Fall 2022

Volume 9       Social Justice     Issue 3
listening, learning, reaching out 

Contents V9N3

The  BeZine

Volume 9       Fall 2022       Issue 3

Waging Peace

listening, learning, reaching out

Cover art: George Floyd Memorial, August 17 2020 | Photo via flickr | CC BY 2.0 Fibonacci Blue


Social Justice
listening, learning, reaching out



Behind the Fence
©2022 Miroslava Panayotova




but who’s right?

                  whose rights?

Read the words
                                    in this issue of
                                                                        The BeZine
                                    see the art

                  just us
just is just 

©2022 Miroslava Panayotova

                  not I
we together
                  to gather



                              not injustice

                  but done in
                  justice done in

justice done

—Michael Dickel
Editor, The BeZine


Table of Contents




This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-3-33.png

The BeZine

Be Inspired…Be Creative…Be Peace…Be 




Art: Yin Yang Earth, Isaac Wilfond (age 11) ©2022


Dreamtime | Mehreen Ahmed

In the folds of thick fog, down by the curved Bay of Moon, a stillness descended on the ocean after a swift storm had passed. As the fog slowly lifted, a boat was unveiled; it was adrift. It swerved off course. I was right under, singing a primordial tune—a blue song. A man slid off the deck and fell into the ocean. It was a leaking boat. 

I watched him plop. Into the ocean, he plunged that very moment like a dollop of cream into a coffee cup—floundering. I surfaced and wagged my fin in front of him. He caught it. It slipped first, then he held it firmly in a grip. I sailed in the current’s slipstream some nautical lengths until sunset in search of land. Was there any land nearby? Any show of land at all, in all the world, besides these vast stretches of the seawaters? Hope piqued, a sandy shore emerged along the Emerald Bay. I rushed towards it and reached its sandy shores within minutes. I rolled him over onto the beach in the midst of knotted weeds, oyster shells, and ponded waters cupped in footprints.

The tired man looked at me. I expelled a fountain of delight and saw how he curled up in a fetal position. In the meantime, his vessel nose-dived into the ocean as the ocean swallowed its parts in bits until all was galvanised under. His mates on the vessel were scattered on the waves like little debris as though they didn’t matter. 

Fate had it that I rescued this dunking man from a sunken vessel. He looked at me, and he wondered how such a miracle ride was even possible? What are you—God? Who are you? He mumbled. I smiled, somersaulted in the air, and submarined, like a vanishing blink from the stars. I resumed singing; he heard it far from the ocean’s depth. Exotic to him, the tune haunted him for days on end—the blue song, he called it. Mysterious it sure was. 

But the mysteries of the universe were locked in the layers of the lyrics which were decipherable through the Aboriginal dreamtime—inter-relation of all people and things—workings of nature and humanity—land and spirit. The deep connections which elude the eye—spirits more powerful which connected every life on earth such as the creatures of this blue soul.

The man waited for the saviour dolphin to return. But it never did. But it continued to convey the existential connections through its lyrics. Connections of abstraction communicated through the senses alone—through dreamtime—far beyond any human language.

©2022 Mehreen Ahmed
All rights reserved

Mehreen Ahmed…

…is an Australian novelist born in Bangladesh. Her historical fiction,The Pacifist, is a Drunken Druid’s Editor’s Choice and an Amazon Audible bestseller. Gatherings,is nominated for the James Tait Black Prize for fiction. Her short fiction has won in The Waterloo Festival Competition, Academy of the Heart and Mind contest, A Cabinet-Of-Heed Stream-Of-Consciousness Challenge, shortlisted, finalist, nominated for the 3xbotN, Pushcart, Publication of the Month, and Honourable Mention. Also, critically acclaimed by Midwest Book Review, DD Magazine, The Wild Atlantic Book Club to name a few. She is a juror to the KM Anthru Award, Litterateur RW Magazine, and featured writer on Flash Fiction North and Connotation Press. She has published books, articles, essays, and short fiction in international magazines, online, and in anthologies. Her works have been translated into German, Greek and Bangla.

Clogged | Rebekah Manley

On my bedroom shelf, three bottles of perfume are ready for a new home. One lost its top, the second is clogged, and the third—if you ask me—is just being stubborn! Yet, I look at them sitting there and it’s as if they are saying, “Yeah we are here. Whatcha gonna do about it?”

Okay, that’s only the sassy one. The other two can’t figure out why I haven’t used them in over a year.

Inaccurate! I’ve attempted to use them. Every once in a while—in my rush to leave the house—I forget the difficulty this trio poses, pick them up, and attempt to spray. Annoyed, I think to myself…okay what am I doing wrong? These “should” be able to work. There must be another way!

For the clogged bottle I try to loosen the top, hoping that I’ll just dab the fragrance on my wrist. Surely, that’ll work! NOPE… In a moment of weakness, I try my teeth (don’t judge). Not. Even. Budging. You get the idea.

