covid-19

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #6

“Windowbox Flowers and Rain Barrel”

“Windowbox Flowers and Rain Barrel” by Mary M. Michaels https://marymmichaels.weebly.com/

Thanks to the poets for contributing to The Pandemic Issue #6 from North of Oxford and Mary M. Michaels for graciously providing her art.  In order of appearance we present:  Henry Crawford, Megha Sood, Sheila Allen with Emily Jensen, Kerry Trautman, M. J. Arcangelini, Stephen Bochinski, Christine Riddle, Maria Keane, Marko Otten, Patricia Carragon, Jonel Abellanosa, Reizel Polak, Lois Perch Villemaire, Stephen Page, John Stickney, Ethel Gofen, Nan Ottenritter, Larry C. Tolbert, Kirsty A. Niven, Roderick Deacey, Gwil James Thomas and JeanMarie Olivieri
.
.
Henry Crawford
.
View From The Refrigerated Truck
.
The one below me died last Thursday.
They took him to the ICU the day before.
Put him on a ventilator.
.
Next to me a woman I remember
from the waiting room. The steel doors opened
to a blast of sunlight and cold vapor.
.
Stacked her in the first
vacant space.
.
My wife caught me coughing.
Drove me down in our yellow Honda Civic.
She knew this woman.
.
They’d gone to junior high together.
.
There’s room for another body
on my left. I saw a technician sneezing
as they were hooking up my drips.
.
It might be nice to see her again
but not here.
.
I’d tell her watch out. It’s not the dying
but the dying alone. Not the pain but the
knowing. Not the void but the temperature
that gets you.
.
Henry Crawford is the author of two collections of poetry, American Software (CW Books, 2017) and the Binary Planet (Word Works, 2020). His online poems are available at Henry Crawford Poetry, Online. He is currently the host of the online series, Poets vs The Pandemic.
.
Megha Sood
.
Insane “New” Normal
.
Like a blind cave
brittle rib cage hosting the infection
an unwanted guest:
the virus opens its mouth
its glistening black teeth
in the dead of the night
.
devours everything
precious and beautiful
cleaves the life out of the soul
leaves you gasping;
with bated breath and a jarred mind
.
you are left alone
in a vacant mind
lying on the death bed
reminiscing the day love embraced you
around a summer bonfire
.
now loneliness bounces off
sepia-tinged walls
death draped in pristine
white sheets sitting
at the foot of the bed
.
scoops its share masticating life
leaving you rotten like an empty room
with chipped off walls
forgotten and waiting for its due
.
vacant mind begets explanation
in the hollowness of the night
when the wheezing and choking
cleaves your soul
leaves you asunder
.
It rattles your mind
you struggle with the existential truth
as this insane “new normal” renders
dying alone a new meaning.
.
A Condolence Call
.
Grief sits like a day old soup in my kitchen unless the anger stirs it
rattles and boils it. Grief rises to the surface and chokes me
.
I hear the loss of a mother. My friend’s mother, over the phone
It’s a condolence call yet I can’t seem to join in his grief
.
Sudden loss disjoints your body, the pieces don’t seem to fit anymore
Body and language are extricable. Our tongue moves in the way
.
our body can’t decipher in grief. I can’t seem to form a legible sentence
our conversation keeps coming back to the grocery, the loneliness of
.
being stuck in a condo looking over the lush green deserted parks.
I don’t want to bring back the conversation of the dead and dying.
.
The whole thread of conversation is about feeding the ones we love.
Loss is pouring through the thin sluices of this city. Every damn day.
.
Which starts again the same way it ended yesterday Or was it tomorrow?
With sidewalks pitted with the bones of the dead.
.
I can’t seem to fathom the desperation and anger in his voice of not being
able to visit her mother during her last times, the pain and the grief carry over
.
like a failing enjambment from one meaningless conversation
to another till we ran out of the small talk. The silences between
.
the pauses take the shape of the unsaid condolence, as I slowly hang up the phone.
There is no defined language for grief. Lesson learned.
.
This City Weeps. This City Wails
.
The infection moving crisscross
jumping street and avenues
the Broadway Boogie Woogie
straight out of a Mondrian
A labyrinth of bones buried
under the sidewalks
.
Once lined with laughter
Now pitted with fear
Parks morphing into graves
Dead outgrows the living
Sky shredded with elegy
.
People drowning their grief
Looking out from the balcony
The incessant clapping
Can’t douse the cacophony of death
Of screaming hearts and sobbing souls.
.
Anger and grief filling the sewers
the putrid smell carried by air
Heavy with grief and sorrow
Nothing heavier than the pain of dying alone
.
As the infection moves through the
City wailing like a widow
The contagion like grief
Anointing every soul it touches
.
Earmarking it for death
The night whimpers
under its own breath.
.
This city wails. This city weeps.
.
Conjecture
.
What roses are blooming outside the four walls of my room with no name?
The seasons pass without waving goodbye. There are only enough things I choose
to ignore this year
.
Hunkered inside my room, I am counting hollow shadows crossing the streets
Tender sapling breaking open through the moist crumbled earth
.
Douse with the monsoon rains. Empty seasons passing outside this walls
like the phantom shadows beside a moving train, a fallacy of time passing.
.
Days rolled into nights like incessant numbers on my calendar.
A hamster on a wheel life with memories etched on our dead and the dying
.
Counting the loss by every passing day I wonder, what lilies are blooming in the square today?
Loneliness begets acceptance, bodies shriveled like raisins craving for the warm acceptance.
.
What buds have birthed in the small garden, I wonder.
Some losses are too heavy to count, some debts are too big to pay.
.
All my passing seasons are now a conjecture of my empty mind
Trapped inside the sepia tinge walls of my high rise, burgeoned by the grief
.
Like a father blackening his elbows on the window sill
counting his breaths like long scratches on a prison’s wall.
.
Megha Sood is an Assistant Poetry Editor at Mookychick.Over 450+ works featured in literary journals and numerous works in print anthologies by the US, UK, Australian, and Canadian Press. Blogs at https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/
.
Sheila Allen with Emily Jensen
.
Silent Killer
    -For Mark Romutis
.
Warnings were sent and then ignored
Washington heard not a single word
And blindly life continued on
While a silent killer was coming, going strong
.
He said,
We‘re all united together
We‘re all working so hard together
It will be a great victory soon
.
But the truth sings a different tune
There was no caution from our leader here
Except to pose and place blame here and there
But the enemy was in the air
And was on us, in us, hiding everywhere
.
He said,
We‘re all united together
We‘re all working so hard together
It will be a great victory soon
.
And so his voters listened well
And took no heed, even rebelled
And brothers, husbands, and sisters fell
While the virus raged on, raging hell
.
He said,
We‘re all united together
We‘re all working so hard together
It will be a great victory soon
.
We need a leader to help us heal
A ruler who listens, and deeply feels
Who makes science and facts the ideal
To bring our country back to life again
.
And THE PEOPLE now say
We‘re all united together
We are all working hard together
It will be a great victory soon
It will be a great victory soon
.
These are lyrics written after my brother died on April 12. – Sheila Allen
.
Kerry Trautman
.
Introvert Quarantined
.
It should be heaven here at home with people I
love and made, bright things I
.
chose to line my walls and shelving. Instead
I long for Manhattan, for the N train to 42nd
.
rattling grime and garbagey curbsides.
My children seem to multiply,
.
husband a coworker making smalltalk while the
breakroom microwave hums.
.
I miss too-loud bar cover bands, guessing stories
of strangers at parties where I only
.
know two people and just want to lure the cat
from under the bed or join it. Windows glass
.
is cold to touch, trees beyond still brittle grey,
my kitchen has only canned beans, tuna and stale
.
crackers, apples we start to reach for then
change our minds. I want a restaurant menu
.
with ingredients I need to Google, a wine list
like Morse code I close and ask
.
for water, waiter judging my shoes other
patrons chatting relaxed with their
.
bulbous wines. Here between my walls everyone
knows me too well, has heard me fart as I hop up
.
the stairs, watched me sew and re-sew
holes in the knees of my pajamas. I know
.
whose footsteps are coming, whose sneeze that was
which cupboard door just
.
opened and didn’t close. Slip me into the queue
for TSA, someone’s Samsonite knocking into
.
my heels, someone’s hummus assailing my
sinuses. Press me between two strangers in airline
.
seats with an inch-wide hard armrest
pretending to separate my belly from theirs. Thrust
.
my body out at the cold
air of the world.
.
Quarantined Together
.
You and I argue the politics on TV—
the paper-shuffling sound bites
like a slipcover slid over
a holey plaid sofa,
and I wish the remote control could
click me views into
other living rooms.
.
Do wives there finish their sentences
without repeated shouts like
linguistic backs of hands?
Do husbands there listen, nod
I see your point?
.
I want to hold
the volume-down button
and TV graph lines dip
downward in a breath of relief
like bicycle coasting
with legs yawned wide
away from pedals.
.
I avoid you, avoid the suit
behind the crested podium
like the oak tree at the park
with a two-foot hornet’s nest.
.
There must be characters somewhere
who are better scripted,
Someone is getting this right.
.
I need clairvoyance like a
glow-in-the-dark telephone
I can pick up to hear
my neighbors cleaning their garage
with harmonious chatter,
or my two poet-couple friends
versing on twin manual typewriters
beside billowing curtains,
or the young couple marrying
in the stone church downtown
with only the priest and their parents
six-feet apart in the pews.
.
I need a TV channel to tell me
who will live to feel
the heat of summer, and who
will have to trust their memory
of waves pulling wet sand
around their toes
in a fever dream while blinking
their last blinks.
.
If I turn the TV off
I am an ostrich.
On mute I could listen
instead to Debussy or Dylan
but maps would still glow there—
reddening circles radiating
from major cities
sprawling by the hour.
.
There must be something to press
to my ear.
I’m willing to hear
all I’ve done wrong
and what could have
switched it right,
willing to beg forgiveness and
burn bridges before
I flush red and burst
on a map of Ohio
but first I need to shout
into something
built to receive my voice.
.
Kerry Trautman’s books are Things That Come in Boxes (King Craft Press 2012,) To Have Hoped (Finishing Line Press 2015,) Artifacts (NightBallet Press 2017,) and To be Nonchalantly Alive (Kelsay Books 2020.) She is a poetry editor for Red Fez. Tired of tiny Zoom faces, she longs for in-person poetry.
.
M. J. Arcangelini
.
Pandemic Ghazal
.
pacing the yard just past dawn. Birds chattering,
free to fly wherever they wish.
.
Television talking heads spewing numbers,
pointing to charts, somehow translates into lives.
.
Mask as fashion statement. Sequined mask. Flag mask.
Mask as political position. Frightened old masked man.
.
What are your symptoms this morning? What?
You don’t have any? Look again. Look again.
.
Talking to shadows. The empty guest chair.
The solitary bed. Swapping photos with Onan.
.
Even the recluse gets lonely when he’s
denied what he had chosen to forego.
.
