Last Call – Pandemic of Violence II – Poets Speak

Submissions close on July 30th 

As we hope to emerge from the Covid Pandemic that continues to swirl about us, we are faced with the continuing disregard for human life and dignity in record violence in our cities and towns across the globe. Coupled with sinister wars across the globe; internment camps; forced labor, (slavery), systemic poverty, what was once unspeakable is now considered the norm. We must speak up, this violence is unacceptable and unjustified.

This is our second call for Poets to speak up; call for an end to the violence; restore normalcy; document the atrocities.

Send your submissions to: sahmsguarnieriandreutter@gmail.com Up to four poems in one word doc. include your brief bio in the word doc. and send a photo in jpeg. Submissions are open until July 30th with anticipated publication in October. Please include in the subject line of your email: Pandemic of Violence Submission.

Our previous Pandemic of Violence I – Poets Speak can be read here: https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/12/27/pandemic-of-violence-anthology/




Central Air by George Bilgere

central air

By Lynette G. Esposito

Lynn Powell, author of Season of the Second, comments that Central Air will startle you with its power.  Haunting dispatches from Berlin, droll poems about late fatherhood, cheeky marital love lyrics, searing elegies, and laments for a country ‘growing stranger, less recognizable, more lonely every day….  I found this to be true of George Bilgere’s Central Air in the sixty-nine pages of poetry published by the University of Pittsburg Press in their Pitt Poetry Series.

For example, the poem, Fourth of July on page thirteen, is a one-stanza, twenty-five-line verse thatopens with a visual of the country’s birthday celebration causing the reader not to look up at the fireworks but to look at individuals rushing to the hospital after something went wrong.
Across the nation the newly nine-
fingered people the eight- and seven- and six-
(but rarely five – five is rare) fingered people are hurrying to the ER.
Bilgere has them coming from a wide variety of places: from the dark parks, backyard barbecues from the neighbor’s garage as if to metaphorically include everyone.  The wife is white faced, the kids are quiet and the fingers are wrapped because something didn’t go off right. He sets a time and place with clear observation how a celebration can go wrong but this poem is not about just showing what happened.  His last lines clarify the commentary.
the tiny treacherous bomb
that failed to go off, that refused
to commemorate the birth
of the great republic that stands,
one nation under God, with liberty
and justice, etc.  Then changed
its mind,
This highly skilled poem presents a picture of celebrants and country that twists itself into a patriotic pretzel with consequences. On page thirty-five, Bilgere reveals his dry sense of humor in his poem Mystery of Jerky. He sets the scene at a gas station in Nebraska and lauds the Plains Indians with cutting the heart out of a buffalo and eating it raw in the belief they would gain the courage and strength from the animal. He is eating jerky and ponders:
Why I or anyone would eat this is not clear.
He concludes this four-stanza poem, not of what happened to the Indians, but suggestion of what happened when one eats a tube of jerky in a Nebraskan gas station.
But as I stand here
in the air-conditioned gas station,
chewing on the tube of what might
once have been meat, I can assure you
that is not what is happening.
His ability to set time and place and reference an historical event then connect them to a smile is amazing. His last poem reveals a tender awaking.  Ripeness on page sixty-eight and sixty-nine is a one stanza poem of thirty-five lines that uses the power of imagery.  The poem opens with:
This summer a big hawk,
hulking and sullen has come
to live in our neighborhood
like a god in exile.
He relates his own life journey to the hawk with his own twists and wrong turns.  He uses natural, pleasant imagery of the pleasure he is feeling sitting in a lawn chair drinking a glass of wine.  He finishes the poem with:
…It all seems
gathered here in ripeness
of clouds flashing like salmons
streaming down to the west
above the laughter of my boys,
my wife singing.
It is as if Bilgere has reached a pinnacle and comprehends the value of it, The imagery works well on multi levels.The broad range of subjects and keen observations make this a book well worth reading. 


The book is available here: https://upittpress.org/books/9780822966890/


Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.



Head-On by Rich Youmans


By John Zheng 

Rich Youmans’s Head-On is a fine, hand-sewn collection of 13 well-crafted haibun stories, each presenting an exquisite part strung together like sequences.

