An Other Revolution – Yuan Changming

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Photo: Alp Ancel

As giant ants march ahead in nightly arrays
Demonstrating against the ruling humans
Along the main street of every major city
Hordes of hordes of vampires flood in, screaming
Aloud, riding on hyenas and
Octopuses, waving skeletons
In their hairy hands, whipping at old werewolves
Or all-eyed aliens standing by
With their blood-dripping tails

Gathering behind the masses are ghosts and spirits
Of all the dead, victims of fatal diseases
Murders, rapes, tortures, wars, starvation, plagues
Led by deformed devils and demons
As if in an uprising, to seek revenge
On every living victor in the human shape
Some smashing walls and fences, others
Barbecuing human hearts like inflated frogs
Still others biting at each other’s soul around black fires
All in a universal storm of ashes and blood

Up above in the sky is a red dragon flying by
With a heart infected by the human virus


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Yuan Changming edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver. Credits include  ten Pushcart nominations, Jodi Stutz Award in Poetry (2020) & publications in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (2008-17) & BestNewPoemsOnline, among others across 45 countries. 

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This poem is from our first print collection
of poetry,  “Thought For Food”, an anthology
benefiting Denver Food Rescue. To support
our fundraiser, please visit this link.

Thought For Food Promotional 1

 

Things you don’t say at the dinner table, which in my case growing up was anything. – Bruce Sterling

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Image: Federica Campanaro

I avoided speaking for fear of communication
or maybe humiliation.
I didn’t know how to talk
or specifically
to speak their language without reprisal.

Slipping up in our household was tantamount to losing
and losing was bad
and bad is how I felt
for much of my life.
See shame runs deep
in my family
which
coincidentally is quite a shame.


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Who is this Bruce Sterling character? Some call him philosopher, some call him dad. Nobody calls him a poet but that doesn’t stop him from crafting lines into something just about good enough to read. Without any formal training he seems to hold his own at the beloved Writer’s Block’s weekly writing events. He’s known to say, “Spending time with the poetry community is the only sane thing to do in this world. It fosters creativity, acceptance and huge amounts of love and frankly not much else matters.” Bruce is published in Spit Poet and Writer’s Block zines.

This poem is from our first print collection
of poetry,  “Thought For Food”, an anthology
benefiting Denver Food Rescue. To support
our fundraiser, please visit this link.

Thought For Food Promotional 1

The Alley Poets – Chelsea Cook

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Photo: Joshua Hoehne

Let me show you

Where the poets live.

They gather in an alley, at midnight, under the full moon,

To read dirty haiku and make a ruckus in the streets.

 

Rebels!

But they are caring rebels.

 

Tonight, I found the alley poets

And took a dose of love.

How are you feeling? they ask.

Good, I say.

(Good is always the right answer, the work answer.)

No, tell us how you really feel.

Depressed.

That’s better, because it’s honest. Now come here:

“Every day, we’ll show you a moment so golden you must close your eyes to see it.”

I must stick around for that day.

 

Why is death such a theme in poetry?

Why does the depressed mind latch onto it,

Instead of the beauty in the words, the rhymes, the repetition?

Why is it so easy for pain to enter,

For negative feelings to take root like weeds,

For the analytical mind to try and rationalize the irrational?

 

The alley poets tell me a ghost story:

About the monster “that which follows”!

Stalking the cities, the towns, the towers

For those souls whose hearts have turned to stone.

It is insatiable, all-consuming, leaving destruction in its wake.

But they also tell me:

“That which follows” hates fire, warmth, light, love.

 

So, the alley poets light a campfire.

We sing and dance and read,

Keeping the darkness at bay.

Not to sound cliché

But the poems they recite,

Are the stars between the clouds at night.

 

They hug me tightly as I take my leave,

Encouraging: I must carry the ember until the next time

The community comes together.

The upbeat music starts to play,

Because…”that which follows” has no chance

Against the alley poets!