M.J. Arcangelini has resided in northern California since 1979. He has published in a lot of little magazines, online journals, & over a dozen anthologies.  He has five collections, the most recent of which is “A Quiet Ghost,” Luchador Press 2020. Arcangelini has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
.
Stephen Bochinski
.
Us
.
The thing is it is dark
bringing a flashlight won’t help
it is too artificial for places like this
besides you must perceive
with senses other than sight
when darkness descends
eclipsing even the rays of the sun
and you find yourself alone
the only source of illumination
your dream seen with liminal eyes
and the subconscious self a sensory organ
with which it is possible to perceive
the vast beauty of our collective soul.
.
Rooted
.
It is impossible to flee
to some other country
the borders are all closed
as are the locked doors
of our individual abodes.
There is no escape
in climbing out the window
out the screens of televisions
or the glow of our devices
no more hiding in the attic
with our memories and our memes
or the darkness of our basement
to sit out the great depression
of our anxieties and despair.
It is the return to somewhere ancient
over the threshold of a primal door
to weep the tears for all those years
that separation wrought
to tend to the tender places
we all were cut to our psyche’s bone
where the ancient healing rituals
forgotten by our elevated selves
are remembered in our beloved earth
where the tree of our nature is rooted
where together we withstand the storm.
.
Stephen Bochinski has been writing since taking an evening creative writing course at a local community college in the mid-nineties while working construction during the day. He has since retired from construction and continues to write while living in Oceanside Ca. and walking on the beach.
.
Christine Riddle
.
Sheltering in Place: Week 5
.
In the pre-dawn stillness I imagine I can hear the Earth’s heartbeat
pulsing in harmony with the cosmos, reliably in orbit,
unfazed by this pandemonium. Meanwhile, I’ve been flung off course,
diverted onto a foreign trajectory, destination uncertain.
I mask, I distance, but mostly I shelter in place
and wonder what’s to become of us.
.
Other crises arrive in a spectacle: tsunamis, wildfires, Twin Towers.
But this time there was no seismic shift, no arsonist, no terrorists.
This one crept in quietly and scattered like mercury uncontained.
Like fog at sea it knows no bounds, its reach is limitless.
Its victims transformed into weapons.
.
Whether human creation or Nature’s spawn it lives among us now.
And I must accept that the unthinkable is reality,
that we were so smugly unprepared,
that we are all vulnerable.
.
In the pre-dawn stillness, birds still sing.
.
Christine Riddle’s poetry has appeared in Moments of the Soul, Ink to Paper, Prize Poems 2020, and will soon be published in Tennessee Voices an Anthology. An essay appears in Far Villages.
.
Maria Keane
.
Containment
.
Blackened flowers
tangle in weeds.
Crimes become catacombs of amnesia.
.
Time lapses, behavior struggles for the
flavor of freedom, the right to claim
air to breathe, enduring the
struggle to stay alive.
.
Scarred wings of memory
struggle for liberty, all movement
shocked by a third rail of dying.
.
Keane’s published poetry, has been the recipient of several literary grant residency awards by the Delaware Division of Arts.  Her poetry has received national honors by the National League of American Pen Women. A book of poetry, Being There (includes illustrations by the author) was published in October, 2018.  It was awarded a First in the Creative verse/ book award by the Delaware Press Women Her visual art was awarded a Professional Fellowship in Works on Paper in 1997 by the DDOA and the NEA.
.
Marko Otten
.
rainforest lockdown
.
we have known rainforests
visiting them partly for our pleasure
we penetrated them deeply keen on their mysteries
.
every time I thought I’d come out a better person
returning home wiser like mister natural
.
a week after reinstated lockdown
we tried to venture into the inner city
to skulk around at night
the only people under blue towers and
most silent raining
.
streets glistening under lampposts and neon lights
suddenly plain to see: a wilderness exposed midtown
wilder than what we’d seen anywhere ever before
retreat
confused guessing
wait a minute: wasn’t that a cab few blocks down?
yes we did see one
maybe not
something was moving
or driving around
or did you
for a moment I just…
.
retreat
no better person to return home
unexplored wild calling
.
Marko Otten is a Dutch poet who reads and writes poetry in English. The expressive powers of the language got him hooked. Marko Otten is a published historian and a supervisor in education. He graduated at Groningen University (1982 with honors) and took classes at New York University and at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. He is married to Anne. Their children Judith and Martijn married and settled in Zutphen and Barcelona respectively.
.
Patricia Carragon
.
send me an angel
(inspired by Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker of the Scorpions)
.
wisdom comes with maturity   but it’s hard to be wise
when your nation caters to avarice and ignorance
.
you never saw the storm seize the new year
& like the government   life shuts down for struggle to thrive
.
anxiety doesn’t believe in social distancing
sends cryptic messages between you and your mask
.
you did your best   prayed for that miracle
that fell prey to lies & deceit
.
open your eyes   your angel left for another zoom call
.
stay locked in your quarantine
watch gray feathers   etched in red   blow off the fire escape
.
the trapper & the furrier
            (inspired by regina spektor)
.
2020   a strange   strange year
like a time bomb   waiting   for breaking news to strike
.
beasts in filthy cages
pellets and food   pets from puppy mills
.
children sleep in soiled cages
family separation   asylum still out of reach
.
dystopian predictions   dystopian facts
.
big business declares war on its workers
unions   wages   healthcare   live at triage
.
newspeak from the white house
twists failure into praise   fiction into history
.
our self-proclaimed leader plays mobster roulette
the press   elections   & laws face execution
he gives carte blanche to an alien dressed as the flu
.
& the sick keep getting sicker
with too many fevers   chills   coughs    & losses of smell & taste
.
death toll rising   ghost towns replace cities
bodies overflow morgues   the homeless live underground
.
tests & cures not fast enough
business as usual for corporate generals
.
2020   a strange   strange year
people shut indoors   waiting   not knowing what to believe
their time bombs   not knowing when to explode
.
Patricia Carragon latest books from Poets Wear Prada are Meowku and The Cupcake Chronicles, and Innocence from Finishing Line Press. Ms. Carragon hosts Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual anthology and is an executive editor for Home Planet News Online. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
.
Jonel Abellanosa
.
Dirge in the Time of the Pandemic
.
The dark is mastering me, peace of mind
a measure it plays as if it desires personhood.
I give the twelfth hour a simple name –
.
“Midnight.”
.
Curtains hiding glass panes hint blue,
place in my mind where time doesn’t pass,
no need for anything to be done, no need for
.
accomplishments.
.
Light flashes outside, and I know the sky
over my heart speaks no thunder.
When the moon leaves, I resume my part
.
in the world.
.
Living has become so hard, loved ones
families lose like notes a mournful song
leaves to silence. It doesn’t have to be
.
this way
.
but in the world that holds echoes
“Greed” is more powerful than the powerto end the music that keeps repeating.
.
Jonel Abellanosa lives in Cebu City, the Philippines. He is a nature lover, an environmental advocate, and loves all animals particularly dogs. His poetry and fiction have appeared in hundreds of literary journals and anthologies, including Windhover, The Lyric, Star*Line, Fox Chase Review, Poetry Kanto, Marsh Hawk Review, That Literary Review, Bosphorous Review of Books and The Anglican Theological Review. His poetry collections include, “Meditations” (Alien Buddha Press), “Songs from My Mind’s Tree” and “Multiverse” (Clare Songbirds Publishing House), “50 Acrostic Poems,” (Cyberwit, India), “In the Donald’s Time” (Poetic Justice Books and Art), and his speculative poetry collection, “Pan’s Saxophone” (Weasel Press). He loves to self-study the sciences.
.
Reizel Polak
.
Delivery during Quarantine 
.
This unexpected sight the sad
park benches unfriendly to elderly
to pause take pleasure in the shrubbery
the whistling birds yellow tape crossed over
armrest to armrest defends against
a tranquil freedom to sit in the company
of others to talk tell a joke and yet
every one has begun to know
to stay apart cover-up one’s mouth
one’s nose still the eyes can speak
I see another pedestrian walking this way
your face I think looks gloomy your glance
far away I nod I smile with my eyes
in this square I pass through and out of
an eerie-quiet air the hedgerow birds
sing out of sight double whistles
I wish I knew to name these voices
such comfort I admit to love deeply
the sound of the birds calling to each other
the sound of creation every new day
and here what comes along ahead tugging
on a leash a little dog turning back
to glance at me where I follow its owner
at a distance along this path descending
to the grounds of willow trees what odd
connection this dog wagging its tail
seems to awaken between my human element
& animal life another pedestrian this way
you nod I nod as we slip past
each other to my errand on nearly-
abandoned streets residents as separate
distinct unique on this extraordinary ride
on Earth bound-up in the presence
of the Unknowable to see best we can
entering the written pages of history to come
.
I am a member of The Academy of American Poets. My poems have been published in Midstream, Ibbetson Street Press, Greville Press Pamphlets U.K, others, and one pending publication in Annals of Internal Medicine.
.
Lois Perch Villemaire
.
Peanut Butter
.
I have a mild sore throat and feel lightheaded.
Tightness in my chest and congestion.
Back of my hand to forehead.
Feverish?
Oh please.
I can’t have the virus.
I could develop respiratory issues,
Have to be hospitalized,
And need to go on a ventilator.
They say only 20% survive
being on a ventilator.
They say a symptom of the virus is
losing sense of smell.
I march to the kitchen pantry,
Pull out a jar of peanut butter,
Unscrew the top,
inhale deeply through my nose.
Ah, yes, I definitely smell peanut butter.
Thank goodness.
.
Lois Perch Villemaire lives in Annapolis, MD. She is inspired by life experiences and enjoys writing poetry, flash fiction, and memoir. Her work has appeared in Potato Soup Journal, The Drabble, FewerThan500, Pen-in-Hand, MWA Journal, and Global Poemic. She blogs for annapolisdiscovered.com and annapoliswellnesshouse.org
.
Stephen Page
.
Grocery Shopping
.
I am sitting in our dull-gray
Pathetically petite rental car
With the cracked windshield and tiny
Unhubcapped tires,
(Last Friday Teresa smashed our sleek
White SUV that drives like a yacht
Gliding over calm waters)
Alone, my mask around my neck,
Waiting for my her
To finish grocery shopping
(Only one family member
Is allowed entrance at any time).
.
When will I ever learn?
I have been here before,
I have been here before,
I have been here before,
Thousands of times
(Though mostly before the mask),
Hungry, thirsty, hours
                                    Passing by,
Worrying if maybe she had fallen,
And medics are attending to her,
(I don’t have my phone, and she left hers
For me to hold onto)
But knowing that most likely
She was wandering inside the clothing stores
Inside the shopping mall
That just reopened,
