15 September 2012

Marietta Calvanico

Howie Good

Afzal Moola

Claudia Serea

Marietta Calvanico


The Door We Want to Lock

(after the New Colossus)

Like strutting cowboys of the Old West,
We swagger in righteousness, pacing off an invisible wall,
Our singular land, not as our fathers recall,
A woeful woman stands, her message put to the test,
Our past now fading, along with our best,
Echoes of bidding, welcoming all,
Our flame diminishing in the world, flickering small,
“Now we are intolerant!” she seems to attest,
Masses shouting, “Stay away!”
As the sun sets on our closing gate,
the poor grasp for freedom from hunger each day,
The least of these, we say, we did not create,
Homeless, downtrodden, they helplessly pray,
A fire extinguished, hope tarnished with hate. 

I live in Staten Island, NY.  After spending a bit more than two decades in advertising/marketing, I now work with my architect husband and have been able to devote more time to writing and music.  My poetry has appeared in the Bare Root Review, the damselfly press, Poem2day, Word Salad Poetry Magazine and fourpaperletters. 

(author retains copyright)

Howie Good



There’ll be cages of fireflies.
Darkness will be just as much
a true color as red or white

or blue.

Drunk college students
will crowd into the street
during the news
and then vanish again
when the game show resumes.

I will warm my hands
over a trash can fire,
staring up in consternation
at the grim parables
lavishly retold in stained glass. 


I want a clock without hands,
and someone to agree
that the moon looks
just like a frozen scream.

I want to find a tattoo
of a woman’s name
when I roll up my sleeve,

and for the millions
that regimes have murdered
to cross back over
on a bridge of bones.

I want to bang on a can
to spread the alarm.

Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of the new poetry collection, Dreaming in Red, from Right Hand Pointing. All proceeds from the sale of the book go to a crisis center, which you can read about here: https://sites.google.com/site/rhplanding/howie-good-dreaming-in-red. He is also the author of numerous chapbooks, including most recently The Devil’s Fuzzy Slippers from Flutter Press and Personal Myths from Writing Knights Press. He has two other chapbooks forthcoming, Fog Area from Dog on a Chain Press and The Death of Me from Pig Ear Press.

(author retains copyright)

Afzal Moola


Civilization by the bullet,
and by the whip.

They descended upon us,
with their fearsome piety.

They brought The Book,
and swept our collective pasts aside.

Scavenging for ore,
snouts in the trough,
the pillaging rarely ceased.

Gold. Women. Diamonds. People.
All commodities,
stripped and raped and sold and bought.

The schizophrenic benevolence of colonialism,
left us battered and bruised and almost broken.


But not quite.


the tides began turning,
winds of indignant defiance began rolling,
up through the hinterland,
and down to the sea.

The rising began,
in pockets,
then in swathes of the plundered country.

The rising took shape,
and found its coherent voice.

They were chased,
from our shores,
back to the northern lands that craved the sun.

And the gold. Women. Diamonds. Men.

This was centuries ago.


the craving persists.


they scavenge still,
never sated.

Till the rising shouts out,
once again,



Afzal Moolla was born in Delhi, India while his parents were in exile, fleeing Apartheid South Africa. 
He then travelled wherever his parent's work took them and he still feels that he hasn't stopped travelling. 
Afzal works and lives in Johannesburg, South Africa and shares his literary musings with his most strident critic - his 12 year old cat. 

(author retains copyright)

Claudia Serea


The guards

Abandon all hope,
Ye Who Enter Here.
—Dante Alighieri

The first guard

you’re worth

than dirt.

You’re worth-

a worm.

Give up

to make it out

The second guard

I’ll crush you–
hit you

you piss

until you’re sorry                                                                           
you were born.

My dog
will drink
your bones.

The third guard

You only have
the right to work.

You only have
the right to die.

See that fence?

Walk toward it
and I’ll shoot.

for a watermelon rind

in the roadside

Do it.

Make me
do it.

The leeches

The guards
have boots,

but prisoners
have sweet
lean feet.

We lunch
on them

and multiply.

They taste salty
and warm,

still alive.

The fourth guard

I do my job,
then go home
to my children.

what did you
do today?

I helped

who didn’t
to live.

Daddy, do we
to live?

Shut up.

And eat.

The dragonfly

From above,
everything looks

and neat.

Guarded by men
with dogs,

the rows
of bent backs

hills of dirt

from one place
to another.

