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Pandemic of Violence Anthology

Topsy Turvy

Featuring poets Howie Good, Rustin Larson, Susana H. Case, Dee Allen, Alex Carrigan, Naila Francis, MaryAnn L. Miller, Megha Sood, Steven Croft, TS Hawkins, Lauren Camp, Chad Parenteau, Henry Crawford, Thaddeus Rutkowski, Michael T. Young, M.J. Arcangelini, J.C. Todd, Antoni Ooto, Byron Beynon, Jane ‘SpokenWord’ Grenier, Linda Nemec Foster, Sean Howard, Brian Donnell James and Greg Bem

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/12/27/pandemic-of-violence-anthology/ 

A Feeling Called Heaven by Joey Yearous-Algozin

a feeling

By Greg Bem 

I wanted to show you something

that would give you pleasure

before the end of the world

(page 3)

Climate change. Ecological disaster on a global scale. The coming and going of empire, civilization, the human imprint. The collapse. The Anthropocene. It is all very present and very intangible and, no matter how we spin it, the end of the world (as we know it and have known it) is nigh. And so, what are we going to do about it? There are many who believe that the only two responses are complacency and response, where response is solution oriented. But there is a third, humble option: acceptance.

The embracing of finality is a core concept in Joey Yearous-Algozin’s A Feeling Called Heaven, a book surging with as much pause as activity. Within this remarkable collection, Yearous-Algozin takes the poet’s approach to disaster and hopelessness by finding a contemplative, curious, and stable position of observation. Not without difficulty, the poet’s form is as much didactic as it is conceptual: the poet is one of instruction and of a simpler positing within the calm reality that the horrific exists and it probably really is too large for us to manage.

I want you to focus your mind

on denouncing the hope

embedded in the idea

of our momentum as a species

the belief that we will somehow continue

even after we’ve gone

(page 40)

The book is composed of two poems: a first that lasts most of the book, and a second that serves as a coda to close out what is, overall, a sequence of meditations, mantras, prayers, and cathartic rest. The poems total just over 60 pages in length, and I felt them gently urging me on from the moment I opened the book. I felt the poet’s breath, the angles through which the dismal was approached, and reconciled, and I read on and on until the last line. There are natural pauses throughout the book’s first poem, “for the second to last time,” but they feel more like the space between the pulse than any full rest. It is an active book, after all, one that accounts for stillness but radically approaches stillness with full energy and availability. Even the title indicates that the fullness of acknowledgment and existent may sit within a single second, which for readers of poetry may be further elaborated as a single poem, a single book, a single read.

A Feeling Called Heaven is calm, and much of the calmness, despite the terror that surrounds us, can be connected to the simple and uncomplicated language Yearous-Algozin has filled within the pages. I attribute the plainness of the poet’s speech as a method of contrast to the failings of the human world’s complexities: what we, as a society, have created across time and space have led us to this point, this point that will soon be gone. Is it the poet’s job to continue the damned lineage, or offer relief and radical shift? The speaker here follows the latter path, though not without calling forth several examples of our burning world:

and the sun glints off pools of irradiated water

outside a freeway on-ramp

or hospital parking lot

in which a few discarded syringes

and fragments of plastic tubing

bob in the light breeze

(pages 12-13)

Like other post-apocalyptic descriptions as we’ve come to know them in recent decades, the imagery within A Feeling Called Heaven is as bleak and valueless as it is slightly exaggerated as relic and memento. It feels human while lacking the humanity, feels moving while utterly still in the confines of the poem. The poet, on the other hand, is not completely still. The speaker murmurs their way through the lines that scatter like dust across anonymous landscapes and situations that are grayed, sitting beyond the realm of truth and beauty. These moments that float through the page are as much liminal as they are in the center: the blind spot that is within each of us as we exist in an ever-fading moment.

Yearous-Algozin calls out this ever-fading moment as beyond-verbal. It may be hard to imagine a situation, a system, a reality that is outside of the confines of language, but that is yet one more radically-shifted premises of this book, and it is not just a premise but a truth that is absolute:

a non-verbal certainty

that a time will come

when the residue of the human

will have disappeared

almost entirely

(page 16)

When Yearous-Algozin writes “almost entirely,” it is the crucial piece of this recipe: we are not quite gone yet, and this is a moment we can refer to as the “feeling” of “heaven.” The last stretch before the end is one that is reconciliation, catharsis, and embrace. It is fullness. Finality. Totality. It is utter loss and the resounding silence we can feel at the end of our collective existence and knowing that it has come from us and will exist after us.

In Social Text Journal, Barrett White writes of Yearous-Algozin’s book, “Through its radical acceptance, A Feeling Called Heaven teaches an important lesson about pausing, being present, and deeply listening, both inside and outside ourselves.” While in agreement, I also believe that the book offers an additional lesson on our capacity as creators. Yearous-Algozin has written a book that offers a nullification of the creative process, an anti-inspiration to take the pause and escape the creative act; unlike any other book I have read, A Feeling Called Heaven positions itself as a rational counterpoint to tangible production and artistry. In the book’s second and final poem, “a closing meditation,” the poet writes:

my speaking to you now

produces an image like the reflection of the sun

or more accurately

a space for your thoughts to inhabit

(page 55)

Indeed, this book causes process to cease, time to fold, and the mind to warp beyond thought. For that feeling alone, I can’t recommend it more highly during this Winter, this season, this precipice we have found ourselves upon.

You can find the book here: https://nightboat.org/book/a-feeling-called-heaven/

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 gregbem.com.

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Pandemic of Violence Anthology

Topsy Turvy

Topsy Turvey by Lois Schlachter

© remains with contributing poets/ artist 

Thanks to all the poets who contributed to Pandemic of Violence from North of Oxford. In order of appearance we present Howie Good, Rustin Larson, Susana H. Case, Dee Allen, Alex Carrigan, Naila Francis, MaryAnn L. Miller, Megha Sood, Steven Croft, TS Hawkins, Lauren Camp, Chad Parenteau, Henry Crawford, Thaddeus Rutkowski, Michael T. Young, M.J. Arcangelini, J.C. Todd, Antoni Ooto, Byron Beynon, Jane ‘SpokenWord’ Grenier, Linda Nemec Foster, Sean Howard, Brian Donnell James and Greg Bem

Thanks to Artist Lois Schlachter for her contribution of art work to this anthology.

Introduction

With the current state of escalating violence in all cities and an increased division between political parties, there is a state of fear throughout our country. As Poetry Editor at North of Oxford, alongside my partner & Contributing Editor, g emil reutter, a decision was made to compile a “Pandemic of Violence” Issue, which included a call to all poets to voice their concerns about violence.

The responses went well beyond our expectations and we are fortunate to have a wide range of voices from outstanding poets, representing the many forms of violence that plague our country and our world.

As always, please stay safe & my sincerest wishes for a peaceful New Year.

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri


Howie Good

Something’s Burning

A black sun dawned over the horizon. Human ashes from the 15 ovens of the crematorium had been scattered as fertilizer on the surrounding fields. When the wind carried the smell in the wrong direction, babies bawled, horses screamed, and birds fell dead from the sky. Meanwhile, the higher the sun climbed, the darker the forest. Prisoners under armed watch would be marched out the main gate to chop down trees and then dynamite and burn the stumps. An occasional murder helped enforce work discipline or relieve the boredom of the guards. We tell ourselves we aren’t those people anymore.

&

I dreamed that dreaming had been banned. In an underground bunker, men and women in gray-green military jumpsuits sat at long tables in front of computers, monitoring the four stages of sleep. Anyone they detected having ambiguous brain waves was visited by special police. I watched as a medical officer made a hole in the top of a man’s skull with an old-fashioned crank hand drill. A hissing flame shot up out of the hole, and I jumped back in alarm. Relax, the officer said with a chuckle, it’s only a memory. There was a regrettable smell of burnt meat.

&

The voice in my head that used to offer timely advice has turned implacable, menacing. Unlike the characters in TV commercials for medications with arcane names, no pill yet developed in a lab has enabled me to go skydiving or whitewater rafting or on an African photo safari. Some days I can’t even make it out the front door. I feel the kind of paralyzing fear I imagine many must have felt during the Revolution when the Committee for Public Safety arrived in town with a traveling guillotine.

.

howie

Howie Good is the author most recently of the poetry collections Gunmetal Sky (Thirty West Publishing) and Famous Long Ago (Laughing Ronin Press).

