Once again, the poets came through. When we asked readers to submit opinionated poems for this year's Op-Ed poetry pages, we heard from nearly 1,000 of you. Your poems dealt with just about every aspect of modern life — with war and peace, with social media and social justice, with life and death and taxes.
We read every one of the poems submitted before making the difficult decision of which ones to publish. We considered literary quality, but we also considered newsworthiness and clarity of argument. Humor and brevity were admired. The poems we selected are certainly representative of what we received, and we think each of them makes a strong and eloquent point. We fit all we could on the printed page, and have posted additional submissions online at latimes.com/opinion.
On Penalty of Death
By Ray Sherman
Three botched executions
already this year
what's going on here
nobody seems to know
how to do euthanasia
where's Dr. Kevorkian
now that we need him
Ray Sherman is a retired pianist.
By Sharon Rudahl
In the end, it was not the rising seas,
The drought-cracked land, the poisoned air,
Or even our monkey rage
That smashed proud mankind to its knees,
But spring after spring, the plains and valleys
Sterile and untouched,
The fruitless vines and trees
Deserted by the humble bees.
Cartoonist Sharon Rudahl wrote the Emma Goldman biography "A Dangerous Woman."
Modern Love Incorporated
By Mike Orlock
When I was but a younger man,
still wet behind the ears,
my father gave me this advice
between his shots and beers:
"Don't waste your youth on women, boy,
Or needless complications.
If in love you're looking to invest,
find a corporation.
"Citizens United, boyo,
has changed the game of love.
A woman might be soft and sweet,
and fit you like a glove;
or men, if that's the way you swing,
might offer manly sex.
But when it comes to marriage, son,
propose to Goldman Sachs.
"They just have more to offer you
below the bottom line.
Now that they're legal people,
with rights we can define,
we must protect their interests
and court them royally,
admire their portfolios
and treat them daintily.
"For they, my boy, make no mistake,
are fickle as young girls.
They need our constant blandishments,
tax breaks instead of pearls.
Don't raise your voice in anger, no,
nor question what they do,
or overseas they'll relocate
and leave you feeling screwed."
I took to heart my father's words,
led a corporate life.
I studied contract law in school,
eschewed both kids and wife.
I fell in love with many firms,
joined the Grand Old Party,
but finally found both God and love,
wed to Hobby Lobby.
Mike Orlock is a retired teacher of high school English and social studies.
Sonnet on a Red-Blue Hiatus
By George Waters
How sweet this lull between election years
When Facebook friends post only of their dears
and not their presidential voting picks
(predictably a grinning host of hicks)
How sweet this pause when friends can just be friends
and food pix replace posting that offends
But come next year the cycle starts anew
If I speak truth ... un-friending shall ensue.
George Waters is a humor columnist for the Los Angeles News Group.
For Gilberto Ramos, 15, Who Died in the Texas Desert, June 2014
By Joseph Ross
Before you left, your mother
draped you with 50 Hail Marys,
a rosary of white wood,
a constellation she hoped might
guide you. But Texas does not
know these prayers. It knows
that desert air is thirsty
and you are made of water.
It drank you slowly. Your name
only linked to your body by the string
of aves still around your neck,
the small cross pressing against your
wooden skin, the color of another cross.
You left home on May 17
with one change of clothes and two
countries ahead of you, your brother's
phone number hidden on the back
of your belt buckle so the coyote
couldn't find it. The coyotes pray
in the language of extortion.
The phone number was eventually
found by a Texas official whose name
your brother couldn't remember. She called
and spoke in the language of bones. He translated
her news into "pray for us, sinners,
now and at the hour of our death."
His prayer meant "brother," a word
he kept moist, just beneath his tongue.
Joseph Ross teaches English at Gonzaga College High School in Washington.
By Ed Gala
I am a serf on a tax farm.
Nearly 50% of my wage
Is taken away.
How much more need I pay before I
Become a slave?
Ed Gala lives in Huntington Beach.
By Emily Sernaker
There is a way to pose
For a Facebook picture.
Every modern girl knows it.
There is a way to angle your body
To the side, to put your hip out.
Leg forward, a way to look slightly better, slender.
There is a way to position your arm
So it is not as droopy,
A way to pull your shoulders back,
Suck your stomach in.
There is a catalog of comparison
I somehow subscribed to.
Some self-deprecating song
I let onto my playlist.
There is a way women reach
For the camera after the picture.
Let me see how I looked. No
Take it again.
Emily Sernaker is a writer and activist.
