye to different friends who have passed on. Casualty Reports is a devastating indictment of our time, of our species, of our less than honorable stewardship of the earth.

You can find the book here: Casualty Reports – University of Pittsburgh Press

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. His most recent releases are Sparring Partners from Mooonstone Press, Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books and Catastroika from Apprentice House.

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Suitor by Joshua Rivkin

suitor
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By Charles Rammelkamp
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“we are what happens by accident,” Joshua Rivkin writes in the first “Envoi” of this lyrical, emotionally probing collection, and goes on:
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Suitor, from the Latin secutor,

to follow. I can’t
catch them, or let them go —
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So much of the poetry in this book is about desire, the Joie de Vivre it provides and the mistakes and tragedies it can cause. Or, as he writes in the second “Envoi” that bookends the collection, meditating on an orange peel “wound over the core of an apple —”:
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imperfect as the marriage
of memory and desire.
Our bodies hunger
and can’t remember for what.
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We make the same mistakes over and over again, propelled by our desires. “A New Old Story About Want” is a title that hammers this home. As Rivkin later notes in “Suitor’s Dream,” “I want to begin again.
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A new desire is an old one rising.
Old mistake. Old news.
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The heart of Suitor is about inherently dysfunctional families, his in particular, about fathers and sons, oddly suited partners, mothers looking for love, everybody looking for love.

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At the physical heart of Suitor, indeed, is a 20-page prose meditation on the moral ambiguities of people titled “The Haber Problem.” Making an implicit comparison between his father, an internationally admired oceanographer, often absent from his family on research expeditions – until he leaves the family altogether, via divorce – and the Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Franz Haber, whose discoveries led to gas warfare in World War I and Zyklon B, the gas used in concentration camps in World War II to murder Jews (Haber, ironically, was a German Jew), Rivkin ponders the moral legacy a man leaves behind him. Rivkin cites one historian’s observation about Haber: “People don’t know whether to admire him or despise him.” On the one hand his discoveries led to artificial fertilizers, expanding how much can be grown, feeding people, and on the other, Haber was an enthusiastic gas warrior and a really horrible husband who drove his wife to suicide. His son likewise killed himself.
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Just so, Rivkin constantly re-evaluates his own father, a boastful guy very much enamored of his own abilities and accomplishments, to the point of obnoxious arrogance. He is a man who has likewise caused emotional pain for his wife – and son. His father has “anger he carries like a pocket watch.”
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The disturbing thing for Rivkin, though, is in his observation that “every father is a window. And in the right light, that window can be a mirror.”  He quotes an unnamed poet: “Let us be gentle when we question our fathers.”
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Indeed, who among us could stand up to the same microscopic scrutiny? In the poem, “The Ad,” Rivkin suggests something like this. The poem begins with an allusion to a classifieds dating profile:
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            The ad I answered asked for me
                        or the man I wanted
            to be. On paper we sing.
                        In flesh, we’re off-key.
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Do we ever measure up to our ideals? Life gets in the way. We can’t always live up to our self-conceptions.  He treats his lover badly, ghosting him until he goes away. The poem ends:
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            The man I promised
                        to be – taller, surer,
            content – left too.
                        On paper I sing.
            In flesh I run.
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Rivkin’s verse predominantly consists of these short lines, the language spare, allusive, vivid, wise.  The two parts of poems that are broken up by “The Haber Problem” in the center are like mirror images. Both begin with multi-part poems entitled “The Suitors” and “Envoi” followed by a handful of lyric poems.
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The suitors Rivkin catalogs in part one are the men who wooed his mother after his father left, making the reader think of Penelope and Telemachus (or not).  “My mother’s third boyfriend owned a Peugeot / he let me drive over the Choptank River Bridge.”  Another suitor (or a different view of the same one?):
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He was a different kind of wisdom poet –
faith in real estate, rolls of Lifesavers
and Amway. He sold cleaning supplies
and cologne from his Buick’s backseat.
.
The “suitors” in the second part are Rivkin’s own lovers, male and female. One of these segments begins:
.
            Her mother warned her never to date a writer.
            Or become one.
            They have no skills in this world
            just lies and sweet talk
            mixing up the story they tell
            and the story they live.
.
Hah! But this also gets at the perplexing dichotomy Rivkin riffs on throughout between a person’s self-conception and his or her actual life. “The Docent,” from part two, further digs into the duplicity of relationships. Again referring to classical literature, this “docent” can be seen as a sort of Virgil figure (or not), but turned on its head.
.
            We lied about our first meeting.
            We lied to our friends. To each other.
.
Rivkin ends the poem by addressing the docent himself about this essentially misguided relationship: “My coy guide,” he writes,
.
            where are we going? When will we arrive?
            What will we call that place?
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But of course, it always comes back to the mothers and fathers. In the poem “Tashlich,” from the first part, referring to the Jewish custom on Rosh Hashanah of symbolically tossing your sins away in the water with bread crumbs, the speaker unloads everything into the stream, shirts, socks, pants, wallet.
.
                                                the watch from your wrist, a name,
            shame, a stubborn reflection that holds to you
                                                                        as you hold to it,
            your father’s voice, your mother’s eyes.
.
Toward the end of the collection, sounding almost like a Yiddish curse (“May you be so rich your widow’s husband never has to work a day” or “May your teeth all fall out except one so you can still get toothache,” are classic examples), Rivkin writes in “At Night You Read to Me”:
.
            If I write again about my father
                        may my hands fall off,
            my tongue harden to obsidian.
                        Or give me the punishment of myths:
.
            my son will never speak to me;
                        or he’ll speak to me in that tone, write
.
            every mistake, tell all I’ve done wrong
                        and regret every word.
.
Suitor is a satisfying read on many levels, both admirable as artistic expression and valuable as self-reflection, uncovering certain universal truths about all families.
.
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Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. His most recent releases are Sparring Partners from Mooonstone Press, Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books and Catastroika from Apprentice House.
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Pandemic of Violence Anthology II – Poets Speak

pv 3
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© remains with contributing Poets
Photographs © Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
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Thanks to all the poets who contributed to Pandemic of Violence Anthology II – Poets Speak  from North of Oxford. In order of appearance we present TS Hawkins, Charles Rammelkamp, Dee Allen, Mike Reis, Bruce Deemer, Kyle Toon, George McDermott, Lois Perch Villemaire, Alan Catlin, Megha Sood, Tony Dawson, Robert Cooperman, Roger G. Singer, Greg Bem, John D. Robinson, Patricia Carragon, Louis Faber, Henry Crawford, Michael Todd Steffen, Mary McCarthy, and M. J. Arcangelini
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Introduction

