January 20 has finally arrived, and while the presidential transition has been dominated by the unhinged behavior of a disgraced departing president hellbent on spreading lies to maintain his grip on power, the transition is indeed happening, and amid the worsening nightmare of COVID and overt racial discord the likes of which we haven’t seen in two generations.
In this fifth collection of poetry reflecting these times, 33 poets offer their perspectives…
“Swat Team, 2020” is a painting by Washington D.C. based artist Cris Logan. With her gracious consent, other works of hers are found within the collection.
At the conclusion of the poems, biographies of the poets contributing to this collection are listed in the order in which their poems appeared
I slice an apple
into four quadrants
pull out six seeds,
six new blessings.
hold them in one hand.
A tear drop in my eye,
I make two wishes
for the new year.
a cure for the virus.
safety for all persecuted peoples.
I throw the six seeds into the wind
and thank earth, wind, water, fire.
I toss the apple flesh onto the leaves
to make the squirrels happy.
by Jerrice Baptiste
I kept waiting
for my windpipe to close. So many
cannot breathe with this virus.
They speak of gasping for air. I imagine
waking at night unable to find my air. Chest
tight. Like a goat’s skin stretched across
a percussion frame. Air trapped somewhere
I cannot find. I have emptied every pocket searching
for air. Cardigan. Robe. The slant of a jean pocket.
You lie next to me in a bourbon
dream. You’ve taken to adding medicinal
Metamucil to your whiskey. I look for air
behind your ears. Press my mouth
to the small of your back. Trace the smooth edges
of your manicured nails with my index finger. You blink
once. Twice. Your mustache hairs rattle
with your breathing. I swallow the air you expel. I am
a jealous lover wanting your air. But I wrap my legs around
your waist. Feel your chest heave. I open my mouth
as you exhale. I capture your sleeping
air in the back of my throat.
Cavernous proscenium. Empty stage
devoid of audience. I sing myself
silently to sleep.
by Marianne Peel
between the stumble and the fall
……………………..between the error and the correction
between the offense and the response
……………………..between a crime and its punishment
between disagreement and argument
……………………..between fury and its object
……………………..blindness blindness blindness
……………..First published in A Parcel of Rogues (Four-Sep Publications, 2005)
by Michael L. Newell
We say that we are tired of wearing masks,
that they restrict our ability to communicate
and make us feel closed in and bound.
But we have been wearing much heavier,
tighter masks our whole lives—
masks that hide us from the truth
of who we are, masks held on firmly
with bands of desperation, and tied
with complex knots of fear.
How have we been able to breathe
all these years, behind these masks?
The masks we complain about protect others.
The masks we have always worn protect no one.
Now, in this unexpected revelatory season—
as we struggle to discern what we need
and do not need—I want to remove the mask
that was placed on me long ago,
the mask that hides my identity,
suffocates my prayers, and keeps me separate
from all to which I long to connect.
by Diane Elayne Dees
This is the season
of the mask.
I wear a mask.
Black and suffocating.
I breathe — my breath
becomes forced, polyrhythmic,
expelled in low grunts.
My face, shielded
My identity concealed
from the world.
We are known
by our faces.
We present ourselves
to the world, not by
our arms, legs or toes
but by the shape of our jaw,
the curl of our lips.
I venture out,
with only that thin line
between my brow
and the bridge
of my nose exposed.
I am Anonymous
by Russell Dupont
The neighbor with
a trumpet stumbles
Man” on his porch,
an act to mitigate
to reach beyond
the distance of
“Lean on Me,” he
we’ve lost the
made it an anthem
the notes skitter
melody like scouts
on a mission
body and its
by Steve Paul
When Animals Riot
When a mob of sheep turn militant,
hunting down their own kind
instead of planning for the next 4 years,
& instead of bending down
in green pastures, accepting defeat,
their unstable shepherd
tells them: “I believe in you”
& he hides away in his tower
as riots cast their fires
& they break inside
the gallery of the Senate,
never accepting defeat.
America is a scary Animal Farm.
Pigs are becoming more human as time passes,
& the Big Pig continues
to hide & accuse others
like a lot of big losers—
by Carrie Magness Radna
Cabin Of Skull And Bones
In this cabin of skull and bone
warming hiking boots by fire alone,
I fade into night by fire until
some loud voices starkly laugh
and shout “Make us great again!”
I lurch awake, go outside and
hear barbarous warriors trudging
past, careless, drunk in time.
“Remember we’re strong,”
–their battle rant.
These white robed figures parading past
are amusing in white conical hats.
I go inside and remember the dawn:
so long, so long medieval miscreants.
Will Goretex gloves and Vibram soles
protect us against these elements?
by DH Jenkins
A Crowning Achievement
This is no tragic time.
This is melodrama.
Take a prating knave,
A tumbling bumbling clown,
A bully with a smile,
Bestow on them a stage.
Hire writers with no scruples.
Rent billboards–fill with pictures.
Stuff socks in every mouth
Which might dare to mutter.
String wire into homes–
Scold all who dare say no.
Remind them of their duty.
Remind them of their fealty.
Suggest that NO is treason.
Require all men, all women
To praise all their leaders.
The one who leads the leaders
Shall get a brand new name.
Ave HE WHO GUIDES.
……………..First published in A Parcel of Rogues (Four-Sep Publications, 2005)
by Michael L. Newell
One Day Before A New Man Comes Through The Door
I was just wondering:
Where are the children Trump detained
In nineteen hundred seventeen,
Do they still remain
On floors and mattresses both here and there?
Oh, where, oh where, are they today?
Back home in Mexico to live, laugh, play?