By Elmast Kozloyan
She chiseled away at her nose
The one that looked like her mother's did
before she too hacked it away
They had fled to the other side of the world
and built a nest with expensive shiny things
They fled when their people were sent into deserts
Marching to their grave stones
When babies were thrown into the Black Sea
or poisoned with toxic gas in schoolhouses
Never given the chance to pass down the broad noses
their parents gave them
I saw my history in tiny cups
stained with black ink coffee
While she kept checking the mirror
just to make sure it hadn't grown back
I didn't recognize her anymore
Hers wasn't the face I had grown up with
It was left behind with those who starved
as the Reds patted themselves on the back for their glorious union
My grandmother would tell me how beautiful I was
but if I got a nose job
how much prettier I would be
I felt sorry for her
That she would go her entire life without
seeing anything past her own vanity
I still love her even if she will never understand why
I'll never shrink my nose
lift my breasts
or freeze my face
and I will never understand why
she is so ashamed of the face her son gave me
Elmast Kozloyan is a Montebello poet and college student.
By Jill Frieze Prado
and the best
things in life
how dare you
shut our Dodgers out
of regular TV!
Jill Frieze Prado is a writer, decorative art surface designer and classical ballet instructor.
Bullying Arts Education
By Jessica Kehinde Ngo
Tell them illustrating fairy tales
is for toddlers
and to leave it on the preschool playground
smash their Play-Doh sculptures
saying that formulas
and test scores matter more
take away choir and marching band
protesting that rhymes and beats
are for begging street performers
but don't then be surprised
if when you look into the eyes of our teenagers
you see a desert, or worse yet, nothing at all
Jessica Kehinde Ngo teaches writing at Otis College of Art & Design and Pepperdine University.
Catastrophe Strikes L.A.:
By R. Daniel Foster
Oh it's horrific
bike lanes slow down my drive time
by precious seconds
R. Daniel Foster is a writer, visual artist and bicyclist.
By Fran Davis
Maps show it, a spreading stain across the state
deepest red, the color of arterial blood: Extreme Drought.
But who's looking? Motorists on I-5 where almond leaves
thin to yellow? In Merced and Kern, trees lie sacrificed,
naked roots clawing dry sky. But hey, that's somewhere else.
Not here. Not Riverside, where sprinklers fling out water
like parade candy. Not Oroville either, sitting easier
below its dry dam. White herons stalk rice fields south of town,
poking long bills into luscious goo: First Rights.
That district skims delta water off the top and who cares
about a few trees anyway? As long as alfalfa fields
stay emerald against gold hills, making hay for cattle.
We need our burgers. And still the aqueducts ferry water
to feed the penstocks of Tehachapi — devil siphons
slurping northern water to slake a greedy southern thirst,
fill pools and green up sand where only cactus grows.
Fran Davis lives in Summerland and writes a column for Coastal View News.
By Peggy Ochoa
The middle class is shrinking
We've heard the experts say.
The offered jobs are stinking —
Few hours or low pay.
Those with jobs keep thinking
There'll come a better day,
But most now have an inkling
Of what it takes to stay
At jobs that lead to sinking
Still lower every day.
Peggy Ochoa teaches writing and literature at Cal State Fullerton.
By Dolores Rogers
When you multitask
Do you do anything well?
We live mindlessly.
Dolores Rogers writes poetry in New York.
A Boy in Aleppo
By Margaret Langhans
Not a trace of hair on your creamy face,
you look with open gaze at the camera,
an ice cream cone in your right hand,
inches from the Kalashnikov
slung over your thin shoulder.
Your brown bangs fall to your eyebrows,
a kaffiyeh tied, almost rakishly, on the back of your head.
Like any 10-year-old eager for recess,
you ought to be doing wheelies on your bike.
Instead you play sniper,
no longer a make-believe soldier,
in a real war, played for keeps.
Sweet-faced boy, how do we make amends?
Margaret Langhans is a retired English teacher who lives in Long Beach.
By Brad Rose
Sky full of ghosts,
a war in mind,
I hear tactical voices.
Been discharged three years,
feel empty as a vacant apartment.
Still got fumes in my blood.
Sometimes, I hear fizzing too,
like positive and negative leads, touching.
Feel like I'm breathing nails.
Before she left,
my wife said she started to dream
said she's seen brighter eyes
in the faces of the dead.
Now, my car's my living room.
Got Rhode Island plates,
smallest state in the Union.
Can barely see it on aerial recon.
I pull into the parking lot of this cineplex,
put on my night-vision goggles.
