If Corporate Dictators Decided

When dictators who rule over transnational corporations

finally choose to do no harm to other people or species,

it’ll be an ice-cold season in hell as billionaires shout

at their servants to hand them their loaded assault rifles.


When they dictate their fresh plans for the triple bottom line,

will they explain to the crowd how they managed to run

their misinformation campaigns aimed at creating enough

doubt about climate disruption to block collective actions?


The dictators were hired to control takeovers and fabrications,

to camouflage needed information, and to deal with others

like them, single-minded money-mongers who’ll say anything

to maximize the bottom line, who seek positions of advantage


for putting one over on somebody else, to enrich themselves

before others, to give executives bonuses before investing,

to keep politicians beholden, harnessing them with blackmail,

to straight-out lie to congressional investigation committees


and position middle managers where they’ll do the dirty work

of cutting costs, compromising the local air and watershed,

and externalizing every possible cost for others to pick up.

When they finally decide they should cause no harm to others,


it will mean their view of world has been radically enlarged

to allow for presence of others and importance of ecosystems.

From the moment this is announced, immense relief will pass

from person to person, as we once again can picture a future.


by 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.

The Blue Chair

Stick-men crayoned on the closet walls

like astronauts abandoned

to the endless night of space,

ancient grease thick as suntan lotion

on the kitchen ceiling, a cloud of nail holes

floating the front-room wall,

slats of the fractured louver doors

scattered like bones on the bedroom floor.

It took a week to gather the detritus

of giving up, walking away.

So much left behind, hangers strewn in a jigsaw,

shirts and underwear piled in the corners.

the legless blue-foam seat

their child sat on all of every day

and died last month at seventeen.

She couldn’t move or speak,

only shift her eyes enough

that you believed someone lived in there.

They learned what her eye-flickers meant,

the gurgled cries, head wags.

Fed spoon-by-spoon so she wouldn’t choke,

I saw how they’d slide her in the blue seat

across the living-room, stationed by the television

so they could go on with their lives.

They’d check back in ten minutes,

read her eyes the way you try to do

when someone doesn’t answer.

You look as they stare out the window

at the pink streaks of morning,

see how still they are, wanting to believe

they’re loving the overwhelming

beauty of the sunrise until you notice

their eyes have stopped moving.


by Mark Burke

Mark Burke’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the North American Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Sugar House Review, Nimrod International Journal and others. His work has recently been nominated for a Pushcart prize.

Wedding Predictions

My children will beg me to carry them all over San Francisco, their bodies sticking to me, their voices question marks and exclamations.

My heart will roar like a train when I see my father, yet I will stay pleasant, quiet, impenetrable. My brother, who never asks anything of me, will ask me and my mother to pose in nuclear family photos. As the camera clicks, I will grind my teeth down into short, flat plains.

My mother will pace in high heels, perpetually sipping Diet Coke. Her friends will encircle her, a tragic queen, create a shield around her so that she won’t need to see my father or remember that he is there.

Halfway through dinner, I will give a speech about the buoyant nature of love. I will dance all night. I will bring back disco. I will spin my children in the air, and the flame of their joy will launch the dance floor into a plane of happiness.

When my husband carries our children away to sleep, his twin will corner me. He will find a reason to call me a frigid bitch to my face. And I will tell him that I am not frigid, and he really should look up that word. I will keep speaking to him because he is kind to my children, nicknaming them and looking at them the way he wished someone would have looked at him when he was a boy.

I will run miles until I turn into a bird and fly away but I won’t fly away; instead I’ll just stop hitting the pavement with my body. I will fall in love with the fresh salty air and rolling hills and $7 coffee, and then I will board a plane and go back home.


by Jamie Wagman

Jamie Wagman is an Associate Professor of Gender Studies and History at Saint Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana. Her creative work has also appeared in The Adirondack Review, Newfound, Hip Mama, and Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Issues.