Or here alone in ye olde demos- USA?
by Arlene Corwin
Crazier Than A Rabid Fox
He pulled more tricks out of his ass
than a rabid fox, foaming at the mouth
Sly, sleek, and wicked, he was lucky to con
his way into our house the first time
tweeting and shouting 20,000 plus lies
the fearful, ignorant drowning in his slime
He thought he had it in the bag, proclaiming
himself the winner, refusing to accept
7,000,000 more voted his opponent in
With a straight face demanding how could
he not win, it was rigged with voter fraud
his overblow head deep in sod
Deny, deny, deny, his battle cry
the war was lost, the ballots tallied
no evidence to be found, no judges
Not even his AG could give him a nod
as his supporters drug their knuckles on
the ground in lock step to his bitter end
a list of indictments await the Wanna-Be- King
like a rabid fox trapped in a snare of his
own design, now this my friends will be
by Aurora M. Lewis
I can’t breathe
white cloths on blank faces
inhale deeply and wait…
Exhale and hope
don’t stand so close to me
repeats in my mind.
Nothing to do with Sting
Inhale and hold while passing.
anxious desire to breathe deep
germs converging like a black mass.
Raspy, shallow attempts at an involuntary function.
dressed as bandits
held up by a small molecule
I still can’t breathe
continuum of cloth flesh
bubbles of personal disinfected space
Six feet under.
by Dana Hunter
The Continuous COVID-19 Nightmare
………………………………“When I am asleep I dream what I dream,
………………………………when I am awake. It’s a continuous dream
………………………………or a continuous nightmare.” -Antonio Porchia
by accident in a dream
and with particular
good will I thought
I would write a poem
a door and I did
and every time
I wrote another new poem
that unlocks another door
is the same
and every time behind every door
there is the fear
about catching the virus or worse
never left me
I cannot wake
nightmares & dreams
there is not
one more door
to ever……………… open
by Alan Yount
It’s the little things
…Making sure there is a jar of Lysol wipes in every car
…at every door entrance
…even using one jar as a door stop
…Offering to fetch vanilla creamer for me at the Piggly Wiggly
…sugared clouds for my coffee
…after waking at 3am
…Wiping down the door handles
…until your palms are raw
…and you smell of sterilized sanitation
…Washing your hands before you hold mine
…asking Are you ok? And when I nod
…unable to make eye contact, you ask Are you sure?
You remind me
I haven’t been sick in almost seven years,
even though meds designed to blunt
my entire immune system are pulsing
in my blood doing their work.
You remind me
that even at Kara Tepe Refugee Camp,
a village filled with coughs and rashes
and people seeking asylum, even there
where I welcomed refugees to the camp clothing store
holding their feet in my hands
hoping for an acceptable fit of shoes,
even there my lungs did not succumb.
You remind me
Love over fear.
But at night when I try to close my eyes,
I see us on a bed floating
in the dark, adrift. We are the sweet old couple
from the Titanic, suspended in a determined embrace
to the sounds of the tenacious string quartet on deck
making music without hesitation
long after we have fallen asleep
in each other’s arm
by Marianne Peel
In these pandemic days, I wander
through my house as hard rains fall
and darkness blankets every room.
From my bedroom window,
I see my deck pummeled by heavy drops.
Clay pots filled with caladiums swirl
pink, red and green around a pair
of bright turquoise chairs that glow
like glamorous artifacts on a gray planet.
Black bamboo, brought to life by the rain,
glimmers and sways. In my living room,
the screen swirls with an amalgam
of illness, death, ignorance, rage,
and denial. I used to like rainy days,
until the vanishing light became too much
for me to bear. But now, darkness—
like everything else—has become relative,
and I am grateful for any color palette,
for unexpected sparkle, and for a splash
of gleaming turquoise against boards
weathered by heat, by rain, and by time.
by Diane Elayne Dees
In the Fog
While social media and coverage bias
and shallow creeds sway flocks, the bumblebee
and silver-spotted skipper do not see
the news or twitter hashtags that supply us
with endless waffle, aim to classify us
by the sum of melanin in skin. Carefree,
the bee and butterfly seem to agree
the purple loosestrife’s luscious, as they eye us,
imagining we are not the full shilling
to disregard their joy. They do not battle
each other. When summer ends, they will skedaddle
from this astounding world, while we keep swilling
Internet lies, keep killing dialogue,
keep staggering and stumbling in the fog.
by Martin Elster
We Count Steps, Sweep Soreness
…………………From “Cumbia de Salvacion” by Leticia Hernandez-Unares
From our joints in celebration
for what is to come,
there was a quarantine of smoke
and everyone had to stay put.
There were birthdays and funerals and dinners
Out that did not happen.
Like a found philosophical
teaching lesson we missed, we find ourselves
regrouping and struggling in
a haze of our converted nonchalance.
We are masculine and passionate,
in a place on a corner near Rec Park
whenwe wish things were different,
and we could sing, “Let’s Stay Together.”
In this new world where our borders
are inner beings rotated six feet under
without witnesses. We are a split nation
and acting civil and apparent.
We are too bold to sit tight.
And, we are completely temperate,
sober and angry, as if it were 1920
and there was an unconquerable flag of soberness
throughout the America experiment.
We wish we belonged to the weight
of the great depression cast down upon
us like a cellar door, opening, in the middle of a cold
sidewalk, with ice strewn about.
by Millicent Borges Accardi
Painting of the Jefferson Memorial by Cris Logan
Eighty Percent Burns
……………..(In memory of S. C.)
