Short story from Judge Santiago Burdon

Written September 23 which would have been her 34 birthday  Judge Santiago Burdon

What Did Your Teacher Learn In School Today    

For McKenzie

It was when McKenzie, my daughter was in the second grade I believe. Her teacher called me in the early afternoon while class was still in session. 

” Mr. Santiago, it’s imperative you come to the school, we need to have a serious discussion concerning McKenzie’s demeanor. Is your wife available to come as well?” 

” Mrs.Callaway, my ex-wife, is most likely working at her shop and wouldn’t be able to attend. 

May I ask what kind of problem requires me to show up at  school?  Has she been injured? Is she okay?” 

” Yes she’s fine and isn’t hurt or injured.”

“Has McKenzie assaulted or hurt  someone?” I asked.

” No, it’s nothing like that.”

” Well then what in the hell is the problem? Tell me what my eight year old daughter did to cause you to call me? From the sound of it, you seem to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Are you alright?”

” I’m unable to cope with it any longer. She constantly corrects me when I’m teaching a subject or telling the class pertinent information straight from the lesson plan. She has an abnormal way of viewing the world. The other students now applaud her when she proves her point.”

” Wait a second. Are you telling me my eight year old daughter is questioning  the information you’re teaching? What exactly do you mean?”

” It started the first day of class with the Pledge of Allegiance. She refused to recite it claiming  that it was a lie. First of all she  said she doesn’t believe in God. Why does she have to say  ” one nation under God”? And what about nonchristians people that don’t believe in God? Atheists or those that worship Allah or Buddhists, why do they have to pledge allegiance to a God that they don’t worship?” 

“Well she’s absolutely correct on each issue”

” It doesn’t stop there. She also pointed out that it says  “liberty and justice for all”. And the Civil Rights Bill wasn’t made a law until 1964.”

” She’s right again.”

” In Language Arts the subject of Sunrise and Sunset came up. Well she said actually the Sun doesn’t rise or set. The Earth turns making it look like the Sun sets or rises. They should be called Earth turns. Morning Earthturns and  Evening Earthturns.

“Actually that statement is one of my original thoughts. I guess my children do occasionally listen to what I say”.

“Another example of her abnormal and oddball observations; The Dictionary should be called a Definitionary because no one uses it to look up a word’s diction, most everyone  used it to look up definitions.”

” So far she hasn’t been incorrect with any of her  information. I don’t understand…”

” Did you know the English settled Australia with Irish prisoners, criminals and slaves? I didn’t, until she said it in History class. I looked it up and it was true. She asked why the Declaration of Independence says “All men are created equal. Their creator  gave them life, liberty and to have happiness.” But at that time there was slavery in the colonies and it was practiced for almost a hundred years after it was signed. And still many Presidents of the United States owned slaves. How could that be possible?” she asked”. I didn’t have an answer”

” I fail to see a problem here? What exactly do you claim she is doing wrong?”

” Let me finish. Whenever she makes her statement, which is frequently, she always says; my father told me and promised he would never lie to me.” 

” Yes, that’s the absolute truth.”

” Well I would appreciate it if you would stop filling her head with contradictory information? I had her brother in my class a couple years back and I had the same problem with him. Are you raising your children to be revolutionaries spreading subversive ideas?” 

.” No, I raise my children to ‘Question Authority’ and not to believe everything they’re told.

I’ll be at the school in ten minutes. I’ll take care of this problem.”

” Thank you.”

I drove to the school with the biggest smile I could fit on my face. As a father I couldn’t have been more proud of McKenzie.

When I reached the school I found McKenzie in the Principal’s office along with her teacher. 

” Hey McKenzie. Do you have everything of yours with you?”

“No, my jacket and backpack are in my classroom cubby.” 

” Run over there and get all your stuff. Apúrate bebe”.

She scooted out of the office. I talked with the Grammar School Dictators, they mentioned  how much they appreciated me addressing the situation. And hoped I would take care of curtailing  her fanatical ideals. The principal held out his hand for me to shake just as McKenzie returned. I turned away from him to help her put on her backpack. “Have you got everything?”

She shook her head yes. I turned  back facing the principal and he still had his hand out for me to shake.

