Online Open Mic – August

With the COVID-19 situation, our Open Mic Night meetings were temporarily derailed. However, we kept our poetry community engaged through Online Open Mic venue.

We had such a wonderful response, we’ve decided to keep the Online Open Mic poems online and available for viewing. So if you missed any, you can re-visit the poems that were submitted during the Summer of 2020.

We hope you enjoy our poets and their thoughts in these trying times…

Return to Online Open Mic

Kathleen Smith
     Long Haul

For the long haul you won’t need it,
but to make the short haul last longer,
live in your body. Imagine it as a long haul
truck with many wheels that can fall off.
But they don’t,

Imagine yourself as a golden eagle soaring
over the vast landscape of white privilege
on wings that span six feet. Works well
until you have to come down on stolen land
or decide what to kill for dinner.

Imagine something closer to what you know:
a body sculpted by generations of famine
survivors stacking stones for soup and raising
bloody rebellions. That stamina can run half
marathons or hike miles of desert to Stone Lions.

Now imagine yourself in a murky pandemic,
a twenty first century fog. Full of stamina
and white privilege. Your wheels will not fall off
and everyone thinks that you might be good
to go for the long haul.

LeAnne Ries

the long haul
making it to the end of the workday
stopping to get a burger on the way home

the long haul
watching your dad, eleven years with Alzheimer’s
your children half-way grown up before he dies
all the times you willed his mouth to move, or hoped you could pour love into him without words

the long haul
a slight yellow flower that has grown underneath and around two boulders
alone on a rock cliff
without anyone to say it has done well

the long haul
the dinosaur turned bird
growing smaller thousands of years after millions of years
until only vultures are still feared, and maybe crows for what they portend

the long haul could have begun with the first who were almost human
to the farthest span of the time which they themselves devised

to their end
when the words long haul will mean nothing
no letters or symbols existing save the ones

sent out on a golden disk
blown from gravity by fires perfected from flint and stone
a Hail Mary for the long haul

Dave Fonfara
              August 2020
It’s been a long haul.

I carry a heavy load.

The burden of excess baggage, guilt, grief, and pain,

Its weight encumbers my cluttered head.

So much confusion there.

The answers don’t come easy.

Can’t get no relief.

A dark cloud of toxicity obscures my view.

It brings a roiling, boiling fever of discord.

A contagion – a plague engulfs me – engulfs my Nation.

My body drained – exhausted.

My right arm weary – holding high freedom’s guiding torch of liberty.

The great American experiment in democracy in perilous straits,

The crown I wear tilted – askew.

The Country I have stood tall and proud for since 1886 under siege,

A dichotomy of unrelenting interests wage war across our great divide,

This great land becoming a breeding ground of hatred, racism, and discontent.

Driven by unconscious factious dissonance.

I see the conflicts clearly from my home at New York Harbor,

From my pedestal three hundred feet above the maddening crowd.

Battle lines drawn with indelible ink.

Positions cast in concrete – Opposing forces unrelenting in their disagreement – A conundrum of “You Says I Says.”

You say, “Summer of love.” – I say, “Urban chaos.”

You say, “Storm troopers” – I say, “Peace makers.”

You say, “Protesters.” – I say, “Detesters.”

You say, “Social justice seekers.” – I say, “Anarchist agitators.”

You say, “Mask.” – I say, “Masquerade.”

You say, “Black lives matter.” – I say, “Law and order.”

Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.

I do recall, it’s been a while, two generations past, a similar fractured circumstance.


Reflections of the Sixties for me – the bards, the poets helped me make it through many long days and longer nights.

They brought clarity to my mind.

They spoke to me with their songs.

Their words guided me through those contentious time.

Dylan – McClean – Stills – Gaye,

Poet laureate Bob Dylan-

“How does it feel to be on your own To be on your own With no direction home Like a complete unknown Like a rolling stone?”

Balladeer extraordinaire, Don McClean-

“And while Lennon read a book on Marx The quartet practiced in the park And we sang dirges in the dark The day the music died.”

Rock legend, Stephen Stills-

“Somethings happening here What it is ain’t exactly clear There’s a man with a gun over there Telling me I got to beware.”

Sad, soulful, Motown great, Marvin Gaye-

“Mother, mother There’s too many of you crying Brother, brother, brother There’s far too many of you dying You know we’ve got to find a way To bring some lovin’ here today.”

I found inspiration in their words – still do.

Their words spoken plain.

Their words spoke the truth.

Their words fearless and expressive.

Their words – the soul – the conscience of the American Dream.

Now – two generations hence – the strength, the resilience, the dynamism of America challenged.

It’s time to take a stand for life, liberty, and justice for all.

I am committed to these principles of democracy.