After much trial and error, today’s the day. I’m ready to relinquish them to my apartment’s “free” community table. I know they have a lot to offer… (but, as I write this, I realize that might be a lie). All I can hope for is that someone comes along ready to help and give them new life. But, if they stay the way they are—in their dysfunctional state—they will continue to fall short of the lives they were meant to live. And, offer continued frustration.

Oh boy. And suddenly, we’re not just talking about body spray anymore. *Gulp*

Suffering from heart amnesia, I have at least one “clogged” loved one I keep returning to. I reach for them– longing for a spray of that sweetness I know they have on the inside. Instead, over and over and over, I’m met with inaccessibility. Each time, I ask myself- Why did you think it would be different, dear Bekah? I cling to their words claiming to care and rationalize– if they could just…

But isn’t this on me? I never want to give up on anyone; especially a family member! But how do I train myself to not reach for them with any expectations?

Do you have someone in your life who’s consistently unable to meet you where you need them? Perhaps they offered goodness in the past and you were able to reciprocate, but now the unhealthy dynamic won’t budge?

I encourage you (and myself) to offer them up in a way that doesn’t leave you in inevitable disappointment and frustration. And if you figure out that best way, will you please let me know?

I find that the serenity prayer often helps me find clarity, maybe it’ll grant you the same solace:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

©2022 Rebekah Manley
All rights reserved

Rebekah Manley…

runs the Texas Center for the Book. She has an MFA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University and her first book, Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates: A Picture Book Parody for Adults debuted in 2020. This fall marks the 7th birthday for her blog, Brave Tutu! This September, she’s launching her company, Love, Bekah LLC. Its mission is to create witty and heartful products for women navigating heartbreak.

Website / Blog

Sitting on a Miracle | Rebekah Manley

One, two, buckle my shoe

Three, four, shut the door

Five, six, pick up sticks

Seven, eight, lay them straight

Nine, ten, big fat hen!

Circa my age three, my Great Grandmother Lucille taught me this rhyme and how to pump my legs to use our backyard swingset. This Thanksgiving offered a full-circle moment to that earliest memory, as thoughts of her, my Papa and Great Aunt Rosalie surrounded me in their Iowa hometown.

Macedonia boasts one restaurant, a bird museum and a pottery shop (both open by appointment only). In the company of dear cousins, corn and cows, I had a lot of space to simply rest and reflect. Naturally, I spent hours at the historic park just down the street from the yellow farmhouse our family built in 1911.

Channeling Grandma Lucille, I pumped my legs and rose up and down– gaining perspective and peace. With gratitude, I contemplated the last year– and how I wanted to step forward into another. I released pieces no longer serving me; letting them fall as the trees surrendered their leaves to the wind.

Before my last day, I noticed the word “miracle” imprinted in the faded blue rubber of the swing’s seat. I know this brand was not a coincidence. Precious family time mixed with quiet moments of thought and palpable memories of early learning gave me strength. Just the strength I needed to surrender what I can’t control and feel loved and assured on this journey.

I love the steady elevation gain that comes from leaning back and whooshing my legs through the air:



And up again.

The breeze brushes my hair.

And perspective grants liberation.

Repeatedly, I’ve gained simple freedom by putting Grandma Lucille’s skills to use throughout my life. Undoubtedly, my Smith family’s stubborn strength pushes me to the higher places I want to live.

My mini-Macedonia miracle offered catharsis. Therefore, I keep these swing-set stories close as we enter the highs and lows of this next season. My inclusive faith drives who I am, my writing and how I see the world. I often enjoy considering the fuzzy farm animals present for Christ’s birth and the unconditional love he represents in my life. Unknowingly, a baby lamb might have sat in the same hay that kept him warm. I relish the simplicity and take that in as– much of life simply doesn’t make sense. And perspective won’t be rushed. I’m grateful for moments like the Macedonia park that help me remember, through the rise and fall of it all, odds are, we are sitting on some kind of miraculous.

What about you? What ways are you sitting on a miracle of sorts during this season? I encourage you to pump your legs and “three, four, shut the door” in order to fly free and greet fresh ups and, even, downs. Know you are not alone and I wish we could sit side by side on swings and discuss how you are feeling pushed onward into this next season.

©2022 Rebekah Manley
All rights reserved

Rebekah Manley…

runs the Texas Center for the Book. She has an MFA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University and her first book, Alexandra and the Awful, Awkward, No Fun, Truly Bad Dates: A Picture Book Parody for Adults debuted in 2020. This fall marks the 7th birthday for her blog, Brave Tutu! This September, she’s launching her company, Love, Bekah LLC. Its mission is to create witty and heartful products for women navigating heartbreak.

Website / Blog

untitled | Nika Mavrody

This writer can’t bake but they do 
Eat with brains
Don’t thoughts
Where Wings Fail
©2022 Edward Lee
How many days 
Can we hope in
Comes back to

Well no where is
You more than 

Each ray makes
Us They teachin

Okay well, another peace
Comes from the box of

We Honour Those Gone
©2022 Edward Lee
No weak Came 
She’s blood out
Where do they
Call us for the
Muscles RAM
Signing you as
Anything but tag
There’s no.