………..the economic imbalance
…………………not the sadism in our minds
Those built-to-collapse Victorian terraced houses
………………………….in our hearts
Manchester’s idle amphetamine culture
………..no one works here or reads
…………………everyone here steals and shags
Social security secure us kids
………..who have kids
…………………who have kids
Just for extra fun
………..we snatched a girl
…………………took her to the forest
………………………….poured petrol on her
We giggled as we struck the match
…………………“Burn, Baby, Burn”
Don’t fault us
We were born here.
by Allison Whittenberg
The First Baby Of 2021
is a child of lattes, masks and skinny jeans
is black and white
does not see the world in black or white
or think in black or white
this baby is a zoomer
and will zoom through life
courtesy of uber
its parents are “yes we can” and
conspicuous consumption and
24 hour news channels
it was conceived on a millennial
somewhere in a safe zone
even its grandmother, a ” karen,”
would not deny it
as it grows, youtube, kindle, and audible
will educate him
flat screen tvs will play its life story
it will learn at home, because home school
and tell you it went to harvard
if it goes to college, its loans will be
forgiven, because opportunity will be
it will fall in love, but will protect itself
with a prenup
it will use birth control like
its uses amazon.com
and google will know its location
it will be smarter than the rest
and its health care will be the best
and it will be the one who makes america
yes, it can…..
by Erren Kelly
I Can Breathe
…………..for George Floyd
Of course I can.
I can breathe.
I can also bear
arms with impunity,
vote in absentia or
in person. I can shop
or human—clocking my
every move, I’m innocent
until proven guilty, if then.
And I can run, metaphorically,
from trouble or laws I break
(by accident or on purpose). I can,
because my wallet and my whiteness
protect me. Separate but equal my ass.
I can also run, literally, shirtless and sweating
down the center of town, or through neighborhoods,
(wearing a hoodie in front of hooded, huddled masses)
and know cops are there to serve and protect me.
Because the only white flight is fear, so we arm
men in blue (and white men wearing white) to
disappear—by any means necessary—the boogie men
we imagine and invent, on TV and in our minds.
I can breathe and I can smell and I can taste and
this scent is the charred flesh of better angels (Naturally)
who never had a chance, and all of this is by design.
I can breathe and I can talk and I can read and I Can’t
Believe we’re here again, and Hell, I don’t even know
the half of it, being white and ill-equipped to fathom
the fury and fear that suffocates (symbolically, sure,
but also in real time, right before our eyes, in living colors).
I can breathe and I can kneel and I can protest and I can even cry
like a baby, knowing a pacifier called The System will always have my back.
I can breathe and I can listen and I can figure out What’s Going On.
But I can’t sleep and I won’t stop and I will vote and I must swear
that we shouldn’t rest until the experiment we started centuries ago
is better than half-baked for the millions amongst us who’d love nothing
more to breathe and to be, but until we’re all kneeling in peace and in power
everyone has to stand, no more excuses. It’s not much, I admit, but as someone
with more skin in the game once said, there’s no peace until there’s justice. And so,
while I’d prefer to sing a happier song, I’m going to holler these truths until there’s enough air for all of us
to breathe. Freely,
by Sean Murphy
Missing Color Of The Rainbow
History took an extreme twirl.
Time took a meandering curl.
Life’s meaning and decorum
swirled aside by the people
with rolled – up flags.
Anarchy grinned with joy.
I hope this has now ended.
Whole system must be fixed.
The fires are still smoldering.
People have developed a rasping cough.
Many are too nervous just to breathe.
Innumerable hearts are burning
after the madness on Capitol Hill.
The nation, ashamed, its dignity
over the years has rusted completely
but it is more brittle now.
Grounded by the gravity
of the terrible mayhem,
this is not the free flowing America
and we are not
what we think we are.
A missing color of the rainbow,
that’s what we are.
A mere wine of life
in the glass of time
That’s what we are.
But hold on.
Life has evolved
and will evolve evermore.
Life evolves by building
on its own immunity.
Fortunately, the awakening
hasn’t lost its spring
and it never will.
The light remains
somewhere in the shadows.
The blue of the sky beckons optimism.
What more do we need?
by Bhuwan Thapaliya
All Lives Are God’s Work
May we talk diversity?
You know the differences between you and me
How many ways can there be
Is it one two or maybe three?
Our bodies and minds are akin
It appears that were alike within
With think with an equal brain
We feel the same hurtful pain
Our souls linked to God in the same way
Though we go through different doors to pray
If it’s not body and soul, heart and mind
I’m at a loss it’s something I can’t find
Is difference made up not really true?
A device to get votes from me and you
A way to let the devil rant and deny
That God made us all and to him we go to die
What other advantage can there be
In trying to make a difference between you and me?
My mom and yours too
Told us what’s really true
They said be good, go to school
Always obey the golden rule
We are on the same path guided to follow the light
Told to wake up every day and do what’s right
There are those who will try to change our path
They use diversity to goad our wrath
The evil is in their souls they have no saving grace
Their way is to hell through a life of disgrace
I’m not another
I am your brother
Colorfully different as we may be
Were God’s children both you and me
by Matthew Borrelli
We Are All Existentialists Now
In No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre got it right
for the Covid-19 fight.
“Hell is other people,” he famously wrote.