Violence of humanity has been with us since mythology came into existence. The myth of Cain and Abel, documents the first homicide; domestic abuse; jealousy of power, all of which continue today. Slavery, wars over land, homicides, and violence in cities and countryside’s have all been common occurrences throughout history. Wars over doctrine; religion; power; fascists; racists; monarchs; autocrats all opposed to freedom of will for people have been collected into the history of every nation and continent where, man has resided. School violence in North America can be traced to 1764. So where are we in 2022?

The poets speak in this anthology of war; racial division; lack of equity; of school violence; of domestic violence; of child abuse; the need for gun control, of violence in the streets. In some small way the editors are hopeful the words of the poets will cast light upon the darkness; make us better people; light a spark to cause humanity to begin to mature; cast the past away; end the violence that plagues our people. A tall order for a small online anthology, but the change has to start somewhere, a beginning possibly to ending thousands of years of humanities abuse of humanity.

g emil reutter


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we be peaches by TS Hawkins
.
we be
we be soil
we be root
& we land at the bottom of humanity’s consciousness
yet, we be fruit
shouldering the nourishment of society
the world’s meaty moral compromise
still,
we be peaches
.
we be
we be stars
we be bright
dimmed by perspective
we be unseen
blinded by the galaxy of noise
still, we be vast
we be dense
yet, watered down by milky ways
we be whitewashed
& hung in murky shadows
and,
we be beamin’ — despite
.
we be
we be magic
from words,
to prayers,
then spells,
& incantations
we be lexicon
lingual rubric of mass destruction
we be silenced
yet, vibrate in fricative fury
summoning melaninated majesty
we be conjurin’ — despite
.
we be
we be sound
we be electric boom
muted in alabastrine dissonance
we be music
we be rock
and roll
and rap
and soul
and rhythm
and blues
and funk
and pop
and classical
we be country folx
and bluegrass gospel
and indie
and jazz;
ambient, drumming, and proud
we be world — despite
.
we be
we be ingredients
we be phalanges, tenderness, & botanicals
the anise
hyssop
jasmine
rose
sage
meadowsweet
sassafras
& soul salves
tossed, smashed, and shaken
we be ancestral
flavoring memory & survival in a tapestry of staples
we be displaced by banal palates
that xerox cuisines only nana’s palms can reproduce
we be blanched
yet, finding ways to simmer
and manifest,
and marinade to glaze future forward
we be recipe — despite
.
we be
we be transcendent
we be optical particles
of daybreak & dark showers
fragmented watts cemented in yesteryears of lux
we be targets
infrared beings aiming solely for glory
we be in crosshairs
plucked for the picking
for just existing
we be luminous — despite
.
we be
we be soil
we be root
& we land at the bottom of humanity’s consciousness
yet, we be fruit
the devil’s punchbowl across the globe
shouldering the nourishment of society
the world’s meaty moral compromise
and still,
we be
we be peaches
.
HawkinsTS_Headshot8x10TS HAWKINS is an international author, performance poet, art activist, playwright, and member of the Dramatists Guild. Plays, short works, and books include Seeking Silence, sweet bread peaches (formerly, Cartons of Ultrasounds), Too Late to Apologize, In Their Silence (formerly, They’ll Neglect to Tell You), #RM2B, The Secret Life of Wonder: a prologue in G, AGAIN, #SuiteReality, “don’t wanna dance with ghosts…”, Sugar Lumps & Black Eye Blues, Confectionately Yours, Mahogany Nectar, Lil Blaek Book: all the long stories short, and The Hotel Haikus. Ongoing projects: TrailOff and Community Capital: an Afrofuturism South Philly Walking Experience. TS HAWKINS
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Virgins and Pride by Charles Rammelkamp
.
The Higgins kid came to school
with a gun hidden in his jacket
like a smuggled pet animal,
stood up during an English lit. discussion
of satire and irony,
started shooting his classmates
like targets at a carnival booth.
.
He popped Brian Eastman,
sitting like a sultan
behind his student’s desk,
two holes in his chest.
.
Only the day before,
a harem of girls
swarming about him
in the cafeteria,
Eastman scorned Higgins
with a playground bully’s taunts.
“You ain’t had pussy
since pussy had you.”
.
The girls’ tittering rang
a greater humiliation
than Eastman’s words.
.
The look of terror in Eastman’s eyes
just before Higgins shot
erased the pain of his disgrace,
sure as pulling the plug on a computer.
Nothing left to do
but turn the gun on himself.
.
Author Photo Clara Barton at AntietamCharles Rammelkamp’s latest poetry collection, The Field of Happiness, has just been published by Kelsay Books. Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books. He contributes a monthly book review to North of Oxford and is a frequent reviewer for The Lake, London Grip and The Compulsive Reader.
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.
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Boneyard by Dee Allen
.
Shovel the earth &
shovel it deep
.
Lower into the sepulchre
.
Surround the burrowed
Space w/ lilacs & eulogies—
Family tears
.
Seal up the earth again
for a child had been
consigned to rest here
.
For another child
embittered
had shown him his most
glorified toy from youth
his lifelong phobia:
.
The receiving end of a
pistol. The known face of doom.
Locked. Loaded. Blown.
.
Hate-crimes—engaging in war
head-on pale in comparison
to what keeps the silent bosom of the
Boneyard full w/
.
                            Fleeting
                                         time
                            Fleeting
                                          shots
                                                    in
.
Places to learn
Places to play—High-risk
High-calibre consecration
Blasting away the future
to bleached bone.
.
deeAfrican-Italian performance poet based in Oakland, California. Active on creative writing & Spoken Word since the early 1990s. Author of 7 books—Boneyard, Unwritten Law, Stormwater, Skeletal Black [ all from POOR Press ], Elohi Unitsi [ Conviction 2 Change Publishing ] and his 2 newest, Rusty Gallows: Passages Against Hate [ Vagabond Books ] and Plans [ Nomadic Press ]–and 56 anthology appearances under his figurative belt so far.
