The Shithole Countries by Antony Owen

What makes a shithole country?
A hurricane with a white man’s name that voodooed Haiti and Orleans?
If I spoke Creole and something poetic would it re-home the numeric refugee?
If I un-spoke what makes us human would my tongue weave the word shithole country?

I read once that America was made by an ideal
The redcoat savages who spoke politely were defeated by an ideal,
The redskin natives were massacred by migrants, white as the wolf-skin moon.
I was read once by a woman from the Marshall Islands nuked by America sixty seven times.

Is this what makes a shot hole country, I am so confused.

What makes a shit person in a shitty world?
Is it when people are reduced to automated slavery?
Is it when the sacred land of its ancestors exhumes oil through bone?
I heard a girl called Malala once speak a whole world unto her precious tongue.

What makes a shithole country?
Is it when blind people fail to see the human beings and their souls landscape.
I believe what truly conquers a person is the spirit in which the skin and bone reside,
A white and black person are the same in the atlas of an unjudging God and she rules me.


Ma Northumbrian Prayer by Cath Campbell

Ma god, if ye’re reel, and up thier,
gie us a sign, man!
A growlin, lourin, ragin,
We’re in a muckle mess hier,
wi a load o crap goin roond.
Ah hier ye’re tha WAN!
Gie us tha thowts, and mek em loud.
Ye na, summat to gie us hope,
ta put fier inta tha them badduns.
Ye’ve bin awaa a wee while, man!
Time ta mek a stand, ye ken?

Off-Gassing by Devon Balwit

You want to steal my own face in the mirror,
leave me looking at low IQ crazy [my name],
reach your hand down my throat for my voice,
until I remain a dumb startle, a baffled bellow;
You want my knees apart or all of me bent
over a barrel, easy access, me, a pushover;
A dirty bomb, you want me to unravel,
intestines unthreading through your blast hole
and then sepsis, a slow death, a crying out;
If I won’t dance to pulled strings, you want me
in my father’s house, away from the forum,
corralled in the domestic, in a sphere that spills
snow when you tap it; You want me ever-smaller,
the kind of thing you could flick off a sleeve,
and be sure would never again trouble you.
Intending to be a survivor, I probe your vent
and note your noxious. I take my work seriously.

Fed Up (IX) by Devon Balwit

Pretty Boy swears she asked for it, wafting
pheromones into the night, controlling him
like an ambulance does streetlights.

He passes around his cell phone, calling
her bruises love bites, her torn clothes,
passion. Throats clear like chairs

scraping across tile. We smell a different
blood lust, imagining a whet stone against
a blade, Pretty Boy, the plumpest of capons.

Fed Up (XI) by Devon Balwit

Pretty Boy paved over his yard.

No grass, no mowing, he says,


spreading spider-crushing fingers.

We enter common spaces


preemptively, relocating orb-weavers

and spindly pholcidae.


When the boss pauses, open-mouthed

at a hovering hummingbird,


Pretty Boy bangs the window.

They creep me out, he shudders.


I poison my feeders. He muses

on the weightlessness


of feathers as he scoops up his kills.

We imagine Pretty Boy


honey-dipped and buried in dirt,

the feasting of small things.


How long till beaks strip him clean?

Secession Now by Devon Balwit

Californians are collecting signatures

to leave the Union, condemning


the nation’s rightward tilt powered

by their tax dollars, while Texans


resent the tug in the other direction,

trying to encircle the good old days


and their wells. Seeing my body hurtle

pell-mell towards disaster, I, too,


would like to exit, not be held hostage to cells

bent on destruction.


Why let flesh bear the flame of me

towards dousing. Were my body


up to the task, I would not sputter, tapped out.

I post and repost indignation,


go door to door to drum up support. Once victorious,

I will tie one on, go on a bender


to end all benders, no fear of consequences.

Share if you agree.

After the Fight by Devon Balwit


You want to say you won’t miss your teeth, but your lips

are too swollen to speak. Besides, you have swallowed

some, and so cannot miss them yet. Laughter would rasp

shattered ribs, so you grimace instead, drawing back lips

on bloodied gums. Pride hovers overhead, casting a raptor’s

shadow on your splay. You roll yourself into a ditch

and scrabble a cover of deadness with broken fingers.

Every orifice has been penetrated. Later, you will suture

yourself. Tears will scar. But for now, you listen

to your breath sawing through the minutes as if to build

a monument to defeat, a shrine awaiting the kisses of pilgrims.



Pressed flat to pavement, you feel the grave

abrasion of gravel. Turning your head scores

ritual scars. You send your eyes to scout for

danger, but your enemies have gone, you

too pitiful to torment further. Your knees,

drawn in tight, comfort your chest, the weight

of your limbs against themselves damming

the breakage. Soon you will gather the will

to shift and stand. You imagine yourself

on the far side of pain. Light spills from rent

clouds, the tears either opening or closing.




