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February 2010
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Single, Mother, Baby Mama, Madre Solo

by Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee
Hey, single mother sitting up front of the CTA bus with a child in your lap and 

your lovely head hanging low,
Didn't Tupac tell you to 'Keep Ya Head Up', and didn't Iyanla show,

That you can do whatever you put a positive mind to,
You didn't plan it this way you were dealt a bad deck of cards a low blow,
Left with 3 kids and few options and no dough.
But you make it by with that one job and absolutely no help, 
Stretching the limits of time and your budget, jeopardizing your health 

To stay current and on top of your situation,
But you're constantly bombarded with folks telling 

you how to raise your own creation 

Telling you not to holler or spank, 
They constantly threaten you with DCFS,
But you tell them you don't care they can call NBC, ABC, and CBS,
because they are not raisin' anything but their voices, so you ask them
what would they do if they were in your shoes and they had no choices?
How can they try to penalize you for your children not having a dad and if 
they try to take any action against you the children will be alone or in the system and that would be truly sad.
You file for child support and moral support and wind up spinning your wheels,
But in the meantime you all have to eat, and buy clothing and pay the rest of your bills.
Subsidized daycare bills quickly eating away at your pocket,
Day care providers halfheartedly attending to your kids so you have to watch it.
Neighbors see you struggling with grocery bags in one hand and your children in the other,
see and hear you fumbling and fussing in your apartment building trying
to play the role of father and mother, but what they'd rather see is
you conforming to society's norms and dating or remarrying so your
children can have a so called stable home,
But as quiet as it is kept, you feel that you will be better off alone.
You avoid the gaze of the so called men hanging on the corner and in the liquor stores,
Thinking you are desperate for some company and wanting to score.
But you would rather deal with more tangible and worthwhile things like washing
Barrels of clothes and lugging them across the street from your crib,
Dropping quarters in half heated dryers over and over just to keep things clean
Where you live.
Single mother you get by with a little help from your friends and saving money
By serving Oodles of Noodles and Mac and Cheese and getting grape Koolaid splashed on ya, 
But when you have time on the weekends you get to cut loose and you throw down by baking cakes, pork chops and lasagna.
You make it through Christmas time and birthdays on a wing and a prayer,
Hoping for overtime and the kindness of relatives to by the kids a present that
shows that you care,
Single mother we know that life has not been a Crystal Stair for you but you fight the battles that need to be fought.
You raise your babies to love one another and go out into the world with what they've been taught.
You feel strong enough to enter barber shops with your male child
Enduring stares by patrons and personnel making you feel as if you don't belong,
feel confident enough to enter your child's school building as a Miss
and be
spoken to by teachers as if you've done something wrong.
When you know you did not and you are holding your own - by furnishing
3 hots and a cot for those tiny versions of you.
That grow up and thank you in so many ways,
And it keeps you smiling and feeling blessed for the rest of your days.
Hey, single mother, my time is up you have a blessed day and Keep Ya
Head Up, you are the back bone of generation X, my hats off to you, you have my respect!

The Cop

by Jim Valencia
Luis was never innocent never naÔve
knew raw sewage by name and by habit;
picked up cancers from dark lives and coped
until normal was nothing he knew.

Luis gave up living to ride in a dream
of wondrous dimensions and hopes,
where trust would buy trust
and love given be gotten.

But Luis was never innocent, never naÔve
and he knew deep in his soul
that the dream had to end 
for the price of a drink.

The Itch

by William Vollrath
need of attention
An inflammation of the psyche
and other body parts
Repressed need demanding
to be heard
set free, and
Nothing harmful	
just deep, personal, unfulfilled
hours of waiting
for Godot, or someone,
to satiate the hunger
and incompleteness
The thirst, the aching,
the deficient yesterday, and 
uninspired tomorrow
A constant burning 
perhaps destined to metastasize,
to mutate and evolve into some
virulent rash, or even
an infectious, consuming plague
The Itch, The Itch, The ItchÖ

A More Productive War

by Paul Buchheit
To exotic lands were our children sent,
Realms of sultans and barbarians, vaults
Of precious ore; these young conquistadors,
In the name of a race benevolent
And God-fearing, waged merciful assaults
On the tyranny our homeland abhors.

But the sharpened barbs of the battlefields
Extended by wave and wire to the doors
Of the authors of this scripture, their good
Repute lying moribund on their shields
While admonished by their inquisitors,
For their just war was little understood.