Rustin Larson
.
888
.
Secret area code. Survivalist compound
in the center of Mountain A.
The air has turned red and smells
like cherries. Mother Goose is cooked.
Pack the station wagon full of ice-
water and run. This ain’t no good.
I’m skeered, Marshall Dillon. Taint no one
on the side o’ justice no more.
I stand like a hungry kid looking
through the bakery window at all
the brownie balls and apricot
kolacky. Soviet era rain jackets
adorn the lovely shoulders of the museum
staff. I eat sausage in the Czech Village
in the record heat. I dowse my thirst
with iced tea. We wear masks when
we are not eating to keep the spread
of the virus down. Rhesus monkeys rattle
cups of pennies at us. The sun is as bright
as a new law from an insane king.
The folk dancers circle each other
with rusted swords and ancient muskets.
It’s precisely the festival we’ve been
praying for; the corn judge swings
from the shady branches; the temple
of garnets expels an avalanche
of red stones for the eyes of rats.
.
rustin
Among his published books are Library Rain, Conestoga Zen Press, 2019 which was named a February 2019 Exemplar by Grace Cavalieri and reviewed in The Washington Independent Review of Books; Howling Enigma, Conestoga Zen Press, 2018; Pavement, Blue Light Press, 2017; The Philosopher Savant, Glass Lyre Press, 2015; Bum Cantos, Winter Jazz, & The Collected Discography of Morning, Blue Light Press, 2013; The Wine-Dark House, Blue Light Press, 2009; and Crazy Star, Loess Hills Books, 2005.

Susana H. Case

 One in Three American Children is a Potential Gunnhildr

.
A bunch of us are lazing around after dinner downtown,
savoring dessert, and talking about when we’ll need guns,
conspiracy theorists at the door. A third of American homes
with kids have guns, and I’m revved up to learn to shoot,
to take a few of the assassins with me before I die,
but a few days later, I’ve calmed down—do I really
want to travel to New Jersey for lessons, guns so leaden
to hold when I don’t even like a heavy purse? There are times
when just living makes us crazy for a moment or two.
.
                                                            Gun is such a bland
word, banal in looks and in the way Hannah Arendt meant,
the quotidian opening of the door to the doing of evil. Gun
comes from the Scandinavian, perhaps—Gunnhildr,
both halves of the name meaning war, a sort of doubled war—
and yet there have been only seven mass shootings in Sweden
in the past 120 years, and 611 just last year in the United States.
.
A few months after the gun-filled Gunnhildr discussion
over dessert, we were at the end of a vacation in Stockholm
and called a cab for the airport. That day, there was another
mass shooting back home. The cab driver had heard the news
on his radio. I still remember his voice when he told us,
when he grabbed our luggage, the look on his face.
.
susana
SUSANA H. CASE has authored eight books of poetry, most recently The Damage Done, Broadstone Books, 2022. Dead Shark on the N Train, Broadstone Books, 2020, won a Pinnacle Book Award for Best Poetry Book, a NYC Big Book Award Distinguished Favorite, and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award. The first of her five chapbooks, The Scottish Café, Slapering Hol Press, was re-released in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press. She co-edited, with Margo Taft Stever, the anthology I Wanna Be Loved by You: Poems on Marilyn Monroe, Milk and Cake Press, 2022. Susana H Case
.
Dee Allen
.
Sidearm
.
                                               In the ‘hood,
                                           man’s best friend
                                                    isn’t
                                                   a dog.
                                                An honour
                                          normally going to
                                                 a Pitbull
                                                 goes to
                                     his more trusted friend.
.
                Browning, Sig-Sauer, Glock, Smith & Wesson, Tec-9.
.
                                         Different names
                                   depending on the block
                                     & the owner’s hands.
.
                                                 & like
                                             any trained
                                              Rottweiler,
                                               enraged,
                                            baring sharp
                                                 teeth,
.
                                   they’re lethal when used.
.

Some Monsters
.
                                                    To find
                                                boogeymen
                                                    among
                                              the White race
                                                is expected.
.
                                                    To see
                                                their terror
                                                    hitting
                                                    home
                                           is to be expected.
.
                                            Some monsters,
                                                  though,
                                             happen to look
                                                    Black
                                                       &
                                                   there’s
                                              no conscience
                                          holding them back
.
                                                from pulling
                                               the dreaded
                                                   trigger
                                            & gunning down
                                          many of their own.
.
                                              The least little
                                                disrespect
                                                  sets off
                                       the firestorm hardcore.
.

dee

Dee Allen is an 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, Elohi Unitsi and coming in February 2022, Rusty Gallows: Passages Against Hate [ Vagabond Books ] and Plans [ Nomadic Press ].

.

Alex Carrigan.
.
I don’t think I can be a hero
.
I don’t think I can be a hero,
even though everyone is telling me to be one.
.
My skin is loose and brittle,
like when I left my journal out in a rainstorm.
.
My fingers peels and snap,
like when I dragged a pen across
.
the dampened and faded pages.
My eyes bleed down my face
.
like those who saw the white flash
that August afternoon,
.
like so many thoughts and lines
I had filled my tome with,
.
each note a desperate attempt
to save some fleeting thoughts from
.
my mind’s entropy.
I want to be a hero,
.
but I think about how I’ll
just be tossed in the rusted trash can
.
found at the park’s edge.
I think about how I’ll be buried underneath
plastic wrappers, choking on styrofoam take-out containers
and pricked on the shards of broken bottles.
.
Soon, I abandon the notion of being a hero
when I see the bag holding my notes
.
crushed under the metallic tongue
to be swallowed by the machinery’s darkness.
.
I felt my head fold inwards,
pushing any remaining thoughts out my ears
.
and out onto the cracked pavement,
filling the space between the cigarette butts and discarded gum.
.
I see myself being buried
and covered over, lost in the ephemera.
.
I wish I could be a hero,
to bring some words down from Mt. Sinai,
.
but I now see that if I can’t even protect
my own tablet of truth,
.
if I can’t even hold it close to my chest,
how can I hold you as tight?
.
You want me to be a hero,
but I can’t even trust myself
.
to be one.
.
alexcarriganheadshot
Alex Carrigan (@carriganak) is an editor, writer, and critic from Virginia. He has had fiction, poetry, and literary reviews published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lambda Literary Review, Empty Mirror, Gertrude Press, Quarterly West, Whale Road Review, ‘Stories About Penises’ (Guts Publishing, 2019), ‘Closet Cases: Queers on What We Wear’ (Et Alia Press, 2020), ‘ImageOutWrite Vol. 9,’ and ‘Last Day, First Day Vol. 2.’ He is also the co-editor of ‘Please Welcome to the Stage…: A Drag Literary Anthology’ with House of Lobsters Literary. Publishing.

 .