.
For George: Evenight by Mike Reis
.
Ascending screaming from vicious knee,
How can your tongued flame
.
Reckon in the shelters of chagrin,
Enkindle from glass-sharp asphalt,
.
Open us like fire
Set to long-stunted flowers,
.
Like new chalk scribing
Change-colored murals over rueful brick,
.
Word-wielded pain, word-wielded evenight
Keened to a quickening?
.
Mike Reis Photo (2)Mike Reis is a writer and environmental historian with poems published in North of Oxford, Gargoyle, Lucille, Urthkin, The Archer, Laughing Bear, The Galway Review, Grand Little Things, Crossways, The Broadkill Review, The Raven’s Perch, Amelia, and Northern New England Review.
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.
.
.
.
.
shadow 3
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Snow White by Bruce Demmer
Isaiah 1;18-20
.
No report I’ve read
said if parents of these dead
children own such guns
as slaughtered their sons
and daughters, the cross hairs’ cross
pinpointing our loss.
.
Would those parents’ guts get wrenched
seeing what these weapons did
to their kid,
skid off course, or dig in, grow entrenched,
like those who’ve attacked
as faked news, as made-up fact
the floods that have drenched
schools, neighborhoods with a sense
of targeted innocence?
.
Our divided quarrel states
no peaceful debates;
Guns – fewer or more –
threatens a lopsided civil war,
treads on mass murder at worst,
both our houses cursed.
.
As if in Nature’s inverse,
a cold-blooded, social climate change
grows increasingly chilling,
with each new killing;
persuasions seen as perverse
threaten to derange,
make the world turn strange.
Bodies shot to shreds
choke our minds and heads,
compounded by the set, shoddy rounds
shot as biting sounds
rendering thoughts and prayers
a cauldron for 2-tongued soothsayers
and ambitions without bounds.
.
Are we bewitched by power
only to be pawns
when the sun’s reddened eye dawns,
wakes us to cower
at bad dreams that wet our bed
with bloody slaughter,
accumulate just like lead
in our streams and ground water?
Good days or bad days,
some part of this always weighs.
No little cat Z will wash it white.
Like Lady McB,
all the game shows on TV
will not bring peace, the price never right.
No kiss-it-and-make-it-better prince arrives
as the maddened make-believer thrives.
Is Reality’s new Rule:
bring poisoned apples to school?
.
A rising, thick flood
fattened with lambs’ blood
makes words float and bob as civilization’s debris:
 those I try to assemble
make my gorge tremble.
There’s no strong, safe branch on reason’s tree
to climb above our heavy, heavier tread
into a deepening, sticky dread.
Bearing arms does not leave our arms free,
leaves us grasping for purpose,
gasping to surface,
all exhaled breaths
failed, wasted, when the last word is death’s.
I keep tasting lead;
I keep seeing red.
.
For Columbine, Sandy Hook, the Mennonite school children, Ukraine and Uvalde, etc., etc. etc….
.
BHD smiling for book advert 2021 10 04B. H. Deemer is the author of two self-published books of poems.  He has retired to the shore of Lake Huron
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Real War Crimes by Kyle Toon
.
It’s becoming harder to breathe
as nation-states and collective
governments contest to seize,
control, and obliterate
civilization at a swift speed
anxiousness ensues as the
military siege feeds off the
wounded—bleeding from their
hands to their feet, desperate
for upside and reconciliation
amid irrevocable catastrophe
the air is thinly filled with
toxins and pollutants that
can asphyxiate those involuntary
in the crosshairs seeking
refuge and personal safety
open doors. closed doors—
The disguise of an open border—relegated
inhabitants organized by
race, gender, and class
while in the backdrop
the cries of agony,
grief, and bereavement
permeates and settles
as normal ambient background noise
the curtains are wide open
and the luminous light
of socio-racial strife shines
bright—the scope of perspective
is sharpened and focused
giving the observers of the world
a front and centered view of what
moral insensibility looks and feels like
.
kyle toonKyle is a voracious reader of all books on black history, poetry, significant experiences depicting racial inequities, and social justice issues. Currently, he is reading The Destruction of Black Civilization by Chancellor Williams and just finished The First Black Slave Society by Hillary Beckles, and The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday. He is hugely supportive of mindfulness meditation techniques for emotional and cognitive regulation and a steadfast advocate for seeking mental health services. Kyle is a member of the UNIA-ACL (Atlanta chapter), CBPM, and the I Love Black People movement.
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Parallax by George McDermott
From Parkland to Tallahassee
.
These students drove six-and-a-half hours
from their blood-soaked school to the capital
to beg the bloodless officials for help—
the sanctimonious guardians
of grunting, wheezing privilege,
the elders who brush children aside.
.
These students were taught they hold the future:
their duty, they learned, is to shape the world.
But then came the shots, the shouts, the screams,
and then they were running away from their school,
the air corrupted with misplaced odors—
smoke and ozone, blood and vomit.
.
They remember a trick from when they were little:
            by reaching out and squinting one eye,
they could block the sun with the tip of a thumb.
Or erase a looming obstacle.
.
They’re looking now at the capitol buildings—
raising their fists, extending their thumbs,
blinking one eye and then the other.
The buildings remain.
.
They blink again and wonder if maybe
they’re the ones who disappear.
.
McDermott-MoonstoneGeorge McDermott is a Philadelphia poet who lives in Florida (that’s not impossible, not even particularly uncommon). He’s also been an English teacher, a speechwriter, and a screenwriter (those roles are not mutually exclusive, not even especially different). His chapbook, Pictures, Some of Them Moving, was a winner of the Moonstone Chapbook Award, and his poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Painted Bride Quarterly, Fox Chase Review, Notre Dame Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and Chicago Quarterly Review.
.
