Monday, October 16, 2017

Robert Cooperman


When I crossed into Canada in 1968,
our bus was stopped at the border:
valises, knapsacks, and duffel bags
searched for drugs, for false bottoms
to hide money, for those kids
who’d no intention of going back.

In Montreal, I checked out a coffeehouse
of draft dodgers playing chess, reading,
whispering strategy, glancing over shoulders,
as if fearful if they made too much noise—
like in libraries—they'd be thrown out, scooped
up by the draft like strays by dogcatchers.
Conversely, they wore the hollow look of exiles,
who can never see family, friends, lovers again,
never breathe the dirty American air they loved.

So I left and came home.

Now, watching the Charlottesville riots,
neo-Nazis beating counter-protesters,
a crazed Klanner plowing his car into a crowd,
killing a young woman, wounding scores more,
I email an old friend who worked in that college town
and retired there. I ask how he is: seeking asylum,
he said, in Toronto, making his way from Nova Scotia.

"You should get out too," he advised,
"while you still can," paranoia a sane response,
ever since the early morning of November 9th.

Gerald So reads "When I Crossed into Canada":

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Cooperman confesses: "I emailed a friend in Charlottesville, to see if he was okay in the wake of the riots. He replied that he and his partner were in Prince Edward Island, on their way to Montreal to seek political asylum. That brought back memories of when I went to Montreal in 1968, not for political reasons, though the two times now seem frighteningly similar."

ROBERT COOPERMAN's latest collections are Draft Board Blues (FutureCycle Press) and City Hat Frame Factory (Aldrich Press). In the Colorado Gold Fever Mountains (Western Reflections Books) won the Colorado Book Award for Poetry.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Charles Rammelkamp


“No, we're just here to see the Falls,"
I told the Canadian official at the pedestrian border booth.
Mark and I looked a mess,
unwashed, unshaven hobos
crossing from the USA,
our plan to cut across Ontario to Michigan.

A car full of teenage girls—
all three in the front seat—
had picked us up in Buffalo,
newly-minted drivers
on a Saturday afternoon adventure
in the parents' car.

We tried living up to the role
they’d thrust upon us—
romantic carefree hippies,
not too tough for Mark,
with his long red hair and beard;
flirtatious without being threatening,
cajoling them to take us
the extra twenty miles to Niagara Falls.

We thanked them when they let us out,
but they were just as grateful
for the story they’d tell their friends.

"OK," the uniformed guard said grudgingly,
suspicion an occupational hazard,
the long line of people behind us
making it simpler to just pass us on.

So we walked into Canada,
gawked at the magnificent falls,
then found ourselves
at the Queen Elizabeth Way entrance headed west.
We’d make Port Huron by sundown,
but still I thought longingly of those Buffalo girls,
how I’d like to go with them to that imagined party.

Charles reads "On the Road":

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Charles confesses: "This more or less happened, but it was 1972, so I’m not sure how accurate some of the feelings were! It was at the tail end of the golden age of hitchhiking, inspired by Kerouac’s On the Road."

CHARLES RAMMELKAMP is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore, where he lives. His latest book is a collection of dramatic monologues called American Zeitgeist, published by Apprentice House. A chapbook of poems entitled Jack Tar's Lady Parts is forthcoming from Main Street Rag Press.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Josephine Napiore


She says words that fall from lips bitter
with experience. "Women," she says, "see violence
enacted on other women." "Women,"
she says, "are always aware of a constant threat."

My ears ring with memories of "sweetheart"
from a man on the bus. I just looked away.
If I had responded at all, would he have followed me
off at my stop? Of "smile" from the man
on the sidewalk who blocked my path until I did.
If I had got around him, would he have followed me,
yelling "smile"? I imagine him screaming, "Smile,
you bitch, and make ME happy!"

We are controlled—we can't go out at night
alone. We cannot go THERE at all—in that skirt.
When we are sent home from school to change clothes
because our yoga pants distract the boys from their
education, we are being told ours
doesn't matter.

We are fat-shamed, slut-shamed, frigid-shamed.
Accused of "Friend zoning," which blames us
for not wanting the one who wants us. For having
our own feelings, desires, preferences. We are bullied
—by other women—online, to our faces, behind our backs.
We are told that we asked for it when we dress sexy.
We are raped and/or murdered when we say, "No."

We have to fight for the rights to control our own bodies
—over and over. Even once we have them.
We are made to feel stupid, worthless, unfeminine,
"bossy" when we stand up for ourselves. We are "crazy"
when men don't want to deal with our anger, even
when they are the ones who treated us badly
and made us angry. We should just take it
and shut up.

I fear for my daughter in this world—her lips
are still sweet. They still smile on their own.
To be a woman is limiting—in movement,
in careers, in income, in even our own facial
expressions. To be a woman is frightening,
dangerous. There are too many words
to be used against us.

Josephine reads "To Be a Woman in American Society:

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Josephine confesses: "At a conference during a panel on women in the workplace, I thought about my experiences and my daughter. In between panels, I made some notes, to try to take back words that are used to keep women as objects in society. These notes inspired my poem."

JOSEPHINE NAPIORE received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Augsburg College. She has previously been published in the Mississippi Harvest and Kaleidoscope magazines; Temporal Discombobulations, through the University of Surrey, England; and the DaCunha Global website.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Susan Montag


Fighter jets from Offutt Air Force Base
in Omaha to the west of us,
would crack the sky apart
over our small town,
their sonic booms, we were told,
the dark magic
of physics, of men moving
through the sky, faster than
the speed of sound.
This was in the early 70s,
before complaints about property damage
and stress on livestock
would outlaw the man-made thunder
that rattled windows and caused stampedes.