Couldn’t be more woke.
by Peter Gregg Slater
Could This Really Be The End
What can I say about today
The silence becomes deafening
I went out for a walk last night
It seemed that ghosts were beckoning
This monster is invisible
No zombies running all amok
Just don’t get close when folks are near
For that would be the worst of luck
The doctors work at breakneck speed
And nurses seem our only hope
While grocery stores are out of stock
And greedy people hoard the soap
Sanitizer, toilet paper
The things they think they need the most
And yet some folks do not listen
While others yell it’s all a hoax
Pandemic is the word that’s used
The wolves are crashing through the door
As panic slowly starts to grow
The world crying out, please no more
There is some hope so don’t despair
This plague does not kill everyone
Though not much help for those we’ve lost
We pray this virus comes undone
The safest place is in your house
Remember you are not alone
We’ll beat this monster in the end
Until then call me on the phone
by Joseph R. Stellin, Jr.
I received a gag gift
of items for my bathroom:
On Father’s Day 2017,
when he was still a bit of a joke
we fools had played on the rest
of the world:
him, as a toilet brush,
his pompous hair a pompadour
of hard plastic orange bristles,
and a paper roll (appropriately one-ply),
his Mussolini-like pucker on each sheet.
I chuckled and thanked my giggling grandchildren.
I stored it in the bottom of the linen closet
then forgot about it.
But now that his reign is ending,
I take new-found pleasure
in scrubbing the porcelain throne
with his garish hair. And after wiping myself
with his lame-duck face each morning,
I get a rush of satisfaction
from the flush.
by Ed Werstein
Questions, Insights In the Night
This election: eighty-six:
Next election: I’ll be ninety.
If I’m there, how will it be?
The issues, climes, economy?
Shot to hell each plant and tree?
Arctic icebergs flowing, dry?
Bird-less, fish-less, mammal-free?
Wormy things confirming that
The rings around the trees don’t grow,
No longer show, for as you know,
“The wages of sin is death” for all.
In four years will T have been faithful?
Told the truth, kept promises?
Done what he can?
Not been T promiscuous,
‘Grab the pussy’ need all gone?
By ninety will there be a woman
Who will run and who can win?
Will Fun old Grump be loony binned?
Gun old Frump? Nano Cramp? Run old Chimp?
Will any win?
Be seen, be heard November third?
I hope I’ll be here for my duty:
‘Fake news’ outed for its hype,
Typing out my poetry,
Garden snails on my board;
Growing foodstuffs for the good;
Success and progress,
Plumbed black holes,
Ego friendly, free of worry…
Four more years until next vote:
Will I laugh, will I gloat?
Find a way to play out life’s allotted,
Unsought, final day?
These, one giant question/insight
In the middle of last night.
by Arlene Corwin
too old to gripe to the furniture
about a current life in isolated safety
I know how long this has been going on
long enough to develop an alternate strategy
submit mind & body
to a prophecy declared by Allen Toussaint
from double tap snare to cascading brass
Evaree thing I do gohnbe Funky from now on
by Terrance Underwood
Requiem For The Pangolin
When assailed you rolled up in a tight little ball
like a pillbug, your pale underbelly defended
by copious coppery scales, wall-to-wall,
yet could not comprehend what the geezer intended
who nabbed you from Cameroon, carried you back
to his village, and boiled you like a potato.
While big cats couldn’t crack your defense, an attack
by a hand could sure leave you as flattened as Play-Doh.
Termite- and ant-eater, bashful and humble,
harmless to humans, but brutal to bugs,
did you harbor the bug that found some way to stumble
straight into our lungs? We anticipate drugs
and a potent vaccine, yet your kind is in peril
far graver than our kind. When you disappear,
far worse plagues will plague us (since Earth isn’t sterile)
while uncountable critters die out year by year.
by Martin Elster
No one is holding hands on the bus. Everyone gripping
poles with disinfectant wipes. Breathing behind cloth masks.
The stiletto woman has coordinated mask and scarf
and even the sheen coating her nails.
She is a remnant of elegance in this Covid cluster. Eyes
blackened with kohl. Silver glitter in the creases of her lids.
She looks out. Around. Attempts to speak with her eyes.
A reminder that the virus need not sever our connections.
She is an assertion that all is well. When tender fabrics
cling to us in such profoundly coordinated ways
we can breathe through anything.
by Marianne Peel
Virus In The Air, Spasms In My Back
There’s a virus in the air, but I can’t see it.
People are dying around me, but I can’t save them.
There are spikes pierced in my back,
spasms, but I can’t touch them.
Heartbeats, hell pulsating, my back muscles,
I covet in my prayers.
I turn right to the left, in my bed, then hang still.
Nails impaled, I bleed hourly,
Jesus on that cross.
Now 73 years of age, my half-sister 92,
told me, “getting old isn’t for sissies.”
I didn’t believe her—
until the first mimic words
out of “Kipper” my new parakeet’s mouth,
sitting in his cage alone were
“Daddy, it’s not easy being green.”
by Michael Lee Johnson
send me an angel
………………(inspired by Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker of the Scorpions)
wisdom comes with maturity but it’s hard to be wise
when your nation caters to avarice and ignorance
you never saw the storm seize the new year
& like the government life shuts down for struggle to thrive
anxiety doesn’t believe in social distancing
sends cryptic messages between you and your mask
you did your best prayed for that miracle
that fell prey to lies & deceit
open your eyes your angel left for another zoom call
stay locked in your quarantine
watch gray feathers etched in red blow off the fire escape
………………….originally published in Poetry in Performance #48, Annual Spring Poetry Festival, The City College of New York, May 1, 2020
by Patricia Carragon
Autumn’s Blue Rain
Right before they shipped me off
to ports I inhabit still,
Mary, from sophomore year,
(who died this year from cancer of course)
told me, as if divining autumn’s blue rain
drop by sad wet drop,
the sinner resides in the holy.
