If I listen, holding space, arms as wide as my strength can hold against the lines, will you speak?

There are no sides, no camps, no aisles – we conjure them in black, to have walls to touch and positions to define.

We the people, born naked every color, before there are lines.

Needing, every one, the same.


© Tiffany Grantom 


A poem by Ashley Cooke

American Nightmare


It scares you that a black life could finally matter

a grieving mother might get justice for her son

and it scares you that all of a sudden

the spotlight could shift from you

to a place in the dark that has not seen the light of day

since you decided whose lives were more important

deeming everyone with a darker skin tone a thug


The ones supposed to protect us are the ones that we fear

our best interest is now in dangerous hands

that seem to always pull the trigger first

as scattered thoughts of panic inside our minds

turn into brain matter

if we don’t react to your commands

and our fear better not resemble violence


If we were to turn the news off

does our mind turn on?

it seems to me maybe all this negativity

is a magnifying glass

focusing long and hard

trying to start a fire in our nervous system

so they can control us one by one


Every argument we have over this

is a pull on the rope in a twisted game of tug of war

caught on someone’s neck like a noose

we are slow to realize just how hard we are pulling

we remember how politics at the table used to be impolite

but now it’s survival to know if those

in your home would fight on your side


How many of us reach down

into our bloodlines and grab the hand

of a woman as she is struggling to get away

from a man she loved and trusted

we pull our hand back in disbelief

and realize that we are only here

because centuries ago there was a rape


We try to shut the kids up

as we put them down for growing up

and having opinions that differ from ours

they crawl on their knees to chase their inner light

you stomp out their flame

while it crosses paths with yours before it can grow

to a raging fire bright enough to make a change


The 50 stars gather on the boulevard

with a carpet laid out for the sacrifices they made

to bring us entertainment we couldn’t live without

and the waving vets on the curb

looking for a penny left in the gutter

as we thank them with a solute at the ball games

as those we pay tribute to linger outside in tents and shopping carts


We worship a God who seems to prey upon us

unless we join sides with fascists

as they puppeteer themselves to save us

creating words that fit their politics

our neighbors welcome us with pointed fingers

as we seem to burn already

in a hell upon earth

©Ashley Cooke

3 Poems by

On Going Back


Will I take a trip back

to my place of birth,

a country called Kenya.

Famed for its coffee fields

and year-long hot weather.


Will I leave the frosty winter

to journey near the equator

and let the sun seep into my skin,

the aroma of fresh beans

borrowing deep into my nostrils?


I always return to this place

In my thoughts when alone.

My home is harsh and icy now.

Leaves dry up and tumble down.

The skin on my hands turns flaky,

but I have spring to revive me.

© Khadija I Gure


Tug of War


A game that brought me enormous amusement

As a child, my friends and I played even in the mud

We pulled until we found victory or got dragged

Mud slipped between our bare toes


In my new school in the Midwest

Students wore shoes to play in gym class

Our shoes squeaked as we got dragged

We didn’t feel the sun or mud on our feet

© Khadija I Gure




I can’t be blind to what I eat

The meat I put in my body makes

me think about the live body of the

animal on my plate

It makes me think about the way

he or she trotted


I think about the sound my food

made on a daily basis

A sound that most likely spoke

to a certain emotional state

My plate is still warm and steaming

But my hunger has turned to a bitter

kind of cold


One that matches the blizzard outside

my window

I run my fingertips over the goose

bumps on my arms

© Khadija I Gure

Two Poems by Dean Fraser

Fractured And Broken

Is my fracking blues song…the creative process never ceases to astound me. Why is it a blues song? It grew that way…


Well I woke up this morning

Oh yeah, I woke up this morning

Been having this weird dream

At least I thought, can things be as they seem?

They wanna drill the Earth, fractured and broken

Are we supposed to believe a word these people spoken?


I got the fractured Earth blues

Oh yeah, the fractured Earth blues

Thinking what’s the use?

Seems someone’s gotta loose


Lookin’ around on the net

They’re doing it everywhere, what we get?

Earthquakes and tremors, flaming gas instead of water

Let’s tell ‘em what we think, it’s really time we oughta

They’re making their decisions profit before health

Changing geology forever and counting their wealth


I got the fractured Earth blues

Oh yeah, I got the fractured Earth Blues

Thinking what’s the use?