.shadow 1
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Two Poems by Lois Perch Villemaire
.
Such a Beautiful Day
.
Local leaders speak into microphones and say
“It was such a beautiful day”
like terrible things should not happen
when the springtime sky is sunny and blue
.
A teenager drove from the other side
of New York State to Buffalo
posted words of hate in a manifesto
fully armed wearing tactical gear
.
He came to kill innocent people shopping
to buy bread or whatever they needed
for the week never imagining this ugly display
on this Saturday —such a beautiful day
.
He didn’t wait to enter Tops Market
started shooting unsuspecting women and men
in the parking lot leaving a trail of death
he confronted and shot the security guard
.
Police quickly appeared on the scene
he still had time to kill 10 on such a beautiful day
all shot with an assault weapon they lay
before he gave himself up falling to his knees
.
His motivation was called “pure evil”
setting out to murder based on race
in a close knit African-American community
this killer had carefully pre-planned the place
.
It’s happening too often in cities and small towns
We can’t tolerate mass shootings anymore
ending lives as they go to school or shop at the grocery store
innocently making their way on such a beautiful day.
.
Close the Skies
.
We watch as history
unfolds on CNN
a leader looming
on the screen addresses
a silent reverent US Congress
this modern day hero
young, strong, unafraid
grateful for
overwhelming support
needs more for
the survival of his people
forced to leave their
destroyed homes
some remain to defend
freedom of their land.
.
Voice of the translator
sounds out of place but
words are true and honest
“Close the skies”
This man, this warrior
appeals to leaders of
our country to save lives.
He asks them to recall
            the horror of Pearl Harbor
He asks them to recall
            the destruction of 9/11
.
A video reflects suffering
of his people, his children,
his eyes are steady
on the rest of the world
asking for compassion
asking for everything.
.
loisLois Perch Villemaire resides in Annapolis, MD . Her prose and poetry have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies such as Ekphrastic Review, Flora Fiction, and One Art: A Journal of Poetry. Lois was a finalist in the 2021 Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry. She enjoys yoga practice, amateur photography, and raising African violets.
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Alan Catlin
.
I remember
.
standing behind
the bar at work
TV tuned to CNN,
sound that can’t be
adjusted turned all
the way to loud whisper
watching the kids
from Columbine
hands clasped on
their heads
running for their lives
.
I’m in shock
in tears and the night
waitress, a college kid,
 asks me,
“What’s wrong?”
.
I tell her that
someone is shooting
high school kids
The ones you are seeing
are the ones that made it
.
We stand there,
silently watching
a sequence that seems
stuck in an endlessly
repeating loop,
crying
.
Who knew this was
only the beginning?
.
Alan Catlin is the father of two teachers and the grandfather of four school age grandchildren.
He is the poetry and reviews editor of misfitmagazine.net Home Page
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pv 5
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The Revolving Door by Megha Sood
.
I start the radio first thing in the morning
blaring noises, starving children screaming
dying in the refugee camps
a place for refuge,
a place for solace
.
A diffused IED unexpectedly
goes off in some part of the world
abruptly ending the dreams
of a 5-year-old
on the way to eat his favorite bread
.
The movement is on the rise
the streets are jam-packed
my heart is emboldened with grief
and the eyes have run dry
another day,
another set of fliers,
and another hashtag trending
.
But this incessant fear of endlessly trying
like a hamster on the wheel
succumbed to this voiceless din
with no destination in sight
a blob in the pool of
faceless charades
.
I drag myself sluggishly
to my office building
waiting at the entrance
of this giant rotating door
to start its next turn.
.
MeghaAuthorPicture.
Megha Sood is an Award-winning Asian American Poet, Editor, Author, and Literary Activist from New Jersey, USA. Recipient of 2021 Poet Fellowship from MVICW (Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creating Writing) and National Level Winner for the 2020 Poetry Matters Project. Poetry Editor Literary Journals Mookychick(UK), Life and Legends (USA), and Literary Partner with “Life in Quarantine”, Stanford University. Author of Chapbook (“My Body is Not an Apology”, Finishing Line Press, 2021) and Full Length (“My Body Lives Like a Threat”, FlowerSongPress, 2022). She blogs at https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/  and tweets at @meghasood16.
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Two Poems by Tony Dawson
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Screenshot
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Children are screaming, their mothers are weeping
as they pick their way slowly over the rubble
of what used to be Mariupol.
Unburdened by luggage but weighed down with anxiety,
they scramble to safety
through streets strewn with sadness.
Hemmed in by havoc, pale faces, red-eyed with tears,
transmit their fears to us,
safe at home watching the news.
.
Picture Post…Mortem
.
Watching reports of the war on TV,
viewers are horror-struck to see
a frantic mother, howling in despair
while a pair of paramedics try to save
the life of her shrapnel-wounded baby.
Maybe, just maybe they can… but they can’t.
The maternity hospital was not bombed in error,
it was a deliberate act of Russian terror.
Next, the camera shows another young mother,
face blank, hair lank, flopped on the floor
of a hospital corridor.
She’s clutching her child that survived the air raid.
Stunned, in shock, she’s silently crying
because her other two children
are presently lying dead in their beds.
.
TONY IN SEVILLA RECORTADA
Tony Dawson has lived in Seville since 1989. His writing has appeared in print in Critical Survey, Shoestring Press, Poems-for-All, Chiron Review, and Pure Slush, as well as online at Loch Raven Review, London Grip, The Five-Two, The Syndic Literary Journal, Horror Sleaze and Trash, Cajun Mutt Press, Poetry and Covid, Beatnik Cowboy, Retreats from Oblivion, and Home Planet News, (in the latter case in both Spanish and English).