She always said so much w/so little,
artist that she was. And as I was swept into battle
both here and abroad, I carried her words w/me,
beyond the yearbook effect,
the goodbyes and so longs
of well-meaning friends, those who wished me gone
and family, too.
Then came the massacre at Hue and well,
here I am now: two doubles down,
awash in my clouds of logic. Wondering why
some make it and some don’t and
how many bodies make up that bridge.
How many Marys have to die
to satisfy our penchant for regret
as autumn’s blue rain chills
graves – ancient, barren, freshly dug.
by Mike Jurkovic
Painting by Cris Logan
On Insurrection Day
On insurrection day,
we saw a horned man enter the gallery
shouting black magic and conspiracy.
We saw the flags of slavery break in
and flap about the halls,
wraiths of the right-wing dispossessed.
Chaos was the Capitol;
Orange was the Ouroboros;
democracy, his bitten tail.
His insurrection would be televised,
tweeted, and uploaded.
That day, it was the air, itself.
And he was glad at what he’d done,
and confident he’d reign, again.
Without the 25th, he knew that ‘24 was his.
by Damian Ward Hey
Do senators like the lynchers,
good ol’ boys of yore,
and now their kindred killers
acting like before?
After the Civil War
some thought we’d banned the noose,
but Birth of a Nation’s lore
would set more Klansmen loose.
Knights of the Blazing Cross,
they’ve Christianized white privilege—
are blessed by their Blond Boss
who calls disloyalty sacrilege.
The senators don’t recall,
so anti-lynch laws stall?
by Ralph La Rosa
The pewter sky
was blotched with mayhem
following the invasion
as the malignancy spread
after the crowd charged
and the dissidence thickened.
Darkness and confusion devoured
the unsuspecting halls
until the splintered walls and windows
of democracy’s center
momentarily yielded in shaken disbelief.
The cold fog of January’s sky
did little to conceal
the maddening malfeasance
splayed with dust and shattered glass
discharged through shrieking air.
beneath desks and chairs
cloaked in fear
as those few heroes stood readied
to defend the truth
until common sense
its precarious foothold.
For the slow hours that passed,
even freedom’s cherished symbol
momentarily withered beneath
the conspiracy to manipulate
by Michael Keshigian
After the flood,
for the rain
upon the back
where tiny hairs
at the shore,
the sun now
beats down hotly;
under our masks,
What is this?
or new skin
chilled to the
bones? We were
so used to
the new deaths
due to the
now comes silence,
before the birds
before new leaders
before we had
any time to think
upon where we
built all of
new scales grew
over our skins,
how do we
New dry lands
as the hustlers
tempt us with
we will still
by Carrie Magness Radna
A Deeper State
A shadow passes over
………………………a deep Scottish lake,
and a monster is born
………………………under the surly sun.
Footprints are found in snow
………………………where no one goes,
and an elusive,
…………..ancient one arrives,
………………………a missing link,
…………………………………………….in many lives.
In the halls of government,
…………..a deep state is said to control
…………………………………………….the status quo.
It could be a shadow
…………..held over from long ago.
Or a collective desire
…………..for a god, a chorus, an oracle—
…………..that would dispel
………………………the unseasoned state we’re in.
by DH Jenkins
DC Freedom Marchers in 1963 listened to
the “Dream” speech of the Reverend
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
where he called attention to
our Founding Fathers’ promissory note,
to Negroes too, a guarantee: “unalienable rights”
the original right to Life (“I can’t breathe”)
to Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness.
Black people got a lousy deal, he said
a bounced bad check,
marked “insufficient funds.”
But King rejected the idea of bankruptcy
at that bank of justice.
King spoke instead of sunlit paths,
rock solid brotherhood,
inevitable the coming end
of separate, shameful treatment.
Some loved this Reverend’s courage, faith,
his optimism, hope.
But others killed him,
shot down King’s body
and along with him, his dream.
We must be high on tranquilizing drug
this doctor, hardly feelgood, warned against:
well more than half a century has passed.
King’s name commemorated by a banking holiday
but his spirit is defiled.
Banks celebrate by cashing on injustice:
fees mount on cascading insufficient funds,
missed payment deadlines,
fees mount for using unemployment compensation debit cards,
equal credit feigned
with paycheck loans from subprime mortgagelenders
whose ballooning interest calculates
to target poorly schooled but needy borrowers of color.
Bad check’s responsibility rests
and foreclosures fall entirely
on folks been poor for generations,
dark ones dragged here, hated,
chained, and forced to work for free.
King penned with eloquence
from behind steel bars in Birmingham.
Now debtors go direct
to prisons’ profitable production lines,
fine print obscured
within Emancipation Proclamation
permits incarcerated slavery.
But nary any banker fraudster,
white-collar felon, goes to jail
while banks for profit hoard
the bonuses and bailouts.
Justice? Naw, that’s for “just us”
well-compensated chiefs, masters of capital.
The general account went bankrupt
in grand larceny rich CEOs
so blithely called a “credit crunch” in 2009.
2020 vision shows us Covid-killed recovery.
Tax cuts paired with rampant spending,
stimulus for mostly millionaires,
election donor class of technically
“small” businesses with hosts of franchisees.
But cash relief is auto-withheld from those
with outstanding student loans,
spouses of legal immigrants.
Tiny payments were deliberately delayed
to jam desperate breadwinners
back to virus-infected workforce
for stockholders’ goodness sakes.
Terribly sorry for your loss. Get over it. Get lost.
For all of us, for black and white alike,
not Dr. King but Dollar King,
our shameless master,
reigns, and dictates rules.
by Catherine Lee
Millions Of Steps
He gasps. Air doesn’t enter his lungs.