Only to know, that as I don my mask and enter
A hunting/fishing gear store that opens
From the parking lot, that she will
Reappear outside as soon as I enter,
Looking for me,
Searching the parking lot
For me and our ugly rental car.
.
I purchase a camouflage backpack,
A 9 mm pistol, a hunting knife,
and a hand-size stun device.
I stuff the three defense/attack components into
The outside pocket of the pack,
And as I exit the store,
There she is, wandering the lot,
Her arms stretched, her shoulders hunched, holding
Bags filled with things
Only she thinks we need,
Having no idea that she is late
For an appointment with our lawyer
Concerning the accident, or that I
Had been waiting for hours.
.
I am past starvation and dehydration,
But I smile behind my mask
As I walk toward her.
I gently lift the packages from her surgical gloved
Hands.
.
Stephen Page is part Native American. He was born in Detroit. He holds degrees from Palomar College, Columbia University, and Bennington College and is a rancher in Argentina . He wears a mask whenever he ventures outside and socially distances.  He loves his wife, spontaneous road trips, long walks through woodlands, and making noise with his electric bass.
.
John Stickney
.
 Somewhere Among  Us a Virus is Taking Notes
        (after C. Simic and Z. Herbert)
.
This virus
is the perfect
student
.
Unlike you
it is careful
of boundaries
.
Exact marks
entered
in the margins
.
It sees you
eyes
calm and clear
.
And
at the end
of term?
.
A report card
filled with the
“Highest” marks
.
(inspired by the push to open US Schools)
.
My Bookshelf Background
.
Broadcasting here
From within
A definite space
Of relatively
Small intent –
.
Oh, ain’t we
Just all
So well read
.
(inspired by the backgrounds of experts featured on TV through the magic of Zoom)
.
Look To The Sky
.
Because the mice escaped the lab
with the ability to control similar sized minds,
they have roped themselves to the backs of ravens
and plan an aerial assault
on your cupboard filled with
Cheetos,
Cheese Curls,
Cheez-Its,
Cheese Nips,
Cheddar Bunnies,
Cheez Wiz
and those delicious,
cheesy
Goldfish.
 .
(inspired by the Pandemic Fifteen caused by snacking)
.
John Stickney is a poet/writer originally from Cleveland, OH, currently living in the coastal area of Wilmington, NC.)
.
Ethel Gofen
.
If the symptoms of Covid-19 you feel
Here’s a doctor’s plan to help you, I’ll reveal:
Inhale, hold your breath five seconds, then exhale.
Do this five times in a row and do not fail.
On the sixth breath end it with a cough galore.
Then repeat this whole breathing routine once more.
Next lie on your stomach, pillow at your head.
Don’t lie on your back but on your front instead.
Spend ten minutes taking breaths slightly deeper
Than normal.  (Later you can be a sleeper).
This allows your smallest airways to get air.
J. K. Rowling claims this method gave her care
When she had the symptoms though never a test
For Coronavirus this plan is the best.
.
Ethel Gofen is a retired freelance writer, author of two books as part of a series, Cultures of the World, for which I wrote the volumes on France and Argentina in 1990 and 1992. Ethel and her  husband and both had Covid-19 in May although I had no symptoms.
.
Nan Ottenritter
.
street garden
.
cathedral-like canopy above
black asphalt below
kids in the street
chalked glorious flowers
blooming where they are planted
.
as a child
.
in the garden,
nowhere to go,
on my own for
what-to-do,
i remember possibility.
.
quarantined today
in the garden,
nowhere to go,
some to-dos,
i sing the purple iris,
.
the bird rejecting thistle,
downing suet.
a sense of possibility
flirts, hovers.
i await its landing.
.
The beforetime
.
is over, she said.
I knew what
she meant, having
stopped imagining
a going- back,
a return to normal.
.
In the beforetime,
stock portfolios and
stocked kitchen shelves
shielded me.
The presence of others
was mostly a comfort,
working invisible magic
in my heart.
.
In this middletime,
I hunker down,
grow a garden,
grow myself,
with only a wire to the world,
a good book.
I am finally
in and of place.
.
Nan Ottenritter is a poet and musician living in Richmond, VA. Her works have appeared in the Artemis Journals: Women hold up half the sky, TheNewVerseNews, Poets Reading the News, Life in 10 Minutes, the 2019 Poetry Society of Virginia Anthology, and As You Were: The Military Review.
.
Larry C. Tolbert
.
To Accept Once and For All
.
I open with praise for
Our dark-skinned
Brothers and sisters
Your dogged
Determination
To be free,
Watching family
And friends
Strange fruit indeed
One by one cut down
From trees,
.
Snarling dogs
Water cannons
Never good news in
Police rifle reports
.
Rest in peace
Silenced freedom’s friends
You, not Jesus, died for our
Original sins
.
I praise the
One in six people
Our founding fathers
Labeled dark-skinned
Alienable exceptions
Within a
White constitution
At our country’s
Inception
.
I praise your
Black constitution
For enduring the
Resulting
Unimaginable
Abuse
.
Your free labor fueled
An economy to
Unholy heights
Drove a nation’s soul
Along sharp saber’s edge,
Unfathomable
Pools of blood,
Unmeasured
Depths of shame
.
Your road to hell paved
With such good intentions
Of ill-bestowed certain
Self-evident truths
—All men created equal
With unalienable rights,
Among those
Life,
Liberty, the
Pursuit of happiness—
.
I close with this prayer,
May we all awake
Sooner and better from
This 2020 nightmare of
Worldwide disease,
Economic collapse,
Inept, venal leaders and
Social unrest to
Unite and achieve at
Long last call
Long-sought
Justice on race in
A world
That works
For all
.
To accept once and for all
What has always been true
That—
Unalienable rights
Denied
Become wrongs
To accept once and for all
What has always been true
That—
We are “E Pluribus Unum”
“One from many”
 Black, brown, yellow
 Red, white, and blue
To accept once and for all
What has always been true
That—
We are all one race
The Human Race
Me     And     You
.
Larry C. Tolbert is a writer and poet with master’s degrees from the University of Illinois and San Francisco State University. Raised by grandparents on a Southern Illinois farm, he has lived in Northern California his entire adult life. His work has been published in Birdland Journal and ESCOM Journal (College of Marin).
.
Kirsty A. Niven
.
Setting
.
Pink clouds brush the slates of tenements,
a sugary blush, candy floss breath –
the world is a bleary-eyed painting,
the street a Dundonian Hopper.
.
The only eye that sees me here,
a glass square with lace eyelashes.
Tear stain speckles mark the glass,
machine gun sputters in a speakeasy.
.
Dust fills my lungs like an hourglass.
My plaster skin dries in the heavy air,
the steady descent to forgotten stone.
The centre remains a hollow.
.
A cavern with an echoing scream –
dropping downwards into an infinite abyss
judged by stabbing stalactites
for another isolation infused ramble.
.
Finality falls over the chimneys.
.
Kirsty A. Niven lives in Dundee, Scotland. Her writing has appeared in anthologies such as Landfall, Nocturne and Of Burgers and Barrooms. She has also featured in several journals and magazines, including The Dawntreader, Cicada Magazine, Dundee Writes and Causeway/Cabhsair. Kirsty’s work can also be found online on sites such as 45 Magazine, Ponder Savant and Nine Muses Poetry.
.
Roderick Deacey
.
A Virus Among Us     
.
These days, we live in hope – we can’t be sure –
the damage is extensive, I’m afraid!
Things won’t return to how they were before
.
So, must we wear these masks for evermore
like characters in some bizarre charade?
We hope not, but we really can’t be sure.
.
We dine well-spaced outside the café door
and pray no-one is sick where the meal’s made.
Is their home-made bread as good as before?
.
Shall we drink till we can think no more?
Turn back the clock and let our worst fears fade?
Hopes can come true, can’t they? We’re not so sure.
.
Each day we count our dead and keep the score;
this cruel curse is like a deadly blade!
Things can’t go back to how they were before.
.
The mighty plague has dragged us to the floor!
So shall we rise up once more, undismayed?
That’s our hope, but we know one thing for sure –
we won’t go back to who we were before.
.
Roderick Deacey is a performing poet based in Frederick, MD, appearing regularly in the DC area with his bass-player and drummer. His book of beat poems, “neo-beatery ballads” was published in 2019. Deacey won the Frederick Arts Council Carl R. Butler Award for Literature in 2019.
.
Gwil James Thomas
.
Now That The World Has Changed.
.
If there’s one thing that the world
isn’t short of at the moment
it’s Coronavirus poems –
but now that the world has changed,
that’s not hardly fucking surprising either.
.
I remember one wild and lost year
constantly finding fresh trouble,
whilst clinging to my past –
until one day I finally
opened my eyes to the world
around me and decided that
it was time to move on,
but as I did I also found the world
had moved faster than I’d remembered
and I’d wanted it to somehow
slow down for a little while
so that I could catch back up with it –
then recently it did and now
everyone’s wearing hazmat suits,
turning on one another
and slowly going bat shit crazy.
.
Meanwhile, I sit here counting pennies,
whilst waiting to pen the next poem –
telling myself that this shit storm
simply is what it is until somehow,
someday it’ll be no more.
.
Some Things.
.
Back home again,
I saw an old
hometown hero
pull up to the lights –
he’d been another
regular in the
local pub
and to be blunt
I was surprised that
he was still alive –
but he’d lived more
lives than most
had anyway
and he leaned out
of the window,
complaining to me
about the crazy tenant
in the bedsit below his,
before then telling me
that he was off
to buy some booze
and I realised he’d
told me the exact
same things
before I’d left town
two years ago
and I watched as
he pulled off
with Free Bird
playing through
the same broken
car stereo –
glad that some things
since this virus arrived,
had stayed the same.
.
Gwil James Thomas is a novelist, poet and inept musician. Originally from Bristol, England he’s also lived in Brighton, London and Spain. He’s a Best of The Net and Pushcart nominee whose written work can be found in numerous publications. His most recent chapbook’s here: www.analogsubmission.com/chapbooks/gwiljamesthomas-cocoontransitions
.
JeanMarie Olivieri
.
Grocery Shopping
.
Trapped
in the car
waiting for the parking lot
to empty just a bit
.
My local grocery store
is an older, smaller model
than her suburban sister-stores
yet it seems now to hold
the entire neighborhood  ̶
a potentially lethal block party.
.
I will not be trapped
by fear.
I mask up and enter.
.
Looking Forward
.
Crowd surfing at Burning Man
New Year’s Eve in Time Square
Championship playoffs
.
Too much time alone
I’m dreaming of places
I never wanted to be
.
Standing in this desert
hope like water in my canteen
I am squinting into the future
looking at life beyond six feet
All I see is you
.
Molt
.
Weeks turn to months.
I have been confined too long.
Seeking solace in the night
I molt my skin
don a discarded shell
and dig a home into wet sand
careful to escape the boiling pot.
Sometimes my skin thickens
my feet harden into hooves
and I race the veld with my herd.
On clear nights with a full moon
I spread my wings and soar
a sleek predator
bringing fast death to small animals
before roosting in my nest
to awaken with feathers by my bed.
.
JeanMarie Olivieri is a mostly retired business writer who mostly writes poetry. She has been published in online journals and several anthologies. She is a co-organizer for the Living Poetry Meetup group, and an editor for the Heron Clan Poetry Anthology series. Follow her at https://jeanmarieolivieri.wordpress.com/
.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Summer Pandemic Issues