So these devoted high priests of Ares,
Housed amidst fine woods and leathers, attired
In tailored silks and grandiosity,
Addressed the wrath of their adversaries
By rant and public tirade, and aspired
To a shrewd Plutonian strategy:

The aggression of their forebears decried,
They turned to ledgers, logs, and reckonings
To perfect the financial alchemy
By which plenitude might be prophesied
For all classes, as in the beckonings
From Delphi, foretelling prosperity.

And thus the great machinery was oiled,
The underclass calmed, the overlords pleased;
But as predicted for the oligarch
Of ancient Sparta, where the helots toiled
To mine the Croesian abundance seized
By a few, the horizon appeared dark

And forbidding as now, with harvest sparse,
Life-giving riverbanks furrowed and dried
And cratered like a war-spoiled countryside.
Yet still we remained engaged in the farce,
Thirsting for the bounty we'd been denied,
Worshiping those who promised to provide.

The Book of Snails

by Mark Hudson
Oh, bring me back the tales of old
With snails, and their coats of gold
Progessing through life at a snail's pace
Not interested in running a race.
Their slime would get them every time
At the pet store, they used to be a dime.
In the aquarium, they'd reproduce
No one knew how the snails got loose.
They'd clean the tank like algae-eaters
And almost make good bottom-feeders.
Samuel Jones was a good-natured boy,
He wanted a fish tank, rather than a toy.
He was in a wheelchair, when his mom brought him in,
He had his mind set on a fish with a fin.
His mom put his wheelchair in front of the tanks,
And all Samuel Jones could say was, "Thanks."
He watched a pleco clinging to the glass,
He watched a silver shark swim through the grass.
His eyes darted around, oh heavens abound,
He once was lost, but now he was found!
The pet store employee approached the two,
And said, "Hello, there, what can I do for you?"
The mother said, "My son has a very great wish,
He hopes to have an aquarium full of fish!"
The employee said, "What shall I sell you in sales?"
The jolly-good boy just simply replied, "Snails."
The mother appeared to be rather shocked,
She said, "That's about as exciting as a pet rock!"
The boy said, "Look at these African snails, so great,
They would be all I would need for a mate!"
The pet store employee promptly agreed,
"Yes, perhaps, that is all that you need!
No botias, glofish or slithering eels,
If it is the snail, then that's what appeals!"
"It is,"  said the boy, "It is the snail,
Although one male, and one female.
Because I want them to have lots of children and more,
To make my trip worthwhile to the store!"
The pet store employee looked rather perplexed,
"With snails, it's hard to determine the sex!
Their parts are so little, to fool the human eye,
I could not see them, even if I were to try!"
"I brought a magnifying glass,"was the child's reply,
"I thought you might say that, and so smart am I!
I don't feel with snails you can ever get enough,
I'm making you do your job, so tough."
As it turned out, the boy was able to pick,
The snails that he wanted, which made his mom sick.
Of all these beautiful fish he could choose,
Why'd he choose snails, what's his excuse?
But she was soon able to let it all go,
She wanted her son to be happy, not low.
When they got home, the aquarium was set up,
In Sam's room, he didn't need to get up.
The mother put the snails right inside,
And Samuel watched the snails with pride.
Sure enough, there were more and more that were born,
And pretty soon the aquarium was something to scorn.
It got kind of dirty, the snails couldn't be clean,
All of the mess that was kind of obscene.
Sam's mother said, "We must get rid of a few,"
And Sam said, "No, we must not do."
Until one night, Sam woke with a scream,
The mother thought he was having a bad dream.
But he wasn't having a dream, instead,
The snails had gotten into his bed!
How they got out of the aquarium was unknown,
But they crawled into bed with Sam who would groan.
They must've wanted to be with their master,
Having these snails was becoming a disaster.
Sam's mother raced into the room,
And peeled off the snails and flushed them to their tomb.
"I don't like snails anymore," Sam shouted,
"You were right, however could I have doubted?"
So they sold the snails or gave them away,
Things in moderation can be okay!
Now Sam just owns a guppy,
His mom promised to get him a puppy.
While Sam's wheelchair seemed like a limitation,
The fish he had was in a similar situation.
And so are we all, like a fish in a bowl,
A slab of butter on a kaiser roll.
So when your waiter says, "Want some escargo?"
Look him in the eye and say, "No, surely, no!"

Your Love Is What?

by E Valentine Fischer
"O," the poet wrote,  "my luve is like
a red, red rose . . ."

