Category: Issue 21

The Cult of Apathy

The unleashed predators roam and preach:

a spade is a club is a diamond is a heart.

 

A few brave untruths and inclement weather,

march and sing outside roofs and walls.

 

Most watch, sleep, dream inside

flimsy shelters of sticks and straw.

 

All gazed at azure half of sky,

when behind rumbled a gathering storm.

 

Now the plagues will not just pass us by;

we are untethered on a slippery edge.

 

Perhaps they’ll cut us all to pieces,

but we shall forever hold our peace.

 

There’s convenience in indifference,

and cold comfort trumps conscience.

 

***

Karlo Sevilla is a freelance writer who lives in Quezon City, Philippines. His poems have appeared in Philippines Graphic, Radius, I am not a silent poet, Anti-Heroin Chic, Eunoia, Rat’s Ass Review, Wraith Infirmity Muses, an Origami Poems Project microchap, and elsewhere. He also volunteers for the labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (Solidarity of Filipino Workers).

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Breaking News

It’s hard to keep up with each new disaster.

They just keep coming, faster and faster. What’s the last error?

Take your pick.

A phone call here, a phone call there, the tick tock tick

Of hourly disgraces. Hanging up

On the Australian PM, threatening the Mexican Pres.

With sending in U.S. troops to round up

All the “bad hombres.”

Jesus, hit pause. There’s no time to get nostalgic

For last week’s gaffe: using the CIA’s wall of heroes

As a backdrop for a narcissistic

CV: number of Time covers, despite the media ho’s.

Never mind the farcical rollout

Of the ban that’s not a ban, the national fallout

From nominees whose nominal expertise is close to nil.

Timeout for a photo-op. See the sparkly Harley cycle

On the White House lawn?

See the president’s tie, so red and long,

As he strides down the East Room’s carpet

To announce his latest get?

It’s hard to come up with enough quick rhymes

For the worst of times.

What’s to be done? Another rally? An online petition?

Post more angry poems? Acts of sedition?

This just in: the Sixties you missed

Are back, from UC Berkeley to DC, and they’re wicked pissed.

***

Gary Duehr has taught poetry and writing for institutions including Boston University, Lesley University, and Tufts University. His MFA is from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. In 2001 he received an NEA Poetry Fellowship, and he has also received grants and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the LEF Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Journals in which his poems have appeared include Agni, American Literary Review, Chiron Review, Cottonwood, Hawaii Review, Hotel Amerika, Iowa Review, North American Review, and Southern Poetry Review. His books of poetry include In Passing (Grisaille Press, 2011), THE BIG BOOK OF WHY (Cobble Hill Books, 2008), Winter Light (Four Way Books, 1999) and Where Everyone Is Going To (St. Andrews College Press, 1999).

 

 

Some curses

On summer barbecue nights, family nights

when the grandfather raised his voice

called damnation, was he saying damn nation?

 

That was something I wondered while chasing

fireflies on steamy green lawns. We were all

angry about politics, a crooked President

 

reckless, a good man who would lose, they said so.

So even while trapping glowworms in jars,

being the kid who dropped the jar, sliced her foot,

 

I tasted it: hating one politician, loving another

was my way, gleaming certainty would be

my life. But what was he saying.

 

***

Alexis Quinlan is a poet, travel writer and teacher, lately at Fordham University in The Bronx. For over a decade, her work has appeared in The Paris Review, Drunken Boat and others. More recent poems are in Rhino, Tinderbox, Juked and Madison Review. 

CON WAY

I.

You think I’m some kind of monster I’ll show you. What’s at stake is what it means to be an American and what Americans I mean real Americans mean when they say civil rights. This country was founded by hardworking Christians who believed in working hard and in good Christian values and who are we to throw away that legacy. Dr. King himself was a Christian and what that means is that what is on your heart is good because it’s full of Christ.

 

Are we not appalled that Christians are persecuted in this country by any type of person whining about how they are wanting more rights than everyone else? Don’t I have a right to go to the bathroom without half men there? Don’t I have a right, as an American business owner to refuse service to whoever I want? I don’t know about you, but I really value, I treasure my freedom.

 

I have freedom of speech, I have freedom to believe in the word of the Lord. Where is this tolerance when it comes to Christianity? Just because I won’t. This what you call tolerance is moral slippage.

