Scott McDaniel

An I-40 Road Song

 

Rusting roof top words invite us

to change course and See Rock City.

On the radio, “American Pie” crashes into static.

I’m on my back in the back,

watching the traffic of tree branches pass.

Mom tells Dad to slow.

 

I-40 is an infinite list of options

that we won’t choose:

we will not stop for Casey Jones Village,

will not veer up highway 641 to catch

the Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Farm.

We drive on by.

 

Tourist traps, Dad whispers, seemingly to himself.

It’s been too long since Mom has seen her Mom—

moms need their moms too, it seems

so we go on

through last night’s rain,

through Appalachian oaks,

through smoke-like fog,

through towns with crooked sheriffs

and newly constructed revival tents

through the silence between us

 

Finally, we arrive,

and after cursory greetings

and “you’re getting so talls,”

I find myself staring at the popcorn ceiling

from my grandmother’s couch,

eyes searching for passing trees

and signs for Hidden Hollow or The Mule

on the Cliff — Finding a shelf of unread books.

 

 

The Statue of Robert E. Lee Contemplates his Removal

 

When I see the forgotten,

the dirty ones pushing stolen

carts, their fingerless wool

gloves gripping tight to all

they have left, I find myself

thinking back to those

rat boiling winters

when supplies were short,

the mud was thick

and the men wanted to battle

only to pillage

blankets.

 

Standing atop this pedestal

overlooking my namesake park,

I’ve seen more than one mugging.

More than one poet penning metaphors

in a comp book. Protests, wedding ceremonies,

artists, rapes…

 

to me it all looked like

death and sounded like the

burning howls that have haunted

me since the Wilderness. Death

didn’t die in the fields of Slaughter Pen Farm

or the trenches of Richmond. It followed me

here. Just last week

 

I saw a car careen

and kill a child. The driver ran

around the wreck screaming,

it was all my fault! It was all

my fault. As if that chant

could change the choice.

I said the same incantation

at Gettysburg but learned

the dead stayed dead

and the dying kept dying.

I offered to step down,

tender my resignation

only to be refused so I

resigned myself to more

 

 

and more and I got so

Goddamn weary of it all.

 

Take me down.

For the love of God.

Take me down.

 

 

Scott McDaniel

The work of Pushcart Prize-nominated poet Scott McDaniel has been featured in Mad Swirl, Deep South Magazine, Oberon Poetry Magazine, Common Ground Review and The New Guard. He has read throughout his home state of Arkansas as well as Manhattan and Castletownroche, Ireland. Scott began writing poetry at an early age and was encouraged to do so by his cousin, award-winning inaugural poet Miller Williams. He lives and works in his hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas; a city outside of Memphis that is highly influenced by the culture of the Mississippi Delta. His writings reflect the unique hues, quirks and broken promises of the modern south.

On Hearing ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ When You Don’t Have Kids

after Reginald Shephard’s “My Mother Was No White Dove”

 

I am not a Mom

yet Mom’s what they think.

 

I am a woman

and Mom’s what they see.

 

Adults write about their mothers

as if composing a greeting card.

 

Their mothers are kind, supportive

an inspiration even sixty years later.

 

People raised by troubled mothers

…those poems are rare.

 

Finally a poet whose mother was

“…the clouded-over night…”

 

When the young man returns my credit card,

says, Happy Mother’s Day! I am pleased

to think he does not know such darkness.

 

 

Mary C. Rowin

Mary C. Rowin’s poetry has appeared in publications such as Panopoly, Stoneboat, Hummingbird and Oakwood Literary Magazine. Recent awards include poetry prizes from The Nebraska Writers Guild, and Journal from the Heartland. Mary’s poem “Centering,” published in the Winter 2018 issue of Blue Heron Review, was nominated for the Push Cart Anthology. Mary lives with her husband in Middleton, Wisconsin.