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #5

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/08/11/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue/

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #6

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/08/11/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-6/

 

Spring Pandemic Issues 

North of Oxford presents The Pandemic Issues.

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #1

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/__trashed-2/

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #2

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-2/

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #3

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-3/

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #4

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-4/

Diane and George April 2020

.
Stay Calm – Stay Safe – Stay Home and When Out and About Wear a Mask
Diane Sahms and g emil reutter

 

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #5

pandemic mary

The Great Falls of the Lehigh River and Stoddart Mills Ruins By Mary M. Michaels  https://marymmichaels.weebly.com/

.
Thanks to the poets for contributing to The Pandemic Issue #5 from North of Oxford and Mary M. Michaels for graciously providing her art .  In order of appearance we present: Howie Good, Robbie Nester, J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford, Ray Greenblatt, Dee Allen. , Dan Brady, Mike Maggio, Michael D. Amitin, Mark J. Mitchell, Rikki Santer, Benjamin Siegan, Anne Becker, Akshaya Pawaskar, Amy Barone, Judy DeCroce and Antoni Ooto, Ben Nardolilli, Jane ‘SpokenWord’ Grenier, Barbara Crooker, Tim Suermondt, Michele Riedel and Diane Wilbon Parks
.
Howie Good
.
Oh, Mercy
.
I board the subway at 72nd Street carrying a metal briefcase like the one that contains secret nuclear launch codes. A busker playing guitar at the far end of the car is trying to make up in enthusiasm what he lacks in formal training. He apparently adheres to Lou Reed’s dictum: anything with more than three chords is jazz. The passengers ignore his musical pleas for attention. They nap. They text. They shed virus. When the train emerges for a moment above ground, the sky looks as if it’s been digitally erased. There are colors in nature that birds can see, but humans can’t.
.
Howie Good is the author of THE DEATH ROW SHUFFLE, a poetry collection forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.
.
2 Poems by Robbie Nester
.
Instruction
.
When fear takes you by the throat and
shakes you, breathe slowly. Remember
the feeling of hanging, a leaf on the end
of a branch, in headstand at the yoga studio.
Imagine the weight of an heirloom tomato
the precise shape of a geranium in your palm.
Fear cannot abide such sensations. Shove it
to the back of your closet with your oldest shoes.
Throw open the shades and listen to the rain
finding its way into the soft earth, waking
seeds that have slept in the ground
for months, so they open their mouths
and drink, tasting the air at last.
.
The 52 Hertz Whale
.
was the world’s loneliest because no other
whales would swim with him. His song
sounded awkward, maybe too shrill,
out of kilter. He was just plain odd.
Originality doesn’t count for much
among cetaceans. But we humans
are less discriminating, at least about
whale songs. We are listening,
sitting at our windows, staring out
at the empty streets, sure that we
are the whale, or that he is us.
.
Robbi Nester is the author of 4 books of poetry, including a chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012) and three collections, the most recent being Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag, 2019).  She is also the editor of three anthologies. Her poems, reviews, articles, and essays have appeared widely in journals and anthologies.
.
 
J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford

 

My Lilac
.
There can be no balance,
But amid all the desolation and pain
Lilacs still lift and elate me beyond measure.
Her sweet fragrance wafts across my lawn
As though divinely assigned for such a time.
It is she who still calms, settles, stills my soul,
Slays today’s reality if only for a moment
Taking me back in reverie to childhood
Backyard games and daydreams
Where possibilities danced
Among calming lavender blossoms
Unfettered and unhindered by masks.
.
.
J. Joy “Sistah Joy” Matthews Alford is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Prince George’s County, Maryland, U.S.A.  She has authored 3 collections of poems, “Lord I’m Dancin’ As Fast As I Can,” “This Garden Called Life” and “From Pain to Empowerment, The Fabric of My Being.”  For the past 15 years she has produced and hosted the nationally-recognized cable television show, Sojourn with Words, which has received two Telly Awards for “Excellence in Cultural Programming.”
 .
2 Poems by Ray Greenblatt
.
Invisible War
.
We do not wear gas masks
but Halloween masks
bizarrely decorated,
nor carry rifles
instead washing hands
anxiously raw,
and stand at a distance
like slightly neurotic
very polite children,
while people fall dead
all around us;
.
at least when the V-2’s
stopped ticking we knew
we were in trouble
and could run for it,
but this invisible
silent  monster can clasp us
like any innocent clown
at any  time on any corner
or tucked in our beds
saying last prayers.
.
Going On
.
oh yes
we’ve all been away
from each other
been away
on inner trips
and oh yes
we have all changed
because now we see each other
differently
we see each other
as we never have before
we have all aged
for questions of life and death
have been whirling all around us
so close around us
some will never return
and we wonder why
we wonder why we have survived
we wonder how we have survived
exhausted
fearful
touching places to see
if we are really here
and all we can do
is blindly
hopefully
go on . . .
.
“Ray & Sue Greenblatt were vacationing with family in Delray Beach, Florida in February. All seemed very normal, but when they returned, everything hit the fan! They will always be very thankful that they got home in time!”
.
3 Poems by Dee Allen.
.
Barren 
.
Barren
.
Streets—Oakland’s 74 miles closed
To cars—Mayor Schaaf prioritises
Two-wheeled exercise and safety
For gentrifiers.
.
Barren
.
Subway stations—Social
Distancing maintained
To the extreme. Underground
Solid concrete ghost town.
.
Barren
.
Hotel rooms—They’d make better
Shelter in place for the homeless than being
Warehoused in close quarters on mats. Existing method:
Good way to get infected.
.
Barren
.
Shelves—Inside the supermarket—
The spirit of hoarding
Cleared them of supplies.
Long line of humanity outside are in for a nasty surprise.
.
Barren
.
Heart—There’s
Nothing left dwelling in the husk for some.
Nothing left but hostility—Blame for sickness
Lands on descendants of Asia.
.
Barren
.
Describes this reality, re-configured
By rapid infection—Humanity homebound—
There’s no reverting back
To normal after this.
.
I survived
Ten presidents, the residual terror of four
Foreign wars, power outages, outbursts of nature,
A petrol shortage, evictions and homelessness.
.
I will survive this, even as this contaminated air
World quickly goes
.
Barren.
.
Masques Up 
.
There was a time
When wearing a masque
In public was equated w/ anti-system
Protests in the streets, attending the
Most extravagant, fun balloon
& paper streamer-strewn
Costume ball @ best
& crime @ worst—
.
It’s the Law now
To throw the masques up.
Simple, repurposed
Cloth covering our faces, concealing all
But our eyes. Looking fresh
.
From a steam train
Robbery Old West style
Or a Black Bloc
Putting some smash on the blue block
That redlines & forecloses
& holds money simultaneously
Chase Bank©—
.
To throw the masques up
Is an exercise of
Good judgement now. Invasion of our persons
Held back w/ a new school
Protection spell. Just add cloth
Firmly over nose & mouth.
Continued being assured against
.
Robbery of our lives
By a thief so intrusive,
Another murderer unseen,
But far more elusive.
.
Out Front
For Jennifer A. Minotti
.
I am grateful for…
.
The arched roof above my head
The twin rafters with
The twin lights, holding it in place
The four walls surrounding me
The two windows with
The two Venetian blinds, down & shut at all times
The red brick floor below my feet
The wooden shelves full of books & movies
The VHS by themselves & DVDs in clear totes
The Keetsa© mattress I sleep on
The melatonin that helps me sleep
The vegan food in my fridge, a meat-free zone
The fruit & vegetable juices I savour
The filtered water I drink more than tap shit
The hardcover journal notebooks and
The rollerpoint pens I use to express myself
The shower I use, even though I’m a bathtub man
The Hewlett Packard laptop computer aiding creation of
The once and future poetry volumes
The Samsung© TV & VCR/DVD player combo
The little house in East Oakland I call home
The vast collection of political slogan t-shirts
SOMETIMES ANTI-SOCIAL ALWAYS ANTI-RACIST
Remains a personal favourite but
BEING BLACK IS NOT A CRIME
.
Gets me the most love on the street
.
But most of all
.
I am grateful for…
.
The bus drivers
The firefighters
The restaurant
Deliver drivers
The subway train conductors
The launderette clerks
The grocery store workers
The farmer’s market workers
Which I happen to be one
The doctors
The nurses
The paramedics
The pharmacy workers
The protestors for the rights of all Black lives
The dead and the living
The mutual aid collectives
Giving food, water, medicine and household
Items to the people living hand to mouth
During this goddamn pandemic
And long before
.
All the heroes
Out front
In our service
Seeing to our immediate
Survival needs
.
They could use the praise
.
And you don’t need
Super powers
To be a hero
.
Just be there
Out front
For us—
.
Dee Allen. An African-Italian performance poet based in Oakland, California. Active on the creative writing & Spoken Word tips since the early 1990s. Author of 5 books [Boneyard, Unwritten Law, Stormwater and Skeletal Black, all from POOR Press, and his newest from Conviction 2 Change Publishing, Elohi Unitsi ].
.
Dan Brady
.
The personal and impersonal
.
Who denies their chains
Those long-standing claims
From the empires of our past?.
.
Error    driven into fear
Misapprehensions    into enmity
Thence to greed     and onto war
.
Smoky battleground
Corpses strewn … a medallion glints
The long – justice – of silence
.
The parade   crowds cheer
The grim reaper waves …
Supporting    everyone’s troops
.
Midway barkers loud
Angry sky, blusters sweep papers
The Dark comes for its own
.
One thing I know
About this world’s ending …
No one will see it coming
.
We saw them
Titanic muscular clouds
Lightning flashed   there were eyes
.
We need to make calls
End this man now, lest this be how
Civilization falls – – –
. 
Mike Maggio
.
Innominate
.
I
Today, a tulip trembled in the breeze:
an urgent temptation to bloom.
.
II.
When I awoke,
it was to the delusion of dream.
.
III.
Outside, a vicious wind.
Outside, the trees. Fearful.
.
IV.
One moment, seclusion.
One moment, a prickly crown of memory.
.
V.
There’s nothing we can’t touch.
Nothing we can lay a finger on.
.
VI.
Sweet dove, waving from the wilderness,
wherefore this social distancing?
.
VII.
In a moment of delirium,
I journeyed to my mother’s grave.
.
VIII.
Nothing on the horizon.
Not even a ghosting of sun.
.
IX.
2,000,000+ sick.  200,000+ dead.
I cannot count to infinity.
.
X
One dark night, I witness my reflection
taunting the reaper.
.
Michael D. Amitin
.
Mambo’s Blues
.
Sad Spanish strains
Night street
.
All dissent quiet
Church mice sleeping
Humans creeping
Petrified forests
.
Papers run you around
Papers to walk the dog
Police looting city blocks
.
Forgotten masquerade masks soaking in
God forsaken puddles
Gloves, skeleton mud runners
.
Double fried kisses, canned peaches and mist
Stare from
Weathered shelves
Embraces on hold till a
Magic clock-strike twelve
.
Poets creak, Paris pastors reach,
The abandoned plunging
hollow cold-ice streams
.
With great introspection
Masses ponder the great dissection
.
Easter bunnies screw in tournesol sheds
The bum rap meds, no one to touch his hand
.
Lab rats grin as the mother
of all vaccines warms to the
Resounding orchestral death march
.
We stay together Keep our love
Hide in the never heard of
.
Knit our threads, bake our breads
Sing our songs, read Walt all night long
Nurses, doctor helping hands
Stave off the storm with clothespins
.
Nature heals, as the wheels roll off the highway
Rest like tires in a wilted roadside graveyard
.
Shutters flailing viral winds
Mind eye flashing gold
Designs of maladroit wine boats
Rocking ship shake harbors
On my droopy curtains
.
Sweet Suzy muse never forgets my address
Drops off provisions
Flipping bad luck coins
Like hot cakes griddle bound
To the sunrise…
.
Leapfrog fantasies
Kind of blue nights
Late winter Paris
Sunup
.
Mother earth freaking
Miracle balm on our last sundown legs
.
Used to trip on window pane
Now it’s tryptophane
Sleep away this nightmare, nevertheless
Ship ahoy, mates!
.
Jesus came down in a chariot
2nd coming time
Walls shaking, the frame was hot
big cigar chief told him
cool it with that riff of peace
we’re the visigoths..
.
The gothies
the meanest band in town
.
We’ve chucked the wafers for the great vaccine
Dissolves on your palate- a king’s tongue in his queen
wail in the water
and cream,
.
The great hereafter filled with brothels
n’ laughter, Louis playin’ the West End Blues,
He mused
.
Ay ye merry moutons
Line up, don’t ya’ cry
Take a shot, be an astronaut
A fireman to boot
.
Poet and musician, Michael D. Amitin travelled the roads of the American West before moving to Paris. Recently named International Beat Poet Laureate 2020-2021, Amitin’s poems have been published in California Quarterly, Poetry Pacific, Cajun Mutt Press, and others. A current collaboration with Parisian photographer Julie Peiffer has given rise to the “Riverlights” project.