Even if my blood's been hypnotized,
no one can find me. Not here.
I wait for a while,
tune the car radio to the designated station,
listen to the gray, static hum.
A good Marine,
I await further orders.
Brad Rose is a Boston writer who was raised in Los Angeles.
By Jean Koch
I think that I must rant and yammer,
At the dearth of proper grammar.
I wish a most unhappy fate,
To those who cannot conjugate.
The verb to lie, as "down in bed,"
A verb I've really come to dread.
"I laid." "He laid" "They laid," I hear,
"She was laying" brings a tear.
It rolls off the tongue as easily as pie,
Misconjugation of the verb, to lie.
On radio and in the press,
I hear and read it with distress.
To those who wonder how it should be said,
"I lie." "He lies" "They lie in bed."
"I lay awake all last night."
"I have lain sleepless 'til it's light."
They lay last Tuesday in the sun,
Tanning 'til they were well done.
Now I am lying on the lawn.
He was lying 'til break of dawn.
They fell down but were not hurt,
They just lay there in the dirt.
I'll lay my book down on the shelf.
I laid it there all by myself.
The chicken laid an egg today
She will lay more, come what may.
To lie, as in to tell untruth,
I lie. She lied. They lied, forsooth.
And if my nerves you want to jangle,
Just let your prepositions dangle.
"Where's it at?" is really awful,
It should truly be unlawful.
"Where is it?" — easier to say,
"Where was it?" This will not dismay.
Put prepositions where they belong,
Not at the end. That is all wrong.
To lie. To lay. What a conundrum,
Say it right. Don't be hum-drum.
To lay. To lie. Please get it right,
So you won't seem a neophyte.
Jean Koch is a Los Feliz homemaker.
Nobody Likes You
By Natalie Young
Static-woven radio tunes,
a sloppy kiss of bird song and chilled breath —
this is how you always greet me.
You have a way of never mincing words
or time, throwing me a cruel mixture
of tragedy and sinister luck.
I spill vile words onto breakfast plate,
words I like to save for dinner
or politics, but your antics call them out early.
Should I hold my hand out,
welcome your offering?
Or fling one disgusted finger in your face?
Can I keep you from the rest of my days
if I forget the brazen attacks,
the broken weekend promises?
Your absence seems impossible. No matter
how I delete, scratch you
off my birthday list, you always return,
Weep in the bathroom stall,
Natalie Young is founding editor and graphic designer for the poetry magazine Sugar House Review.
Recipe for Disaster
By Carole Cooper
Make six states.
See pluribus ruin 'em.
Carole Cooper is a hospice social worker and freelancer writer.
You Are Old, Father William
(with apologies to Lewis Carroll)
By Felicia Nimue Ackerman
"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And the money's become very tight;
And yet you'll spend anything not to be dead —
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"
"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I figured that old folks should die;
But now that I'm perfectly sure that I'm one,
I do not see a good reason why."
"You are old," said the son, "as I mentioned before.
So consider your grandson's position,
Since the money that keeps you away from death's door
Could be used for his college tuition."
"I am old," Father William replied in a yell,
"But I've not taken leave of my wits!
I should croak so young Willie can go to Cornell?
Be off, or I'll blow you to bits!"
Felicia Nimue Ackerman is a philosophy professor at Brown University.
By Sharon Sanford
Hey twentysomething, did you vote today?
Bend the future in your own special way?
Or did you leave that chore
To real oldies like me
With memories of tie-dye and patched Levi knees?
Seems too many trust, maybe too much
A cohort of dreamers who marched and who cussed
When time and the causes seemed endless and just.
Well, sorry to tell you,
We now take the bus.
So nothing needs doing? Nothing to say?
Silence is such a curious play.
But I'll keep on voting
And you best be hoping
I thought of your future today.
Sharon Sanford is happily retired after a long life of 9 to 5.
Managed Care: A Sonnet
By Dennis Mull
Who manages your managed "care"?
You'll never know, but you must bear
That your prescription is declined,
That your referral is denied.
Appeals ignored, your protests vain,
You muddle on despite your pain.
No specialists for you, they say,
And come to think, just who is "they"?
Who makes your healthcare such a hell?
You'll never know and they won't tell.
But neither will they go away —
Unlucky you; they're here to stay.
But "managed care" — it sounds so good!
(Like Trojan horses made of wood.)
Dennis Mull is an Irvine physician.
Pension Smoothing Explained
By Barry Goldman
Your blanket is too short
And your feet stick out the bottom
And your toes are feeling lonely and pathetic?