The sun

on my helicopter

Claudia Serea is a Romanian-born poet who immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. Her poems and translations have appeared in 5 a.m., Meridian, Harpur Palate, Word Riot, Blood Orange Review, Cutthroat, Green Mountains Review, and many others. She was nominated two times for the 2011 Pushcart Prize and for 2011 Best of the Net. She is the author of To Part Is to Die a Little (Červená Barva Press), Angels & Beasts (Phoenicia Publishing, Canada), and A Dirt Road Hangs from the Sky (8th House Publishing, Canada). She also published the chapbooks Eternity’s Orthography (Finishing Line Press, 2007) and With the Strike of a Match (White Knuckles Press, 2011). She co-edited and co-translated The Vanishing Point That Whistles, an Anthology of Contemporary Romanian Poetry (Talisman Publishing, 2011). 

(author retains copyright)

26 August 2012

John Kaniecki

Bryan Murphy

Sandra Noel

Ramon Weaver

Changming Yuan

John Kaniecki


Four Men from the Hay Market

Four men
Who defied unjust laws
Four men
Who fought for our cause
Four men
Condemned to die
The damning testimony
From witnesses being paid to lie

Four men
Hoods over their head
Four men
Soon to be dead
Four men
From the gallows an angry word
If your listen real hard
Their voices can be heard

Albert Parsons
August Spies
Adolph Fischer
George Engel

Four men like you and I
Truth be said
The rich men are glad they are dead
As is the state
Full of contempt and hate
But that truth I deny

George Engel
Adolph Fischer
August Spies
Albert Parsons

Four men
They are alive and well
Four men their story we tell
Four men
Slaughtered in an angry rage
Will live into every age
They are alive upon this page

The battle for a just Earth
The fight for what is right
No matter how we suffer or hurt
We won’t bow down to their might

I curse you cowards hiding behind a wall
I curse you cowards seeking to take it all
Your evil dreams and wicked schemes
Are not as powerful as it seems
For men will fight be they great or small
And we shall answer
To those four men who still call

This is the message that we hear
Resonating eternally clear
We are not slaves but forever free
And we have a right to live decently

Four men who fought for all men
Let the battle rage once again
What do we have to lose but our pain
And everything to gain

John Kaniecki has been married to his beautiful wife, Sylvia from Grenada for over seven years. The happy couple reside in Montclair, New Jersey. John and Sylvia attend the Church of Christ at Chancellor Avenue where they are both very active members. John is dedicated to peaceful, non violent, revolutionary change of the world. Oppression, greed, fascism and control are among the worst this world has produced and they should be fought with Love, compassion, joy, and such.

(author retains copyright)

Bryan Murphy


Ruling Out The Equaliser

Tinpot dictator? Capable enough to snuff out
the Thatcher brat’s attempted coup,
to woo a Swiss dictator who understands
the need for PR stunts
like this award of half a Cup of Nations
to a microstate where oil flows like blood.

Face is all, money the make-up to salvage it.
From his second-best purse, the dictator’s son
empties a year’s earnings of half the population
at the feet of the “National Lightning”,
151st best team in our world.

Opponents, like officials, calculate their due,
and duly act as though they’ve got it.

Lightning strikes Libya and Senegal
from the path to glory,
before orange-shirted “Elephants”
trample the usurpers,
restore a semblance of merit
to the spectacle,
which no-one watches live.

The circus moves on. South Africa next.
The world’s attention floodlights fail.
A shroud once more encases
Equatorial Guinea’s heart of darkness.

What happens now? History regurgitates.
Oil powers the wheels of bulldozers,
clearing shanties for developers,
not for the souls who live there.
Migrants get harassed by bribe-sucking cops
with inflated stop-and-search concessions.
Students are acquainted with jails,
the continent’s worst, lest they protest
when summit-bound dignitaries
come from afar, some months hence.
A news blackout leaves the rest
to our imagination.

The sport itself still searches
among warehouses full of its gold
for the beauty it has sloughed:
cynical, corrupt, creeping
every day closer to the apex of its hubris,
every moment more akin to Equatorial Guinea.

Bryan Murphy is a newly retired translator who now concentrates on writing his own words. His work has recently appeared in The Camel Saloon, Indigo Rising, Dead Snakes, The Eunoia Review, The Rainbow Rose and The Pygmy Giant. He used to believe that soccer could be a vehicle for human rights by fostering inter-cultural contact and respect, and, through its simplicity and ubiquity, creating a level playing field - the equaliser.