The title poem is about a couple driving one evening on the back road to the concert, but “the slow procession of cars” ahead of them “stretches through deepening twilight.” Youmans is good at describing the situation they are trapped in and using the couple’s dialogue as different responses to the slow traffic. While the husband mutters “Oh God,” the wife guesses, “Accident, maybe road work” Then the husband sounds a bit anxious, uttering “An hour at least.” Ironically, on the opposite lane, “white headlights rush them from around the bend—prisoners set free, running wild eyed into the night.” The metaphoric comparison enriches the poetic quality of this haibun. Then the haiku following the first paragraph complements the image of “white headlights” and extends what the husband sees in the side view mirror by juxtaposing the fading and flaring taillights with the steady star in the sky:

taillights fade

and flare . . .

            one steady star

The poet is skillful in using the concrete description to suggest the growth of anxiety. As the headlights behind them accumulate, and the situation becomes a stain on the whole wonderful day spent joyfully doing morning chores, watching the Red Sox game, and having a favorite dinner, the husband sounds even more impatient, “This is ridiculous.” Yet, the procession of cars barely crawls, and twilight fades into sparse stars. Forty minutes later, they just round the bend where they notice the accident suggested in the second haiku (“red lights beating / through soft pine—/ his pulse”), followed by a more vivid description of the tragic scene: “a station wagon, its front end nearly gone, its entire windshield burst; glass glitters across the blacktop as if all the stars had dropped. A rear door is open; near it, three white-shirted medics huddle over a sheeted figure.” Yet, the more tragic spot about this head-on is pointed to by the wife—

by the bright flare

a child’s sneaker,

its laces still tied

—which leads to an imagined detail of what has happened to the family in the accident. The couple seems to have a mood switch. The man is no longer concerned about the concert; instead, he keeps his eyes wide open on the road, and even “the insects flicking through the headlight beams” cannot escape his concentration. The wife “no longer hums her favorite Bach. They feel the pain of head-on. There comes a sudden realization of the importance of life, togetherness, and consciousness of each other, as shown in their hand touch.

“Odds” is again a poem about the tragic head-on. The title is proper as it is an odd thing that a small plane made an emergency landing on the highway and hit a minivan. The poem starts and ends with a one-line haiku respectively, each having a star image. In the first one, the star, which means the first morning light, is also the last wish to hold probably for the pilot and the van’s passengers. The second haiku functions like a continuation of the first haibun as if after the concert, while “taking the backroad home,” the man sees a single star that keeps pace or that reminds him to drive carefully. The prose part, however, weaves the persona’s breakfast cooking and his associative thinking of odd things coming to his mind one after another to reveal his psychological activity, thus establishing the conflict between the quiet breakfast time and the more stories of odd deaths flashing back.

The third haibun starts the poem itself with the title, which uses the concluding sentence “you cannot turn.” Since the ending doesn’t have a period, the word “turn” has a double meaning: The driver cannot turn to look at the person who taps on the window at the end of the poem nor can he turn the key in the ignition. Therefore, the ending without a period leaves a question to the reader about what has happened to the driver. In other words, it leaves a space for imagination to fill in, like the technique of empty space used in Chinese painting. Also, this shows how Youmans is good at crafting his title. He must know that a good title not only corresponds to what is presented in prose and haiku but also introduces the reader into the poem with a curious approach.

Stylistically, this poem uses flashbacks to connect the present situation to what happened in the past. The driver, who may be drunken or lost in the painful thought on a rainy night, recalls the woman he fell in love with at first sight when he sees in the rearview mirror “the starblue neon of the bar” where “her moss-green eyes” met his head-on.

Another stylistic technique that distinguishes this poem is that Youmans groups three one-line haiku together to highlight the romance of the two lovers:

      small talk   she turns all the loose change heads up

      shoulder to shoulder   sound of ice settling in her glass

      last call   her perfume and the stars lead you home

Then the vivid description of the time spent together leads to a surprise: another head-on which occurred after a drink one night at the bar: “in a single missed turn, all the lines were crossed and her hand slipped free.” Again, Youmans groups three one-line haiku to highlight the crash:

windshield   through a jagged hole, night rushes in

on your tongue   the taste of iron and her name

after the funeral   all the ceiling cracks lead nowhere

The two kinds of head-on, though the poet does not specify the second, seem to serve as suspense. The romantic head-on keeps the reader interested but leads to an unexpected, tragic head-on. The next characteristic is that Youmans uses no uppercase letters in the title and at the beginning of each sentence. His intention, I guess, is to keep a smooth flow of the story woven with flashbacks.

Also, one prominent characteristic of Head-On is the use of one-line haiku. Out of 38 haiku, 25 are one-liners. Some of Youmans’s haiku serve as both preludes and postludes, as in “Odds” and “Long After Eye Surgery, the Blind Woman Daydreams,” some as interludes, as in “you cannot turn” and “Depth Perception,” and the rest of them as interludes and postludes in the traditional way, as in the other 9 haibun.

Another impressive technique is the memorable, metaphoric comparisons. In “Head-On,” “glass glitters across the blacktop as if all the stars had dropped;” in “you cannot turn,” “her eyelids snapped shut, quick as a lizard’s;” in “Finding Bach in the Pine Barrens,” points of light of the house lamps behind trees are fireflies; and in “Dance with Me,” the “shoulder aches like a bad tooth.”