Naila Francis
.
Unwilling Requiem
(for Walter Wallace Jr.)
.
When his mother begged, don’t shoot
And his community chorused, don’t shoot
And the night insisted, don’t shoot
And the stirred up memories mouthed, don’t shoot
And the triggered ache cried, don’t shoot
And the welter of weariness moaned, don’t shoot
And the broken litany chanted, don’t shoot
And the months of marching roared, don’t shoot
And the blood-soaked earth keened, don’t shoot
And the children of our children whimpered, don’t shoot
And the wounds that keep weeping wailed, don’t shoot
And the ghosts of the gunned down bellowed, don’t shoot
And the shaking trees and the scent of rain and the cinnamon
tea and the four of swords and the glare of smoke
and the barking dog and the body brown and the kingdom
black ¬and the names unnamed — and love
.
and love
.
love howled,
don’t shoot
and the bullets
became stainless,
stayed, a silence
unsplintered,
listening.
.
Bring Down the Angels
.
Let them come, fists of myrrh and moonstone,
no white robes but t-shirts — we give you back
each name —no wings but ribbons to weave bullets
into bellflower, bee balm, endless lucent calm.
Skip the harps, the celestial choir.
Let them sing like denizens from the soul
of Donny Hathaway with his sack full
of dreams on their backs.
.
Let them come, take these tears, turn
them into summer rain, mother’s milk,
memory
we all are shimmer at the start,
sweet and holy-stained.
.
Bring the angels down.
Let them flood these streets, wash
them healed, harmonious, on earth
as it is heaven.
.
And if not, then let them
rage, a night crescendo,
flame on feeble tongues.
.
Naila Francis_Bio Photo
Naila Francis is a writer, poet, grief coach, death midwife and ordained interfaith minister living in Philadelphia. Her writing has appeared in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times newspapers, and in online publications such as venuszine, Mystic Pop and Sharkpreneur, as well on greeting cards for American Greetings. Her poetry has appeared in The Scribbler, North of Oxford and Voicemail Poems.
.
MaryAnn L. Miller
.
Questions for the Defendant (Accusations)
.
When you sought a gun, who was it you planned to shoot?
You have been instructed in scapegoating.
You belong to the militia of mistaken country.
You are the hypnotized, the superior skinned,
the paranoid wary of the wrong things.
You cluck like a chicken in a vaudeville show.
.
When you got that gun, who was it you planned to shoot?
You must have had someone in mind, that you’d claim
to be afraid of when the mesmerist snapped his fingers;
a literal triggering of your hate glands making venom
spew like bullets screaming from your lungs
firing too many times to be self-defense.
.
Almost makes me want to buy a gun.
Who is it I plan to shoot?
.
MAMillerHead
MaryAnn L. Miller is the author of Cures for Hysteria (Finishing Line Press 2018) and Locus Mentis (PS Books 2012) and forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2022, Falling into the Diaspora. She has been thrice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry, book reviews and essays have appeared in Mom Egg Review, Ovunque Siamo, Stillwater Review, Wild River Review and numerous other publications, and in the anthologies Welcome to the Resistance, and Illness as a Form of Existence. Miller is also a visual artist, with her artist books in the collections of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and of President and Mrs. Obama, plus many other national collections. Miller has Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis. Her website is: www.maryannlmiller.com.
.
Megha Sood
.
Living Fallacy
.
Yes, I choose
choose not to be blindsided by the facts
printed in the reams of the newspaper daily;
salient facts spoon-fed by the national media
that every man has a voice
a life created equally
.
When the invisible virus guts this town like fish
bones out the fears seeded in every living soul;
revealing that breath of yours might be the last one
the truth forgotten for years
has finally been brutally told
.
It tells us that every breath is
indeed a privilege
life is not marked by
the color of skin, creed, and religion;
blinded by the false narratives for eons
breathing the lies is the false supposition
.
The truth breathing its last
filling the corrugated skies
thick with blood and smoke;
caught like a deer in the headlights
facing the end of a police gun
bodies piling up the streets
when the protectors’ starts to devour
.
Fear culled in bones that you could be the next
definition of equality
based on the false perspective,
a constant war of narratives;
truth mercilessly hanged
in the hidden gallows of murky politics
.
That invisible enemy which sits boisterously
on our couch laughs at us
claiming its territory
marking every corner we touch;
teaches us that every man
indeed is created equal
.
The virus teaches us equality,
that it does not spare the rich or the downtrodden
and does not dispense rights
based on the skin of your color
.
That it doesn’t judge you how your tongue rolls
unlike when the country you live,
suddenly treats you like an infection
and selflessly disowns.
.
The virus does not  discriminate
like a police shooting
the virus does not discriminate
during a traffic stop
it took an invisible enemy of 100 years
sprawling in the hidden corners of society
that it is the colorless breath which counts after all
.
A lesson etched in the folds of history
reiterated and retracing itself
the virus doesn’t close the eyes
doesn’t blindfold me or you
when the black blood lace the sidewalk of this nation
the nation which is built on the fallacy
that all men are created equal.
.
MeghaAuthorPicture (1)
Megha Sood is an Award-winning Asian American Poet, Editor, Author, Literary Activist from New Jersey, USA. Recipient of 2021 Poet Fellowship from MVICW ( Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creating Writing) and a National Level Winner for the 2020 Poetry Matters Project. Recipient of  “Certificate of Excellence” from Mayor, Jersey City. Associate 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,2021). She blogs at https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/  and tweets at @meghasood16.
.
Steven Croft
.
Optimism
.
Three stories of stone, shattered domes
of corner towers on a bombed out roof, once
opulent, imperial, now pockmarked, gutted
by the artillery of Mujahideen in a previous war,
we stop by Darul Aman Palace on the road
into Kabul, cut the engines.
.
Above me tiny brown songbirds chirp, flit
from the sills of gutted windows as I stand
in the sill ring of a gun turret under a wide sky
of light blue, crisp air like ice against my cheeks.
One of those places you never forget, this
monument to the destruction of a country.
.
But the vista of a spring morning in the valley:
freshets of melting snow on the rocky brown
plain, beyond that, along the river, the capital city
of glass windowed buildings and traffic circles
bustles.  On its outskirts, crooked arm and shovel
of an excavator stands like an idea of the future.
.
Turbaned surveyors take sightings from tripods
on the ground for the new Parliament buildings.
By the giant rolling eggs of two concrete mixers,
gowned workers start to pour foundations.
In the whole morning valley, not a single sound
of gunfire.
.
Steven Croft
Steven Croft lives on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia on a property lush with vegetation. He is the author of New World Poems (Alien Buddha Press, 2020). His poems have appeared in Willawaw Journal, Canary: A Journal of the Environmental Crisis, The New Verse News, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, North of Oxford, Poets Reading the News, and other places.
.
TS Hawkins
.
across the pillow, we …
.
we have gathered here
to sketch in vague uncertain outline
the spirited world in which some Americans live,
attempt to survive and thrive
acknowledging
in a half-hesitant sort of way,
that you eye us
the black us
the brown us
curiously
semi-compassionately…
conceptually
with your gaze
never brazen to state directly
so, you jail us
belittle us
lynch us
then, tag us
with your jealousy
and, those of us remaining
want to ask
why do you label us the problem?
.
the black us
the brown us
sprawled between problem and privilege
can’t breathe
or exhale when convenient to quo ascribed to a status
the white you
the independent you
the free you
ashamed only when necessary to profit margin
benefit from unjust
just until
swept under the rug
becomes bulged and molded with the stench of denial
why do you label us the problem?
the brown us
the black us
etched on gentried window dowries
socially woke fabric treatments
mistreated eminent domain
the walking purchase
unable to read the fine print of colonization
while the white you
the independent you
the free you
hashtag counter arguments
that only make sense if utopia meant equity
.
so, the black us
the brown us
forced to riot on
with the scores of seventh sons
born with veils
knowing the cry
the siren
the awkward glance
the litany of lies
on the noose
on the whip
on the bullet
that bears their name
the white you
the independent you
the free you
tweet on
face the book
never having to open one
yet, Instagram headlines
filter raw edges
focusing on the one pixel separating us
the brown us
the black us
from you
the white you
the independent you
the free you
propelling a manipulated identity
where privilege uploads viral acceptance
news knowing no better
sucks up the safe
discarding a truthful structure
because there is serenity in ignorance
.
the black us
the brown us
reduced to simmering smile
seldom able to afford the call to justice
opportunity rarely picking up the phone
all occupied in complacent dial tones
with the revolution scattered through TikTok
waiting to be LinkedIn
folx are unaware of how to search for change
but, the white you
the independent you
the free you
carve bread crumbs to reflective hues
some slightly darker than you as pity
the haunting echo of a blackened soul
welling up just enough to don
America as surname
just enough to garner human sorrow
the mediocrity
of all the lives mattering
.
why do you label us the problem?
the brown us
the black us
cursed and spit on by you
with doors of prosperity propped
yet, closed to advancement
with patience on close heels to insanity
the white you
the independent you
the free you
are by no means trialed
never having to surrender
nor be questioned
always held delicate
and hopeful
able to ponder a future
.
why do you label us the problem?
when we stand
the black us
the brown us
you kick
the white you
the independent you
the free you
when we rally
the brown us
the black us
you scream
the white you
the independent you
the free you
when we rebel rightfully
the black us
the brown us
you gentrify, colonize, revitalize  needlessly
and, the brown us
the black us
die
systemically
mentally
emotionally
spiritually
and, catastrophically
.
so, when those of us remaining ask directly
why do you label us the problem?
you seldom answer a word…
.
HawkinsTS_Headshot8x10
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, 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. http://www.tspoetics.com
.
Lauren Camp
.
Constancy Has Become a Hypothetical Curve
.
Today a child gets married and we neither laugh nor raise an arm.
.
They have dismembered a man
                         in Saudi Arabia by digits.
           The furniture of his body. Wooden weight.
.
Out of the mess of this, I remind you about our slow-
            stain of limbs and skin.
.
You open a palm to white capsules and oblongs. Later, when you drag
.
rocks from the truck, I boil
eggs, turn the bubbles.
I don’t say silence or whine but ceasing a need.
.
We were in the mountains a first time.
                                                         In the jungle.
                                                         And in cities begging
the bones of the middle ear to hear
every random frequency. Each morning I wake
.
            to the black cat at the door with his startling call.
.
LCamp02
Lauren Camp is the author of five books, most recently Took House (Tupelo Press). Honors include the Dorset Prize and finalist citations for the Arab American Book Award, Housatonic Book Award and New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Witness, Poet Lore, and Beloit Poetry Journal, and her work has been translated into Mandarin, Turkish, Spanish, Serbian and Arabic.  www.laurencamp.com
 