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The Great God AK-15 Speaks by Robert Cooperman
.
In the beginning was the blunderbuss,
slow and inaccurate as a drunken mosquito;
then flintlocks, less cumbersome,
but still not the speed of a good bowman:
Red Coats lucky, and alive, to prime and fire
three rounds a minute.  Only two?  They died.
.
But with the repeater, the six-shooter,
my power started to flex and grow, though
it took the Gatling, the Tommy, the galloping
Apocalyptic Horseman of the machine gun
for men to realize the gun was God.
.
But it wasn’t until my divine birth
that I was worshipped: men enraptured
to give my trigger the merest flick,
so I’d preach I sacred tongues.
.
You accuse I tempt madmen
to murder innocents for no reason
except that it’s far too easy to obtain me
along with enough rounds to obliterate
a whole elementary school.
But is anyone, no matter how young,
really innocent?
.
Men tremble in ecstasy, to be conduits
of my righteous power: a million holy volts
coursing through their trigger fingers:
better than sex, than fentanyl,
they beg to be my slaves.
.
RCoopermanPhoto1Robert Cooperman’s latest collection is GO PLAY OUTSIDE (Apprentice House).  Forthcoming from Kelsay Books is A NIGHTMARE ON HORSEBACK
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pv 6
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Sharp Corners by Roger G. Singer
.
I hear the
drowning in my head
where turbulent waters
behind the eyes
swell and wane
coursing to the sides
with pain pressing
against judgements
serving proof of
a prisoner locked
within the gray lines
without a key
as the story is
replayed between
the walls
.
Roger G. Singer lives in Florida and is Poet Laureate Emeritus Connecticut Coalition of Poets Laureate
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Figures by Greg Bem 
.
1: Musing
.
The crack is the rupture inside. The lines form crooked to the horizontal. Dreams are beautiful and chaotic. The hands are enflamed and jagged. Winged fingers. Ruptured bubbles within microscopic crevasse. Moonlit airplane sinking across to escape. And the wizards wait. And the witches choke on cackle. On highway alert, rumble of fiction. Imagine just out of  sight of the interstate.
.
Imagine that and I am coughing through peace. Diadem of karmic gesture. The completed jester’s smile. Home again, a safety net, a safer Net, an etiquette to bind them, and in their hearts the binding is glowing and growing. It can’t be stopped. It can’t be. We will be consumed, dwarfed by replay, the result, the reverb. We will be consumed, con, a con, the Mac Low Eon instance.
.
Just in time: justice, in time as I write this, right this.
.
2: Them
.
The Drone Women
.
Less about the human than the carriage. Carrying age, carrying life of our age.
This is the speech with which we birth, circuit blood and broken spines, slippage.
And the meander through a pit-scape of ohs and ones, what’s it even say?
What’s even it mean? Hallmark of the creators, the robot pleasantly demonic,
blue eyes gazing into my abyss, of limited possibility, and we’re all attached to hip,
we’re all diming our way through time’s latest, the “say” of sooth and the errs of our ways.
.
The Ghost Knight 
.
Herald of mist and slew, slough and what’s missed, what’s been missing, really,
what have we been dreading with the lengthening of days, more of an exposure, really,
the lines getting longer, the lies playing out louder, liars challenging sour,
and I am a pondering being, slipping in and out of the purvey, the periphery,
the puff puff bliss of history, and the wash is a light, cloudy blue, cloudy eyes,
mistakenly foggy, but the devil is in the details, where we get lost and stand, violently, still.
.
The Radioactive Man
.
At the poet’s keep, a book with a cover with two beings lacking faces,
south lake where we go to find the canny connections, a canopy for hummingbirds
and cobwebs, a place lightly lit by a mooted sun, muted, mutant, mutate,
and the ochre suit matches the ochreish face, also blank, I spun it around, I hid it,
I’m ogrish, malevolent benefactor, the sinners in my hands, my anger disruptive.
The thin, black gun represents vacuums and the vacuous, pushing and pulling at once.
.
The Samurai 
.
It is the katana that forms, thin slice of whole, slice of thought, sliced, rotted, at once.
An earlier memory where I’m passing aisles of filthy books, thinking perhaps I’m rotten.
And perhaps it’s a ronin, masterless, dead masters on thinly sliced floors, clean,
corners and ridges, etches, meaty palaces, thin slip of rounded beam, wood like bone, bracing
heavens, passage towards made by body’s breath, an elegance unlike the Maoist quote on a Samurai website, where have I gotten, found myself, in this lossless space, wilderness, kempt and upkept.
.
The Recidivist
.
Inching forward into the depths, memory comes to light after 12 years of entombment:
the Waldrops, loving Gizzi, loved the New Depths of Deadpan, and how could you not!
Knotted in the world, Ezmeralda and Bogota one moment, Aleksi Perälä and Lahti the next,
I dream in poetry that knots, that colludes, that jumps out of windows and tails it highly to
the weeds, never greasy, always chaffed, long dry spell sting of skin rubbing skin, blades
upon blades, figure rejoined, saga etc, continuity, bearish committal, suddenly I remember
how resin can stick.
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Madly a Scientist 
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Flock of dread spikes, the dreaded spike in the fluted chamber, greenly and wizened,
sickly you’ve become wise in your old brews, methods of Bunsen decades long in the make,
the way you wear your grin is a calm psychopathy, hiccup, run away with ye, goes the zone,
a kind of eureka blast toward Eureka hills, smell of weed-encrusted decision-making spills
across intersections, sinks in sticky to the heel, the world melting into Dalisean clockwork.
Meanwhile, lest we forget: a black glove, the green splatters, buttoned buttons, and the red lenses.
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3: Missing
