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Ten books about exile and displacement

July 8, 2016 – 6:58 am | No Comment

The Caribbean experience has, since the “discovery” of the West Indies in the 15th century, been marked by exile, displacement, comings and goings, and the creation of diaspora everywhere from …

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CHERRY

August 27, 2016 – 9:41 am | No Comment

CHERRY
by Ken Williams

Eighteen years old isn’t old enough. We aren’t old enough to make life and death decisions. Nor are we old enough to understand the mysterious ways of the unknowns of the universe. And how will I handle combat? Where will I find strength in the face of death? These thoughts rumble through my mind while my stomach lurches on a nausea producing roller coaster ride. The chopper I’m riding is skimming tall trees, hugging the mountain ridges, plunging with hurricane force down into the menacing valley below. We’re low flying bait coursing head high over a heavily armed enemy that would pay any price to shoot us down.

The jungle floor is lush, a fusion of deep greens painted with velvet brush stokes—till its not. Splotches of land have been torn up, burnt black, trees splintered into kindling as if a giant had rampaged through the land. But it wasn’t a living giant. It was the inorganic giant B-52 Stratofortresses originally designed to destroy the world with nuclear bombs. Now theses modern day monsters simply use five hundred to two thousand pound bombs—thousands of them at a time to desecrate the land and kill.

I’m new at this. I’ve only been in country—The Republic of Vietnam two weeks. I’m not even nineteen and I’m scared. I’m more frightened than I have ever been in my life. Of course it doesn’t help that we are flying into the Valley of Death: the A Shau Valley—into the meat grinder known as Operation Dewey Canyon.

The stories, the macabre rumors have fed our nightmares, us new guys, Cherries they call us since I first landed in this hellhole. Most of the others on this resupply chopper, a CH-47 helicopter are battled-hardened Marines returning from either R&R or brief reprieves aboard hospital ships. A guy with a severe tic to his left eye brushed me with the haunted look they call the, “thousand yard stare.” It belongs to those who have gazed into the face of Death only to find the Dark Prince staring back. Another guy’s face is covered with scabs which he continues to pick at till they run with blood. Nobody talks. We’re all trapped within our own foreboding thoughts. But one guy catches my eye. He smiles awkwardly. He too is a cherry. You can tell by his newly minted green uniform that holds its color. The uniform of the other grunts are tattered and sun bleached. Rages tied together with perspiration, bug juice and fear. He can’t be much older than me if at all. I look around at the others. They too must be my age but they look so old! How did they get so old so fast? I briefly return the cherry’s smile and quickly look away. I don’t want others seeing me sharing emotions with the other new guy. I don’t want to be tagged by, guilt by association.

The chopper dives and just when I think we will crash onto a rugged mountaintop gut wrenchingly it pulls up and lands—hard. My teeth threaten to shatter. Before I can even move the battle hardened grunts are up and out leaving the two new guys lamely following.

Within seconds shouts of, “incoming” ring out. A ghostly apparition, a gunny sergeant that I swear is Death pushes me and the other new guy into a slit trench burrowed into the ground. Then the mortars hit. The ground shutters. The earth groans. Dirt falls onto me in the dark, cramped casket seize enclosure. I take my first vow of the day. Never again will I be caught underground during an enemy barrage. I would rather die on the surface that experience life lived in a casket buried underground.

The barrage ends. We crawl out of the cave—trench. Us replacements, battled hardened and cherries alike are rationed out to depleted squads of the Walking Dead, the Ninth Marines. Me and the other cherry are put in the same bomb crater for the night. Shows me the multicolor “friendship” bracelet he is wearing. Tells me how his girlfriend made it, “especially for him.” That night more mortars rain down. But they pale to what lies ahead of us. He whimpers. He pleads. He asks God not to die. Tells me he will put a bullet in his leg, he’ll do anything to get out of Vietnam alive. Manically, as if it possess magic he plays with the bracelet.

The next morning breaks with the sound of incoming fire. Then our squad heads out. We are to act as a blocking force to prevent the NVA from overrunning the LZ while the evacuation choppers pick up the rest of the unit. Within a thousand yards we run into an ambush. Quick. Two dead. The enemy vanishes. We don’t have men to spare so we take the dead with us. Someone wraps them up in their ponchos. Fortunately I don’t have to carry one. It’s too hot. I’m beginning not to care.

We set up our thin defensive line, one marine to a position. I have never felt so lonely in my life. And scared. Again enemy mortars fall. Then napalm from our fighter jets land dangerously close. Steel shards shred the air from impacting bombs. I buy my face into the hard surface. When I think I can no longer take it I spot the other cherry across the trail. I’m shocked when he waves to me. This is not the scared man from the night before. He smiles encouragement. “What the hell?”

My bewilderment is brought to a sudden halt when five hundred pound bombs and then napalm land in front of us. The enemy has breached the top of the mountain. My squad leader comes by. Tells me that when I see him running by I’m to jump up and ran like the devil is after me. We will be on the last chopper out. If we falter, if we’re late… The coldness in his eyes answers my unspoken question.