Day Dreams
Day Dreams by by Lois Schlachter
.
Chad Parenteau
.
Arizona Open
.
Free to be
our own targets,
.
resume dances,
ballroom roulette.
.
Someone has
been home
.
this whole time
with all they want.
.
Release white rabbits,
mechanical hounds.
.
Someone will pay for
all we sought and won,
.
repent for all sins
never confessed.
.
New Author Photo, 10-21-21(1)
Chad Parenteau hosts Boston’s long-running Stone Soup Poetry series. His poetry has appeared in journals such as Résonancee, Molecule, Ibbetson Street, Cape Cod Poetry Review, Tell-Tale Inklings, The New Verse News, Off The Coast, The Skinny Poetry Journal, and Nixes Mate Review. He serves as Associate Editor of the online journal Oddball Magazine. His second collection, The Collapsed Bookshelf, was nominated for a Massachusetts Book Award.
.
Henry Crawford
.
Saturday Night
He was collapsing into a display of
soup cans flying and bullets into the eyes
of racked sunglasses with all the debris falling
to the convenience store floor and caught
on the security cam above the checkout
but the front cam got only the bursting of glass
splintering in the headlights of an outside car
and two hours later we saw the story written
in the crawl at the bottom of our flat panel screen
so we remoted in to see an iPhone close-up
of the cashier’s face framed in a flash of realized
horror while the outside cam showed an SUV
pulling away and someone else’s phone provided
the iron-fire sound of an AR-15 ripping through
the small commercial strip with everything coming
into the satellite truck and the team inside
working the consoles while a blue suited man
in a black wool coat stood outside calling the action
in front of a frieze of fluorescent yellow
emergency technicians crouching in the cold
and talking in vapor breaths around their vehicles
in another hastily arranged parking lot set
as we went from shot to shot replay to replay
camera to camera in a living room away and
someone said let’s go back to the game.
.
Henry Crawford Small Cropped
Henry Crawford is the author of two poetry collections, 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 Blackout was selected by the Southern Humanities Review as a finalist in the 2018 Jake Adam York Witness Poetry Contest. His poem Making an Auto Insurance Claim was selected as an honorable mention in Winning Writer’s 2019 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. His poem “As We Were Saying Goodnight” was selected as the weekly “poets respond” by Rattle. He has produced numerous online poetry events and is currently the host of the online poetry series, Poets vs The Pandemic.
.
Thaddeus Rutkowski
.
Summer of 2020
.
In the morning,
I see many windows boarded up,
including the windows of the building
next to our building.
And I think, Wow, they got close
to breaking the windows downstairs,
in the bank ATM vestibule,
where homeless guys sleep.
They might have targeted the capitalist bank,
but what would be the point
of making the homeless guys homeless again?
.
I walk along the street,
past many boarded-up windows,
until I see my homeless friend, Nathan,
sitting on a standpipe on the sidewalk.
And I ask, “Have you gotten some free stuff?”
and he asks, “Where?”
“From the stores whose windows are broken.”
And he says, “That’s bullshit.”
.
Thad at Parkside 8-11-16
Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of seven books, most recently Tricks of Light, a poetry collection. He teaches at Medgar Evers College and received a fiction writing fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.
.
Michael T. Young
.
The Last of Its Kind
.
Nothing we believe in equals its hunger
to recognize a face among the lean shoots.
It shrieks above rock-clotted streams,
spotting a self, knotted in the spools,
swirling in a wake of frothy quills.
.
This search for a mate in the interiors
is condemned in a downpour that drowns
the image. He snuggles into the weight
of water jeweling his fur. His eyes
constrict to the size of his losses.
.
Every habit of his nature slides toward
absolute namelessness. He grooms
his tail as night deepens. After, he curls
into the dark so tight, even his bones
disappear into the vines and stilt roots.
.
mikr younh
Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. His poetry has been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac. It has also appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as The Banyon Review, The Inflectionist, Talking River Review, RATTLE, and Valparaiso Poetry Review.
.
M.J. Arcangelini
.
Endless War
.
After the horror of Hiroshima
and the senselessness of Nagasaki
brought an end to what came
to be called the Great War
my country turned to continuous
wars of aggression
wars of intervention
both overt and covert
from Korea to Nicaragua
from Vietnam to Afghanistan
from Chile to Somalia
in places too easily forgotten
in places never explicitly named
in places held secret by career
politicians and capitalist overlords
seducing disadvantaged countries
with genetically modified seeds
and child crippling herbicides
corporations pillaging, plundering
taking whatever they want from
wherever it is and killing
whoever gets in their way
murderers and thieves in jewels,
designer suits, and expensive haircuts
delivering bullets instead of food
while around the globe deluded
American soldiers fight and die
for the freedom of corporations to
exploit endless profit from their blood
violence exported across the world
cannot help but become entrenched
at home unto even the children who,
armed with deadly playthings
in the battlegrounds of schools
and the streets of our cities,
murder and maim each other
while we wait for some madman,
elected out of ignorance and fear,
to take control of forgotten weapons,
to loose them from their hidden silos
where they’ve been resting, waiting,
poisonous fruits of the atomic age,
thermonuclear verdicts finally
unleashed on all corners of the earth,
until there will be nothing left worth
taking and no one left to take it.
.
mj
M.J. Arcangelini  has resided in northern California since 1979. His work has been published in print magazines, online journals, (including The James White Review, Rusty Truck, The Ekphrastic Review, The Gasconade Review, As It Ought To Be) & over a dozen anthologies.  The most recent of his five collections are: “What the Night Keeps,” (2019) Stubborn Mule Press and “A Quiet Ghost,” (2020) Luchador Press.
.
J.C. Todd
.
Leaving Aleppo
.
dark side of awake, gray from walking
Ashur’s feet bloody, too little skin left to heal
.
my shambar, a bundle for apricots and lakma
the baby limp with fever, eyelids gummed with fester
.
I carry this
.
our garden’s scent, grape leaves at midnight
lemons at noon
.
Jaddati drying our clothing under the arbor
so they think that we are there
.
I carry this
.
Jaddati at market buying mutton
as if she cooks for four
.
Jadddati buying mutton
just enough for one
.
I carry this
.
soft jingle of her earrings sewn into my hem
hard-edge questions the shabiha hurl at her
.
my thirst an ember
her silence a brazier of coals
.
I carry this
.
scream of metal
and birds in the wind
.
knowing they will take her
knowing she will not come home
.
I carry this
.
I will not set it down
.
Notes for “Leaving Aleppo”
.
shambar: shawl
lakhma: bread
shabiha: citizens appointed to enforce Qur’anic law and the laws of the military force that
          controls an area.
.
JC Todd-300dpi-1600 ppi
J. C. Todd’s recent books are Beyond Repair, an Able Muse Press Book Award honoree, and The Damages of Morning (Moonstone Press), an Eric Hoffer finalist. Honors include the Rita Dove Poetry Prize, Poetry Society of America finalist, and fellowships from the Pew Center, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Leeway Foundation, and residency programs. Her poems have appeared widely, in such journals as Beloit Poetry Journal, Mezzo Cammin, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner. She teaches with the Rosemont Writers Studio.
.
Antoni Ooto
.
We’ll Remember…
.
“Stop the Steal”
.
that day—when the weight of the mob
breached the barricades.
.
When anarchy broke through,
.
scaling walls, crushing,
storming The Hill,
bludgeoning police.
.
A shot strikes a woman
and the incensed mob screams on
.
scouring hallways crazed,
battering doors, disrupting the senate
.
encouraged by our tyrant and his cronies
to a “test by combat”
.
All this—
a performance as proudly grotesque figures
carry away trophies.
.
It was the worst and the least of our nature—
it was the winter of a nation coming apart
.
posted forever through a cell phone lens…
revealing no enemy but ourselves.
.
(January 6, 2021)
.
Antoni Ooto
Antoni Ooto lives and works in rural upstate New York with his wife, poet, Judy DeCroce. He is a well-known abstract expressionist painter whose art is collected throughout the US.
.
Byron Beynon
.
The Morriston Incident
.
He held his daughter
at gunpoint,
in the front room of their house
where her impressionable nerves
unravelled and a young memory screamed;
full of noise, always edging,
he took the extreme route,
steering his thoughts haphazardly
to where images became loose.
So when she heard him
shouting that he needed more time,
his mouth became an obstacle,
an open wound she captured
like a photograph developed fully
inside her disturbed mind.
A cold landscape echoing
as he fell at her feet,
his final, warm breath bubbled,
the piercing of innocence,
a vivid scar which remained.
.
BWB (WSS)
Byron Beynon’s work has appeared in several publications including North of Oxford, Agenda, Wasafiri, The London Magazine, Poetry Wales, San Pedro River Review and the human rights anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets).  Collections include The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions) and A View from the Other Side (Moonstone Press). He lives in Wales.
.
Jane ‘SpokenWord’ Grenier
.
Bang Bang
.
bang bang
god damn
a bullet shot somebody down
shot some body down
somebody down
down
can you hear the mamas moan
deep in tears they drown
bang bang a bullet shot her baby down
her baby down
down
your brotha your uncle your granpa your son
your fatha your auntie your granmma your mum
your sister your daughter your only one
bang bang bang bang a bullet shot your loved one down
your loved one down
down
I wish that somebody could school me
tell me how the fuck that this can be
because I just don’t see
the why
and so I ask myself where is this hatred coming from
I search my mind, explore my heart for some
reason why
bang bang a bullet shot somebody down
shot some body down
bang bang bang bang
it’s usually someone brown
bang bang
that dreadful sound
bang bang bang bang
societal meltdown
bang bang
some body shot some body down
shot them down
.
jane-spokenword.interviews
Jane ‘SpokenWord’ Grenier is a a street poet, spoken word performer, and visual artist, Jane’s work is rooted in the history of jazz poetry to the political movements of the 60’s. Connecting the elements of spoken word and music, her aim is to preserve the cultural heritage of wording to document life and foster a broader collective community. Her performances include venues from museums, to busking street corners and living rooms everywhere. Along with her collaborator, Albey on Bass. 
.
Linda Nemec Foster
.
Litany of the Abused
.
She is the broken clock whose hands are frozen–motionless sparrows on the table.
She is the gleaming iron and the thin snake of its cord.
She is the braided rug thrown in the middle of the room
She is the waterproof mascara that denies the blessing of rain.
She is the deep mauve lipstick hiding the smile.
She is the bright red stiletto stuck on the wrong foot.
She is the blonde hair dyed to perfection–a cascade flooding her shoulders.
She is the white of the plain sheath dress–empty palette, a stifling shroud.
She is the black onyx in a chain encircling her neck.
She is the closed window of the bedroom, a darkening sky, a jagged cloud.
.
Linda Nemec Foster jpg
Linda Nemec Foster has published 12 collections of poetry including Amber Necklace from Gdansk (LSU Press), Talking Diamonds (New Issues Press), and The Lake Michigan Mermaid (WSU Press: 2019 Michigan Notable Book) co-authored with Anne-Marie Oomen. Her new book, The Blue Divide, was published by New Issues Press in 2021. The first Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan (2003-2005), Foster is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College.
 
