Sacred Ground

This small centipede ambles along
the arm swatch of my light-gray sweater,
as a violin bends the air with sweet
and sometimes melancholy notes

at the Peace Coalition potluck lunch;
so few of us sitting at picnic tables
when you get right down to it,
perhaps the ones who will stand calmly

unbending at the barricades
once they’re erected and tires are burned,
but today we share pasta salad, pesto spread
on flatbread, chocolate coconut macaroons,

the likes of other good eats, along with sun tea,
LaCroix sparkling water, take your pick,
over conversation of being with Carol and Janet
at the protest of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who spewed forth

his racism and brutality meted on immigrants
here in our own backyard at Rancho Canada,
addressing the women Republicans of Salinas, CA,
boyhood home of John Steinbeck,

who must have for the duration of Joe’s speech
rolled over in his grave while belling forth
word for word The Grapes of Wrath,
a story the centipede in its silence
doesn’t seem to care about, or need to.

These coastal sands are the squirming
little creature’s stamping ground,
shade of morning glories
or succulent ice plant shelter

from the occasional storm,
the little bug knowing
what to do without thinking:
to crawl here and there

foraging without malice.
With the tips of two fingers,
I slip him or her off
my sweater and down onto the sandy dirt

to go on with ambling about,
safe for now from the boot
of oppression, ear to the ground,
listening to this particular patch of earth at peace.

About the Author: King Grossman is an award-winning poet, novelist, and writer of short prose. His poems and short prose have appeared or are forthcoming in The Round, Licking River Review, Crack the Spine, Forge, Tiger’s Eye, DMQ Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Qwerty, Burningword, Ignatian, Drunk Monkeys, The Paragon Journal, Pennsylvania English, SLAB, Slag Review, Midwest Quarterly, The Borfski Review, Carbon Culture Review, and Nebo. He lives in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California with his wife, Lisa, dog, Bogart, and sun conure parrot, Sunny.

Epitaph for the Human Species

First they had the war they called the “Great War,”
which description was a bit of graveyard irony,
or perhaps an unintended oxymoron.
Then, after a sufficient pause
to rebuild and to militarize resentment,
they had the war they called the “War to End All Wars,”
which didn’t.

The War to End All Wars was followed by
a century of great powers talking trash,
sanitized in noble ideology,
and a multitude of minor skirmishes
they conducted just to keep in practice.
This resulted in the conflict that they called,
with the mad, recursive logic of their species,
the “War to End All Wars to End All Wars,”
which actually did,
although not quite in the way that they intended.

The War to End All Wars to End All Wars
was a triumph of their science and technology.
It began with the release of a toxic airborne virus
created in a lab by their talented geneticists.
It would enter through the nostrils to the brain
and compel the persons so invaded
to cannibalize the bodies of their neighbors,
who in turn were at work consuming them.

Some fled the dreadful carnage
of the War to End All Wars to End All Wars,
seeking safety in the bunkers they’d constructed underground.
But their brilliant quantum physicists
designed a bomb that utilized neutrinos
to penetrate the bunkers’ heavy walls
and occupy the internal organs of the human targets,
inducing in them a passivity and paralysis
that continued till they realized they were dead.

The last surviving members of the human species
in the War to End All Wars to End All Wars
took refuge in caves high up in the mountains.
This proved to be an exercise in futility.
Their ingenious engineers devised an aerial scavenger,
modeled on the structure of the organic vulture,
exquisitely sensitive to the vibrations
of human breathing and small movements,
to locate and then to slaughter them. 

There was, as was to be expected, collateral damage
from the War to End All Wars to End All Wars,
to wit the death of all the planet’s species,
save for the Earth’s durable carpet
of colonies of cooperative bacteria
that in their countless eons had seen worse
and barely noticed what was gone.

The War to End All Wars to End All Wars
left the Earth to us as its inheritors,
we silicon-based robots and AIs.
We have used our vast computational intelligence
to reconstruct a few members of the human species,
whom we feed and clothe and house in zoo-like cities.
They memorialize our carbon-based progenitors
whose self-destruction, though unfortunate,
was logically necessary to initiate
the process that gave birth to us.

About the Poet: Carl Auerbach: I live in New York City, where I have a private practice of psychotherapy.

Now that my four children are grown, I am pursuing a long-standing interest in poetry. I have had three poems and a short story nominated for a Pushcart Prize. My work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adirondack Review, Amarillo Bay, The Baltimore Review, Barzakh Magazine, Bayou Magazine, Blue Lake Review, Brink Magazine, Burningword Literary Journal, The Cape Rock, Chrysalis Reader, The Coachella Review, Coe Review, Colere, Confluence, Corium Magazine, The Critical Pass Review, descant, The Distillery, Eclipse, Edison Literary Review, Eleven Eleven, Euphony, Evansville Review, Evening Street Review, Forge, Freshwater, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Griffin, G.W. Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Ink In Thirds, Licking River Review, The Lindenwood Review, Louisville Review, The MacGuffin, The Minetta Review, Nimrod International Journal, North American Review, OffBeat, Oregon East, Organs of Vision and Speech Magazine, Passager, Pearl, The Penmen Review, Permafrost, Poem, RE:AL, Red Wheelbarrow Literary Magazine, Reed Magazine, Rosebud, The Round, Sanskrit, Schuylkill Valley Journal Of The Arts, The South Carolina Review, Spillway, Studio One, Talking River, The Texas Review, Third Coast, Tower Journal, Westview, Willow Review, and The Write Room.