Cut some blanket off the top
And sew it to the bottom
And everything will be just copacetic.
Barry Goldman is an arbitrator
and mediator in Detroit.
By Jeffrey Bryant
Hillary and Jeb might be
Each party's certain nominee.
The issue is not quality
But parallels to royalty.
We're oddly filled with special glee
At sights of Kate and Prince Willy,
With wee Prince George upon a knee,
A royal's famed from infancy.
Against a prior George did we
Fight against such monarchy
To make it so that we were free
To choose reps electorally.
But from such choice we seem to flee
To Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee,
Whose worth for some is exclusively
Nothing more than a pedigree.
We're Bushed, Clintoned and Kennedyed!
Is that how we choose those to lead?
To settle thus it seems to me
We could have saved all that dumped tea.
Jeffrey Bryant is a writer living in Los Angeles.
Enemy in the Mirror
By Daniel Kelley
As lawmakers act out of spite,
Their one goal to vex and incite,
Make the enemy clearer,
Just hand them a mirror,
Alas! They're the same, left or right.
Daniel Kelley plays French horn with the L.A. Opera.
By Robert C. Keating
Would we find this ol' bar such a bore
If we left all our phones at the door?
We might look at each other
And talk to each other —
You know, like we used to before.
Robert C. Keating is a writer in West Hollywood.
The Jonah Goldberg Blues
By Cheryl Lutz
It happens every Tuesday just before I read the news.
I turn to the opinions for the Jonah Goldberg blues.
He rants and raves and grumbles but he seldom makes much sense.
I'm sure he'd be much better if he channeled Hunter Pence.
Cheryl Lutz is a criminal defense attorney and a Giants fan.
By Steve Apostolina
A life that's passing like all before
Is uniquely one to lose.
Be brave, California, open the door
For the dying's right to choose
Steve Apostolina is an L.A.-based actor/playwright.
Sometimes the Urge To Live
By Aliki Barnstone
Sometimes the urge to live
seems like a crime, as if
my absence would save
a family from a bomb or keep
their tiled roof intact
or the stucco from cracking
and the cinder-block walls
into ash and dust.
Under their vulnerable roof,
a mother holds a spoon
at her toddler's lip,
and a lithe teenage boy sways
in the corner of the room
to music only he can hear.
He's a nimble dancer, spinning
a loose-limbed dream partner,
his muscles too sinuous,
his dark hairline too even,
his curls too tight
for blood to mat and tangle.
The grandmother finishes mending,
sticks her needle
in a red pin cushion.
"Aren't you hungry?
It's time to eat."
We all want to feed our kids,
sit across the table, watching
their gestures as they talk
and handle silverware,
holding an instant safe in memory,
something private and unspoken
that won't be etched
on a plaque in a future decade,
with words like "martyrs"
and dates and numbers dead.
Aliki Barnstone is a professor of English at the University of Missouri.
By Luís Campos
Please sign the guest Kindle.
Throw the Kindle at him!
I'm Kindled on a flight
to Buenos Aires.
"Bell, Kindle and Candle."
Kindler T. Washington.
The Kindle of Mormon.
Kindle 'em, Dano!
Luís Campos is a nationally syndicated crossword puzzle and cryptogram creator.
The World Sandbox
By K. Titchenell
That sandbox isn't where I'd play
The big boy's playing there today
He has the strength; he has the weight
Beware, he's waiting at the gate
He's got a clique of sycophants
untying bows and pulling pants
And when he stumbles we all cheer
(But not so loud that he can hear)
The sandbox of the world today
Is not a pleasant place to play
Though we know nothing from afar
Of how they speak nor where they are
Every country near and far
May be the target of our war
We have the satellites, the drones
We've bugs in everybody's phones
And all those sycophantic lands
Dare not refuse us our demands
And when we stumble, billions cheer
(but not so loud that we can hear)
K. Titchenell teaches English classes to home schoolers through the Excellence in Education Academy.
By Jill Sharp
Barack can sound highfalutin
ordering sanctions on Putin,
but it's all very well
to swagger and yell
when you've got no intention of shootin'.
Jill Sharp teaches at the Open University in Wiltshire, England.
By Michael Malek Najjar
When Troy was sacked,
The Greeks reveled in Dionysian bacchanals.
While Carthage burned,
Romans strolled the Forum seeking finery.
During Hiroshima's incineration,
Couples in Times Square swung to Glenn Miller.
And so it is with us —
Going busily about our days
While innocents are slaughtered
By missiles, shells, drones —
Unable to stop.