His chest tightens
like an elastic band looped around
a bag of orange yams. His hot
blistering body soaks his shirt.
He rushes to get to the hospital
before the storm.
It’s too late.
A winter wonderland blooms.
His footprints heavy in the snow.
Millions of footprints.
No clear path.
The virus claims one,
every fifteen minutes.
by Jerrice Baptiste
The Empty Cove
My room commands a panoramic view of a Mediterranean port
where my dad used to row me amidst jubilant ships and boats,
where restless seagulls flitted about seamen and portholes,
beseeching compassion from benevolent, seafaring blokes.
My eyes now meet the spectral hues of an empty cove,
whose ripples are sluggish with the absence of oars
and hulls that agitate the waters with discourse.
Distancing itself, a single cargo-ship floats aloof,
with a bosom heaving like a woman in throes,
afraid to deliver her fruit
for fear the quay’s breath will taint its soul.
Her cries are muffled and subdued by a veil of smoke
that camouflages her visage with tulle.
Her hands are hidden behind her back
with misgivings about shaking hands
with cranes and other harbor tools.
by Susie Gharib
Beyond The Mandate Of Caution
When I was a child
zoom was the sound a fast car made
as it rocketed around a Hot Wheels track.
It was the show you watched on PBS,
during after-school hours.
Now Zoom is the platform we use
to communicate with those we cannot touch
because of social distancing.
We use it for
……………virtual dates, and now
From afar, we watch those we love
eulogized by people in masks
who must maintain six feet between them
as they bemoan the loss of one
no one can now,or ever, touch.
Our loved one, at rest, head on satin pillow
beyond the mandate of caution,
but forever at a distance.
by Antoinette Winstead
Below the clouds
forming in my eyes,
your soft eyes,
delicate as warm silk words,
used to support the love I held for you.
Cold, now gray, the sea tide
inside turns to poignant foam
upside down separates-
only ghosts now live between us.
Yet, dreamlike, fortune-teller,
bearing no relation to reality-
my heart is beyond the sea now.
A relaxing breeze sweeps
across the flat surface of me.
I write this poem to you,
neglectfully sacrificing our love.
I leave big impressions
with a terrible hush inside.
Gray bones now bleach with memories,
I’m a solitary figure standing
here, alone, along the shoreline.
by Michael Lee Johnson
A bluebird’s carcass lays on
the side of the road and I
watch the slow progression
of another summer gone by.
Gusts of wind whip through
the barren branches of trees,
without making a sound. I
stumble over my own feet.
What if we could freeze-frame
the memories of this little bird?
Could we collectively share
them into a final embrace?
Cruelly I surrender to the task
of burial. Cruelly because it’s
so final, the tragedy of death,
What if George Floyd’s memories
had not faded? What if kindness
shut out the clouds? What if
sunshine fell upon the lid of
the coffin? What if love turned
into rain? Electric currents of
spiritual energy, warms the
dampness, ends the story,
with the promise of a new
by Theresa C. Gaynord
Where has she gone,
the one who filled dreams?
Is she lost among fir-lined
hills beneath the majesty
of mountains? Does her
voice mingle with brook,
stream, and hum of bee?
Is her hair strewn among
golden harvests where weary
workers find solace in her
unchanging beauty? Does her
smile slip through undergrowth
and deep forest to light campfires
at night? What praise or acts can
restore her to our midst,
remove mist from our eyes.
A nation cries for her return.
The bugles blow, furnaces burn.
……………..First published in A Parcel of Rogues (Four-Sep Publications, 2005)
by Michael L. Newell
Poets contributing to this collection (listed in the order in which their poems appeared)
Jerrice J. Baptiste is a poet and author of eight books. She was the recipient of a residency for The Women’s Leadership Program at The Omega Institute, NY, 2019. Her poems have been published and are forthcoming in The Yale Review; Kosmos Journal; Mantis; Penumbra Literary & Art Journal; Shambhala Times; The Caribbean Writer; West Trestle Review; The Lake Poetry Journal; The Tulane Review; Autism Parenting Magazine; So Spoke the Earth: Anthology of Women Writers of Haitian Descent and many others. She also facilitates creative writing workshops. Her poems and collaborative songwriting are on the Grammy award winning album Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti. Jerrice is the host of “Women of Note” on WKZE, 98.1 FM in Red Hook, NY where she enjoys playing jazz & world music for her international audience. Visit her at Guanabanabooks.com to learn more about her work.
After having taught middle and high school English for 32 years, Marianne Peel is now nurturing her own creative spirit. She has spent three summers in Guizhou Province, teaching best practices to teachers in China. She received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal (2003) and Turkey (2009). Marianne participated in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop (2016). Marianne’s poetry appears in Muddy River Poetry Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Jelly Bucket Journal, among others. Marianne is also a veteran musician, playing flute/sax and singing in various orchestras, bands, choirs, and jazz bands her whole life. She has a collection of poetry forthcoming in 2020 from Shadelandhouse Modern Press.
Michael L. Newell is a poet who currently lives in Florida. He has published 17 books and chapbooks over the last 29 years. His most recent books are Traveling without Compass or Map (Bellowing Ark Press), Meditation of an Old Man Standing on a Bridge (Bellowing Ark Press), Wandering (Cyberwit.Net), and Each Step a Discovery (Cyberwit.Net). He is a retired English/Theatre teacher who has lived in 13 of the United States, and 13 countries on five continents outside the United States.
Diane Elayne Dees’s poetry has been published in many journals and anthologies. Her chapbook, Coronary Truth, is available from Kelsay Books, and another chapbook, I Can’t Recall Exactly When I Died, is forthcoming. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana, also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women’s professional tennis throughout the world. Her author site is Diane Elayne Dees: Poet and Writer-at-Large.
