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Poem by Brandon Beck

 

America

America is a racoon who has gotten her head caught in a bent-up coffee can
And the more she tries to pry herself loose the deeper it cuts
How did I get here? she asks herself now that she’s stuck
But never bothered to ask before Where am I going? or Why?
The coffee can probably won’t kill her, but it will be uncomfortable for a while
And when she finally does pry her head loose, there will be lasting damage
Some blood, some fur, whiskers, maybe even an ear
And if you’re that fur or that whisker or that ear
It’s as good as being dead because you’re now cut-off from everything
And will linger, helpless, until you desiccate and die
Lonely and forgotten by the silly girl who saw a shiny coffee can
And thought it would be fun to stick her head into it for a while

 

“Sacrifice” © DL Polonsky

 

Brandon Beck is an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Lubbock, Texas. In addition to his law degree, Brandon Beck holds a B.A. in classics from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in religion from Boston University. His work has appeared in Three Line Poetry, The Texas Tribune, Texas Tech Law Review, and South Texas Law Review.

DL Polonsky is a Boston area artist, writer, and filmmaker. His caricatures have appeared in The Boston Herald and His written work includes the children’s book The Letter Bandits from T.B.W. Books.

 

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It’s All One Thing #70: Bookends: American Hegemon in Iraq and the English Empire in Crimea or Charges of the Light Brigades

 

gallop through the smoky fight
race into the valley of their cross fire
move at the speed of sight and light
where the edge of the web never tires

the longer it goes the more it mows
we’re so deep don’t make a peep
got the slows don’t pick your nose
when they start shootin’ the grade is steep

mouse heads appear on the couch
stairs get greasy and the world slick
it turns out nothing is worth that much
and the president is really a horrible dick

the sound of the hoofs are digital bits
the way they go down as they get hit

 

James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. Today marks his one year anniversary as a poet columnist for Oddball Magazine.

 

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Poem by Hannah Brown

 

Mister America

–on white privilege, white allyship, and the fact that acting on the latter rests on a recognition of the former–

Mister America
Your fingers are long
and thin
but your knuckles
are swollen with arthritis.
They do not bend
when you
shake.

Twenty eight.
You feed your babies
cereal boxtops and
breath mints from the creases
of your palm
As alms
And
Point your twisted index
in judgment at their
tiny damp hands
that curl and
recoil like
chubby starfish.

Twenty seven.
Twenty
six.
Mister America
you were born
on the fourth
of July.
You are wry
and cunning and your syrupy sky
sticks to the roofs
of mouths. Your backwash tributaries are mucousy channels
stagnant between slabs of mud, refusing
to sink in your Earth ’til
flash floods turn the banks
to soup.
They sit
as faucet water sits and stews
in gridlocked cracks between bathroom tiles,
waiting,
spawning mildew. You
Mister America
are the land of all
or nothing.

Twenty five.
Mister America,
The open door.
Twenty four.
Mister America,
Land
of the free
shit
Chomp chomping
At the bit.
Twenty
three.
Your back
shed toolbox is
definitely
first-class, built to last,
full of
birdbaths and
burlap sacks and
notebooks crammed with nature crafts because your kids
learned all about fixing the environment at Earth Day.
You slap clay magnets,
finger-painted planets
frantically across your fridge
in recognition. Collaged:
“On a mission to lower
Emissions.”
Twenty two.
Still-wet glue
glistens in a glob
beside paper plated Africa
Your eye white
glistens in a glob as you eye
your honor student
sticker with greed.
Twenty one.
He’s gonna
get into an Ivy,
Indeed. Twenty.
Nineteen.
Just have to wait
For him to turn
eighteen.

Mister America
Soon it will be spring and your babies
will crawl single file from their cages
toward new ones
They’ll be clambering for four leaf clovers,
hammering each other in games of Red Rover
in rusty parks
well past
dark.
February had the nerve to March into April so you say
February
your month
is over, I don’t care it’s
New England and winter lasts forever,
It’s colder
than the Arctic
at night
and I’m
a good man,
alright? I celebrate
Earth Day seventeen
I’m ready
For spring
alright
My candle
burns white
Let my heat
back on
My pipes burst open on
he who’d challenge me
to an ethics fight. Sixteen.
Turn off
The lights.
I won’t see.
Fif
teen.

