Timid -Kallan Simms

Timid

Outrage. Disgust. Hostility. Silence. At my core, I am very different than my family. I know- vividly- what they think of where I live, who I’ve dated, what tattoos I’ve gotten, how I’ve voted, my independence, what I eat. Open discussions with them are impossible. I have never seen my grandparents so deeply offended as when they found out I voted for President Obama. My grandfather thought it was a personal attack; I was such a good kid, how could I?

This is not my grandfather’s America. We are no longer carefully divided into perfectly compact boxes. We are no longer purely male or female, Republican or Democrat, “good ole farm boys” or “them others,” this or that. My American experience had been one of conversation, open mindedness, fluidity, acceptance. I had bet my education, my life, my income, on this opening of the old-school mindset. Yes to fulfilling the need to belong. Yes to acceptance of the different. Yes, love everyone.

Until recently. What was once a fluid, evolving creature has returned to the boxes we all fooled ourselves into thinking were thrown out. Misogyny is once again dictating what is acceptable. I am hopeful that this a localized problem; one I have placed myself in. I no longer have the capacity to lie and say “everything will be fine, it’s someone else’s problem, I’m insulated and well protected.” It’s simply not true. It’s made me timid.

This attitude is a direct result of the political climate. Living in a homogeneous bubble makes it too easy to be small, go unnoticed. To let someone tell you to be quiet, don’t be different. It’s too easy to ignore the news, let ignorance be bliss. Too easy to laugh at offensive jokes, be polite and demure. Be seen and not heard.

This is not the time to be timid. This is the time to be selfish. Don’t let anyone tell you the things that affect your family, grabs your interest, keeps you connected to other like-minded humans, keeps you plugged into society, isn’t worthwhile. My stance today has to be bold, it has to make an effort. I do not owe anyone, anything that comes at the expense of my safety, of my opinions, my well being. Whatever my own life circumstances may be, whatever may be invading my own opinions and thoughts cannot be ignored.

We must continually fight the distraction of someone telling us to be common.

Kallan Simms

Kallan Simms has been a satellite technician, project manager and is currently an IT professional. Among those dull things, she also workers with raptors, dabbles in fiction writing, poorly maintains a DIY blog and dreams of living off the land. She lives in Wyoming with her husband, greyhound puppy (child), and ever-growing supply of books.

Torrent

Torrent

November woods rebound with a quiet ease, fathers
and sons dress and cuff those draped, pointed bucks

Shoulders that first learned to be lean turning rivets
and sockets can shoulder the kick from a long gun

On the break room wall is an art deco colliery print:
swarthy stacks, helmet, pick axe backed in amber

In the midtown museum the great four walled mural
features men such as these: shift clockers

They hear the whistle; the time card clicks; they wait
on a buck; they know their work.

The torrent in the blood, that lacquer of sweat, the sting
of liquor, that ache in the back, it cannot last.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Note: This poem appeared (alongside “Don’t Walk”) in Morel Magazine in January 2017. To explore Morel you can go here: http://morelmag.ca

Don’t Walk

Don’t Walk

We drink from lidless cups on our break the pavement wet from the rain

Three cigarettes for him in fifteen minutes but I simply take coffee
reminded of all of the reasons this beverage is bad for me he doesn’t care at all not about the hacking cough
that makes his barrel chest bellow
not about the fact he started when he was eight

Who says we’re gonna live long lives? Who says but my doctor I gotta quit? Think I’m going to be doing this shit to the grave? He laughs, yeah, I do

From where we’re standing I see London Place that old crone in the clouds
there’s an office up there where they hold my mortgage its blue glass dripping a dismal grey not me, I say
and look at three men
old, older, oldest leaning against the loading dock door

They’re like a covey, a set of marks
on the corner the sign says Don’t Walk.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Note: This poem appeared in Morel Magazine in January 2017.

Fold’s point

Fold’s point

When I was thirteen and we first went to Boston
I met RFK’s silhouette

What the impact was
what that profile meant
introduced a certainty that
I could go on to The Kennedy School
staying true to kismet

My father said get perfect grades
you should never err-

Yes, dad.