Not mine. My love is like a vise.
A rose has beauty and attracts;
it also has thorns.

My love is like a vise
that wants to hug and squeeze
everyone, everything,
every creature
so tightly
that they merge with me
and I with them
and we become one.


My love is like a vice
(that, too—
the Oxford spelling)
but I try
to keep it a virtue.

along the desplaines river

by Steven Kappes
it is a blustery day
in the tiny park
alongside the river
in the heart of the city
just enough space
for a dozen cars
and a path
where canoeists
can carry their craft
to the water

across the busy street
equipment rental stores
and strip malls
fade into disrepair

winter bare trees
line the banks
on the other side
of the river
a couple walks
hand in hand
along a path
a bicyclist
in heavy coat
and stocking cap
pedals past them
heading the other way

jets scream into
the early winter sky 
as a flock of geese
float with the current
then tack back upstream
the way geese
have been doing
since before man
came here
and created 
an urban jungle
leaving only
this small

Breaking the Code

by David McKenna
David McKenna

Haiku for Haiti

by John E. Slota
(Respond to the Need)
Newborn Blossom Torn Mother Earth Consumes Your Sky Life-Death Juxtaposed


by David LaRue Alexander
Spark ignites tinder, 
and flame flickers to life.
night's fortress is breached.
toppled from it's throne,
before the light.
Retreating to hide
between cracks, 
behind corners, 
beneath covers.
cowering in fear,   
filled with dread.
Just beyond light's reach.
It despised the light.
Loathed it's luster,
was grieved by it's gleaming,
and incensed by it's illumination.
Darkness brooded. 
It could not abide the light,
so it would create those 
who could.
It fashioned them, 
from the murky blackness,
at the dead of night,
where darkness was tangible.
They arose from darkness,
born also of light.
Neither creatures of day,
nor creatures of night.


by Usha Mahisekar
Life is there
Life is here
You cannot mold it
You can not turn it
You cannot twist it
You can not bend it
You cannot reverse it.

Sometimes meaning of life is in between the lines
----- in the footnotes
----- in the gray areas
----- beyond the rules and regulations
----- beyond the policy and procedures

Some times you can touch it without touching
------------------------ Smell it without smell
------------------------- Hear it without sound
------------------------- Read it without eyes

Go ahead and live to the full extent.
Of course   that is the fun part of it.

Tommy's Place

by Susan T. Moss
Billiard balls collide on green felt,
and the Joes and Jims shout platitudes
over pretzels and beer.

Saturday night and the gang's all here -
homecoming for friends and the lonely,

slow dance on the juke, smoke-veiled eyes
search from body to body, boozer to blowhard.
This could be the night,

the place where deafening haze
suffocates heartache and longing.

Have another round -
drink to the future
where dreams meet the present
and the eight ball always scores.


by I. F. Miller
I get reports
of mysterious sightings
strange epidemics
vanished icecaps
forests aflame
children starving
wars I do not understand

I get unsolicited offers 
to share windfalls
for winning a lottery
I never entered
on-line catalogs 
for outerwear
cures for diseases
I never knew existed

I get heartburn
I must unplug
retire to my basement
draw pictures
with crayon
on paper bags
till the implacable wind
blows them all away


by John Pawlik
Susan is naughty
Being happy
This is a great sin
She is smiling
At humor
There is laughter
And Susan
Wicked Susan
Covers her face
With slender hands

Last Words

by Jason Sturner

I hear you in a dream calling out.
Searching for that someone
you have never known. I sit alone
in a rotating corneróshadows forming
all your favorite shapes.
My dream-self does not know
where it belongs in such dreams.
Always wishing it could tell you
that I am findable. That in your equation
I can be proven.
You've seen my silhouette, coming off the walls
you walk along. It hinders the burning sun for you;
is a barrier when it's cold.
But have you looked closely, lately?
Look now.
And though not in the shape of a crown
or a single, confident rose,
it is not a dangerous thing.
It is not meaningless.
Did you even know, you're its maker?
These are the things I want to tell you.
But my dream-tongue must hold.
It holds because I know that in the place
where we actually speak
we are speaking our last words.


by Patricia Gangas
Lord, all day long I walk around in my soul
tracing old footprints hoping to find You again.
The clatter of life has distracted me:
rumors of wars, the ceaseless booming of TV,
cranked-up I pods, the blinking of digital clocks,
and even the wheezing refrigerator
have severed our hymn filled bond.
The crowded streets are whirlpools of passersby's
jetting here and there in the talkative rain----
cars careen in startling procession in the plugged-in afternoons.
Contradictions flourish in the chronic howl of days,
Your pure presence has been blotted out.
Your soundless voice with its fresh miracle of silence
is lost in a madcap dance. 
In the space between noise and You, I look backwards
to a whole world in slumber, open lands, 
a motionless wind each night when I hurried to You.
Come close once again; illuminate and calm this discordant world,
for I know that Your feather-quiet heart
still exalts me to love. 

