Refuting Lincoln

A Poem by Blake Adamson

Lincoln said days were swift as an Indian arrow
I don’t believe that’s true
Days are like three greased Indian bullets
Every two you take to the heart
The third you put into your brain
And whatever the outcome
Everybody else is left
To pick up the itty bitty
Bits and pieces left

Leaving SeaWorld

A Poem by Karen Kelsay

Jacques Cousteau would have loved
our living room, where Dad displayed his creepy
collection of sea creatures inside the dark
paneled den. In this grotto-shrine

there were no pictures of daughters
in frilly dresses on the mantle—only a looming
photo of an eel sliding from its cove,
with a sheepshead and giant grouper

making their debut over the sofa. By the door
a parrot and dolphin fish were hung.
Our coffee table had cork legs with crushed
abalone embedded in the surface

and a glass lamp above it, with a shade
made from boat canvas. Hammerhead
shark\’s teeth and sand dollars were wedged
between diving books on the shelves.

At age three Dad put a wetsuit on me.
Each summer I joined a swim team, snorkeled
and scuba dived. He helped make my surfboard
and cheered me on when I caught a wave.

One July I noticed bikinis looked more
appealing than a one piece— that I liked eating ice cream
better than having a salt water-itch and sandy scalp.
I gave up diving gear and tackle boxes,

decided fish have a disgusting feel to them and that freaky
things lived in coral reefs. I realized jellyfish could sting,
sharks were ugly, wetsuits were uncomfortable
and people could run out of air using tanks.

I bought myself a little ruffled sundress and stretched
out in a chair by the pool. I slathered Coppertone
on my legs and put lemon in my hair. I stopped praying
I would grow fins and that my photo
would be hung on the wall.

Simply Eating Her Salad

A poem by Michael Estabrook

Sometimes I become completely overwhelmed
by merely being in her presence,
like this afternoon
at McDonald’s with the grandchildren,
suddenly I’m choked with emotion,
barely able to speak,
while simply watching her
sitting there eating her salad, quietly, unassumingly.

I had to work at not crying,
(What a silly spectacle I would have been.)
dabbing at my eyes
with a crumpled McDonald’s napkin.
Guess my eyes are watering
because it’s so cold outside.
(Sure, nice try, you silly old man.)

I can understand being so smitten
when you first fall in love–how can you help it!
The beauty, the youth, the vigor and vitality,
the inescapable mystery of it all,
crashing over you like an avalanche in the Alps.
But come on! I’ve been at this now a long time,
with this woman almost half a century!
How could it be possible
that I still get all choked up watching her
sitting there simply eating her salad?

Praying they will not kill

A Poem by Patricia Wallace Jones

Cradle-born to the high church,
she spent every turn from Epiphany
to Nativity on a needlepoint kneeler
her great-grandmother stitched
until that warm July Sunday
in ’74, when she bore a son with seizures,
one they quickly suggested
was best left at home.

They still send their newsletters,
appeals for funds, announce
parish meetings to discuss what to do
about the ravens that jump up and down
on the roof, their litany of caws
that drown out the priest.

When she shows at St. Michael and All Angels,
she slips into a pew, takes her place
at the back, leaves before the sermon
and Eucharist—fed now,
not by thin wafers and wine,
stories she can no longer swallow,
but by the music, candles and incense,

Calavera Number Six

A Poem by Bob Boldt

Artificial skeletons are hardly ever displayed
now in thought or in sight.
Shop windows are voided of all but surgical masks.
Imagine what all the uncut pumpkins
must think of the strange ones this year.

Halloween was the time of Ghede
whose breath smelled of freshly turned earth
and was once caught soaping a skeptic’s window.
The scariest thing I see are trogs knuckle
drag-racing from coast to flaming coast.
.
The poet said angels often don’t know when
they are among ghosts or the living.
At least TV makes me feel angelic
when my only contact with reality is
Jim, my Asperger neighbor

and Brit Hume.
This prayer-consuming peace feels
like the slow-motion before the crash:
those precious count-downs to what you,
and I, and all must taste.

In this precise facsimile of Krapp’s den,
I wander in a replay life and wonder
how I will know when I’m a ghost.
I’ll be sure to ask my calavera
when its empty.