Seems someone’s gotta loose

How can we stop those insane actions?

Fracking apart the ground, chemical reactions

Make our voices heard loud and clear

Every time that new drilling rig starts to appear

Peaceful protest, reasoning don’t work with these guys

Harder their job, less profit they make, let’s open their eyes


I got the fractured Earth blues

Oh yeah, I got the fractured Earth Blues

Thinking what’s the use?

Seems someone’s gotta loose

© Dean Fraser


Embracing Nature, Only Natural




Urban environment

Disassociated from nature

Only nature encountered

A green blur

Seen from car or train windows

Rushing on by

Us humans have a deep

You could call it primeval

Existing right there in our DNA

Connection to nature

Our nature to be found

Within nature

Zombie-like existence

Living a half life

All too disconnected from nature

Truly wild areas


Somewhere to be scared of

Living 24/7 in completely artificial environments

Killing creativity

Deadening intuition

Then comes the need

Real nature is encountered

Take some of this artificial Comfort Zone out there as well…




And I see them

Those walking deep within ancient tranquil forest

Climbing high upon a mountain

Canoeing upon tranquil river

Headphones on

Plugged into music

Maybe I miss out here?

My music collection stays at home

Rather than joining me on walks

In nature

Parallels drawn in my mind

Painted in words

A concert

Favourite band or symphony

Wearing a motorbike crash helmet

Ensuring only half the experience

Coming away disappointed

What was all the fuss about?

Sensory underload




To exercise in nature

First choice every time

Walking or running

Tai chi or meditating

Purest natural setting

Far from only taking exercise

Oh, such more than ever taking exercise


On every level

My best ideas

Poetry or life

How often one and the same

Those ground-breaking ideas

Popped into my head

As they usually do

Way out in the wilderness

Or in the middle of deserted ancient Neolithic site

And very rarely in the middle of a busy city…

© Dean Fraser


On Hearing that the Trump Administration Is Delaying Putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 Bill – Ethan Goffman

On Hearing that the Trump Administration Is Delaying Putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 Bill

As Martin Luther King, Jr. put it
Sometimes “wait” means “never.”

What do they fear?
that Harriet will bleed monthly over all those fresh, green bills
A bloody stain on our history?

To some, women are dirtier than money
dirtier than ripping
A bawling child from its terrified parents.

© Ethan Goffman

Ethan Goffman has poems in Mad Swirl, Madness Muse, and Setu.  He has published non-fiction as a staff writer for Mobility Lab and the SSPP Blog, and as a freelance writer for The Progressive, Buzzflash, the Baltimore Sun, Grist, EarthTalk, and other venues.  He is the author of Imagining Each Other: Blacks and Jews in Contemporary American Literature (SUNY Press, 2000).


5 Poems by Linda Imbler

A Groovy Life


I want a groovy life,

one not filled with ransom demands or imaginary slights,

or plots disguised as needy pleas.


But, one with:

Hope for gifts given freely,

with reciprocity never demanded,

instead, each given according to one’s heart.


Music – pure, innocent

lyrics both beautiful

and deep in their meanings.


A seat from which to watch

the loveliness of nature unfold,

early or late in the day,

letting imagination name the colors.


Lastly, time in which to fulfill these desires.

All I can do is ask.


© Linda Imbler

Beautifully Broken


I dreamt last night,

but never slept,

unfolding my story

as loose images,

without plot,

without resolution,

trancing along to the blur

of the ceiling fan above me.


The woeful shatter

of my soul,

felt and heard,

above the dissonant void

of this room,

as relevant tears.


I, beautifully broken.


© Linda Imbler




In the beginning,

he could speak in words and esoteric phrases

that explained all our strange days.


Near the end,

as his world spun sideways,

he no longer feared his visage

reflected from the whiskey bottle.


Finally, he morphed into some demented,

frustrated clown

who claimed his name as its own.


In the final few seconds,

those creatures he spoke of so long ago

took him to the desert

and put him on the blue bus.


This is the end.


© Linda Imbler


Silent Meal


Their relationship did not die

with shouts and tears,

but only from the silence

in response to his talk.