You were taught to take a punch, but you

believed that lesson hypothetical, shelving

it away next to grief and incapacity. Now,

you reach it down, scanning your old hand

for wisdom. All it says is get back up.

Nothing about the blare of humiliation. Nor

how to live with fingers in your ears and

your eyes squeezed shut. Nor what to do

with the names you call yourself dropping

like hailstones from an invisible roil.


Devon Balwit is a writer/teacher from Portland, OR. Her political poems have appeared in The New Verse News, Poets Reading the News, Redbird Weekly Reads, Rise-Up Review, Rat’s Ass Review, The Rising Phoenix Review, Mobius, What Rough Beast, and more.

Arc by Cath Campbell

she burned for it/in life a leader/in death a symbol.
Jeanne/there’s another one come/carrying the flame.
when she stands/ before the gun/I see you in her face.
the sound/of her sure right hand/speeds around the world.
she too is immortal/this one/with the fierce bright eyes

We Who Came… by Stefanie Bennett

We who came through the generations
Emptied the pepper
All over the dessert.
Knifed Arabic
In the gravy.
Dealt out spoons – the royal
Flush of poker.
Turned the wineglass
Into paper-cups.
Fed cheese and anchovy
‘Over there’
To a mange-mimic connoisseur.
Set the finger-bowl alight
And quarrelled
Words and sent them
Off to another
Serious luncheon.
The balloons we left intact.
Air. No-one’s
Put a price on it.
Of mixed ancestry [Italian/Irish/Paugussett-Shawnee], Stefanie Bennett has
published several poetry titles + a novel & a libretto & worked with –No Nukes-
Arts Action For Peace. Stefanie was born in Queensland, Australia in 1945.

For the Love of Lee by Natalia Spencer


the sheltered side of something; the side away from the wind.

Oh yes the fish wife said I often saw him
Fingers engraved with filth
& he smelt like a kipper
Bleeding disgrace I say

No don’t think I did he said am just too busy
to see what’s at my feet & judging
by that ratty bit of card
I don’t think she could write or read

Yes he/she was often camped there
said two policewomen & we knew its name
We saw sweat sparkling on the forehead
Hardly remarkable in seventy degree heat

No said Tony Stranger I never saw a report
that a disabled life died in a shop doorway
but I do know Theresa May
asked if they even existed

Yes said the whole internet
worms are dozing on leather green benches
or outside Gregs those sausage roll bags
are just fair weather mates

Yes said the Old & the New Year
As seasons change from sunshades
to blinding Christmas Neon Light
November’s Penny for the Guy is always here

And when commuters begin to rat run
for another buck somehow
that duvet that dirty cloud evaporates
like urine sodden snow.

The Slapping by a Palestinian Girl by Antony Owen

If you wish upon a Palestinian star I don’t think of David in Goliath
but I think of Ahed the girl who slapped a soldier and hit the nerve.
If I think of the moon I do not think of a sea of tranquillity aglow,
I think of gum on Palestinian tarmac trampled on by soldiers boots.

I want to stamp my lips like a visa on to the lips of weeping parents,
I want to tell them that border lines were drawn by wars drunk devil.
When I was the age of Ahed a doctor slapped my veins for a syringe,
he told me it wouldn’t hurt and lied but when I awoke I saw the fib.

Tonight the sky looks wondrous and the city lights invade its beauty,
I have to look harder to see that stars of Bethlehem are not the brightest.
In truth they are not yellow or white but made up of Gods and magnesium,
if we apply humanity I guess what makes them shine is to share them

I want to slap the idiots who use twitter as a platform for policy,
men who slap asses and grab vaginas like they are gods and hucksters.
I want to slap the war mongering peace makers and shout “wake the fuck up”,
We do not give away Jerusalem or drink the Nestle rain to profit from pain.

When I was a kid it was Bethlehem that took me to something more than Trump,
It was a soldier who died like Macbeth after Duncan and I saw this as sad.
When I was a kid my Grandfather told me that to catch a star you must dream,
Last night I dreamt of Ahed and she slapped a door that shut away the free world.

We are here Ahed,
You are not there.


The story behind these poems by Debasis, Antony and myself can be found in the following link:

silence my dear by reuben woolley

6-ahed2 morning star

………….they said

don’t speak this land

don’t see


when your cousin
is shot


don’t move
when we slap you
don’t respond

……………………….& now
in chains

say nothing
if we should abuse you / we only
do our best


……………they said

don’t speak

(photograph from The Morning Star Online)

The NHS Is Full Of Layabouts by Harry Gallagher

The NHS is full of layabouts,
lounging good for nothings,
veins coursing with drugs
paid for by you and me,
drips dangling from flesh
like platinum handcuffs.