A Leaf

A poem and photography by Morris Dean


A leaf beckons – alive, florescent,
in a rainbow of colors, a prism of light
refracted, bent, cast across
a stained garage floor. It greets my eye
at just the moment it needs to happen,
the short span of time when the sun’s rays
penetrate the door at an angle to strike
the white reflector on a bicycle’s front wheel.
Oh leaf, oh leaf, oh leaf! Oh life!

How do we create love?

We loved this piece so much, we decided to see if we cannot make this poem into a Christmas tradition. Here is an encore presentation:

A Christmas Poem by Michael H. Brownstein

Four days from the start of winter, five days from the great Ursid meteor shower,
six days after the temperature climbed into the sixties, rain fell, froze on contact,
changing everything to white ice, clean and smooth, clear and crunchy.
The man and woman stand outside their small home, logs burning in the fireplace,
candles lit in darker corners, thick sunlight heating everything through thin windows.
It is cold outside. They listen to the scents around them, see the sounds of shadows,
smell the fresh breeze swinging through the bare trees, arms around each other,
scarves across their throats, hats light on their heads, heavy jackets open to the day.
Christmas comes in the morning, he says. I know, she answers. I never asked,
he continues. I did not ask either, she replies. I do not need anything, he says.
Nor I, and she smiles and pauses and lets out a fog of air. We are not like that,
he begins again. We are not like the air you see in this weather when you breath.
We have something stronger and we have something greater. She turns her head to him.
A glitter of light flashes through a nearby evergreen, its needles ripen with sunshine,
each branch flickers and stops—a pause in wind. I know, she answers.
We have all we need. We have a flower blossom and an agate and he kisses her lightly.
That is all I have ever needed and will ever need, he says, the flint strong within him,
the day blue-lit, the forest strong and healthy, rainbows slipping from the eaves.

Love is created in many ways. This is but one of them.

(From his new book, How Do We Create Love?, Cholla Needles Press, 2019: https://www.chollaneedles.com/2019/11/new-book-how-do-we-create-love-by.html? )

Blackridge

A Short Story by Derek McMillan

Blackridge is a Sunset home on the South Coast, I have lived here
for…a long time.

The housekeeper, Ilka, is a saint.  How she puts up with the other
residents is a mystery.

I spend my time in my room away from the others.

Ilka called me in to breakfast. I sit with Richard and Harry. Other
residents call us “The Three Stooges” .

Ilka put a boiled egg in front of Rich.

“What is this?” he asked.

“An egg,” she replied.

Rich continued to look at it with a puzzled expression.

Ilka cut the top off.

“You’ve ruined it now,” said Rich. He looked at the spoon.

Ilka put the spoon in the egg.

Rich made a mess of it.

The next day, Ilka called me in to breakfast. She reminded me to put
trousers on.

I share a table with two other residents. Some of the women call us “The
Three…” something.

It was one of the others, who looked askance at his knife and fork.
After a while he threw the knife across the dining room. It startled
Persephone the cat who was relaxing on the window ledge.

Ilka brought a clean knife and cut up his food. He made a bit of a mess
of it.

“What day is it?” he asked a few times.

All days are the same at Blackridge.

The next morning there was a strange woman knocking at my door.

“Who the devil are you?” I asked.

“Ilka,” she said patiently.

Descending Alpe d’Huez

A Poem by Maik Strosahl

The air up here stokes the flame,
starving lungs burn hungry,
blood pounding fierce through the heart,
down to legs running in place,
cranking through the machine
and back again,
crying for still more.

The road—
carved into the mountain.
The flock—
a rainbow racing to steal away my yellow.

Though I cannot see it yet,
the crowds grow larger
as we zoom around the curve,
signaling the approach of today’s goal,
and if I push just a little bit harder,
I will break from this pack,
I will raise my fists triumphant
to the roar rising from the people
over the whirring of wheels in spin,
rubber straining its grip
as we race across asphalt and cement
to the finish.