Is this a story
or is it a letter
It truth because
How do you know
that Nika has that
short day as goddess
She’s been preforming
Ever since she succeeded
Which link searchable,

©2022 Miroslava Panayotova

Poems ©2022 Nika Mavrody
All rights reserved

Nika Mavrody…

…writes for the news, and has been published in TheFashionSpot, The Faster Times, TheAtlantic.com, Racked.com, Sugarhigh Berlin, Blinkist, CESTA blog, Cultural Analytics, The Decadent Review, and is forthcoming in The AutoEthnographer.

Hiroshima Bees Left Me | Kushal Poddar

Hiroshima Tree

Behind us, one tree flares up
a second-hand memory of Hiroshima.
Behind us, one solitary tree is Hiroshima, the blast-moment city.
We break our breads, sweet, too dolce,
with a promise of the cherries on top
in the middle, but not quite the real ones.
We suck those sugar-glazed red globes.
We have inherited the faux world,
and we feed the bird because life 
feels like a taut skin at any moment
it can be singed, peeled away. 
We should kiss—we think together.
The air in between us plays a refrain.
The notes scattered all over the park
to the applause of the pigeons.
One moment they are here; in the next not.


Without the bees 
the world as we know it 
will be stung to nullity. 

I tell my daughter.
Her hand guards her eyes
as the buzz flares in

its sun-like buzz
spiking the ovulating breeze.

Music Left Me

The butter knife I strike against
the dish and the plate with
a soggy biscuit
spills some music.

The newspaper states that there
should be no note left
in my head.
The flash is—the music

has been last seen standing
holding the mast of a bridge
the authority forgot to build.

©2022 Kushal Poddar
All rights reserved

Kushal Poddar…

…an author, journalist, father, and editor of ‘Words Surfacing’, authored eight books, the latest being Postmarked Quarantine. His works have been translated into eleven languages.

Photograph: Waterbird, Michael Dickel ©2017


Workers’ Hands | Shira Chai

We the Workers

“We, the heedful between the swirling twirling and furling. 
We, in the nasty filthy toxicity. 
We, in the summers smother. 
We, in the winters shutter. 
We retreat into the plunging night. 
We greet the glaring daylight.
Beating here within: Heart and soul, Heart and soul, 
Bittersweet payroll Bittersweet payroll.
Machine Operator’s Hand: Michael
Shira Chai ©2012
acrylic paint on wood board. 100cm x70cm
We are the unseen a bolt in the machine. 
A plea unparalleled just trying to keep pace.
MMachine Operator’s Hand: Madi
Shira Chai ©2014
oil paint and plaster on canvas, 80cm x 50cm
We are just running in place running in place.
Machine Operator’s Hand: Mark
Shira Chai ©2014
oil paint and plaster on canvas, 80cm x 50cm
Observe our hands. 
They shake.
The scars the calluses the sparse paralysis.
Machine Operator’s Hand: Hallel
Shira Chai ©2014
oil paint and plaster on canvas, 55cm x 70cm
We, who inhale the talc and the MEK. 
We, who toil in the dog days. 
We, who chill to the bone. 
We, the workers down below in the pitch-black night. 
We, the workers dead on our feet an under asbestos sky.
Machine Operator’s Hand: Achmud
Shira Chai ©2014
oil paint and plaster on wood board, 76cm x 83cm
Beating here within: Heart and soul, Heart and soul, 
Bittersweet payroll Bittersweet payroll.”

Artist's Note: Here is a series of five paintings with poems about folks (like me) who toil on a factory line. Every operator on the production floor is simply a pair of hands. His welfare is secondary as long as the quotas are met. Thus I focused on the hands of each employee. It makes no difference their ethnicity, Arab, Russian or Jewish. Their hands are all remarkably similar. All are hard working under harsh conditions for minimum wage. Let us also keep in mind that each seeks a decent home, health, a good education and better life for their children. 

Poem ©2012 Shira Chai
Paintings ©2014 Shira Chai
This presentation ©2022 Shira Chai
All rights reserved

Shira Chai…

…is a painter, teacher and artist who writes poetry. From an early age she began journaling. The words soon became poetry and part of her paintings. She embosses the words into the paint. Ms. Chai has exhibited in Detroit, New York, Tel Aviv and various Kibbutzim, in group and solo exhibitions. Shira has been a member of Kibbutz Ein Dor since 1983. She has recently published poetry in ARC 25 and 26, journals of IAWE (Israeli Association of Writers in English).

Website | Her Studio

How… 5 poems | Linda Chown

Daria Shevtsova
via Pexels

Bigots have not spigots

Bigots have no spigots of charity
They burn bias with threaded needles 
As a way of catching and trapping us
God save all our souls from this evil contamination 
Of such wickedness and sadness.

