Bunkong Tuon: “Song I Sing”



Song I Sing

America, you were brave once,
decent, almost pure, but never quite
the myths you tell yourself.
Is this the karma from centuries of bloodshed,
lands pilfered, women raped, men murdered,
lynching, assassinations, race riots, class inequality?
You name it, we have it.
You want Coca Cola? You want heroin?
You want coke? Me love you long time.
What’s a little bit of sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll,
legalized murders and colonialism in the name
of democracy, which is just a fancy name
for imposing our definitions on those
with a different set of definitions.
A war is a war however you name it,
just like a murder is a murder however
you spin it. Thus anger screams for justice
on the streets of Los Angeles,
Chicago and Minneapolis,
the fire of unfulfilled dreams burning
across your once great land.
Meanwhile the pandemic death toll reaches
100,000 and counting.
They say bodies pile as high
as the flag, not enough plastic bags,
lying against walls of mobile mortuaries,
not enough space in local cemeteries.
There’s talk of making burial grounds
in local parks where children used to play..
There’s talk of reopening the economy,
money valued over human life,
business as usual, the old American way.
Is America going mad or am I going crazy?
I’m tired of reading the news these days.
I’d rather take my daughter to the park,
ride swings with our feet against
the bright burning sun, go down slides
and scream our hearts out, laugh
like the little children we all are.
I want to smoke hash with Allen Ginsberg,
grocery shopping in search of Whitman,
talk poetry, Buddhism, and God,
all of which are the same thing, a celebration
of the human Godhead, the human breath,
the Atman in all of us. Love
ourselves. Take good care.
America, I love you even when you spit
at my Asian brothers and sisters,
throw rocks at their cars, accuse
them of carrying the “Wuhan virus.”
When I speak, you don’t hear.
Some don’t believe that I should be here,
a place at the table, where professors
profess, poets sing, students evaluate.
I have no wisdom here. Only this.
The birds soar high in the bright blue sky.
Everything is blue, crystal clear.
The air is clean. Those birds,
they are singing their songs again.
Oh, I love you all. In spite of it.
I love you all. I just can’t do otherwise.


About the Author: Bunkong Tuon is a Cambodian-American writer and critic. He is the author of Gruel, And So I Was Blessed (both published by NYQ Books), The Doctor Will Fix It (Shabda Press), and Dead Tongue (a chapbook with Joanna C. Valente, Yes Poetry). He teaches at Union College, in Schenectady, NY. He tweets @BunkongTuon


More By Bunkong Tuon:

Gender Danger

Lies I Told About Father

Fishing for Trey Platoo


Image Credit: “American Flag” Harris and Ewing [between 1915 and 1923] The Library of Congress

John Haugh: “Thanksgiving Hurt”



Thanksgiving Hurt  

Twelve of us stand, hands encircling 
your granite-topped kitchen island. 
Eleven offer prayers of Thanksgiving, 
while you weep. 

Medicine’s cornucopia failed you. 
Now it’s pain and acupuncture, brutal, 
additive opioids or brain stem injections. 

Later, I take our four sons of two families 
romping through leaves from winter-bare oaks, 
to build driftwood forts by the Flatrock River. 
I can’t remember, in our decades as siblings, 
any prior moment when you openly wept. 

Our four boys imagine riverside wars, 
negotiate play-battle near a small pool 
of Rosyface Shiner minnows, 
separate from the Flatrock’s main body. 
You’re thinning toward gaunt, and tried 
to warn me by phone about your crying, 
but I had no concept. 

The Flatrock chuckles, November empty. 
Minnows flash over rotting leaves in just 
one pool, cut from Mother River by a fallen 
chestnut tree. Now, I admire courage, 
with an Irish respect for all things addictive, 
but please mind the cost of pain. 

One hard freeze or hungry bird 
could kill all those lovely minnows. 
Perhaps we could dig 
a channel from pool to river. 

I check my watch and shout, 
our boys settle final treaties. 
We can wish minnows 
had the life they deserve, 
but it is time to go.



About the Author: John Haugh lives in Greensboro, NC where he works in finance and is trying to assemble his first chapbook, Repurpose Those Ghosts.  Recent other publishing credits include poems appearing in Main Street Rag, Kackalack, the Roanoke Review, Peregrine, North Carolina Literary Review, and The Tipton Poetry Review.  Mr. Haugh was a finalist for the Applewhite poetry award recently, was a NCAA national champion in fencing years ago, and spent untold hours browsing Oxford Books in Atlanta and Powell’s City of Books in Oregon when young.


Image Credit: “Wagon hit with fallen tree” (1922) The Library of Congress



Brendon Booth-Jones: “Van Gogh, Roses, 1890”



Van Gogh, Roses, 1890
—For Mathieu & Rachel

Calendar above my bed:
the harsh grid of days softened
by almost translucent
blue-white roses
so close to dissolving—

how the plague of failure
must have fingered the wound of your gift—

the sad angles of the leaves
remorseful in the fading light
from the transparent evening sky
above of the sanatorium in Saint-Remy in May.