I am one statue that will stand the test of time.

I will not be toppled.

I will not fall.

I will endure.

I am in it for the long haul.

Lowell Murphree

“I want to crawl
under the bed,” my friend said on the phone,
“when the anger comes out.”

And though I don’t fit under
any bed, I knew just
what she meant.

I knew – then comes the white,
all your mental screens go blank,
and blood roars

You can’t hear anything
not words, not
shattering glass.

“So,” she said, “you want to say (but can’t) don’t bother throwing
anything. Someone will get cut cleaning up
and I’m already broken.”

“But,” she said, “if you can just hold your tongue —
endure — until
it passes … “

I finish her sentence in my mind: “Your frozen limbs will move you
quietly behind a door where
silence leans against it from the inside,

keeping it closed. Eventually
your breath will
remember you,

remember the searing brand your beloved
received before you met —
then love — again.”

Joanna Thomas

a virgin queen gnaws through the lid of her cell
and emerges damp-winged and bright-eyed the
hairless back of her thorax black and shiny as a
boot she’s ready to stab-to-death her sisters then
take-to-bed a bevy of handsome lovers in mid-air
blue phlox extends its fragrant carpet from here
to the full pink moon of april round as la dolce vita
oh such soft-bodied things manipulating with their
mouths warm wax into honeycombs the hum from
ancient orchards a ring of petals forming the inner
envelope of each blossom freddie mercury tasting
royal jelly made from nectar and pollen like it’s a
night at the opera look queen-anne’s-lace luring bees
to its flat umbel the mezzo soprano too fat to fly

Donna Raforth
       Long Haul

Thus did we hear:
       a threatening virus
       in China
Thus did we respond:
       Oh, it’s happened before
       SARS, ebola, bird flu
       pay it no mind
Thus did we hear:
       no, no, this is dangerous
       deadly, highly contagious
Thus did we respond:
       sigh, yawn
       let’s go out to dinner
Thus did we hear:
       it is called COVID19
       a death in Seattle
Thus did we respond:
Thus did we hear:
       go home, stay home,
       close the schools, close
       the restaurants, the stores, the sports
       fields, the performance halls
Thus did we respond:
       Ok, Ok, but just
       for a couple of weeks, Ok?
Thus did we hear:
       wear a mask
       wash your hands
       no gatherings
Thus did we respond:
       How long?
       How long?
       Thus did we hear:
       for the long haul
Thus did we reply:
       how long is a long haul?

Chuck Forster

On a bank of the Klickitat –
perpetual chorus of water and stone,
ever-subtly-shifting primal flow.

Sunlight flits on river skin – thousands of sequined diamond sparkles.
Swifts dash and skim inches above the murmuring beast.

On the far side – the mountain, eroded with deep, pleated seams
– scrub oak and basalt, blond and waving grass.
And of course, above, that Carolina blue.

A salmon breaks the surface
A goldfinch
A dragonfly
A weightless single seed – it’s gauzy filaments – riding the
midsummer zephyr – travels upstream.

Our world – an ecstatic unending poem;
and we – each of us – the poets,
need only be still.

Joyce Hernandez

Careless of the rain,
among the maple’s leaves
sparrows dart and chat.

Over hills’ coarse pelts
hang deep-furrowed purple clouds
heavy with promise.

Vase on my table
holds a captive maple branch
whose buds still open.

Is there a new sun
in the fist of every dawn?
All the birds say so

Dawn and new hope,
gifts that even while dying
we hand each other.

Claire Carpenter
     Mt Aix

It’s a long haul to the top of Mt. Aix—
a lot of steep and dusty miles.
But sweat is the toll you pay
For alpine meadows of phlox and columbine
For clear, cool air and a blue blue sky
And the company of white-robed mountains.
It’s a long haul, to raise a family:
The grinding responsibility of their helpless infancy
The intensity of adolescent righteousness and sibling rivalry
There are no snow-capped vistas
to reward a successful summit–
But it’s the climb and not the destination
that makes us come this way.
Marriage, too, is not for wimps:
Flying high on young love
we bind our souls to a great unknown–
Trying to hold tight enough
to be each other’s anchor in the stormy seas,
loose enough to allow diverging dreams.
Wiping sweat from my eyes
I stop to catch my breath.
There are easier paths to walk
But I am glad I’ve made this trip.

Ed Stover

There is a place I go
where time stands still,
like a backwater in a stream,
an eddy where green water pools.

I lie down on the grassy bank.
I gaze into the mossy deep.
I see people there,
places, the old memories
that matter—Mother, Father,
sisters, uncles, aunts,
cousins— the cousin
who committed suicide—
old questions rising
to the surface like curious fish:
the Whys, the Whats, the Whos.

