Capitalism is bankrupt!
We need a genuine workers’ socialism!

It seems like just yesterday that the establishment news media was confidently preaching that capitalism in the U.S. and the world would go on expanding, the stock market would keep rising, home values would continue to climb and life would continuously improve for the fortunate ones -- indefinitely, maybe forever. If any problems arose anywhere, the market would solve them. History, with its poverty, racism, exploitation, wars and revolutions, was over. (Well, there might be a war here and there, but the poor would fight them and the rest of the public could just go on shopping.) Other than a few blemishes, capitalism was perfect.
Now that bubble has burst.

With the worldwide economic crisis, capitalism has once again revealed its insane, bankrupt nature. The capitalist system is once again proved to be a hell on earth of desperation, robbery, insecurity and war for the huge working majority of the planet, including ourselves here in the United States, the land of “the American Dream.” The capitalist politicians, Republican and Democrat, are handing over literally trillions of the wealth created by the workers to a bloated class of parasites who do no honest work but believe that the world owes them a mega-fortune. The much-touted “signs of recovery” mean little to the millions of unemployed workers.

This is capitalism. This is not an aberration; this is its true nature, robbing behind the scenes for years of “normal” times, nakedly staring us in the face today – a monster.

This is a nature that none of the bourgeois analysts can grasp or explain; only Marxism and the Marxists can explain it. And, as Marxism has taught for 161 years, it is a nature that can only be changed by a working-class revolution. Newsweek magazine and other establishment pundits claim that the bail-out maneuvers of the Obama administration constitute socialism, while right-wing loudmouths charge that Obama's health care initiatives are “socialism” as well. Both charges are lies.. Obama's maneuvers are merely government moves to re-shuffle resources within capitalism. Various political and media figures, such as Paul Krugman of The New York Times, advocate going beyond Obama and actually nationalizing the banks, while we hear horrified screams from Republicans that this, too, would be “socialism.” But again, the label does not apply. Actual socialism is far more, far different, from some maneuvers by some people at the top of the capitalist pyramid, even though the masses must fight to get whatever crumbs that can be squeezed out of the Obamas of the world.

Actual socialism will be an upswelling of many centuries of struggle by the working people of different countries, the U.S. included, to take their destiny into their own hands. A real socialist revolution is an uprising in which the masses of workers and poor take power and suppress the rich. Such a revolution would bring about a transition toward a genuine workers’ socialism that involves the dispossession of all the rich, swindling capitalists and real control of society by the working people. Such a revolution would not only have to fight the well-known capitalists and bourgeois reformists but also capitalists-in-communist-clothing like those who brought the great Russian Revolution to grief under Stalin and who lead China and Cuba today. Such a revolution would be very difficult, but there is no other way. Only such a revolution can eliminate economic crises, poverty, racism and wars like those of the present once and for all.

All through the last thirty years the Republicans, the open party of the rich, lauded the capitalist crooks and financial double-dealers to the skies and hid their criminal speculations. And all through the past thirty years the cowardly Democrats cozied up to the Republicans and helped them increase the stranglehold of the rich financiers over the working class and people. Ronald Reagan, who was against big government except when it helped the rich, slashed the taxes of those poor, impoverished billionaires and inspired them with the dream of robbing the workers of everything won through hard struggle since World War II. Then the so-called “first African American President,” Bill Clinton, helped his chum, Robert Rubin, CEO of the Wall Street swindlers at Goldman Sachs, to steer the economy, against all warnings, down the disastrous path of leveraged speculation. Slick Willie, whose buddies fill the Obama administration, revised the criminal code to over-charge and imprison thousands of poor Black working men, and used his union bosses to leverage down the wages of the workers. Then came the infamous GW Bush, invading Iraq on fraudulent grounds while showering still greater tax cuts on those poor, abused plutocrats as they leveraged their speculations into the trillions with nothing to back it all up.

The bubble burst before GW left office, so the lame duck handed out a trillion or so to his “base” without a peep of protest from Obama the elected. And now we have Obama pledging to fix it all and giving a few crumbs to the workers but still handing out hundreds of billions to the financiers, throwing good money after bad, even allowing Democratic Senator Dodd and Secretary of the Treasury Geithner to permit the AIG bloodsuckers, Goldman Sachs and their other Wall Street buddies to give each other billions of the workers’ tax money as bonuses, a charity that continued unabated for months despite the outrage of the people.
Enough! It is time for the working class to rise up! We built this country, we move the goods, we make the products, we nurse the sick, we clean the streets, we teach the children, while these worthless, bloated leeches speculate with our money, spit on us and drag our country into the dirt. It’s our country, not theirs! Let us rise up and defend ourselves as a class against the misery brought on by this crisis!

We face a great world crisis, greater than any since our grandparents battled the bosses during and after the Great Depression of the 1930’s. We face this crisis in a very difficult situation: our mass struggles, which surged in the 30’s and again in the 60’s, have been at a low ebb for a long time, making it difficult to envision rising up effectively. The leadership of the organizations that supposedly fight for us – the unions, civil rights groups, etc. – are in the hands of opportunists committed to supporting the capitalist system and the Democratic Party. Our struggle will be extremely difficult, difficult even to launch, given the tight control that the union bureaucrats and other reformists exercise over rebellious workers. Our struggle will be filled with setbacks and zig-zags that will try the will, the confidence and the perspectives of the best of us. But we must begin. We must and will persevere, sooner or later, through thick and thin, just as our forerunners arose as the unemployed, living in tent cities, to build the workers’ movement and the industrial unions in the 1930’s.

Let us raise our voices in protest! Let us learn how to organize and fight! Even where we may be small in numbers at the start, let us take action where we can, in whatever way we can, despite the stranglehold of the union hacks and other misleaders who don’t want to rock the boat! Let us network, let us learn to form organizations of our own, organizations that will fight militantly for the working people, for all the oppressed! Workers of other countries have gone into action – in Latin America movements of the workers and poor have been seething. Recently we have seen strikes and actions in Greece, Guadeloupe, Martinique, France, London! Let us learn from them and support them! Let us unite native workers and immigrants, Black, white, all colors and ethnicities, men and women, religious and non-religious, whatever the sexual orientation – we need all the workers, all the oppressed! We face a common enemy and a great crisis!

Let us fight for our immediate needs and let us also prepare through struggle for the day when we shall throw these arrogant aristocrats into the dirt and run this country ourselves, in harmony with the workers of other countries who will certainly do the same! The rich capitalist exploiters don’t give a damn about us! They are leaving us and our children literally out in the cold!

It is time for us to fight!

By Tim Hall




Short time


Ang finally kicked it. Everybody saw it coming, and the other guys that had been helping out with him started slinking away the past couple of weeks. Not that I blame them. It's hard watching a person die like that. I do blame all the doctors and guards and everyone else who kept saying he was faking. If there is any sort of karmic justice in this world, they'll be remembering Ang every night for the rest of their lives. For nearly two months the man couldn't feed himself and would wallow in his own watery shit all night until someone came in to help him clean up in the morning. Eyes turning grayer and grayer as death sucked the flesh from under his skin. Try faking that. That'd be a real Oscar-winning performance, one to make Jack Nicholson jealous. I mean Ang was barely able to move. And when the pain got too deep for the pills to reach, he quit trying and just lay there refusing to let us walk him to the clinic because the agony of being picked up and carried wasn't worth the small relief the pills gave him. At night, after they locked us down, I'd hear him whimpering like a dog in his cell, the pain building and building in him until I thought for certain he was going to start screaming. But he'd always swallow it at the last second, and then there'd be quiet for awhile before it started building again. He took it and never complained, not about the pain or about rotting away on a mix-up, on a might-be, on some TV-paranoid conspiracy about the whole world trying to take us over and rape our mothers and sisters and steal crumbs out of our children's mouths. He didn't come right out and say it, but I believe he got scammed, got suckered or made a simple paperwork mistake and ended up dying alone in this rattrap while his wife and little girls were trying to find a way in to this place the rest of us are trying to get out of.

I wouldn't have been able to handle it the way he did. When I knew it was the last day I'd be capable of doing so, I'd have taken an eye from one of those goonie fucktard guards and eaten it in front of him like a mouthful of cake. That weirdo kid Albert is the only one that ever treated Ang with any decency. He’s the one that pestered the other guards until they finally transferred Ang to the clinic so he could at least stay doped up his last few days. The rest were scared of Ang or of someone who told them to be scared of him. They treat all the ICE inmates like "terrorists." It doesn't matter where they're from. I didn't realize we were on Red Alert for Chinese terrorists. But whatever. Fuck it. Makes as much sense as anything else. You'd think Ang was a rabid tiger, all 20 withering pounds of him, the way the guards got big-eyed and anxious around him. Like he had smuggled a bomb in his ass and sat on it all this time waiting just for them. When it did sink in that he was already half-dead, they still looked as nervous as before, but you could tell it was for a different reason. They were going to have a body on their hands, and the Who, How, and Why of it would need answering. If they had just let him see a real doctor instead of calling him a liar, maybe none of this would have happened. It's bigger than them though. It's the admins, and ICE, and the whole goddamn system.

Thirty days. Ang told me that's what his lawyer said at first. Thirty days – tops. He showed up here five months ago because the ICE jails are overcrowded, and it seemed like he'd been shuffled around for months before that. Even then he was already in rough shape. I had to bite my tongue when he told me he was only 34. He looked closer to 64, but there was no way of saying that without bringing up the obvious – that he was on his way out. They kept him locked up except for meals and a half hour of rec each day, and they always watched him and steered other inmates away. That's how they treat the ICE people. Isolated in plain sight. His cell was next to mine, and I started talking to him one day when he was having a real hard time walking. He only got worse after that. The guards didn't want to deal with him, so they let me and a few other guys – Sam G and Nate mostly – help him get around when he needed it.

Ang never told me much about his case. He'd mention that it had been too long but wouldn't give dates, or he'd wonder why they relocated him so much but wouldn't name where he'd been. He was generally a pretty quiet guy. When he did talk, he preferred talking about family. His parents sent him to America when he was fifteen. He worked in a kitchen, starting out as a dishwasher and moving up to shift manager while he learned English and went to school. Then he kept working until he saved enough money to start a small restaurant of his own, a hole- in-the-wall carry-out place from what I gather. He married an American woman named Lisa. She works at a phosphate plant or distributor or something along those lines. They had two daughters, Lisa and Li-Mai, six and eight, I think. A few other bits and pieces. Ang met Lisa at a dog park. Ang didn't have a dog, but he liked to go and watch the dogs playing, and Lisa's dog Tammy Faye took to him. He started bringing treats for it. For some fuckoff reason, they could never get his citizenship pushed through, despite the marriage and the rest of it. He wouldn't go into the details. Maybe he thought it was bad luck or that he wasn't supposed to talk about it. All he'd ever say was that he was "earning" his citizenship, that he was becoming a "real" American.

They've got me doing a year and day as a repeater for finding a pinch of weed in my pocket after grabbing me on a D & D. A year and a day so they could kick me out of County and ship me to State. It's crowded everywhere though, so State said, We don't want him and got another judge to block the transfer. Here I am. Fine. I can do short time. No problem. I've done up to six months in County before, and I knew from the start that I wouldn't be in for more than six this time. I can stare at a wall from sunup to sundown without getting bored. There's no one waiting for me. And I like having my meals cooked and served. You don't have to work in here. You get healthy. Exercise. It's nothing. You lock me up and I'll daydream and jack off until you let me out.

So being in here never bothered me until Ang started talking about his thirty days. About how he got lost, not the type of lost that you always hear people talking about, but actually being lost. Moved around from place to place with no one giving a damn either way. I’d never seen it first hand, not for real, and it started bugging me, throwing me off track. When Stephen from down the way starts running his mouth the other day while I'm helping Ang clean up. He's saying, Why don't you just let him die so they can ship him back to China. Stephen is always a Grade-A jackass. Usually, I keep my head down and stay quiet and ignore the trash people talk. Most of the guys in here are all right and don't want any trouble. They mind their own business and count down the days. People just get restless and frustrated and smart off to each other because there's nothing else to do, but nobody really wants to fight, not usually. But when Stephen said that to Ang, I lost my self for a second and started yelling at him, telling him that if he said one more goddamn word I was going to rip him open and strangle him with his own guts. I can't remember exactly what I said, but it was something along those lines. There was more cussing than anything else. Either way, Stephen got the point. He stood there with that other scrawny douche bag he hangs out with and both of them turned red and glared at me like they were going to kill me with their bare hands and teeth. I just stared back at them until they walked away because staring is the only thing guys like that can do. Now Stephen and that group of dumbass kids he hangs out with are probably coming up with twenty different ways of kicking my ass. When there are fights, it's almost always the young ones like them. I'm not worried about it though. No hardcore killers in County. I've taken worse ass-kickings than they can dish out. And there's only about two months left for me in here. I can dodge and lay low for that long. There's no way they're keeping me in here the full year.

The last time I saw Ang, I had brought his lunch back to his cell and was tearing off pieces of bologna sandwich and feeding it to him, imagining that if things went on much longer I’d have to chew his food for him and put it in his mouth like he was a baby bird. That fat-fuck Mitchell came to the door with a certified letter and wouldn't give it to me, said, "I have to put it in his hand. He has to sign for it." I threw Mitchell a look that let him know exactly what I thought of him and then I lifted Ang up in my arms and carried him over to the door so he could sign for the letter. When Mitchell handed it to him, Ang said "Thank you." That sent a rage through my head that nearly made me lose control. Mitchell could tell he was struggling. He smirked at me and said "policy" and then walked away, laughing to himself, I’m sure. Mitchell was the asshole. but he took it out on Ang. As I put him back in his bed, I said, "Don't say 'thank you' to those fuckers. You hear me? Don't fucking do that shit." I snapped it at him like it was a threat. He nodded and said, "Okay." Then I gave him another piece of sandwich and he chewed at it, greasy white spit seeping from the corners of his mouth. The letter stayed tight in his hand the whole time. I asked if he wanted me to read it to him. but he said no thanks. His lawyer was the only person he let see the letters. Sure. Why not? That moron had done such a great job to begin with. Two months. Sixty days. That's what's nagging at me. Ang was always saying, "They promised me only thirty days. Thirty days and I'd be back with my family." I swear he said it in his sleep sometimes. That half sleep he would roll in and out of. Repeating the words as if he was trying to memorize them. Not like he was complaining, but like he was trying to figure it out, trying to pinpoint where he slipped up so he could go back and fix it and get out of here. That's what's fucking driving me crazy. The more I think about it, the more those words bounce around in my ears, the more I can feel it eating away at my nerves. Pushing me. Stirring in me and stirring me up and then wearing me out. But I can't stop thinking about it. I can’t stop hearing him.

By Darien Cavanaugh





What prisoners are ...

Despised. Rejected. Feared. Abhorred. Forgotten. Hated. Ridiculed. Scorned.Humiliated. Cursed. Berated. Shamed. Divided. Crushed. Shackled. Maimed.

What prisoners have ...

No sky. No grass. No trees. No travel. No children. No wife. No man's best friend. No trust. No suffrage. No income. No autonomy. No power to do good. No scent of a woman. No gurgling infant. No freedom of speech. No freedom of press. No freedom of self-expression. No dignity. No self-respect. No right to self-defense. No sympathy. No credibility. No honor. No acknowledgement of goodness. No acknowledgement of progress. No acknowledgement of remorse. No acknowledgement of existence. No image of God.

What prisoners endure ...

Malnourishment. Beatings. Murder. Medical neglect. Torture. Humiliation. Forced labor. Sexual abuse. Broken families. Parentless children. Cursing. Threats. Social stigmas. Extortion. Self-hatred. Collaboration. Violence. Betrayal. Insanity. Suicide.

What I've achieved ...

Wisdom. Sobriety. A profound respect for moral law. A deep religious faith. Self-respect. Physical discipline. A chiseled physique. Mental discipline. Intense scholarship. The writing of poetry, novels, and essays. Honesty. Empathy. Self-sacrificing love. Self-control. The ability to endure hatred without hating back. Reconciliation with family. Reconciliation with friends. An inclination toward charity. Fortitude. Joy amid despair. Peace amid violence. Stability amid madness. Hope for a future that's fifty years away. Illumination.

