Gaby Bedetti – 2 POEMS

Motion

You speed through

the Minotaur’s labyrinth

hoping to avoid the monster.

The motor responds.

You have another

someplace to go.

You look into the wind,

a lop-eared hound

head out the window.

Complicit,

the GPS tracks your

departures and arrivals.

In your sonic life,

you are the hip hero pointing

toward the next adventure,

the lover with the ball
of thread to navigate

​the labyrinth.

~

Her Final Email

 

Days you stayed in bed.

Migraines. Texas heat

and medications

made you sweat. And then

another week had slipped away,

unlike your chores and wishes.

 

At your desk, a compost heap

of essays. You even began grading

and then Shadow would sigh

to say it was past feeding time

and you abandoned them. You called

him the best dog in the present world.

 

One son announced he was moving back

so you removed the sewing machine

from his room. You then grew angry

with your husband for leaving.

The other son mentioned downsizing

and you heard nursing home.

 

Your grandchildren were delightful.

In your final email, you acknowledged

you were lucky, but only so far.

And soon after, the fatal dose.

We could have reunited,

here in Kentucky or there in Texas.

 

We could have remembered,

and renewed, our luck.

 

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LANGSTON HUGHES – FREEDOM TRAIN

Freedom Train

 

I read in the papers about the Freedom Train

I heard on the radio about the Freedom Train

I seen folks talking about the Freedom Train

Lord, I’ve been a-waitin for the Freedom Train!

Washington, Richmond, Durham, Chatanooga, Atlanta

Way cross Georgia.

Lord, Lord, Lord

way down in Dixie the only trains I see’s

Got a Jim-Crow coaches set aside for me.

I hope their ain’t no Jim Crow on the Freedom Train,

No back door entrance to the Freedom Train,

No sign FOR COLORED on the Freedom Train,

No WHITE FOLKS ONLY on the Freedom Train.

I’m gonna check up.

I’m gonna to check up on this

Freedom Train.

Who is the engineer on the Freedom Train?

Can a coal-black man drive the Freedom Train?

Or am I still a porter on the Freedom Train?

Is there ballot boxes on the Freedom Train?

Do colored folks vote on the Freedom Train?

When it stops in Mississippi, will it be made plain

Everybody’s got a right to board the Freedom Train?

I’m gonna check up.

I’m gonna to check up on this

Freedom Train.

The Birmingham station’s marked COLORED and WHITE.

The white folks go left

The colored go right.

They even got a segregated lane.

Is that the way to get aboard the Freedom Train?

I’m gonna check up.

I’m gonna to check up on this

Freedom Train.

If my children ask me, Daddy, please explain

Why a Jim Crow stations for the Freedom Train?

What shall I tell my children?

You tell me, cause freedom ain’t freedom when a man ain’t free.

My brother named Jimmy died at Anzio

He died for real, and it wasn’t no show.

Is this here freedom on the Freedom Train really freedom or a show again?

Now let the Freedom Train come zooming down the track

Gleaming in the sunlight for white and black

Not stoppin’ at no stations marked COLORED nor WHITE,

Just stoppin’ in the fields in the broad daylight,

Stoppin’ in the country in the wide-open air

Where there never was a Jim Crow sign nowhere,

And No Lilly-White Committees, politicians of note,

Nor poll tax layer through which colored can’t vote

And there won’t be no kinda color lines

The Freedom Train will be yours

And mine.

Then maybe from their graves in Anzio

Black men and white will say, We want it so!

Black men and white will say, Ain’t it fine?

At home they got a Freedom train,

A Freedom train,

That’s yours and mine!

 

 

(1947)

LANGSTON HUGHES

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JOHN GREY – POLITICS OF MODERN MARRIAGE

POLITICS OF MODERN MARRIAGE

A smug Donald Trump

stares up at you

from the front page of the newspaper,

You take a pen

and scribble on his face.

Then you hate yourself

because you can’t stop obsessing.

Your world’s growing

less about those near to you.

It’s playing out on the world stage.

And you’re getting older.

The culture’s gone mad

and you’ve not the years

to wait it out.

Your husband’s cold these days.

He doesn’t sleep with porn stars

but he drinks a lot.

Your revulsion doesn’t go well

with his apathy.

He says he likes Trump,

thinks he’s funny.

You went through that

whole Nixon debacle.

The mob was blinded then

but slowly, painstakingly,

the mob finally saw.

But this mob is different.

They’re set against

the possibility of enlightenment.

You fear that you could die

leaving behind a world

much worse than you found it,

with plenty of friends and family,

but no real allies.

Your husband watches football,

does his best to exist alone.

You keep up with what’s going on,

all that’s going on without you.