Bob Seger sang on the radio
about a long and lonesome highway
east of Omaha, and we guessed
that had to be 34, the two-lane that moved
people past us on the edge of town.
The nightly news piped in strange words
like Chappaquiddick and Watergate,
a slow dripping of intrigue into our lives
from places so far away we were not sure
we should even believe they were real.

I was just a kid.
I was just dragging my feet in the dirt
under the tire swing,
listening to the voices of adults
drifting from the open window of the kitchen,
listening to their debates about
politics and potholes and the price of groceries,
wondering if those super humans above
us who rattled our world with their booming,
had the power to sort it all out.

Susan reads "Boom":

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Susan confesses: "Like many people, I’m reminded of Watergate these days. I was a kid growing up in southern Iowa during that time; I remember the ominous feeling of far-away things going wrong, marked by the sonic booms of fighter jets. The booming has changed, but the news feels familiar."

SUSAN MONTAG is the author of Finding the Way: A Tao For Down-to-Earth People, 2005, from Nicolas Hays Press, and Nude Ascending a Staircase, 2001, Bellowing Ark Press. She has been a teacher, a publisher, and briefly, a used car salesperson. Currently, in addition to a series of narrative poems, she working on an essay collection and a novel.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Nancy Scott


The big, lumpy seventeen-year-old wasn't on the rental subsidy
meant for his grandmother and four young grandkids.

Helping out, he said, hanging his head, but I guessed he had no
place else to live. After I inspected the house, I asked him,

Why is there broken glass upstairs? Your gran keeps those rooms
locked because she can’t make the stairs.

He shrugged, then offered, They were playing there today
and broke the mirror squares on the wall.

Get a broom and clean up the mess now, I said, voice shrill,
as he shuffled off toward the kitchen.

Is he really helping you? I asked the old woman, bent with age,
ankles swollen.

Please let him stay, Miss Nancy. He helps the best he can.
Otherwise they’ll take my babies…no one else to care for them.

I watched him lumber up the stairs with broom and dustpan,
hoped at least for today, the kids would be safe.

No luck for a twelve-year-old across town. In June, he climbed
through her open bedroom window, raped, and strangled her.

Nancy reads "The Helper":

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Nancy confesses: "As a caseworker for the State of New Jersey, I never knew what I'd find on a home inspection. What I saw seemed unfortunate, yet benign, so imagine my surprise when he was arrested. We could never be sure what was behind a door or what any person was capable of doing."

NANCY SCOTT has been managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets for more than a decade and is the author of nine books of poetry. Her most recent, Ah Men (Aldrich Press, 2016) is a retrospective on the men who have influenced her life. She had a long career as a social worker for the State of New Jersey. which inspired many of her poems. Orginally from the Chicago area, she has resided in New Jersey for many years, but considers herself a Midwesterner.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Peter Magliocco


Over the Las Vegas Strip in summer
stretching above macadam autos
caught in traffic's torturous vise
metallic glints emblazon fully
the spectacle's frenzied movement
nearby the Fashion Show Mall turrets
a sudden figure is twisting between
airy currents of his shimmering
leap from the flying saucer roof
to crunch down sidewalk pavement
terra firma tourists file slowly by
remnants of deformed humanity
split into shiny crimson diffractions
cell phone pictures then capture
in myriad lenses a fleeting mirage
of a gambler's now eternal freedom
from their enslavement's neon trance.

Peter reads "Under the Bridge of Sighs":

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Peter confesses: "My poem is based on an actual event in Vegas when a man dropped to his suicidal death from the Fashion Show Mall recently. That area is tourist-packed during the day; I was struck by the image of their reaction when a man's plummeting body crashed between them."

PETER MAGLIOCCO writes from Las Vegas, Nevada, where he occasionally edits the lit-zine Art:Mag. He has forthcoming poetry in Harbinger Asylum, Midnight Lane Boutique, Poetry Pacific, Elsiesy and elsewhere. His speculative sci-fi novel The Burgher of Virtual Eden is now an ebook available at all the usual places.

Monday, September 4, 2017

John Kaprielian


They sit in cells
alone but for a
steel cot to lie with
and slack-jawed toilet
frozen in mid-mock

They sit and pray
for exoneration
before it is too late
For witnesses to recant their lies
For DNA to open eyes
of prosecutors blinded
by fear and hate

They sit and wonder
how they got there
threats and cries
over and over
until it was all
too much
and they said what they
wanted to hear
just so it would stop

the empty hours
time bent and jangled
night and day
mix to concrete gray
solitary cell
solitary hell

They sit and wait
for death
just perhaps
without warning
or apology
the sweet caress
of freedom

John reads "Just Us":

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John confesses: "Crime is not often a theme for my poems. This poem was inspired by the story of Anthony Ray Hinton, who spent 30 years on Death Row before being exonerated in 2015. His case was in the news recently because Alabama has refused to compensate him for his wrongful imprisonment."

JOHN KAPRIELIAN, a Russian linguist by training and employed as a photo editor for three decades, has been writing poetry for over thirty-five years; in 2012 he challenged myself to write a poem a day and in 2013 he self-published the 366 poems in a single volume, 366 Poems: My Year in Verse.