But none of it happened;
the tests didn’t ask rhetorical questions
such as

Is it right to hold private what
your public plan

Or

Is want a foot pressed down
like a blindfold

I was merely a teen
and thought I could gain hold
of a disposition

But disposed to further dreaming
I see the fabric’s fold from the fold’s point
of meaning.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

This poem appeared in the Spring/Summer 2017 edition of Word Fountain. You can hear me read it here: https://wordfountain.net/2017/06/30/jeremy-nathan-marks-spring-summer-2017/

The Ballad of the National Bank

The Ballad of the National Bank

‘and the all-time winner has got him by the balls.’ -Ian Anderson (‘Locomotive Breath’)

The manor lords gathered on the great lawn
and in a familiar gesture raised their snifters
at fourteen and a quarter hours past the dawn
in a mighty toast to the all-time winners

In the angle of a fair May sun
that supremely fine season in Washington
their brandy bowls glowed
as they spoke of what they owed

To God, Smith, Friedman, Cato and Heritage
as their fearless leader dreamt of his Hermitage
while in the wilds of the sloping Tennessee hills
where the great river swells and plateaus

The highways slouch onward towards Memphis
a place where landless descendants of pioneers
whom the Europeans called ‘peasants’
forage for rabbit, coon, squirrel and deer

Since they cannot gain any easement
on the taxing burdens of their days
so certain are they there is little left to say
to the former tribunes in the people’s Parliament

And as the river spills its spring derange
it fertilizes the legendary grange
of that Indian killer, ennobled widower
Quincy Adams slayer

Who fought tooth and nail to stem the flow
of dollars and cents into
a National Bank seeing as commerce should lubricate
the groaning axles and swinging saloon doors along Main Street

His manse is now a heritage site
but the farms that guild and revenues that gird
his adopted state’s coffers
and keep its debt load light

Come at the expense of the available land
that rewards a manifest feeling of destiny
which once drove the wretched on with axe in hand
to leave the ports and seaboards, sending later for family

‘To those who have done well and made good we salute you!’
the assembled throng intones:
‘You are a reminder of the pluck and grit and backbone
that forged this blessed, shining land. It is to you that we remain true!’

‘Hear! Hear! Nostrovia! Salut!’
then they drank and the canapé was passed
from one tailored belly to the next until at last
the fearless leader said to his sometime rival, ‘Joe’

‘The name, sir, is Paul.’
‘Nevermind that. When has more been done for little men
and women than right now? We have surely preserved the Union
just as Jackson would have done. That’s it, that’s all.’

‘Yes, sir. And when they write the history of this era
it will be your name, sir, that is embossed in gold.’
‘Oh, I hardly need that, Joe. I’ve already gone one better
and done that in my hotels. So, I don’t need to be told

‘That my name, my dream, my legacy will live on.
But tell me, what would it take
for me to get a fair shake
from the wretched Fourth Estate suckling on the teat of Washington

‘Like mosquitoes in the summer at my beloved Mar-a-Lago?’
‘I don’t know, sir. Might I suggest
a closed, exclusive press conference?
Make the new cadre of those in the know

‘A symposia as restrictive as a Country Club in Westchester.’
Just then a silk tied, tux bedecked waiter
with a crystal decanter stood beside the noble leader
who said, ‘No, I don’t drink. Are they going to serve my steaks later?’

The waiter nodded leading the leader to smile
he said ‘the beauty of business is it doesn’t discriminate.
It doesn’t care about skin color or birthplace.
That’s what makes our system -the Free system- worthwhile!’

Meanwhile, in the Kentucky Hills
they don’t need coal barges
over in Virginia hollers
they just need CAT land movers

And dynamite, lots of that
to remove the tops of ancient peaks
the clear benefit being no more streaks
of collapsing mines and extensive payroll debt

But what lingers
is the fickle finger
of opportunity, that mark
of market kismet, a dark

Uncertainty of what the future will hold
for the heartland territory
where the American character grew bold
and service to country proved mandatory

Offering in its turn the plum promise of reward
of being the favored hire, not the first fire
seeing as you carried the sword
that defense of freedom required

But now this seems lost
-like a society that is chivalrous-
cast aside like a belief in the River Lethe
or the truth of life beyond death

What does the state now decree
beyond ‘Too Big To Fail’
the edict to eat your broccoli
paying involuntarily even as you don’t ail

Enter a new promise with its premise that
the new tribunes reject the notion that
‘You didn’t built that’
that sign that the traditional elites never ‘got’ what

Long made the country great
what behooved people to pay their mortgages
don uniforms, serve on juries, forego divorces
and deliver on their debts no matter how late

Making no excuse that their lives were unfair
who back then would ever dare
in that more genteel America
to doubt that the glorious dream was forever

But today tried and true habitudes are passé
subject to ridicule and mockery
especially by those who claim to want to extend
a generous, noble and beneficent hand

To everyone down on their luck
in regions that time and the globalists forgot
but their promises
like their premises

Just aren’t being bought.
So here we have the spectacle
of a gaggle
of lily white men in designer suits

Toasting to the winners
in the spirit of the losers
but beggars can’t be choosers
isn’t that the lesson?

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Needed repose

Needed repose

‘And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.’ -T.S. Eliot (“Burnt Coker”)

On December 31st, 1999 I entered my home
and didn’t come out again until January 1st, 2010.