The water plays a song—
the classical music program
on Uncle Les’ portable radio
that summer he built the barbecue
and talked about being shot down
over Germany in World War II.

Mother’s fingers on the upright piano
playing Claire de Lune—
her eyes closed as she plays
trusting her fingers to find their way.

Grandmother’s black eyes blinking
back tears when her parakeet died—
pets only bring you grief, she said—
three of her nine children gone young,
now all, all, all of them gone,

Finally my own face gazing back,
shimmering across years,
gazing back to see ahead
to find a way to go the distance.

Dotty Armstrong
     I Never Chose My Loves for the Long Haul

Susan wrote me a love song and sang it to me.
I could stare at Jack’s magnificent hair all day.
Rose could play all the Bach Cello Suites.
Mona’s arms were lovely, her fingers were miraculous.
Joe was not afraid of anything.
Angie could cook anything without a recipe.
Andy’s blue eyes made me want to dive into him.
Sarah made me laugh so hard I peed (often).
Anne reminded me of my beloved aunt
          who had a gap between her two front teeth.

All vigorous loves
but with an expiration date.

In the last chapter,
kindness runs the show.
I am surprised
by its importance

Linda Brown
     For the long haul . . .

I was born near the Chattahoochee where muddy waters
swirl ‘round the roots of weeping willows and
the sweet scent of magnolia blossoms cover
the stench of cruelty grown on manicured lawns
where white folks live in comfort and the wealthy
like royalty on the backs of the Lula Maes and Ethels
the Margies and Charlies who ride two busses from south Atlanta
to work sites in north Atlanta and two busses home.

I watch the Supreme Court on TV hand down the decision
in Brown v Board of Education in 1954 and when later
I marry and become Linda Brown, I wear the name with pride.
In 1955 I attend a segregated high school the same year
members of the football team go to court to proclaim
any one of ‘um could be the father of a certain girl’s baby,
the same year 14-year-old Emmett Till is nearly beaten to death,
then lynched, ’cause he whistled at a white lady. The good news is
that I’d learned to spell Mississippi in fifth grade. An all-white jury
finds the accused men “not guilty”.

The man who lives across our street on Haven Ridge Drive
at night wears white sheets and stands at the base
of Kennesaw Mountain under a burning cross.
One night I watch Martin Luther King and his wife, Coretta Scott,
ask that man for directions to Rabbi Rothchild’s house where King
is a guest for dinner, but pretends he’s going there to work.

In October of ’58 I go for a late-night ride with Eddie E.
in his new red Chevy convertible. We park behind The Temple
and “make out” like typical teens. The next morning The Atlanta Constitution reads,
“Jewish Temple on Peachtree Wrecked by Dynamite Blast”.
Ralph McGill, the editor says, “You do not preach and encourage
hatred for the Negro and hope to restrict it to that field . . .This
is a harvest. It is the crop of things sown.”

I witness sit-ins at Woolworth’s lunch counter and old black men
reduced to drinking sterno across from grandad’s store on Marietta Street
and I witness a black boy my age try to read a legal document
for a chance to vote, but unlike Reese Witherspoon he doesn’t know
the difference between malum prohibitum and malum in se.

Sherman’s march through Atlanta, I am taught,
is the first example of urban renewal, but we all know
the reality. I go to the March on Washington to hear King
speak in ‘63 and believe things are changing. I recall
Bloody Sunday in ‘65 at the Edmund Pettis Bridge
and all of us know about Rosa Parks, but I don’t meet her
until Jane Schwab brings her to speak in Yakima. In 2002 we
meet for lunch in Detroit. Sadly, Parks will pass in 3 years.

Chaney, Goodman, and Schwermer register blacks
in Mississippi to vote. (Told you I could spell it.)
They are killed by the Klan, but their bodies
at the base of an earthen dam are not found
for six weeks.

Four black girls, the oldest 14, attend church one Sunday morning
in Birmingham where a bomb ends their lives. Trayvon Martin
commits the crime of wearing a hoody and buying a candy bar
at a neighborhood store. He’s killed at 17. Ahmaud Arbery’s sin
is jogging in Brunswick, GA, stopping to drink some tap water.
Tamir Rice in Cleveland is killed for playing with a toy gun.
He’s 12. Freddie Gray dies in the back of a police van
from a broken neck. Michael Brown Jr. is 18 when he’s gunned
down for stealing a pack of cigarillos. George Floyd uses
what turns out to be a counterfeit $20. He receives the death penalty.

It’s 2020 and we still don’t have full school integration. We still don’t
have full voting rights for blacks. We still haven’t accepted
that Black Lives Matter. So, yes, I am in this for the long haul,
but I’m getting tired and I’m running out of time.

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