What I am ...

Despised. Rejected. Feared. Abhorred. Forgotten. Hated. Ridiculed. Scorned. Humiliated. Cursed. Berated. Shamed. Divided. Crushed. Shackled. Maimed.


By Christian J. Weaver




Oakland’s Finest


Them bastards wasn't hired to handcuff
under isolated overpasses Industrial District,
deep shadows of the docks &
beat the shit outta them like piñatas.
Wasn't hired to wash away sins
homeless winos late night loitered
in bus bunkers, doorways condemned buildings
with scolding urine. Blackmailing
street walkers on High Street
for blowjobs in the alleys.

Didn't swear an oath to bag D-boys,
confiscate evidence for personal use
plant dope/ dirty pistolas on folks
with a long criminal heritage,
get them violated parole/ probation while
displaying medieval-machisimo arrogance.

Like two weeks gone
they popped a black boy 5 shots
the back no reason to call. Or
a few days ago when they made
more holes than Swiss cheese in
lil' ol' Eloise Johnson. Alleged
she cracked, lost all sanity
& recklessly charged them like some
schizophrenic bull
brandishing a plastic butter knife.

Know dang well them pigs wasn't hired
to fight crimes with crime.


By Ariono'-jovan Labu'




A kid called Diamond
from the files of an Innocence Project

The story goes: a black man pulls a gun in the sub-
shop parking lot and shoots a Latino point blank.
Witness agree the shooter was wearing white sneakers
and a dark coat ending well below his knees, although
they disagree who first recognized him by his street name,
Diamond. While this is going down, Diamond’s hangin’
in Jim & Mary’s Bar, strutting his new brown leather
bomber jacket and leather boots. Cops say he did it
for drugs he wasn’t known to use, maybe a boost here
and there, no record. Besides, talk on the street makes
his cousin the shooter. No matter. The jury convicts
Diamond of first degree murder; life with no chance
of parole. For fifteen years, Diamond insists he’s innocent.
What can he do? Police reports disappeared, prosecutor’s
a judge, defense attorney lost his notes. No prints
on the gun turned in by a stranger. The cousin, inside
for another murder, won’t talk. Some say Diamond
would have killed sooner or later; people don’t end up
in prison without good reason.


By Nancy Scott



From behind brown skin


I sit on an old, creaky, wooden bench and wait,
I watch the people go by of all shapes and colors,
They talk and walk amongst one another, ignoring my presence,
I look at them from behind brown skin,

I walk down the sidewalk, but none walk who look like me,
Everyone else's clothes are nice, but not mine, I don't have money,
When I near them, they clutch their purses, or avoid my stride,
But why? What did I do? I'm just looking out from behind brown skin,
Something goes missing, they search the area,
I'm a good kid, never stealing or robbing, or anything like that,
But I'm the only blotch of black ink on a clean white piece of paper,
The men in blue uniforms question me first for I look out from behind brown skin,

I sit down to eat with a group of fair-skinned friends,
We all are hungry, searching for menus for something appetizing,
The waitress comes, rolls her eyes, and moves to another table,
She doesn't want to serve us because I look out from behind brown skin,

I miss the game winning shot, nowhere near the rim,
The crowd grows enraged, they shout and scream,
"Look at that, if anyone should have made that shot it's him,"
They say that because I look out from behind brown skin.

I walk home at night, alone and without aid,
A group of white hoods surround me and sneer at my face,
They attack: fists, feet, bats, and crowbars,
They beat me because I look out from behind brown skin,

The scars heal and the years pass, I turn into a doctor,
A patient comes in, almost dead, bleeding real bad,
I save their life, and they are blindly, but eternally grateful,
But they didn't care that I saved them from behind brown skin.

By Jeremie Guy



White wall


The white wall stands firm, unmoving and broad,
I stand before it, success and freedom lay on the other side,
I turn to go around, but the white wall is left and right, and all over,
I slouch to the floor as a mouth appears and smiles at my distress,
It taunts me with a bombardment of discouraging insults,
Saying my attempts to the other side are not blessed,
A book falls and slams into the ground,
I reach out and grab the bound paper,
I crack open the first page,
My eyes scan the language and absorb the nutritional information,
The wall frowns and tells me not to read,
A bag of cocaine falls into my lap,

I ignore it,
A naked woman falls into my lap; A I D S is written across her forehead,
I ignore her and turn the page,
I keep reading until my eyes scans across the last word,
I kick the distractions out the way and walk over to the wall,
I press the front cover of my book against the white walls frown,
A crack slithers and branches through the blockades surface,
It crumbles and crashes to my feet,
I smile and notice a sign,
"Here lies the path to freedom and the road to your dreams.”
I start walking.

By Jeremie Guy




What the hell do you think?


Let's see ...
a 19 year old white male
sniper style
(from 200 yards away –
­that's 2 football fields,
for all you sports junkies)
a young black female
sitting in her car
in the drive-thru lane
of a local fast-food joint
an amazingly accurate shot
hat kills her instantly
and the media wonders
if this was a hate crime?


By Cathy Porter




September 22, 2008


“My life is about the smell of dogs and that's
not a bad thing,” I was thinking
as I left for work,
edging past Lolly, a thick headed Staffordshire
terrier, age-glazed eyes,
mangy coat, pink globular eruptions
on her flank, topping her toes,
who was obstructing the narrow downstairs hall
knowing that the steady wag of her thick tail
would call my daughter to open the door.

But as soon as I started the car, a newscaster
began talking about ground-based interceptor
missiles hidden in grass-covered mounds
facing snow-covered mountains in Alaska.
He used words like Ronald Reagan, technical
abilities, level of sophistication
and then it's reasonable
before going on to speak of Troy Davis who is
scheduled for death by lethal injection tomorrow
for killing an off-duty policeman
in Georgia, a crime
for which there is no physical evidence,
no weapon and seven witnesses who have
recanted their accusations.


By Melissa Shook




I write

I feel the white hand shove me and grab,
Its presence is always there and sometimes it hurts,
It tries to bring about this thing called pain,
But stop, before you jump, let me explain,
It brings across pain, but not in its normal name,
Pain – Pathetic Attempts to Incapacitate the Negro,
But still I write and it’s forever my light,
This pen in my hand allows escape,
This pen ends their chess game and stops the checkmate,
They bring down the hammer of prejudice and isms,
But my pen holds a key, the paper is the lock, your mind is the treasure,
I bring my key to this lock and try to give you these pleasures,
But even you stand in my way and sentence me to failure,
But still I write and it’s forever my light,
Despite these obstructions, these blockades, this you,
Despite how you downplay, reject, and uproot,
I’m gonna keep this ink flowing until it soaks right through,
Till it invades your body, till it makes you sick like the flu,
I rise,
I write,
My light,
All night,
This pen,
My might,
These words,
Your plight,
I rise,
I write,
I write,
I write.


By Jeremie Guy




A medal for Billy

War had begun and, suddenly, it had accomplished what peace had not. There was a festive, carnival-like feeling in the air, an exuberance of enthusiasm, of camaraderie among people. They attached their nation’s flag on the antennas of their cars and smiled at each other as they drove on gray highways, under polluted skies. A bond had finally brought them together. It was a bond sprung out of destruction, terror, and death. All happening somewhere else.

They tied yellow ribbons on trees and street posts. Daffodils blooming prematurely in a winter that had camouflaged itself as spring. Oddly, the daffodils didn’t quite turn their faces to the sun. They looked down instead. In disappointment. In regret. In sorrow. Yellow: the color of hatred, cowardice and hypocrisy, passed down to the people as the color of justice and pride.

In their unquestionable faith in their country, they embraced it and called it spirit. It was a very spirited time, indeed.

The spotlights were no longer on flag-burning scenes. There was no mention of unemployment, inflation, economic crisis in the news. The drug-addicted babies were forgotten in their utmost suffering. Forgotten were the homeless in the cold of the night, the abandoned and runaway children in the bewildering streets of the big cities, the young killing each other for drugs, the elderly rotting in their urine, the AIDS victims dying a slow, painful death, the abused children whose cries are never heard. War has a talent for that.

The internal hell of the nation was obscured by a curtain of power and glory. Behind it, a drama had begun to be rehearsed. Behind it, oblivion had turned into patriotism, apathy into pride, hypocrisy into national safety.

Since it was transpiring behind stage curtains, the people didn’t see it, and neither did Billy. Swept by a sense of responsibility, he had joined many others who wanted to be part of the great mission. Thus, he had embraced a responsible journey of evil. Blindly.

He had spent his life in a small town of hard-working, law-abiding, God-fearing folks. They believed in their country. They believed in freedom. In their unquestionable acceptance that springs from strong beliefs, they had let their sons go and didn’t cry although wounds began to bleed slowly within them. Their sons were on a noble mission; the liberation of an oppressed country. Somewhere.

As a child, Billy had loved to play with guns. He had engaged himself in many war games in which he had to kill in order to bring freedom and democracy. Imaginary enemies.

Now, he would have the opportunity to bring his childhood games to reality. Real soldiers.

Real guns. Real games. Real blood. The blood of others. The enemies. He left for the far-away country proudly. With curiosity. The curiosity of a child.


As he awaits for the games to begin, in the icy night of the desert, he is overtaken by a strong longing for his mother’s chocolate chip cookies. He doesn’t exactly know where he is; he had never been good in geography. He had never felt the need to know about other places, other people. In lonesomeness, gleaming fancies of fragrant breezes of magnolia blossoms and meadows strewn with blue bells and red poppies grope in his slow tide of thoughts. Mere illusions. No breezes blow in the desert. No red poppies grow there. Only red flames of hell cross the star-lit sky and leave the desert shrouded in gloom. He feels frightened, confused, lost, so far away from home, so close to the enemy. He is comforted by the thought that the enemy is progressively destroyed and remains determined to stay and fight for what his country stands. Although he is not quite sure what it is, he has no doubt that it must be something great.

Intoxicated by its greatness, he doesn’t see the enemy as human beings. He never senses their sorrow for their war-torn land, the loss of their loved ones. He never perceives the reality of their existence, darkened by death, fear and hunger. He never notices the children who watch the incomprehensible as their world disintegrates into crumpled masses. He never questions the missiles that fall upon them. He never realizes that, in helplessness, they pray to Allah, believing that He is with them. Billy prays to another God and feels at peace.

In the meantime, countless young men die in the desert’s hot air of fire. And God watches it all and doesn’t help. After all, he had given man the capacity to create. Once again, he had chosen to destroy. So, God smiles a sad smile in mosques, churches, synagogues, temples. Sickened by the incense of the charred country, and lulled by the prayers, He closes His eyes and falls asleep. Asleep only to be awakened by a mother’s anguished cries for her dead son. Bent in prayer. Draped in black.

Death comes stealing silently in the noisy confusion of battle. Agony. Young boys fall dead on the sand. In a smoking mess. Lost. In one red wave of fire. Mouths agape in their last yearn for life. Eyes staring toward a sky of a blazing sun. The dead are the enemy. Victory.

Billy jumps up and down with a strange, inexplicable exhilaration. A child on a trampoline. Thrill of soaring. Fear of falling. He thinks of his high school football games. Aggressive. Brutal. The victors cheered; the defeated humiliated.

The prisoners begin to appear in symmetrical lines, the lines of a bizarre choreography.

With their hands up, moving slowly in resignation, they seem to be performing a macabre dance. The dance of loss. They turn themselves in. Bloodied and ragged. Billy looks at their dark faces and is overwhelmed with disgust and hatred.

“Barbarians,” he whispers. “Barbarians.” He is tempted to raise his gun and shoot them all but remembers the orders. They are to feed them and clothe them.

“We are civilized,” he reminds himself. “We are not like them.”

One of the prisoners grabs and kisses Billy’s hand in gratitude as he passes by him. Billy pulls it away violently. The prisoner’s touch stings. The pain should be on the skin, but it comes from somewhere deeper. Billy dismisses it.

After the victory, Billy’s unit marches on to the capital of the liberated country. Proud. Boisterous. They are greeted by swarms of flies that hum mournfully as they lay maggots in the streams of blood that has poured out of the bodies strewn on the ground. Swollen sides. Ash-colored skins. Stiff limbs stretched into the air in a grotesque, cynical greeting for the victors.

Homeless dogs feeding on them. Desolation. Vile smell. Blood everywhere. The scarlet poppies of Billy’s fancies immortalized between the pages of a country’s history.

Billy watches it all in horror. Suddenly, victory reaches the waters of his soul not like a reflection of a sky of justice but like a rock of injustice. Like a rock, it leaves it in wide circles; the circles of the wretchedness of war. And as they radiate farther and farther from the core of his essence, so does his youth with all its retinue of blind faith. A cold sweat runs down his spine. His body doubles to the ground, and he begins to weep. Silently at first, then with subdued moans that get louder and louder and come from deeper and deeper in his being until he screams a long scream of great pain. He feels a nothingness weighing tons of guilt. He vomits green bile next to the blackened blood of his victims. The bile of hatred. The blackness of destruction. He wants to empty himself, to free himself of it all, this horrifying realization of war. He feels its senselessness. He smells its infection that smites the air. His life flashes by like a naive dream interrupted by a violent storm. His youth, his town, his people, his country. A distant scene. The dead are near. They matter. Their death weighs heavy on his shoulders.

Intolerably heavy.

In all the chaos and ugliness, a child appears in the distance. Light. Starved, he has run to them for food, only to be caught in the needle-sharp spikes of a wire that must have been used as guard between two sides. Two amphitheaters. Two different casts. One stage master.

In pain, the child clenches on to the wire as if holding onto his mother’s skirt among a crowd of formidable strangers. False security. The target of both sides. He gives out strange sounds. They are not human sounds; they are the wails of a trapped animal.

No one dares go to his rescue, afraid that the other side will shoot. Billy can see the child quite clearly in the sharp white heat. He watches him and an unbearable despair surges in his heart. The child in him that was crippled by it all is suddenly possessed by a mad desire to intercept this from happening to this child caught in the barrier of adults. He wants to save, to prolong the remnants of sand castles of the child before they are utterly crumbled in ruins like his land. This compelling desire exceeds anything he has experienced before. As in a timeless dream, he hears the warning of a siren and, in a feeling of unreality, he dashes toward the barrier.

He hears a pandemonium of screams, of warnings, of orders. A black-clothed figure appears momentarily in the rumbled walls on the child’s side. It disappears as quickly as it appeared. It’s all up to Billy. It seems to take an age to reach the barbed-wired barrier. It’s an endless progression of heartbeats and temple throbbing in slow motion. Or, so it feels to Billy. And all the time, the beckoning of his unit to stop. There is no stopping.

In a flood of sweat, or tears, he finally reaches the outstretched hand of the child and clasps it in his. In this handclasp, he feels cleansed. He seeks a word that may console the child, reassure him. Useless. For Billy, it’s all too intense for words. He manages to smile as he lifts the child over the wire and down to safety. The child’s eyes gaze into his. A gaze of trust, of gratitude. For a second. In that second, Billy forgets the sky of fire, the scenes of killing, the destruction, the decay. His thoughts flit to white doves in flight.

There are cheers and, then, a sudden silence. The silence of an open grave. Spreading his arms up, Billy lets out a cry of victory and falls to the ground. His eyes stare at the foreign sky. A spot of red expands on his chest. A medal for Billy.


By Margarita Dimacou





The signature wound


White phosphorus burning through flesh.
National Guard too busy to go to New Orleans.
Bullets, blood falling through the smell.
Brain damage, the signature wound.

Homes torched, mosques torched, people torched.
Mercenary convoys escorted to airfields.
Humvees without armor turned over and set on fire.
Brain damage, the signature wound.

Kalashnikovs shoot the sky.
Crossfire insurgents aim again.
Roadside bombs do not aim.
Brain damage, the signature wound.

Multinational corporations aim too.
There's plenty of oil in Iraq.
We just need a bigger rig, an oil rig, an election rig.
Brain damage, the signature wound.

The present dunce does not read the papers.
Maybe he will get it right the next time -- in Iran.
He's voting for big oil again.
Brain damage, the signature wound.