Russell Dupont is an artist and an author whose artwork is included in a number of public and private collections. He has published two novels, King & Train and Waiting for the Turk; two books of poetry; and two non-fiction chapbooks. His essay, “The Corner,” is included in the anthology Streets of Echoes. His work has been published in various newspapers and literary magazines. He was the founder & publisher of the literary magazine,.the albatross.
Visit his website by clicking here
photo Roger Gordy
Steve Paul, a onetime jazz DJ and critic, retired from daily journalism after a career of more than 40 years and segued into literary and cultural biography. He’s the author of Hemingway at Eighteen (Chicago Review Press, 2017) and a forthcoming biography of the writer Evan S. Connell. His occasional columns on jazz topics appear in KC Studio, a regional arts magazine.
Born in Norman, Oklahoma, Carrie Magness Radna is an audiovisual cataloger at the New York Public Library, a choral singer and a poet who loves traveling. Her poems have previously appeared in The Oracular Tree, Muddy River Poetry Review, Poetry Super Highway, Walt’s Corner, Alien Buddha Press, Cajun Mutt Press and First Literary Review-East. Her upcoming poetry collection, In the blue hour (Nirala Publications) will be published in early 2021.
Visit her blog by clicking here
DH Jenkins worked as an associate professor of English/Speech for the Univ. of Maryland in Japan and Korea for many years. His jazz play, Ti Jean, about Jack Kerouac, has been staged in Tucson, AZ and in St. Joseph, MO. Thirteen of his poems are set to music in the film Call From a Distant Shore, a collaboration with musician/artist Bill Scholer, June 2020.
Arlene Corwin…Brooklyn born. Age 85. Harpist, pianist, singer. High School of Music & Art. Hofstra Univ. BA. 2 films (lead in one, composer in the other — see IMDb) original lead in “The Nervous Set, introducing “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most”. 19 published poetry books, yogin since the age of 20-something. Lives in Sweden. Jazz musician forever. Mother owned jazz club, The Turf with Slim Gaillard in the 50’s, Hempstead, Long Island. (See.Arlene Corwin. Poetry.com .for longer version.). See Youtube for Arlene and some good tunes.
Aurora M. Lewis.is a retiree having worked in finance for 40 years. In her fifties, she received a Certificate in Creative Writing-General Studies, with Honors from UCLA. Aurora’s recent poems, short stories, and nonfiction have been accepted by The Literary Hatchet, Jerry Jazz Musician, The Blue Nib, Trembling in Fear, Jitter Press, Scary Snippets, Copperfield Review to name only a few.
Dana I. Hunter has published in CAPS -Poets For Social Justice. A short story in Adelaide Literary Magazine. Her screenplay won Honorable Mention in the first ‘Scriptapalooza’ contest. She received her B.A. in Communications from Upsala College. She can be reached for poetry inquests at – [email protected]
Alan Yount, 72, has published poetry for over 50 years. His poems have appeared in WestWard Quarterly (featured poet for summer, 2018). Big Scream, Spring: the Journal of the E.E. Cummings Society, and Waterways.
He has been in three anthologies: Passionate Hearts, Sunflowers.and Locomotives: Songs for Allen Ginsburg. Alan was one of 31 poets, along with Gary Snyder and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Also Chrysalis Reader.
Alan plays trumpet and has led his own dance band.
photo by Ruth Sovronsky
Martin Elster, who never misses a beat, was for many years a percussionist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. His career in music has influenced his fondness for writing metrical verse, which has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies in the US and abroad. A full-length collection, Celestial Euphony, was published by Plum White Press in 2019.
Millicent Borges Accardi has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Fulbright, CantoMundo, California Arts Council, Barbara Deming “Money for Women,” and Fundação Luso-Americana (FLAD). Most recent poetry collection, Only More So (Salmon). IG and Twitter @TopangaHippie
Allison Whittenberg is a Philadelphia native who has a global perspective. If she wasn’t an author she’d be a private detective or a jazz singer. She loves reading about history and true crime. Her novels include Sweet Thang, Hollywood and Maine, Life is Fine, Tutored and The Sane Asylum. Her latest play Choice will be performed at the Downtown Urban Arts Festival directed by Tony nominee Reg E. Gaines. She can be reached at [email protected]
Erren Kelly is a two-time Pushcart nominated poet from Boston whose work has appeared in 300 publications (print and online), including Hiram Poetry Review, Mudfish, Poetry Magazine, Ceremony, Cacti Fur, Bitterzoet, Cactus Heart, Similar Peaks, Gloom Cupboard, .and .Poetry Salzburg.
Sean Murphy has appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and appeared in USA Today, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and AdAge. A long-time columnist for PopMatters, his work has also appeared in Salon, The Village Voice, Washington City Paper, The Good Men Project, Memoir Magazine, and others. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and his chapbook, The Blackened Blues, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. To learn more, visit seanmurphy.net
Nepalese poet Bhuwan Thapaliya works as an economist and is the author of four poetry collections. He is an avid Jazz aficionado. His poems have been widely published in international magazines and journals such as Kritya, Foundling Review, FOLLY, Trouvaille Review, Pendemics Literary Journal, Pandemic Magazine, The Poet, Valient Scribe, Strong Verse, Ponder Savant, International Times, Taj Mahal Review, Poetry Life and Times, VOICES (Education Project), Longfellow Literary Project, Poets Against the War, among many others.
