Featured Poetry

When nobody’s watching (Haibun)

by Sneha Sundaram

She treads lightly as night falls, her feet gliding unheard.

Her greasy hair with the frayed red bow swings soundlessly too, like it knows. The shanties in the distance shine like Christmas lights. Every beggar has now claimed his spot of Mumbai’s soil, sleeping with an eye open for both rats and errant drivers.

Shama walks on, following the faint sound of raspy singing and raucous laughter. The street lamps bear silent testimony, casting long shadows, as she darts innocuously through the back streets of Mumbai.

Winter fog
I hide behind
Your shadow

It’s 3 am and the loud party has just shut down. The paparazzi lie in wait for the scoop of the day. Shama watches, hidden, as the gaudily dressed celebrities drunkenly stumble out. Her disquiet broken by the loud rumbling of her stomach. The cook will come out anytime now, to throw the leftovers away.  Daily spoils of nightly opulent revelry.

And when nobody’s watching, Shama will take it home. A king’s feast for her menagerie of eight:  Beggars, cats, dogs. Children of the night, strays all. In the lonely city of crowded dreams: her tribe, her modern family.

Cold earth
The pit of her stomach
Glows warm again

July, 2015

Austerity

by Martin Appleby

I gave my girlfriend a fiver
for toilet paper
and black bags

She bought them both
in Poundland
and spent £2.99
on KFC

Austerity,
you ain’t so bad

Martin Appleby is editor of UK based literary zine PAPER AND INK – http://www.paperandinkzine.co.uk

June, 2015

Drink this

by Darrell Petska

we tell our children
and of course they do
we did and do
it tastes pretty good
or so we’ve come to think
for everyone’s drinking it

becoming managers
engineers teachers lawyers
and whatnot saying to one and all
drink this
it tastes pretty good

oh a few find it bitter
pushing the cup aside and going very wrong—
object lessons to the rest of us
lest we shed our civil skins and turn
grotesque or perverse or at the very least
incomprehensible
evolving into life forms alien to our measured
reasoned existence

quickly now
quell the monsters within
like mummy and daddy
you’ll go far
pretty far
if you don’t think too hard
just drink

Darrell Petska’s writing has appeared in The Missing Slate, HEArt Online, The New Verse News, The Stare’s Nest, Boston Literary Magazine and a variety of other electronic and print publications. His day jobs have included psychiatric casework, nursing home evaluation, and most recently, engineering communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

May, 2015

Ray Kaelin

VIET VET BLUES # 2
(or “Where are you ‘Greatest Generation’?”)

I saw my friends and brothers return from Vietnam
Disemboweled in their faces, shamed, shattered
Skulking through crowds whose spite encrusted them
With the failure of a faraway victory that mattered to no one.

I saw among the bloated calls in VFW halls (yes, yes I did)
Whose stool sitting soldiers of the ‘Greatest Generation’
Rejected the fallen hearts of my generation, half dead
And buried on those foreign fields of lost valor, as carrion (for clowns).

I saw how in the claustrophobic jungles and in the envy
And proud prisons of their bodies, this “Greatest Generation”
Stranded its young and left them to die
In the flooded basements of their enemy, where false heroics drown

Becoming names faceless and chiseled onto cold, marble walls
Which no one cared enough about not to put there in the first place.
I want no more names (they had faces) staring back at me asking;
“For what reasons did we answer this nation’s call?”

And now, as the failing vintages of a faraway war
Slowly turns to urine in our mouths – we again walk through a door
That eviscerates our collective conscience as a new crop of names
Ride their patriot train (as we once did), to nowhere

But let it be the generation who sends- this gutless blame to bear
For the utter waste of it all
Because as I see it, what began as ‘great’
Should have at least ended ‘great’

For not preventing such useless wars in the first place.

Ray Kaelin has written a number of poetry works over the years, some of which have been published in minor New Jersey and New York literary magazines.

April, 2015

“The Chimera of Notre Dame”

By Robert Zell

Perched atop a pinnacle
of Western Civilization,
I overlook humanity
whose face has become obscured
by a host of sacred institutions
questing for power.

Up here, above it all,
I listen to man make declarations
of independence, of brotherhood,
of loyalty, of piety,
but I also watch over the world
looking at deeds not words,
noticing the transgressions
against Christ’s teachings
and I see the truth.

Conflict abounds.

And Man is not averse
to declaring war either,
always, it seems
for the most noble of purposes.

It is on these occasions
that one knows words
are not empty promises,
that the speakers will act congruently.

This colossal construction I sit upon
and all that is housed within
is not exempt from this rule of Law;
its foundation rests upon
the Old Testament— quite at odds
with the savior’s teachings.

The ancient eye-for-an-eye ethic
has persisted through millennia
in different garbs;
Man has worshiped and soldiered
for many beings, including the Sun,
the Moon, and the Stars,
but no god has ever ruled
as mercilessly or as long as Mars.