Vacation From Life
Vacation From Life by by Lois Schlachter
.
Sean Howard
.
the plaguers (during poems, nova scotia)
.
nightfall
.
the stopped cars bathe
the road in blood, heavy
& slick, however hard
the rain…
.
storm
.
3 a.m., the wind dying: woken
            by the quiet cry-
.
 
                       ing, after &
                                  before the
 
                                    roar…
.
dawning
.
there are, it seems,
endless volumes
to work through,
tear – slowly &
fast – apart. this
.
disarticulate ill-
iteracy: are we, as
it sounds, angry
at our ignorance,
or ignorant even
of our shame,
.
oblivious of our
grudge against a
world we may, un-
rest assured, soon
.
end?
.
sean 2 (1)
Sean Howard is the author of five books of poetry in Canada, most recently Unrecovered: 9/11 Poems (Gaspereau Press, 2021). His poetry has been widely published in Canada, the US (including North of Oxford), UK, and elsewhere, and featured in The Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English (Tightrope Books, 2017).
.
Brian Donnell James
.
“Rollerboy”
.
The disco ball is in a slow rotation,
Emanating, cascading showers of multicolored lights
Throughout the roller rink, I watched
This black boy, in full afro
Stand, and then pirouette in the middle of the floor
He is majestic, floating, now surrounded within a swirl
Of skaters rolling on the hardwoods
He is as lovely as a swan, enclosed within the reeds
Yet it seemed he was alone,
Yes it seems we were alone
Just he and I in loneliness
.
Church folk say he “gay”
They say they know from the sway in hips
They say when kids leave him beaten
Teased and called names on schoolyards
It’s just child’s play, how could words hurt?
But if words truly hold no power
Why do they pray on Sundays?
This was his introduction to judgment, this poor child
They wanted him to void his vibrancy, diminish his light,
To train him to paint in faded silhouette and muted rainbows
His invitation to hold shame and bury it forever,
.
And though I never really knew you
I too was a black boy who knew loneliness too well
I wanted to scream, do not accept their version of you!
And tried to speak but could not utter a sound
It would be the the last time, I ever left someone in need
.
Roller boy
Wherever you are in this world
I want you to know
I have thought of you
Everyday since the day
I saw you stand, and then pirouette
In the middle of the floor
You were majestic, floating
Now surrounded within a swirl
Of skaters rolling on the hardwoods
You, are as lovely as a swan
Enclosed within the reeds
And Yes, I prayed for you
So that you would never be
.
Alone
.
brian
Brian Donnell James is a “United Nations” and a “National Poetry Month” award winning poet who regularly speaks at universities and colleges across the country. He is an emerging writer who has been published in Africa, Europe, and throughout the United States. He is a poet fellow for the Martha’s Vineyard Creative Writing Institute and has been a poetry judge for Penguin Random House, Maryland Library System, We Need Diverse Books, and Poetically Correct.
.
 
 
 

Optical Paradox

Optical Paradox by Lois Schlachter

.

Greg Bem

The Fiend from Leschi, a Dirge from the Capitalist Front

Why Hello there. Hello! Good morning.

I am yawning and it’s been a split.
I’ve come from the dip where the land is flipped,
where it kisses the sun, keeps the runs
of cars lassoed and bogged and ripped
into a vibrated chopped walk, sputter, and spurt,
an autumnal dew slow frost aflow timeless smoking
like the toothy gun’s barrel, unwinding,
the one we proclaim we never plucked or finding
as we stalked across landscaped lawns
their awkward ornaments shucked before dawn—

Leschi, I woke with you,
and oh Leschi how you have deceived me again!

Flashing colors, flushed dollars,
mogul yawns, crows along the lawns,
shitting, shatting, shiting,
and there! a hawkling twitching
talons upon spliced electric posts sitting,
me watching the hop-hop heaving
projectile aplomb, kneading
and the morning’s here,
orangeing those purples, here
rotten air, the weaving gifts near
a prey in the wild’s abundance, sheered
and shadows stroked away,
and it’s early so there’s still time to pay.

Leschi, what warped shaking along the spine of the morning!

And so I have awoken fully, and this place has spoken to me!
Grieve, grieve, goodbye to the darkened gristle of the eve,
froze or wet, solidly mashed, splayed and spread,
sinewy surfaces we slept in dread, sleep upon together,
the weather a tendoned frame forever
by which to subtly triangulate and gasp the meaning of the dead, debate.

And you were screaming, Leschi, this whole time, abandoning my eyes,
melting and blurred, a flux in the flight of the grubbed sun!

Time’s awry, awake, alighted, in the heart of this hood, I recollected,
I watched the good ol’ boyish Cascadian flay, with numerous slays,
the ideology in the beholder of kinship and wickedry, hey, and smoldered looks,
epitome of a gentle madness, mildly made matrixes took,
dainty, fresh, scathing cut, the wayward racistly, of flesh and hook,
how these blocks and blocks pound and shake and haunt us,
follow us along fleeing routes to that sour lake I once mistook beyond us,
flowering with obscurities and obscenities and moldy little free libraries’ books,
radical swampy passersby (like me!) huddling, not sharing looks,
hushing and damned along Lakeside byways and nooks,
covered in stains toward patterns varied and reckless we crooks.

But Leschi you do so impose, you do,
and keep us spurred on in that reflection of you!

It is obviously here I find my sick gut heaving,
oh grieve, grieve, grieving
alongside dead fish lake Washington, seething,
grieving at the occupation and the abandonment of needs,
oh grieve, grieve, and in here, in Kezira, grieve!
It is startling now,
let us pleasingly look through slightly overgrown prow,
yards and just a bit dusty the windows
(like cubes, boxes of gelatin and butter
a sleekly sickening almost boring shuttered
emerald green as the world wakes fully and mean
in a certain exquisitely rupturing Leschi machinic pristine)—oh!