Contact: [email protected]
Matthew Borrelli is a born New Yorker. Living in Connecticut with the love of his life Andrea, he is a retired teacher and administrator as well as a lifelong child advocate and civil rights proponent. He writes from the heart, dictating his poetry as it flows from his feelings. His work is driven by passion and belief. Last year he published his first book, Standing in the Waves Way, a memoir in poetic form — a “Poemoir.”
Peter Gregg Slater has been a jazz buff since his teenage years, with a special passion for hard bop, particularly Brown & Roach. He is a professor emeritus of history whose scholarship in American intellectual and cultural history is often referenced in both academic and popular publications. His poetry, fiction, parody, and essays have appeared in Dash, Workers Write!, The Westchester Review, The Satirist, and Twentieth Century Literature, among other publications. Contact: [email protected].
Joseph Stellin Jr. lives in Santa Clarita CA and writes what some people call “Horror Poetry.” He has been published in the local Signal newspaper numerous times, and his works are included in five Anthologies presented by The Golden Pen Writer’s Guild. Joe is working on publishing a book of his own in the near future.
Ed Werstein, Milwaukee, is a Regional VP of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets and represents that group on the Wisconsin Poet laureate Commission. In 2018 he received the Lorine Niedecker Award (judged by Nickole Brown) from the Council for Wisconsin Writers.
Reach him via email at [email protected]
Terrance Underwood is a retired Rolls-Royce Service Engineer, veteran, College Grad (B.A. History) who has been listening to recorded jazz music since he was 5-6 yrs old. One of his first memories is listening to a 78 version of “Cherokee” by Charlie Barnett.
Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era and is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, amateur photographer, and small business owner in Itasca, DuPage County, Illinois. He has published in more than 2,000 new publications, and his poems have appeared in 40 countries. He has been nominated for two Pushcart Prize awards poetry 2015/1 Best of the Net 2016/2 Best of the Net 2017, 2 Best of the Net 2018. Over 200 poems are now on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrymanusa/videos.
Patricia Carragon’s poem “Paris the Beautiful” won Poem of the Week from great weather for MEDIA. Her fiction piece “What Has to Happen Next” is nominated for Sundress Publications Annual Best of the Net Anthology. Her latest book from Poets Wear Prada is Meowku. Her debut novel, Angel Fire, was just released by Alien Buddha Press. Patricia hosts Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual anthology. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. She can be reached via email at [email protected]
A 2016 Pushcart nominee, poetry and musical criticism have appeared in over 500 magazines and periodicals worldwide with little reportable income. Full lengths include: American Mental, (Luchador Press 2020) Blue Fan Whirring (Nirala Press, 2018) President, Calling All Poets, New Paltz, NY. CD reviews appear online at All About Jazz, and Lightwood, Featured poet: He was and hopes to be again the Tuesday night host of Jazz Sanctuary, WOOC 105.3 FM, Troy, NY. He loves Emily most of all.
photo Michael S. Russo
Damian Ward Hey’s poems have appeared in Black Flowers; Madness Muse Press; Formidable Woman Sanctuary; The Rye Whiskey Review; They’re Conspiring against the Alien Buddha; and Happy Fukkaday 2 U. More poems will be published in Voices from the Fire; Voice Lux; Neologism; Rat’s Ass Review; and Cajun Mutt Press; and in the upcoming anthologies; Poets with Masks On; and Birth – Lifespan Vol. 1.
Retired from professing English and American literature, Ralph La Rosa has published work on American writers, written for film, and now devotes himself to poetry, having published widely on the Internet, in print journals, in the chapbook Sonnet Stanzas, and in a full-length collection, Ghost Trees. My Miscellaneous Muse: Poem Pastiches & Whimsical Words was published in 2020.
Michael Keshigian, from New Hampshire, had his fourteenth poetry collection, What To Do With Intangibles, released in January, 2020 by Cyberwit.net. He has been published in numerous national and international journals and has appeared as feature writer in twenty publications with 7 Pushcart Prize and 2 Best Of The Net nominations.
Catherine Lee explores poetry’s percussive jazz voice and social change activism by reading solo and performing with improvising musicians “on poem.” Since 1976, Lee’s writing has appeared in many print and online anthologies, most recently Spillwords. Her multimedia poetry, documentary videos, and radio specials are archived on Soundcloud and VIMEO. Lee blogs about notable musical/poetic collaborations on Facebook/Jazz Ovation Inn, and markets writing | editing services and products on Jazz-Ovation-Inn.com.
Susie Gharib is a graduate of the University of Strathclyde with a Ph.D. in English on the work of D.H. Lawrence. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, the Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Mad Swirl, Down in the Dirt, The Ink Pantry, Impspired Magazine, A New Ulster, Westward Quarterly, Miller’s Pond Poetry Magazine, The Opiate, Penwood review, Crossways, Amethyst Review, Synchronized Chaos, Pinyon Review, Leaves of Ink, Peacock Journal, The Blotter, and many others.
Antoinette F. Winstead, a poet, playwright, director, and actor, is a professor at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. Her poetry has appeared in several publications, including Voices de la Luna, Langdon Review, Texas Ballot Poetry, TejasCovido, and The Poet Magazine. Her poem “JAZZ” received first place for the 2020 Persimmon Prize. She is currently president of the Alamo Area Poets of Texas and vice-president of the San Antonio Poets’ Association.
Theresa C. Gaynord writes about matters of self-inflection and personal experiences, matters of an out-of body, out-of-mind state, as well as subjects of an idyllic, pagan nature and the occult. She also writes horror, as well as concrete gritty and realistic dramas. She is said to be a witch and a poet, (within the horror writing community) and has been published in a number of magazines throughout the years.