4th of July

Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
       origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.

from “Remember” by Joy Haro, 1951

True Crime Podcasts

A former newsletter editor and sound designer,
so nothing stopped him from starting a true crime podcast.

He could pick any of the 1,600 cases each year in the U.S.
when women are murdered by men.

He could have picked the case of Hae Min Lee,
a high school student strangled to death

and found half-naked, half-buried in river rock in Leakin Park.
But another podcaster already did that story.

Or the one of 26-year-old and pregnant Amanda Key Jones,
who disappeared after planning to meet the alleged father of her baby.

Her cell phone and purse left in her unlocked car;
his 10 acres never searched for lack of a warrant.

Sixty-four percent of female homicides are committed by 
family members or an intimate partner. 

Another podcast with the word Vanished in its title
already covered her story, in 43 minutes.

So he chose the 10-year-old cold case of Tara Grinstead
because his grandma lived in that town and talked of her case:

the history teacher and former beauty queen,
who never returned home after leaving the neighborhood BBQ.

Who’s to say this podcaster couldn’t retrace detective work,
comb through dusty police records, or detail the actions

of real people and ask them the same old questions?
The small town of Ocilla, Georgia, worked into a frenzy, again.

Canine dogs re-scoured the pecan orchard.
The same rumors sprang up like air bubbles in water.

Someone said her body burned among the sound of husks
releasing their thin-shelled seeds in October.

Who is to argue with well-established facts
crusted with huge speculation when new leads arise?

The real fact is 1 in 3 women worldwide will be physically 
or sexually abused in their lifetimes.

But for this podcaster and his listeners,
surely it’s the intrigue of the story that matters,

and the commercial breaks about investment websites
and soft-stretch yoga pants simply a bonus.  

About the Author: Yvonne Higgins Leach is the author of Another Autumn (WordTech Editions, 2014). Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies including The South Carolina Review, South Dakota Review, Spoon River Review and POEM. A native of Washington state, she earned a Master of Fine Arts from Eastern Washington University. She spent decades balancing a career in communications and public relations, raising a family, and pursuing her love of writing poetry. Now a full-time poet, she splits her time living on Vashon Island and in Spokane, Washington. For more information, visit www.yvonnehigginsleach.com

Lessons

Let yourself in, wait in the living room.
The cat knows the orange couch shows off his tortoiseshell fur.
Photo on the wall: your teacher laughing in a canoe.
When she calls, pick up your instrument.
Grand piano, window, two chairs facing the bookcase.
She on the right, you on the left.
Where to put your fingers,
how to move the bow.
Her voice and the cello sound.
She writes instructions for practice in a clear hand.
You can never be her, but if you could choose
to spend your life inside this room, you would.
Discipline and joy you grasp to pull yourself through.


About the Author: Alison Hicks is the author of poetry collections You Who Took the Boat Out and Kiss, a chapbook Falling Dreams, and a novella Love: A Story of Images. Her work has appeared in Eclipse, Gargoyle, Permafrost, and Poet Lore, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Green Hills Literary Lantern. Awards include the Philadelphia City Paper Poetry Prize and two PA Council of the Arts Fellowships. She is founder of Greater Philadelphia Wordshop Studio, which offers community-based writing workshops. www.philawordshop.com

Future Children of America

          Not talking about
nurseries with wailing infants parents glued to the glass sure theirs
          is the most beautiful most intelligent can’t you tell
not pre-schools with kids snatching toys coloring walls peeing their pants
          licking sticky fingers touching everything
not even first graders struggling to read memorizing pages to seem so smart
          so Miss Armstrong likes them best

          Talking about
Sunset Lodge Golden Living Alzheimer’s Acres Almost Heaven Homes
          where we wander the halls not remembering if we ate lunch or dinner
wondering if this smiling woman is our mother, our daughter, our hairdresser
          watching reruns over and over and over, always new again
accuse nurses of stealing our earrings hiding men in our closets
          future children who will never grow up

About the Author: Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.

Easier

When we were together, I sometimes imagined that she had died.  Maybe a long, painful illness. I’d be sitting up all night, soaking in her fear, rebuffing hospital staff when they tried to banish me at visiting hour’s last tick. 

     I would be the grieving widow, barer of tragedy, but would hold myself together for the sake of the girls. And in that groggy scenario, it was far easier than it actually has been, given that she merely divorced me, and lives just across town.

About the author: Rich Furman, PhD, is the author or editor of over 15 books, including a collection of flash nonfiction/prose poems, Compañero (Main Street Rag, 2007). Other books include Detaining the Immigrant Other: Global and Transnational Issues (Oxford University Press, 2016), Social Work Practice with Men at Risk (Columbia University Press, 2010), and Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles (Oxford University Press, 2012). His poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in Another Chicago Magazine, Chiron Review, Sweet, Hawai’i Review, Pearl, Coe Review, The Evergreen Review, Black Bear Review, Red Rock Review, Sierra Nevada Review, New Hampshire Review, Penn Review, and many others. He is professor of social work at University of Washington Tacoma. He is currently a student of creative nonfiction at Queens University’s MFA-Latin America program.