He leaves to tell the same to others. Time creeps by. Then marines, hunched over passes me carrying the body of our two dead comrades. Minutes later my squad leader runs past me as fast as a man can—that is one that has gone without water or food for the day. When I stand and sling on my backpack I almost crumple back to the ground. Tiredness like I have never felt before threatens to cripple me. Would they really live me if I don’t have the strength to keep up? I see the other cherry standing with little effort. He smiles encouragement. Hell, if he can make it. I can make it. I run like the devil is after me.

Through haphazard machine gun and rifle fire I make the LZ. The squad sits, watching the sky for the last evac chopper. The mountaintop is on fire with a lake of napalm. The two bodies rest with us. I can’t believe no one else from the squad has been killed. Wounded are all around but through the mysterious forces of life no other dead. I stare at the bodies wrapped in ponchos. They are someone’s sons. Maybe someone’s husband? This battle will be little noticed except for their families. For them this day will be a forever divide in their lives. Just as the chopper lands panic stabs at me with a white-hot poker. I stand. Tense. Something is wrong? Very wrong. Someone kicks me to get me moving.

I make the chopper. The marines carrying the bodies are slower delaying our departure. Then it dawns on me. I look around. Only exhausted stares look back. The other cherry is missing. Before I can raise the alarm the bodies are unceremoniously dumped next to me. An arm extends from under the poncho. My voice freezes in my throat. On his wrist is the friendship bracelet…

The Cancer Port

August 26, 2016 – 8:23 am | No Comment

The Cancer Port
by Robert King
It’s called a port, a harbor, haven, home,
a city on the coast of my chest opened
for a passage into my heart—which we say
is where emotions live—and …

Every Moment

August 24, 2016 – 7:55 am | 2 Comments

Every Moment
by Pat A Physics
Stammering into the microphone, the scarecrow mannequin version of you spits hay dribbling down like zebra stripes.  The audience is a mechanical one.  It gives you …

THE WORST POET IN THE WORLD

August 22, 2016 – 6:17 am | 2 Comments

THE WORST POET IN THE WORLD
by Marc Carver
Have you heard about the worst poet in the world
He tells people to F off on stage.
Goes to the mic drunk.
Makes fun of …

City Made of Centuries of Breath

August 20, 2016 – 10:12 am | One Comment

City Made of Centuries of Breath
by Dan Raphael
As though the air was glass or ice
all but what i’m swimming through
the dangerous step between media
orientation before acceleration
The less you weigh the …

FOR A WEEK

August 18, 2016 – 7:09 am | One Comment

FOR A WEEK
by John D Robinson
My wife has gone away;
it’s only been a matter of
hours and I’m thinking
about masturbating and
smoking joints and
swallowing codeine and
the dog doesn’t want to
know me; she …

DAVID IN LOVE

August 16, 2016 – 7:08 am | 2 Comments

DAVID IN LOVE
by Ruth Z Deming
He lay on the sofa in his briefs, watching his belly rise up and down. He’d hung up his blue cop uniform in the bedroom …

UNNAMED SPECIES

August 14, 2016 – 6:03 am | One Comment

UNNAMED SPECIES
by Matthew Phillips
Half-awake, scratching red mosquito bites on the inside
of my left ankle, swelling with aching water thoughts
while dawn chases fang-like cold from incisor mountains—
I feel like a bird-fish …

August

August 12, 2016 – 6:02 am | One Comment

August
by Lizette Woodworth Reese
No wind, no bird. The river flames like brass.
On either side, smitten as with a spell
Of silence, brood the fields. In the deep grass,
Edging the dusty roads, …

Fishing on the Susquehanna in July

August 10, 2016 – 6:01 am | One Comment

Fishing on the Susquehanna in July
by Billy Collins
I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.
Not in July or any month
have I …

The Philosopher in Florida

August 5, 2016 – 9:58 am | One Comment

The Philosopher in Florida
by C. Dale Young
Midsummer lies on this town
like a plague: locusts now replaced
by humidity, the bloodied Nile
now an algae-covered rivulet
struggling to find its terminus.
Our choice is a …

The Garden Outside The House

August 3, 2016 – 9:53 am | One Comment

The Garden Outside The House
by Natalie Crick
She was out there again that morning.
Talking, laughing, singing,
The garden filled with sweet birdsong
And the aroma of summer.
The sunset leaked red blood,
Annihilating him.
A love …

what passes between us

August 2, 2016 – 7:48 am | One Comment

what passes between us
by Jude Dillon
what passes between us
sparkles
on your lips
closer than talk
listens
and sees
witchy
high wind
delicate
and steady
*
you know
the dark of me
in a dry martini
kinda way
what snowflakes
carve
between now
and spring?
*
the quiet edge …

The Girl in the Yellow Raincoat

July 31, 2016 – 9:44 am | One Comment

The Girl in the Yellow Raincoat
by Jordan McElheran

There is a girl walking
In a yellow rain-
Coat

She carries a
Red umbrella
Through the sunlit mall

The air is warm as she
Walks and her …

“This would be a beautiful place to die.”

