Extinction (I) – RUNNER UP

Elizabeth Bagby

Cyanobacteria in primeval waves

found the young planet so immensely to their liking

that they multiplied and multiplied—

those carbon-gluttons at an endless feast—

spread, turned oceans blue,

and forced the world

to breathe

 

From which it all followed: legs grew,

and nerves and spines, fins, wings, antennae, tails;

monocots pushed up, leaves uncurled;

meadows flamed with color, brought forth

the humming seethe

 

of bees; and, not incidentally,

some enterprising double-jointed ape

stretched out a fingertip and touched a thumb,

and found the world was less

obscure

 

—from which the rest of it proceeded:

wars and Romans, contrapposto, dancing,

letters, A-tests, pyramids and satellites,

gunpowder, rock and roll, vaccines, banner ads,

whisky, card games, fantasy leagues, traffic stops, Congress: well,

here we are.

 

Did, as cyan crept across the swells,

as the holocaust of oxygen filled the air,

some skeptical bacterium

demur?

 

Did it assert, The oceans aren’t changing; or,

if they are changing, you can’t prove

that we’re the ones changing them;

and anyway, why stop progress, when

cyanobacteriakind has come

so far?

 


A. Bagby, a Chicago-based writer, musician, performer, and illustrator, recently participated in the Arctic Circle Arts & Sciences Expedition, an arts residency aboard a tall-mast ship exploring the glaciers and fjords of Svalbard. Her writing has appeared onstage with Strange Tree Group and Sansculottes; in anthologies from Wipf & Stock, Press 53, and Chicago Review Press; and in numerous magazines. She also draws oddball creatures for The Forgiveness Monster, fronts Liz + the Baguettes, and plays bass for The Unswept.

adoctrinado – RUNNER UP

Liliana Lule

indoctrinate: (1) to teach (someone) to fully accept

the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a

particular group and to not consider

other ideas, opinions, and beliefs

 

god is hiding at the corner of my mouth.

god is (hiding) on the corner of hudson and evergreen and watching

two children bleed out. his eyes are wide open.

did he anticipate this on the eighth day?

does he hate all he’s created?

my mouth tastes like iron. bleeds

from the inside-scraping screams i’m not allowed to breathe.

god is watching from the bruised insides

of my thighs; does he want something back?

let me cough up a lung. let me carve my heart out.

let me sanctify myself, post-mortem.

let me make myself anew in awe of him.

god is listening. god is (watching)

this pyre fueled by genocide.

these relics of colonization. these survivors of enslavement.

god is loving us living (starving) (dead).

god is watching my father take a knee to the back

by an officer who calls him spic.

god is watching a man hemorrhage before his daughter.

god is promising to steal back any lightning-born brown boys

he finds hustling on clark in the night time.

here. pray to him again tonight. watch him press his ear

to the hospital room door of a woman whose son is dead.

promise him a visit to la virgen. maybe she can hear us.

god is hiding in the space between a kiss.

he’s creating something holy.

something promised. something doomed.

 


Liliana is currently working on a degree in English and Spanish, an endeavor made even more exciting by her constant forays into Latin America. In her spare time, she does research on Latinx liberation, aiding her constant efforts to save the world one protest chant at a time. She enjoys Ben & Jerry’s, Spanish rock bands, and dogs almost as much as she does poetry.

 

Content Warning: Pantoum – RUNNER UP

Alejandro Escudé

We warn you this video may contain graphic images,

the man is a blood-chalice, the woman is saying sir

and the uniform stands firm as the camera captures

the road, elbows and hands, the zip-zip of cuffs.

 

The man is a blood-chalice, an alphabet of red, sir

you shot my boyfriend, she says, don’t tell me he’s gone.

The crying baby is somewhere suspended in dread

over a road of hardened elbows, hands, zip-zip of cuffs.

 

You shot my boyfriend, she says, don’t tell me he’s gone,

the uniform stands firm, the woman is saying sir

on a road of interlocking elbows, the zip-zip of cuffs.

We warn you this video may contain graphic images.

 

We warn you this video may contain graphic images.

The policemen approach from angles, spider-like,

the camera to the woman’s face, her voice unravelling

as she summons the facts, “You shot four bullets…”

 

From angles, the policemen approach, spider-like,

saying “sort” and “out,” as if death were not final.

The man is a man no more, a head-tossed savior,

his body like a white bloody blanket over the seat.

 

Saying “sort” and “out,” as if death were not final,

the uniform stands firm as the camera captures

his body like a white bloody blanket over the seat.

We warn you this video may contain graphic images.