” I should let you know that McKenzie will not be returning to this school. I think it is better for everyone involved that I enroll her in an actual learning institution. We’ll be leaving now. I have no intention of shaking your hand. Please have her  records available as soon as possible.”

” Mr. Santiago, this is not the solution I had in mind.” Mrs. Callaway mentioned.  

” You’re just lucky you didn’t discuss the Bible in school. You would’ve been up the creek.”

We got in the car and McKenzie looked at me with an inquisitive expression.

” So you’re not mad?”

” Yes I’m a little pissed off but it’s not worth letting it bother me.”

“I’m sorry Santi” 

” Sorry? What are you sorry for? I’m upset with your teacher, not you.”

” So I’m not going back to school here?”

” No, we’ll find a real school. I guess  instead of asking you what did you learn in school today? I’m going to have to start asking, what did your teacher learn in school today? So what do you think, Smoothie or Milkshake?”

” I love you Santi.”

Poetry from John Hicks

 When you graduated, no one  
 hired draft bait.  You lived at home.  
 Waited for the hungry nation’s letter.  
 Collected in October.  Bus 
 full of strangers.  One, his pockets 
 full of candy.  Another, cigarettes.  
 No one shared.  Guy behind you 
 was reading Psychology Today.  
 Now, after four months of training,
 you’re trying to use every minute 
 of this twelve-hour pass slipping
 through your fingers.  Last freedom 
 before new orders.  Fog cold.  
 Can’t pull your collar close enough.  
 Head-down walking.  The light without edges.  
 Can’t see the city through suffocating gray.
 No idea how far from the Greyhound depot.  
 Looking for a place that won’t shun a soldier.  
 To be among civilians a few hours.  But 
 you’ve wandered into a warehouse district.  
 The Draft, a law for world war—now part 
 of the country’s character—has sent you 
 to learn automatic weapons and explosives;
 to build strength to march with heavy packs; 
 equipment, and ammunition; to carry 
 an injured comrade out of harm’s way; 
 to dress wounds; to dig for shelter in the dirt.  
 It’s taken you for your country’s hardest work.  
 At the bus depot you bought a San Francisco Chronicle.  
 First newspaper in four months, now limp in the fog.  
 Training’s over for your platoon.  No longer strangers
 uncertain about each other or the Army.  
 Comrades waiting for orders: 
 Vietnam on everyone’s mind.  
 Among steel and concrete buildings, a single light
 caved in mist above a store front’s faded letters,  
 Looks like a place out of Jack London.  A place 
 for bearded men in pea jackets, wool caps, heavy boots.  
 And cheap enough for a $100-a-month Army private. 
 Brass door handle’s wet, cold.  Thumb the latch.  Push.  
 Almost empty.  Air heavy with grease.  
 Cook, with stained apron and tattooed arms,
 has spread the classifieds on a table.  
 Doesn’t look up.  Radiator clicks by the door; 
 coffee urn grumbles.  Murmured slap of cards
 from the far end of the counter.  Her uniform 
 is faded pink; hair in a bun, pencil stuck in it.  
 You’re too late for breakfast, she declares.  
 We got pie and coffee.  
 Take the seat by the register.  
 The cup is heavy china; kind that holds blistering heat.  
 Slip your fingers around it; one through the handle.  
 She returns to the game.  Takes her cards 
 from her apron pocket.  Other players 
 are pink-faced—gray hair slicked back on one, 
 fluffy gray ring above the other’s ears.  
 Black industrial shoes with gym socks.  
 Their backs toward me.
 Students are protesting.  San Francisco 
 wants to build the world’s tallest building.  
 Nixon has a plan.  Crossword, horoscope, 
 Goren on Bridge, Ask Abby, sports, want ads.  
 Pages of another world.  
 Pay for the coffee.  Leave the paper.  
 Fog’s unchanged.  Pull your neck 
 into your collar.  Back to the bus depot.  
 Back to your platoon.  Back to wait for orders.  
 Unspoken:  You’ll be split up.
 Singing in the Dark
 Few things weight your heart
 like men’s voices lifting 
 in the relief of camp songs, 
 songs that echo back 
 from a grove of trees 
 taller than their sound.  
 Nothing is more terrible 
 than men’s voices lifting 
 to branches leaning down, 
 keeping to themselves 
 what lies ahead.  
 On the plaza, the Marine Band 
 struck up the national anthem, 
 and in the awareness of a ten-year old, 
 you noticed the changed posture
 of the man standing next to you; 
 how he pulled his feet together, 
 how he squared his shoulders, 
 and took the cigarette from his mouth; 
 how both sleeves ended 
 in stainless steel hooks.
 Bus to the Weekend Market
 Sun off the concrete so intense, 
 I have to squint.  Digs through
 the bottom of my shoes.  
 No taxis on Sunday—so a bus.
 Alone at the stop on Sukhumvit Road, 
 I’m moving with the shade splatter