Let us stand on the streets together 
Tall and proud
And read poetry with each other 
Hug and love with all our muster
To share a shining nuance of the wonderful 
While this untenable world circumnavigates around 
in crippling blindness

Life Could Be A Weapon for Change

Life could be a weapon for us to change, to live even,
To spread peach plenty about the shade,
To drink frozen oleanders,
To soften the pain of drone death and safe words.
Say your speech to wake us from wanton laziness
When in the near distance 
People implode in pain and panic, 
Sting entrenched pale in pus and puke.
If half the world is jerking like that,
We must not tell ourselves Christmas stories. 
Drink drunken words that crash shields

Let your comfortable life quiver and unsettle.
We may all then might maybe come together 
in a vast epic colloquy, 
as in Odysseus with Telemachus 
two great forces affirming the inchoate shape of
that uncertainly love.

How we face the world

Quote here—add return / line break
only if more than half-way across page.
Make regular block when adding this.
—Attribution (source)
Whenever tides spun avid 
Wherever it was inevitably dark
Annie sang soft whisper memories, 
of what was said quiet in her parents 
At first glance she was a small circumference
in others views—
one gentle cell dreaming.

Her mind waters welled
like the tides blood 
and Annie without knowing 
why searched in her gentle blue  
for Caleb a man all strenuous!
he of the mind’s rough face

His voice a rocket to Annie’s
stillness   Sometimes she even 
thought quiet like a night star,  
sometimes calm dreaming 
her intransitive wonders running. 

Caleb he burned too hot for her cool 
she felt in this soft black cave the souls,  
spirits of the balmy present, turning and turning 
Annie could not reach the off switch 
to silence restless Caleb burning. 
She tried turning off that switch
To unwriggle his wrestling
ongoing transitive chaos.

And Annie bless her she said 
I want to slide 
not to possess
to roam not to own 
Red periwinkles and blue hyenas
The best.

Palm Sunday Passover

This great tide of solar beginnings
Growth indivisible—beyond words
Such reawakenings
When we green ourselves
Sun spices everything stronger
A triumphant glare shows you
and her and the world wallows with us
all in now when life wells to a head. 
Plant blooms bloom more
In a plethora of themselves 
A grand annual rejoicing 
When our faith strengthens
In silent joy that all is what it is
That we can be blooming now together.

How I Miss Him on Labor Day

My indomitable father was a man of unseen dreams 
In all his grey garb he looked so gentle
Like a philosopher assembling life drifts.

Life and injustice forced him to get rock taut  
Like those Herbeden’s nodes  
Marking his knuckles so beady.

As a girl, to grow I had to challenge 
That certainty he held so tight 
Fear quiet there in his feeling And between us we gained 
Mutual lifelong soul respect.

He would come to Grand Rapids and 
walk with his beret and cane in the Labor Day parade 
in honor of workers, of you and we, dignity 
and of his daughter, perennially late sleeping me.

©2022 Linda Chown
All rights reserved

Linda Chown…

…is a poet professor musician who now lives in Michigan although her past is coastal and international: Spain and California. Author of four books of poems and finishing her next book, Sunfishing, Linda is a life-long activist, sun-lover and dreamer. She was raised in an activist family from the start. A hopeless romantic, sometimes inequities  everywhere drive her to despair and to writing action.

Recovering Homophobe | Morgan Driscoll

©2022 Miroslava Panayotova
The fear just really never went away of 
someone different but the same,
whose passions are equivalent
but aimed at something opposite
to preferences my own body 
will allow.

I work at understanding every day:
my family, friends, and strangers, 
my father, passed away these
three years now. I think I understood
him decently but still, I hide my eyes
from photos of his naked boyfriends.
Dad’s computer was a minefield 
and I wish he’d had a better way to label files but
I wish he hadn’t died in discreet steps as well.
I wish I understood the human heart, libido, soul,
all the bits which can get us 
into so much trouble.

At twelve a man’s hand cupped my face
as I, an unaccompanied minor flew
to visit somewhere I’d been sent. He told me he
was helping with my cabin pressure headache
but I knew
what inappropriate meant.

At sixteen I was in my bed asleep,
a man was visiting from overseas-
some candidate for PHD, someone that
my father once had met. 
My room contained the only bed for guests. 
I told my Dad and Mom and later on, that man had left.

Standing in the concourse of Grand Central
once when I was seventeen
a gentleman approached, so interested in me
naive and parent free, his curiosity
was evident in how he followed
when I tried to leave.

At twenty-one I kissed a pretty girl
who had no interest in my kiss,
and turned away as I continued 
to insist and hold her close to me
and told her she, mis-understood 
her own desires. 

When I started my own business I brushed the arms of  
female hires as I spoke to them. 
I told myself it had to do 
with my communication skills and not 
some psychosexual power thrill.
But maybe I know better now.