Knowing you had it—
knowing you would be forgotten
before you were even remembered—


About the Author: Brendon Booth-Jones is the Editor-in-Chief of Writer’s Block Magazine in Amsterdam. Brendon’s work has appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, Amaryllis, Botsotso, The Blue Nib, Ghost City Review, Odd Magazine, Peeking Cat, Scarlet Leaf Review, Zigzag and elsewhereBrendon won the 2019 White Label Competition for his debut poetry collection, Vertigo to Go, which will be published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in 2020. Find him on Facebook @brendonboothjoneswriter


Image Credit: Vincent Van Gogh “Still Life: Vase with Pink Roses” (1890) Public Domain

Agnes Vojta: “Legend”




Before the battle,
every warrior
put a rock on a pile.

the survivors
each picked up one stone,

then built what remained
into a cairn
to honor the fallen.


About the Author: Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and started writing poetry as a child. She spent a few years in California, Oregon, and England, and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T and hikes the Ozarks. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019) and The Eden of Perhaps (Spartan Press, 2020), and her poems  have appeared in a variety of magazines.


More By Agnes Vojta:

Sisyphus Calls It Quits


Vineyard in Dresden


Image Credit: G.W. Rice “English cairn on P.E. Cary Island, July, 1881” (1881) The Library of Congress

Paul Ilechko: “Lemonade”




A summer day     hot as lemonade stand
and there she was    a mere child     learning

capitalism from first principles     a folding chair
and a rickety desk     a stack of paper cups

or possibly plastic     who remembers such
details at this distance     and the honeyed jug 

ice cold in the quivering breath of heatwave 
continual now for days without respite

and there we appeared     to spend our quarters 
assisting in the catechism of commerce 

of location  location  location     as she pounced
on the closure of the general store

on this holiday     that suffered through 
the dazzling whiteness     we also suffered 

sweaty and parched   we dismounted from
our bicycles     first in dismay     and then relief

now     some years later   we observe 
                                                 in our rear mirrors

not weather    but a prophecy     
                                          speeding to fulfillment.


About the Author: Paul Ilechko is the author of the chapbooks “Bartok in Winter” (Flutter Press, 2018) and “Graph of Life” (Finishing Line Press, 2018). His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Manhattanville Review, West Trade Review, Cathexis Northwest Press, Otoliths and Pithead Chapel. He lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ.


Image Credit: Digital Art made from “Iced lemonade: cool & refreshing” by Currier & Ives (1879) The Library of Congress

Ace Boggess “Rock Garden”



Rock Garden

Stacked in awkward symmetry, 
fenced to keep the lot in place
like cattle. Grays, browns, 
opalescent pearls—monolith to pebble, 
they ride backs of one another
like children at play in the schoolyard mud.
Not even faded orange of a cigarette butt
has landed on this isle to blight it.
Old earth reclaimed by eminent domain:
what the city loses, we regain.


About the Author: Ace Boggess is author of five books of poetry—MisadventureI Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It SoUltra Deep Field, The Prisoners, and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled—and the novels States of Mercy and A Song Without a Melody. His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Mid-American Review, Rattle, River Styx, and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. His sixth collection, Escape Envy, is forthcoming from Brick Road Poetry Press in 2021.


More By Ace Boggess:

“And Why Am I a Free Man?”

“Why Did You Try to Sober Up?”

“Are Your Emotions More Or Less Intense?”


Image Credit: William Henry Jackson “Balanced Rock, Garden of the Gods” (1880) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Jenny Bates: “Patience not Panic”



Patience not Panic

Grandfather on the farm in Michigan
was a dowser, he’d raise his willow rods
their pendulum swing and shudder
always found water.
Back and forth, twisting down toward
underground flow.
Patience not panic, he’d say as his
body shivered with water witching.

I’d watch him suspend power 
in quivering air like the

           soothing trill of grey tree frogs
           at morning pond
           the rustle of wild turkey
           leaves a call to prayer

I’d watch the rods bend with grace like the

          prowl of feline
          shares a ritual hour
          vibrates stones and sometimes,
          the moon
          vain and vacillating as opal or rose
          a reservoir of temples and ditches
          lit by tapers,
          extinguished altar candles

I’d drink the cold stream cupped in hands like
they were a chalice of divination.



About the Author: Jenny Bates is a poet from the foothills of North Carolina. A member of Winston-Salem Writers, NC Poetry Society, NC Writers Network. She has two published books, Opening Doors: an equilog of poetry about Donkeys (Lulu Publishing, Raleigh, NC); and Coyote with Coffee, a single poem fine craft volume (Catbird on the Yadkin Press, Tobaccoville, NC). Her work has been published in Flying South, Wild Goose Poetry Review, and Old Mountain Press, and Hermit Feathers Review. She is a consecutive contributing poet in Poetry in Plain Sight and in 2017 she was a top 10 Finalist in the Press 53 Single Poem Contest. Jenny’s poetry has appeared in laJoie 2017- 2019a quarterly publication of Animals’ Peace Garden, dedicated to promoting appreciation for all beings. In 2019 her poem “Fame Looks Both Ways” was included in the Walt Whitman Bicentennial Celebration for publication in Poets to Come.  Her new book, Visitations has been published 2019 by (Hermit Feathers Press). Jenny currently volunteers as animal whisperer and helping hand at Plum Granny Farm. An organic local farm in Stokes County, North Carolina.


Image Credit:  Historic American Buildings Survey, Stanley P. Mixon, Photographer September 11, 1940 EXTERIOR VIEW OF FARMHOUSE & BARN STONE GROUP, SEEN ACROSS MILL POND. – Farm Group & Mill Pond, Cocalico, Lancaster County, PA. The Library of Congress