Michael Malek Najjar is an assistant professor of theater arts at the University of Oregon.
By Tom Greening
I scurry around the city
intoning my antiwar poems
at peace rallies and poetry readings,
but so far have never prevented a war.
I can't keep trying forever,
and need some help
from Washington, Moscow,
Rhyme or blank verse,
conventional or nuclear —
Crank it out by the ton,
drop it on people all over the world.
It will daze and pacify them,
maybe even enlighten some.
Inspection teams can verify the results.
Never let it be said
that we desperate poets didn't try.
Tom Greening is a poet and psychologist. He is the former editor of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology.
The Mayor in Van Nuys
By Douglas Baldwin
The mayor came to Van Nuys
He is smaller than I expected
Not like that jumbo fellow in New York
The mayor came to Van Nuys
To brush the street with his eyebrows
And unify our disparate tribes
The mayor came to Van Nuys
But only in spirit
And without adequate armament
The mayor came to Van Nuys
And the ladies on Sepulveda
All clicked their sparkling plastic shoes
Douglas Baldwin is an air pollution consultant.
For Marlene Pinnock, beaten by a California Highway Patrolman next to the 10 Freeway
By Pam Ward
I stole a sunflower plant in front
of the police station today
a wild screaming yellow stalk
fighting a bed of angry weeds
I snatched it in broad daylight
yanked the root with my hand
grabbed it like it was already mine
carrying it boldly
carrying it like royalty
like a golden precious staff
like the kind slammed against Rodney's spine
I marched down the street
in a single lady parade
daring somebody to stop me
I took the sunflower home
and planted it in my yard
near the barely hanging-on broccoli
near the sad and stripped-searched beets
near the carrots that came out of nowhere
I buried it thinking about my son
and how he likes salty black and white seeds
and how his speeding ticket could've turned ugly
when we picked him up that night
if the officer wanted to trip
I buried the plant with some poems
that didn't amount to much
something about water-boarding
and Zimmerman whipping ass again
but my first thought when I saw it
was of the homeless lady, Marlene
lying in the freeway, flat on her back
weather-beaten and wilting fast
shielding fist after fist
getting pummeled, getting stole on
right and left hooks to the jaw
sitting on her stomach
straddling her hips like a horse
hitting her over and over again
in the face
like his uniform transformed him
like he was a king
trampling black women like dirt
like mud underneath his boot
I thought, this lady could be
my own mother, my sister or me
So naturally when I saw that flower
I rescued it from the police
because sometimes you just have to
march up to power
sometimes you just have to
combat the weeds
sometimes you just have to
snatch back what's yours
even if it's a just a flower
or a rock in the street
growing like a riot
in the palm of your hand.
Pam Ward is a writer and graphic designer and the author of "Want Some Get Some."
Please Pass the Mud
By Peter Larsen
Oh, my name is Bennett Bennett, and I'm running for the Senate;
I am, as you can see, a clean-cut gent.
My soul is pure and clean — not a bone of mine is mean —
And I've never, ever been in government.
The incumbent, sad to say, is liberal and gay,
Displays a well-known craze for crack and booze.
Sex-addicted and profane, nearly certified insane,
He's covered chest to toe with lewd tattoos.
He's in every lobby's pay, plays golf with PACs all day,
Ignores your letters, emails, tweets and faxes.
Fiercely anti-right-to-life, he'll take away your rifle
And triple sales, estate and income taxes.
He would socialize your health, redistribute all your wealth,
And put our fiscal budget in a pickle.
Legislation by this dork is completely jammed with pork,
And he'd sell his mother's eyeballs for a nickel.
So defy that mad mud-slinger and anoint a real change-bringer,
For I'm the man you truly can believe.
Avoid that liar's snares — I'm the answer to your prayers —
And I promise I'll serve just one term, then leave.
Peter Larsen is a retired graphic artist.
By Lenore Navarro Dowling
Four boys at beach play,
Grim skies surprise with fierce fire.
Sands bleed as waves weep.
Lenore Navarro Dowling teaches writing at Rio Hondo Community College.
The Drought Bears
By George H. Smith
Taking shelter from a dearth of storms,
they skulk down from the hills,
betraying the boundaries that have served them,
risking recognition, the town's loud indignant guns.
Alighting from the bus
with their cardboard suitcases and sheepish grins,
hairy gents and sows whose thirst
has overcome their cunning.
They're all claws, unshaven and uncouth.
At best, the citizens deplore them,
eager to mock their native tongue,
so guttural and full of yearning.