 

Chelsea Cook grew up on the coast of Virginia, but now calls the mountains of Colorado home. She has been writing poetry since high school, and has been active in the Boulder open mic scene. She is currently finishing the draft of her first novel.

 

This poem is from our first print collection
of poetry,  “Thought For Food”, an anthology
benefiting Denver Food Rescue. To support
our fundraiser, please visit this link.

Thought For Food Promotional 1

The Return – Melissa Ferrer

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Photo: Bogomil Mihaylov

The first nine months
Of our life
Was spent
In quarantine
Nurtured by the wisdom
Of our mother’s mothers
Nutrified by the Earth
Suckling
As one being in body
Organic
In nature.
Symbiotic
Symbol of continuation.

Why
Have we not returned
Awareness to the womb
In these times
Seek the divine dark
From which the spark of life
Was bourne?

Why
Have we not sought
The wisdom of those who came
Before separation
Before degradation
And desecration of mind
And spirit?

Why
Have we not embraced
The girth of the earth
Beneath our feet?
Learn of what this bigness
Be. Hear what the bees
Buzz; news
Of the Ancient Ascent
And the absence
Of each.

Noise.
Uttered in tongue
And misidentified meaning
Ideological demons
Occupying the homes
Turned house–
The bodies
Turned louse–
Parasitic
Prophet of death
And termination
Living in the fauna
Of our mouths.

Hands balled into fists
Tightness taught us
To savor our anger
As a way to resist
The falling dominoes
And kingdoms
Devoid of glory and
fortified, sanctified
Foundation
Tumbling– remains
Creating another story–
Debris, and crumbs
Of those numbed
Translated as the way
To salvation.
And thus, the birth of this new nation.

Always and always
More and more
Preaching the gospel of lonely
And fragmentation
Disintegration of awareness
Assimilation of fear
Abandonment of what is
In search of what was never there—
Perfection in the flesh
Salvation in what we can hold
What we can mold
From our dastardly desires—
…………..A kingdom foretold
…………..Whose fall approaches.

In the wombs of our rooms
Let us croon ourselves into
Gestation
Into carry
Into hold
Let us sing, sing, sing
Lullabies of light light light
And drift,        drift,                     drift
into the silence of the Darkness
That brought us to be

Behind every word that we speak
Let us abandon every pit-
……………………………………………ting against

Form us into I
Into one
Into yo soy
Io sono
Je suis

Daughter and Son
Husband and Wife
Mother and Father
Sister and Brother
man/woman
Divinity made flesh
Masculine-Feminine
Oneness in our chest
And from this cavity
…………………………………..—this hollow—
That breathes
Blood and remembrance
Let us grow our seeds.


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Melissa Ferrer is a renegade with hippie tendencies.  Through poetry she seeks to provide a sense of solidarity to all people, encourage people to act unto peace and love, and foster community among both the like and unlike minded. Recently, she’s been yearning to set down her ego and replace it with a jubilation of the spirit. She wants you to join in, in whatever capacity you can.

 

This poem is from our first print collection
of poetry,  “Thought For Food”, an anthology
benefiting Denver Food Rescue. To support
our fundraiser, please visit this link.

Thought For Food Promotional 1

Ars Poetica: Access – Cortney Collins

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Photo: Alice Donavan Rouse

An award-winning photojournalist once told me

anyone can learn to take a good photo.

It’s not technique.

It’s access.

Access:

to a riot breaking out on an angry street.

to a woman who has just lost her finger
climbing over a chain-link fence
crossing the border into Texas.

to the dusty rubble,
and everything beneath,
moments after a bomb
has incinerated a home.

to a sun-washed bedroom
where a seven year old child
has just died of cancer
in his mother & father’s arms.

Poetry is not just metaphor and meter,
allegory and alliteration.

Poetry is access:

to the secret hobbies of protozoans.

to the color of chlorophyll.

to the lover you secretly yearn for
but know will destroy you.

to enough magic to bring
your cat back from a velvet
bag of ashes embroidered
with his name.

A poem can only be

what it can access.