Lonely People

by Chris Holaves
So fragile are many lonely people.
They're as struggling skiffs that seek safe harbors.
Cut off from ports, they look for a ripple
To carry them through their friendly labors.

Detached, battered by mean waves and sea air,
These slight skiffs barely survive and float by.
They're alienated, but still they care.
They're sensitive to those who call them shy.

The lines of strong friendship seldom catch to hold.
Their hearts sail by, missing the ports' small piers.
Their hawsers of hemp are brittle by cold.
They're unable to cast lines with their fears.

When meeting these lonely people, give
An honest haven to them in which to live.   

(First published in Small Brushes, Number 20, Adept Press.) 


by Donna Pucciani
A harsh welcome for the unsuspecting dawn,
precursor of snow. The hint of death

we've all been waiting for. The moon 
dusts the earth with the seductive breath of illusion.

The good life has hummed into daylight,
stoic after the long night's black largo,

but not for long. The hoarfrost comes 
like a floater in the gray-blue eye of death,

a song with no guitar. That was yesterday. 
We didn't know how lucky we were. 

Now snow piles up in heaps, a canticle 
to an alien god from the monophony of ivory sky.
We are left wanting the glistened grass of November, 
now wrapped for three months in a heavy shroud 
the solstice weaves from the pale songs of stars.


by Rick Sadler

BILL SADLER                                JUNE  14,  2000


by Farouk Masud
Ola!--my alluring, angelic swan!
You thought fishing was boring and dumb;
Until that silver lake you gazed upon,
Then you knew delight would be the sum.
I've always enjoyed watching you fish,
To see that elfish smile on your face;
Let this picture remain my dying wish,
Frozen and framed in memory's place.
Sitting, joking and laughing side by side,
You make all my sorrows disappear;
Internally I have nothing to hideó
I'll tell you all my secrets, my dear.
Oh!  so easily you've captured my love
With all of your hook, line and sinker;
My feelings for you soar high and aboveó
I'm plastered like a heavy drinker.
Not so long (and not shortly thereafter),
You caught something strange and far apart:
"Look!"  you cried, with your sweet little laughter.
I said, "That's not a fish, but my heart."

On the Glass

by John Quinn
I speed
powerful and violent,
regal and strong,
pedal to the metal.
I breath
the gas
the burning rubber
diesel fumes and freedom
I conquer time and space.
Then a butterfly comes too close
flaps frantically,
realizes too late
that fate is coming
with a roar
she becomes a formless stain
on the glass of my raging beast
and I move on without a flutter.

Scrape off the Dirt

by Bonnie Pignatiello Leer
pulled from dirt
from the last trace
of my garden

mud covered
cold and unsightly
but fresh pungent smell
as if the sun still
governed day

I held the onion
tried to scrape off dirt
then the first slimy layer
uncover beauty

knife in other hand
to slice off roots
that had grown long
burrowed deep
into sun warmed soil
and final remains
of the stem that basked in sun
all summer

dirt gets stuck
under my finger nails
as I peel away layers
find snow white perfection


by Cathy Lou Pearson
He entered my life rather unexpectantly. Like a gentle breeze or breath of fresh air. Handsome, kind, caring, smart, and considerate. Our friendship blossomed, flourished, And was steeped with infatuation. Suddenly we became lovers last summer. Sipping red wine over candlelight dinners, Slow dancing to the classics Jitterbugging to the oldies Long walks in the arboretum And bike rides along the Fox River. Ice cream cones and garage sailing Laughing, loving, and always lighthearted We were propelled to uncharted territory And I felt a sense of excitement. We were happy, elated, and enriched. Great times enjoying a great summer. I felt it would last forever, Never harboring an inkling of doubt. We both were giving 110% And receiving the same, in return. But, with the autumn came the fall. He said little to compensate... And then he was gone, vaporized. Devastation, abandonment, depression, separation. I was in the free fall of my life. My vulnerability left me with a sense of shock. I couldnít see through the veil, the fog, or the mist. I ached to the depths of my very soul and being. Gently, slowly, and with trepidation I began to climb out of that huge crater of despair. Step by step, day by day, month by month, I climbed, persevered and prevailed. Iím proud to report that Iím 99.9% over him. I rarely think of him anymore and when I do, Itís only to remember the good. The emotional stain has lifted. Green-cleaning everything clear. Iíve healed through small acts of kindness, Outreach, and silent courage. My vulnerability ultimately became my strength. Full, once more, with open heart and mind, Engulfed in gratitude and piloted By the discovery of eternal enlightenment. My life is all things good And the old me is back, again ...only better! A sense of a cool calmness prevails And it feels wonderful, And I remain 112% wiser than before.