Her new-found love

birthed the deafness

which kept her from hearing

his voice and his still-beating heart.


Perhaps when he’s gone,

she can find a heartbeat app

for that phone that so engaged her

while he sat at the table with her, alone.


© Linda Imbler

Walking the Road On the Cool Side of Infinity


He walks along the rim of the highway,

this man with the Gypsy soul.

He trods the vagabond paths.

He hears his feet slap the pavement.

He feels his fingers tap, tap, tap along the side of his leg.

He responds to an inner song that he alone hears.


All his necessities have been expended

and his wallet feels thin.

But this mobile man doesn’t worry.

There will always be another meal

and another small job in the next town.

Endless time is never his enemy.


What would scare most,

(he calls them the ‘jammed-up’ people) thrills him.

These new pleasures make him feel alive.

They help him find joy in all new, foreign places.

This road, which is long, lean, immeasurable and serpentine is his pal.


The snapping of his fingers matches his footfalls.

There’s too much living to do to sit and contemplate the limited ‘back then.’

So he keeps moving within this expanse

to help him forget that empty house,

that empty bed, and that backyard

with the empty sandbox.


Therefore he rambles on and all is well. Cool!

The new town is in sight!

This transformed wanderer believes it’s time

for the next new adventure.

Bring it on!


© Linda Imbler

5 Poems by Ankita Anand

Against the dying of the light

When empty rhetoric boasts
You have to brace immodesty
And raise a few toasts
To a nobody like yourself, and to the noble souls punished for their quiet honesty.


i have
for my country.

from the calluses on my feet
to the etched sun on my face,
bear witness to it.

and while i realise
that all i did were selfish acts performed for myself
because so many of our interests are tied together,
and while i know,
it is a mere drop
from the ocean
i am capable of giving, hope to give,

I shall not stand at ease and pay attention
As you spout forth on how I should love my country, how I should bay for others’ blood to prove the purity of mine
But remind you that I have held by breath to be able to hear its cries
When you were busy talking down to it.

© Ankita Anand




The sun trapezed over my knuckles

When I picked up warm wheat

By fistfuls

Put out to dry by my grandmother

After it was washed and scrubbed.


It would leave in me

Heat, imprint, smell.


Now our packaged flour

Slips right through

The gaps between my fingers.


Those birthed by the earth

Do not hold each other any more.

We maintain sanitized contact

Mediated by steel and plastic.

© Ankita Anand




“Oranges are expensive all around this year.”

When the fruit seller said this,

I quietly accepted his price.


No, I am not so naive

That I wasn’t infected

By a glimmer of suspicion.


But my apprehension about being duped was negligible

When faced with the fear

Of losing my ability to trust.


© Ankita Anand


Heroes must fall

No room for those who perform
“nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love”
And, at times,
Are human enough to err

We’d rather sculpt heroes,
Carry them high above our heads
So we can pretend we can’t reach them,
Can’t do what they do.

As the burden grows heavier,
And we, as they,
Falter under the weight
We drop them by the wayside as sinners.

© Ankita Anand


Modern day presidential



Hands are crucial.


Hurricane hands

Grabbing pussies,

beautiful pieces of ass

Building walls

Tearing through gloves,

insisting on getting themselves dirty

Trashing women cards

Fidgeting around nukes

Ruling the world

Rocking own cradle


© Ankita Anand


5 Poems by Ethan Goffman

Out of Touch in Trump’s America


My friends and I

clinging to part-time and temporary jobs

are so hopeless

that we don’t even grope and harass women.

What a bunch of losers we are!


© Ethan Goffman


Seeing Melania Trump on TV the other day, I realized with a gasp that she’s beautiful.  I’d never really noticed.

It’s as if Princess Leia had married Jabba the Hut.


© Ethan Goffman


A Thanksgiving Prayer


We give thanks, O Lord

for the land we stole

from its rightful inhabitants


allowing us to dine

on this righteous feast

of indigestion.


© Ethan Goffman



Proverb on Turtle’s Back

We did not borrow this world from our children,

We stole it from the Native American ancestors.


© Ethan Goffman


A Strange Dream


I had a dream,

or read in a science fiction book

or saw a movie


In which a black man

with a Muslim name

was President

of the United States


But that couldn’t have actually happened, could it?