Cortney Collins is a poet living in Longmont, CO. A four-time winner of Fort Collins’ First Friday Poetry Slam at The Bean Cycle, her work has been published by South Broadway Ghost Society, Amethyst Review, Devil’s Party Press, Back Patio Press, 24hr Neon Mag, The Naropa Vagina Monologues Zine, and is forthcoming in Tiny Spoon Lit Mag. During these strange and surreal times, she hosts a weekly poetry virtual open mic, Zoem. She shares a home with her beloved cat, Pablo, and tries to eat just the right amount of kale.

 

This poem is from our first print collection
of poetry,  “Thought For Food”, an anthology
benefiting Denver Food Rescue. To support
our fundraiser, please visit this link.

Thought For Food Promotional 1

Or for terror – André O. Hoilette

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Image: Kevin Gent

 

after Nicole Sealy’s “And”

morbid savior born
on the doorstep of a corporation

the poor, voracious,
gorge the forfeited thorns
of corrupt senators
opportunistic authoritarians they
savor disproportionate offshore fortunes
worship
incorruptible corpses
while gormandizing landlords orbit
our torn world

i am the disorder in my aborted
forty fourth form
orthodox corpus
my torso deteriorates at the crematorium
or by ordinary worms

elaborate airport territories
vacant expanses for corona
dictatorial
not for foreign territories or shores
commemorate our glorious world
commemorate our glorious world

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André O. Hoilette is a Jamaican born poet living in Denver.  He is a Cave Canem alum and former editor or ambulant: A Journal of Poetry & Art and Nexus magazine.  Hoilette is currently pursuing MFAs in Fiction and Poetry from Regis University.  He work has been published in Stand Our Ground: Poems for Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander (A global anthology of social justice poetry) , Role Call, Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Cave Canem 10 anniversary reader, milk magazine and other publications. 

Zombie Apocalypse – Gerry Sloan

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Image: Brian McGowen

Our grandchildren are in the vanguard
of human evolution, autism possibly
the latest mutation, since change
has one leg up on adaptation.
Trouble is, the microbes
mutate faster than we do
and have had more practice.
In the matter of intelligence they
have outguessed us more than once.
It will require our best to see this through.
The past two Halloweens
my autistic grandson has gone
trick-or-treating as a hazmat zombie,
as if he owned a crystal ball
for the coronavirus.
Maybe we should turn our welfare
over to children, who might be
more adaptable than
millionaires over seventy
masquerading as world leaders.

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Gerry Sloan is a poet and musician living in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He has two poetry collections: Paper Lanterns (2011) and Crossings: A Memoir in Verse (2017), recent work appearing in Elder Mountain, Cave Region Review, Xavier Review, and Slant. He often defaults to hot tea and old movies for solace.

How to Survive a Pandemic Like Sigourney Weaver: A Meditation on Aliens – Blake Edward Hamilton

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My initial discovery of the movie Aliens did not happen during a pandemic. I was a mere 8 years old when I first glimpsed the bold advertisement glaring up from an open newspaper in my living room. There it was: A single black rectangle with the thin letters of the title promising something so mysterious and horrifying (This Time It’s War), it was a certainty I’d be processing the shock of it for years to come. It didn’t take much convincing (or begging) to get my mother to take me to see it, but when it was over, I left as changed as I’d predicted; yet I had no way of integrating what happened in that theater, or what I’d actually seen.

I cannot count the amount of times I’ve seen the film, but I’m pretty confident I have it memorized. An upsurge of these viewings took place during my adolescent years where, growing up in punishingly conservative Oklahoma, I was attacked often. The more I was attacked by those with virulent religious goals, the more I watched the film. And something else occurred that would lead me to a few other conclusions. On a thoroughly subconscious level, I was experiencing a form of absolute catharsis, a direct line of it on perpetual repeat. 

I was also learning how to survive. 

Sigourney Weaver might not be aware of it, but her performance accomplished a lot of things that go far beyond the realm of simple entertainment. It became a kind of template for me early on for how to deal with isolation, loneliness, and hyper-vigilance, the never ending product of trauma. I was watching someone process her own trauma, repeatedly, and like a lesson, I was doing the same. 