Concussions don't always kill you.
Consciousness can bounce around in your brain,
Until your orientation fades away.
Brain damage, the signature wound.

The noise at the old Walter Reed hospital,
Vibrations of silverware echoing in wounded solders' minds.
The present dunce cannot hear the noise.
Brain damage, the signature wound.

One definition of insanity,
Brain damage, the signature wound.
Repeating behavior and expecting no new brain damage.
The signature wound.


By Joseph Lampert




Black hurricane


Another body for oil,
Reports the news, over and over again
War rips Hearts to shreds, demand they be Eternally Loyal
To the "Trinity" of President, Money and Death, what a sin
To preach this madness and insanity
And be proud! You murderers! Now your ear will pay:
I could use more profanity
Than the ozone molecules destroyed by your Beloved Gasoline in a day!

You Fascist Bastard:
I ought to hurt you
But I know better. My wrath is stirred,
To make me into a Radical Charbydis, but I am currently a Jew
In the Nazi Sea, so my passion will have to wait a bit.
I'll nourish into a Black Hurricane, and hellishly, yet heavenly, release it.


By John Parsons




America's face evolves, blurs, ages


Tarred corpses
Bleed through dirt roads gapping cracks.
The boy king sips another cup of coffee
With blood still on his hands.

Young ones hold their helmets high
While their nooses are signed.
Scarred by battle
They'll never come home again.

Gone so long
Only a pictures memory now.
Who were they?
Does anyone remember?

Recruit new flesh to the destruction
Forget about the ones lost.
Genocide commander and chief
Thousands by thousands we disappear.

The taste of a white manure-filled castle
Makes protesters ears bleed.
Shut up! Shut up!
Everyone can smell the decaying words
Your eyes speak so much gibberish.

Step down
No one is listening any more.


By Brittany Hayward





Captain John Lee, lead Army psychiatrist at a front-line psychiatric clinic just north of Baghdad in Iraq, had never before seen a post-traumatic stress case like that of Private Maggie Wheeler. After two months of attempted care, he continued to be at a loss for how to deal with her psychiatric condition. Other soldiers with similar personal and military backgrounds and combat exposure had not developed post-traumatic symptoms as intense or perplexing as hers. Other soldiers who arrived at the clinic at the same time as she did seemed to be responding to psychiatric treatment. So far, Wheeler was totally unresponsive. She was, for all intents and purposes, catatonic.

Wheeler had come to Lee after a horrendous firefight in a small village a few miles away from the clinic. No witnesses to the battle were left alive, but apparently insurgents had killed Wheeler's entire platoon, very bloodily, save her, many of the insurgents also dead. All of the bystander Iraqi men, women and children of the village appeared also to have been killed in the battle.

When reinforcements found Wheeler, she was standing naked and completely still in the middle of the main street of the village, having stripped off all of her gear and her uniform and undergarments. When they tried to talk to her and to debrief her, she only stared into space and muttered repeatedly, "It's all got to end ... it's all got to end." She was unwilling or unable to move, and the soldiers had to wrap her in a poncho and place her in the back of a Humvee to bring her back to the base and to the clinic.

She continued muttering to herself for the first twenty-four hours in the clinic, and then fell silent, not uttering another word. The nurses and doctors were unable to get her to eat, drink or sleep on her own, and they were forced to sedate her and feed her IV nutrients and liquids to give her recuperative rest and to keep her from dying from malnutrition and dehydration. Although Wheeler did not speak and barely moved, Lee could tell that her traumatic experience endlessly played in her head.

Lee scoured every scrap of information about Wheeler's background that he could get hold of. He started with her Army service record and her medical and psychological fitness evaluations. Nothing. He got hold of her personal medical records from before she enlisted in the army. Nothing. He got hold of her school records from kindergarten up through junior college. Nothing. Her looked for any small sign of a psychological precursor or tendency that others had noted and commented on in the past to account for the extreme level of her post-traumatic reaction. He could find nothing.

Toward the end of the week, as Lee toiled on his paperwork and puzzled in his head obsessively about Wheeler, a strange and unexpected visitor arrived in his office. Early in the afternoon, two-star General Michael Bradford, a chief doctor at the Walter Reed Army Hospital Psychiatric Wing, walked in unannounced and sat down in a chair in front of Lee's desk silently and unceremoniously.

"Who the hell are you?" reacted Lee with irritation, pulled from his paperwork and his thoughts, not inclined to respect the rank of the stranger suddenly appearing before him.

"My name is General Michael Bradford, Captain Lee," responded Bradford, unfazed by Lee's unfriendliness and disrespect. ''I'm here from Walter Reed Army Hospital ... the Psychiatric Wing."

Lee took in the information for an instant. "What do you want here, General Bradford?" Lee probed, trying to squelch his ire. "As you can see, I'm up to my neck in paperwork ... the life-blood of the war."

Bradford did not change his impassive expression in response to Lee's attempt at ice-breaking humor. This put off Lee even more.

"Yes ... I can see that you're very busy, Captain Lee," Bradford said flatly. "I won't take up a great deal of your time." Bradford's matter-of-fact tone continued to unnerve Lee, but also piqued his curiosity about why this high ranking medical general sat before him.

"Yes, sir," Lee assented, trying to compose himself.

"Before I say anything more about why I am here, Captain Lee, I must inform you that my business here today is classified top secret at the highest level of authority in the Army," Bradford emphasized.

"I see ... yes ... I understand, General," Lee almost stuttered in agreement, unsettled by the statement, but even more fired by curiosity now. "Go on, please, General Bradford," Lee asked.

"I'm here about Private Maggie Wheeler," revealed Bradford.

Lee started at the mention of Wheeler's name. His most mysterious patient had now, in a surprising instant, become even more mysterious. "Private Wheeler? Why Private Wheeler?" questioned Lee, suddenly worried for and protective of her, and yet, intensely interested in Bradford's agenda regarding her.

"I can't tell you a lot of details, but ... she was a part of program ... and experiment that we were conducting with a group of soldiers randomly selected from her home base near Washington, D.C.," Bradford explained.

"An experiment?" probed Lee. "I didn't see anything in her records about participation in an experiment."

"As I alluded, the program was top secret," Bradford went on, his tone as flat as a tabletop. "So, there was no record of it made in her service file."

"What was involved in the experiment. .. what was done with ... to the soldiers ... Maggie?" Lee had to know.

"I shouldn't be telling you," Bradford hesitated, considering. "But I need to be honest with you, so that you can be completely honest with me about her current psychiatric condition ... her reaction." Lee said nothing, simply glaring at Bradford with a mixture of condemnation and a plea for the end of the mystery. "The experiment had to do with a potential serum ... a kind of psychiatric inoculation ... to shield soldiers from battlefield trauma ... turning off. .. or, possibly on ... certain areas of the brain dealing with response to stress. It was meant to be a sort of mental 'armor' against traumatic effect on the brain and body."

Lee was dumbfounded, angry and incredulous. "If you were trying to shield Maggie Wheeler's brain and body with this 'inoculation' from battlefield trauma ... it didn't work. It was a complete failure. Hers is the worst case of post-traumatic stress and resulting physical and physiological debilitation that I've seen in my experience. She's practically catatonic. Excuse my language, but, you're serum didn't 'shield' shit!" Lee put forward sharply.

Bradford's demeanor and expression were stony and unmoved. "I thank you for your frankness, Captain," said Bradford. "I appreciate ... I need such feedback to inform me about Wheeler's condition. That's why I'm here."

"Feedback!" Lee burned.

"It may seem to you that Wheeler had a reverse reaction with the serum," Bradford almost droned, robotically. "And that may be the case. It may actually have made her more vulnerable to trauma ... "

"You're damn right!" Lee nearly shouted, interrupting Bradford indignantly. "We need to know these results, though, Captain ... whatever they are," Bradford continued to press his point, with disturbingly detached objectivity. "We were trying to help our servicemen, not hurt them, Captain. But, there are always setbacks with these things."

"Setbacks!" Lee strained to say, through tightening lips, feeling his body tense with rage.

"Yes, setbacks, Captain," insisted Bradford. It was clear to Lee that Bradford had a long history with these types of experiments. It showed in his every word and mannerism. One of those career researchers, scientific automatons, only interested in the outcome of their experimentations. Lee had a vague sense of monstrosity, an unsavory quality in regard to Bradford's character. Bradford was someone to be careful of, thought Lee.

"I want to see Private Wheeler. .. right now," Bradford ordered. It was obvious that courtesy was at an end.

"I don't know if I can do that, General... just on your say-so," countered Lee, bucking up his courage. "She's my patient. Even though you out-rank me, General ... I have a responsibility for her as my patient."

Lee was alarmed as Bradford's face reddened, becoming a kind of scary mask of disapproval and unexpected displeasure. "I am not one to be questioned, Captain ... under any circumstances," Bradford threatened. His voice had gone from flat to menacing. "I assure you that I have full authority to make this request."

Lee tried to remain firm, assertive, but was taken aback by Bradford's sudden tone. A twinge of real fear arose in his stomach, a sickening feeling. A voice in his head said, "Think twice before crossing swords with this man." His bravery and resolve crumbled under Bradford's practiced, self-assured stare. Apart from anxiety, curiosity also still burned in him. He wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery of Maggie Wheeler, he rationalized to himself.

"All right, General Bradford," Lee gave in, reluctantly, but still with relief. "I'll take you to Private Wheeler. She's in the ward next door to my office." He hated himself, in part, but got up and led the way for the again-approving and poker-faced Bradford.

Bradford's eyes, Lee could see, were glued to Wheeler the minute he saw her sitting up, mute and frozen like a statue, on her bed. His manner betrayed his acute interest in her eerie state. "I want to see her chart," demanded Bradford. "I want a record of all her vital responses since she got here." He took her pulse from her unmoving wrist. He tapped on her knee to check her reflexes, which were non-existent. Finally, he took a light and flashed it into her eyes, which still stared straight ahead and were unresponsive. Bradford was looking for some kind of physiological or neurological response that Lee could not fathom and that he had not up this time gotten from Wheeler either. Lee and others in the ward looked on with bewilderment and then, after several moments, with bemusement, Lee beginning to think that Bradford was more crazy than scary.

As Bradford persisted in examining her, staring intently into her face, Wheeler abruptly, unmistakably came awake and alive, her eyes looking intensely and accusingly into his startled eyes. "It's you, it's you," she said clearly, with frightening surprise. "It's you, it's you."

Bradford stumbled back, as if punched, taken completely off guard. "What the hell," he sputtered.

"What the hell," Lee and others also reacted.

Private Maggie Wheeler, in her hospital gown, rose from the bed in strange slow motion, her increasingly fiery eyes still fixed on Bradford. "It's you. The one with the drug," she said fiercely. "That drug did bad. That drug did bad to me ... to my platoon." It was like a devil speaking through a child's words.

Bradford seemed to want to say something back to her, but he was physically speechless, struck dumb with awe. Lee was petrified and, yet, still fascinated. His odd, zombie patient had miraculously come back to life, but was now acting and speaking like she was possessed.

"That drug did bad," Wheeler kept repeating, her voice a disembodied monotone.

At that moment also, to everyone's alarm, she no longer stood on the floor, but now hovered above it. The ward took on a glowing, static energy, appearing to flow from Wheeler. "That drug did bad in my head ... and my body. It made the bullets bounce off me. It made them hit my friends ... my platoon ... the enemy ... the innocent people."

Everyone's jaws dropped at the sight of Wheeler's levitation and at her revelation. Bradford backed away from Wheeler, as scared as everyone else and no longer imposing. His trembling lips seemed to want to say, "I've created a monster."

Wheeler now rose a foot off of the floor and her body began to spin in the air, her arms outstretched almost like propellers. The aura of energy around her body expanded to fill the ward. Her words became a ringing chant: "That drug did bad. It's all got to end." Things and people in the room began to shake and then to move as if in a vortex. Bradford tried to escape from the room and from his creation, but in an instant the edge of the vortex energy caught hold of him, lifting him, and then he disappeared into nothingness.

Shocked and terrified at the sight, Lee leapt into action, and helped other doctors and nurses desperately and hurriedly move patients from the ward and building and out of reach of the vortex. The vortex grew and engulfed the building and the other buildings around it, the structures disintegrating and disappearing into the energy aura and the maelstrom surrounding Wheeler's spinning body.

Lee and the surviving patients and personnel of the base retreated to ground outside of the base and watched as Wheeler transformed into the eye of a storm of sorts, a hurricane-like whirlwind of force and glowing light and energy. In addition to the buildings, tanks, Humvees, helicopters, planes, ammo, and all other types of military items and war-related materials disappeared into nothingness in the vortex. When only the raw earth was left in the spot once occupied by the base, the storm around Wheeler began to die down and Wheeler to stop spinning, her body slowly descending and returning to earth. After close to a half hour, just as suddenly as it began, the phenomenon ended and Wheeler lay unconscious on the ground.

Lee couldn't stop himself, and slowly crept toward Wheeler, kneeling down next to her as he reached her quiet and still body. As he leaned over her, she opened her eyes and looked up directly at him, saying, "It had to end." Then, she let out a long breath and was dead. Later in the day, Lee heard that the same phenomenon had happened with fifteen other soldiers at bases scattered around Iraq and Afghanistan.


By Gregory Liffick





Philosophizing – Wars


The bullet
Doesn’t kill

The profit
That the sale
Of the bullets and the guns
The producers
Of bullets and the guns
For if it wasn’t
For the profits
There would be
No bullets or guns
No wars
Or deaths

By bullets
And the guns


By Arif Viqar




patriots, all


lightly banter nine eleven around --­
this version is two oh oh eight, and
this time. it's Serious --

rich guys are losing their money --

(oh no
now so are we)

bring on the big guns
so our soldiers can still die­ --
so we can gag
on all this freedom.

the politicians scramble around
admiring shades of lipstick --
and in their funny farm the pigs
still laugh, and dance --

(while our fists hit the wall
your blood soaks the sand)

come home --
we'll defend each other!

honorable captains,
the muck
has run


By Angie Cross




Some wildflowers for Rachel Corrie


Hard to get them all
into the small white vase – some
couldn't be bulldozed.


By Wm. Meyer




Cluster Bomb


"A Five-Year-Old Iraqi Girl Was Killed!" he screamed, delirious with grief.

The girl found it resting in the bush like an egg in a nest. It was not particularly colorful, or shiny, but it was still interesting.

Everyone was quiet. He shuffled back and forth, pacing around on the pavement like a lion in a cage – always facing the crowd. They had dropped the bomb. That was how he saw it. They had dropped the bomb through their complacency – through their willingness to stand idle while the instruments of war were being manufactured – while the bombs were loaded onto the planes that flew over Iraq. He had tried to be civil, but they had refused to empathize. They had refused to feel. They spoke as though they were discussing an abstract issue – an economic model, or a scientific theory. None of them were willing to face reality.

He had traveled to Ft. Bragg with a group of activists from Columbia, South Carolina. A whole busload of them had shown up.

It appeared to be some sort of machine. What does it do? she wondered. Her imagination was a lit match.

Halfway to the park they had been greeted by counter-protesters. A young Republican girl held up a sign with a picture of Ronald Reagan dressed up like Che Guevera. It said, "Viva La Reagan Revolución!" in black letters against a red background.

At first, he had expected the counter-protesters to be angry. Instead, most of them were delighted. On their side of the park, there were trucks with their tailgates down, and men grilling hot dogs and burgers. Children were playing with hula hoops, and large colorful plastic balls.

"Shut-Up-Shut-Up," an old man began saying, robotically, "Shut-Up-Shut-Up."

"You Shut-Up!" the terrorist shouted angrily.

A brown patrol car pulled up. It was a deputy sheriff.

To her it was a treasure. I want to keep it, she thought. With the naive optimism that only children can possess, she picked it up. It was heavier than it looked.

A very slight breeze stirred the banners. They were hanging in a secluded area of the park. Most of them had the soldier's rank, and the date that they had died, and a line or two about how they had died. Some of them had pictures on them.

The warm tears were rolling steadily down his cold cheeks. There was snot coming out of his nose.

"She thought it was a TOY!" he screamed, blubbering.

The deputy got out of his car, and approached him calmly.