© Ethan Goffman


Ethan Goffman has published only one poem, in Mad Swirl.  However, he has ample publications as a staff writer for Mobility Lab and the SSPP Blog, and as a freelance writer for The Progressive, Buzzflash, the Baltimore Sun, Grist, EarthTalk,and other publications.  He also has one book, Imagining Each Other: Blacks and Jews in Contemporary American Literature (SUNY Press, 2000).

5 Poems by Allison Grayhurst


She rises from the flower-pot soil,

sad as a caged Queen.


Her hands, fixed behind,

pushing her head towards

the moon.


Her lips as still as

trees after a storm, lying flat


and bloodless. She does not

let her hair down, or her

firm skin flex.


She has seen what lies underneath

where worms and millipedes crawl.


Half of her still there –

the other half, awakening

struggling up, away from the tar-sand



Feline Dream


Winter comes like a blank page

dropping over the city.


Houses glow in

T.V. light,

dulled and eerier.


Somewhere my mind has lost itself,

trekking through this burning time.


I see the eyes of animals in every place.

I see a kestrel cribbed in the sky, beating

against clouds and taunting crows.


I do not know what I am:

I live the nights through like a cat,

soothed by poetry

and the moon-white


of solitude


under stones.


© Allison Grayhurst


Missed the Mark

I felt I could almost run

the passage.


But the mist and

the naked days

of winter’s burning


made my head heavy and

a purpose too slender to follow.


A twisted brightness came crashing

through the ghosts surrounding.


Nothing but a comforting

numb held my feet to the ground.


I thought my blood was more

than words. I thought to claim

my flesh anew.


But love shifts like coastal waters

and only the drumming tides

of error and time

can guide me now –




© Allison Grayhurst


No Wedding Day

Held up by the strings

and the ragged chains

of expectation.


This is the

last vein to burst,

the last root

to dry.


Keep your milk

and music for

the moon – mother

of dreams, mother

of personal metaphor.


The marriage ring has taken

its final curve.

From now on, only

a gypsy smile,

only a trumpet blow

for the wanderer’s freedom.


Clouds cave over the sun

like a fist. Children play on

the green-pink hills

as all disappointments line up

on the wave of their laughter

to be killed or



© Allison Grayhurst

Step Through Summer


Dying for my thoughts to fade

into an amnesiac slur, not judge my

convalescent love.

Waiting for sleep to

move to a higher

octave, away from guilt, blame and

artful blindness.

The light that falls forever

into the gullies

of souls and skulls – comforts

but cannot heal. The wind too cannot

give like a compass burn.

I pace the floors, longing

to surrender what I have

to the summer flowers,



© Allison Grayhurst

Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Three of her poems were nominated for “Best of the Net” in 2015, and one eight-part story-poem was nominated for “Best of the Net” in 2017. She has over 1150 poems published in more than 460 international journals and anthologies. Her book Somewhere Falling was published by Beach Holme Publishers, a Porcepic Book, in Vancouver in 1995. Since then she has published sixteen other books of poetry and six collections with Edge Unlimited Publishing. Prior to the publication of Somewhere Falling she had a poetry book published, Common Dream, and four chapbooks published by The Plowman. Her poetry chapbook The River is Blind was published by Ottawa publisher above/ground press December 2012. In 2014 her chapbook Surrogate Dharma was published by Kind of a Hurricane Press, Barometric Pressures Author Series. In 2015, her book No Raft – No Ocean was published by Scars Publications. More recently, her book Make the Wind was published in 2016 by Scars Publications. As well, her book Trial and Witness – selected poems, was published in 2016 by Creative Talents Unleashed (CTU Publishing Group). She is a vegan. She lives in Toronto with her family. She also sculpts, working with clay; www.allisongrayhurst.com
Short bio: Allison Grayhurst is a member of the League of Canadian Poets. Four times nominated for “Best of the Net”, 2015/2017, she has over 1150 poems published in over 460 international journals and anthologies. She has 21 published books of poetry, six collections and six chapbooks. She lives in Toronto with her family. She is a vegan. She also sculpts, working with clay; www.allisongrayhurst.com 
            Collaborating with Allison Grayhurst on the lyrics, Vancouver-based singer/songwriter/musician Diane Barbarash has transformed eight of Allison Grayhurst’s poems into songs, creating a full album. “River – Songs from the poetry of Allison Grayhurst” released October 2017.
            Some of the places her work has appeared in include Parabola (Alone & Together print issue summer 2012); Elephant Journal; Literary Orphans; Blue Fifth Review; The American Aesthetic; The Brooklyn Voice; Five2One; Agave Magazine; JuxtaProse Literary Magazine, Drunk Monkeys; Now Then Manchester; South Florida Arts Journal; Gris-Gris; The Muse – An International Journal of Poetry, Storm Cellar, morphrog (sister publication of Frogmore Papers); New Binary Press Anthology; Straylight Literary Magazine (print); Chicago Record Magazine, The Milo Review; Foliate Oak Literary Magazine; The Antigonish Review; Dalhousie Review; The New Quarterly; Wascana Review; Poetry Nottingham International; The Cape Rock; Ayris; Journal of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry; The Toronto Quarterly; Fogged Clarity, Boston Poetry Magazine; Decanto; White Wall Review.  


