Youmans is an excellent storyteller. His stories, though short in one or four paragraphs, are full of details, concrete descriptions, vivid visual images, surprises with aha moments, and suggestions. In a word, Head-On deserves a reading head-on.

You can find the book here: https://m.facebook.com/redbirdchapbooks/photos/head-on-haibun-stories-by-rich-youmans-is-now-availablein-these-haibun-stories-r/2085064558254634/

John (Jianqing) Zheng’s publications include A Way of Looking, Conversations with Dana Gioia, and African American Haiku: Cultural Visions. He is the editor of the Journal of Ethnic American Literature. His forthcoming poetry collection is titled The Dog Years of Reeducation from Madville Publishing.

Most Read Reviews January to June 2022


Based on readership

All the Songs We Sing – Edited by Lenard D. Moore


Contra natura by Rodolfo Hinostroza Translated by Anthony Seidman


A Poetics of the Press: Interviews with Poets, Printers, & Publishers edited by Kyle Schlesinger


Smoking the Bible by Chris Abani


A Feeling Called Heaven by Joey Yearous-Algozin


The Upright Dog by Carl Fuerst


Anvilhead by Rustin Larson


Empty Graves: Tales of the Living Dead by Jonathan Maberry


getting away with everything by Vincent Cellucci and Christopher Shipman


A Way of Looking by Jianqing Zheng





Most Read Poets January to June 2022


Most viewed by readers 

How Dreams Grow by Manasi Diwakar


The Ballad of Morbid and Putrid By Sawyer Lovett


High Stakes by Ryan Quinn Flanagan


Two Poems by Susana H. Case


Two Poems by Kerry Trautman


Dear Anonymouse by Mike Maggio


Sisson’s by Eric D. Goodman


Two Poems by Leonard Kress


Two Poems by Rustin Larson


Two Poems by Laura Johanna Braverman





The Daughter Who Tends to Her Mother by  John Grey   

The Daughter Who Tends to Her Mother   
I cook her favorite turnip,
boil her tea, butter her toast –
it’s been like this seemingly forever,
just the two of us, from morning to evening –
I would plan my escape
but I have no place to go.
I soap her slowly, garnish her meals,
massage her shoulders,
lay beside her to listen for breathing.
I have just touched my own nerve –
all that scrubbing, the attempt to be tender
but with a sour taste in my mouth
of all I am missing out on,
with afternoons in sunlit rooms,
making sure she takes her medicine,
no longer mother and daughter
but two old cow elephants
with sagging breasts, faces drying, wrinkling,
hands rheumatic, our skins so alike
that could easily fold around the one body.
My burden is that I am the one person she can trust,
not my other sisters with their family rituals,
not my father, buried once again every time she sighs.
I am the subject of her bad humor,
her fickle taste in friends.
The weather is my fault
as is the temperature of the bathwater,
the severity of her migraines.
Mostly we sit in silence.
She examines the bruises on her legs.
I will inherit them some day.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Ellipsis, Blueline and International Poetry Review.

Better Than Streaming John Dorroh

Better Than Streaming
My dreams are everywhere – in the drinking glass
that I keep beside my bed, stuffed in bedroom slippers
somewhere in another room, below the house in the bowels
of the kitchen plumbing. They most often taste like blackberry jam,
fresh and seedy with the perfect amount of acid.
They’re never powered by magic or anything difficult
to calculate. They fit in small spaces but loom large
in my head. Sometimes they make me dance on the dresser
across from my grandma’s bed. Other times they make me
speak French and bake baguettes in the wee hours. I don’t
know their names or where they live or where they belong.
I stick my hands out of a moving car and pluck them
into my blood. I often string them on a clothesline
for everyone to see.
John Dorroh poems have appeared in journals such as Feral, River Heron, North Dakota Quarterly, and Selcouth Station. His first chapbook comes out this summer, 2022.

Amber Alert by Cameron Morse

Amber Alert
An automated voice says hi every time
I pass the blue house on the corner. Otherwise,
no one out here in the cold wants to be
my friend. In February brightness, branch
shadows drop an estuary in the intersection.
A streetlight bisects 41st Street. Hawks
on the lookout for lunch meat. “Hi,” says
the voice, and a tree’s murder caws
at the intrusion. In these houses we hoard
darker shadows, illusions. Afterwards,
an Amber Alert hurts my ears during a romp
with the kids, interrupting Truck Tunes
on my iPhone. We have to explain
why some children get lost, go missing.
Cameron Morse is Senior Reviews editor at Harbor Review and the author of eight collections of poetry. His first collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. His latest is The Thing Is (Briar Creek Press, 2021). He holds an MFA from the University of Kansas City-Missouri and lives in Independence, Missouri, with his wife Lili and (soon, three) children. Visit him at https://cameronmorsepoems.wordpress.com/