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Bowl in one hand, plastic in one hand, lift up, pour corn past teeth to mouth, and the chewing, and the swallowing into a throat’s greeting. The eyes glaze over. What’s missing? The nose crinkles. What’s missing? The ears dry out and flake. What’s missing? The neck grows bumps and loosens. What’s—missing? Safe passage. Safe construction. Safer discussions. Safety has its place. You are in good hands. you are in, good hands. You are, in good hands.
.
On my way here there was a feather. And there was a myth. And the spilling of the beans. And the rickety footsteps along the rotted floorboards. And the night that spoke in corners and the boundaries of the lamplit curbs. Chirps from dead smoke detectors. A laundry list of constraints. Everything around a tool and a curse. Those wizards, those witches, that jester, that gesture. All comes crumbling down, into a puddle of something vaguely edible and objectively terrifying to the
onlooker.
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What’s missing, what’s missing. A smooth transition as the six have gone home to be with their masses and prayers.
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greg-bem-bio-507x338Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at www.gregbem.com
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pv 2
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Katie in California by John D. Robinson
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When she was one year’s old her father
moved the baby into the basement,
chaining her hands to a toilet-chair:
she made too much noise: she slept in
a playpen with a top that was locked:
he would violently force feed the
little girl and as she could not
swallow comfortably, she would
vomit and her father would become
enraged and would shout and
scream vileness and would bark
and snarl like a rabid dog and on
countless occasions he would beat
her with a big stick:
mother and two teenage sons
lived in fear, knowing of the
horrors happening below them
every fucking day: after eleven
years, her mother and one of
the son’s took the young twelve
year old to hospital: initially
the nurses guessed her to be about
seven or eight years old:
shocked at the girl’s physical
appearance and neglect she was
hospitalised: she was unable to
walk or speak, and the
authorities were alerted: the sadistic
asshole father was charged with
severe child abuse and neglect, before
trial, he shot himself through the
head: the mother was judged as a
victim of psychological, bullying,
coercive, threatening, controlling
abusive behaviour: briefly the girl
moved into a State-run children’s
home and then was placed into a
.
family foster home who held
extreme Christian views and values:
one time, when she vomited into a
bowl and then continued to eat,
the foster father hit her hard
across the head and then she
refused to eat as she feared that
would vomit again: she would
self-harm by scratching
her arms repeatedly until they
bled heavily she was then taken
back to hospital and after, she
was given back to the care of her
mother, which lasted just a few
weeks before she returned her back
to the authorities who again
placed her in a children’s home.
her days thereafter are unknown
and even fifty years later the
real identities of the little girl and her
parents have not been revealed.
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robinson
John D. Robinson is a poet from the United Kingdom and is the publisher of the micro press Holy&Intoxicated Press.
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The End of the World by Patricia Carragon
(sung by Skeeter Davis)
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In her dream,
her parents’ wedding photo
burned slowly.
Their ashen marriage
vaporized in life and death.
A grayish puddle formed a stain
on the chest of drawers.
.
She woke up
and went about her day,
listened to an old song,
“The End of the World.”
Depression read her Tarot cards.
A heart bled,
pierced by three swords.
A woman tied and blindfolded,
surrounded by eight swords.
A woman wept in bed,
nine swords hung above her wall.
Her futility walked
in her parents’ shoes.
.
The world didn’t care
if her life was going nowhere.
The sun and stars went into hiding,
two mourning doves stopped singing,
islands of plastic floated in the sea.
Bad news kept recycling—
the world still on suicide watch.
.
On the news,
there was another shooting.
Children’s hearts bled,
pierced by three bullets.
Justice tied and blindfolded,
surrounded by eight white men.
Mothers wept in their beds,
nine AR-15s hung above their walls.
Futility walked
in American-made shoes.
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Pattie May2022
Patricia Carragon’s latest books are Meowku (Poets Wear Prada, 2019) and Angel Fire, (Alien Buddha Press, 2020). Patricia hosts Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual anthology. She is an executive editor for Home Planet News Online. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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We by Louis Faber
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We fled the ghettos
in fear for our lives, the mob
hating us for our faith, for
being the other, for being there.
.
We came here hoping
to share in the promises
we heard, but we were still
the others, shunned, forced
into new, unbordered ghettos.
.
We now blindly support
the country established
for the likes of us, a place
where the others are shunned
and forced into ghettos.
.
And we shun those
from the south fleeing
for their lives, the gangs
hating them, saying they
are the others, but we
say the promise no longer
applies, and we turn them away,
and we die a bit more each day.
.
louis
Louis Faber is a poet and photographer living in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  His work has appeared in The Poet (UK), Dreich (Scotland), North of Oxford, Erothanatos (Greece), Defenestration, Atlanta Review,  Glimpse, Rattle, Borderlands: the Texas Poetry Review, Pearl, Midstream, European Judaism, The South Carolina Review and Worcester Review, among many others. A book of poetry, The Right to Depart, was published by Plain View Press.
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Bullet Points by Henry Crawford
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Let’s start by shooting
Franz and Sophie Ferdinand
and soon we’re digging trenches
but before you can say the words
Pearl Harbor
we’re lowering the boom on Nagasaki