Two Poems by Rizwan Saleem

Rain on you


Of all the ways that lovers do

Dreams and thoughts of touching you

How I could turn into rain

And pour myself onto you

My gray clouds float to your presence

Steal sunlight from the sky, and prickle your skin with a frosty breeze

Ignite Goosebumps on your slender arms

A premonition of what’s to come

No I won’t pour, nor drown in a biblical deluge

A light drizzle would simply do

For the unrequited desires that I seek from you

Evanesce my being, I fall down to

I’m whole now in a million drops

Delicate like sparkling dew

My first splashes on your raven black hair

But you are still so unaware

Oh my paramour but there is more of me

So much more too of you

The first for any man, I rejoice in my descent

How a fall can be from one heaven to another

And drips of me on your forehead

Your turn your face above to see

The Cimmerian nebula that carry me

I slither down to your sultry cheeks

Fuchsia with surprise and elation

Smooth as polished marble

Of a temple made for a religion arcane

Known only to me

And sizzle in wicked delight

Trills to your lips

The warmth of your breath fleeting

Rapture so abundant

That is in rain

A peek of your pinkish tongue

Wanders out to seek a taste

A drop is captured in curve

And let slither back in its sepulcher

Inside you I float, running in your life blood

We are one

How I wish I could ebb through your veins

Like an addiction without cure

Drops of me all on you

Soak your clothes through and through

Your curves accentuate my lascivious fervors

As I caress you further

To the flats of your torso

I slither and crawl

Tickle and feather, my touches to arouse

Till your legs so neatly parted

Almost finished what has been started

I slide and slide lower still

To your thighs and knees

Shaped with such feline grace

Your ankles, till

Your feet and toes

So perfectly formed

The places they take you

But steps so far from me

So slowly I roll

To my final demise

Soaked now by grass beneath you

I am life now in another form

Fertile with your redolence

I await another turn in eternity

To love you again

© Rizwan Saleem






My eyes wander

Over every face that I see

So that I may catch any resemblance of you

I breathe in the air

Not so for the need to live

But so I may catch somehow your fragrance

Perhaps gone astray from where you stand

I revisit the places close to your home

And reach out to touch clefts, least you ran your blessed hands on them

Over some point in time

My mind is spent in devising nefarious plots and schemes

To give me one good reason I could call you again

I run harder and harder

Kick start my dead beat heart

I open my chest to let in air

Dizzy with exertion

There is no art painted like you

There can be no perfume that can replicate your heavenly redolence

No feel in this life that can match your healing touch

No pain worse than your absence around me

© Rizwan Saleem

Rizwan Saleem is a Banker based in Dubai UAE. The thoughts and expressions detailed in his works are of his various escapades suffered through life, and of the profound surprise of having survived long enough to pen them into words. His poems and prose have appeared in anthologies Twenty Seven Signs by Lady Chaos Press, Self Portrait Poetry Collection by Silver Birch Press, E fiction India, Scarlet leaf Publishing as well as Colors of Refuge (an initiative for UNHCR)