 .

Mark J. Mitchell

 .
                                        Mass in Time of Plague
.
                                         (For Interior Choir)
                                    After Haydn, Mass in Time of War
.
1.         Kyrie
.
Let mercy roll like fog through every home.
Show mercy to all that can still see.
Let mercy flow to the known and unknown.
.
A slow silence drips from each untrimmed tree
And that gray chill touches each of your bones.
Show small mercy to all that you still see.
.
This morning love flows from a telephone.
Take that for now. Birdsongs and humming bees
Fly like mercy you’ve shown the known and unknown.
.
There’s more mercy than you’ll hope to see.
Let mercy flow into your sealed home.
Accept this gift: Mercy. Mercy. Mercy.

.

2.         Gloria
.
All your glory’s hidden by folded masks.
Pay no attention to the broken sky.
Count steps to the sidewalk. Savor the climb.
You must rise and converge. Everyone stand.
All that glory’s hidden by hand-made masks.
Soft fingers are unused to homely tasks.
Fold your sorrows now. No reason to cry.
Taste glory’s salt on your tongue. That scoundrel time
Must fall. Cover your face. Cover your hands.
Pay no attention to that broken sky.
Every word—even this—is a lie
And your glory’s hidden by fragile masks.
Those small slips, tiny errors—they are not crimes.
Cool morning sun cleans you. No, soft winds fan
Low clouds to the ocean. There’s nothing you lack.
Pay no attention to our broken sky.
Count the steps pavement asks you to climb.
So now—rise and converge. Now! Learn to stand.
.
3.         Qui tolis peccata mundi
(You who take away the sin of the world)
.
If you can replace the half-missed good-bye,
Then carry this prayer.
If you can separate the masked from the wounded
Then spill us some mercy.
If you can change boredom to devotion
You’re welcome to these prayers.
.
4.         Quoniam tu solo Sanctus
(For You alone are holy)
.
Solitude is not holy.
Absence is not holy.
Noise filled voids
Are never holy.
.
If you are holy,
It’s time to climb down.
Don’t make us
Beg for grace.
.
5.          Credo
.
Now—believe that dry cough’s perfect. Your last.
You’ll be sent away—now—we all believe—
To die alone. There’s nothing worse. We’ve learned
That breeze can kill. A stranger’s naked face
Means an end of time, but a cheap cloth sieve
Means hope. We believe this is what we’ve earned.
.
On empty streets—each and each—hides a face
That bears harm. We walk through an open sieve
Of foot traffic. We dance, slide, duck, we weave
Away from touch, sure it would be our last.
We don’t know why. But it’s time to believe
In threats we don’t see. We believe that a turn
Is coming. Even end times have an end.
.
We watch for sweat. That ill-omen of heat
Will find us—even believers. There’s no sieve
Fine enough for health. We believe retreat
Is carrying a battle forward. Terms
Enter our speech—spells and charms we believe
Almost true. We believe this cannot last.
We believe love, but we’ve forgotten her face.
The end, we believe, in the end, we burn.
.
6.       Benedictus
.
Bless silence, bless absence, bless our closed doors.
No exit is not a cell. We’ll learn to pray.
We’re intimate with windows, acquainted with floors,
blessed by silence, broken absence, stiff doors
with loud hinges. Now’s not a time for more
anything. Sit still, let ghost priests say,
Bells silent. Bless absence. Close doors.
This exitless cell is yours. Pace and pray.
.
7.   Agnus Dei
.
Bored lambs in a pen, we pray,
Take away sins we desire.
Softly enclosed, old lambs we ask,
Save us from desires we fear
We are, all of us, lambs of time:
Grant us peace.
.
Mark J. Mitchell’s novel, The Magic War appeared from Loose Leaves Publishing. He studied at Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver and George Hitchcock. His work appeared in several anthologies and hundreds of periodicals. He lives with his wife, Joan Juster making his living pointing out pretty things in San Francisco until the pandemic hit.
.
2 Poems by Rikki Santer
.
Quarantine Spring
.
Coldest nights on record
tucking in the impatiens
with tattered thermal blankets
& days with a bad taste that rattles
.
like cod loins freezer-burned.
Brylcreemed ideas from a dangerous
podium, viscid shipping & handling
my emotions to the front door
.
landing me in moods for reduction.
The granular seepage of time,
my mind too near to itself.
I am a tiny balloon chasing
.
its string, dandelions shake their
heads, toss seeds to the squalls.
.
Landmark
.
The train, a wailing pronoun in the dark breath of night
when quarantine responds to quarantine and I ask myself
how do I get from here to the rest of the world
or scale a kinder incline beyond the noise
above this jittery, jumbled ground
my eyes rheumy with incessant news, lips dry
from the briny kiss of pundits.
Words gather to call upon landscape,
sleep a foreigner who keeps me up under a swollen moon
and I am weary of suggestions for further study
pregnant glossary of regrets,
and I am wedded
to my weary couch denuded in its binocular view.
The braying train again in periphery
its skein of myth and fable trails behind
spectral thresholds blinded by the winds,
a wolverine in my lap,
skulls dangle from trees
this tasseled place dead air
of press conference somewhere between scorched earth
and uncharted territory.
Train cars stuffed with under-songs of tarnished narratives,
clouds pinched across the much midnight sky.
.
Publications including Ms. Magazine, Poetry East, Slab, Crab Orchard Review, RHINO, Grimm, Hotel Amerika and The Main Street Rag. Santer was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Santer’s eighth collection,  Drop Jaw, was published this spring by NightBallet Press.
.
Benjamin Siegan
 .
American Summer, 2020
.
More record-breaking heat. With it comes assailing storms—sable skies peppered with bursts and cracks of bluish-white along with a torrent of rain and swells of harrowing wind. God help us when hurricane season hits. The downpour subsides as I prepare for my trek to work. More violent precipitation is predicted at day’s end, but for now, sultry air and ashen clouds prevail.
.
I check the traffic report. Another Black Lives Matter protest in midtown—collective calls for dignity, equality, compassion, and justice. Although traversing the assemblage will add time to my commute, I’m nothing but supportive of their efforts. I marched with them during the strife-ridden spring. But despite the need for systemic change coalescing with a looming, unmitigated plague, the job beckons—reopen in service of the plunging economy as sickness spreads.
.
News radio provides updates during my labor-bound drive. The President offers misinformation, contradictions, and snide, racist remarks. The Governor has nothing but empty platitudes and prepared sound bites. The Mayor conveys desperation, urging those who can to stay at home. But rent needs to be paid; money is required for food. Electricity, water, phone, car, and internet—their fees are indifferent to the virus. I also need to keep the digital distractions funded. I’m not too proud to admit that I might go mad without them.
.
Close to my destination, another obstacle—an angry throng making their way to City Hall. They wave Confederate flags. One banner features a crudely-drawn swastika. Some brandish pistols and assault rifles. They elevate signs with an amalgam of messages: All Lives Matter, Jesus Supports the 2nd Amendment, Open the Bars, Hilary and Obama—Partners in Treason, Quarantine=Socialism, Destroy the Deep State, I Need a Haircut, Re-elect Trump—Keep America Great, Protect White Heritage, COVID is a Democrat Hoax, Save the Aryan Race. Quite the pack of dangerous, hateful, morons, spreading ignorance and disease—a source of figurative and literal pollution. No doubt a few members of this despicable mob will venture into my place of business, requiring me to hold my tongue to continue employment and hold my breath to stave off illness.
.
Upon arrival at work, I put on my mask—a thick, garnet-colored cloth shield that spans the entire lower half of my face. The supervisor is required to provide a flimsy, disposal covering to those without. They fit poorly and frequently slip below the nose when speaking. I’m thankful I was able to procure my own washable, protective gear during the early phases of the pandemic. For once, being a paranoid germaphobe proved beneficial. My temperature is taken in the back room, out of public view, to confirm it is within normal parameters. I’m asked if any recognized symptoms are being experienced and affirm my healthy status. Industrial, indigo latex gloves are issued before I’m sent to the floor.
.
My assigned tasks have increased greatly from the Pre-Coronavirus era. In addition to my regular responsibilities, I must also enforce the company’s safety policies. Statutes are fluid, shifting from week to week. As of today, no one may enter without some form of mask, patrons must remain more than 6 feet apart from each other at all times, and the moving of tables and chairs is prohibited. Most are compliant, but there are always a handful who argue—labeling me a fascist, an oppressor, a violator of their rights and freedoms, with occasional bouts of screaming and swearing. Some acquiesce. Others make a scene before leaving and vowing never to return. My skin has grown thick. The insults and accusations fail to garner a reaction. I just repeat the stipulations in a detached, neutral tone and carry on.
.
The verbal abuse is much more tolerable than the cleaning mandates. After each customer has left, I must scrub down any surfaces they’ve touch with a pungent bleach solution. Bathrooms are scoured with disinfectant every hour. The chemicals sting my eyes. Sweat constantly pours from the brow. The perspiration bleeds into my pupils, making them constantly burn. I’ve taken to wearing bulky, lab goggles during sanitation duties. My peers mock me, but their ridicule pales in comparison to the harsh bite of noxious fumes.
.
The evening delivers its promised deluge. Drops of water spatter against the window with frenetic intensity. Physical and emotional exhaustion sets in. A final cleansing is administered, a complete sterilization from top to bottom. The tip jars are divided equally— a little, well-earned financial boost until my next paycheck is deposited.
.
I press through the turbulent weather that veils the moon and stars and casts night in its darkest incarnation. I opt for music on the return trip, drowning out detonations of thunder with the roar of guitars. A late, microwaveable dinner, one episode of a mindless television show, and I’m drifting into sleep—knowing I’ve done my part, made my contribution, to this horribly aberrant version of reality. I may not be saving lives, but I’m keeping people caffeinated. Such is the vital role of a barista in the summer of 2020.
.
Originally from Chicago, Ben Siegan had the good fortune of being influenced by the expansive literary and theater culture the city provided. While his career is that of an elementary educator, he has always dedicated his limited free time to the craft of writing. Siegan’s works have included collections of poetry, prose, material for the stage, and even a full-length rock opera. Now having settled in Virginia for the last decade, it is his hope to continue increasing efforts toward professional writing aspirations.
.
2 Poems by Anne Becker
.
Lockdown
.
Depression era glass
words cocked up
spill over the damn
in quarantine: fear our
human fellows, hope
to thread the labyrinth of
viral particulates hang
suspended, cling to
surfaces—how long—how
long—how long—left to our
own devices our fingers
strike—snake bites—our
hands full of lattice-like
molecules, traffic streams by
birds crazy at first light stake
their claims to the over story,
each house of bark, of leaves,
web of terrible green pollen
germ cell, extravagant
procreation, snore and
beep of nuthatch, happy
jeer of jay, flash of red—
of blue—gold finch cry
their desire for potato
chip, for chicory, the rust
wren for tea, little brown
jobs we strain to identify
all the egg blue shells
break before we cross
the path, deer stands at
my shoulder—awkward
tender smile—watches—
 you reborn—know I’m safe—
bounds past, in the air we
breathe, frightened and angry
there’s nothing we need do
queue of bright images—blink—
blink blink—blink—cry wolf,
cry whale, all the animals we
care for, foxes domesticate
themselves—same old traffic
sounds, sad coo of the train
clacks in the distance
eats us, breaks our
bread, its leathery crust,
slip crumbs beneath
dreadless masks, dust settles
old scores, dishes left
undone.
.
Social Distance
.
As when my son, first extruded
from the tissue that formed him,
head reluctant to quit the muscular
membrane that kept him safe,
unsure of the emptiness into which
he might fall, he and I are all about
food, and sleeping and waking—
but now no protest cry when we’re
hungry or desire sleep so much
we can taste it under our eyelids.
Now we cross town on asphalt
pathways to reach each other—
young bucks, their small rack
of antlers smothered in velvet,
step from the sheltering woods
to watch us pass—his beard
scraped away, his chin raw.
And I want so badly to swab A & D
ointment—the cure-all of childhood—
on the redden and blistered skin
of my son.  Although the chin is not
plush and inviting like the silken
round of the bottom, and I’m not