Mister America,
full of rights
Fourteen.
Mister America
bites
his tongue never
Thirteen
America,
make things
better
Mister America
push
the lever

Twelve.
Mister America
Your plastic pots melt
Like butter
You fathered children
By many mothers, protected
those sisters and
little brothers
you choose to show off
in portraits. Eleven.
You gave them porches
And willow trees
Blue suited bodyguards
Armed with M-16s,
Hypoallergenic lotions
and organic kale
Nutritional judgment to hurl at mothers
Who work like hell at three jobs
in your absence. Ten and
You and
You in the den
sipping your
absinthe, laughin
loud
You
fathered children
by many mothers, neglected
those with noses shoved under covers at night
waiting for the stifled rifle shots
to stop,
your child support check
to come in.
Mister America,
They are patient
as they lie
In the waiting rooms
You’ve made
Of their sidewalks
Nine
They are patient as they listen to you talk
About nothing
Eight
They are patient as they wait
to be patients
abandoned
in your office
God bless
patience.
God bless the blood smeared
white and blue nation.
Mister America
your babies
are dying at your feet
and their siblings keep
looking away.

Hey
Mister America
the babies
are hungry
They eat breath mints
In place of communion,
Watch themselves bleed
Holy wine into streets as you
secede from the union
again.
Bread goes stale and refuses
To leaven. Heaven slumps
on marble shoulders below necks
that altogether forget
to twist in its direction.
Seven.
A boy
Is shot outside seven eleven
By a man who said
He was you, mister America
Six. Eighteen years snuffed
In seconds but no one reports
The use of force
Against him five
Twenty five year old
Sick man is shot
Three times in the chest
Are you sick of this
Yet four
Once more
Outside a convenience store
A second command
Because he was wearing headphones, didn’t hear
They heard he had a gun so the command
Came in the form of a bullet
Three
A minor traffic violation,
warrant for speeding previously
He resists
Being taken into custody, and a cut shows up below his chin
Then some injuries
Killed him hours later
On the hospital bed
But they didn’t
report those ones
Two
Who
Are you going
to be,
Mister America?
One
Unarmed black man is killed every 28 hours by a police officer or vigilante extrajudicially. Three hundred and
thirteen died this way in 2012 alone and that’s just what was reported. If you think this is sordid I implore you to
join me in refusing to be silent. 28 hours’ silence permits another murder that we didn’t say shit about. It’s time to
lace up our boots and examine the roots of systemic violence and refuse to embrace colorblindness. It’s time we
refuse to let another 28 hours go by.
America.
Don’t watch
another innocent
man
die.

 

Artwork © Ira Joel Haber
Artwork © Ira Joel Haber

 

Hannah Brown is a Boston area-based poet and spoken word artist. Her oldest loves are underground hip hop and the written word, which are equally influential on her passion for and perspective on her own work. Hannah sees poetry as a powerful tool for discourse, and because of that, as instrumental in personal and collective healing.

Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn. He is a sculptor, painter, book dealer, photographer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in USA and Europe and he has had 9 one man shows including several retrospectives of his sculpture. His work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York University, The Guggenheim Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum and The Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Since 2007 His paintings, drawings, photographs and collages have been published in over 160 on line and print magazines. He has received three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two Pollock-Krasner grants, the Adolph Gottlieb Foundation grant and, in 2010, he received a grant from Artists’ Fellowship Inc. He currently teaches art to retired public school teachers at The United Federation of Teachers program in Brooklyn.

 

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It’s All One Thing #35: The Bleeding Heart of America

 

Out the porch door window
the violent heart of America
bleeds into the pink sky.

I know these beating chambers
where a place becomes a way of life
called something else.

I’ve been through those close encounters,
been run down by the pack,
taken that pounding fall.

They found a gun on the path
on the other side of the lilacs
down the back side of the hill.

So I know what can happen
even as I continue to go around
as if things will stay as they have been.

Nothing is forever
but it’s harder for a rich man
to imagine change

Than for a poor man
to make it through another day
when anything might happen.

 

James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.

 

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Jagged Thoughts #23: I am an American Ghost

I am an American Ghost

I am an American ghost

I am a character
Big head
Balloon eyes
Small legs
Tiny shoes
I play in doors
on rainy days
I seek shelter
But find no place

I am a character
Big ears
Small fears
World traveled
But still here
In a smaller world
I’d be a coin purse

I am a character
A small wooden creature
Trees for arms
Dance in fields
Knowing nothing
But the seasons
I dream so big
Yet act so small
I am nothing and
Everything
I have nothing and all.

I am a character seen
Through wooden doors
I kick and scream at
Steel posts
I let the stocks blister
My wrists
I feel nothing and everything
Existence and persistence
Yet I do not exist

I am a character
My eyes are blue and green
My teeth are sharp
And blinding to see
I am a work of art
I am the mona lisa

I am a character
I am high strung
Or strung out
I see gentle waves
Beneath my feet

I run from science
I am a scientist

I run for war
I am a pacifist

I am a lie detector
I lie the most

I am the son
Of the spirit
Of the holy ghost
I am syrupy sweet
Like French toast

I am an American
I am an American ghost
I am an American
I am an American ghost.

Jason Wright is the founder and Editor of Oddball Magazine. His “Jagged Thoughts” column appears weekly.