Ripely isn’t greeted with sympathy when she’s found drifting in space after 57 years; she’s greeted with hostility and skepticism. This insult to injury is seldom discussed when the issue of trauma shows up; what you discover as a trauma survivor is that no one has the ability to truly empathize, unless they experience the trauma themselves. And in Aliens, this is exactly what happens. A type of revenge, or inadvertent poetic justice for Ripley, takes place once they all agree to go back to the planet, LV-426. She’s warned them (a form of compassion they don’t really deserve), but they go anyway, and for reasons that extend beyond just checking to make sure everything is all right (ulterior motives typically go hand-in-hand with trauma and betrayal). The company man, Burke, would see to that, and Ripley would eventually confront him: “Do you really think you can get a dangerous organism like that past ICC Quarantine?”

In the 1990s, as a teen watching Aliens on VHS, I took from it that survival of anything is essentially possible; after all, look at Ripley. Look at her betrayals, the incessant and unnecessary obstacles she must overcome simply to attempt a normal life, something that she is consistently denied. If anything, the real alien is Ripley, and any gay man who grows up under the regime of punishing conservatism will tell you, life is much the same. Yet, we survive. Even Ripley acknowledges this when she spotlights Newt’s almost truly unbelievable feat: “This little girl survived … with no weapons, and no training …”

I’m isolated again, but this time it’s in my apartment, and it’s due to a pandemic. If it has given anyone anything, it is time, and I’ve been afforded the opportunity to revisit Sigourney’s iconic performance (an Oscar nominated one at that), and like all timeless mythologies, new things start to surface.

RUMOR: Is There An ALIEN TV Series On The Horizon? - Revenge of ...

It’s perhaps clearer than it ever was that isolation is something all of these characters experience, albeit in very different ways from Lt. Ripley; Hicks with his quiet, furtive glances, and his reticence to give away much about himself to anyone; Newt with her overt suppression and stark abandonment, including her makeshift hideaway that resembles a ramshackle cave beneath a rotating fan. There is a distinct form of estrangement underneath the camaraderie, too; the marines are just doing a job. They don’t want to believe what the messenger / Cassandra has to say; that something is coming, and it’s not good. Only Newt is privy to this, and knows things even Ripley isn’t prepared for. Early in the film, Ripley faces an unsympathetic boardroom of corrupt, corporate assholes who want to blame her for the destruction of their ship, while simultaneously choosing to ignore the very cause of it (the scene is symbolic; unsurprisingly, money is more important than human life to the corporate politicians), and she responds to them with deserved incredulousness, followed by their attempt to silence her: 

“Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away… I can tell where this is going, but I’m telling you that those things exist…”

“Thank you, that will be all.”

“God damn it, that’s not all! Because if one of those things gets down here then that will be all! Then all this — this bullshit that you think is so important — you can just kiss all that goodbye!”

Here is the warning. The people staring her down are in denial; they don’t want to admit that what she’s saying is, in fact, true, and it’s a fair bet someone in that room knows she’s right; and, if they do know, they want to keep it hushed-up. Watching this, it became apparent just how much it reflects our own pandemic, right now. How in some states, people simply choose to look the other way, or get angry when they see someone wearing a mask in public, or shout at them that, “It’s just a flu!”  All while the seriousness of it is downplayed. As Ripley tries to emphasize the critical reality of the organism that obliterated her entire crew, the very people who should be listening, write her off as insane, and then denounce her credibility. The way some politicians treat scientists now. 