The NHS is full of layabouts
bedded down in corridors
like the Lord God almighty.
Some talk of meeting Him.

A feckless junior doctor
sneaking in a sly snooze
in a secret shady corner.
Mumbling red eyed excuses
about a snatched ten minutes
on a twenty hour shift.

The NHS is full of layabouts,
unproductive units claiming
coronaries, car crashes,
cancers and sad lonely endings.

So here I come with my scalpel
and my smoke and my mirrors
and by the time I’ve finished
you’ll all be in stitches.

capitalism’s cracker by Andy Brown

games of ping-pong
played over high walls,
opponents are not seen;
ball exchanged by rivals
operating identical rules.
spin and smash, bat and
pat balls to-and-fro until
the net smothers the ball.

participants timing can be wrong, wild volley wide of mark.
players continue their game because they know no different,
good at what they do, they represent their people, ever urged
to improve effort, extinguish opponents, destroy alien ideas.

thousands of homeless watch capitalism’s castles of empty land,
government touts passport colour, buries care in the Brexit sand.

CDC VILLAIN- ELLE by Terrence Sykes

All these self righteous hypocrites still linger
Rolled up like a fetus innocent pretense
Want to give them all the middle finger

Shock and awe as our rights dismember
We all know the master mind is surely Pence
All these self righteous hypocrites still linger

Where is a voodoo woman to conjure
Ignorant politicians so stupid & dense
Want to give them all the middle finger

Grabbing tits & ass with an entitlement finger
Vulnerable vaginas are now regulated forth hence
All these self righteous hypocrites still linger

Agent Orange & his regime we shall always remember
Evidence based & science based words they mince
Want  to give them all the middle finger

Are you gay bi straight or transgender
We are all Americans who’s lives are now tense
All these self righteous hypocrites still linger
Want to give them all the middle finger

Inalienable Rights by David Babatunde Wilson

Inalienable Rights
Inscribed and set down
In high sounding charters
And inspiring ideals

Inalienable Rights
Trampled underfoot
By militant boots
And despotic indifference

Inalienable Rights
Cast aside
By corporate assets
And capital growth

Inalienable Rights
Given nurture and growth
Challenging injustice
The potential of youth

Binge Watching Bad Memories by Bobby Parker

Nothing sorts out memories from ordinary moments. It is only later that they claim remembrance, when they show their scars – Chris Marker