A Disease Called Power

An Essay by Noris Roberts

I will begin by pointing out that this is not intended to be a partisan political statement, to offend or attack anyone in particular. I write and express what I feel and observe, as a simple citizen. I intend to declare my pain and astonishment seeing that my country is being systematically destroyed and its people humiliated and decimated. In the last 2 years nearly 4 million have emigrated, not because of a war, they’ve emigrated because they foresaw no future, because of hunger and lack of medicine, for not having personal or legal security and basically because they were psychologically affected for living in a permanent state of uncertainty.

The country’s setback is so serious that it has been recognized by most countries in the world. Nobody questions or doubts that Venezuela is going through a huge crisis, although some countries deny it, minimize it or take advantage of it because of economic, strategic, “ideological” or for their own political purposes. Venezuela was considered a “rich” country; today having an 85% scarcity in food and medicine seems implausible, a made up tale, but it’s the reality. It has been impoverished and devastated slowly, not by a war, because it’s a victim of a disease called power.

Our country is immersed in a crisis that was implanted, with cynicism and indolence, by Venezuelans, although it was not created by everyone. The task was implemented by a large number of tiny economic groups and political associates that took advantage of the good faith of the majority of citizens and because a large part of the population, sunk in years of ignorance and overwhelmed by a permanent propaganda campaign, meekly got accustomed to receive crumbs from the State and, conforming to that, got used to not making an effort to achieve anything at all. The destruction was also propelled and propped up by opportunistic groups and individuals who, like the suckerfishes accompanying the shark, aspired to acquire positions of power in order to take advantage and make overnight fortunes. Perhaps one could conclude that the general stance of the population was one of complicity and indifference, only pursuing their own economic welfare regardless the fate of the country. They remained silent, applauded, adapted themselves to the situation and ultimately endorsed what was happening. Those who raised their voices dissenting and not bowing down or openly refusing to accept what was and is now happening, were and are persecuted, censored, exiled or imprisoned. The result of all this is what we unfortunately have today as a country.

An oil country with a small population; an enviable geographical location; an example for other countries during certain periods of its history; that had some cycles of amazing development; that has hydrological resources, fertile lands, forests, jungles and minerals of all kinds; brilliant men of science, letters, music and sports, lost its way and became a regrettable caricature of misfortune, corruption and carelessness. It’s not only food and medicine are scarce; diseases that were eradicated resurface; aggressiveness, distrust and violence flourish; corruption is consented and justice is flagrantly distorted. For a long time now, decades, the country has been subjected to permanent campaigns of destabilization and alarm, caused and promoted premeditatedly by the Venezuelans themselves. The country, adrift, has seen with perplexity how some individuals became immensely rich while the country was gradually dismantled, falling into pieces and cornered in a dark moral, spiritual and economic poverty.

A country in which the State owns production lands; sugar refineries, coffee plantations, food processing facilities, cement factories, banks, hotels, sea and air transportation lines, the main telephone and Internet company; manufacturer of steel, aluminum; electricity, water supplier; radio stations, television channels, commercialization companies; builder of highways, houses and at the end…, ironically, does not produce anything because it is inefficient, but mostly because it is corrupt. In order to cover everything up, since the State is never responsible for anything, it sells the idea to the people, through continuous, grotesque, false and shameless propaganda campaigns, that against the country there is an economic war or a media war or a dollar war or electric war, which is fomented and executed by political opponents or foreign interests… If so, the State has shown itself to be absolutely incapable and inefficient to win these wars. This is clearly seen when, from 2016 to this date, an Economic Emergency was decreed (No.2.184) and renewed 13 times “to assure the population the full enjoyment of their rights, preserve internal order, timely access to goods and services, food, medicines and other products essential to life” and this resulted in one of the greatest hyperinflations in world’s history, public transportation reduced to 10% of its capacity and more scarcity of medicine and food. It is also evident that the State failed when the electrical installations, in 2013, were militarized when the so called Great Electrical Mission was announced: “We are going to militarize, that is the word, all these electrical installations that, in addition, now become security zones to protect and avoid any kind of sabotage action”. In the end, the electrical installations were, according to the State, permanently sabotaged by iguanas, lightning, cyber attacks, electromagnetic pulses, terrorists and snipers; however, there was not or has there been, proof of these supposed attacks. As a consequence of this “State and military protection” we’ve had permanent blackouts that seriously affected the economy, health, education, drinking water supply and the general welfare and mental stability of the population. The only war the State truly won was to stay in power.