allowed to claim his body with
comforting, probing hands the way
I once did when I didn’t have to admit
our distance: my one cell, divided
and divided again and again, had
become him—not me. And, anyway,
in this time of deadly virus, we don’t
hug, we don’t kiss—although
because of his neuroatypical sense
of touch he has never liked the light
feathering of fingers on his flesh, he
doesn’t embrace often—like his
father—and his grandfather, my
father, before him—and when he
does, it’s a quick, hard press.
.
Anne Becker, poet and paper artist, leads a workshop, Writing the Body, for those who have experienced life-threatening or chronic illness. Her poems printed on her own handmade paper have been exhibited in the US and in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. She is a poetry editor of Burgeon, an arts journal based in Washington, DC.
.
Akshaya Pawaskar
.
Politics of nature
.
River by the city
is finally breathing
unmasked and sheer
free of the murky veneer.
The peacock flower
has shed its flames.
It stains the tarmac
with colors of a once
happier world.
On driving down
these concrete woods
a Sign post
reads -go slow
Wildlife crossing.
And even the pigeons
teeter on their
twiggy feet
like toddlers
learning to walk
their wings tired,
of being chased
empty roads inviting.
We sit at home
connected by wires,
cables and Ethernet
afraid of being tangible,
while the dogs continue
to lick their paws clean
and each other dry.
The buffaloes walk
in herds less than
a meter apart,
unsanitizied, carefree.
Six feet are for
humans, single files
are for the convicted.
When the tables turn
the entitled animals
become caged and
the caged ones
find an amnesty
a freedom though
of numbered days.
.
Akshaya Pawaskar is a doctor practicing in India and poetry is her passion. Her poems have been published in Tipton Poetry Journal, Indian Ruminations, The Blue Nib, North of Oxford, Rock and Sling, Shards and Red Fez.
.
Amy Barone
.
A Dawning
.
Orange-yellow flare on the horizon.
Trees still shrouded in night.
Relief at the gift of more hours.
Summoning angels to flex their might.
From towers of closed churches, bells chime.
.
 Amy Barone’s poetry collection, We Became Summer, from New York Quarterly Books, was released in early 2018. She wrote chapbooks Kamikaze Dance (Finishing Line Press) and Views from the Driveway (Foothills Publishing.) Barone’s poetry appears in Local Knowledge, Paterson Literary Review, Sensitive Skin, and Standpoint (UK.) She lives in NYC.
.
Judy DeCroce and Antoni Ooto
.
Open Window
.
invisible nemesis
coyote wind sighing
over the sill—
.
what is not done, wastes,
as every hour stalls scattering
in time, in place
.
a foreign breeze,
hitching a way in
.
messenger in a gale,
seemingly empty yesterday
yet rock-solid—leaning forward
.
Passing
.
A time of extremes; late and clearer,
sharp shadows of loss.
.
Indecision and reflection, as night
rests on other ages.
.
Fate holds all the cards
shuffles with slight-of-hand
and deals out lives
into unknown places.
.
While few small moments remain.
.
Internationally published writers, storyteller and educator Judy DeCroce, and poet/artist Antoni Ooto are based in Upstate New York. Married and sharing a love of poetry, they gather inspiration during their morning poetry sessions.  Over a pot of coffee, they listen, critique, and revise their work.
.
Ben Nardolilli
.
Knowing the Vine
.
Trying to bring the outside inside, and what better way
than to become a primitive agriculturist?
some plants on the balcony, some flowers in the kitchen,
maybe a tree will grow rootless in a bucket
in the middle of my room in the middle of Brooklyn
.
Forgive the changes in spaces, and alterations in spirit,
my body’s not a temple anymore and palms
won’t give me the future, whether they hold cards or not.
Time to get working on a fertility cult, right now
it’s not clear if this God is shaped like a man, or a bull
.
What flourishing! I can already smell the succulents,
and yes, some crops are for my consumption,
smoke and sauce, I make them both thanks to my growth,
it’s a wonderful way to recycle when the street
is too sick to walk on, and only good for running away
.
Ben Nardolilli currently lives in New York City. His work has appeared in Perigee Magazine, Red Fez, Danse Macabre, The 22 Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, The Northampton Review, Local Train Magazine, The Minetta Review, and Yes Poetry. He blogs at mirrorsponge.blogspot.com and is trying to publish his novels.
.
Jane ‘SpokenWord’ Grenier
.
My f*cking Virus poem #1
.
in the city of the undead
6 ft apart
your cough I dread
your breath
where’s your mask
get the fuck away from me
I’m busy not touching groceries
locked down in my room
as the heroes’ work through doom and gloom
in the city of the undead
6ft apart
we wait instead
don’t touch
there are corpses
death by viral sources
nurses underdressed
doctors depressed
workers
drivers
all looking for protection
orange man boasting perfection
death from oblivious discombobulation
.
Jane ‘SpokenWord’ Grenier’s performances range from the Whitney Museum w/Cecil Taylor, to festivals, libraries, slam lounges, galleries, clubs, busking street corners and living rooms everywhere. Publications: 2 books of poetry w/art and audio – Word Against the Machine & Tragically Hip; Good Housekeeping, Boston Magazine, Boston Globe; anthologies: Rogue Scholars Express, Bonsia Publications, Oh-Wow Publications, and the National Beat Poetry Anthology’ 2019.
.
3 Poems Barbara Crooker
.
Worry Beads
.
I wish I could quiet the voices
in my head, the ones with the projected
infection rate, the viral spread, the body
count.  It’s been three months
since I’ve seen my grandkids,
except on a screen.  My county
is still under lockdown, and there’s
a curfew, which really doesn’t matter,
as there’s no place to go.  This is not
like a blizzard or hurricane, some
outages, then the storm passes.
This is the season of subtraction,
as faces of friends disappear.
What items will be gone
from the grocery store this week?
Popcorn, flour, hand sanitizer, yeast?
But spring has returned,
and bare sticks break out into blossoms:
azaleas, rhododendrons, mountain laurel.
The grass has spread a plush carpet,
and orioles gorge on sweet orange slices.
Maybe these are the good times,
with darkness to follow?  My skin sings
whenever you touch me.   Hold me,
my darling, as long as you can.
.
Daily News
.
And so this day is like every other,
beginning with coffee and ending
with wine.  But with nowhere
to go, and nothing to do, I’m
going to take my time, sit
in the morning sun and savor
the darkness, black and bitter
In the larger world, terrible
things continue to happen.
Here, the only action
is the hummingbird zipping
and sipping sugar water,
jazzed on sweetness, in love
with the sun.  In the herb
garden, lavender, rosemary,
sage, thyme release their scents
as the heat rises.  The implacable
sky is laid down with a paint roller.
Schedules and deadlines no longer
matter.  If a small chore needs
to be done, we do it; there is
no later, only now.  We miss
our friends, see our neighbors
only at a distance.  There isn’t
any news to share.  The sun
traverses the sky, the day
passes, just like the one before.
Soon, shadows will lengthen,
and the stars will print
their reports in the dark,
which echoes the consolation
of wine filling my glass.  I
remember to thank the grapes,
crushed on my behalf.
Tomorrow, we’ll do this
all over again.
.
NOVEMBER 18, 2019
.
I didn’t know it then, but this was the last good day.
I was in the glittering city, visiting an old friend.
We walked on a busy street to the 9-11 Memorial,
the gold of late November reflected in the glass
windows, the water’s mirror.  Ate dinner
in a crowded restaurant, so close to the next table,
we could have joined their conversation.  Traded
bites of pumpkin tortellini, scallops in wine,
shared a crême brulée.  Sipped a bit of wine
from each other’s glass.  Rode the subway.
Grabbed the last two seats for a sold-out show,
then strolled Times Square, bathed in the neon
glow. We didn’t realize then that these were things
we would not do again.  That life would become:
An Emergency Room, An Isolation Ward,
An Abandoned Mall, A Shuttered School.
That this was as good as it would ever get,
and that the rest was silence.
.
Barbara Crooker is the author of nine books of poetry; Some Glad Morning (Pitt Poetry Series) is her latest.  Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, The Poetry of Presence, and Healing the Divide: Poems of Kinship and Compassion
.
2 Poems by Tim Suermondt
.
  Counting the Beautiful Days
.
And there are a lot of them,
hanging on despite the discontent
and absolute horrors of the long
months we’ve had to deal with.
I walk the quieter city streets,
keeping my distance only because
I have to, but I feel the ghosts
of thousands in the very air, readying
for their moment to create
a crowd, become flesh and bone
again, surprising themselves at how
crowded, often dirty subway cars
hold a sparkle, a small beauty after all.
.
  Left to the Sailboats
.
The birds follow me until
they realize: he plumb forgot the bread.
.
I go left to the sailboats, just a few
bobbing around on the water, more boring
.
than inspiring, how I miss the great ships.
Where did they go? I ask America—
.
I know she’s here, somewhere.
.
Tim Suermondt is the author of five full-length collections of poems, the latest Josephine Baker Swimming Pool from MadHat Press, 2019. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, North of Oxford, Bellevue Literary Review, Stand Magazine, december magazine, On the Seawall, Poet Lore and Plume, among many others. He lives in Cambridge (MA) with his wife, the poet Pui Ying Wong.
.
2 Poems by Michele Riedel
.
Covid protest
.
“The caged bird wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he open his throat to sing”
Maya Angelou
.
Flat on my back,
feverish and faint, I dissolve
into the dark corners of tallying symptoms-
splintered lungs, lost breath.
.
Cell phone buzzes—
George Floyd, George Floyd!
I want to shout out in solidarity
across this broken land
.
but the scratch of bent birds
in their cages
press into my chest with every
clawing cough. My pillow
Is hard pavement.
.
I push into the tarred fear,
the sear of every swallow,
try to hold breath 8 minutes—
the pulse pounding torment
of no reply.
.
Basketball in hand,
a scared teen
chances to cross a street
disappears into the night
of no reply.
.
Someone’s mom in ICU
another alone in ER,
a nurse without PPE
all cry in the dark night
of no reply.
.
A man shelters
in place under park bench
in the dark night
of no reply.
.
I black out my screen,
take a picture of the night
starless and shadowed,
wait for morning light—
.
think about how a cloud
shifts and a piercing light
appears,
how wings touch in flight,
silvered and soaring
.
and scarred throats find
their songs.
.
Zoom yoga
.
You are eating chips in your
undershorts.
I lie that they can see.
You belch, knees and ankle poppig
as you land on your mat;
phone blinking like emergency flashers.
.
A moan as your shoulder bends
stiffly in cobra pose.
You finally ignore message alerts
as we move into bridge pose
while Abbycat brushes our legs extra
slowly with her whiskers.
.
The instructor reminds us to breathe deeply.
I razzle my exhale
trying to sound like Lauren Bacall.
.
We windmill into three legged dog.
only legs and feet viewable—
look lost in each little meet up box.
.
I marvel how she manages, re-images
moves us from space to connection.
.
Put your head on straight!
I adjust my neck.
She says it again and I laugh—
you tell me to be quiet
.
Soon, our minds are lost somewhere
between couch and ottoman.
Two minutes into deep relaxaton
you’re snoring.
.
Sunlight falls through skylight
softening shadows, muting your edges
In this moment, you are illumine,
an angel.
.
Michele has been published in Streetlight Magazine, MCV Literary Messenger, River City Poets Anthology, versewrights.com, thebezine.com and has a poetry blog at www.wordpalettes.wordpress.com. She loves to attend critiques, workshops and open mike events and has found a supportive community with River City Poets. She taught Reading and ESL (English as a second language) in elementary schools and loves the written word.
.
Diane Wilbon Parks
.
What If There is Light at the End of this Pandemic?
.
the air splinters and bleeds into a hush
that   swallows   whole –    its  prey,
that spits out a rosebud of bones  and broken wings.
we    attempt  miniature flights,
but   fall back to weightlessness
into silk strands of  what   was,
 into January’s cold white winter
 when fingers were allowed touch,
when breathing was not caged.
what if,    what was,  could   be  again,
 and  if,   hope could stay, longer?
.
The air’s staggard breathing
opens  up crowded rooms,
Covid’s pale white ghost
 drifts  indiscriminately,
blows into consenting lungs
that are born to breathe,   to carry,
this haunting pandemic
 crouches in waiting rooms
searches for light
to dim its flicker
 to darkened,
and sinks deep
 in the earth at dawn.
what if we could loom
 into what was
and open its silence,
wipe clean this virus,
this pandemic,
 this racial divide?
What if   prisoned by this glass,
this mask, this door, this lock,
 this isolation
deletes this dry cough
and its toxic fingerprints,
removes this virus,
enlighten our perspective
for inclusion,    our
hopes of
 unity?