and crashing planes into the 9/11 sky
it’s just a need we have
to make things clean
destroy the town to save the town
show our Shock and Awe so we can say it’s done
like Agamemnon
finally getting his winds or Paris before him getting his prize
the way The War to End All Wars
ended in a double replay railroad car
no appeasement in our time
whether crossing the Rubicon or dropping fire
on the sleeping streets of Dresden
or raining missiles on a Ukraine mall
we will get our way
saying never again or remember the Lusitania
or this will not stand
my father died at Marathon
he died on Pork Chop Hill and on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
and it’s always just
300 men and just four years
or make it 30 or maybe just 100
and there’s always just the wounded
or just collateral damage or just a few with minds aflame
unable to forget just killing one another
in another just war.
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Head Shot 2 (1)
Henry Crawford is the author of two collections of poetry, American Software (CW Books, 2017), and the Binary Planet (The Word Works, 2020). His poem, The Fruits of Famine won first prize in the 2019 World Food Poetry Competition. His poem, As We Were Saying Goodnight, was nominated for the 2022 Rhysling Award given out by the Science Fiction Poetry Association for the best science fiction, fantasy, or horror poem of the year. He is a co-director of the Café Muse literary salon, and was the creator of the Zoom poetry series, Poets vs The Pandemic, sponsored by The Word Works.
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pv 1
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Two Poems by Michael Todd Steffen
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Victim
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There was a daily weirdness in her life.
Nose rings. Fluorescent hair. Leather. Joan Jet.
At one with her youth, she did nothing by half.
She took a class on Shakespeare that I taught.
Cross dressers. And a dude with sonnets for
another dude. The Bard was like way cool.
Brightly she got the double sense of fair.
She got the perilous privilege of the Fool.
The ways of the world are anything but just.
She marched to end corruption, AIDS, and hunger
and twerked on the dance floor where a sudden burst
of gunfire took her breath, and sealed his anger.
His ‘butch boss’ had fired him from his job
so he unloaded on a whole night club.
.
Deaf Heaven
.
For they lie, our departed, in the satin
lining of their coffins. However hard
we plea for their return, we are not heard
with them, chalked and indifferent as church Latin.
.
The heart cries to the sky that’s gray and leaden—
Light and blue, o please! By heaven’s withered
blossoms the bees wax the hives of the dead
son and father, infant, mother, maiden,
.
our beckoning throats hardly above whispers.
Here the silence of churches pounds its gavel
solemn as the one tone of a vespers
.
bell with the darkness falling. From the navel
we are fed this knowledge. Our last gasp goes
oblivious under the requiem in the chapel.
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michael steffen photo ok chr
Michael Todd Steffen is the recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship and an Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Award. His poems have appeared in the window of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, as well as in journals including The Boston Globe, E-Verse Radio, The Lyric, The Dark Horse, The Concord Saunterer, and Poem. Of his second book, On Earth As It Is, now available from Cervena Barva Press.
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For the Parents by Mary McCarthy
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What can I give you
so deep in your well of losses
there are no miracles to pray for
no return to hope for
no remedy for all the empty
places in your hearts
.
I wish I could hold you up
keep your head above
the swell of grief,
protect you from
the urgent undertow
offering to sweep you
forever away from shore
.
That place so full of stone
and sandpits ready
to swallow you
replace grief with a choke
of sand, crush your chest
like an empty can
filling the terrible hollow
stopping the howl
that is the only word
you can still make
.
A hard wind scouring you out
clean and dead as bone
leaving you nowhere to hide
to get past this blasphemy
of murdered  children
the sin of survival
the heavy burden
of empty arms
the cursed chance
defying reason, useless now
as thoughts and prayers–
.
It will not get better
only farther away
the days relentless
in their progress
yet unable to tear you away
from this day, this place
this house, your last
connection, before everyone
dries their eyes
and tries to forget.
.
20200321_145913
Mary McCarthy is a retired Registered Nurse who has always been a writer. Her work has appeared in many anthologies and journals, including “The Ekphrastic World,” edited by Lorette Luzajic, “The Plague Papers,” edited by Robbi Nester, and the latest issues of Verse Virtual, Gyroscope, Earth’s Daughters, and Third Wednesday.
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Memorial by M. J. Arcangelini
.
This is not just a memorial
for 9 murdered transit workers,
10 murdered shoppers,
19 murdered schoolchildren,
and the countless number
who have come before
and since.
It is a celebration
of the depth
of the ongoing love affair
between America
and its guns.
It is a demonstration of the
devotion felt for blood and bullets,
testament to the tenacity of
those who place the freedom
to shoot quickly, irrevocably,
above the lives of those
who would be killed.
And this is not just a poem
it is a cry of pain and fear,
a howl of frustration,
a wail of warning,
as again we mourn
the senseless murders of
people whose only mistake
was to show up for work,
or school, or go shopping on
a day when a festering
malcontent with
a personal arsenal
finally snapped.
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mj
M.J. (Michael Joseph) Arcangelini, born 1952 in Pennsylvania, has resided in northern California since 1979. He began writing poetry at 11. He has published in little magazines, online journals, & over a dozen anthologies.  He is the author of five published collections, the most recent of which is “A Quiet Ghost” 2020, Luchador Press. Due out in the summer of 2022 is “Pawning My Sins” from Luchador Press.