Historians will capture this period and will be highlighted as one of the most macabre and nefarious of our history. The pages will not be written in ink, they will be written with tears and blood. They will describe a period in which love and peace were sung to the people, but at the same time State policy subjected them to a ferocious psychological terror, economic and social intimidation and falsehoods. It will A period that was promoted as a “great emancipatory epic”, rhetoric mounted by spiteful and perverse people, but which in fact left aside the basic interests and rights of its citizens. A period when the social pact agreed in the Venezuelan Constitution was violated; in where, with the approval and encouragement of the State, many citizens became high-level predators and others of lower level, called “bachaqueros” (large red ants), whom immorally and unscrupulously took advantage, like cannibals, the needs of others. In this pitiful history there will be a very special chapter highlighting the use of justice as a political weapon and a chapter that will have notorious components, unusual and not previously seen, of those who carried out this process, those who will have a privileged place, those who supported the surrender of the sovereignty of their own country to other countries; of turning the country into a spillway for terrorist groups and for having had close ties with drug trafficking.

It is debatable whether we deserved this or not, or whether it was caused by the naivety of a people who believed in siren calls or by not understanding the true value of freedom and the fragility of democracy. What is clear is that this is a lesson that must not be forgotten and must remain engraved in the DNA of the Venezuelans so that it does not happen again. It must never be forgotten how the ruin and the future of several generations were executed, turning a country into a grotesque caricature caused by a disease called power.

Chinatown

A Poem by Sandy Benitez

Let’s pretend we can speak Chinese.
We’ll get symbols of Chinese words
tattooed on our arms,
wear sleeveless tees
in Chinatown.

Or maybe we should just be
ourselves for once.
Order Chinese takeout,
throw out the cookies and not the fortunes,
save the chopsticks as drink mixers,
and eat with forks.

Learn how to make fried rice
from scratch.
Save the tattoo money
for a rainy day.
Go see a martial arts movie
starring Jet Li.

Why Alexander the Great Left Nubia

Stories from the Talmud retold by Mirian

Alexander the Great was famous for his military might. When countries heard he was approaching, they would all but tremble with fright!

One day, Alexander the Great had set out to conquer a small village in Africa run by women. Word got out. The Nubian leaders gathered their skirt in their hand, and with their head scarves flaying in the wind, bolted towards the queen. A quick meeting needed to be done!

In quick hushed voice they spoke in their native African tongue. What should they do? How can they ever defeat the Great Alexander. Slowly slowly a plan was devised.

The day came. Alexander the Great and all his military might approached.

They came and towered over the entrance of the village. Lo and behold! Without weapons, the women came out. One by one, led by the queen in all her regality. It was a quiet but noble and beautiful procession. Drums played suspensfully in the background and no one spoke a word, save the the excited wind blowing around them.

Finally, the queen spoke.

“I salute you, the great and mighty Alexander. You are well known for your fierceness in battle and for your great victories.”

Everyone listened intently.

“We women have protected and defended our village alone. And we have been successful! Now, if you should come and attack us and win, what would it be said? The great Warrior fought with women and won?! What kind of victory would that be?”

The Queen paused to let the idea sink in. Then she continued, “Now supposing WE WON? What would be said then?”

With a faint smile, Alexander the Great, conceded, “You are wise. I will not conquer your land. Now fetch some bread for me and my men and we will be off!”

The queen bowed graciously and returned with her whole procession back into their village. As soon as they were out of sight, again they hurried and huddled to think and talk.

He needs bread? they wondered. Surely, there is a trick to this! So they, again, devised another plan.

After a few minutes, once again the whole solemn procession came out bearing bread. By then everyone had dismounted from their horses and waited for the bread. The women passed bread to everyone. However, when they bit into the bread, they realized it was hard! Each bread had inside of it gold!

“What is this!” Cried Alexander.

“Great and mighty Alexander” The queen began, unperturbed, “would you really be satisfied to come all the way over here… for a morsel of bread?”

With this, Alexander nodded and left. But before he left, he wrote on the gate of their city: “I, Alexander of Macedon, was a fool before having come to this country of women in Africa and having received their advice.”