congratulations your head didn’t explode

in the supermarket

nothing triggered us

can you believe that

no one cares

I plant fists in my hair

squint a million oranges

touch myself with caution

convinced I’m an alien

tangled like earphones

fingers pulling at the knots

the hem of my red dress

I mean your red dress

whispering through the ashtray

talking to a nurse she said

you probably won’t die tonight

we agreed

our feet were

equally disgusting

I peeled his hand off my knee

told him to go

wait for the dealer

he can remember

dancing but sometimes

he can’t remember

the year she was born

shiver in a spoon

I rarely think about God

did you really see him

in the park

bumming a dog

behind a burned-out car

dirty old bastard

I heard he worked in a factory

making fences

your mother was struggling to breathe

your dad fell off a ladder

cleaning windows

on a hot day

you could drink

a frosty pint of beer

in 1.9 seconds

but that doesn’t mean

anything to me now

it doesn’t matter

what I think

we are all in a lot of pain

your dad is mowing the lawn

even though

it will be dark soon

I’ve never seen a person

mow the lawn

in the dark

so I’m obviously

quite excited

when I’m excited

I sniff my fingers

until it makes me feel weird

then I wash my hands

tonight they smell

sort of evil

just think of the fresh cut

grass on the bottom

of your dad’s shoes

I can’t seem to write my love for you

the pharmacist always

makes a joke of us

as we stare at mouthwash

waiting for pills

if I don’t get these pills

I might have a seizure

if I have a seizure

maybe I will become a witness

if I can describe what I see

without prejudice

perhaps there will come a day

without prescriptions

organic shampoo

the colour of churches

waiting room chairs

with impressions of arses

I try on a pair of pink sunglasses

a young black woman

pleads with the pharmacist

her boyfriend beat her

with a Poundland brolly

next time he’s gonna

fucking murder me

I rest the daft glasses on my lips

pretend I’m not listening

did you know

the fair is in town

it smells of skunk

win me a teddy

oh squeeze me on the ghost train

I’m sorry but Kidderminster

is terribly white

disgusting really

her boyfriend calls her a whore

even as he takes the money

she makes off these streets

no problem

he was my best friend

in high school

we did a lot of speed together

I thought he died

he should have died

the pharmacist

has very beautiful hands

she picks up the phone

as if she’s the first person

to ever pick up a phone

my taxi waiting

between McDonald’s

and the Job-Centre

how long have I been here

I’m trying to remember

or trying to look

as though I’m trying

to remember

what happened to us

didn’t we kiss

our mouths all chocolaty

like a million years ago

under a tree or something

flashing blue lights

standing over the sink

I cup my hands

under the boiling hot tap

until my fingers feel like saints

she sacrificed London

for my anxious hands

lightning for my jealousy

sexuality for my toothbrush

I said things that hurt her breasts

I said my chest is full of scarecrows

I said our bed is a famous ghost ship

she feels the true night

when I break my neck

to kiss her out of her bones

our home town was built

on Sun newspapers and tired mothers

standing crooked in their kitchens

waiting for the bats

it seems like everyone is somehow

involved with smack

nothing works

Spring by Antonio Vivaldi

tortured into a tin-can toy phone

by the Department of Work & Pensions

she tells me clouds are gay

just to watch me try to figure out

if it’s going to rain

in my most submissive role

she sees a girl

with eyes that punish fathers

as a demon breeze

hisses through the corn

she sees a frightened boy

who in the aftermath

of childhood assaults

pulled women closer

told them everything

told them too much

made them wary

she honestly believed

I could read her mind

until the meds kicked in

now we have

repeat prescriptions

we stand around the same

mysterious body as you


death to the ice cream man

death to the post man

death to the police man

death to the fire man

death to the man who cuts the label off my shirt

death to this paltry allowance

death as my voice the same as your voice

death as her voice

disguised as my voice

disguised as strange thoughts

you’re having right now

in our joyful coming

we are your noisiest neighbours

she searched under my bed

but didn’t find a monster

perhaps you could try again later

our lines are busy

the cuts have been made

we taught our scars to flicker

our appeal is pending

through the poisoned city

I wish to make a new claim

my mouth

just like your mouth

is only the beginning

I don’t know how long

he tortured me for

I don’t remember what he did

only that I was sweaty

from screaming for mom and dad

to come home

pay him for babysitting

get rid of him

call the fucking police

help me

whenever I smell burning toast

I remember that’s what he offered

in return for silence

carefully holding the plate up

to the top bunk

where I shivered like a puppy

the pain was mine

sleep could not touch it

the victim heat

of guilt and shame was endless

I got used to it

you do

don’t you

I would stare straight at the sun

I set dead trees on fire

abandoned buildings

my own soiled underwear

in the gallery of evil penises

my childhood neighbour’s

is definitely in the top three



reeked of cheese

five years later

he became the first heroin addict I knew

vomiting his stomach-lining

outside our local newsagents

then he hanged himself

before any of this I remember

mom shouting for me

her pink fingers dripping

dish suds on the doorstep

where are you

I’m so sorry

I sleep too much

I’m not so ugly when I’m asleep

I can’t hear my ex-wife crying

or her junkie boyfriend

yelling at my daughter

I can still feel the breath

of confused boys in my ear

hot tears in the soft eye

of a sad dad’s moon

when my daughter

stays with her mother

I eat all the turkey dinosaurs

finish the blackcurrant

squash by her bed

scrape off the bright blue toothpaste

she spits on the edge of the sink

sometimes I get up

in middle of the night

to sleep in her empty pink bed

and I still dream

that I’m way up in the sky

during a terrifying storm

atop a 20 foot wooden pole

that’s been shoved up my ass

and I’m clenching

my sphincter

with all my strength

so it won’t go all the way

up through my guts

and out the top of my head

thank goodness for the tablets we take


on the inside

we must look like

candy factories

colour dissolving

blood glittering as the heart

sees its own blue ghost

and shudders.


They’ll Learn the Real Story Soon Enough by Jennifer Lagier

For every stone Mueller overturns,
up squirms money launderers,
Russian trolls, berserk Neo-Nazis.

Republicans collaborate
with Faux News talking heads
to dismiss treasonous findings.

America assumes hatred
will bring back
mythical “good old days.”

A dystopian paradise for wealthy white men.
No uppity women, labor unions,
people of color.

Each day, they dismantle, destroy,
conveniently forget blatant oppression
brews revolution.

Christmas Gift by Jennifer Lagier

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” –Franklin Delano Roosevelt


While children and indigents starve,
survive in alleys, cardboard box ghettos,
fat-cats celebrate the Prince of Payola
who has just given them a generous
Christmas gift of inordinate tax cuts.

Pharisees and their sycophants
repossess temples, erect golden idols.
A harsh regime suppresses free speech,
replaces truth with self-serving commercials.

A rough beast slouches toward Bethlehem
where he lifts his leg, pisses on the poor.
An antichrist brutally seizes the throne.
Timid kings keep their distance.


Jennifer Lagier has published thirteen books of poetry, taught with California Poets in the Schools, co-edits the Homestead Review. Her forthcoming books include Like a B Movie and Camille Mobilizes, both scheduled for publication by FutureCycle Press. Visit her website at