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
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
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)
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.
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
To survive this world’s lush, radiant, burlesque
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.
“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 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.
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
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
now a ship at sea
on a wave so big
I can’t see the horizon
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.
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’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
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.