 

No I don’t just mean white Americans.  But we have a culture here and a way of life and I’m not willing to give that up to let that change. I am patriot. I love America and I believe in what America stands for, and it’s not wanting a handout, standing on your own two feet and rising by the strength of your own spirit. Who could disagree with that who can argue with bootstraps?

 

Listen I know what the fake media is trying to feed you and believe me, it can be easy to be fooled easy to have the wool pulled over your eyes by these educated elites. The next thing you know, they are making decisions about your healthcare, your life, the life of an unborn child.

 

Personal responsibility is an American value and you and I both know that we’ve all had struggles but we all have a chance to make something of ourselves and the liberals want to take that away before you’re even born. They want to take away your doctors and your right to work and your right to choose your own values. I’ll show you a monster.

 

II.

There are some things we all can agree upon. We are all American together and thugs who hate freedom are at our door with their violent extremism. I remember when you could call well I guess they were called communists.  And if a religion says you can beat your wife how can it be a religion of peace. You think I’m some kind of monster I’ll show you.

 

Look at the way those people riot in the streets, putting the gun rights of law abiding Americans at risk because they don’t feel heard. Don’t they have the right to free speech like anyone else? And if you break the law, you have to pay the consequences. Police have the hardest job in the world and we have to show them respect and I’m not willing to give up protecting my family so that some terrorist can feel welcome.

 

You call me deplorable because I want to live without interference. Don’t we all just want to be left alone to have our freedom and worship as we please? We were here first and we were here longest.

 

I know there were Native Americans. You think you’re telling me something I don’t know you’re trying to make me seem stupid because that’s what you do. You break down the real America because you really hate us. We came from nothing and we built this country all on our own and yes I know there were slaves you need to just get over it.

 

I know there were slaves. There were slaves everywhere look at the Irish. I bet they would rather be here than in Africa. Look what’s going on over there, and here racism has been eliminated. But in Africa you still have tribes killing each other and we can’t be involved in every conflict sometimes you just have to let them blow each other up and yes, it’s a shame about the women and children, but they can leave just like my ancestors left. I’ll show you a monster.

 

III.

You think I’m some kind of monster I’ll show you. This great country was built on immigrant labor. They built the railroads they built the pyramids my grandmother was an immigrant so don’t tell me who I care about. They have it better here than anywhere else and they should be grateful to be here and learn English and integrate themselves with the community. But they don’t send their best people we are not a dumping ground American is built on the best and brightest that’s always been our motto.

 

That’s the forward march of time I thought you liberals like progress. You like your iPhones and your Twitter and you don’t know what’s going on in the life of everyday people. Look I could think and talk the way you do. But I care about people I give plenty of money to charity I don’t have to prove it. Your affirmative action and your quota programs and your free lunch just weaken the minorities because it makes them lazy.

 

Of course I’m enriching myself.  Being a volunteer is great, but don’t we want to make a little money and the government is the biggest con of all taking your tax dollars to pay for things you don’t want when the military’s budget is being slashed and Americans are struggling. It’s entrepreneurs like me that build America and we need the job creators to have an environment where they’re not weight down by unnecessary regulations like minimum wage. If you want to make more than that, you should just get a job that makes more money.

 

Being poor isn’t people’s fault I didn’t say that. You put words in my mouth you twist them. You think you’re so smart, you’re better than everyone else. You really look down on the regular people and I’m here to tell you they know better. I’m surprised at the violence of your rhetoric I’ll show you a monster.

 

IV.

I’m just saying that if you really want people to prosper, eventually you take off the training wheels. You know that’s how I taught my daughter how to ride a bike. I am a obviously a feminist and I believe a woman can do everything and coddling safe spaces sexual assault laws childcare I mean come on. You think I’m a monster I’ll show you.

 

I pay for my own babysitter it’s not a government service.  And if you can’t afford childcare, maybe you should stay home and let just the husband work or maybe not have too many children in the first place. It’s the breakdown of the family. I mean look at the way we treat men, their burden.  Do you think they want to work so much? Women have it easy at home. I love it when I just get a day with my children who wouldn’t. Being a mom is the most important thing a woman could do and you want to send kids to some soviet style child prison where they can be indoctrinated by the state.

 

The federal government should stay out of people’s lives of course I don’t mean the military but education should be in the states and in the home. The values of the parents should decide what the child should learn. I mean a lot of science is just theories and many times teachers have an agenda I mean who wants to read an entire year’s worth of books by Caribbean writers how many could there be? There’s enough to learn with American history and math and science.