Not enough tasks

by Stanley Victor Paskavich
Why do I always have to empty the thunder mug? Isnít there more than I using this jug? And my dadís spittoon that reeks of chew, Couldnít one of my brothers empty it too. And I carry in each day seven buckets of stoker coal, Itís not for just me it warms other souls. Yes I emptied the ashes that made our sidewalk, For a path to the outhouse all of us walk. I carried in water to warm for a bath in a washtub, I was always the last to bathe after the others did scrub. I was stuck weeding a garden while my brothers did play, Seemed the more I pulled there were even more the next day. Everyone would hunt and fish when it was time, Yet it seemed like cleaning everything was a task all of mine. Yes and the dishes I did them too, There wasn't much at my home I didn't do. When I was young and did all these things that I didn't understand, They have helped me grow up to be a well-rounded man. As I look now and see an empty lot, where my home used to be, I wish it was still there with even more tasks for me.

Jewish Cemetery in Budapest

by William Marr
Unwilling to be forgotten

the memories of humanity

rather   inhumanity

struggle hard

to emerge

from layers beneath layers



aslant and askew

The Straight Ones

by Wilda Morris
          "Some trees look down
          when they walk . . . . "   William Stafford
Some trees stand straight
as a queen's guard,
even when climbing
from the Lochsa River
to the top of the Bitterroot
Mountains. They band together
like a Roman phalanx
as they march to the summit
and back. Pride prevents them
from kneeling or looking down. 
To prove their virility they leave
their green coats unbuttoned
in ice, snow and wind. 
They spring to attention as we pass. 
Like them, we must learn
to stand together, heads held high.

(First published in Hazmat Review,
11:2 [Fall 2009], p. 27.)

The Lemon

by Bonnie Manion
bright citron, all light,
electric-gold like the sun;
a blossom-fragrant invitation
repelling acidly at first taste--
its cut edge a wet starburst of
pale outflung rays; and a sliced
wedge a divided, diaphanous,
shockingly bitter substance
shunned by most tongues
until paired sweetly,
in pure simplicity,
to day-stopping
hot or cool

A Last Christmas

by Mardelle Fortier
The army did not give him time
to spend a last Christmas with his mom.

Clouds came. No rain fell, no snow.
The gray sky was better armed than men.

  They gave their sons
  They gave their sons

No Christmas tree this year. She could
not bear to kill a living thing.

In bitter streets she heard no Christmas bells--
heard only inner screams.

  They gave

The fire burned down to black petals.
Her womb, a dead well of empty sorrow.
The old dog howled without an answer.

Youth went joy-riding--little thought
to what a high price to pay for fuel.

  Their sons

We stood by while
they gave their sons
for a war that could not be won
  they gave their sons
(Hazmat Review, SP '09, vol. 11)

Christmas Meditation

by Annie
Immaculate by our Creator deemed,
From the Alfa held in highest esteem,
Israel's fair daughter in essence blest,
Holy Mother, Virgin and Queen.
For sinless must be the flesh
To clothe the Sacred Prince-King.
In Bethlehem on this Star-blazed night
Only few are privileged to view the miraculous sight,
This solemn gift of eternal life,
No garments of brocade or silk held this baby king,
merely common swaddling.
Only Angels hovering above
recognized the profound gift of love
And looking at His innocent face
They knew this Holy Infant
was God's Redeeming Grace

Counting to One

by Alan Harris
How many skies
has the boomeranging
moon flown over?
One, which breathes.

How many lives
have you and I lived?
One, deepening inside
births and deaths.

How many humans
are in the world?
One, with splendidly
many bodies and souls.

How many religions
are there?
One, tucked into
softest of hearts.

How many universes?
Count to one
until the stars
fall out of it.

How many questions
are there?
One big one.

What is the question?
That's it.

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