July 29, 2016 – 9:43 am | One Comment

“This would be a beautiful place to die.”
by Chris Castro-Rappl
It’s not that it wasn’t. Snow had drifted
around our feet, purged muddy footprints
from this gentle desolation. I could
have lain in it …

DAMN U DOW

July 27, 2016 – 9:40 am | One Comment

DAMN U DOW
by Ken Williams
In innocence
we watched,
Dow’s special package
delivered
Misty white, so pretty
enchantingly drifting down
Pterodactyl war machines
flying shallow Vs
Poison
Glistening, mesmerizing
late afternoon sun
Shrouding all
living,
those still to die
as it falls
Man made fog
seductive carnage …

In Silence, I speak… by Megha Bajaj

July 26, 2016 – 10:16 am | One Comment
In Silence, I speak… by Megha BajajPlay

In Silence, I speak… by Megha Bajaj

Book Review – A Place called Winter by Patrick Gale

July 15, 2016 – 9:37 am | No Comment

Book Review – A Place called Winter by Patrick Gale
Review by Ben Macnair
 
A Place Called Winter is one of those books with a big heart, humanity, and an ability to …

the shape of negative point twelve

July 8, 2016 – 5:07 am | One Comment

noun
by Halifax
you began a person
named
the idea you claim
was given to you
for others to use
it slows to a crawl
and becomes a place
others keep blame
once the thing dies
it housed you
though you have …

WALKING THROUGH SWAMPLAND

June 23, 2016 – 6:43 am | One Comment

WALKING THROUGH SWAMPLAND
by John Grey
Late afternoon,
sun sinks into marsh,
osprey links up with her nest,
cormorant perches on
a mangrove branch, wings
spread wide, drying out for
last time this day,
a copperhead slithers
into thick reeds,
provides …

Lures

June 7, 2016 – 7:01 am | One Comment

Lures
By Adam Vines
Last summer’s fishing failures dangled from trees:
a Rapala and Jitterbug a stand
of privet paid for, half-ounce jigs with rubber skirts
and jelly worms with wide-gap hooks on ten-pound test
we …

Rance

June 5, 2016 – 6:59 am | No Comment

Rance
by John Bennett
Rance came out of a hard nap to a ringing phone. It’s a woman saying in her usual highly-intelligent state of confusion that never fails to cast a …

Monday’s Laundry

June 3, 2016 – 6:58 am | No Comment

Monday’s Laundry
by Frank Scarangello
How white Monday’s laundry
against a bright blue sky of summer
hung from a clothesline stretching
from a third floor window to a telephone pole
watching grandma hang the clothes
my feet …

The Persians by Rumi

June 1, 2016 – 6:55 am | No Comment

The Persians by Rumi
By Brandon Brown
If you’re love’s lover and look for love
cold smoke the dog called bashfulness
beware for your conversation is a hindrancy
this poem isn’t interested I’ll bill you
Why’d …

8 Till Late

May 29, 2016 – 6:51 am | No Comment

8 Till Late
by Christopher Barnes
King Canute rostrums transmissions,
Grand view ads, fitful half-light channels.
Wizardry reads signals, embodiments
In impulsive jumps.
At The Golden Filament TV Emporium
He’s heart-warmed to overtime,
Is sold what to bag
When …

Men at the Hotel Pool

May 27, 2016 – 6:48 am | No Comment

Men at the Hotel Pool
by Michael Miller

With a single pale look, the boy casts them as judges.
Naked but for wet trunks, he sets his glasses down
and …

Summer Mowing

May 25, 2016 – 6:47 am | No Comment

Summer Mowing
by Jennifer Gray
He has transformed
his Tonka dump truck
into a push mower, using
lumber scraps and duct tape
to construct a handle
on the front end of the dump box.
One brave screw
holds the …

Chicken Breast or Rump Roast

May 23, 2016 – 6:45 am | No Comment

Chicken Breast or Rump Roast
by Donal Mahoney
Freddie and Fern were an old couple, a very old couple if truth be told, but on the matter of age, the truth seldom …

SWAMPIE

May 21, 2016 – 6:42 am | One Comment

SWAMPIE
by John Grey
He lived so close to the cypress swamp,
the howls, the screeches, the thrashings, of death
were as common as bird song.
From the deep bass notes of day
to the coffin …

Spring In Remission

May 19, 2016 – 6:41 am | One Comment

Spring In Remission
by Noah Gordon
I’m thinking of the shy way
you walked toward the treeline,
and how we talked about the oldest
Cave in Illinois,
how they boarded it up after a blind child …

scarf

May 10, 2016 – 8:14 am | 3 Comments

e pluribus unium
by Halifax
there are wars
but not peaces
we oversleep
not sleep in
conflict is broken
into shared pieces
reciprocated in kind
until a full spread
has been laid out
peace is portrayed
in a field waving
like a picnic …

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