Oh so you, Leschi, are what I’ve left temporarily
that I to be with these busy bees,
as I know I will return to you and suckle and simmer,
in this deadening winter among heat lamps and leather
and pleather and wither, oh, oh, oh Leschi you dim flicker!

Noon among the ramparts and the dungeons and the keeps,
keeping calm and letting affluence pass me on,
pass me along, through and through,
wringed as a rue, or ruse the truth
a battery and bludgeoning, the rot never sleeps,
secretly appalling as I rise and fall,
breath to breath, sprawl ecstatic,
positioned heft, me so moved a little further left,
yet always in the way, always in this hallowed hood
precisely positioned swamp and sway,
highway of a empath’s mood,
flooded rainfall flippant, stalling, egotistically brutalizing with it.

From Leschi with love, yes, Leschi,
oh palatial source of a mal and maul,
a grin and groan, the creaking hips,
weakened knees, slow and blown!

Leschi, even here I see your pleasing sense,
your diseased ease, the eased disease.

So you, you all, I’ve come here from there, you see, as the evening brings forth its company,
from that humpback corpse monument I come, that dereliction I’m done,
that land of snout and sneer, of disregard from here, half smiling beer-cheeked lunatics dears
driving to a screeching halt (those hills so filled with fears!)
plosive, there, there, grieve, grieve, goodbye oh night, or day, whatever,
goodbye my land of knights and shadow ever,
seethe, creep and pall, goodbye, oh slighted ward and all!

Leschi, its early, but you are so nightly shadow early
and morning cower of sword and swording in the shadow’s hour!

 Am I dreaming? It is further out now, this crumbly erudite stance,
lanced freak I am with bruised hips and eyefuls of streaks,
were it easier to just say goodbye and fall asleep,
no we are stuck in the middle a quagmire beneath a diamond sky,
the bridge boundaries concrete phalanxes, giant spies,
sly, slumped and lurched, they go on and on by and bye bye,
me a bye bye, me a buffoon,
me look up and down the drool caught in a spoon and dipped back in,
to begin again, cycle incomplete, impossibly this retreat
is possibly is, oh quiz me, oh keep me,
tear me apart and weep, or send me along my sheepliness,
the whoosh of my hair as this,
the wind never picks up, wind shadow, piss,
it’s a gaunt, gaunt world, it’s a mad, mad gaunt, this
the lecturer is on a twin of haunches, up and twisted, through the wrist,
roses blistered, how’d they get that, the rolling forward, way,
the motion of healthy, sitting and walking, say
jogging and the bicycles are weapons, aren’t they,
it’s a cool entity, calm and cluttered entity, aren’t they,
can you can it, can you hair ate, fell over the candlestick,
this way, stamps along lower back, no confused hey.

Oh, oh Leschi! Save me!

An earlier version of this poem was performed with the Jim O’Halloran Trio in Seattle, Washington at a restaurant far south of Leschi.

greg-bem-author-bio

Greg Bem is a librarian and poet living on Mount Baker Ridge in Seattle, Washington. He occasionally performs poems, reviews books, leads a faculty union, and creates multimedia artworks. He can be found on Twitter at @gregbem and via his website at www.gregbem.com


Contributing Artist Lois Schlachter 

lois

As a graduate of Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Lois Schlachter was formally educated.  In the graduate program of life, Lois paints whatever comes into her head, working directly from her hand to the canvas with little to no planning.  With her love of line, handsome and vibrant color, Lois leads the viewer into her world of rhythm and comfortable composition. Lois was born in Philadelphia and currently resides in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania which is in the southeast part of the Pocono Mountains.  Her studio is in her home which overlooks a lovely lake. www.fineartbylois.com

Editors 

diane hs

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, among others, with poems forthcoming from The Northern Virginia Review.  Poetry Editor at North of Oxford, an online literary journal, and former high school English teacher, she currently teleworks full-time as an Acquisition Specialist. More can be found about Diane at her:  http://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com/

gerx

g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. He can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about  

Her Wilderness Will Be Her Manners by Sarah Mangold

Her Wilderness Cover

By Greg Bem

They put our body
into the text

and there we are
made to wonder

(from Her Wilderness Will Be Her Manners, page 1)

Back in 2016, I was made aware of Sarah Mangold’s extensive catalog by way of the publication of her latest book at the time, Giraffes of Devotion. I ended up reviewing four of her works altogether, and occasionally came across her readings and engagements in the Seattle literary community between then and now. Giraffes in particular stuck with me as a book filled with the engagements of ghosts. A powerful feminist exploration of historical found text and the channeling of voices from eras past, Mangold’s work created a sort of time traveling choir that (at the time) left my gawking and to this moment has made me think about poets’ enduring capacity as archivists and historians.

Now we’re into 2021, and I have come across Mangold’s latest volume, Her Wilderness Will Be Her Manners, winner of the Poets Out Loud Prize from Fordham University Press, and “out loud” only begins to describe this exquisite return to the form of ghosts, near and far, lost and found. In this book, generally speaking, Mangold’s aim is to bring attention to taxidermist Martha Maxwell and “the wife of the father of modern taxidermy,” Dalia Akeley, and their realities, otherwise faded or ignored. Mangold approaches natural history texts and other sources, funneling their words into a repurposing. This is a project of presence and one in which Mangold responds to the problem of absence. In fields dominated by men, Mangold provides an investigation into the possibility of, and the reality of, women in those spaces.

What interested me was
the way ladies survive
as acknowledgments
in other people’s prefaces

(from Her Wilderness Will Be Her Manners, page 14)

There are several types of poems that fill the book’s pages. From elegantly aged lyric to blocks of prose poetry to lists to spacey and less formal additions, the book includes a lot of range, and a single reading will definitely not uncover the many patterns and constructions Mangold has included. Despite the collage effect of the found texts, the poems are undeniably easy and enjoyable to read, their subject matter intellectually challenging and emotionally dynamic. As I read, I felt like Mangold is offering certain forms of accessibility to the reader: the layers may run deep, but the surface of these poems is inviting and contains enjoyable qualities at the onset.

As the book unwinds and the poems continue, challenges are offered and afforded. Mangold has provided an extensive (to say the least) bibliography of the source and inspiration of the text as a whole, a field of portals waiting to be entered. The archivist, the historian, the poet: the forms converge and coalesce into a document that feels incredibly alive. This is “the choir” that Mangold has championed and led in past works, reconstructed. Or, unusually and amazingly, the taxidermy construct crafted by Martha Maxwell, or an alter-ego, a benefactor, a promoter. The representation is a cluster formed of erasure and assemblage, a polyvocal reality from history to the present. And at its forefront? Sarah Mangold, who spent years conducting the research that would feed the poems of Her Wilderness.

My own chosen world
of intellectual development

and feminist action
might indeed unstring

unnerve
and unfit me

(from Her Wilderness Will Be Her Manners, page 23)

There is an exquisite conceptual balance between the found and the authored, where Mangold herself becomes the subject in some of the investigations. Indeed, Mangold’s presence within the works continues what I last investigated in 2016: a commitment to not only be for the research but to be of it, to have a stake in it, and to embed. Mangold has created collages of images that explore taxidermist Martha Maxwell’s collections. Metaphorically and literally, Mangold has offered an abrupt and present dualism: she has applied a collage method to create stereographic images. It is worth looking at the images through the flow of the book’s poetry, but I found myself paging back through the book time and time again to revisit these images as moments of process and result; they are, as much as the text, reflective of Mangold’s process of work.

In Her Wilderness, Mangold is providing images and text derivative of the past. The poet wants to fill the masculine void with a feminist revisiting, crafting a life out of a static, oppressive history. There is much that should (and will) be said about this project, and for me I found Mangold’s presence in the work to be the most fascinating. The poems flit and jump between the pulling at the strings of found text, but Mangold’s voice is undeniable. It creeps in, manages to find a place, and is defiantly present. Most found poems lose the author’s voice and tone, but not here, not within Her Wilderness, and as I read the book cover to cover, I kept thinking: perhaps the book’s truths are just as much rooted in Mangold’s reality as the goal of the restructure and positioned text.

she braced against the inequalities of the bark and drew

herself up among branches

(from Her Wilderness Will Be Her Manners, page 41)

You can find the book here: https://www.fordhampress.com/9780823297702/her-wilderness-will-be-her-manners/

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

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the deering hour by Karen Elizabeth Bishop

the deering hour cover

By Greg Bem

confession is built mouth
to open mouth until water

(from “honeyhive,” page 3)

In the deering hour, there is buried between an awesome and ecstatic lyric poetry is a timely poetics of isolation and survival capable of carrying a pandemic readership toward honest, patient movement. the deering hour is a book that feels as crafted by quarantine and introspective society as it feels a conduit for the ever-expansive world just beyond our walls. Throughout, Karen Elizabeth Bishop follows many veins, many threads, and finds her own natural space for foraging the wispy peripheries of a breathing world.