I hate the men who used me in and for my youth.
Their addled bodies changing them 
into alarming brutes, reinforcing bias 
towards a group attacked with bigotry, and I 
learning to find pleasure in dislike of something unlike me;
ignorant of my own truths.
I wonder if my sins have caused
damage lasting over years,
irrational and complex fears or hatred aimed
at innocence, past 
anytime it might have made 
any kind of sense. 

And here’s a man who’s speaking of his husband, 
and it makes me feel uneasy 
placing words in places that
they didn’t used to be, instead of maybe 
wondering if someone else can try to have a try 
to crack the code of trying 
to be happy.

©2022 Morgan Driscoll
All rights reserved

Morgan Driscoll…

…lives in Connecticut and writes poetry to supplement his income as a commercial artist. He has been published in 30+ journals and anthologies and has made over $100.

You can find his work in Humanist Magazine, The Penwood Review, The Orchards Poetry Journal, Constellate Magazine, Caesura, Northwest Indiana Literary Journal, The Avenue, Meetinghouse, Newtown Literary, and many other

Lonely Goodbye | Germain Droogenbroodt

for those who, wherever, have to die lonely
Awaiting an Answer
©2022 Edward Lee
Chilly the room
the white walls

audible only
the echo of loneliness.

Not a tender word anymore 
no warm embrace

just the time,
a leaking tap,

None knocking at the door
nobody you expect,
no one, except death.

©2022 Germain Droogenbroodt
All rights reserved

Germain Droogenbroodt…

…is an internationally known poet, translator, publisher and promoter of modern international poetry. He writes short stories and literary reviews, but mainly poetry, so far 14 poetry books, published in 19 countries. As founder of the Belgian publishing house POINT Editions he published more than eighty collections of mainly modern, international poetry, he organised and co-organised several international poetry festivals in Spain. He is vice president of the Academy Mihai Eminescu, in Romania, and organizer of the Mihai Eminescu Internaional Poetry Festival. He also set up the internationally greatly appreciated project Poetry without Borders, publishing every week a poem from all over the world in 33 languages.

Togetherness | Irene Emanuel


They’re there;
hollowed into make-shift sponge-foam beds,
tight-curled into malodorous rag-blankets
and plastic of dubious origin.
They’re there;
the shadow-ghost people
of no fixed abode,
gathered loosely together
in cohesive misery.
They’re there;
existing on society’s fringe,
sustained by the government’s pandering promises;
sharing glue-highs and garbage rot.
They’re there;
old children, dying people,
together in perpetual poverty.
They’re there;
trampled contours on grass verges,
silhouettes on street corners,
robotic vendors with nothing to sell
but themselves.
They’re there;
the street-people of forgotten causes,
unified in the rainbow nation
of lost hopes.

Man Waiting for a Bus Smoking an Invisible Pipe
©2022 Gerry Shepherd

©2022 Irene Emanuel
All rights reserved

Irene Emanuel…

…was born in Johannesburg, lived in Durban, and now lives in Port Elizabeth. She won of the “Hilde Slinger” cup for poetry in 2009 and again in 2013, and the “Fay Goldie” cup for General Success in the World of Publishing in 2011, both from the South African Writers” Circle. Nine of her poems were published in “Signatures” an anthology of Women’s poetry (2008), and shre represented “Live Poets’ Society” in “Poetry Africa” that same year. In 2006, “A Scorpion Sings,” her first anthology, appeared. Other anthologies published between 2006 and 2015 are: “Count Catula of Shadoland & Friends,” “A Peace of Me.” and  “A Scorpion Sings Again.”

Custodians Tradition as Usual | Jonathan Fletcher

Brett Sayles
via Pexels

Custodians of Our Democracy

Who cleaned The Capitol of the mess the mob left behind:
bagged spent spray cans and empty water bottles, body 
armor and cigarette butts, hauled them to the dumpsters?

Who swept the littered floors of the Rotunda and Statuary,
Crypt and Speaker’s Office, collected into dustpans the
splinters of broken benches, shards of smashed windows?

Who scrubbed down the marble surfaces, wiped the scuff
marks of shoes from the patterned tile floors, removed 
the smears of blood and feces from the sandstone walls? 

Who draped plastic film over Madison and Adams, traces
of chemicals present on their portraits, a bust of Zachary 
Taylor, too, his nose and lips still streaked with blood?

Who rechecked the chambers and offices, locked up, then
cleared out for the night, the secular sanctuary back safe 
in their care, yet indelibly stained by a disorderly horde?

An American Tradition

On July 9th, 1776, upon hearing The Declaration of Independence read 
aloud for the first time, General Washington and his troops charged 
the Bowling Green. Those patriots, moved by Jefferson’s 
words to remove every gilded symbol of their oppression, 
hoisted ropes around the 4,0000-pound effigy of George III, 
mounted on horseback, robed like the Romans, as they chanted:
Tear him down! Tear him down!                                          
They then tore from its base that garish likeness of lead which had long 
stood above them, smashed that cruel Crown to pieces, and, in 
a most fitting reuse of that malleable material into matériel, 
melted His Majesty into 42,088 musket balls. Then, 
through volleys of musket fire, they returned the lead 
from that loathed likeness and won their independence.