 


Alejandro Escudé’s first book of poems, My Earthbound Eye, was published in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

Firestorm: Checagou – WINNER

Nancy L. Davis

In the tall stalks of plenty where prairie meets plains

a city is born. Wild onions, wild fantasies.

Rivers run through it. Strident streams of Great-Lake currents

steady the flow of New-England merchant men:

princes and paupers, land pirates build the inestimable

sprawling of sweeping horizons.

 

Pelts fall to planks

warriors to mayors

dreams to currencies

forests to sweatshops.

Steam horses spar

with human life.

A river reversed

a pestilence delivered

downstream.

 

Necessity being the mother of invention,

steel structures rise, trains loop and dip

and the disassembly of beasts foretells

the Second Coming:  lean iron horses feeding

scrap yards. Meanwhile,

the torpid transmigration of souls transpires:

dumped into Bubbly Creek later washed

down the mighty Mississippi, generations later

the river choking on silt.

 

The Negro Speaks of Rivers.  “I’ve seen fire and

I’ve seen rain.”** I’ve seen a lakefront open to parks

and people, wetlands overfed with fill. The vanishing

and the vanquished. Trains, planes, automobiles:

the confluence a gritty grid of asphalt angles and granite

canyons. Boats carrying the hopeful across the

Great Dixie Divide. Mechanical men stacking flaxen

into elevators of wealth. Driven creators the brilliant

architects of modernity.

 

Flash forward to grim brick smokestack-like Habitats

for Humanity. Distinctive Projects. Progress. Native Sons

also rising. A Metamorphosis:  onion fields to fertilizer beds

to killing parks slashed to the quick

with modern-day scythes and sickles;

drug-sick shepherds keeping watch on their flocks to part rival

weave from neighborhood chaff:  flushing out futures like grouse

in the grasses, flesh falling from bone; sacrificial lambs, our heads

bowed to the heavens. Our Country ‘Tis of Thee.

The ages echoing one into another,

aging with heartbreak, of thee I sing.

 

Rapid-fire consumption our

Gross National Product.

 

Metal scrambles, screams through tissue;

just another Stormy Monday, the papers say. Strange Fruit falling

from the popular to arms. Farewell. Hand to hand combat. Friendly

fire. The gun runner wailing with the gospel choir.

“O, here’s the shoe my baby wore, /But, baby, where are you?”***

 

A most uncivil war. Urban unrest. City of Big Shoulders, gangly adolescence.

Oh holy

night. Violence begets violence. O say,

can you see, by the dawn’s dimming light.

The rocket’s red glare the bombs bursting in air

gives proof through the night that our hearts are not there.

For the land of the free and the home of deep strife:

unsettled, unhealthy, unbidden. Rife

with sorrow.

 

I speak of rivers

fire and rain.

 

*Native American term meaning skunk weed, smelly onion

**James Taylor, “Fire and Rain” by    ***Dudley Randall, “The Ballad of Birmingham”

 


A retired English Professor, Nancy L. Davis divides her writing time between Chicago and Long Beach, Indiana, on Lake Michigan. Her poetry, short fiction, reviews and articles have placed in numerous competitions and appeared in such journals as Primavera, The Ledge Magazine of Poetry & Fiction, Route Nine and Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table. Prior to teaching, Ms. Davis wrote and produced award-winning educational films; she holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Literature from The University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Sounds

Wilson Roberts

Sounds within a house change
when the last of the dead are taken;
echoes of dust settling
air drying, cracking:
emptiness has a resonance.
That is why we point mutely
at paintings, lamps, furniture, small
things favored by memory;
whisper when we must speak:
the brass mortar and pestle, the
painting, cows grazing, the
cut glass sherry decanter.

Words profane that holy moment,
instant, in truth, when the dead are again
present, the dust suspended, the air moist;
we see them move the pestle, straighten
the painting, for they have been taken
quickly, leave slowly, and are gone
only after we mete out those favored
things, load our cars with boxes, knowing
upon what mantles and shelves, tabletops and walls
we will place them. We go
to our homes and behind us the dust
settles, the air dries, and outside the house
the tap tap tapping of a sign being placed
at the edge of the lawn by the street.

 


Wilson Roberts lives in Greenfield Massachusetts and St. John in the Virgin Islands. Raised in Newtown, Bucks County, his short fiction and poetry have appeared in The Red Clay Reader, Balsams and Hemlocks, Crucible, The Appalachian South, Radical America, Philadelphia Stories, The Massachusetts Review, and The Journal of Caribbean Literatures. His novels, including All That Endures, are published by Wilder Publications.

Why I Be Writin’ Stuff

Joseph Earl Thomas

Because I never learned
a damn thing in school,

since D.A.R.E. came
long after truth.

Because maps don’t work
here, and

there is oil, but
“The Rainbow isn’t Enuf.”