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pv 4

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The Editors

d pan ii

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, a native Philadelphia poet, is author of four full-length poetry collections and most recently a chapbook, COVID-19 2020 A Poetic Journal (Moonstone Press, 2021). Published in North American Review, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sequestrum Journal of Literature & Arts, Chiron Review, The Pennsylvania Journal, and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal,  The Northern Virgina Review, among others. Poetry Editor at North of Oxford, an online literary journal, and former high school English teacher, she currently teleworks full-time as a Procurement Agent. More can be found about Diane at her website :  http://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com/

g pan ii

g emil reutter is a writer of poems, stories and occasional literary criticism. He is the books review editor and site manager at North of Oxford. Seventeen collections of his poetry and fiction have been published and he can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

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Pandemic of Violence Anthology I – Poets Speak: https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/12/27/pandemic-of-violence-anthology/

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pv 8

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Pandemic of Violence II Anthology Release Date

pv 3

The release date for Pandemic of Violence II Anthology- Poets Speak has been moved up to August  20, 2022.

Peripheral Debris by Carl Kaucher

perph
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By Charles Rammelkamp
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Channeling the mystical meandering jazz bebop philosophical musings of Jack Kerouac, Carl Kaucher’s new collection focuses on the gritty and ponders the eternal questions of existence.  At the end of the first poem, “Pond Scum,” he asks:
.
If life is God’s music
will the chorus end with a round of applause
for a song well sung
or will there just be silence?
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Meanwhile, in his elegy for a dead friend, “Steve,” he asks, “How many bites to eat a Big Mac?” Kaucher isn’t always so serious!
.
Peripheral Debris is divided into two parts, “Peripheral” and “Debris.” While both evince Kaucher’s distinctive style, the poems in the first part mainly seem to develop his outlook while the poems in the “Debris“ section are a kind of travelogue through small town Pennsylvania, from the perspective of the self-described “Hobo Poet” whose attitude the reader has since come to understand.
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Indeed, the poem, “Kerouac,” from the first section, honors his inspirations.
.
Beating loud
the bongos of suffering
so that
we might feel the rhythm
and vibrations at a distance
not going near
but knowing still
all dimensions
of the deep discordant drum
drubbing of desolation
the shamanic inflection
angelic resurrection
and insight
of the human predicament
on the down and out
with dissonant choruses
to wallow in
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The poem “November,” referring to “an interstellar literature / written within the lunar wind,” concludes with an homage to Patti Smith, from her iconic 1975 album Horses, “weeping for somebody’s sins / but not mine.” The poem, “The Deep State,” honors William Blake.
.
The cleverly titled poem, “Postpoemed,” summarizes Kaucher’s approach. It begins:
 .
Take a few scattered words,
assemble them into a thought
which can be woven
into the finest threads.
Weave the thread into a tempo and flow
that creates a vision,
an intricate web of idea
to paint a portrait of conditions
and circumstance.
.
For four more stanzas he describes the recipe – “Introduce the characters”; “Get lost within the flow / and feel the fuzzy vibration of energy”; “Whisper the words down the alley / so they twist and distort / like an effluent prophecy.” The poem, he hopes, will “provide warmth / to all who have gathered / throughout the long night.”
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While Kaucher sets the poem, “Snakes and cats” from the “Peripheral” section in Reading, Pennsylvania (“at the corner of 11th and Robeson streets”), it’s mainly in the “Debris” section that he takes us through the Pennsylvania countryside, in poems like “Johnstown,” “Shillington” (birthplace of the novelist John Updike),  “Shamokin,” “Sunbury,” “Tamaqua,” “Wilkes-Barre,” “Carlisle,” “York,” “Manayunk,” “West Scranton,” “Reading,” and “Altoona” – not to mention poems like “Road Ruminations” (“Towns like Tipton and Tyrone, / Bald Eagle and Port Matilda”) and “Perspectives of Butch” (Schuykill County).  It’s a peripatetic life, the observations and experiences of a holy mendicant wandering from town to town. In the poem, “In,” in West Chester, having returned east from Pittsburgh, he meets a young man in a bar.
.
            I tell him about the Beats and Kerouac
            and how inspiration and appreciation of the beauty
            factors into achievement,
            also commitment and WOW!
.
He’s like the wandering Zen master enlightening the populace. In the poem “Hobo Poet” he writes:
.
            Sleeping on the street corner
            doesn’t seem to get you closer to God.
            Although, cold wet asphalt
            and a curb to rest my head
            may be the start of this poem.
.
Back in the first section, in the poem, “First light,” we find him waking up on one of those obscure street corners:
.
            Ascend to obscurity blessed
            till the blackness rolls golden gardens
            of dawn born in detachment
            and the essence of the void
            rolls out divinity on Christ tongues
            and enlightened Buddha drugs
.
            I forever am revelation
.
Indeed, the narrator seems to embody an enlightenment that he doesn’t necessarily always share as he makes his way from town to town.
.
Peripheral Debris is full of Kaucher’s somber photographs – bridges, graveyards, kitchens, a bleak apartment, a lone seagull, downtown squares, a young woman’s tattooed back, abandoned houses, coin-op laundromats, an angel statue in silhouette. These atmospheric graphics enhance the sense of solitude that’s at the heart of these poems.
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The second section – and the book itself – ends in Altoona, a town in the middle of the state that was founded by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1849, from its very beginning a stopover on the way to elsewhere.  As always, the poet is observing, experiencing his environment. On the wrong side of the tracks, a homeless guy starts shouting at him, asking for the time. The narrator moves on. With a sly reference to Petula Clark’s 1965 hit song, he goes “downtown / to forget all my troubles, forget all my cares.” He encounters another anonymous citizen of the town, a suspicious woman in neon green slippers, as he scribbles “about the horse fly / bussing my head.”
.
            After a while,
            I was only as I am
            and again on my way
            home.
.
Wherever that is. Whatever “home” signifies, a place, a state of mind.
.
You can find the book here: Peripheral Debris
.
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. His most recent releases are Sparring Partners from Mooonstone Press, Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books and Catastroika from Apprentice House.

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