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R A RIEKKI – 5 POEMS

The

My girlfriend told me her least favorite word is ‘the.’
I asked why. She didn’t know. Said words like ‘pool’

and ‘mouth’ and ‘night’ would kick the’s ass.
But it’s ‘the pool,’ ‘the mouth,’ ‘the night, I said.

Not necessarily, she said, it could be ‘our pool’
or ‘her mouth’ or ‘six nights.’ She went to work.

I sat there thinking about ‘the.’ I looked at ‘the lamp’
and ‘the couch’ and ‘the crack in the ceiling.’

So many the’s in the room. But all of them over-
shadowed by nouns. I looked at a shadow

in the corner. I thought of all of the evil of the world.

~

I Worked Eighty Hours This Week

I worked ninety hours once. On an ambulance.
I had a co-worker who fell asleep once,
driving the ambulance. You only do that once.
But he didn’t get fired though. By the way,
he told me he worked one hundred hours
that week. That’s what you do when you make
minimum wage. A lot of people don’t realize
you make minimum wage on ambulances.
Those ambulance companies rake in billions.
Five thousand dollars to take you from one city
to another city just two cities away. Five grand.
I remember one night when we were waiting
for a call. We were parked near some
telephone wires and a crow came and landed
on the wires and got electrocuted. We were
right there, staring, right at it, like we were just
waiting for it to happen. Strangest thing ever.
My partner called dispatch and reported it.
I remember him saying, just in case any kids
go near it. He hung up. I said, Kids can’t fly.
Then our radio went off. We had another call.
It was for a guy who sat on a pen. When we
got there, the pen was sticking out of him
like a little tail. He asked if he should yank
it out and we yelled no, that it was acting
like a cork. A cork? Yeah, a cork, I said.

~

On the Phone, My Mom Told Me I Should Write a Poem about Working with Coronavirus Patients

I said it’d be a boring poem.
She said, no, that’s not true at all.
I said that all I see is fog, that my mask
fogs up my glasses so I can’t see anything
all day long. I’m in the back of the ambulance
and we just drive them to where they need to go
and I can’t see nothing.
She said that I was exaggerating,
so I took a photo of myself
with my glasses fogged over
like the clouds at the top of mountains in places so high up you can see both heaven and hell at the same time.

~

My Dad was a Good Dad

He told me one time
about coming home
as a kid and finding his mother
passed out
on the kitchen floor.
He thought she was drunk
again
so he pulled her down the hall
to her bedroom and
tucked her in
and it wasn’t till the next day
that he realized
she was dead.
My Dad was a good Dad.
When I worked in the prison system
as part of the nursing station
one prisoner threw his piss
in my face.
He had saved it in a cup.
I remember
after I washed my face
in the prison bathroom
for like a half hour,
not joking,
I looked up,
my hair all wet,
just sopping,
looking like I’d been crying
at the bottom of the ocean
and I smiled,
because I was alive.
My Dad was a good Dad.
That’s all I have to say.

~

I’m Old and I Don’t Make Much Money so I Am Forgotten But I Write to Tell You I Exist Too and the Casino Near My Old House Where I Grew Up Caught Fire

so I went and looked at the ashes
and it made me think of when I was at the guard gate
in the hills
in California
where I’d just stand there
for hours
and hours
and hours
every night and
during the fires there
the ash was falling horizontal
like the world was tilted on its side.

 

 

FIND RON HERE

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ANDREW HUBBARD – Priorities

Priorities

Reincarnation.
One of those things
I’d like to believe in but can’t
Because of the logical improbability
And the pile of unanswerable questions
About who and when and how and why.

But just suppose
(It’s ok to have a little fun)
That after 200 years of conscious sleep
Some benign authority
Brought you back, age 20
In perfect health, memories intact.

What would you do first?
Eat! Steak—shrimp—
Something with creamy garlic sauce—
Strawberries—chocolate ice cream.

And then make love
Again and again and again, with every sense
On overdrive, and doze off
Smelling her sweat and hearing her whispers.

You’d almost forgotten
How sensuous sleep can be.

Wake up. Repeat,
But with a change of menu:
Coffee, hot eggs with cheese melted over,
Cold white wine, bacon,
Peaches and whipped cream.

Continue this for forty years
Then turn your attention
To intellectual growth and refinement.
Sit with works of Plato, Milton,
Kant, Chaucer, and St. Augustine.
Twenty minutes should do it.
Then get back to the important stuff.