The terrorist looked at the pictures of those who had fallen, and read about who they were and how they had died. He felt obligated to read each and every banner – to pray for each person who had died in Iraq. It was very difficult. There were hundreds of banners. Still he kept pushing himself – pushing himself to feel the full reality – pushing himself to comprehend the true cost of the war.

She held the prize to her chest, and went back inside the house. She wasn't supposed to have been outside. She had disobeyed her mother. I have to hide it, she was thinking.

After the soldiers' banners, there were plain white banners with the names of civilians. Each one had a dozen or so names, representing a dozen or so doctors, teachers, businesspeople, men, women, and children. There were too many to count. There were thousands.

"Why is it the louder I speak, the more you tighten the handcuffs!" the terrorist shouted.

"Shut Up" the old man kept saying "Shut Up."

The deputy tightened the handcuffs.

"Fucking Pig!"

For some reason, he had never thought about the civilians very much. He had not put himself in their shoes. He had not loved them as equals in the eyes of God.

The banners bore no pictures, but he knew that they were brown people, like he was, with dark hair, and dark eyes. He knew that they were struggling to eke out a living the way his family was struggling in the Philippines. He knew that they were just as strong, just as beautiful, just as intelligent, just as capable, as any civilized people anywhere else in the world.

Where did this myth that they could not govern themselves come from? he wondered.

Why are we treating them as though we are the wise parents and they are the naive children? Then he saw her banner.

She brought it into her room and was looking for a place to hide it. She held it awkwardly in her arms. She was getting tired of carrying it.

. ..she picked up the cluster bomb, thinking it was a toy, and brought it into her home....

That was all the banner had said. He did not even know the kid's name....

The deputy brought him to the car, and told him to get inside. He obeyed. As he sat in the back of the car, he wondered if he would go to prison, and for how long. He was afraid to face the consequences of his actions.

He had seen it all, in his mind's eye, in the place where stories came from. He had seen what only God had seen, and it horrified him. It haunted him from the moment he had read her story on the banner – the moment he had read between the lines. He saw, and then he felt everything that had happened. He felt the hot shards of metal ripping into his chest. He saw the light, and then he saw the abysmal darkness of space. He felt his life pass from his body, yet he was still here, waking at night, feeling the pieces of the cluster bomb obstructing his breathing.

As the car pulled away from the scene, the terrorist remembered a passage of scripture his father had shown him:

Obey the Law and you will be happy.

He had tried to do things the right way. He had tried to reach people. But what happiness had he known since he had received this terrible knowledge...this knowledge of evil? Which law had he broken, and what punishment could be worse than the grief he had known? He remembered the rest of the Proverb:

Without a Vision the People cannot be Saved.

He knew that Shock and Awe had left people moving from burned-out building to burned-out building. They were trying to stay away from the fires. He could see them in his mind's eye with soot covering their faces, but he never saw it on the news. By the time he broke the TV he had become a loner. Nobody liked him. He didn't care if they did. He was a terrorist. He was an American.

She wanted someone to promise her it would never happen again. She wanted someone to promise that they would get rid of all the cluster bombs.

He had made the promise, though he had no idea how he would keep it. He hoped that the scene he had created would somehow wake people up. He hoped that the light would shine through, and dispel all the shadows. He knew that what he had done was wrong, but somehow he felt he was innocent.

People will be angry, but then they will think. They will lock me up, but the kid will finally be free.

A few days passed before an article appeared. It was in the Police and Courts section. It was short. The article said he had entered the bar, and was talking to himself. It said that he had thrown three pool balls into a 42" plasma television, and shouted, "There is no news," and "This is my exit strategy." The last line stated that the authorities had arrived and apprehended him "...before he could exit as planned." There was no mention of what he had said out on the street. There was no mention of the Iraqi girl.

He set the paper down, on the chipped surface of the old wooden coffee table, and walked outside. He could not see the beautiful, bright sun in the clear winter sky. He could not hear the birds chirping merrily. He could not feel the cool wind kiss
his cheek


By James Brubaker





When is it over


Oh that the blood would cease to flow
that kings would borders open
that wealth of few to many would spread
that laughter would be limited not to the poor
fly away war never to be remembered
power hungry sated and at rest, resting
the young on loan to die ends differently
media puppeteers tangled now dangling
never trust a General, history is deceit
when suits understand, it's too late for good
Over. over it says, it sees. It’s over.
no not yet not ever oil be damned
burn without smoke to do true good
Cash in on Canola!
beware of tree-hugging CEO’s
serfs and peasants rise toward tyranny
it’s been done, Do new under the sun.
absolutes never thrilled the night owl
pity the lark who fell for that shit
here’s your Rifle, fly Fly away
up in the morning, crack of dawn
fight till evening when you're dead and gone
hup two Hup Two the banker's car needs gas
oil fuels the plane that flies your body Home.


By Richard A. Hibbard






The morgue at Quang-tri


The day
Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon
the Morgue at Quang-tri was full
too full, they had to place the bodies
out in the halls of the hospital
a day enshrined forever in the annals of man
yet the face of the Great Nation was turned away
they saw the bright face of the moon, not the filth
nor the blood, and the day
Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon
the Morgue at Quang-tri was too full

By Wm. R. Ford Jr.






A Waltonian dream


I have this recurring dream where the ghost of Sam Walton is dive-bombing towards me in his small, twin-engine Tri-Pacer airplane. It is high noon and I am all alone in a field of black macadam and empty parking spots. In the distance, a cement mixer churns. Sam is coming in fast; I turn to run and hit a cinderblock wall. He pulls up and veers off to the right, narrowly missing the newly built wall. There is a banner behind the plane: Now Hiring. "Go back to Bentonville," I yell to him. "You can't build here between a beaver pond and an ancient Indian burial ground!" But Sam is unrelenting. He sweeps low and dusts the land with circulars that announce a grand opening celebration. Great today-only sales and everyday savings! Free face painting and donkey rides! An all-you-can-eat Arkansas-style barbeque! A video game console giveaway! A record breaking pyramid of ultra-whitening toothpaste! Free oil changes! Half-off ladies' undergarments!

I gather as many flyers as I can and burn them, sending a plume of smoke high into the sky. Sam buzzes by again, this time blasting me with cheap bleach and dowsing the fire. A gust of wind picks up and the remaining flyers are whisked away. I hear the thunder of footsteps. Sam cackles as he performs a loop-de-loop into the black cloud that hangs over me.

The plane touches down, skips twice and screeches to a halt. The door opens and Old Roy barrels towards me. He sniffs my crotch, shakes my hand and walks away on his hind legs. Sam approaches with a swagger. He is wearing his blue ball cap and an orange hunting vest; a double-barrel shotgun is slung over his shoulder, a bandolier of buckshot shells is around his neck. "Look here, you hardscrabble son of a gun," Sam hollers. "Just sell. It is inevitable. You hear that? They clamor for value. Quick, put this on. We don't have much time. You're family now, son!" He tosses me a blue apron with a yellow happy face printed on the back. I stand next to a conveyor belt as a decadent stream of consumer goods pass by – fifty-inch high-definition televisions, portable DVD players, ceiling fans, entertainment centers, five-gallon pails of laundry detergent, eighteen-speed mountain bikes, car batteries, stacks of sexless harlequin novels, wicker furniture, cases of concentrated orange juice, frozen tubes of ground beef, fifty -pound bags of dog food, twenty-one-piece cookware sets. A mob is gathering outside. I begin to stack and sort, but I can't keep up. The doors open and a throng of angry customers shove in and clear the shelves. I sit down. My sobs echo against the bare walls. Break time is over. Back to work. I find myself performing a series of complicated calisthenics with a regiment of fellow associates. We somersault forward then back flip, do five jumping jacks, hit the floor for five push ups, roll over for a set of sit-ups and then start again. Sam blasts pigeons from the rafters, a shower of feathers spiral downward. "How do you prevent shrinkage?" Sam shouts. "Shoot the culprit," we chant in unison.

There are no doors; we're trapped. Loose change is falling from the holes in the pockets of my Bangladeshi button-fly jeans. I go to pick it up and a team of lawyers wrestle me to the ground, then they direct me into a cage with a wild bear. Mortal combat. Sam cheers. Either I die, or the bear does the hula in a grass skirt as the bell rings on Wall Street to close the day.

The bear is dancing. I am anointed upon a donkey and given two dollars for my time, plus a bag of Halloween candy, a fire-retardant Christmas tree, and a new pair of sneakers. There is a moon-pie contest and a watermelon toss going on; and a dunking booth with a man holding a toaster; and a ceremony where everyone lines up to kiss the pig before the roast.

With a pat on the back and a slap on the ass, I'm off into the sunset as everyone performs the company cheer. But the donkey is tethered to a steel pole and walks around in circles while the bear swishes his hips and people jump up and down as ticker-tape rains from the sky. My face is covered in chocolate, the tree is lit, and my sneakers are falling apart. Sam is atop the toothpaste pyramid; he winks to me.

I never wake up.


By Jon Tait





Gentrification Gap


I got the job. They told me that failure wasn't allowed there, but I wasn't there because I was a success. I worked on the receiving dock at a department store in the mall. I made eight dollars an hour, which wasn't much, but it was good enough to get by, and getting by was good enough for me. Then the holiday season kicked in and the dock crew was given more hours to handle the increase in trucks that were arriving. More hours meant more back-breaking work. More hours also meant more pay and for the first time in a while I had some financial cushion. A common myth is that you need a job to teach you the value of a dollar. One thing I've learned from years of working in retail is that a job doesn't teach you the value of a dollar – debt teaches you the value of a dollar.

I've always thought that if you have student loans and you don't graduate from college you shouldn't have to pay them back. They bet on the wrong horse as far as I was concerned. But I was tired of ducking creditors so I made arrangements to make payments on my loan for the next year at two-hundred dollars a month; if I made regular payments for the year they'd defer my payments for up to three years and remove the bad standing on my credit. Credit is one of those things I've never had but somehow I ruined it. You could say the same about my future, ah-hem. Turns out, I couldn't have picked a worse time to start paying back my debt. The bad economy crippled the dollar and no one bought anything. Because no one was buying anything, corporate had to reduce the number of trucks we received each week. Everyone on the dock had their hours cut; everyone except for Brent, the dock manager, who had a guaranteed 40-plus hours a week.

Aside from Brent and I, the dock crew consisted of four others: Calvin, who tried to sell me a 6-inch knife with a laser-sight on it; Wayne, he got the thousand-yard stare if someone undressed a mannequin in front of him; Danny, who told me that if I ever needed a woman beat up I should come to him; and Bart, a twenty-four-year-old father of four whose motto was, "it's cheaper to keep her."

None of us cared much for Brent seeing as how the only two things he seemed good for were complaining about being overworked and punching boxes in a fit of rage. The only time I remember seeing Brent happy was when his grandmother died and he got a two-hundred dollar inheritance; that day, he was as happy as Charlie running home with the golden ticket. Brent's anger stemmed from a simple fact: dock manager is just another prize you win in a lifelong competitive shit-eating contest.

Brent didn't last for very long.

We got word that Brent was about to be fired from his position. Apparently, some girls in the cosmetics department had filed complaints that he'd made some unwelcome advances. None of the guys who worked with him were surprised by the news. Brent's opinion of on-line dating summed him up well: “don't trust the internet man, seems like every girl I chat with on-line has got to be an undercover cop." That would have been funny if it was a joke.

Like everyone who worked on the dock, I was on the list to take over Brent's position. That promotion would have meant a raise in pay and hours, two things I needed. At that point I had been paying on my student loan for about six months and was hurting pretty bad financially; however, I couldn't stop making payments because the money I'd already paid back would have gone to waste. Living paycheck to paycheck is like swinging from vine to vine over a lake of hungry crocodiles.

I didn't get the promotion.

The company brought in a fella named Lou. Lou was bald man in his early fifties who had never worked in retail. The reasons he'd never worked in retail: he had worked for Washington Mutual his entire professional life and was massively over-qualified. I think we know what happened there.

Over-qualified individuals are generally not hired for low-paying jobs. The problem is that it's near impossible to convince them that it's ok to work their balls off just to break even each week; and they're more likely to quit than, say, the adequately qualified person who has spent years working their way up to a job like customer service. But Lou was desperate, a great quality to have when you work in retail. And who could blame human resources for wanting to hire someone with a clean background for once?

Aside from Lou, I'd noticed a few other over-qualified employees popping up in various departments around the store. His employment was just the start of a burgeoning trend, and what was happening was something like if hurricane Katrina had hit Beverly Hills instead of New Orleans. The weakened economy was causing recently laid off over-qualified people to seek refuge in the world of retail because they were willing to settle for less – rather than nothing – until the economy could mend its many wounds.

And there went the neighborhood.

The by-product of the financial-refugee influx was a retail gentrification of sorts where the over-qualified were easily able to take positions and promotions from the runts who, regardless of the financial climate, suckled at the fruitless tit of retail. Competing against a pervert with anger management issues for a job is hard enough, how could someone compete with a former WAMU bank manager for the dock supervisor position? And I use to think I was over-qualified because I had a 3.8 grade point average when I dropped out of college.

It took the dock crew a while to warm up to Lou.

His first official Monday as boss Lou brought in glazed donuts for everyone. However, the crew saw this offering as nothing more than a cheap attempt by the Jane Goodall wannabe to ingratiate his way into our society. When he let everyone off for lunch that day, we Just strolled right past the buffet he had set up and went to the food court to eat.

The following week Lou brought in more treats. This time the donuts were covered in festive-colored sprinkles, and he had also brought in a carton of orange juice. The crew regarded this pitiful upgrade as an insult, not the luxury Lou had intended it be. When lunchtime came, we just did what we had done the previous Monday

To his credit, Lou didn't let our indifferent receptions to his olive-branches get him down. Part of the charm of the new batch of retail virgins was their blissful exuberance. I attributed their positive attitude to the fact that they had something that we lifers didn't: hope that they would be out of retail one day. So Lou kept his chin up and used his over-qualified brain to figure out what he had to do.

The entire bleary-eyed crew wandered in to the receiving area the next Monday morning and found Lou laying out an array of foods breakfast tacos, pigs in blankets, bear claws. lady fingers, and chocolate-covered chocolate-filled donuts. I hadn't eaten that morning but felt that I could resist. Then Lou pulled out his ace in the hole: a cooler filled with ice and a gallon of chilled whole milk. He pulled the milk container out of the chest and placed it on the table; clumps of icy-sweat slid down the sides of the plastic carton. I knew the son of a bitch had done it. No man in his right mind has ever been able to resist milk with the frozen flakes in it

The next thing I remember I'm alone by the box crusher with a lady finger in one hand and a cup of ice cold milk in the other. I ate the lady- finger and chased it with that frosty milk until my mouth over-filled. I wiped my mouth on the sleeve of my shirt and went back for seconds. Lou stood by what was left of the food his mouth full of bear claw. I grabbed a pig in a blanket, filled my cup with the ice milk, and, like everyone who came back for seconds, gave him an approving nod. From then on Lou was the boss.

Every dog has his day, huh?

We knew all along that Lou wasn't a bad guy, he was just some outsider who had taken a job that should have gone to one of us. But really none of us who worked on the dock should have been the boss. The promotion of one of us would have caused rift in the camaraderie we had developed. It was us against them, and Lou's presence only made us a stronger unit. And no offense. but I would rather take orders from someone like Lou than say someone like Danny.

Lou had a good mind for the job, he brought in the food every Monday, he implemented mandatory smoke breaks every two hours, and he'd even managed to find extra hours for everyone. Typically, the extra work was just changing light bulbs around the store, or moving fixtures, but extra hours were extra hours. And for the next few months the dock flourished.

Funny thing is that when people tell me that every dog has its day I'm just reminded of the day we took my dog to the vet to have her put down. Over the years I'd seen retail crush the hearts, minds, and spirits of many people – that's what retail does best – but I'd never seen it physically crush a person before. It happened Friday during a mandatory safety meeting. Lou was setting up a display to show us how to properly stack the new luggage boxes when the entire skid became unbalanced and fell on him. Calvin and Bart, the two strongest dock workers, immediately began pulling the heavy boxes off of him, all the while Lou lay under the pile moaning. They got him free, but when he tried to stand on his own his efforts were about as sure-footed as a new-born calf. Lou ended up going to the hospital and the dock crew went home.