.

Diane Wilbon Parks is a visual poet and artist. Diane has written two poetry collections. Diane’s been recognized as a Prince George’s County, Poet of Excellence. She is an U. S. Air Force Veteran and resides in Maryland.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

Summer Pandemic Issues

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #5

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/08/11/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue/

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #6

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/08/11/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-6/

Spring Pandemic Issues 

North of Oxford presents The Pandemic Issues.

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #1

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/__trashed-2/

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #2

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-2/

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #3

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-3/

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #4

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-4/

Diane and George April 2020

.
Stay Calm – Stay Safe – Stay Home and When Out and About Wear a Mask
Diane Sahms and g emil reutter

 

Call for Pandemic Poetry Submissions

pandemic

Due to the overwhelming response to our four Pandemic Issues we published in April, and continued interest, we will once again publish poetry concerning the pandemic. Please send us your best work and how the pandemic has affected you, your neighborhood, and your country. As the virus continues its unrelenting attack, we urge all to be safe and wear a mask.

Send your submission in one Word doc. with no more than four poems, including a 50 word bio. Please send to sahmsguarnieriandreutter@gmail.com . The deadline for submissions to the new pandemic issue is August 10thDue to the anticipated response we will not be able to respond to each individual submission and all submissions received after August 10th will be discarded.

North of Oxford presents The Pandemic Issues.

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #1

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/__trashed-2/

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #2

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-2/

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #3

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-3/

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #4

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-4/

.

https://dianesahmsguarnieri.wordpress.com/

https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

 

Wear A Mask – Do the Right Thing

Diane and George April 2020

We wish all well during these troubling times and ask with great sincerity that when you go out to be safe, stay six feet apart, and wear a mask. Wearing a mask is not a political statement, it is a way for all of us to protect each other from this virus which is unrelenting in its pursuit of human beings. Be safe and stay home when at all possible. Let us be hopeful that a vaccine is on the horizon in the near future. Simply put, DO THE RIGHT THING!

https://dianesahmsguarnieri.wordpress.com/ https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #4

Party Underground (1)

Painting – Party Underground by Belinda Subraman

Thanks to the poets for contributing to The Pandemic Issue #4 from North of Oxford. In order of  appearance we present:  J Thomas Brown, Emily Bilman, Akshaya Pawaskar, Jason Kaufman, Naila Francis, Donna J. Gelagotis Lee, Linda Nemec Foster, Wayne-Daniel Berard

.

