Life in the margins of motion.

morning: brushing sleep

off my teeth.

the room is silent

in that glassy sense of silence;

all small sounds

bouncing on blue tile,

like life as it is

in the margins of motion.

 

I wash my face

with cold water

and tap the razor

on side of the sink

while I wait for the pipes

to turn functional. out the window

I see night stand up

and begin wandering

westward;

frost given style

by the rising signs

of daylight. birds don’t sing –

 

it’s winter here. cats

don’t wander on the garden

lawn. in the bedroom

my girlfriend is asleep again

after waking a little

when I got out of bed. I go to the kitchen

and make coffee,

catch my ankles

on last night’s wine. shoes,

 

coats and take-away chip bags

crumple and creep along the carpet,

scratching their way into sunlight

like brambles, patching rarely

wandered paths.

 

DS Maolalai

DS Maolalai has been nominated four times for Best of the Net and three times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)

Andy Posner: Featured Author

On Doing Good in America

If you are born poor it’s not your mistake, but if you die poor it’s your mistake.”- Bill Gates

 

We admire the philanthropist for “giving back”

and ignore what they first had to take away.

 

It is a sin to need help and a blessing to offer it;

there is profit in not asking too many questions:

 

How does one with no boots

pull himself up by his bootstraps?”

Why teach someone to fish

then deny them access to the lake?”

 

We are only 4.25% of global population, and yet

we own 28% of Covid-19 fatalities. But don’t worry,

 

our billionaires, dying to restart their factories,

donate to food banks so the underpaid don’t starve.

 

But we do not weep for the hungry—this is America!

We are each one sixty-hour workweek away

 

from striking it rich. We refuse to quarantine our dreams;

If 200,000 perish, that’s the price of freedom.

 

Someday we’ll erect an immaculate monument

to those who died for the good of the economy.

 

Helium

 

His Momma died 18 months ago. For Mother’s Day,

he bought one of those shiny Mylar helium balloons

and some Carnations. It wasn’t easy to do, between shifts

at work and wearing a mask to the store—it’s dangerous

for a Black man to protect himself against a virus—

but he wanted to honor the woman who,

in spite of the odds, had kept him alive.

 

He tied the balloon to a vase on the kitchen table

where they used to listen to music and cook dinner.

When the store clerk was filling it, he

stifled a laugh-turned-cry, remembering that birthday

when she got him 20 balloons and one-by-one

they inhaled the noble gas,

nearly dying of laughter at their squeaky voices.

 

Leaving for the final time, he caught his reflection

in the Mylar. Hours later, dying beneath a cop’s knee,

he called out for Momma.

The last thing he saw was the joy in her eyes.

 

Back home the flowers have wilted and the balloon,

twisting slowly in the now-stale air,

sinks lower and lower to the ground.

 

in memory of George Floyd

 

The Beauty of Bipolar Depression

 

Too musically disinclined to rap or sing the blues,

too bound up in striving to retire

to the vase of my bed like an ersatz flower

(not even 300mg of Seroquel

can reduce me to mere ornamentation),

I instead write this poem,

which few will read.

 

You may wonder if it matters

that you read this, but

I’m not one to lavish much on myself:

For whom else would I obsess

over this comma, that

enjambment?

To survive this world’s lush, radiant, burlesque

suffering,

It’s best that you understand

why I will never self-immolate, never

give what’s broken in me or the world

the satisfaction of my surrender.

 

Peel back my eyes

and touch the still-healing wound

oozing cerebral fluid from the Big Bang.

It’s in this blind space of raw pain

I often dwell. Here everything is reduced

to elements, genes, math, poetry. Here

my life to date plays on an endless loop like

propaganda. And here originate the florid

manifestations of myself: the video gamer

and the coder, the lucid dreamer

and the psychoanalyst.

 

If you could join me here,

you would understand how I’ve endured.

 

You would find immortality in anguish.

 

Election Day

“Power is not what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.” – Saul Alinsky

 

Elections have consequences.

So say the victors to justify

their ends and means.