The next week we learned that Lou wouldn't be coming back to work ever again. The lucky bastard had injured his back pretty good. A couple of things I learned in orientation if you are on the job and injured to the point where you are unable to work you receive a cash settlement based on the type of injury, and you continue to receive paychecks equal to 80% of your weekly pay for as long as you are infirm. So as long as medical science didn't come up with any breakthroughs in spinal injuries, Lou would be sitting – not standing – pretty for the foreseeable future. On-the-job injury is the poor man's version of winning the lottery. Oddly enough, winning the lottery IS the poor man's version of workers comp.

Lou's position became available, but I didn't get my hopes up. I didn't really need the job anyway because a couple of weeks later I made the last payment on my year-obligation. I had good credit again, but I didn't see the point – I didn't have much money to buy anything anyway. It seemed to me that good credit is for people who can't all at once afford their desires. I didn't even know what I wanted. I could have tried for a new job altogether, but the problem there was that I didn't have a resumé, a solid work history, or any qualifications that stood out.

And what difference would a new job have made?

Living paycheck to pay check is like running a relay race that has no end; you run until you break a leg or die and if you're lucky you do it on the clock. Without insurance it is cheaper to buy a casket than it is to fix a broken leg. Horses know it, I know it – what does that make me? If I am a horse, I feel like a race horse that has middle-ranged odds and there's never any money there. If you're at the end of your financial rope you bet on a long shot, there's money in that if it wins. If you're just trying to make a few extra dollars, you pick a sure thing – someone like Lou. I think rarely anyone picks the middling horse for any other reason than pity. For now I'm at the mercy of other people's pity, including mine.

Speaking of pity, Bart landed the job. Apparently management felt sorry for him because he had four kids to feed. On his first official day as dock manager, Bart brought in several packs of those white powdered donuts for everyone. He'd bought them at the gas station. They weren't bad.


By Lucas Molandes






The coal miner


Heavy motes of black dust
Engulf the coal miner’s lungs –
Even with a sturdy white mask
To keep out
The locust dark coal specks.

Arms heavy as a bronze statue,
Legs aching like a broken lover’s heart
Piercing straight to his soul.
It is in his ruby-red blood –
His Father was a
Headstrong coal miner too.

A prince of the underground
And hands as black
As bats, he rises above
And lays down another stroke
Of his weighty coal pick


By Dawnell Harrison






Sweat jobs


Muscle work, walk and lift
Labor at reach and pull
Push and carry in heat
Humid with high hot sun

Pickle-smelling hatband
Face lined by dust deltas
Legs held in shrinkwrap pants
Nose is a sweat faucet

Wheelbarrow of concrete
Sheetrock up a ladder
Pulling off the green chain
Fir trees planted up hill

Not enough water breaks
Thirty minutes for lunch
Sandwiches taste funny
In a honey bucket

Not lulled to siesta
Machines that whirl and grab
Are sharp and threatening
Strong deodorant fails

Six-pack on the way home
Clothes shed inside the door
Hot bath cleanses the ache
Recliner and remote


By Joe LaBreck






Assholes & elbows

"I wanna see assholes & elbows &
That's all I wanna see,"
Says the little boss-man efficiently

"Work needs working, everybody knows, &
That's all I'm gonna see,"
Says the frumpy boss-man angrily

See the workmen, sweaty workmen,
Exhausted, delirious, grinding away &
There's the dopey boss-man, gathering his pay

In the dingy factory, will it ever end?
Lines of assholes & elbows toiling away
Except the fat-cat boss-man, laughing up the day

By Charles B. Snoad




(Story not published in company's quarterly newsletter)


Faithful employees
chewed up and spit out
without reason or warning.


By Judith L. Lundin





Is there anything you want us to know when we consider your employment application at county hospital, Byrden, WV?



I need a job. I work hard. For 33 years
I made caskets. The company moved
to South Carolina, said I could move
too. By God, me and my family
is from Spelter, West Virginia.

I am 56 years old.
I do quality work, but by now,
my best work is wormwood.
I been retrained. Got a certificate
and a B minus in carpentry.
I had calluses on my hands.
I watched them disappear.
The casket company employed one-
­hundred and seven people.
Near the end, I watched them disappear.
I have worked with wood since I was 15.
My first job toting cut lumber at a mill,
I seen a man lose an arm to the saw.
Jesus worked with wood. By God,
where did it get him?

My references? Unemployed or dead.
What do you expect them to say?
He needs a job. He works hard.
Hey, do you have a job for me, too?

My unemployment benefits have run out.
I have no insurance. I applied for other work,
but no one is hiring except McDonald's.
For Chrissake, I'm 56 years old!

I need a job. I work hard.


By donnarkevic





The homeless below the bridge


They cry out in their longing
it was age in its pain, it was youth and tears
it was an innocent face,
and the cold winds of the world.

It was the blue flannel coat, ragged
on the man passing you on the street
from nowhere to nowhere he goes
and comes near you with stale breath
and a muttered excuse me

Days and nights and nothing but
the bitter biting wind beneath the bridge
it is fitting
that they hide from the world that rumbles above them
life swirls about them, and yet,
it is their faces that slide into unrecognizable form
lost in the mist, they join the homeless below the bridge
they join the ever-growing army
I've seen them, below the bridge


By Wm. R. Ford






Psalm #1


Starving kids
Big fat cats
Please tell me sir
What's up with that


By Justin Rogers





Inner City


Waking up frozen,
outside the American dream.
Abandon house eyes open,
as old cracked leather hands
fall into pockets full of nothing,
searching for
that penny of hope.
Working full time --
to stay just below
the poverty line.
Across the horizon,
sneaker sagging wires,
border warnings --
no dreams beyond.
Painted faces on walls
speak of happiness
in a cigarette
and a forty
of malt liquor.
These painted eyes
look past and above
existing below.
Behind those eyes --
a million miles away –
­the sellers
in the temple count
the poor people's gold.


By T. M. McCann







Camilla and the troll


The metaphor was not lost on Camilla as she steered her janitor's cart, laden with fumigation equipment, into the lower depths of Jefferson High School. It was tempting but inaccurate to equate the dark and verminous steam tunnels with the nadir of her fall from grace. The grace was her status, four years ago, as a twenty-six year old Comparative Literature PhD and Associate Professor at the University of Michigan..

Nor was the low point three years ago when her faculty mentor and lover Luke Foster left her pregnant and went on sabbatical to Australia. It was not when she was asked to leave the University after being found on the floor of the faculty restroom in a pill- and alcohol-induced coma. It came later, during her slow, uneven rehabilitation at home in Southfield, Michigan, when she lost custody of her daughter, Bridget, to her mother, Ruth. That was the crystal bullet between the eyes that blew away her life of the mind and left her hard and hungry. Her descent into these grim portals symbolized not degradation but progress. Camilla had gotten her arms around reality and was pushing back.

Her mother, Ruth, had said it. "No tickee, no laundree." Ruth, a nurse, had taken in Camilla and Bridget after Camilla's ignominious departure from academia. For Camilla, those days were a tearful slurry of remorse, self pity, fantasy, and despair. Ruth put up with it for about a year. Then she dropped the bomb..

"I've petitioned for custody of Bridget. I don't want it, but right now you can't handle it. If you fight me on this, I'll kick you out. She's all over the place, acting out at pre-school and shutting down at home. She can't stand what you're doing to yourself and it's fucking her up. She needs to know who she can turn to and right now that's not you. You have nothing for her. You've got to get a job and raise your kid." She didn't have to add, like I did. "Until you show me you can do it, I keep custody."

Camilla didn't have many options. Universities wouldn't touch her and community colleges had few positions in literature. Those jobs were filled and had waiting lists full of overqualified competitors. Only high-tech positions were available at these schools and Camilla's romantic disdain for computerization had left her skills, in this regard, behind those of most ten-year-olds. So she turned to the district high school. With no teaching certificate, she was limited to substituting. The assignments were sporadic and there were no benefits. But she did it. She took on unfamiliar subjects and unruly students and toughed it out. Her mother's hard looks pre-empted any thought of relieving her frustration, at day's end, with controlled substances. So Camilla joined the Y. There, in the exercise equipment room, amongst other stressed-out souls, desperately climbing, spinning and pumping away their troubles, Camilla found the focus and strength to take the next step in self-reclamation.

She had to have secure, steady pay and medical benefits. She saw a posting on the school administrative bulletin board for an entry-level custodian position. She inquired and found out it was a janitor's job, with union protection after four months, and decent benefits. All she had to do was make the four months. A few days later, she submitted the application to the school's administrative secretary who looked at Camilla and said, "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"What's the problem?"

"Have you seen those people? I mean with your background.........." she trailed off, smiling and shaking her head.

Camilla had seen them. She had watched them doing their work, rarely talking, deferentially staying out of the way of everyone, including the students. When they spoke, it was only to each other unless some faculty or administrative employee made a request or gave an order and they had to respond. They were invisible. That seemed to be what everybody expected, including themselves. But after hours it was different. She had occasion to be in the building long after it closed, looking for a book she had left behind. They were in control then and were assertive regarding their darkened domain. "Hey, don't walk there, we just waxed it." "Stay here, lady, I'll go up and get it for you." They watched her until she left the building. They were all men, mostly older -- in their fifties -- with a few younger guys. That worried her. But she concluded she had no choice. So she told the secretary "Yes. I'm sure." She started the following week.

* * *

"Pieceofshitbroad." Dover Cleveland, the senior custodial crew chief, made his usual remark in referencing a female who somehow offended his peculiar sensibilities. "Cunt," he said, bringing into play his backup expletive, used, on occasion, for emphasis. Dover was talking to Jerry Farmer, the school’s Custodial Supervisor, who had just informed Dover of Camilla's hire and assignment to the day crew.

"Another woman," Dover sighed. "Same old shit. Bust your ass to show them how to do everything, run the machines, strip the floors, wipe their own ass, and they leave anyway. The job's too dirty!" he said in a falsetto. "Or we're too dirty. Three to four weeks, she's gone, like the rest. Never make the four months. Why do they fuck around?"

They were in the custodial and maintenance workers' basement locker room, sitting around a battered wooden table on chairs handed down to them when the teacher's lounge was re-furnished. Dover's locker, with its Penthouse nude taped to the door, gaped open. Jerry, the supervisor, a stocky man of thirty-four, smoked nervously, staring at the iridescent metal ashtray left over from a Christmas party.

"Well, give her to me," Dover said, grinning. "I'll get it over with quick. I got some nice jobs for her. She'll love 'em. Her ass will be gone in a week."

Farmer's face twitched back and forth between a tiny grin and a concerned frown.

He used to be a custodian, for more years than he cared to think about. He finally completed his two-year certificate in public administration at the community college just at the time Cal Munson, Jefferson High’s former Custodial Supervisor, dropped dead. Farmer, who had been assiduously buttering up the administration, seized his chance to leave the basement and begin his climb into middle-class respectability. But to do so , he had to make a Faustian bargain with the District Superintendent, Harry Deil. Deil assured Farmer not only of the Supervisor's position, but of a further luminous ascent, if Farmer promised to deliver on Deil's fondest wish – getting rid of the custodial and maintenance union. Deil wanted to outsource the whole shebang and the union stopped him dead. And the key to the union was Dover. He was their organizer, president, steward and bargaining agent. He performed with gusto these jobs which nobody else wanted to perform at all. Get rid of him and the union would dry up. Munson, an old friend of Dover's, and near retirement, had, when similarly approached, cheerfully told Deil to go to Hell. Jerry, on the other hand, would immolate his mother in order to ascend from the twilight zone of custodial supervision to the golden dawn of an assistant superintendency.

This, it appeared, was Farmer's chance. What he should do, as a diligent supervisor, concerned citizen and moral human being, was to crack down immediately on Dover's obvious plans to harass this woman out of her job. But what he could do was let Dover harass away, with only mild remonstrances, playing out sufficient rope until any relevant authority -- superintendent, principal, school board, or labor arbitrator -- would uphold Jerry's sudden and righteous termination of Dover's custodial career. This was tricky. It could backfire if he waited too long and the woman charged him with complicity in the harassment. A safer route would be to do the right thing and get some kind of credit for his preventive action. But that would be small potatoes and the main chance might not come again. It was like deciding whether to shoot the moon in the card game of Hearts. He looked around at the grimy walls and banged-up lockers. He would go for it.

* * *

Camilla hefted the bulky insecticide pressure tank onto her back and adjusted the harness. She put on the goggles, hard hat and chemical filtration mask, and flipped the light switch in the tunnel. Faint scurrying sounds confirmed the need for a toxic purge. She had expected no less than the worst jobs after her first meeting with the senior crew chief, Dover Cleveland.

"Well, well, Mizz Perkins, so you want to be a custodian?" he had said, chuckling.

Taken aback, she replied, "I am one," tapping her I.D. badge.

"Not yet, you're not, girlie. You got four months to go with no mistakes. You screw up and I recommend they fire your ass. And if you make the four months and get in the bargaining unit, guess who your steward is?" he grinned.

"I can't imagine."

"Me. And your rep. And your president."

"Great name for a president."

"Smart-ass college girl. My ma didn't go to college so she got it wrong. But I'm president anyway. And don't you forget it. Now I got a nice job for ya."

The job was cleaning about two years worth of graffiti off the powerhouse walls with a powerful and caustic solvent. Of course, he neglected to tell her to wear the special heavy rubber gloves and goggles before turning to leave her with the brushes, pails and carboys of solvent. Camilla sensed what was going on.

"Mr. Cleveland?"

"Now what?"

"Where's the OSHA posting on these chemicals?"

His eyes narrowed as he looked at her. She smiled. This was going to be tougher than he thought. "I thought Farmer told you about that stuff. It's by the gym door. Don't take all day reading it."

The posting listed the unpleasant consequences of extended skin contact with the solvent and prescribed the appropriate prophylactic gear. She tracked down Dover and made him show her where the gear was stored. It took two weeks to finish the job, during which time she worked alone and Dover fumed, unable to make his next move. While massaging the powerhouse, she assessed her situation and decided she needed help. Going to Farmer with mere suspicions would make her out a fink and a sissy to her custodial colleagues. She needed an ally.

Larry Pell, a shy young man on the day crew, was the prospect. Larry was going to Oakland County Community College at night, but, unlike Farmer, he regarded his studies as more than just a ticket to the American Dream. He seemed genuinely absorbed in the literature and history books that he read during breaks and over lunch. Camilla drew him out and he soon enjoyed sharing his discoveries with someone who read more than the daily papers. She helped him with tests and assignments. In turn, he filled her in on Ad Office politics and gave her primers on the various custodial jobs, the best way to tackle them and the problems to look out for. So, when Dover assigned her to mow the slanted berm that snaked around the front and side of the school, she was ready with YMCA strengthened ankles and broken-in high top boots. And when he asked her to junk the old Home Economics refrigerators and stoves, lying forgotten in a storeroom these past thirty years, she knew which dollies and ramps to use, how to use them, and when she could safely demand a helper.

Dover, stymied, conducted a guerrilla campaign of bawdy sketches and lewd remarks scrawled on Camilla's locker. These drew only chuckles. A nearly full-sized fertility figure posted on her cleaning cart, made of taped mop sticks and a stuffed t-shirt with a Chore-Boy scrubber stuck in its crotch, made her laugh so hard she had to lean on the wall. Then he got serious.

A brick fell off the high school roof and landed a few yards from where she was leaving the building. She showed up the next day wearing a borrowed football helmet. She found the mop handles on her work cart snapped in two. That same week Dover found his equipment coated with molasses. Dirty water was spread on her just-polished hallway. Dover’s work boots were filled with the same water.

These tactical failures plunged Dover into an unproductive funk in which several more weeks ticked off Camilla's probationary clock.

