© remains with contributing Poets
Photographs © Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
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
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
we be peaches by TS Hawkins
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
we be peaches
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
we be beamin’ — despite
we be magic
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 sound
we be electric boom
muted in alabastrine dissonance
we be music
we be rock
we be country folx
and bluegrass gospel
ambient, drumming, and proud
we be world — despite
we be ingredients
we be phalanges, tenderness, & botanicals
& 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 marinade to glaze future forward
we be recipe — despite
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 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
we be peaches
TS 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
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.
Charles 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.
Boneyard by Dee Allen
Shovel the earth &
shovel it deep
Lower into the sepulchre
Surround the burrowed
Space w/ lilacs & eulogies—
Seal up the earth again
for a child had been
consigned to rest here
For another child
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/
Places to learn
Places to play—High-risk
Blasting away the future
to bleached bone.
African-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 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.
Snow White by Bruce Demmer
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….
B. H. Deemer is the author of two self-published books of poems. He has retired to the shore of Lake Huron
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 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.
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.
George 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.
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
needs more for
the survival of his people
forced to leave their
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.
Lois 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.
the bar at work
TV tuned to CNN,
sound that can’t be
adjusted turned all
the way to loud whisper
watching the kids
hands clasped on
running for their lives
I’m in shock
in tears and the night
waitress, a college kid,
I tell her that
someone is shooting
high school kids
The ones you are seeing
are the ones that made it
We stand there,
a sequence that seems
stuck in an endlessly
Who knew this was
only the beginning?
Alan Catlin is the father of two teachers and the grandfather of four school age grandchildren.
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 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
I drag myself sluggishly
to my office building
waiting at the entrance
of this giant rotating door
to start its next turn.
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.
Two Poems by Tony Dawson
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.
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 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).
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,
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.
Robert Cooperman’s latest collection is GO PLAY OUTSIDE (Apprentice House). Forthcoming from Kelsay Books is A NIGHTMARE ON HORSEBACK
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
serving proof of
a prisoner locked
within the gray lines
without a key
as the story is
Roger G. Singer lives in Florida and is Poet Laureate Emeritus Connecticut Coalition of Poets Laureate
Figures by Greg Bem
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.
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.
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.
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.
Madly a Scientist
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.
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
What’s missing, what’s missing. A smooth transition as the six have gone home to be with their masses and prayers.
Greg 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
Katie in California by John D. Robinson
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.
John D. Robinson is a poet from the United Kingdom and is the publisher of the micro press Holy&Intoxicated Press.
The End of the World by Patricia Carragon
(sung by Skeeter Davis)
In her dream,
her parents’ wedding photo
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.
in American-made shoes.
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.
We by Louis Faber
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 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.
Bullet Points by Henry Crawford
Let’s start by shooting
Franz and Sophie Ferdinand
and soon we’re digging trenches
but before you can say the words
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
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.
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.
Two Poems by Michael Todd Steffen
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.
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.
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.
For the Parents by Mary McCarthy
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.
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.
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
It is a celebration
of the depth
of the ongoing love affair
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
a personal arsenal
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.
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 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/
Pandemic of Violence Anthology I – Poets Speak: https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/12/27/pandemic-of-violence-anthology/