 

Perhaps the American Dream

is to live without consequence:

no mistakes, only cheapness

 

we are free to later discard.

Why deliberate honestly?

Abundance is our temptation,

 

prosperity the lie we tell to

expiate our original sin.

Elections have consequences.

 

Had Lincoln lost, how many

would we still count as slaves?

 

Who voted for mass incarceration,

child detention, soaring inequality?

 

In America anything is possible.

A Black president. Rags-to-riches.

Our poets, scientists, entrepreneurs

 

have proven their greatness—

the full flower of individualism—

Yet something blights the soil.

 

We are good people but not a
Good People. We welcome the Iraqi

refugee, ignore the crime that made him one.

 

Who voted for the War on Terror?

Who paid for the lies that launched it?

 

How much is too much to spend on

defense? On political ads?

 

Alinsky argued that what matters

is a particular means for a particular

end. Democracy not in the abstract

 

but in the flesh, the messy world

of action and reaction. I’m ready to commit

murder at the ballot box. I hope it’s not

 

too late to stop the carnage. America

forgives itself so easily, as though

we weren’t forgiving but forgetting.

 

If we knew the difference between

poll numbers and corpses, budgets

and starvation, we might have avoided

 

this moment. A pandemic. A fraud.

I cast my vote uncertain it will count.

That is, be counted. That is, matter.

 

When my blood is on the ballot,

there is only one outcome I can accept.

Elections have consequences.

 

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.

In Our Dreams We Are Always Younger

they are coughing in the high rises of New York

in the bayous of Louisiana

in the mountains of Colorado

 

they are coughing up wind

while God orders the trees to bend

with our breath

and our hope cracks

and stretches like rain

because to see death

is to scrape down a home

with nothing to build in its place

on the moody March grass

on the spine of a god

who won’t stand up for us today

 

they’re in a small room with white walls

fever dances in their eyes

a woman lays her face in her hands

the children are drawing houses

with trees on the lawn

lines of walls through the trunks

no erasers

there is always some line in the way

branch and wall intersecting

viruses crossing borders

world as global as the tides

as hungry as the days

counting coins for flour

while in our dreams

we walk on water

or light candles in a church

we can’t visit anymore

and in our dreams

we are always younger

 

they’re catching spiders

and throwing them outside

they’re wrapping themselves

in the sea-sweat

they’re watering the cactus

 

the cactus never bends to the wind

the cactus is fatter than God

spinier than his tongue

the cactus knows love

better than roses

because to know a desert

is to love the rivers

 

and I do not want to cross one today

I have a boat with no oars

and a God with no words

and children who climb trees

and a rose petal

pressed in a book

about a sea so red

it mocked our blood

a sea so parted

the fish drowned in air

so the ghosts swam west

where the sun gave up

 

and I’m on the shore

my river-boat

now a ship at sea

on a wave so big

I can’t see the horizon

 

Kika Dorsey

Kika Dorsey is a poet and fiction writer in Boulder, Colorado, and lives with her two children, husband, and pets. Her books include Beside Herself (Flutter Press, 2010) and three full-length collections, Rust, Coming Up for Air (Word Tech Editions, 2016, 2018), and the forthcoming Occupied: Vienna is a Broken Man and Daughter of Hunger (Pinyon Publishing, 2020). She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize four times. Currently, she is an instructor of English at Front Range Community College and tutors. When not writing or teaching, she swims miles in pools and runs and hikes in the open space of Colorado’s mountains and plains.

Dirge

Night, ossuary dank.

 

Watchfires flare

in the hills.

 

Out there in the miasma

of creation,

 

a virus thrives

in its first host.

 

Here, our streets reek

of festering offal.

 

Unlike the lamb,

 

we know where

we’re being led:

 

here, we sing

out of fear.

 

Brett Harrington

Brett Harrington’s (he/him/his) previous publications include Ligeia, Two Hawks Quarterly, The Shore, Third Coast, The Inflectionist Review and Bluestem, and he was a finalist for the 2012 Best of the Net award. He lives in the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon.