(author retains copyright)

Sandra Noel


May Day Seattle

Signs and voices reminding us
America once welcomed her immigrants
until we didn’t need them any longer
the Chinese who built railroads
drilled seven mile tunnels
through our purple mountains’ majesty
for  the Great Northern and Union Pacific
then told to go home and put on ships
the ones who weren’t slaughtered on the shore.
Japanese farmers who prospered in this new land
until shoved into concentration camps
the ones forced to come from Africa
as slaves,  then slaves again to southern Jim Crow laws
here so long they fought for their rights
and finally won but
so much and so many were lost in the process.
Others come from Mexico
as long as we need them
to pick our apples and asparagus
or as long as it is politically expedient
then we build a wall
enact some laws that say America welcomes
only those who have their paperwork in order.
Driving while Hispanic is the new driving while black.

“Where is your identification?
What are YOU doin’ in this neighborhood?
Go home! Go to jail! Go to hell!” BANG!”

May Day in Seattle
and workers fill the streets
signs and voices remind us
we have this right to protest peacefully.
Anarchists with no real cause
do damage in their cute little ways
masked white boys and girls
in good shoes, well fed
(Remember the weathermen?)
Peter Pans and Wendys armed
with rocks and spray cans
“ Hey man, it’s the corporations!”
Hey man, it’s also you and me and all of us
together talking, singing, marching VOTING

Ghandi and Martin and Jesus
and Buddha and Aung San Suu Kyi

May Day in Seattle.
(I watched it from my couch.)

My day (and sometimes night) job is as a freelance illustrator/designer developing interpretive text and illustrations for environmental education exhibits. My passion is working with Alliance for Tompotika, www.tompotika.com an environmental organization involved in rainforest/community conservation work. I provide art and design for the group and have had the opportunity to teach art and ecology workshops for youth in SE Asia. My other passion is poetry– reading and writing it. Heart of Darkness, a narrative poem was published in In the Mist, Imagining Babylon in Paradigm and Imagine, Night visitor and Albatross in Barnwood International Poetry Magazine, Blessed in ProtestPoems, Heron, All for Marilyn and Tree Tonglen in Buddhist Poetry Review.

(author retains copyright)

Ramon Weaver

Self Immolation

When no one listens.
When gas goes up.
When the cost of living goes up.
When taxes come around.
When cops kill the defenseless.
When business drives wars.
When you're hung over.
When youre in the bank and your account is empty.
When you need a drink
a friend, a lover.
When Hell is other people.
When the news is on.
When a commercial is on.
When you're pissed off and don't know why.
When you're declined, denied or convicted.
When you're in court.
When lawn mowers are there at 7 in the morning.
When she's gone with another man.
When she's gone.
When you're in handcuffs and squad cars.
When you've finally lost it.
When sacrifice is the end all be all.
When futures spawn from here and now.

There are better worlds out there,
there is a better world right here,
right now, inches away.

(author retains copyright)

Changming Yuan


America Deep in Debt at Everett

Also on the morning of March 3
I was driving south light-heartedly
Along I-5, as an invited reader to perform my poetry
To a friendlier post-bush America
When a gloomy-looking trooper (numbered 837)
Suddenly stopped me supposedly for my safety’s sake
I must give you – eh, a speeding ticket.
-Why me sir! I was just following the traffic.
But you are the first one I saw.
-Simply because I have a Canadian license plate?
If you were an American, I would do the same.
Lost in anger against such blatant discrimination
(Or bad luck,) I stopped protesting
While shaking my head all the time, peacefully
Oh, poor America! Look at this armed boy of yours
He is ambushing your neighbor like a robber
To help bail you out of your financial shit
I thought, but never said so
For fear of getting another ticket, bigger or thicker

Changming Yuan, 4-time Pushcart nominee and author of Chansons of a Chinaman, grew up in rural China and published several monographs before moving to Canada. With a PhD in English, Yuan teaches independently in Vancouver and has poetry appear in nearly 490 literary publications across 19 countries, including Asia Literary Review, Barrow Street, Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Exquisite Corpse, London Magazine, Poetry Kanto and SAND. 

(author retains copyright)

19 August 2012

Protestpoems is alive and well

Ruslana Westerlund

Jack Peachum

Afzal Moolla

William Wright Harris

protestpoems is alive and well

From the Editor

Once again I have to apologise for a prolonged hiatus in publication. It's not as if there's been nothing to protest about. If anything, there's been more.

I could make many excuses, but I won't except to say that the past six months have been very trying.

Protestpoems will publish weekly until our backlog of submissions has disappeared, and then it will revert to its fortnightly cycle.

Next edition is 25th August 2012.

Richard PIerce-Saunderson

Ruslana Westerlund


My Speech is Accentless, But My Skin Color is Not

Where are you from?
What languages do you speak?
Aren’t you from Mexico?
Really, where are you from?