Camilla's quiet demeanor, pluck and fortitude did not go unnoticed by the rest of the custodial and maintenance staff. After two months, some began to warm to her in their gruff and awkward way and a few of the older men even shared with her their stories, hopes and modest plans. She found herself listening intently to them. As a child, she was raised among men like these, but left that life behind when she went to the prestigious Roeper School on scholarship and from there to Oberlin College in Ohio and Yale for her doctoral studies. Her thesis was on Arthur Miller's early plays. She could see more clearly now the skill with which Miller captured the drama of these ordinary lives. And more than that, living with her mother again, working with these men, she began, for the first time since her expulsion from the scholastic womb, to feel a sense of community.

With two weeks to go, Dover had to play his ace in the hole -- the tunnel job. "You like bugs?" he barked hopefully, popping his eyes and wiggling his fingers, looking for a reaction, which she didn't provide. "Take one of them big tanks. There's lots o' bugs. You gotta get 'em before they get you. Jump up, bite cha ony ass" he cackled.

Camilla levered the fifty-pound tank over her knee and onto her shoulder in one smooth movement. "Anything else?" she asked.

"Yeah" he grumped. "Get some gloves, goggles and a mask from the bin. And wear a hard hat. Wouldn't want'cha to get hurt."

The job had to be done at night so that the fumes had time to dissipate before the daytime population of the building returned. Her gear secured, she entered the low tunnel door in a slight crouch and wedged it open with a shim. Lights were strung every twenty feet or so and she could see the tunnel branching left and right with more light switches at the corners. She was to go to the far end and work her way back in a pattern that Larry drew for her on a piece of paper. Proceeding in the same shuffling crouch she thought gratefully of the bent-leg lifts she did in the weight room. It took her about fifteen minutes to get to the farthest point, switching on lights and scattering creepers as she went. Then she heard, faintly but unmistakably, far behind her, the door latching shut. Goddamit, she thought, I didn't check for a latch knob on the inside. And then the lights went out.

She froze. She was not particularly claustrophobic, but this was different. This was the proverbial pestilential hole. She sat down and tried to get a grip. She had to think. If she could just read Larry's map. But she couldn't see it if it were stuck on her nose. She waited to see if her eyes would become used to the dark and pick up some stray light. Nothing. She tried to remember the turns on the map. The last one was about thirty feet back and to the right. She got to her feet, bent over and slouched forward slowly and immediately banged her head on a valve handle. This would have to be a crawl, a long one. She got down on her hands and knees and crawled, flinching when her shoulder brushed the hot pipes on the side. She got about fifteen feet when a millipede scuttled over her hand, sending her splaying with a yelp against the tunnel wall. Again she sat, with her knees drawn up to her head, fighting off panic. They can't hurt you. But rats can. Worry about them later. Keep going. Slowly she negotiated the last fifteen feet, touching the right wall with her hand until she came to the corner. She turned to the right, struggling to recall the next turn when she saw it -- a red pin-point. She closed her eyes and it went away and returned when she opened them. It wasn't just an internal flash on her retina. She crawled toward it and, after about thirty feet, reached it. It was a switch box and the little red dot was a light that indicated the switch was not functioning. She pulled the map out of her jeans pocket and held it up to the glow. She could just make it out. She knew where she was, and, after some minutes, memorized the distance and turns with a mantra which she repeated to herself the whole thirty minutes it took her to crawl to the entrance door. Not bothering to grope for a knob she kicked it open and lurched out into the corridor. The light blinded her but she heard an unmistakable voice yell: "Jesus Christ!" and footsteps running to the stairwell. Her eyes recovered well enough to see Dover make the turn onto the stairs.

"You little fucker!" she yelled. "I've got your ass now!"

Why did he hang around, she wondered, as she rested on her mother's couch, working on her second beer. Ruth was on night shift but Camilla didn't care what her mother might have thought about the six-pack on the coffee table. Camilla had found the pulled fuse, pocketed it, and replaced it. Maybe it could be dusted for prints. But why was he still there? Was he worried? About her? About himself? It didn't matter. She had him cold and he was history. She killed the beer and went to bed. Tomorrow should be interesting, she thought.

The next day, on instinct, she waited until lunch break to talk to Larry. She had plenty of time to talk to Farmer about Dover and last night's adventure. But Larry was her friend and she somehow felt he should know first. They went outside and sat at a picnic bench near the loading dock. She told him. He listened, looking down with a serious expression and, occasionally, shaking his head. When she was through, he sat for a while without saying anything. Then he spoke.

"Camilla, I know how you feel. I mean, I don't know how you feel but I can imagine. Dover is a hard case and he really went over the line. But I think, ah, I think you should think about this."

"Oh, come on. Not you too."

"No, no, no," he said, waving his hand, dismissively, "He's got to be stopped. It's just that ... there's more involved."
"I'm listening."

Larry thought for a minute. "Dover's from the old school. No pun intended. I mean, he's an old-timer in this business. So, you know, of course, he's got all that baggage of bigotry and woman-baiting. But, you know, whatever we do have here, we got because of him. I mean the union, retirement, medical, decent pay. I've talked to the other old-timers. He did it. Before that, janitors didn't have anything. This job was a favor from somebody in administration and if they owed somebody else, you were gone. And they treated you like shit, much worse than now. They called them trolls. The young guys, now, take things for granted and only think about getting out. But I don't know. I think it means something. You hear what I'm saying?"

Camilla looked at him without acknowledgement.

"And if he goes, nobody else is gonna do that stuff. I can't. When I finish my certificate, I'm gonna be looking around too. And the older guys, they just think about retirement. So what's gonna happen? Deil's been trying to bust the union for years and Farmer is in his pocket. It may not affect you or me if we go our ways, but.......what about other people who don't have the smarts or the luck or the money and can use a decent job. You hear what I'm saying?"

"What are you saying?"

"Don't pull the trigger, Camilla. Talk to him first."

"Dover?! Why the fuck should I talk to him?!"

"Cause I've tried. He won't listen to me. And it's not my call, it's yours. He's got to talk to you. He's cornered."

"And say what?"

"Work it out."

"Work it out?"

"Work it out so he stays."

"I don't know if I can do that. These other people you talk about -- some of them are going to be women.”

"I know. I don't know what to tell you. But you're smart. And you think about things. Think about it." He sighed and stood up.

"Okay, I gotta go." He looked at her for a moment, then turned and walked back to the school.

That's all Camilla thought about the rest of the day as she mopped and vacuumed.

Dover was nowhere to be seen. It was just as well. The word must have leaked out, probably from Dover, that something was up. Farmer was hanging around, looking at her expectantly. She avoided him. The young custodians snickered to themselves. The older ones just looked sad.

That night, after she put Bridget to bed, she sat smoking and thinking at the kitchen table. Miller's plays about moral choice were great theater. But this was not theater, this was life. Her life. Bridget's life. Dover's life. The lives of her coworkers and other women. It wasn't neat, it was messy. She was supposed to be smart. What was all that education for? She tried to analyze the situation logically. What are the alternatives? What are the likely consequences of each? How does one compute the greater good? Just about then, Ruth came home.

"Hi, Mom. You look beat."

Ruth threw her jacket over a chair and sat down at the table. She rubbed her eyes and sighed heavily. "Twelve-hour shift. I'm too old for this shit. As if I had a choice."

"I'll get you some tea. You up to talking?"

"Sure, honey. What's up? How's the job? That old bastard still giving you a hard time?”

"That's what I want to talk to you about."

Camilla told her about the tunnel. Then she waited until Ruth stopped swearing before she told her about the talk with Larry. Ruth sat silent for a long time, frowning at her teacup. Camilla watched her closely.

"Boy, that's a tough one. I'd like to hang the bastard myself," Ruth said, then looked at Camilla looking at her. "But it's not that easy, is it?"

Camilla shook her head.

Ruth looked at the table for another long moment. "You know, honey," she finally said, "I'm really proud of you. Even more than when you got those scholarships and degrees. Because this is harder. Believe me, I know. Don't worry about Bridget, she's yours. She always will be. You've earned that. And don't worry about yourself. You can get through anything. You know that now. As for this, you're right. He's got to be stopped. And you can stop him. But how you do it is the question. Can you whack him out and go your own way and let the union get busted? Believe me, I wouldn't blame you for a minute. But honey, can you live with that?"

Camilla, again, shook her head slowly.

"I didn't think so. Then it comes down to this. Who are you? Who do you want to be? I know what I am. There wasn't much choice. But it's tougher for you. You've got choices." Ruth stood and picked up her jacket. "Whatever you decide, I'm behind you. I love you. Now, I've got to go to bed. Good night, sweetheart." She kissed her daughter on the head.

"Good night, Mom. I love you too."

Camilla stayed up for another hour and came to a decision. Then she checked on Bridget, went to bed and slept soundly. The next day, at lunch, she met with Larry and went over her plan with him. He promised his support and told her where Dover was hanging out. It was the boiler room. The guys used to play cards there when they finished their jobs early until Farmer, at Deil's prodding, put a stop to it. Dover, when he wanted to snooze, would say he was cleaning valves and go there, and, as steward and crew chief, he got away with it. To get there, late that afternoon, Camilla had to walk past the entrance to the steam tunnels. She stopped for a moment, then went to the boiler room and opened the door. There was one bare bulb burning over a wooden table, where Dover sat, nursing a pint of Corby's. The boiler-pressure gauges gave off gentle puffs of steam that clouded the light and trailed off into the darkness beyond. Dover slouched over the table, a cigarette burning down to his knuckles. In the dim glow he seemed shriveled and misshapen -- like a troll. He looked up, unmoving. He didn't look surprised.

"What are you doing here?" he rasped in a half-hearted challenge.

"Cleaning valves."

"Smart-ass college girl" He dragged on the butt and coughed. "So, it's payback time, heh? May not be so easy. I'm a steward. International will back me up.'

"Bullshit. They won't touch you with a broomstick. And I got news for you. You're not steward any more."

"Since when?” he snapped, startled.

"Since now. You're calling a meeting of the local to resign your office and elect a replacement. You keep your job. That's the deal. You do that and I don't file a charge."

"Oh yeah. And who's going to be steward?!"

"Me. Larry Pell says the old guys agree and the young guys don't care."

"You?! You don't know shit about steward...a...a...about union, about grievances, bargaining, dealing! You're just going back to some fucking college as soon as you get the chance!"

"I'm committed for two years, minimum. It'll take that long to get a teaching certificate. And I'm not sure I want one. What I do want is a job where I've got security without some asshole locking me in a tunnel. And I want other women to have that too. In any case, that's the deal. Take it or leave it." He stared at her.

"You pieceashitbroad!"

"And you step down as crew chief, too."

"You CUNT!"

"Let me know by tomorrow noon." Camilla turned and walked out, leaving Dover and his valves hissing in the mist.

* * *

The next day at lunch, Camilla was sitting at the locker room table with Larry when Dover shuffled in. Larry got up and looked at Camilla and she nodded. He said "I'll be outside."

Dover sat down and looked around the room for a minute. He didn't look like a troll now -- just a tired old man. Camilla sipped her coffee, waiting. He drummed his fingers on the table for a while. Then he fished a cigarette from his shirt pocket and lit up with a Bic. He smoked, looking down at the shiny tin ashtray.

"So why ain't you teachin' in college?" he asked.

Camilla told him, succinctly, but not sparing the embarrassing details, watching his reaction. He nodded a few times during the telling.

"So why'd you come here? Why'd you pick on me?"

She held herself in check, but her eyes narrowed and her mouth tightened. She breathed audibly a few times, then spoke sharply enough to make him look up. "Dover. Don't give me that crap. I don't give a shit about you. I'm here for the same reason anybody else is -- to make a living. I'm just making sure you don't stop me. Now, do we have a deal or don't we?"

He looked back down and his face sagged even farther. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, we got a deal," he said, almost inaudibly. Then he sighed. "I should retire. But to do what. Old lady divorced me years ago. Kids live halfway across the country. Hardly ever talk to them. This is it." He paused, then said with dramatic effect. "Here, I was something. A man." Camilla smiled and shook her head. "Don't laugh, godammit," he barked, the old fire there again.

"I'm not laughing, Dover. But harassing women doesn't make you a man. And there's going to be more after me."

He shook his head. " I can't get used to it."

"You'll learn."

"Got no choice, eh? So now what do I do?"

"You can help me out," she said. "I don't know shit about steward."

He snorted. "Smart-ass college girl." He looked around again and stood up. "You'll learn." Then he shuffled out. Larry walked back in.

"It was pretty quiet in here. How did it go?"

"It's done."

"So, what next?"

"Well, right after the steward election I think we should get on the Ad Office to get rid of this junk and get some nice stuff down here, snack machines, some couches, new lockers, get the place painted. Then we should elect a crew leader. Let's ask one of the older guys to run."

"Uh huh. So, Camilla, you're really serious about this steward thing?"

She nodded slowly, looking at the table.

"Well" he said, "Maybe there's a book in it."

"Maybe" she said. Then looking up. "But it's more than that, Larry. It's more than that."

By Dennis James






Some *F)v\ Is Not *F)v\


Following nearly two Earth hours of intense briefings, both >L^Y{ and o¨x/=, hereinafter known as "Lieutenant Koua'al" and "Major Ririria'o'ick," joined me -- "Captain Dao'ufarreo'usis" -- inside the shuttle hangar, where we seated ourselves in one of the craft used to land on the surface of planets which have sufficient breathable water-vapor atmospheres. I was given the highest rank solely because I appeared to be male as well as senior in age to my companions, and our ship's Terranthropologist had determined from at least sixteen Earth hours of study that such appearances would best suit the preconceptions of officials in the government with which we were to make "first contact.” As has been the case with most of our contacts elsewhere, most of the peoples of Earth would tend to be deeply concerned with ranks and genders.

For nearly three and a half Earth days we negotiated for the right to extract approximately 8.07239747613 Earth ounces of what they call "neptunium-237" from the "back side" (?) of their Moon. This we shall transform, by progressive neutronic bombardments, into "mendelevium-258" for our rocket fuel, via "einsteinium-253," "berkelium-248," and the amusingly named "americanium-241." In return, we first offered to provide humankind the basic keys to cure seventeen forms of what they call "cancer," but their chief negotiators insisted that we instead show them better ways to locate a fossil fuel they call "oil." Our counteroffer was to provide them the technology for Cold Fusion, but they held firm in their demands -- to which we, for the sakes of their arctic species, marine and terrestrial, steadfastly declined to agree.

During the first evening, Lieutenant Koua'al (whom they erroneously assume is female) pursued ~\^ [a genderless third-person-singular possessive pronoun] private hobby -- alien recreations -- by learning-while-playing four forms of "poker" and "cleaning out" six "high rollers" in about 3.47 Earth hours. During the second evening =/> [a genderless third-person-singular nominative pronoun] entered and won $50,000 in a chess tournament.

Lieutenant Koua'al told both me and Major Ririria'o'ick that =/> quickly "picked up" how to "castle" on either side, only briefly endangering ~\^ chances of winning an early game, but that =/> had gotten seriously behind in "material" while learning about a variation to "capturing" called "en passant."

"It took me four full moves to recover the advantage I had held, but I do think 'doing' is the best way to learn something new -- even if mistakes are made. After all, what is the harm when it's only a game?"

Major Ririria'o'ick nodded ~\^ fourth tentacle in agreement, but I simply raised my eleventh tentacle noncommittally. For one thing, as the putative "leader" of this "away" team, I was feeling rather weary from and slightly discouraged by the past two days' negotiations; for another, I was speculating in my own mind about the possibility of a blurry area between these people's recreational pursuits and their so-called "reality" pursuits. It has been my observation that on some planets the two are all of a piece, on others they are strictly compartmentalized, and on still others they tend to "bleed into each other" in odd and (to me at least) unexpected, unpleasant, and unforeseeable ways. And, call me a "control freak" if you will, but, unlike Lieutenant Koua'al, I have not, I confess, been one who ever really "likes surprises."

