After ‘Change’ by Langston Kerman
In 1980 it surfaced
a deflated balloon
a quiet water
& Harvey Milk was already dead
& the Castro was a piney purple valhalla
& disco beats pounded into the night like
& the Orange County Connection played his blond Canadian charm
at all the bathhouses
& the sassy queens and beautiful boys started dying
from ‘gay cancer’, its black magic the length
of a pregnancy term
& the newspapers didn’t care because it was a
& the NIH had better projects to fund
& the CDC freaked but couldn’t do much
& the gay politicos were all split between
stop fucking so we can survive
don’t tell us not to fuck, we have come too far
& the lesions showed up like cat scratches
on necks and calves and backs
& vacations to the Yucatan were cancelled
& it was hard to walk up the stairs
& lovers worried like Jewish mothers
about their darling boys
& sometimes fucking brought relief
& sometimes exhaustion’s gaunt face refused
& muscles began to shrink
& pneumonia hit like a sack of lead
& the San Francisco Bay was a shiny plate of glass
& death was like a leap year
& the calendar was all blank pages
& sunken eyes gazed terror-stricken from hospital beds
& the scarlet letters were four
& thrush bloomed white volcanoes
The hand rest
the arm chair
stoops to a
full of oil,
his fingers in
with it, all
while, asking me
I am through
Skinheads Beat Up An Asian Kid
Maybe it’s the shape of this guy’s country they don’t like –
sloppy and low-hung like their mothers’ breasts
or a tiny insignificant morsel wedged between large primary colors on the map.
Or it could be its unpronounceable name, especially in the native language.
If the tongue can’t wrap around it then fists will have to do.
The poor sucker’s place of origin has no coast-line –
that could be disturbing to some – no ships, no harbor,
everything trucked overland.
Or their native dress – though he’s in t-shirt and jeans
on this early Saturday evening in the back blocks of this city.
Could be a thousand and one reasons from a volatile history
to the populace’s preference in cheese to the music on their radios
or the number of z’s in their place names.
Skinheads don’t just thump and kick and stab for no good reason.
They don’t pull out their weapons just because this guy’s walking by.
No, it has to be the squeak of his sneakers on the sidewalk.
Or that book by one of his countrymen taking up space in the local library.
The scar above his right eye is a candidate.
Likewise the painting of the wife of an eighteenth century ruler.
This gang don’t just shave their heads
because the stubble feels good to the rubbing palm of the hand.
And they don’t pick their victims solely because he occupies a certain space.
It’s the look of his currency, the dirt beneath his nails, the married name
of his eldest sister, the traffic on his homeland’s highways.
There’s a million reasons why they grab him, beat him,
break an eye-socket, shatter his nose.
It could just be curiosity – is his blood really red or might it be yellow?
The newspaper calls it ‘racism.”
I prefer ‘none of the above.’
After the News
You stand there digesting your diagnosis
Which is still just information but soon
Will be a three-dimensional journey.
You resist the temptation to allow
The cancer to confirm some inherent
Deficiency in you that is not you
But can still pull you down like an anchor
That reaches no bottom. You misremember
Something you imagine Loa Tzu said, like
‘For the man in the Way does through being
And is through doing’ – or something like that.
It still means nothing to you. Even less now.
You struggle with your darkest demons
When you think too far ahead and yet
Ahead is so uncertain there are demons
There as well. The worst ones tell you
Stories about what it’s going to be like when
You die; and the others are no better
With their imaginative consolations against the odds.
You know all this and yet you persist, you persist
Because you can feel the patterns shifting,
Because you know it is the affect that defeats you
Like punctured love deflating in the belly
And your vigilance against the next attack.
Cold air turns quickly
to heavens dust and
enjoys longevity on the
Though the home cries
empty, the surrounding
grounds are bathed in blue,
appearing like a cobalt,
No neighbor resides within
ear-shot, and the promise of
isolation begs invitation.
An errant breeze rustles fallen
dead leaves, blowing them in
an upward, ghostly fashion
across the purple-black sky.
Dark clouds partially eclipse
the red moon, as a low-looming
fog gracefully settles.
The blue now dims, like the hopes
of an abused child, recoiling into
A place of perfect refuge.
Judy Bankman is a Brooklyn-based poet. Her work has appeared in Windfall, Wilde Magazine, Axolotl, & Souvenir.
Nikhil has been writing poetry for eighteen years. He has been published in various magazine in India, the USA and the UK. Nikhil Nath is his pen name. He lives and works from Kolkata, India. “Write rubbish, but write”, said Virginia Woolf.This is Nikhil’s maxim for writing. Allergo, Aji, Ink salt and Tears, Laughing Dog have recently accepted his work.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Mudfish and Spindrift with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Sanskrit and Louisiana Literature.
David Klugman is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Program, and has been a practicing psychotherapist for the past 25 years. He works in Nyack, NY, and lives nearby with his wife and daughter.
S. A. Gerber is a native and resident of Los Angeles, CA. His work has appeared in such diverse publications as Desert Voices Magazine…Subtopian Magazine…Talking Sidewalk…Mad Swirl…Sediment Literary and Arts Journal…Poetica Magazine… Black Heart Magazine…The Blue Collar Review, and The Los Angeles Review of Los Angeles. His two (2) volumes of poetry, Under The Radar and Inventory can both be obtained on Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, as well as The Amber Unicorn Bookstore in Las Vegas.