Since you asked, I will answer you.
You might listen, but will you hear me?
You might hear me, but will you understand?
You might nod, like you’re understanding, but will you accept me?
Will you accept me and my olive skin as your equal, as your American kin?
You might “embrace diversity”, but will you respect me?
You might even say, “We are not just tolerant, we are multicultural!”
But will you truly listen to what I have to say?
If you listen, I will answer you.
I will speak on behalf of those who were born and raised on this side of the border, but who get interrogated constantly.
You asked, “Where are you from?”
I am actually from Irvine, California.
No, but where are you really from?
From Irvine, Orange County, California, I thought I had already said that.
“Aren’t you from Mexico?”
I say nothing.  I want to say, “Aren’t you from Ireland?”
I say quietly, “Born and raised right here, Irvine, California.”
Not all of us are FOBs, “fresh-off-the-border”
And before you ask…
Yes, I am here legally.
I dare not repeat “Born and raised, Irvine….”
Instead inside of me I yell, “NOT ALL MEXICANS ARE ILLEGAL, FYI…”
“Who is your ESL teacher?” he continues.
I do not say a word…
My English is flawless.  My speech is accentless, but my skin color is not.
No, I do not dare say, “Not all of us, Latinos are in ESL!”
Instead inside of me I yell, “NOT ALL OF US LATINOS ARE IN ESL!”
You asked, “What languages do you speak?”
I say, “English.  Do you want to know what language my grandpa
spoke? Spanish! When he went to school, they didn’t let him speak Spanish.  That’s why I am not bilingual.”
“Wow! You speak English good!”
I reply,“You mean, I speak English WELL?”

(author retains copyright)

Jack Peachum

Representative Democracy

Where’s the Congressman speaks for me?
Democrats want to spend every penny I’ve got–
Republicans mean to see I don’t have a penny.
They’re all wealthy and well-fed,
they all have government health insurance
– I am poor, my diet meagre–
the insurance man shakes his head,
tells me I’m too sick to qualify for insurance!

(author retains copyright)

Afzal Moolla


the seeds of acceptable hate...

between the folds of faith and belief
tucked neatly in cushioned corners
lie the seeds of acceptable hate

through quaint pleasant rituals
and joyously hummed words
dumbed down thoughts
and dazed faces exude
righteous sweetness

belief wrapped in glistening foil
faith painted in gaudy colours
conceal the murmurs of hate
of embraced intolerance
and welcomed bigotry

the seeds of acceptable hate flourish in damp fungal minds
as indifference flowers into the silence of frozen apathy
with blooming petals of finely measured howls of rage
while the ever smiling faces beam with deep pride
drenched in all the pious tears they've cried

and so it is that the viral seeds of acceptable hate 
thrive among the genteel folk that quietly gaze
in silence at the slow creeping of the horror

as more seeds of hate are sown with manic zeal
and in the shrieking of this cowardly silence 
the seeds of acceptable hate 
continue to thrive
and germinate 

a child of war

as she lies bleeding
the girl who skipped and hopped to school
all of nine and a half years old
with ribbons in her hair and a laugh that was
her father's pride

as she lies bleeding
the warm bullet lodged in her torn stomach
she stares at her skipping rope
as her blood soaks it the colour of the cherries her mummy buys

as she lies bleeding
she sees the people through the thick black smoke
blurred visions of scattering feet and shoes left behind
hearing nothing but the pinging in her blown-out eardrums

as she lies bleeding
she slips away quickly and then she is dead
a mangled heap of a nine and a half year old girl
whose laugh was her father's pride

as she lies bleeding
for even in death she bleeds some more
the warm bullet wedged in her torn stomach
steals the light from her bright little eyes

as she lies bleeding
in jallianwala bagh in '19
leningrad in '42
freetown in '98
soweto in '76
jenin in '02
hanoi in '68
beirut in '85
kabul now
basra still
gaza too

as she lies bleeding
this little nine and a half year old girl
whose laugh was her father's pride
we know she'll bleed and bleed some more
tomorrow and in many tomorrows yet unborn
with that warm bullet in her stomach 
ripped open and torn

as she lies bleeding.

I am a 39 year old man and take a keen interest in reading history as well being appreciative of fine writing, wherever it may be found. My 11 year old cat has, thus far, been my harshest critic! I enjoy writing for the simple joy of writing, as well as for the catharsis, by verse, that writing brings out. 

I grew up as a child of a South African family who has forced into political exile during South Africa's struggle for freedom and racial equality. I subsequently gre up in India, Egypt, Finland and finally South Africa.

My father represented Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) in a few countries before we finally returned to South Africa following the release of Nelson Mandela and the negotiations for a new South Africa.

(author retains copyright)