During our "down time," while Lieutenant Koua'al pursued ~\^ alien games hobby and Major Ririria'o'ick studied 143 of this planet's "serious art forms" (noting with disappointment that relatively few of them involved protracted sequences of tactile stimulation for its own sake), I "twisted my wits" around recent historical events. Television, films, and various print media seemed to obsess, I thought, about the discrepancies between word and word and between word and deed on the parts of those in power at any moment -- lack of funding for "education" vs. "no child left behind"; funding appropriated for disaster relief vs. redirection and/or payment of cronies who "gouged" with "cost overruns"; agreements such as the "Geneva Convention" vs. secret and flaunted torture camps; "law and order" vs. "high crimes and misdemeanors"; "unificating" vs. "devisifying"; "right to life" vs. "capital punishment" -- with no effective efforts being made to rectify matters as party succeeded party and year succeeded year. Further, both my viewing and reading had caused me to notice that many people of Earth seemed to enjoy seeing and even causing discomfort and pain -- in both their recreations and their "real-life" dealings with each other.

I considered mentioning these thoughts to my two colleagues but hesitated for two reasons. First, I knew that I only had formed tentative, preliminary conclusions based on a very small sample of data and that there might well be some overriding principle of moral intelligence lying behind each of these polarities, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding -- self-interested manipulation or "snookering" not, in my own view at least, being either moral or intelligent.

Second, both of them seemed to be enjoying our mission and the personal fruits they acquired from its various delays, and I certainly did not wish to become one who "pisses onto another's blanket."

On the third evening, after yet more unproductive negotiations, the leader of the rather inconsistently named "Free World" invited my two colleagues and me to attend a "night baseball game" at a small stadium in a small city called New York. The game was the first of an array known by the laughable title "World Series," laughable partly because it was clear that only two countries on Earth participated in it and partly because only one of those countries "fielded" both of the finalists' teams.

Both Major Ririria'o'ick and I were essentially ignorant of baseball, I knowing only that it is usually less deliberately violent than hockey and football and Major Ririria'o'ick knowing that it was not a species of tactile art form. In contrast to us, Lieutenant Koua'al seemed very "up" on its "finer points," as well as very decidedly "up for the game." At ~\^ urging, both Major Ririria'o'ick and I agreed that we should all accept the president's invitation and "enjoy ourselves" as a group.

From the start of the game, it was clear to the three of us that the president, although he was the leader of the "whole" nation and had sworn an oath to be impartial, in fact strongly favored one team over the other and made no efforts to conceal his preference. Lieutenant Koua'al seemed not to notice (or care), being deeply interested in the game itself, on which =/> gave Major Ririria'o'ick and me a "running commentary"; Major Ririria'o'ick, in contrast, seemed not to notice (or care), being deeply interested in the fluctuating "spatial relationships" of the "outfielders," which he contrasted to seven species of native dances, of which =/> had recently learned the rudiments. As I had expected, I myself classified the president's behavior into my own pre-existing categories and felt my hearts "sink" lower with each of his distasteful displays of partiality.

In the fifth "inning," just after Lieutenant Koua'al had impressed many nearby spectators (including the president, his chief of staff, and fourteen of his misnamed "secret service" agents who were "guarding" him) with ~\^ correct definition of a "ground rule double," one of the game's officials -- the one known as the "home-plate ump," according to Lieutenant Koua'al -- made a "judgment call" which very greatly displeased the president. The president instantly sprang to his feet, shaking his fists in the air, and I held my saliva, expecting the worst. I was not, I believe, mistaken, at least in the short term.

"Kill the ****in' ump!" screamed the president. "Murder that ****in' bastard!"

His chief of staff began to join him in this order, as did six of his guards and, most surprisingly to me, Lieutenant Koua'al -- supported almost immediately by Major Ririria'o'ick and 76.543 percent of the other spectators at the stadium.

Players began "pouring" out of both "dugouts," converging on "home plate," where the offending official bravely stood his ground. Spectators began to climb from their seats and enter the "field," while "security personnel" urged these people to "get the **** back!"

Major Ririria'o'ick chose to take decisive (and I thought appropriate) action: he removed the small "rank insignia" from his "uniform" and pointed it towards the umpire. A stream of reddish light was emitted for a split second, and the umpire, as if vaporized, vanished from the field, causing those who had been converging to do him harm to collide with each other.

Shouting variously "Omigod, he's packin' a Reagan!" "It's a phaser!" "Blast-her!" and "Yo--death-ray!" -- the president's guards drew their pistols and pointed them most steadily at Major Ririria'o'ick, who "smiled" coolly and said, "Mr. President, I believe that it was you who gave the order to 'murder the ****in' ump.'"

Lieutenant Koua'al shook ~\^ eighth and twelfth tentacles in mild exasperation, muttering "misplaced literalism" and "hyperbole" in our own "tongue" and clacking both ~\^ beaks in half-repressed amusement.

"Kill HIM!" said the president in a hoarse voice, pointing a slender pink finger toward Major Ririria'o'ick. As one, his guards rapidly emptied their pistols into Major Ririria'o'ick's "head" and began to reload. With a "sigh," I directed my own insignia at Major Ririria'o'ick and bathed v|- [a genderless third-person-singular objective pronoun] in a short burst of reddish light. =/>, like the umpire just a short time ago, vanished immediately.

"Permit me, Mr. President," I said, "to discipline my own erring personnel. I believe that I would gladly extend you the courtesy to do the same with your own, were you ever, so to speak, a guest 'on my home turf.'"

The president signaled his guards to "put up their pieces," and, after completing their "reloads," they all did so. I noticed that Lieutenant Koua'al seemed to be very amused by this turn of events and was relishing what my next logical step would be.

"Permit me, further, Mr. President," I continued, "to restore your '****in' ump' to life -- if it accords with your own wishes."

"You can ****in' DO that?” he asked after some hesitation, an expression of disbelief on his face.

"It is the simplest of tasks -- for our 'people' -- Mr. President. Shall I then?"

"Uhhhhh. Yuhhhh," he replied, blinking rapidly.

I pointed my insignia toward the area vacated by my colleague, Major Ririria'o'ick, and bathed it in pale blue light. Immediately, said ****in' ump reappeared, his own face looking only slightly less mystified than that of the president beside me.

Lieutenant Koua'al chirped audibly with pleasure. I knew what =/> was thinking, and I shook my second and fifth tentacles to caution v|- to keep silent.

"Uhhhhhh," said the president again. Then his chief of staff began whispering into his ear.

Smiling broadly, the president put his left hand confidentially upon my right "shoulder" and said, "Uhh, I THINK we're ready to – uhh -- play ball with you."

I nodded assent, and Lieutenant Koua'al nudged me on my "ear," signifying that =/>, too, knew what the new "game" was.

With the assistance of two of the president's guards, the home-plate umpire returned to his post, the game continued -- much to Lieutenant Koua'al's and the president's liking -- and then we all flew back to Washington on Air Force One.

Halfway there, the president leaned over, poked me, and asked, "Can y' bring the major back, too?"

"I'm afraid not, Mr. President," I lied. "He was far too damaged by the pellets from your secret service agents' pistols. I'm sure you can understand that."

"Course I can! I'm the leader o' the Free World. Too bad about him, though. Likable sort o' fella -- likable, in a funny sort o' way."

"Indeed," I replied and then feigned sleep.

By 9:15 a.m. the next morning, negotiations were successfully concluded. Their side agreed to let us have 8.07239747613 ounces of neptunium-237 from "their" Moon, and we agreed to let them have one working model of our "death-ray/life-ray" and a set of blueprints for making additional devices just like it.

After mining operations were concluded and our "mother ship" was leaving their solar system, I visited my friend o¨x/=, a.k.a. Major Ririria'o'ick. =/> had undergone follow-up surgeries to replace three of ~\^ eyes and was in good "spirits."

"What exactly," =/> said, "happened after you 'beamed' me up to our 'ship'? >L^Y{ just won't give me the story. =/> merely laughs and says that you, as our 'leader,' are the one qualified to do so."

"Indeed," I said. "After you 'beamed' that '****in' ump' out of what, rightly or wrongly, you deemed to be harm's way, I did the same for you before those secret service agents hit you in any vital spot. Then, sensing we finally had their attention, I 'beamed' the ump back to Earth. And, in order to acquire this technology, which they assume is both a superior weapon AND a reanimating device, they granted us permission to refill our 'tank' for another 21.574 light years. Their president 'field-tested' the device on his chief of staff personally four times -- 'killing' him and then, as he said, 'resurrecting' him -- before the final contract between us was signed. 'This'll improve m' numbers,' he said, just as >L^Y{ and I took off."

o¨x/= grinned up at me, amused twinkles in four of his seven eyes.

"I wonder," =/> said, "what Mr. President is doing with it now -- since it was only keyed to the transporter on our 'ship'? Perhaps it's a lapel pin for his wife?"


By Pat Dixon






Mexican American Wall

To Sensebrenner and King, so the wall that enclose their sensibility melt away



There is a shame wall
like a butcher scar.

Skulls in the desert,
they try to get out of the dream converted in sand and thirst.

Now they say we cannot pass,
they don't want us,
is a crime to take the chance and pass.

Pass thru is the important thing,
to bring the grandma and the tamale,
the wife with the ponchos,
the nephew that sings rancheras,
the neighbor that is a plumber,
the "chacha" that cleans,
the native that pick up mushrooms, peaches, apples and pears,
the men that cleans cigarettes butts from the dirty sidewalks,
from the wide boulevards where the Minuteman, lobbyists and politics pass

without messing up their shiny shoes.

Now they deny the holy sacred greencard
Meantime Lupita broke her back kneading bread
and Pancho mix cement for 10-12 hours without a break
so Andres, their son can go to college.
Andres decided to be in the Army be all can you be so he could pay
the tuition,
he never step in the college,
they send him to Iraq,
three months later he came back,
stiff in a coffin,
Be All Can You Be ... if you survive.
Lupita receive the folded flag.
So much effort to cross the Rio Grande,
with la migra touching your feet,
so much swimming,
so much sweat,
tears, sacrifice
if in here they don't want us.

Now we are criminals,
we are a burden in the American Dream,
in the land of the free.

By Awilda I. Castro Suarez






Wartime Americans


White hands that had long been held
In fists, now hold upturned palms, and
The expelling gesture of the past has
Switched movement, now with a motion
Of welcome, into the arms of Uncle
Sam, handing you a rifle, calling you
An American. This red, white, and
Blue bedazzled man --
Who patrols his southern border
For the victims of survival and
Inexpensive labor, brown slaves
From black, with soaking backs.
Who excluded and detained, holding
His hands and stretching the sides of
His face in mock imitation of the
Features of an enduring people.
Who oversaw dark fingers plucking
The pure white fabric of effortless
Profit, and decorated by rope-swing,
The human ornamentation.
He now spreads his haggard legs
And praises diversity through a bloody lip,
Embracing Americans in arms.


By James Sackett





The Bear


A bear was walking in the woods and a man attacked him.
Ahhh! roared the bear. Help! Someone help! A man is attacking me!
Wait! cried the man, tearing into the bear's furry abdomen. Did you
hear that?
Hear what? growled the bear, tears flowing from his great bear eyes.
Someone is being attacked by a man! said the man.
I am being attacked by a man! the bear yelped.
The bear groaned and tried defending himself with his claws. The man bit

into them with his molars and the bear yelped.
You? exclaimed the man, removing a piece of the bear's hide with his Gerber

utility knife. Where is he? Where is the monster?!
What?! said the bear. Are you crazy?
I will be when I get a hold of that bastard man! said the man.
You are crazy! cried the bear. Help! he roared weakly. Someone help!
There it is again, said the man, chewing a bear ear. Did you hear it?


By Simon A. Thalmann





the world beneath the thousand dollar suit


to not live is to pretend we do not exist - -

go ask jose -- descendant of proud mayan
royalty -- raising his cocaine addled kids
in a tin shack down in shantytown -- where
the rainforest used to be --
go ask phil – the smiling table host at
the indian casino -- whose great grandfather
was chief of a nation --
go ask the glittering electric bill down at
condo city -- which sits upon the 10,000 yr
old traditional nesting site of 14 now extinct
breeds of bird --
go ask the latest generation of coughing
children in the emerging asian nations about
the fine taste of their first free cigarettes --

to exist is to break us down to something
we were before we began to pretend --

-- then go ask the man in the thousand
dollar suit

& feel the taste of his mouth in your ear


By normal




Summer and smoke


pink combustion blotches of flame
smoke funneling out of the towering smokestacks
like sulfurous serpents roiling against the sky
"TRAIN!" Bigger bellows
heat shimmers in the toxic air starch flakes fly
like snow with the feverish wind swirling between
the industrial buildings glazing the sun scorched ground
like frost sticky crunching under your work shoes
"Coal Train Comin'!"
the earth shakes the tracks rattle the train's whistle shrieks
through the swelter like a strangled banshee i squint down
the line shielding my eyes from the blinding sun
black as death the iron nightmare rounds the bend
charges the yard i watch Bigger lumber doggedly toward it
pushing his wagon-sized wheelbarrow broad back bowed
shoulders slumped pick and shovel clattering in the wooden bin
the death dream roars swiftly past him winding helter-skelter
through the maze of tracks thundering between the buildings
hauling thirty cars brimming with coal like metaphysical
coffins for Bigger and me to bury "fucking coal"
the sun is Satan's eye watching me grab my shovel follow
the train through the smoke of hell hell flares all around me
as i stagger the windows of the towering buildings have caught
fire heat quivers on the tarred rooftops the spires and gables are
molten gold while flames shoot from the forges foundries
bellows boom pumps pound gears grind heavy equipment
hammers a city in flames Hades on fire the coal train has
stopped starts to unload coal is funneled a car at a time
across giant conveyors which feed the boilers the train jerking
forward stopping jerking behind me Bigger lumbers down
the line in the opposite direction when he reaches the track-turn
off the main line he'll lumber back scooping up the spills
shaken from the cars i'm headed for the PIT a cement bunker
below the coal drop rapidly filling to the brim with the running
conveyor spills in the heat and dark and dust of the day
i'll dig a grave for near poverty wage to bury my soul
when it's laid to rest a ghost of myself will stagger from the plant
with another day's rent ain't only war that's hell


By Rex Sexton





i ain't ya monkey


i ain't ya monkey
so don't act like no fool
was the theme song
for a short-lived reality tv show
called artist's body found
as in a headline as in
artist's body found
in really cool abandoned building
as in artist's body found
in vacant lot high fashion photo shoot site for
glossy magazine sold outside of the city limits
as in artist's body found
in basement of club that used to be a warehouse
even though the drinks cost as much as cab rides
to the airport

so what did the artist find before being found
as a corpse that does more laying than finding
more atrophy than art
or as they might ask on the corner
boy what in the world was on yo mind?

is it not curious
that the theme for the show
was written by a never has been
rough dried handkerchief headed
semi retired hi-lo driver on disability
with a finger missing and no access
to a computerized music samples

he used to take pictures
of supervisors at the plant
he'd bring them home
and complete the photos
with concentric circles
that bled out from the eyes
he memorized their speech patterns
and wrote blues songs to them
the supervisors as the first layers
of burned skin
he gave them throw back songs
of presence

we travel in the same
pliable bag
different faces connected
by our invisibility

we must be weightless
to be millions
and so disregarded
by expensive suits
on television
tailored for the
unique corpse

our skins must take
the shape of rags
for them to use us
like they do
to sop up the blood after
their handy-craft accidents

we cough up dark
in the same
3 am sweat shop
tee shirt
on sale
out of business

shake in our sleep
over the same answer
and the questions
it breeds

will it be all right
because i don't know you
would it be better if we just
shook hands

if i don't know it's you
does it matter
which funeral i attend
or how were you born
with your name
on a bullet
or the head of a pin

and he replied
when my child calls me
baba i too am
six years old
in a time with
no sides to speak of
not my finger on
the trigger
nor the gun barrel open
on my eye
no metal or powder
in the chamber
no chamber
a moment without walls
when she calls
i can't let go
of her voice
with my name in the air

and though you and i hold some things
mutual in our disconnection
if something you do
kills me
if some money you paid
was converted to bomb fuel
if the rain sent from here is hot
and there is no steam
and the people
who rape the clouds for fire
wander anonymously
inside orders and uniforms from either country
songs of loss
moanin without anesthesia
until their features were welded
to the underside of his dreams

so when he played the
theme song i ain't ya monkey
for the producers of the show
they saw ghosts
wandering lots where the mortgages
had weighed like boulders
because when racists and people
and people with money
leave a thing
it is truly left they say
sucked drier
than a broken treaty

now how did that go
the show opened with a montage
of burning crosses on detroit lawns
and the first line of the song
i ain't ya monkey
then you saw a composite of
ford's goons at the overpass
so don't act like no fool
was that berry gordy in that photo
or diana ross or m&m
the song ends with the lines
they could bury your ass
at the north pole
but you still wouldn't be cool
i seen what you want for money
i seen you use bones like tools
but i won't never be ya monkey
so don't act like no fool

the show was canceled
after a few weeks
running out of bodies
running out of places
amendments to expand
the city limits dead in the mouth


By Kim Hunter





Sewer rat king, a song of revolt ...