The book is divided into two sections. The first, of which the book’s title comes, is “the deering hour.” This sequence is a welcome beacon and blueprint in this cagey global moment, filled with discoveries and dances, flirtations and flashes that are utterly American in their experimentation, but also feel spread across space and time and culture.

as she falls we all fall hers is the history of
flight the future of lyric the winter of our ash

(from “the history of flight,” page 34)

Collective and personal, the general appeal of “the deering hour” as a section and as a book is the feeling of roots, of being bound as reader (through writer) to the primal or ancient. Ecologically, the verse often flutters through natural imagery and a spirited presence takes shape by way of the world’s many forms and their relationships. Even when poems concern movement, either forward or backward, inward or outward, there is a slow and mature consideration within the poem’s subtext; a peaceful tone of ritual, of intention lingers.

[. . .] here the surface
does not hold. where the final
hanging on comes to a close,
wea are sound receding in
waves, four hearts quiet
ascending, the light at the
border dark increasing [. . .]

(from “the deering hour,” page 13)

Poems vary in size and shape, but there is a propulsion to most of them. This rush within Bishop’s work can be thanked to the poems’ elemental foundations. Water upon stone, for example, is one of the most prevalent carriers of energy and ideas within the deering hour, and its emblematic presence demonstrates the timeliness of water’s power. It is also, in Bishop’s writing, reflective of a more sacred, finite resource. Ecology and the flight of the world that surrounds us may feel overwhelming in reality, but in the book we see transformation as humbling. This is a tempered and tempering volume that keeps reality in a perspective somewhere between balancing and revealing.

Following “the deering hour” is “Kilpisjärvi,” a shorter sequence that takes its name from a village in Northern Finland, where Bishop recently visited and stayed as a resident at the “Biological Station.” Unfortunately we do not know too much more than that, as a fuller description of this place is missing. Still, the mysterious presence and existence of this place lends itself to the writing Bishop does include.

While at first glance this second, closing sequence feels thrown at the end of the book as an addendum or “extra,” a deeper read reveals Bishop’s cunning: the prose and verse here demonstrates an example of source material, where the work and the mindset of “the deering hour” stem. Reading it reminded me of the works of Craig Childs and Terry Tempest Williams, who have sought the truth by being embedded by place and experience, by living through relationships and convictions: “We watch from the shore of the moraine as the future recedes,” Bishop writes in part IV (page 59) and: “Under cover, we speak in surprises, measure the fell in objects and action” she writes in part IX (page 72) are examples of Bishop’s relational journaling.

Near the beginning of “Kilpisjärvi,” Bishop writes, “I don’t need to get to the end to know I’m already living my future” (page 54). This is the illumination that rounds out a poetics of the pandemic so well. It is new and yet established, emerging yet defined. But the illumination can occasionally be too bright; aside from serving us with this well-rounded close, some of the book’s moments cascade into realms of twist and obscurity:

you didn’t say if you gave over, a last present
amidst our famine, or if you sought the wild
wasting of our white nights, the pleading scar,
fingers in the welt, the searing blightburn. [. . .]

(from “inflorescence,” page 15)

There is a play with abstraction that occasionally feels maddening in its confusion and disconnection, but it is ever-so-present and just barely heavy enough to be problematic. Instead, I took the abstraction to be an element of introduction and arrival, Bishop’s writing beginning its dance across a longer form of time. Overall, Bishop’s the deering hour is an enduring book of juxtaposition the succeeds in bringing two ends of experience together at once.

You can find the book here: https://www.ornithopterpress.com/store/p15/the_deering_hour.html

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

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And So Wax Was Made & Also Honey by Amy Beeder

Beeder-And-So-Wax-Was-Made-Front-cover

By Greg Bem

Where to locate on that over-fingers lacquer speech?
Over boundaries of corruption, the physics of corpse or ash?

(from “Ouija Blink” on page 9)

Sprawling across 36 poems divided between three distinct sections, Amy Beeder’s latest published poetic voice has concocted and presented a vast array of personas and lingual variations that feel, in a short span, like living history. And So Wax Was Made & Also Honey is a book that brings forward the medieval, the gothic, the pioneer, the ancient, the contemporary, and more into an alchemical, prismatic collection that collects with each page flipped.

Beeder’s poetry shifts and morphs in front of the reader, states of the perceived reality as ephemeral as time itself. Never feeling without, never feeling of lack, this is a book of captivation, rallying, and an undeniable memento. It features explorers, witches, linguists, novelists, philosophers, and gravediggers, to name a slice of the cast. And it is global, covering grounds from many places and many cultures.

When quarantines are lifted we’ll play Marco Polo

in the empty wards & by lamplight study ancient methods
of beekeeping: mud hive & yeast cake, the tendering

of tiny crowns & tiny homes of sedge.

(from “And So Wax Was Made & Also Honey Out of the Tears of Re” on page 8)

The poems are senselessly arousing, moving between tangible and tangential from breath to breath. It is a book that is mischievous and keen, gripping and confounding, and ultimately visceral in its aural estimations and proximities. And So Was Wax contains some description, some explanation, and yet never enough. There are allusions and wayfinding, some intentionally exposed and some buried within subtext, yet there is mystery, and it is strong and strange and lingering.

One of the endnotes calls forth a reference to Ezra Pound, and I could not help being reminded of the complexities, challenges, and illuminations of the Modernists at large in texts nearly 100 years old. Still, I was also reminded of Black Mountain, Naropa, and also, I was reminded of the epic poems and parables of ages and eras many, many years’ past.

your tongue thicken to an ox’s, pronouncing words
that only through your industry still merit this translation:
I sometimes feel I am liquifying like an Old Camembert.

(from “Flaubert & the Chancre” on page 33)

Such is Beeder’s work. It never relents and it always offers more, the further one dips their head (and their mind) inward. Ultimately, the book sits on the precipice of greatness with a feeling of necessitated muddiness: to leave out direction leads to inherent incoherence, but never without confidence, without the sense that the poet is in full control, and knowingly looking upward, into the sky, the stars, and all directions of time at once.

A book of questions and yet a book of documentation and storytelling, it is a collection that may, at length, feel connected to something larger, above and beyond its own covers. I am reminded of the longer works of Caroline Bergvall, Anne Carson, and Joshua Marie Wilkinson, whose books are woven together like intense strands.

Dear
Drought our summer corn was overrun again
with weed & cheat; the bitter zinnias fell to bits.

Dear yearlings our harvest is lattice & husk.

(from “Dear Drought” on page 30)

Reminisces and ruminations on form aside, Beeder’s third book is distinctly her own. She brings forward wisdom derivative of many ages, and yet the comments feel current to the urgencies of today. From climate change to spirituality to a belief of women, Beeder captures the moment by deferring to the relevance of the past. All told, the timelessness is timeliness, and the poet serves as a firm but quizzical reminder that we have much to learn by adjusting our gaze.

I am waiting at the crossroads, here at your broken gate
where barbed acacias stoop to shade my trespass.

(from “For Fresno’s Best Process Service Call Hermes” on page 56)

You can find the book here: https://www.tupelopress.org/product/and-so-wax-was-made-also-honey/

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

All the Rage by Rosamond S. King

ATR-FINALCOVER-

By Greg Bem

All the Rage is an outstanding book, capturing the moment of the pandemic, the fight for Black lives, and the movement to understand emotion and life within the borders of our everyday life. It is a book divided into seven sections, and each section could feel like its own book, and the entirety wrapped together feels ecstatic and boundless. Rosamond S. King is not only a storyteller but a mediator of truths, a gateway into the archetypes being born today. This is a book that, like the recent work by Claudia Rankine and Divya Victor, captures a contemporary feminist approach to discontent within America, and also follows in the radical, performative Black poetics of Douglas Kearney, Terrance Hayes, and Tyehimba Jess.

