Monday, April 22, 2019

Nancy Scott


from the caseload

Her cornrows braided with baubles
the young girl sits between her mom and
her grandmother on a shabby sofa
drapes drawn, one bulb lighting the room
all of them sobbing as she explains

she’d wanted money to buy candy
so for a quarter she let neighbor boys put
their hands in her panties, but older
boys from Spring Street gave her
a dollar and raped her behind a dumpster.

Nancy reads "For Want of a Dollar":

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Nancy confesses: "As a caseworker for the State of New Jersey, I saw on a daily basis how poverty impacted lives in ways we, who don’t have to worry about putting dinner on the table, can hardly imagine. This was a good, church-going family. None of the boys was ever charged."

NANCY SCOTT has been managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets for more than a decade. She is also the author of nine books of poetry and a novella, Marriage by Fire (Big Top Publishing Company, 2018). Before she retired and turned to writing, she had a long career as a social worker for the State of New Jersey which informed and inspired many of her poems. Originally from the Chicago area, she has resided in New Jersey for many years.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Erin Bryant


As I lay here devastated, humiliated and degraded,
I try to reminisce of a time I didn't feel hated.

Any good memories all seem to fade,
I try so hard, but your hateful words stayed.

My feelings are hurt, my confidence is shot,
a laugh at your expense, but my misery is what it brought.

I don’t think I am good enough, it’s hard to look in the mirror,
you make me want to just give up, I've never felt so inferior.

I used to be scared to die but now it doesn’t seem so bad,
at least you won’t have the satisfaction of laughing when I’m sad.

I didn’t want this for myself, I used to be full of joy and whit,
I had goals and dreams for my future, but you’ve now ruined it.

I just can’t go on living this way where each day is a nightmare.
I’m one step away from being a social media story you share.

You may laugh it up now, thinking it’s all in good fun,
not knowing your slowing pulling the trigger to my dad’s gun.

I know I’m barely a teen, but I can no longer deal with all the teasing,
Is that what you want? To kill an innocent kid for no reason?

You may think what you say or do means nothing,
but you will see how much it really hurt me, when you read my obituary,
and know that I wasn’t bluffing.


Erin reads "Dear Bully":

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Erin confesses: "This poem is meant to give a voice to all the young children who have committed suicide due to depression caused by bullying. In February 2019, an 8-year-old boy hung himself because of bullying. After watching the story on the news, I was in tears. I just felt the urge to write. I took out my phone and began typing, and within five minutes the poem was finished."

ERIN BRYANT is a mother of three from Louisville, Kentucky.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Charles Rammelkamp


"She was beautiful. This was not her opinion; it was as close to being a fact as beauty can be.” – Jo Nesbo, The Leopard

When the police arrested Crawford and his stepdaughter
at the Mexico border, they’d been convinced
they’d pulled off the perfect crime.

Crawford’s wife – Belinda’s mother –
had been stabbed to death in Columbus
by a panhandler to whom she’d offered a ten-dollar bill,
while she and her husband waited at a stoplight.
The panhandler held a sign that read,
“Please help me feed my baby.”
A woman with an infant stood nearby in the rain.

Crawford rushed his wife to the hospital
but she couldn’t be saved.
“The woman actually said, ‘God bless you,’”
the tearful widower told the cops,
but something about his story sounded fishy –
details, like the location, kept changing.

The story made the national news –
Oprah did a cautionary feature story.
Everywhere people started throwing trash
at the people standing at streetcorners
holding “Homeless” signs,
convinced they were swindlers, conmen.

When Crawford fled with the stepdaughter,
driving away with everything but a “Just Married” sign
trailing from the bumper,
authorities sent an alert out all across the nation.
The Texas highway patrol stopped them
at the Brownsville border, Crawford breaking down,
looking at Belinda through tear-blinded eyes.
“She’s just so beautiful,” he sobbed.

Charles reads "The Fatal Wound":

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Charles confesses: "In Baltimore, recently, a man and his stepdaughter tried to frame a homeless person in the murder of the man’s wife, which the man – a convicted bank robber – had committed himself. A nationwide backlash against the vulnerable homeless followed. The man and his stepdaughter were arrested trying to cross into Mexico."

CHARLES RAMMELKAMP is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, was recently published by FutureCycle Press. An e-chapbook has also recently been published online Time Is on My Side (yes it is).