Later, when the marines trudge through a tunnel of alien goop filled with dead bodies and empty eggs (evidence enough, perhaps), the creatures wake up, and denial is no longer possible. Those who doubted Ripley are under attack, and it’s happening fast. She tries to stop it, and her vigilant proactivity is immediately muzzled by those in charge. She resists, however: “Get them out of there! Do it! Now! Hicks, whoever’s left…” And when the headset gets jerked away from her — the only connection to those under assault — she takes matters into her own hands, and speeds off in a tank to save them, crashing, literally, through a wall. It’s in the aftermath that the remaining marines suddenly want to return inside for their comrades, abandoned in the alien nest, to which Ripley replies, with clinical certainty, that, “You can’t help them. Right now they’re being cocooned just like the others.” Again, it’s too late. The damage is done. And we see that they hadn’t really listened to her, not like they could have. It’s only a mark of her character that she doesn’t gloat in the evident, ‘You were right, we were wrong,’ moment of it all. She’s just as involved as the rest of them. Her goal, now, is only to survive whatever comes next, and so she locks firmly into what that requires, step-by-step.

Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn in Aliens (1986)

As I absorbed the film, tossed somewhere between nostalgia and a reawakening of sorts, I noticed how strongly it seemed to match the backdrop of the current ensuing chaos. The organism that attacks us is not an 8 foot creature that bleeds acid, but it attacks just the same. It’s showing us our vulnerabilities, but also our strengths, simultaneously. It generates questions: How strong are we? Who’s really listening? Are we paying enough attention? As reports on the pandemic increase, it is disheartening and disturbing to observe the incessant news cycles sharing conflicting information on the seriousness of this organism, of what it does to people, and how, in response, some people (country-wide) shrug at it, but the pandemic is here, full-force. It is something I hear people my mother’s age often say is “unlike anything” they’ve experienced. So many like her are in agreement where that’s concerned because the collective trauma is accruing, and it typically leaves a trail of itself. 

Hospitals are beginning to become overwhelmed in places; there aren’t enough respirators or protective equipment for medical professionals in certain locations; grocery stores are being ransacked by people motivated by panic and selfishness; people are dying; people are afraid to touch anything, or go anywhere. Pretty soon, people will want to point fingers, to place all kinds of blame because, yes, in America at this time, the pandemic is unprecedented, and people are angry. Some feel betrayed; some feel unheard. Yet we’re all doing what we can to slow the spread of the organism, and some more than others. Like Ripley.

So what happens to Ripley? What does she do? How does she continue despite the terrifying odds; how does she maintain?

The simple answer is that she just does. 

She continues despite confrontations with the willfully ignorant. No one supports her in this; she is alone and isolated in her endeavor, and she has to fight to be heard, but she continues anyway. The difference in making it through a pandemic, however, is that our isolation is now a shared experience, whereas Ripley experiences hers in a type of vacuum, and not just the one that makes up literal space. We have complained of our alienation from one another for years due to the advent of things like smartphones and, of course, social media, but now we’re experiencing our isolation so totally, that we’re starting to see what actually connects us. We’re forced to ask ourselves if, when this is all over, this is how we want to keep living. 

Watching the barren streets in front of my apartment (an occasional car slips by, red tail lights disappearing around the corner, then nothing), an overwhelming sense of gratitude forms in me for the film that Aliens has evolved into, for the narrative that it is, and for Sigourney Weaver’s choices in that movie. 34 years later, and it has confidently transcended its place as an action, sci-fi film to the level of ubiquitous art. It tells us about ourselves, now, speaking to our own ability to survive. That’s what this film is; it’s a reminder of the ways we continue. Films that provide us with this type of crucial mythos the way Aliens does, is a rare occurrence, if at all, but the mythos Weaver has given us through all three performances (all the way up to Ripley’s self-sacrifice in the underrated third film), is still present, and perhaps more integral to this need than it was in prior decades.

People have shifted. They are creating their own myths in order to live, perhaps similar to Ripley’s (Do we have the capacity to make fire? Most humans have enjoyed that privilege since the Stone Age.) Which might offer us more important questions: How do we adapt? 

How do we move on from here? 

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References

Aliens. Dir. James Cameron, performance by Sigourney Weaver, 20th Century Fox, 1986.

Alien 3. Dir. David Fincher, performance by Sigourney Weaver, 20th Century Fox, 1992. 