You can't catch fish in a sewer.
With no money and no skills,
they're bound to go astray.
(Even a liberal won't let his daughter date one.)
They're not welcome in church.
The cubs get bullied round the school.
What future can they dream of
When every den's iniquitous?
They can't go home again,
Nor conceivably remain.
Another dry spell like the last
And they'll surely overrun us.
To what lowlands will we flee
When there's no meat left on the bone?
Best pray for superhuman kindness,
some species more loving than our own.
G.H. Smith, a former California criminal defense attorney, is a writer in the Pacific Northwest.
Death of a Nation
By Martin L. Henriks
We fought a revolution to be free
From a powerful government, you see.
We engaged a Civil War to conserve it,
Marched for civil rights to preserve it.
But then we wanted more things free,
Lifetime benefits and security.
Declaration or Constitution? (There was no need).
Safety and correctness was our creed.
To create a Society Great and new,
A more powerful government we grew.
It gave us the works and all the frills,
But killed the goose that paid the bills.
The fruits of enterprise we gave away,
Until no more private jobs one day.
There was nothing left but bureaucrats,
Recipients and river rats.
No more producers did we produce.
The ducklings sucked away the goose.
In a nation now desperate for more,
The end result was strife (or war).
Rulers had to rule with brutal hand,
Just as was predicted by Ayn Rand.
So we began, with hope, faith and charity,
And ended with nothing, except (perhaps) clarity:
We had sold our independency and bravery,
And bought a different kind of slavery.
Martin L. Henriks is a licensed private investigator.
By Carlos E. Cortés
Today I received my Social Security check from the SSA.
Then I gave blood so the doctor could check my PSA.
After that I went to the airport where I was patted down
by the TSA
to make certain I wasn't a threat to the USA.
Carlos E. Cortés is an emeritus professor of history at UC Riverside.
By Melissa Frederick
Instead of laws,
our kids learn
how to hide in closets.
Lock the door.
Wait in the dark.
brought to you
by the NRA.
Melissa Frederick lives and writes in suburban Pennsylvania.
By Nancy Roeger
At the stoplight
In a Jeep Grand Cherokee
Sit a mom and her kids
Four heads down
By the window
Sit middle school skaters
Three heads down
In Crate & Barrel
Down the aisle
Walk the newlyweds
Two heads down
Down the road
In a Jeep Grand Cherokee
Sit a mom and her kids
Crash! Boom! Bang!
Crash! Boom! Bang!
TEXTING IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH!
Nancy Roeger is a semi-retired teacher from Carlsbad.
By Dorothy S. Hull
Nowadays you're apt to see
That little thief, Apostrophe,
Without possession of the spaces,
Sneaking in to stolen places!
Dorothy S. Hull is a retired musician and grammar whiz.
Turning the Page
By Karen Mandell
They're putting strange things
on the paper's second page.
Yesterday, someone found an emerald
worthy of Catherine the Great
on a North Carolina farm.
In Romania, a dinosaur was shoveled
out of his 70 million year
hidey-hole. A sturdy clawed fellow,
back when Romania was an island,
the world not having yet been settled into place.
Today, a woman was found stuck
in a chimney, feet first, at her boyfriend's house,
raging mad, apparently, but the guy ran away.
In other news, a mayor's daughter shoplifted makeup.
Her father's mantra: Stop petty crime.
Sipping hot cocoa, smoothing almond butter
on a rye cracker, I try to categorize, make sense
of it all. Animal and mineral, rage and want,
stacked neatly in columns
up and down the page.
Karen Mandell is a Boston poet.
Bridge Over a Bone River
By Lollie Butler
In a border town built on drought
and tourist dollars, I walk through stalls of silver
and tequila, while along La Frontera,
two men and a woman lie flat, handcuffed.
One will not live to be deported.
Crossing this bridge over a bone river,
each became a Christo, carrying the cross
of his body. And in the end, God became a tree,
a lizard or a cloud.
When the sun over Sonora hammers,
every living thing is pummeled back
into the earth where it waits for nightfall to rise
This is a siesta town
but it is my country north of here that sleeps.
Under our eyes the nameless dead collect.
We will awaken when a migra's rifle fires
or when the ghost of compassion returns
to ask what good we've done with our inheritance.
One wears a ragged shirt,
the other a baseball cap, and one wears a crucifix
around her neck. I might forget them
had I not seen their faces as I drive north toward home,
silver bangles cold against my wrists.
Lollie Butler manages a mentoring program for the mentally ill in Tucson.