Kentucky as Usual

At the Derby, the thoroughbreds, 
chestnut and palomino, brown 
and gray, roan and black, each 
bridled in bit and headstall, take 
off at the shot of a starter pistol in 
a race that lasts around 2 minutes.

Authentic gets off to a slow start, yet 
in the stretch catches up with Tiz 
the Law, goes head-to-head with 
the bay stallion, yet overtakes
him in the end, wins by a length 
and a quarter, with a time of 2:00.61

The first-place racehorse pays out to 
his bettors: 1.8 million in all, and 
though he’s awarded none of the 
purse, all of which totals 3 million, 
the public will remember his name, 
more so than the owner’s or jockey’s.

On the hallway floor, Breonna Taylor lives well past 2 minutes, possibly 5 or 6, 
coughs as she struggles to breathe, 
after 7 officers draw their pistols, 
then fire into her apartment, 32 
times in all, trample down the front door.

For more than 20 minutes, in a pool of blood on the hallway floor, Breonna lies unresponsive, and with no medical attention, the emergency room technician dies at the age of 26, the time of death approximate,
listed on the certificate: 12:48 am.

To Breonna’s family, Louisville awards 12 million, none of which will bring her back, but like the bay colt who won the Derby, mostly unknown until Kentucky, she, too, leaves a legacy, rightfully remembered and honored, more than the winner of any race.

©2022 Jonathan Fletcher
All rights reserved
These poems originally appeared in Boundless 2021: The Anthology of the Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival (FlowerSong Press)

Jonathan Fletcher…

…,originally from San Antonio, Texas, currently resides in New York City, where he is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in Poetry at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.  He has been published in Arts Alive San AntonioClips and Pages, Door is a Jar, DoubleSpeak, FlowerSong Press, Lone Stars, OneBlackBoyLikeThat Review, riverSedge, Synkroniciti, The Thing Itself, TEJASCOVIDO, Unlikely Stories Mark V, Voices de la Luna, Waco WordFest.  His work has also been featured at the Briscoe Western Art Museum.

Enough Subway America | Lorraine Jeffery


Can we compensate?

               Settle accounts 
                             with the Black man
                             living in the ghetto?
                             the self-worth of the Muslim
                             woman who was spit at?
                             for the slights in the communities
                             who banished the Irish?
                             the Navaho for his beaten
                             and murdered grandfather?
               Make amends
                             to women who were denied
                             opportunities to be heard?

Probably not,
but we can support justice.

                             in our hiring practices.
               Due Process
                             in our renting policies.
                             in our laws.
                             in our judgements.

Still, it’s not enough.

                             have to see.

                             have to care. 

                             have to open.

On the Subway

Do you see me,
sitting next to you?
You push up your glasses,
and look past me,
seeking a mirror to talk to.

Your voice is soft,
kind perhaps,
as you smile and nod
discuss children and
slow transportation.

Being brown, 
I don’t reflect you,
but she isn’t really a
copy either. 
She’s taller, 
like me
and she’s younger—
unlike you and me.  

I speak English,
was born in California,
raised in Illinois,
have two children,
probably work in a building
near yours. Is there
nothing you can say to me?

I reflect sameness—
but not enough?
Maybe, I should speak, 
but would you hear
you don’t see?

Nathan Dumlao
via Unsplash

America 1790

We hold these truths,
          Do we?
To be self-evident
          Not through much of history.
That all men
          Define men.
          No women though, right?
Are created equal,
          Whoa! Not Blacks—
          three-fifths of a person
          no property ownership
          no votes
          no signed contracts?
          Oh yeah! 
          not people.

©2022 Lorraine Jeffery
All rights reserved

Lorraine Jeffery…

…has won prizes in state and national contests and published over a hundred poems in journals including Clockhouse, Kindred, Halcyone, Canary, Ibbetson Street, Rockhurst Review, Naugatuck River Review, Orchard Street Press, Healing Muse and Bacopa Press. Her first book is titled When the Universe Brings Us Back, 2022.

Website / Blog Linked

After the Arrow | Dorothy Johnson-Laird

After the Verdict

Dedicated to the memory of Amadou Diallo
I see your kind eyes shining out of those pictures
with your brothers and  sister
journeying from Africa to America
you came here because you wanted your mother to relax into old age 
you wanted so much for your family
your hope, not forgotten after all these years  

my breath is captured for a moment 
I stare at the tv screen flickering out at me 
I look at the holes where the gun shots poured in
just looking at those spaces, I want them filled back in 
wanting the gun shots to disappear 
wanting something, anything to take them away 

I was imagining the policemen outside your door 
the fear on your face, in your gentle hands 
as they reached for their guns before reaching for thought 
they were on automatic, aiming at a target 
they didn’t ask your name or address 
they didn’t ask anything of you

what happened to their feeling? 
did it get lost as the gun fire let loose 
did it get lost as your body splayed out in front of them 
what happened to your humanity, your wisdom 
your spirit that caught fire?

how could a wallet be mistaken for a weapon? 
how could your beautiful face be mistaken for a killer’s?
as you stood and then fell down
blues fell with blood in that hallway

that blood stain could be seen for days years afterwards 
even though they tried their best to cover it up

how treacherous is the journey to silence? 
how treacherous is the journey to silence?  