JULY 2020

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Leslé Honoré – America come get your children

America come get your children

America come get your children

the ones you are so proud of

the ones wearing Stars and Stripes

buying guns like candy

the ones dripping with

white privilege

that you created with

red blood from brown skin

America come get your children

come get your kids

the ones flying flags of defeat

of history long dead

of a life they wish they had

of superiority they believe they have

the lies you whispered in their ears

as you rocked them to sleep

“Look away look away look away Dixie land”

America come get your children

the ones terrorizing this country

the ones terrorizing the world

the ones never called a terrorist

come get

your rapist

your misogynistic

your appropriating

hating

bigoted

offspring

you know …

the apples that didn’t fall far from the tree

America come get your children

the ones running the country

the ones too cowardly to speak up

the ones that shoot into protests

churches

light torches

run cars into peace

come get your diseased infants

entitled children in men’s bodies

jealous girls screaming in women’s voices

come get this disgusting basket of deplorables

that you nurtured on

manifest destiny

the pale pink faces

in utter disbelief

that even though you put your knee

on every brown and black neck you saw

we have fought back and risen

casting shadows on your children

and they rage when they learn

that being a white mediocre man

is no longer enough

America come get your children

before they burn this stolen land down

and you with it

 

~

find Leslé Honoré here

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CAROL CASEY – 2 POEMS

Navigating the Ocean

I crave you like oxygen sometimes,
as if I couldn’t breathe without you and
this terrifies me, makes me want to
push you away, prove something,
find the key that unlocks this tether, set
you free, to go away but come back, choose
as if there was a choice,
as if I could become amphibious, grow
some gills, maybe a tail to navigate
the oceans of the loss of setting you free and not
drown; or possibly build a raft, to float above,
but not so far that I’ll miss your hand reaching
up out of the water to come aboard, in case
I can save you, as humans rarely do;
or maybe there will be a sunset and a night
when the ocean grows moon and stars
while a gentle current transports me to
somewhere my love for you is not so full
of need, will be refined of dross, capable
of anything.

The phone is ringing.
Maybe it’s you.

 

~

Spoiler Alert

There’s no escaping the constant whirs,
hums, chugs and buzzes of summer,
like birdsong, in variety and nuance,
but less conversation, more dictation,
as if to an old fashioned stenographer-
get this down, condense the languorous
signals of summer to shorthand,

We shorten grass, shrink hedges,
embarrass pieces of wood with hammers,
(to drown out the woodpeckers)
interrupt the lifespan of recalcitrant
weeds, till them under, nip and tuck.
Each hum, buzz, whir, chug
a jigsaw piece of putting nature

in her place, a pissing upon,
a tiny fist raised in defiance of ice-
storms, blizzards, microbes, death.
We oil and tighten, plug in and refuel
until the entropy of it catches up
in the end while the birds have
their say during the intermission.

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LARRY ROGERS – 2 POEMS

His Alibi

Standing in front of her, his alibi failing him, he considered faking
a heart attack like a baseball manager whose team is down 10 runs
one inning away from the game being official and rain on its way.
But no actor could be that good; certainly not him. It was now that
he made the mistake of saying he didn’t know anything for certain
anymore, that he was guessing at everything now, including his
core beliefs; in fact, what others called their core beliefs, he called
his core guesses. Oh, the daggers her eyes tossed at him!!! It was as if
a torrential downpour had begun and the game had gone on anyway.

~

There are children’s treehouses

in upscale neighborhoods in Edmond,
Oklahoma, with better bones, as
the realtors say, than the potting
shed trailer my family called home
in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas.
Treehouses that Mama, had she not
been afraid of heights, might have
called dream homes. And beneath
these treehouses are lawns green and soft
as big league infields. A boy could
romp barefooted across these lawns
and not even feel his feet touch the ground.

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JOHN TUSTIN – CUT OFF

CUT OFF

I used to rush home from work,

Especially if I knew my wife wasn’t going to be home yet

And if some asshole tried to cut me off

I’d gun it and curse him out,

Sometimes as we drove side by side.

I wasn’t going to take that shit,

I got cut off enough when I was home with my wife.

I would drive home and the best days were the days

When I had some time to myself before I had to pick her up.

Oh, the feeling of false freedom in those precious minutes!

Later, another good time was reading to my children before bed.

After they would finally fall asleep I would lie in bed with my son

And elongate the moments before I would have to get up

And get into bed with Her.

If I fell asleep in his bed or pretended to she would come and get me.

Finally I had had enough and I told her I wanted a divorce.

Her reaction was to unleash Hell all at once

Instead of little by little like she had been doing for fifteen years or so.

I lost everything and just about everyone I had

But now if I get cut off in traffic

I just stare in wonder at the taillights

Of whoever feels they need to get somewhere before I do

Thinking about a time that feels like decades ago

But was much less than that

When I decided a life of boiling pasta alone in an echoing kitchen

Was better than a living death in a house filled with anger

And that final day that

It was as if I was Yertle the Turtle

And I sneezed down there

At the bottom of the stack

And that bitch came tumbling down.

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