It’s 1938 Again

it’s 1938 again, glass shatters

shards scatter, lives don’t matter

state sponsored murder sanctioned

and the constituents celebrate

and the constituents applaud

 

toxic rallies continue

hot coals are thrown into boiling

pots of ignorant meltdown ignited

and the constituents celebrate

and the constituents applaud

 

the fallout spreads

and the fallout is out of control

as ash and smoke hover like

low hanging clouds hiding our eyes

from daylight tempting us with madness

 

the morning sonnet of the Song Thrush

the nighttime chirp of crickets, the glitter

at dusk from fireflies are no longer only

cries of children cries of mothers

cries of fathers and weeping walls

 

blood runs in the street blood runs in the rivers

blood drips, drips, drips in the drains while mirth

reigns in chateaus, castles and towers tall, tall, tall

and the constituents are happy

and the constituents celebrate

and the constituents applaud

 

it’s 1938 again

 

Jerry T Johnson

Jerry T. Johnson is a Poet and Spoken Word Artist whose poetry has appeared in a variety of literary journals and anthologies. Jerry often features at a variety of spoken word venues in the New York City area and he currently lives in Danbury, Connecticut with his wife Raye.

Andy Posner

In Whose Custody the Flags?

 

The flags are at full-staff

Though Jackeline is dead

Of dehydration

And the Guatemalan boy whose name

Has not been released

Is dead

Of the flu—

They died in our custody.

The flags remain at full-staff,

Their stars going dim with grief

As refugees beg

For a glass of water

Or a dose of Ibuprofen and Amoxicillin

On the kitchen counter,

Next to the bills and Church flier—

They died in our custody.

Just after Jackeline died

But before the Guatemalan boy

Whose name has not been released,

My son Richard was born

At a world-class hospital:

8 pounds 6 ounces. Apgar score of 8;

The birth announcement on Facebook

Garnered 160 likes and 47 comments—

They died in our custody.

In whose custody are these flags?

In whose name are they raised and lowered,

Repaired or replaced, honored or disgraced?

I ask because

Jackeline is dead

Of dehydration,

The Guatemalan boy whose name

Has not been released

Is dead

Of the flu—

And they died in America.

(Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin died at the age of seven on December 8, 2018 

My son was born on Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Guatemalan boy died on Christmas Eve, 2018 at the age of eight. He was later identified as Felipe Alonzo-Gomez

Written Wednesday, December 25, 2018)

 

 

In Polite Society

 

In polite society we hold doors open,

Say thanks and please, wear crisp

Suits when we drop bombs.

In polite society we shake the hands

Of blacks and Latinos and native peoples,

Smile as we strip them of their rights.

In polite society we wear bright jewels

Mined by slaves, decry slavery,

Tip generously.

In polite society we destroy the Earth

To make us rich, create jobs

That pay the poor to be poor.

And in polite society

We are never rude, never mean—

We murder democratically.
 

 

The Gardener

 

We have pitched an innocent man against the

Thousand blades of grass.

Once a week the battle is waged;

Each green sword glints with dew.

But our man is well armed: we have given

Him motors, gasoline, blades faster

Than the wind, and so he goes trampling

Because our yard needs taming:

He leaves the lawn strewn with

Wilting corpses—their rot attracts

A pair of curious bluebirds.

For the moment victory smells like sprinklers

And empty fields.

For the moment our house is in order.

Then a rainstorm soaks the earth

Like an oil-well run amok,

Wreaks havoc on gutters and sewers,

Floods the streets, knocks down trees,

Holes us up in our homes,

Where through windows we observe

Hope erase carnage.

A week passes and the proud grass

Again waves beneath the wind.

The grass has a human spirit that

Grows endlessly, sprouts from the soil,

And wonders why we bother to hire

Mercenaries to fight a war

That must never come to an end.

 

 

Andy Posner

Andy Posner grew up in Los Angeles and earned an MA in Environmental Studies at Brown. While there, he founded Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial services to low-income families. When not working, he enjoys reading, writing, watching documentaries, and ranting about the state of the world. He has had his poetry published in several journals, including Burningword Literary Journal (which nominated his poem ‘The Machinery of the State’ for the Pushcart Poetry Prize), Noble/Gas Quarterly, and The Esthetic Apostle.