Max Heinegg

Digging in the Wrong Place

 

Compromised, they call the card. My 16 digits mined

by algorithm or bunker genius fiddling,

for $1633 at Best Buy; the robbers have

all my numbers save the back code to complete

the inspired transaction, the Take back one kadam 

& so they are. Far enough away from the Nazis for now,

 

Boston thinks it’s annexed the assholes today

in a gazebo. Nazis in a gazebo?! Only Indy could flip

his revolver & trusty whip into a suitcase, beeline

a passenger plane & catch ‘em sneering in their insignias,

gathered like poison in standing water. In the film,

the strong backs open empty sand while our hero squints down

 

upon the twisting floor, asking Why did it have to be

snakes? Don’t waste breath waiting for a revelation

of perfectly directed sun. The diorama is none,

& we can’t count on the wrath of God to gather

His phantom forces to melt their brainwashed

faces one at a time, down to the skulls.

 

 

Miners in Taijuan

—from photographs by Stan Grossfeld

 

Perhaps brothers, these two pitchy

instruments savor warm water

in a metal bath. Beers at arms’

reach, a coal accord for labor.

 

In the outsider’s monochrome

any untarnished aspect of

the image is silvered. Sympathy

is less than the universal,

 

but still the color of deserved

rest, arms that rip the underground

asunder, later burn chunks to

boil rainwater from the sky’s well

 

while factories feed, the country

busy raising a colossus.

If Providence doubts its welcome,

these two tender invitation.

Max Heinegg

Max Heinegg’s poems have been nominated for Best of the Net, The Pushcart Prize, and been a finalist for the poetry prizes of Crab Creek Review, December Magazine, Cultural Weekly, Cutthroat, Rougarou, Asheville Poetry Review, the Nazim Hikmet prize, and the Joe Bolton award. Recent work appears in Thrush, Nimrod, The Cortland Review, and Love’s Executive Order. Additionally, he is a singer-songwriter and recording artist whose records can be heard at www.maxheinegg.com

This is not a rock-bottom poem but it was on the well-lit downward spiral

I remember I tripped

and skinned my knee on the curb,

beneath the neon signglow

and as my last bottle shattered

on the pavement beside me

and I looked at the hole

in my slacks and the wet bloodsmudge there

I said, interiorly, you clumsy fuck,

and exteriorly, just plain fuck.

Some pretty folks in day-glo evening dresses

looked on, judging a bit.

 

And as I sat there, failed son, spinning,

mad at my fingers for not being needles,

mad at my saliva for not being bleach,

mad at my feet for not being steady

(but how could they, really), mad at

my beer for not staying, miraculously,

in the bottle, I looked up at the

signs in all their bright rainbow,

and I remember tripping, dissociating,

thinking, interiorly- “I wonder what

the noble gasses make of it, being

caught in those tubes, hocking

beer for a living?” and,

exteriorly, just plain fuck.

 

And this led, inexorably,

to a little more negative self-talk

outside the bar, mad at my

creatively dressed audience,

for moving on, judgment complete,

and at myself again,

for not even knowing then

that there were blessings

that could be counted,

even while coagulating,

by whatever sordid light

there was to count them–

 

argon, like from the argonauts,

neon, sounds like Creon in a way,

xenon and on and on and on…

krypton, like from that Superman

stuff (wonder how he felt about

good’ol Jor-El!), radon, all the

nobles, Jay-San, no that’s not one,

all first-born sons probably,

debased into illuminating a

standard issue failing-to-please-

daddy-issue drunk thinking,

interiorly, how the nobles

have fallen so low, and finally,

exteriorly, a howl at the moon-

where is that spark

that will light me

up one night?

 

Michael J. Galko

Michael J. Galko is a scientist and poet who lives and works in Houston, TX. He has been a juried poet of the Houston Poetry Fest three of the last four years and is a 2019 Pushcart Award nominee. In the past year he has had poems published or accepted for publication at descant, San Pedro River Review, Gargoyle, Gulf Coast, Defunkt Magazine, Riddled with Arrows, Poetry WTF!?, and Sonic Boom, among other journals.

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