Where the rain waters flow
Through the sewers and grates
Subterranean vaults have prepared me a home.

Where the masses unload
Their deposits of hate
The despised have declared me a throne.

I'm the Sewer Rat King
And rejected of men
But the slime-bellied mice my abilities sing.

And the power I bring
To the basest of men
Will demolish the Overworld King.


By Christian J. Weaver








Walking north
Perhaps south this time
Through ice, car broken down
The railroad yard sings elsewhere
However the might of industry
Smog, two years of dirt
Floats about through nine-dollar shoes
Scraped hands
And the asshole of town
Where we lived nineteen years
The gas eating vehicles
Warm the bodies of fortunate,
obscene and vulgar teens
Talking continuously,
Where we, over-caffeinated and underfed
Vanished into nowhere,
Warming our feet beside old electric heaters
Sat up smoking in the night
Contemplating means of money
Tragedy, spells of laughter
Where to go, where to find freedom
When freedom is only in money
And money spat in our face.


By Katie Sanders







It was a hot, spring day; he was high up in a tree. Climbing coconut trees was not like climbing other trees, there were limited branches, not to mention the rough, uneven bark. No one he knew ascended trees like these for recreation. With all of the compositional differences of the tree, there was one important similarity: it held sap. And it was a valuable sap, sap that became latex, a much more lucrative sap than those that were edible and belonged to easily-climbed, branched trees.

He was up in the coconut tree to collect the coconuts, though. And the coconuts, in turn, would collect the sap at the bases of the trees. His job was to gather coconuts from the trees (after hugging his way to the top), split the coconuts, and position these half-globes at the bottom for sap collection. He once asked his supervisor, the man who watched over the plantation, why he couldn't simply collect fallen coconuts off of the ground. He did this only once; the supervisor demanded the coconuts be fresh.

He was a resentful boy. He resented his supervisor for making these senseless rules, he resented his parents (whoever they were) for abandoning him, but mostly he resented his older brother, who was the one who made him take the wretched job in the first place. What else can you do, his brother had said, and I will not have you working a job for an oil company.

He was high up in a tree when he was sought out to be told the news about his brother. It was humid, overbearingly so, and the sun was beating down on him from a cloudless sky. He looked up from his treetop, squinted, and slid the sweat off of his forehead with his forearm. He looked below him, searching for superiors, but saw none, so he cracked a coconut for himself. He downed the juices in a matter of seconds and perched the empty shell on top of others in the tree (in case the supervisor went looking for wasted fresh coconuts on the ground). One coconut can easily lead to two, however, and he had just opened his second when another boy appeared running towards him. He quickly hid the coconut, spilling its juices on his shorts in the process, and watched as the boy on the ground moved in circles, scanning the tops of trees for inhabitants.

"Hey!” the boy in the tree yelled, saving his coworker the trouble.

"Are you Faruq?” the boy on the ground shouted back confusedly, attempting to locate the recipient of his shout among the thick leaves.

"Supervisor wants to see you!" And with this the boy on ground darted back to wherever he came from. Faruq hugged himself down the tree and thought, I've been caught. Someone has been watching me take all these coconuts. When he reached the ground, he wondered, where's the proof? He hid the evidence very well, and was too diligent a worker for his efficiency to be reason enough for suspicion. He wiped the sweat off of his head again, both to block its passage to his eyes and as a gesture of relief. But when he moved to brush the sappy bark remnants from his arms, he saw the coconut stains on his shorts, and knew that even if the supervisor hadn't caught him already, he surely would now.

The supervisor had attractive, furnished lodgings: a lightly-stained wooden exterior with wide, stained-glass windows that could not be seen through. All of the workers (and anyone of the workers' class, for that matter) had shacks thrown together with scrap metal from the huge nearby oil refineries. Faruq had seen the supervisor's home many times, and always envied the wood, which would not absorb the heat of the sun as steel would; but he had never been inside the building before.

He knocked before entering, unsure of what to expect.

"Come in!” was heard from somewhere inside.

When Faruq entered, he watched the supervisor's expression change from one of agitation to remorse, as if he had forgotten that he called for the boy.

"Go ahead and have a seat," he continued, "I didn't think you'd be here so soon." The boy sat on the low, blood-red leather couch opposite the supervisor's desk. He suspected that he had never sat on anything so expensive before.

"Your brother is Rahid, correct?”

Faruq nodded.

"Well... I guess you know about his actions against the oilmen ... it always seems useless, what these guys do.... “ Faruq was apolitical, but he knew his brother involved himself with some of the rebels, though he didn't like to use that term.

" ... there was a protest today; they tried to kidnap some high-up employee, but they got caught, and, well -- your brother is going to be executed ... “

The supervisor was prepared to go on, he had some words of modest consolation, but Faruq was not going to stand for any more of it. He ran through the door, off of the plantation, towards his village. He ran with clenched fists, his upper body arced forward as if to be in the most streamlined position. He ran at a pace he didn't know he was even capable of; he was in too much anguish to cry, but his speed in itself caused his eyes to tear.

He had seen executions on television before. He had seen ragged, dark, bloodied men, their head lowered, hands tied, standing up against long white walls. He remembered the simultaneous smack of bullet into brain and skull into concrete just before the knees gave out and the bodies toppled sideways to the ground. He kept running, his feet tearing against rock and dirt and glass, as he pictured his brother against one of those walls, an empty stare in his eyes, a dull, open mouth. He imagined his brother being tortured in a cell beforehand, preparing himself mentally for what was inevitably to follow. Faruq's feet brought him to the river, the river whose delta he and his brother had lived in all of their lives. He seated himself on a wide, riverside, lopsided rock, and its cold rigidity was a welcome change from the comfort of that blood-red couch.

He sat there well past dusk, sitting on his feet, hands limp on his lap, teeth grinding, eyes filled but never relieving themselves. The heat was gone with the sun, and the breeze from the river was a feeling Faruq rarely experienced now that he had a job. But it was not much consolation at the moment. Faruq, a boy of inaction, who always avoided instead of engaged himself, now felt deadened by his helplessness. He had always accepted his lot, it was Rahid who acted out; but he somehow wished he could replace his brother with himself. But all anyone knew of was the oilmen, they were the law, there was no hope for reprieve.

It was near midnight, and the stars were nowhere to be found; they were over-matched by the lights of the oil terminals across the river. Faruq noticed this, and felt all of his resentments merge into one ultimate loathing for the unseen force that ruled the lines of everyone around him, the oil beneath his feet. He wanted to burrow until he reached it and let it all seep out so that the land would be stripped of its wealth. But he quickly recognized this loathing, and in place of the bitterness and apathy that would normally follow it, he allowed for determination to set in.

He collected coconuts (from the ground, with pleasure) and kept them together in the widest leaf he could find. Then he searched the ground for the sharpest, thinnest rock he could find and poked it through the two ends of the leaf, forging a sack to hold the fruit, and held the rock as a handle.

He walked alongside the river. It took him the good part of an hour, but he located a small, wooden canoe abandoned on the rocks of the riverbank. He tossed his makeshift coconut sack into it, gave it a push back into the river, jumped in, and dismantled the sack and paddled with the leaf. Halfway between banks he tore a fragment of cloth from his shorts, dipped it into the river to test the level of pollution, and then held it to the refinery light: not black enough yet, he thought. He continued this practice until he was a good enough distance from the closest terminal but also in black-enough water.

He brought the leaf out of the water, stripped it into tiny, hair-like strands, piled them on the fuzzy exterior of one of the coconuts, and began twirling the rock-blade in order to ignite the strands. He worked at this for quite a while, and when he decided the leaf strands weren't sufficient on their own, he tore out hair from his head and added it. This did the trick: a tiny fire spattered in and out of existence at his feet. After puncturing a second coconut with the rock-blade, he emptied its contents into the river and then filled it with the oil-slicked surface of the river itself. He jammed the coconut's hole with the bit of oily short-fabric, put it to the fire to light it, and hurled it at the terminal; but the fabric was too short, the coconut exploded midair. So he tore a larger segment; half of his shorts was now missing. He tossed another coconut, which reached the terminal, but failed to make an impact.

Faruq was unwilling to consider failure: he removed the remainder of his shorts, nakedly threw a third and final flammable coconut ... and it connected. Whatever it hit, it must have punctured acutely, as a thin stream of fiery oil spurted straight up into the air like blood of out a fatally deep wound.

He sat in astonishment as bits of the burning petroleum dropped off into the river, causing the slick on the surface to catch, creating little fire patches here and there. These patches soon became more numerous, and greater in width, and then connected with one another, building an exponential surface of fire.

Faruq was too in awe to respond to this, and even as the fire was rapidly approaching his boat, he sat still. Suddenly it was underneath him, it had surrounded him, and the bottom of the boat was being heated. Faruq stood, and, not knowing what to do, jumped straight up and pounded down on the warm wooden boards: they gave way, and he was under it all. He looked up for a moment, felt what it was like to be underneath the fire, and then closed his eyes to stop the oil from penetrating his ocular cavities.


By Tyler Plosia






March, March, March...

the crumpled cardboard sign
at the long light reads

Two blocks down, dust dances
on sunbeams streaming through
busted eyes of silent factories
whose crippled pallets loiter
on loading docks once filled
with blue plumes of forklift fumes
and dark skins sparkling under
fresh coats of sweat
Ghostly weeds peek through
concrete that once rumbled
with machines and lunch-
bucket language, three shifts daily

It’s been ten years and
two regimes since pink
slips parted the rusting gates
and slipped through cracks
like trickle-down ghosts...

10,000 from Ford
20,000 from GM, GE and IBM
100,000 from Sears, Westinghouse,
Boeing and AT&T alone...

But today we rise
like giant Sequoias with
elephant memories wrapping ’round
rings of our struggles: PATCO, P-9,
The Fighting Miners, The Charleston 5,
The L.A. Janitors
Apartheid Cargo on West Coast Docks
The Longshoremen shutting them down
The Redwood Summer, The Battle of Seattle

We are earthquakes, hurricanes
tornadoes, pieces of
legislation, reforms and revolutions
stirring, rising
with no chains of command in
seven-figure salary-champagne-caviar
Cayman Island-crowds
We are monsoons with no strings
attached to Senators, Mayors
and multi-billionaires with Enron
ethics and Halliburton hands.

Senators, Mayors, multi-billionaires,
generals and world banksters
the Original Gangsters
who would rather wear sausage sandals
through packs of pit Bulls
than hear harmony
of our voices
crescendo of our feet...

March, March, March
militant rank-and-file
March, March, March
forward an inch -- a mile!

March, March, March
we never march alone
March, March, March
with leaders of our own --
Robinson, Willis, Silas,
Thomas, Toussaint, Turra

We print the Bibles, Torahs, Korans,
Euros, pesos and dollars
We stitch the world’s britches,
shirt sleeves, buttons and collars

We wield the welding rod,
wrenches, jackhammers, brooms
and shovels summoning ships
the size of cities, and send
them circling the earth, hourly

We ride great white horses
standing high over harbors and waltz
18 wheelers through traffic
to fill warehouses, windows
and bellies of the world...

March, March, March
militant rank-and-file
March, March, March
forward an inch -- a mile!

March, March, March
we never march alone
March, March, March
with leaders of our own --
Romero, Silvera, Stokely,
Stevens, Shanklin, Shoneman

We print the newspapers and
phone and electric bills
We press the stethoscopes
scalpels, clamps and dental drills

We weave welds, concrete and rebar
into towers trapping Chicago’s
wind and Santiago’s sun
Our juju conjures Concordes
and 747s, builds BMWs
Rolls-Royces and Cadillacs
between Photoshopping
highways onto mountainsides

March, March, March
militant rank-and-file
March, March, March
forward an inch – a mile!

March, March, March
we never march alone
March, March, March
with leaders of our own --
Bailey, Montilla, Mabasa,
Masakazu, Nyasha, Quezada

We flip the burgers
and peel the potatoes
We pick the grapes,
lettuce and tomatoes

Our sorcery scoops coal and gold
from Mother Earth’s womb
to warm and adorn the world

Our abracadabra births bottles
jars and steel, cherry red
from flames, sand and ore

March, March, March
militant rank-and-file
March, March, March
forward an inch -- a mile!

March, March, March
we never march alone
March, March, March
with leaders of our own --
Gramlim, Griggs, Griffin,
Gonaceros, Becker, Black

We stitch the shoes
We ship the blues
We push the plows
We milk the cows

Our wizardry lights the cities
treats the sewage and moves the mass
Houdinis in hard hats
bringing electricity, water
and gas

March, March, March
militant rank-and-file
March, March, March
forward an inch -- a mile!

March, March, March
we never march alone
March, March, March
with leaders of our own --
Corbin, DeWitt, Durham, Gatto, Gillis, Heyman
Hilliard, Holmes, Lawrence, Maspero, Miyashiro, Mohamed
Riley, Silbar, Urratia, Zeltzer, Zimmerman

March, March, March
workers on the rise --
March, March, March
October Suprise!



By R. Nat Turner





Revolution of the Tongue Civilization


we must speak out,
we must rebel,
we must
do so.

our voice,
the voice of the youth,
is being muzzled
muzzled by video games
muzzled by Ritalin
muzzled by manufactured music
muzzled by over parenting.

our country began with revolution,
civil revolution.

what has happened to my generation?
there is war
a corrupt government
outrageous oil prices
noticeable environmental problems
bad race relations
even worse foreign policy
gay bashing
and the unraveling of the church

yet we remain silent.

the talking heads on the tube
cannot be the only voice,
the teachers at the podiums
cannot hold the only opinion.

these old men making all the decisions
won’t have to live in our world,
where Islam becomes the largest monotheism
where Mexicans outnumber Texans in the Lone Star State
and gay people being married is as accepted
as a mixed race marriage.

the old men
want to live in the old world,
they always have,
old men always will,
we will as well when we’re old
and when we do,
the next generation will speak,


they will
we drown out their
as ours have been.

and speak
speak of the problems here
speak of the problems there
speak to the people around you
speak to the people far away
speak in person
speak in message boards
just speak.

someone will have to hear you,
if they don’t just keep going
eventually they will hear,
and when someone hears you
there is a chance they will listen
and when they listen,
if you speak well enough,
they just might begin to think
and when the masses think
the revolution can begin.


By Charles Michael Craven






Taking sides


Ten thousand men over the centuries leaning
to strike one hammer. Ten million thousand more
breaking chains to set arms free. Now, against crazed walls
of malign institutions, against small windows
and their little light, I, as my own begetter,
breed new generations, cry their cries unborn,
forge my steel to the cutting edge of paper,
stand, but not alone,
glad, at shoulders' width with many,
make ready all their revolutions.


By Charles H. Renning








Swine flu hit Wall Street first
Killing livestock; spreading insatiable thirst.
Pigs flying, piggybacking banks empty
Mud slinging continues quite contemptuously.
Some pigs went and blew the market, some pigs huffed and puffed until
they got loans
Not enough of these domestic pigs call prison home.
On the killing floor the bell has rung
As the slaughterhouse takes its toll.
Public’s been Ponzied, collectively holding its breath, shocked
At how the steroid of greed injects such mendacious byproduct.
Reliance boorishly victimized, past identification
At the bottom of greed’s pigsty; count the lying corpses of bloated itemization.
Commodity an oddity
As is integrity.
The illusion of security, annuity
To stuck in arrears abruptly.
Bleeding risk
With no clot of redemption.
Left with foreclosure, pink slips, rejection
Theft of America’s blue-collar class generation.


By Scott Michael Anderson


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