I wanted to tell you Amadou 
the police were set free 
but we will not let them forget 
we will not let them forget the murder 
because after killing, the blood can never be washed off their hands 

and now, I imagine your mother
shaking in the night she was told her oldest son died 
her whole body shakes in the blue night 
her whole body shakes in blues 
she carries that grief on her shoulders 
In her chest, it stays inside her eyes  
such sadness 

what it must feel to lose a child? 
to lose her oldest son 
to never be able to look in his eyes again 
to never be able to hold him 
never be able to hold -   Amadou 
she holds her head - Amadou 
she says his name over and over again

she is sinking 
she is sinking Amadou 
she is lost in her memory of birthing you 
of bringing you into this life 
yet somehow she stays standing 
she doesn’t surrender  

and I too am remembering 
I wish you the peace that comes with still, cool water 
the peace that comes with the African sun rising over your tender hands 
rising and wrapping cloth around your bullet wounds with love 
and singing you home to your resting place 
and singing you home 
just singing you home with love

©Maurício Mascaro
via Pexels

Arrow Man

Dedicated to John Trudell (February 15, 1946 – December 8, 2015) 
Santee Dakota Activist,  Actor, Musician, Writer and Poet 
The great lie is that it is civilization, it is not civilized.
John Trudell
When Black Elk, Heȟáka Sápa, the Lakota spirit man dreamed 
He said that Indians moved in a circle
They did not move in straight lines

And you too danced in your own way  
Never direct 
Honoring the footsteps of your ancestors 

You were a modern seeker 
Standing firm on Alcatraz island as part of the Red Power Movement 
It was a two year occupation, you demanded recognition for broken treaties that were strewn across open highways 

Broken papers, broken ink that was swept over or swept away  
By place names called Custer after the great American hero who was highlighted in official history books
By lies of a murderer who bulleted Indian bodies into the cold frozen snow 

Oneday a line of fire flickered out across your family roof
Trapped inside the house were your pregnant wife, your mother-in-law and three of your children
They were killed in the fire
Even though the official word was that the fire's origins were unknown
You knew it was set, deliberate, the pattern on the roof was too direct 

'I died then, I had to die, in order to get through it' you wrote 
Your writing came to you as a gift at that time  
Your poetry became your “hanging on lines” 
Your writing came with such force that you could not refuse it
It overtook your spirit, it was your way to survive 
Once you said that Indian people did not need to wait for a nuclear war 
It was already happening on the land from the mining of Uranium 

You loved the grasses, the high sacred Black Hills, the sunrise moving within you
You would not let their lies quieten you
You would not put down your weapons 
Arrows flowing over your fingers 

You opened your hands up  
Seeking wisdom from the North 
Your words fearless as they spun out in circles across the night sky

©2022 Dorothy Johnson-Laird
All rights reserved

Dorothy Johnson-Laird…

…is a poet, social worker, and activist who lives in New York City.  She received a B.A. in creative writing from New School University and an M.F.A in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College.  Dorothy also works as a music journalist with a passion in African music. She has published journalism AfroPop with and Music Central, among others.

Recent poetry has been published with The BeZine and Fresh Words Magazine. More of Dorothy’s poetry can be found on her FaceBook page.

On Whiteness… | Todd Matson

50 Shades of White

Behold this diverse
assembly of white, ghost
white, baby powder, smoke, snow,
ivory, floral white, seashell, cream and beige.

They have gathered
here today to navel gaze
and commandeer the concept
of diversity, to ascribe to their wide
array of whiteness a vast variety of virtues
which serve to separate white sheep from the goats
of many colors oblivious to the fact that they can only be
distinguished by the kind of melanin they have in their skin.

They are a most
heterogeneous throng of
parchment, antique white, bone,
eggshell, vanilla, alabaster, chiffon,
merino wool, rose white, and half and half.

Listen as whitesplainers
whitesplain their whitecentric
theology of a white God created in
their white image who miraculously sires
a white antisemitic Jesus from a Jewish peasant
woman to call white people to spread a white gospel of
white makes right to a white world washed white as snow.

Take a sober look
at this mutual admiration
society of coconut, frost, linen,
rice, powder, pearl, titan white, white
dove, white diamond and dazzling winter white.