 under this flaming jacaranda.  
 Tomorrow, the young woman 
 with white blouse and blue sarong, 
 will set her baskets down in the shade, 
 lean her bamboo pole against the fence, 
 and roast banana slices on a brazier 
 for customers waiting for the bus.  
 She’ll wrap their breakfast 
 in fresh banana leaf before it arrives.  
 Still my first month in Bangkok.  Today, 
 I’m going to the old part of the city.  
 Have heard of Sanam Luang, 
 the Weekend Market on the royal public grounds.  
 I want to see where the food comes in 
 from the countryside.  I’ve heard 
 you can buy almost anything there:  
 brass woks, boars’ heads, horseshoe crabs, 
 and temple offerings—like small birds in cages, 
 or Siamese fighting fish in plastic bags 
 of canal water—small animals for making merit 
 by setting them free.  
 A bus at last!  
 As we pull away, I hand my coin 
 to the attendant in his khaki uniform.  
 Can’t be more than ten years old.  
 With a practiced gesture, he flips back 
 the hinged lid of the aluminum tube, 
 drops my fare into its compartment, 
 and tears my ticket from the tiny roll.  
 He stays close to me and,
 looking up with a shy smile, 
 touches the top of his crew cut 
 with the flat of his hand, compares 
 to its level on my shirt—something
 I did at that age.  I smile back.
 Ah, luck!  A seat on the shady side 
 and an open window with breeze from 
 our movement.  The young mother 
 in the seat ahead holds her baby up 
 to look over her shoulder at the farang.  
 A surprise of black hair spouts up through 
 a pink bow.  I look down a moment, 
 then up; wiggling my eyebrows.  
 A giggling reward. Like all babies, 
 she can’t stop staring.  I’m guessing 
 she’s going to visit grandparents.  
 They get off at Soi Nana Nua—
 just before Ploenchit Road where 
 we begin heading west.  
 Near Erawan Shrine, I hear whispers
 behind me in a dialect I don’t understand.  
 I pick out the word American.  
 A gray-haired woman leans forward 
 and raises her voice to get my attention.    
 Her hair is cut short, sarong folded 
 in the old style.  I can’t make out
 what she’s saying until she offers me 
 a kaffir leaf and a scoop from her jar 
 of betel nut paste.  Her daughter, 
 in western dress and sunglasses, tugs 
 at her arm, an effort she pulls away from—
 eyes bright above her betel-red mouth.  
 In a country that esteems its elderly, 
 she’s being generous with her attention.  
 Respectfully, I decline with a modest 
 lowering of my head, then a wink and 
 smile.  Her laugh lines are for me.  
 We ignore daughter.  
 As we pass Emerald Buddha Temple, 
 people start gathering their belongings.  
 The attendant stands next to the driver 
 to look out the front.  We pull over, 
 and everyone gets off.  So I do, too.  
 The street stews with weaving vehicles.  Taxis, 
 bicycles, samlors, small trucks, motor bikes and
 scooters weave, beep, honk and puff exhaust.  
 Everyone seems to be unloading baskets or crates 
 or dropping someone off.  
 Sanam Luang itself is an uproar of tarps
 in all shapes, colors and patterns—
 all with their backs to me—obscuring 
 thirty grass-sparse acres of the royal public grounds.  
 I retreat to shade beneath the tamarind trees planted 
 by King Rama V.  
 How do I get into the Market?  There seems 
 to be no entrance, and everyone’s too busy to ask.  
 As I watch, a woman with a basket of duck eggs 
 resting on her hip gets off the back of a motorbike, 
 and dodging through the traffic, disappears 
 behind a canopy.  Staying under the trees, 
 I follow and find the opening where she entered. 
 A path on the battered grass wanders vendor-to-vendor. 
 I turn left, dodging tent poles and tie-downs, 
 duck under tarps sagging with the weight of sun, 
 and stop at crowd around a table 
 where someone sells small birds 
 from a tall wire cage.  A boy and his father 
 have made a selection and are watching 
 the vendor trying to catch it without losing 
 the others.  The birds make small clicking sounds 
 as they flick perch to perch.  Each grab
 inspires laughter and encouragement 
 from surrounding children and adults.  
 Home has become far away, 
 New Car
 Pattaya Beach,
                         Hot Season
 I parked my new car last night in a grove of royal jacaranda 
 for shade over our beach weekend.  Tomorrow we’ll walk 
 to the water through coconut palms rustling in the sea breeze.  
 At noon, we’ll move into the shade for steamed rice in banana leaf cups, 
 and chicken satay roasted with a local curry sauce, 
 drink Amarit or Singha from a chipped-ice cooler.  
 This morning I find I’d parked in a photographer’s dream—
 a theater setting of clustered orange trumpets, 
 regal fanfare deafening polished metallic blue.
 But trees only talk with trees.  
 They whisper to each other 
 what pride cannot hear, 
 I’ve brought a painted toy into paradise.