When the time comes
to challenge this Order,
I will get off my haunches
and take flight
preaching the gospel
of a democratic creed
that ranks human welfare,
existing in symbiosis
with the Earth,
as the highest good,
where adherents are freed
by compassion not bound
by dogma,
who challenge orthodoxy
and seek to eliminate
all systems of domination,
and who lead by example.

But until then,
I will bide my time
in this gothic dystopia,
awaiting the moment
when the whole superstructure
implodes upon itself.

Robert Zell is a Philly poet whose work has previously appeared in Whirlwind, Danse Macabre, and Poetry Ink. He also has authored a chapbook entitled “One” and hosts a monthly poetry series at the Pen and Pencil Club in downtown Philadelphia.

March, 2015

“Good Morning Philadelphia”

By James Feichthaler

A crumpled can of Beck’s showed off the death

Of many a brain-cell in the glassy street,

Ushering in the morning like a preacher,

Whose holy roll of empathetic threats

Begins a eulogy. Nobody noticed it

I’m sure — the huge importance of one night

As symbol for a young man’s destiny;

The crippled ego there that someone killed;

The black-eyed pride that someone left to die

Next to a stoop of trash and broken bottles…

And no one noticed where a wino sat

Gulping his lukewarm liquor in an alley,

Or the mutt beside him, slurping up the scraps

Of a breakfast biscuit; or the latte-drinker

Who passed these fated creatures, on her way

To more accepted destinies of sleep.

James Feichthaler is co-founder of a group of poets called ‘The Dead Bards of Philadelphia,’ who meet to share works every 2nd Friday of the month at The Spiral Bookcase in Manayunk, and every last Monday of the month at The Bards pub (off Walnut St.). Quite a few of his poems have appeared in respectable E-zines and lit-mags, and quite a few of them have not.

February, 2015

[…] For children that are being raised leaders, upright and intelligent blueprints of our forefathers. For you; this is not haphazard. This is a moment. This is Black History[…]

 
“Black History” By Mellisa May

Manipulated freedom
Leave bloody hands blameless
 
The celebration is torrent
and my fastidious future isn’t privy to
Impoverished history which fed me reverent
 
Impoverished cuz the mic
was mute when pressed to the
lips of my ancestors
 
Palpate my existence
Or leave me numb
And unable to fall inside your eyes
So I can’t see what you perceive
 
But a descendant, unappeased by
Your candid chatter
 
Sodden from tears I didn’t cry
But the saturation
Has left soil rich
Under my feet
And the vines wrapped ‘round my ankles keep
Me grounded
 
They my roots
Unwitting
To so many because
Bars aren’t flooded in songs to share
Our story
 
Bars are flooded in jails
That hide our story
Unwitting
They my roots
 
Did you know you can’t excavate
Something so rich
Full
Of life and stories
 
This poem can’t be dug
Hollow
Because
History is
Radiant and
It reaches
Spans lengths
And highlights
Darkness
 
Unveiled
We create
And be
Great
Warriors and queens
Kings and wombs
Recreating the original
Beauty that
Illuminates the land
 
They
My roots
Unwitting to so many
But this poem can’t be dug hollow
And the celebration is torrent
The Impediment has been removed
but my arms are still flailing
Not distress
Far less reckless
 
My heart
not hollow beats through these arms
they flail
Victorious
They celebrate
torrent

Raised in Detroit Michigan Mellisa considers herself a D-baby and is proud of it. She received the Spirit of Detroit Award “as an expression of gratitude and esteem for exceptional achievements, outstanding leadership and dedication to improving the quality of life.” -The City Council of Detroit 2001.

January, 2015

“Dirge for Eric Garner”

by Patricia Brooks

God is good, you say,

and I open my mouth, then know

to never offer reason

when desire is so much stronger.

That body now dead meat on the sidewalk.

You say there is purpose to it?

It is not for us to know…

To hell with that, I say aloud,

and your hope cringes.

It would be better for my heart

to acquiesce, I know,

but when has it ever.

I stare into the obscene face of that scene

and my senses are overwhelmed with

the last gasps

of his life.

Patricia Brooks has published two novels (Dell), poems and stories in a variety of print and online publications.  Brooks has also put her body where her mouth is: she was among those fighting for the simple vote (now endangered again) in the Deep South in 1964, have protested ever since on the streets, and at 68 went on a three-week hunger strike to remind people that the war in Iraq was still going strong.  And now again.  And again…

DECEMBER, 2014

“Remembering Leroi Jones”

by Connor Camerieri

It’s days like today
we need you,
Exploding Owl.
You were right.
You were right when you said
that we have been
bombed
and decimated.

Now we are
creatures of ash
and flame and have
become the overflowing
swine with our
Liberty.

I wish you were
here to “Who”
at us once again
from your dark and lonesome
tree
and to turn
up the volume on
all the
pain.

Connor Camerieri is from South Jersey. He goes to Rutgers Camden. He is an English Major in his Junior Year.