Listen to the white whispers
of a white-skewed world view of
white supremacy reining supreme, white
politics and white socioeconomic policies as
the way to make America great again, “replacement
theory” as the replacement theory for critical race theory,
and nothing at all about black history long ago whitewashed
from the American history textbooks they read as school children.

What we have here
is a rainbow coalition of
simply white, oyster white, milk,
natural white, vivid white, cascading
white, cotton ball, whitewash, bright white,
and brilliant white. There must be 50 shades of white –
swan white, polar bear, paper white, delicate white, cake batter,
white sand, stone white, retro white, white chocolate and white on white.

They vow to own the libs,
this diverse assembly of white
alt-right, white radical right, white
far-right, white ultra-right, and white
extreme right, now mainstreamed alongside
the silent and complicit white conservative right.
Watch as their blizzard of whiteness ushers them into
a whiteout and they go snow-blind, unaware that a new ice age
has begun in their frozen hearts now entombed by the glaciers within. 

Listen as they sing
“Jesus Loves the Little
Children” with not a red,
yellow, black or brown child to
be found among them. Span the rainbow.
Behold the children. All of their colors are white.

Change the Subject to Race

Change the subject to race in a room
of white faces in a deep red state
and watch blank faces with
glassy eyes take over a
tension-filled room.

Listen as the quiet speaks
and grows louder and louder
until the silence itself is deafening.

False equivalencies begin to drop like rain.
No dog whistle interpreter necessary.
The surreal is the new real for
anyone wearing blinders.

“The white cop may have
been trigger happy, but look at the
checkered past of the unarmed black man.”

“Maybe if the unarmed black man wouldn’t
have been struggling to breathe, the white
cop wouldn’t have believed he was
resisting arrest or kept his knee
on his neck for 9 minutes
and 29 seconds.”

“We wouldn’t need
more restrictive voting laws
which we call election integrity, and
others call voter suppression, if black voters
weren’t committing so damn much voter fraud.”

So it goes.

Blue Lives Matter eclipses Black Lives Matter
as if a job is equivalent to a human life.
As if a job equals a human life. 

White Lives Matter
steals the stage as if white folks
have ever doubted that white lives matter.

Not to be outdone, All Lives Matter grabs
the mic, glosses over black lives with
all lives even though black lives
have never really mattered to
so many who have never
lived black lives.

Read the room.

The tension can be cut
with a knife.  Discomfort reaches
critical mass.  Artful redirection is on
deck.  Comic relief is waiting in the wings.

So it goes.  And so it goes.

I don’t want to say this.  I naively believed
we were becoming a post-racial society.
I was wrong.  We are becoming an
Orwellian post-truth society.

Where is the courage
to love those who don’t look
like us?  Let the vulnerability hangover
come.  I am white.  Take my heart.  Break it.

Paint it black.

Nathan Dumlao
via Unsplash

Ghost Me Again

A poker face will
not hide you forever,
and you can’t just co-opt a
moment of silence as an alibi for
donning an invisibility cloak every time
you feel uncomfortable. We are no longer
toddlers playing hide-and-seek, believing we can
hide in plain sight by placing our hands over eyes, as
if you can’t see me if I can’t see you. There you are. I see you.

The truth about how
we come to know and be
known is self-evident and eternal.
We cannot NOT communicate. We are
all responsible for our own communication.

Everything we say,
everything we don’t say,
everything we do, everything
we don’t do communicates something.

When our neighbor
is profiled, stereotyped,
slandered because of how he
looks, or who she loves, and you
say nothing, your reticence outs you,
gives you away. Your silence is deafening.

When decency calls for
something to be done, nobody
gets to say, “Why are you looking at
me? I didn’t do anything!” As if not doing
anything when something needs to be done serves as a
not guilty plea. Inactions, like actions, speak louder than words.

Do you honestly
believe that your sins
of omission will not find
you out? Didn’t you get the
memo? It’s not just the bad things
we do. It’s the good things we don’t.

Complicity masquerading
as innocence is cowardice placing
personal privilege above the needs of those
who are marginalized, disenfranchised, oppressed,
dehumanized, ostracized as “other,” brutalized, erased.

You may say with sincerity,
“I went into fight-flight-freeze,”
and I froze. There is no shame in fear.
We just can’t establish permanent residence there.

It comes
down to this:
Define or be defined.
The power of self-definition
is our first and last power. Our very
lives can be taken from us. The power to
define ourselves must be given away to be lost.
Who will define you? Who will define your legacy?

Ghost me
again, the next
time I am counting
hearts, and I might get the
impression that you don’t have one.

©2022 Todd Matson
All rights reserved

Todd Matson…

…is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in North Carolina.  He has written poetry for The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling, Soul-Lit: A Journal of Spiritual Poetry, and his short stories have been published in Ariel Chart International Literary Journal and Faith, Hope and Fiction.  He has also written lyrics for songs recorded by a number of contemporary Christian music artists, including Brent Lamb, Connie Scott and The Gaither Vocal Band.