 

Technology is really where the future is. If you really cared about your global warming instead of trying to push decent hardworking Americans out of coal jobs, you should be trying to figure out how to get the carbon out of the air. Innovation is what we do and when we get the manufacturing American, you’ll see that we can build better exceptionalism than anyone in the world.

 

The temperature rises sometimes and sometimes it goes down that’s called weather and really the science hasn’t been in it hasn’t been studied but we’re going to get some really great researchers the best researchers on it and learn how to store the carbon that we need to keep American humming and growing. We can’t go back I’ll show you a monster.

 

***

H.V. CRAMOND is the founding Poetry Editor of Requited Journal and a yoga teacher. Tenure Track, the musical she co-wrote with Cayenne Sullivan was featured in the Premier Premieres festival of new musicals in June 2016. Some recent and forthcoming work can be found in Soundless Poetry, Ignavia, death hums, Masque & Spectacle, Crack the Spine, BlazeVOX, Menacing Hedge, Adanna, So to Speak, Thank You for Swallowing, Dusie, and elsewhere. You can read more of her writing at hvcramond.com

 

 

 

We Die Here (Syria, 2016)

Tasting death is for everyone,

here, there. We will die here,

not on ground that doesn’t know us,

not floating face down in foreign waters,

not penned in a camp.

 

Here, in sight of neighbors

who know our names,

our barrel-bombed

apartment building’s collapse

killing them too.

 

Here is her laundry rope

tangled in his feet.

I know the shape

of that particular teapot

as I die on my street.

 

***

A professor of comparative literature and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Arkansas since 1995, Mohja Kahf is the author of E-mails from Scheherazad (poetry), The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf (novel)and Hagar Poems. She is working on a manuscript of love poems, and a manuscript of new poems about Syria.

 

 

Reciting Surah al Fajr at San Francisco International Airport

I have endured the temptation

for wealth beyond my means

to escape the humiliation

a political campaign punchline

the butt of a joke

as shredded wood clippings

stuffed into the sewn vinyl

of a hanging heavy bag—

The Qur’an has a doctrine

to examine the suffrage of others

measure the calamities

in comparison to mine

Messages of revolt

finger painted slogans of justice

ending in an assembly line cycle

of mediocre motor parts—

We depend on leaders

the way one of our elders

weaves a keffiyeh

around their scorched skin

basked in the smell

of threaded cotton

guarding from the gust stricken

granules of sand—

I think of hardship

in simple terms

falling back asleep

to recreate a good dream

forcing images

of ripe fig trees and olives

submerged somewhere

in our effigy of alienation—

I must lower my voice

and not grasp the different

colored strands of my beard

stroked with foreign musk

because I am from

this place of refuge

this place of bold bodies

that shames me for being

 

Surah al Fajr: Titled “The Dawn,” Chapter 89 of the Qur’an

keffiyeh: a traditional Middle Eastern headdress fashioned from a square scarf, usually made of cotton

 

***

Tamer Said Mostafa is an-always proud Stockton, California native whose work has appeared in over twenty various journals and magazines such as Confrontation, Monday Night Lit, and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change among others. As an Arab-American Muslim, he reflects on life through spirituality, an evolving commitment to social justice, and the music of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.

Where Will I Find America?

-ending with lines from Mahmoud Darwish

 

-for Deah, Yusor, & Razan

 

Where will I find America? A swollen graveyard

of shunned Carolina clay incites its crevice,

consents a repetition of impresses to the lamenting,

as if tapping wooden spiles into a sugar maple.

Their recitations will swing like a severed hinge

to summon covenant verses for your space

median                        withheld          to steal beginnings

from contempt and the breadth of othering.

There have been martyrs before,

a cinder’s desire flushed in a bedrock

where belonging is sung through shrapnel, a ballad

weaving the dankness of an orifice like kindled frankincense.

They will receive you across partitions

as lost relatives reframing a light rift,

as elders tracing a journey with cotton threads

and chants for those that come after

I am

from

here

and here

is here

and I

am I

and here

I am

and I

am here.

 

***

Tamer Said Mostafa is an-always proud Stockton, California native whose work has appeared in over twenty various journals and magazines such as Confrontation, Monday Night Lit, and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change among others. As an Arab-American Muslim, he reflects on life through spirituality, an evolving commitment to social justice, and the music of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.