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Commentary on "That Alternative Universe"

For Day 6 of our National Poetry Month blog tour, commentary from frequent contributor Charles Rammelkamp. —Gerald So

Nancy Scott’s “That Alternative Universe” is full of the pathos and smoldering outrage you will find in her poetry collection, Running Down Broken Cement, which basically covers the same ground, narrative and lyric poems about her life as a social worker, investigating cases of child abuse. In this poem, she describes the usual process of interview and denial on the part of the abuser, the implicit shame on the part of his wife, the enabling bystander. The criminal here is a chemical engineer for a “multi-national company,” from which we infer that he is educated, middle class, a “normal citizen,” we’d like to think. All the more reason for his wife to demand that the case worker interview the husband in the basement and park her car – probably with official insignia on the fender or hood – discretely away from their home, so the neighbors won’t suspect anything.

But that’s just the first part. The man, who has been molesting a four-year old (I was sure it was his daughter, but re-reading the poem I can’t be sure), is eventually caught after a repeat incident and thrown into prison. But the case worker – the narrator – goes to an appointment with her therapist (and who is surprised she needs therapy?) only to learn that he, the doctor, the person who is there to help her, is just as big a creep as the child molester. He tells his patient that for fun he takes the train to Philly, loaded up with his photographic equipment, where he tries to get young women to pose for him for “outdoor glamour shots.” He promises free photos “if they come to his studio, wonders why they never / show up. Not even a call to cancel, he complains.”

So many lines have been crossed already in the narrator’s experience, but this one feels like a real violation. But where’s the actual crime in the revelation of the therapist’s character?

I'm getting a migraine. I'm tired of dealing with creeps,
especially this one in whom I've confided.
When he asks if I'm coming back next week, I say, Yes.
No need to explain why he'll never see me again.

Not even a call to cancel! Wonder why?

The title is curious. Does it refer to the purely “abnormal” that is on display all over this poem? Or is it specific to one of the characters? Alternative to what universe? I love that title; it alone makes you read the poem several more times. —Charles Rammelkamp

Monday, April 1, 2019

J.H. Johns


Was it-
the him and her-
were they-
dying a slow death
were they dead already-
long dead-
it was just a matter
of waiting
for the bodies
to decompose?

Paul Churchill Mann reads "Dying a Slow Death":

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J.H. confesses: "I try to expose myself to as much information as possible. At the same time, I work hard not to make value-judgments about the info. Then, sometimes, maybe, it just comes to me. Of course, in my case, that means having notepads, pens, etc, around me- and within reach at all times. Because, it is fleeting- whatever you want to call it- put it down or else it will be gone."

J.H. JOHNS "grew up and came of age" while living in East Tennessee and Middle Georgia. Specifically, the two places "responsible" for the writer that he has become are Knoxville, Tennessee and Milledgeville, Georgia. Since then, he has moved on to Chicago—for a brief stint—and New York City—for a significantly longer stay. Currently, he is "holed up" in a small town where when he is not writing, he tends to his "nature preserve" and his "back forty." His goal is to surround his house with all sorts of vegetation so as to obscure it from the gaze of the "locals." He is assisted in this task by his coonhound buddy and companion, Roma.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Gregory Cioffi


There I was mediating once again
In the seated position known as Zazen

Concentration becoming exemplary
In the upstate Zen Buddhist monastery

The Zendō, the perfect environment
For me to finally reach enlightenment

I was almost there, or so it would seem
When I was interrupted by a scream

I darted out of my spiritual dojo
Understanding dharma, I had to forgo

Ran to the meal hall to see a group huddled
A murder here? I was truly befuddled

The masses made way for me, the outsider;
And there, in center, I saw it: a dead a spider

Greg reads "Murder at the Monastery":

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Greg confesses: "Last year I visited the Zen Mountain Monastery in the Catskill Mountains in Mount Tremper, New York. It was a magical, surreal, eye-opening experience. It also allowed me to conjure up some pretty comedic premises - that's just where my mind goes sometimes. This particular narrative arose when I was sweeping the floor (everyone has to do chores at the monastery) and came across a tiny little arachnid friend. Given where I was, hilarious thoughts ensued..."

GREGORY CIOFFI (SAG-AFTRA, AEA) is a professional actor and a published writer. His stories have been published in The Feral Press, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, Aphelion, and Allegory Ridge. Greg’s first film, The Museum of Lost Things, just recently won awards at both The Long Island International Film Expo and The Madrid International Film Festival.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Benjamin Welton


Flashlights like fireflies
illuminate the emptiness
breathing between the trees.

They search among the stones
wet with water and blood.
Upturned and they reveal
things spectacularly gruesome.

On this night,
the desolate, rough-hewn woods
return to the primordial—
the ancient fear of the owl’s eyes
and the wildcat’s lonesome call.

Ben reads "Search the Hollow":

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Ben confesses: "'Search the Hollow' was inspired by two things: 1) a story I heard years ago while fishing with my father about a nineteenth century murderer who killed his wife and spread her body parts underneath stones on the Glady Fork; 2) a true crime podcast featuring a similar, real crime."

BENJAMIN WELTON is a freelance writer based in Boston.