Op-Ed: Rhyme and reason: The Times readers’ best opinionated poems

(Anthony Russo / For The Times)

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


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.


Tax Farm

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.


Facial Heritage

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.


Cable Lament

By Jill Frieze Prado

If baseball

is life

and the best

things in life

are free,

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.:

A Haiku

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.


Re-Divining Water

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.


Recession Depression

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.


Veterans’ Benefits

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

my nightmares,

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.


Conjugation Blues

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,

wicked Monday.

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

Take California.

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.


First Tuesday

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.


American Royalty

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.


Bar Phones

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.


On Dying

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

from smashing

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.


Modern Times

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.


Antiwar Poetry

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,

or Xanadu.

Rhyme or blank verse,

conventional or nuclear —

whatever works.

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.


The Sunflower

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

or stick

or baton

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.


Kindergarten Drills

By Melissa Frederick

Instead of laws,

our kids learn

how to hide in closets.

Lock the door.

Wait in the dark.

Don’t speak.

America’s schools,

brought to you

by the NRA.

Melissa Frederick lives and writes in suburban Pennsylvania.


Heads Down

By Nancy Roeger

At the stoplight

In a Jeep Grand Cherokee

Sit a mom and her kids

Four heads down

At McDonald’s

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!

Thumbs down

Heads down

Crash! Boom! Bang!


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

and howl.

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.

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