Because ain’t no nigga playing Spider-Man
Or James Bond.

Because it’s raining right now
in Antigua,

but North Philly is lovely this time of year.

Because gaps need bridges,
but snitches get stitches

Plus,
Anything I say can and will be used against me in a court
of law.

Because there are no mirrors
big enough.

Because singing out
loud demands confidence.

Because Mr. Emas died
half-way through graphic design class—
took my visual art with him.

Because anxiety wasn’t uniquely
holding a gun to my head,

And Frankford by-laws state
I should have long since been dead.

Because so few cats
can swim

and even salmon
die trying.

 


Joseph Earl Thomas is a Writing Studies graduate student at Saint Joseph’s University. A sometimes poet and memoirist, he specializes in speculative fiction centered on disenfranchisement, coming of age as a person of color and prolonged encounters related to war. Click here to read his blogs.

When The Harpsichord of Watercolors

Paul Siegell

I hung them out of the location,
but was worried about rain.
Awareness on canvas, Monday
in the South Philly kill zone.
I’ll be on your arm, but these
are not the only words we have
in common. As easy as it is to
get a slice of pizza, the sooner
you know that the pharmacy
will wear you out, the better—

“Morrissey” says my sweatshirt,
says ceremonial moans, says that
that written record of watercolors
(what kept you in hiding all week

-end)came kind closer to what
you saw that helped morning

her wet-towel warmth unsealed
your sight from the glue of pinkeye:
“paperclip rainclouds exploding
toad-green sparks”—Still,

as a concept apropos of the in-
side-out, saying things like “Can
I make a delivery order?” seems
to know no limitations. The slip
from yesterday’s cookie asks,
“How dark is dark? How wise is
wise?” and no matter how many
lucky numbers I get, I still can’t
tip to an answer fair—Best check
back for details as they develop.

 


Paul Siegell is the author of wild life rifle fire, jambandbootleg and Poemergency Room, and a senior editor at Painted Bride Quarterly. Kindly find more of his work – and concrete, poetry, and t-shirts – at “ReVeLeR @ eYeLeVeL” and @paulsiegell.

Canopy

Dan Elman

1.

greasepaint buffalo

twirling dishes

 gravity creep

children pull

turtleneck wonder

through the
mad herd

2.

the neighbor’s dog is barking

invisibly

it’s about to rain

the trees are dropping
their knots

you remember yourself

3.

kitchen sink

full of cotton candy

a lampshade sky

the measured mind

all the clown feet


Dan Elman’s work has appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Apiary, Referential Magazine, and others. A resident of Philadelphia for fifteen years, he recently returned to his home town along the upper Delaware, where he now works as a furniture designer, antiques conservator, and liquidator.

When the City Fell From the Sky

Lisa Alexander Baron

I was standing in the town square

staring up at trees spiraling

down on their bulky heads

and landing with their roots

thrust up like errant toes

or fingers from a grave.

I heard the houses bellow as they

gave up, as their shoulders sagged

and snagged star by star

like the back of a black coat

catching white lint bit by bit.

When the city fell from the sky,

I covered my ears as atonal notes

from that final fugue stuttered

like old blood from the ripped

linen bandages of the clouds.

And here, now — even in the safety

of the here-to-stay dark:

the slow play and re-play

of that black-and-white still,

of that father’s fist clenching

and unclenching his son’s hand

before he let him go.


Lisa Alexander Baron: Her most recent book is While She Poses, a collection of poems prompted by visual art (Aldrich P, 2015). She is a writing and speech coach and teaches at LaSalle University in the business school.

Tell Me I Can’t Say That

David P. Kozinski

My advanced placement was bourbon

poured in a cough syrup bottle

I kept in my locker – amber in amber.

 

He said it first – spooktacular.

How spooky life became

as big men were shot down.

Conjugate a six ounce verb.

 

Conjugate this: our troubles come in tribes.

 

I expected it but she never threw up her arms

and cried, “Go, sell his bones.”

 

I crossed the dark floor stumbling

among the dead men.

The siege plowed through

seasons’ storehouses; engines

burned and rebuilt; a land seasoned with salt

sang dry-throated, a little cough, a chime.

 

I crisscrossed that darkened

room – always a night sea journey.

She gave me her hope which I gambled away,

gave me succor,

her delicate collarbone and thoroughbred ankles

to be bartered.

 

 


David P. Kozinski won the Delaware Literary Connection’s 2015 spring poetry contest. He received the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, which included publication of his chapbook, Loopholes. Publications include Apiary, Cheat River Review, Fox Chase Review, glimmertrain.com, and Schuylkill Valley Journal. He has read at numerous venues in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.