Lorraine DeMauro reviews Michael Robinson’s poetry collection From Chains to Freedom

Poet Michael Robinson

This poet, Michael Robinson, writes from his heart, there is no doubt….when reading his poetry, you truly feel the emotions as if they hop off the paper….
A truly gifted poet whose life journey has been difficult, but has made him a true example of how someone can beat the odds and shine as a shining star in the art of poetry….a truly amazing poet….

Lorraine DeMauro, Artist….

You may order a copy of Michael Robinson’s book From Chains to Freedom directly from Michael, at

Poetry from Mark Young


 Jean, dansant
 It was a temp-
 oral regression 
 from which 
 he returned 
 singing La 
 between mouth-
 fuls of an egg &
 lettuce sand-
 wich. Arch-
 ival footage 
 shows there
 were times
 when he had
 all four feet
 off the ground. 
 the Holy Roman 
 Empire would 
 come to be regarded
 as the first 
 successful franchise. 
 Initially, however, it 
 didn't seem to have 
 a hope of making it 
 until Emperor Constantine
 finally paid attention
 to the local cuisine 
 & replaced the 
 basic communion wafer
 with bite-sized pide.
 Working on a capsicum farm
 Way before television, up & down 
 the main street on a Saturday night. 
 Olive oil heated in a large sauce-
 pan, a high energy production. 
 Unanimously well received. Great 
 feedback for a never say die team. 
 "The intention is to allow people 
 to stay living in their own homes," 
 Carol explained. "We're hoping 
 those people who want to become 
 train drivers will wear white on 
 the night − lots of lace, no denim. 
 "It's so rewarding to see them once
 they step out of their comfort zone."
 Out & About
 When last heard of she was
 said to be running a clinic &
 outreach program for theo-
 dolites made redundant by
 an uptake of GPS devices. No-
 one can pinpoint its location.
 that the voices 
 in my head have
 deserted me, 
 who is there 
 left to talk to?

Poetry from Hongri Yuan, translated by Yuanbing Zhang

Middle aged Asian man standing in a field with green trees and shrubs
Hongri Yuan
Three Poems
By Chinese Poet Yuan Hongri
Translated by Yuanbing Zhang
Another Me From The Heavens

If blue is namely white and black is namely red
and gold is transparent as crystal
and light makes the soul smile forgetting the sun moon and stars
and you were filled with wisdom, drunk for thousands of years
and back to the prehistoric giant city
and that giant is just like another me from the heavens
by the lotus throne in the golden palace.