The Millennium’s just a trick of time.
9-11? I read the book.
Subprime meltdown?
Looked out onto my block.
First black president-elect?
Still recall several first mayors
one governor
and a great deal of debt.

A neighbourhood kid cut my grass
trimmed my hedges and raked
the leaves
then when he graduated
he hired his brother for me.

Of this I’m most proud:
through it all I barely touched
an electrical switch.
Detroit Edison presumed me deceased.
They called up one night after fourteen months
a call that was like taking a pulse

It still beats.

Speaking.

Was I the man who stopped paying his bills?
Never stopped, I said
I just don’t get any juice from you I can use.

In 2006,
a man from the News learned all this
and he, too, phoned one night
asking was it true I hadn’t stepped outside
in (then) six years?
What motivated me to withdraw from the world like that?

Well,
George Harrison once wrote
and I quote:
‘Without going out of my door
I can know all things on Earth.’

I never actually withdrew;
things just came into hyper focus.
I saw much within one quarter mile
to allow myself this needed repose.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Calories of burden

Calories of burden

The rag the man uses to polish
the axles; the sound those axles make

The rain amid the clip-clop of
mules’ feet; the rag now lying in the street.

Wood bestowed unto the Earth;
souls receiving souls; the rain falling silent

On oil dark piles. Iron shovels,
spades and rakes; mules now silent, pulling
no more weight.

And the man who feeds them
wages of his sweat: their calories of burden.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

This poem originally appeared in The Blue Hour on January 14th, 2015. You can view it (with two other pieces) here: https://thebluehourmagazine.com/2015/01/14/3-poems-by-jeremy-nathan-marks/

Laughing at the Trickster God

Laughing at the Trickster God

-for the daughter of Diamond Reynolds one year later

If what actually distinguishes each of us today
is not our personal merit, achievement
even our education;
if it is not the languages that we speak
but the mark,
the very design of our birth

That is,
what purportedly we are
to others
and not what we believe
ourselves to be

That is,
our color not our collar
our gender not our retainer
not even our gender and our color
in a one-two killer crossover

That is,
not a set of right souls
in the wrong bodies
or wrong souls in right bodies

Then how is it that any of us are any more sure
than those little children in Clarendon County
or Harlem
who held Dr. Kenneth Clark’s dolls
and identified with the other
rather than what they were

How many of us might like to be likened to
or follow in train of
a four year old girl who,
with a Glock pointed at her,
was capable of reassuring her mother:

Mother, it will be alright

What is merit of life if not that-
What is life making if not holding
a Chai
or a drum
a chair suspended above our shoulders

Or laughing at the trickster God
who walks between us
forever changing the side of the hat
that we see-

Diamond Reynolds, your daughter
this is what she taught me.

Jeremy Nathan Marks

Wrinkled Legacy of Elder Hands -Kevin Ridgeway

Wrinkled Legacy of Elder Hands

made of paper
from depression era grit
and hard fought survival in the
wisdom
of their raspy breath,
survivors of tent cities
and bread lines and proud
service
their sweet rock candy
mountain optimism
their don’t get fresh sense of
decency
their cosignature of the New
Deal
and their gypsy bonnets in
black and white
scrolls of their humble houses
built with
their bare hands
triumphs over greed
that gave me something
to worship,
their medicine show
power of the people
who built the great nations
and their unwavering
optimism in the
face of bad political machines
they fought
to dismantle from the desire
to
bury what can never be
undone in the minds
of grandchildren who cast
ballots and remember,
always remember what the
old folks said
was right and just and for us
all.

Kevin Ridgeway

Kevin Ridgeway lives and writes in Long Beach, CA. A two-time Pushcart Prize Nominee, recent work has appeared in Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Trailer Park Quarterly, Big Hammer, San Pedro River Review, Lummox, Spillway and Cultural Weekly, among many others. He is the author of six chapbooks of poetry, including All the Rage (Electric Windmill Press), On the Burning Shore (Arroyo Seco Press) and Contents Under Pressure (Crisis Chronicles Press).

Mourning -a passage from Carson McCullers

‘Why? Why was it that in cases of real love the one who is left does not more often follow the beloved by suicide? Only because the living must bury the dead? Because of the measured rites that must be fulfilled after a death? Because it is as though the one who is left steps for a time upon a stage and each second swells to an unlimited amount of time and he is watched by many eyes? Because there is a function he must carry out? Or perhaps, when there is love, the widowed must stay for the resurrection of the beloved so that the one who has gone is not really dead, but grows and is created for a second time in the soul of the living? Why?’ -Carson McCullers (The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, 122-123)