This book is for
you, whether you quarantine
stuffing your face
or (and) reorganizing drawers
streaming
staring

(from “This book / is for you,” page 1)

The book opens matter-of-factly, inviting the reader into a world of quarantine and the mundane. It is from this stable beginning that King leaps off the edge into the known and unknown simultaneously. This leap, this dive through text and literary spirit, is done with subtle critiques to and amendments of style and standard formatting. Take “America the beautiful,” an early poem in the book’s opening section. “Beautiful” is left uncapitalized. The poem’s punctuation is highlighted, emphasized as taking on importance akin to the words themselves. The poem ultimately moves from a focus on lines of beauty to lines of bondage:

. True
, some never make it out, but while they’re here, we
distract them with baubled accessories and bubbled beverages

(from “America the beautiful,” page 6)

King is concerned with flow, and the absence of flow. Or its interruption. The following poem, “Etymology of a Scream,” calls forth Yoko Ono’s tweet during the 2016 election. But this is not a poem about 2016 so much as it is a poem about now, about always. Amidst the subtle narrative, King writes: “. Mourn those who came / before and the absence among those who / remain.” (page 8).

As with any astute, mature and conscious poetry, King is able to balance between trauma and reconciliation, between wound and insight. It may take patience, but the reader can follow this volume and find the ends of the spectrum readily available from page to page. In “21st Century Goddamn,” King morosely writes: “Everybody knows / not every body / gets out of this alive” (page 15), alluding to the murders of Black lives from slavery to Baltimore to Staten Island to Cleveland (and so on, and so on). Pages later, the meditative sway of the pendulum: “Breathe / . As in what if / the shadow is gold / en? Breathe.” (from “Avante-Garde Is a Term of War,” page 24). The subtle art of the poet is one that bears multiple waves of resonance and multiple contexts of control over image, feeling, and time. King captivates without sacrificing a serious investigation into public and personal relations with violence over social brutality (a la white supremacy) and a personal, focused process of grief.

All the Rage is not a book that “ends” or finds resolution within its covers. The book, as rage, captures rage in its many forms. As such, there is a very intense and beautiful disintegration that occurs as the book evolves from beginning to end. A prominent interplay and exchange with words and their cores emerges, revealing not flaw but remarkably vulnerable risk-taking in language:

desire lead yu by the nose hairs, promising
love and panic just there
just beyond   desire will drown yu
an as liquid becomes pummeling wave

(from “Sunshine Sigh, page 96)

An emphasis on deconstruction within voice and tone recalls Toni Morrison and other fantastic and fantastically raw writers whose words will not be forgotten. King’s work here is unforgettable. It lingers, awash with the permanence only humanity can provide, with witness, with observation, with the capturing of our flight and our ongoing struggle to know flaws and pain, and growth.

You can find the book here: https://nightboat.org/book/all-the-rage/

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

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Summer Reading Recommendations 2021

Top ten book reviews based on readership of North of Oxford

scott

A Little Excitement by Nancy Scott

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/04/01/a-little-excitement-by-nancy-scott/

erotic

Erotic by Alexis Rhone-Fancher

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/03/01/erotic-by-alexis-rhone-fancher/

danish

Danish Northwest/Hygge Poems from the Outskirts by Peter Graarup Westergaard

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/04/01/danish-northwest-hygge-poems-from-the-outskirts-by-peter-graarup-westergaard/

red rover

Red Rover Red Rover by Bob Hicok

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/red-rover-red-rover-by-bob-hicok/

RAZOR WIRE

Razor Wire Wilderness by Stephanie Dickinson

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/05/01/razor-wire-wilderness-by-stephanie-dickinson/

American Quasar CoverA Camera Obscura Cover

American Quasar by David Campos / A Camera Obscura by Carl Marcum

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/06/01/american-quasar-with-poems-by-david-campos-and-art-by-maceo-montoya-a-camera-obscura-by-carl-marcum/

world

The Likely World by Melanie Conroy-Goldman

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/02/01/the-likely-world-by-melanie-conroy-goldman/

HunleyCov

Adjusting to the Lights – Poems by Tom C. Hunley

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/03/01/adjusting-to-the-lights-poems-by-tom-c-hunley/

savant

The Philosopher Savant Crosses The River by Rustin Larson

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/03/01/the-philosopher-savant-crosses-the-river-by-rustin-larson/

come

Come-Hither Honeycomb by Erin Belieu

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/02/01/come-hither-honeycomb-by-erin-belieu/

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Carnation and Tenebrae Candle by Marosa di Giorgio, Translated by Jeannine Marie

CARNATION-web

By Greg Bem

There exists a most beautiful language whose words look like little houses made out of mushrooms. The loveliest runic letters pale beside it.

(page 19)

The Uruguayan surrealist Marosa di Giorgio has seen much poetry arrive in contemporary English over the last several years and a strong selection thanks to the work of translator Jeannine Marie Pitas. In 2010, Ugly Duckling Presse released Pitas’s translation of Giorgio’s History of Violets, and in 2017 I Remember Nightfall. Though we knew not then during their publication, these pivotal translations of some of South America’s most stunning, uprooting poetry served as portals inviting us to receive the newest release: Carnation and Tenebrae Candle. This long, episodic work reflects and refracts the fantastical, exploring the transcendent and otherworldly landscape of di Giorgio’s childhood in Salto, Uruguay. And yet as specific as this bizarre world often feels, it pulls and pulls the reader toward its rhythmic center, keeping stability in question and understanding a challenging process.

Now, I was a branch, a broom plant; I saw that I was nearly a rose. The wind rocked me gently. But at the same time I was firmly attached to the ground.

That was the way I died as a child in that mysterious part of the garden.

(page 39)

The book is long and staggering. At times it feels like Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood. At other times like Alice in Wonderland. And at times like Grimm’s. At other times, the book feels balanced and mature in its reflections and wording, strangely aligned with some of the other recent surrealist and expressionist translations: Hirato Renkichi’s Spiral Staircase comes to mind, as does Salgado Maranhão’s Consecration of the Wolves. And it feels entrancing! I found myself throughout the book consistently mesmerized as though it was my first exposure to Lautréamont. Pitas points out in her afterword that, in addition to Lautréamont, di Giorgio was well-read and carried influences from Blake, the Brontë sisters, Poe, and Dickinson. I see their voices and faces in this book acutely.

In the end, I managed to turn around; on tiptoe, walking backwards, I arrived home. The wind was shining in the enormous windows; a silence floated over all the rooms. There were narcissi in all the vases. The fairy slipped away gently, round and gold like an egg.

(page 97)

But despite the similarities to other writers, Carnation and Tenebrae is a body of work unto its own, a poetry that contains substantial innocence, intimacy, and the potential for anything to happen—in a way that surprises and shocks even in 2021. That Pitas has concerted efforts at a time in our collective history where digital world-building is at its most prolific, where Minecraft is an alternate reality for most young people (and old people alike!), where virtual reality is finally accessible and desirable, where more people than ever are included in the conversations of creativity and construction, holds striking coincidence.

Carnation and Tenebrae Candle was originally published in 1979, but feels wildly new and also reminiscent of expressionist writers from 100 years back. The format, a numerical sequence of 124 sections (or entries) flows between prose and poetry in a way that feels natural, and reminds me of how one might approach jotting and scratching across a notebook as new ideas are born.

The sections are short (most are less than a page), allowing the book to be read in a flow that suits the reader’s needs and capacity. In this sense it feels like Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch. Ease is important in the context of the book’s density: di Giorgio’s genre might as well be called fantasy surrealism, or supernatural surrealism. The acclimation to these uncanny and beautiful snapshots or impressions takes time for the reader and often exhausts. There is a flirting with capacity and a tension with the stability of truth at play in almost all these poems.

Until you reach the immemorial garden of gladioli, the garden where I always knelt down, weeping and sobbing . . . But you remain omnipotent, ruling over those infinite flowers.

You took control of everything
even my memories of the time when I didn’t know you.

(page 55)

Within the long, rolling form of the book is a loose narrative that includes familiar, familial figures who come and go through domestic and filial circumstance, often (as seen in the quotes above) including elements of the pastoral or of gardens and natural objects. There is a theme of marriage as well, which is carried across many poems and raises questions, even if indirectly. The book’s origins are resounding of small town (or village) life—the perfect staging for the exploratory and imaginative inwardness of the narrator. I am reminded of Narnia, of the Upside Down, and of spaces of otherness that carry us away time and time again, generation to generation. And yet the fantastical breaks down those dichotomous framings and creates a more nuanced blend of realities. It is a mutant-like transformation of time and space; it is ideally surrealist as it moves back and forth between realities through some curious sensory connector left just beyond the reader’s awareness. It is a writing that finds a measured space between both worlds as one world, one unifying and captivating experience.

You can find the book here: https://cardboardhousepress.org/Carnation-and-Tenebrae-Candle-by-Marosa-di-Giorgio

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

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