The Azure Sea
Tonight I thought of the platinum city above in distant space
Where there is no day and night and the giants are interstellar travellers by spaceship
Their words have the dignity of God and create the holy Kingdoms
So that the pictures of the soul in the maze of memory lasts a billion years
Standing by the azure sea near the great palace with swirling sweet music in the city of the gold
The Bath of The Cool Breeze
Prehistoric words of the gods are waking up in my body
The platinum city from a strange planet is as if in a fantasy on the blue coast
The giant men and women who walk by the light do not know trouble or sorrow
There where the temple of the gods is in their heads, whose light is like wine flowing in the blood
And the music of the stars sways gently around them, which is like the bath of the cool breeze on the earth
The huge ship of stars which they have ridden can arrive at the other side of time
To let you get a glimpse yourself yesterday in the future and in the divine light of fragrance

Bio: Yuan Hongri (born 1962) is a renowned Chinese mystic, poet, and philosopher. His work has been published in the UK, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada, and Nigeria; his poems have appeared in Poet's Espresso Review, Orbis, Tipton Poetry Journal, Harbinger Asylum, The Stray Branch, Pinyon Review, Taj Mahal Review, Madswirl, Shot Glass Journal, Amethyst Review, The Poetry Village, and other e-zines, anthologies, and journals. His best known works are Platinum City and Golden Giant. His works explore themes of prehistoric and future civilization.

Yuanbing Zhang (b. 1974), is Mr. Yuan Hongri’s assistant and translator. He himself is a Chinese poet and translator, and works in a Middle School, Yanzhou District, Jining City, Shandong Province China. He can be contacted through his

Address:No.18 middle school Yanzhou District ,Jining City, Shandong Province, China Yuanbing Zhang

Phone:+86 15263747339

Younger Asian man with glasses and a collared pink shirt and a black suit coat.
Yuanbing Zhang

Poetry from Joshua Martin

 Napkin miscellanea 
 Following a footnote
 abridged to engross
 Japanese standard
 gravediggers translate
 promotional resources
 as autumnal studies
 useless links condense
 their informative
 humbled razor sharp
 Zen winter coat symmetric PVC pipe
 head a flowerpot 
 earlobe an extension cord
 fleeing flea circus attitude
 adjustment cucumber cart
 telephone bra strap app
 scratching iron shackle papal
 smeared lips volcanic ash
 pile style smile cesspool
 HorroR escape hot RoD    
 stone cold malfunction sprain
 backend that burps & slides
 so close to bearing shed
 farther than a ski slope swirl
 salamander can of shoefly pie
 leagues before JULES VERNE
 marathon a con a palm
 swan that sprays to play
       /          /
 /            /          /             /
 and no other than another
 bundled cut & razor shaped
 well-versed & terse & tenses
 a parody of electronic hearse
 screwing lightbulbs from exterior   
 Reside where danger lies
 Geysers originate artificial weaponry
 on the imaginary look of future
 temporarily shares dimension
 shamed Greco-German empiricism
           mainly a latter gift
           aiming inheritance
           into the discourse of
           irredeemable anthropology 
 specters pave the epochs
 blind emancipation backwards
 dwell on media theory legacies
 enveloping essential non-endeavors
 conflating forbidden w/ jealousy
 preserving diffuse critique
 the center of the every day  
 Pragmatic convolutions
 hotbed of MONARCHY
 the human wart blasted
 feathering itinerant quarrels
 & unleashed furious press
 from their rejected ramparts
 came sighed relief
 hunted by runaway laity
 but one CRITIC presses play
 while another MOUTHPIECE repeats

Joshua Martin is a Philadelphia based writer and filmmaker, who currently works in a library. He is the author of the books Pointillistic Venetian Blinds (Alien Buddha Press, 2021) and Vagabond fragments of a hole (Schism Neuronics). He has had pieces previously published in Coven, Spontaneous Poetics, Ygdrasil, Expat, Selcouth Station. RASPUTIN, Train, Fugitives & Futurists, Otoliths, M58, Punk Noir Magazine, Beir Bua, and Scud among others.

Poetry from John Culp

Shards of color 
    Broken Dreams

 It's all that's meant
     by Time 
        it seems 

     Our Love stands
           Above Our 

     And drowns 
           the Lakes
       Beneath gray Shrouds

      to mend the nights 
                    & heal the Days 

Where songs
       Reach out 
    & ARMS swing 

    And Lofted Breath
    I'll rise
         I'll rise 

the Breeze catches the wind
    exhales an earthly mist

 I'll walk the plains and sweep 
               the grasses until
                    I forget to count
                     the Dawns ♡