Spring Kicks In

City highways take the future

around the bend of the river

of money. Women assume further control.

The next human world aims its nuclear

torpedoes, as transcontinental jets

haunt the place, taking off and landing

on autopilot. Sons decide they’re daughters,

while the compass spin undergoes

its heavy journey across the charred

proving grounds of spring. Beetles burrow

into trees high up, where winter ends

and may return less often. Alien weather

balloons crack into a dimensionless chill.

Elk herds edge north, as the north pole

down-drains into newly claimed shipping

lanes. Parabolic receivers scan for eyes

of doubt over ends and their means.

Blue-suited company men gas up directly

removed from undead talk of extinctions.

A long hot kiss familiar with liberated

hip bones wavers before the collapse

of procreative love. Forebears continue

to break up and drift off from work shoes

and overcoats. Habits that grew out of fear

into lifestyles refuse to reveal their North

American arrogance in its rainwater

spend-drift street-carried flatness

under shirts and blank-slate asking

for reassurance around petroglyphs

that dwarf the possible ways to feel.

 

 

James Grabill

James Grabill’s work appears in Caliban, Harvard Review, Terrain, Mobius, Shenandoah, Seattle Review, Stand, and many others. Books – Poem Rising Out of the Earth (1994), An Indigo Scent after the Rain (2003), Lynx House Press. Environmental prose poems, Sea-Level Nerve: Books One (2014), Two (2015), Wordcraft of Oregon. For many years, he taught all kinds of writing as well as “systems thinking” and global issues relative to sustainability.

William Doreski

Dynamite Always Brightens a Dumbfounded Winter Day

 

On the road to the marsh I find

a stick of dynamite, blasting

cap attached. It must have fallen

off a truck. I toss the stick

into a snowbank, retreat

two hundred yards, trigger it

with telepathy. The blast

spews a world-class snow-cloud.

 

As if a page of music unfurled

in a single huge chord, the noise

astonishes the innocent ear,

leaving a memory of bells.

Nearby trees shrug off their rime

like elegant women undressing.

In a yard a quarter mile away

a pack of retrievers goes crazy.

 

How did I will such omniscience?

A truck dawdles in spew of fumes

and pulls up beside me, driver

grinning with stainless aplomb.

With honest beer-breath he reports

that the crew heard the blast and cheered.

Dynamite always brightens

a dumbfounded winter day.

 

The truck maunders on, spewing

a beer can or two. How casual

can explosions be? The ice

on the marsh may have rippled

in sympathy. Maybe an owl

stirred in sleep. Already the dogs

down the road have finished barking

and returned to playing in snow.

 

 

Polar Vortex

 

The cold pouring down from the Arctic has toughened into a hideous animal that we shouldn’t pet, trust, or feed. Let it forage as it will. Let it growl and claw the pine-trunks. Don’t let it into the house unless you think it’s about to produce a litter. Then, of course, common humanity would require us to shelter it. But I don’t believe there will be a litter. More likely it’s pretending to be pitiful, like the scruffy man who sits in the café all morning staring into his laptop computer without buying anything. Bestial cold will behave in a bestial manner. But it doesn’t conceal its carnivorous instincts. It doesn’t lie about the depth of its cold. It doesn’t strut and boast of conquering creatures more fragile than itself. It doesn’t squat on real estate and milk the poor for mortgages. It doesn’t believe in money, much less waste it on follies to insult the ninety-nine percent. Still we agree that this creature belongs outdoors. Yes, it plants a murky kiss on the kitchen window. Yes, it seems to threaten the deer browsing at our bird feeders. Yes, it whispers brittle little nothings in a language we don’t understand. Let’s just keep it outside, at least for now. I’m confident it will thrive on its own.

 

 

William Doreski

William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in various journals. He has taught writing and literature at Emerson, Goddard, Boston University, and Keene State College. His new poetry collection is A Black River, A Dark Fall.

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