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Blake Edward Hamilton holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Naropa University, and currently teaches college English. His work has appeared in World Literature Today Magazine: Windmill, NPR, Bombay Gin Literary Journal, The Guerrilla Lit Mag., South Broadway Press, and Punch Drunk Press, among others. His first full-length collection of poetry, All Through Your Multiple Selves (Spartan / Luchador Press) was published this spring. 

Pomegranate Blues – Brett Randell

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Image: Steve Johnson

grape grape
apple apple
pomegranate blues
smokin’ in the alleyway
moonlit dancin’ shoes

mint mint
lemon lemon
garlic ginger waltz
old man in the dining hall
says it’s not his fault

citrus citrus
honey honey
echinacea poem
cursed if you go out to play
blessed if you stay home

lime lime
dandelion
stingin’ nettle song
bright eyed baby lookin’ up
wonderin’ what went wrong

Pomegranates | ClipArt ETC


Open Dialogue _ Bri Headshot 2
Photo Credit: Bri Erger, Open Dialogue Project

Brett Randell is a writer and musician who loves to play in regular venues, on rooftops, at yoga festivals, in bars, living rooms, and beyond. He is currently working on a novel while part of The Book Project at The Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop. Brett’s writing has appeared in Stain’d Magazine, Interkors, and The Blue Lake Review.

This poem is from our first print collection
of poetry, “Thought For Food”, an anthology
benefiting Denver Food Rescue. To support
our fundraiser, please visit this link.

Thought For Food Promotional 1

THIS IS A STORY ABOUT SETTING FIRE TO A GRAVEYARD – Patricia McCrystal

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Image: Paweł Czerwiński

Someone set fire to the graveyard this morning. It wasn’t like anything you’ve ever seen. I didn’t get emotional when I saw it, unlike the blue hairs who stopped their Buicks on the side of 44th, genuflecting and crying and clutching the crosses around their necks. I pulled my truck over and got out just as sirens started up out east. I expected it to smell bad, like maybe the bodies and coffins would start burning too, but it just smelled like a campfire. I loved that smell. Especially with ribbons of raw venison skewered over top, blood and fat dripping into the heart of the pit. A thermos of whiskey in one hand and your old man leaning back in the chair adjacent, rolling smokes slow and careful like he’s got all the time in the world.

The fire felt right. Like cleansing the clutter that’s grown so slowly you don’t even notice until you can see it in the corners of your eyes when you try to relax. I’m not saying I did it, or that I even know who did. I’m just saying it didn’t strike me as an evil deed. I wish it could have been that easy when we gutted dad’s house and piled everything on the lawn for the estate sale. Just haul out that saggy blue couch and old tube TV and rip up the baby puke carpet and douse it all with a healthy dose of Boy Scout water and light it up. Howdy, Mrs. Johnson! Come on out from behind those curtains and bring some marshmallows! Dad would have wanted it that way, I bet. 

Maybe an angel started the fire as a favor to the overused land. Fire brings up fresh grass and stronger trees. Maybe Michael the Archangel snuck down here with a can of lighter fluid. Maybe he knows that graveyards are a vanity that were never God’s wanting. Boy was that fire something. 

Whoever did it knew what they were doing. When firemen started spraying water all over, I considered how much gasoline it would have taken to make sure those flames burned as fast and hot as they did. We’ve had a wet spring, so it wouldn’t have been easy. Then again, whoever did it could have gotten creative and sided with the three S’s — sodium chlorate crystals, sugar, and sulfuric acid. I sniffed the air. It was hard to say.

An old woman put her hand on my shoulder and asked if I had a relative in the graveyard on account of me watching for so long. Yes, I told her. She waited for more. Then her wrinkled face puckered up like a dog’s asshole and she went back to crying and saying over and over again Lord have mercy. I wanted to tell her, he does. Look straight ahead.

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Patricia McCrystal is the recent recipient of the Slippery Elm Prose Prize and the founder of VIRAGO, a womxn’s writing circle. Her work can be found on PBS and in Heavy Feather Review, South Broadway Ghost Society, Birdy Magazine, and more. She’s pursuing her MFA in Fiction at Regis University.