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.
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.
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.