Hart Island by J Thomas Brown
.
They come to me, a time-worn island, once more.
They come to me in rows two wide, in layers three deep,
and I am too weary from the holding and can hold no more.
.
A child, grasping a handful of my grass, once said to a poet:
What is this grass? He answered he did not know,
that it seemed to be the beautiful uncut hair of graves.1
.
The tides, in unceasing motion, have worn my sides away.
My belly of earth, no longer fit for the task, splits, gives up its secrets.
See the clean white bones on their march into the bay.
.
Here, the water laps a shoulder blade resting on my gale eaten shore.
Nearby, protrudes the thigh of a Union prisoner who starved in the South,
and here, the ribs of one too poor to pay.
.
Over there, the jaw of a woman who died alone,
unsaved by burning pitch and cannon blast to scare Yellow Jack away.
Close by, the bones of a homeless man found in an alleyway.
.
Enough, enough. Today, a backhoe and fresh scrobis2
for the unclaimed who have passed.
May at last their dreams be happy,
beneath the leaves of grass.
.
1. From Song of Myself by Walt Whitman, 1892 version . . .it seemed to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
2. scrobis: a trench or grave
.
J Thomas Brown has had short stories published in Scarlet Leaf Review and Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet. I am a contributor to Lingering in the Margins: A River City Poets Anthology, Rattlecast, and Grotesque Quarterly Review. Mooncalf, a collection of poems, was self-published as an ebook and as an audiobook by Authors Republic. Two novels, The Land of Three Houses (historical fiction) and The Hole in the Bone (historical adventure fantasy), were published in 2018.
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Two Poems by Emily Bilman
.
Time’s Disintegration
.
Will Covid-19 spread from the fish markets
into a metallic pool where we will mutate
into primordial fish while others remain above
the disintegration of Time? Will we, at last, leave
the bats, foxes, and pangolins in the own
kingdoms, safe from our manipulations
to avoid Covid’s thousand mutations?
Will we slow down our pace as in our
confinement to prevent Dali’s warped Time
from turning the metallic pool into bullets? Or
will our broken Time dry out all the olive trees?
Will flowers mutate into plastic objects floating
on a jelly-sea of brine below the surface? Or
will currents still circulate in the oceans
and clear the air we breathe? In the post
Covid-19 space, will our Time be stretched
into the poem’s eternal present, allowing
us transformative change through
language, rhythm, and thought?
.
The Stages of Cruelty
1751 & 2020
.
While a gentleman offers a tart to stop the murderer
The dog is killed with an arrow stuck to its body
While another boy pulls on his throat with a rope.
.
A youngster ties a bone to another dog’s tail and grins
While the dog tries to catch it. Cats are hung on a pole
And a bird’s eye is cauterized with a stick as boys watch.
.
The sadism of Hogarth’s slum-boys that turns boys
Into tyrants, in turn, makes men into poachers who murder
Pangolins and sell their scales for medicine, their meat for food.
.
Bitten by bats, pangolins, traded and consumed for their meat
Spread the Covid-19 virus, killing thousands by lung
Constriction, leaving the rest of us in mute confinement.
.
Dr. Emily Bilman is London Poetry Society’s Stanza representative in Geneva where she lives and teaches poetry. Her dissertation, The Psychodynamics of Poetry, was published by Lambert Academic in 2010 and Modern Ekphrasis in 2013 by Peter Lang, CH. Three poetry books, A Woman By A Well, Resilience, and The Threshold of Broken Waters were published by Troubador, UK in 2015 and the latest in 2018
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Two Poems By Akshaya Pawaskar
.
As light as they come
.
We were sitting tall
atop a Howdah.
Looking down our noses
at the mastodon tusks,
thinking them servile
thinking them tamed,
conquered.
How our tiny bodies
usurped nature,
overthrew gods
and straddled
coasts,
mapped Pangea,
navigated Thalassa,
touched Mars.
Now a scream pierces
the sky, silently
reverberates across
continents.
We cower for shelter.
Houses turn sacred
they have a glamour
as temples are abandoned,
gods walk out of the idols
and follow us home.
We run for life
to the deepest recesses
hiding from enemies
invisible, wingless
as light as they come
yet carrying death
on their formless backs.
.
The way of the world
.
How we are divining the civilization,
How we are trying to exorcise the evil,
How it is always intangible smoke like.
How we feel guilty about writing poems
yet how they churn out faster from
stillness of the sealed houses.
How we watch the numbers ebb and flow
watch the uptick and lose hope.
How we light candles, bang utensils
and make noises to break the silence.
How those who set out on a soul searching
journey are returning home and learning
they are none the wiser, yet how
we are rediscovering ourselves inside
the four walls, going back to basics.
How a pandemic starts and ends?
How does one come out of this crisis,
a changed person, a better human.
How long till one forgets the lesson,
the history repeats and we start again
from scratch, the humbled ones.
.
Akshaya Pawaskar is a doctor practicing in India and poetry is her passion. Her poems have been published in Tipton Poetry journal, Indian ruminations, The Blue Nib, North of Oxford, Rock and Sling, Shards and Red Fez.

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.
Two Poems by Jason Kaufman
.
Dim Witness
.
Day #1 of Ohio’s stay-at-home order
3/24/2020
54,856 Covid-19 cases in the US
780 Total deaths in the US
225 People died today in the US
.
I bear dim witness
to ticker counters on a phone screen,
the virus’s exponential spread
veering northward on Logarithmic charts.
The endless scrolling of Nasdaq and the S&P
replaced by real-time rising death rates.
I’m out of work and nervous about making ends meet.
It’s week one in quarantine.
My list of renovation projects is dwindling.
Our house gets cleaner by the day.
We throw family dance parties and laugh.
I embarrass myself for the love of this moment.
My wife and I make love like teenagers,
in this room and that.
.
I wonder why it took a pandemic
for us to begin living our lives.
.
Ruptures and Articulations
.
Day #3 of Ohio’s stay-at-home order
3/26/2020
83,206 Covid-19 cases in the US
1,201 Total deaths in the US
174 People died today in the US
.
Is there anywhere on earth untouched by this? Anywhere
inside of you untouched by fear.
McCarthy calls man a lesser God,
insatiable and malignant, whom no ceding could appease
nor any measure of blood,
.
but I see caped cashiers and superheroes in the stockroom.
Homebound Troubadours singing from balconies
about a dark age, not so long ago, when humankind believed
they were created to serve the stock market.
.
Have we broken
through to a new truth?
Have we broken
from our legacy of blood and war?
Has this pandemic ruptured the chain of bestial replicas?
Will we stand up out of the rubble and discover we are new species entirely?
The potential of profound change, born at the intersection
of our heart and this burdensome cross.
.
.
Jason Kaufman is a poet and visual artist living in Bellville, Ohio. The major influences on his work are fatherhood, backpacking, Post-Structuralism, Buddhism, theopoetics, and mental health advocacy.
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.
And have you cried yet today by Naila Francis
.
And have you cried yet today, let
your eyes become water become
wonder, become soundless kiss
on the brow of this soft-skinned world?
.
Listen, in Hanoi, a water tank spills rice
into residents’ bags daily, in Ho Chi
Minh City around the clock.
.
Air pollution is plummeting, a 30 percent drop
in America’s Northeast, a breather
in the bellowing of tailpipes and power plants
that has polished the sunset to a truer hue
in China, raised handclaps in outer space.
.
In the oceans, cruiseless and calm, whales
can keep singing, and so, too, the creatures
who glide less stressed, their dreams
of motherhood tucked in the quiet deep.
.
Today, I read of a coffee shop giving
a month of profits to medical first responders,
a landlord canceling three months’ rent.
.
The math these days is dizzying, grim:
34,376 deaths in the US, globally 141,452,
in my city 311 new cases since yesterday,
in Italy a generation — gone.
.
Here, where I write from among them, 22
million unemployed, a shortfall of millions
of tests needed per week to open the economy,
thousands of gallons of milk dumped by farmers,
and still more produce, without a system
to funnel them to the miles-long food bank lines.
.
But there is also $20 shoved anonymously
through a front door, two young boys
in blow-up dinosaur costumes billowing joy
in their duo of a neighborhood parade, one
85-year-old nurse leaving her retirement
to care for other seniors, 78 children
receiving free meals every day from a teacher
who walks five miles to deliver them.
.
How else to take the sorrow, terror
if not with beauty, too?
How to keep counting the days
without the moments that gather
in the good, remind us “Here Comes the Sun,”
.
which is played in a Michigan hospital
whenever a patient is weaned off a ventilator.
.
How many tears have you cried?
Will they ever be enough, a trail we follow,
from here inside this keening dark,
to where our hands will meet?

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Naila Francis is a warm, vibrant and inspiring woman. She’s a poet, an ordained interfaith minister who performs weddings and baby blessings, and a world traveler whose journeys have taken her, among other destinations, to Tanzania as an orphanage volunteer, Mallorca to study poetry and Peru, where she climbed Machu Picchu Mountain with a shaman as her guide. https://www.nailafrancis.com/
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 Living Without Fear of the Air by Donna J. Gelagotis Lee
.
Already, in movies it’s obvious.
Life has changed forever. No longer
Will we move as if the air
.
Were something not to be feared,
As if microbes didn’t lurk in
Suspended droplets.
.
No longer will we go out
Without thinking about what we touch
Or how close we are to another.
.
No more love-ins. No more hugs
And kisses with friends. What
Has polluted the air has
.
Polluted our idea of the air.
Our movements like a dancer’s
Let free will have ceased.
.
How I long for
That spring day we greet
In a park or at a beach
.
With neighbors of our state
Who say hi within six feet. I’d
Long to go to the supermarket
.
And not wear gloves and
A mask and sanitize the shopping
Cart. I’d like to chat
.
With the gas station attendant
Or waiter at a restaurant I’ll never
Likely go to again. If they make
.
A vaccine, it will be better. But
Not as before. Because lurking
Is the virus that will down
.
That percent who will not escape
Its grip, its residence in the lungs
That try to take in the air.
.
Donna J. Gelagotis Lee is the author of two award-winning collections, Intersection on Neptune (The Poetry Press of Press Americana, 2019), winner of the Prize Americana for Poetry 2018, and On the Altar of Greece (Gival Press, 2006), winner of the 2005 Gival Press Poetry Award and recipient of a 2007 Eric Hoffer Book Award: Notable for Art Category. Her poetry has appeared in publications internationally, including The Bitter Oleander, Feminist Studies, The Massachusetts Review, Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments, and Women’s Studies Quarterly. Her website is www.donnajgelagotislee.com .
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The Doctor Answers the Question: What is Breaking Detroit’s Heart?
By Linda Nemec Foster
.
Not the usual suspects:
the stabbings and gunshots,
the quiet OD in some abandoned
house on the northwest side.
.
Not the typical urban mix
of gut fear, heart fear, brain scared
to death over the lost job,
the mounting bills, empty table.
.
Not the streets overgrown with fields
where neighborhoods of houses
once stood, where dreams lived and
the children of those dreams once played.
.
What breaks Detroit’s heart is this: a hospital
overflowing with the dead. White body bags
like shrouds stacked in rooms, piled on floors,
sitting in chairs as if waiting for you to notice.
.
Linda Nemec Foster is the author of eleven collections of poetry including Amber Necklace from Gdansk, Talking Diamonds, and The Lake Michigan Mermaid (2019 Michigan Notable Book). Her work appears in numerous magazines and journals: e.g. The Georgia Review, Nimrod, Quarterly West, Witness, New American Writing, North American Review, and Verse Daily.
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Three Poems by Wayne-Daniel Berard
.
My Father’s Covid
.
the landing craft
of my father’s life
has once again ground
itself on omaha beach
but the iron door
is not dropping
normandy is all gusts
and bluster like always
like him night is falling
and he wonders why
no order to disembark
and why he is alone
in the hold’s center
a single candle
gutters and gasps
drowning in the liquid
of its own meltedness
my father wonders if
he’s dreaming or gone
crazy until he hears a
woman’s voice calling
his name from the darkening
cliffs he recognizes her but
doesn’t the candle sputters
he huddles in the corner of
his craft I hope he knows
not to wait for me (denied
permission to board by
executive order) I hope
when the wick exhales
and all the iron falls away
he’ll see only enemyless
beach moonlit and know
his one love’s call unhiding
in the high hedgerows
.
Passover in Plague Time
.
So this is how it felt
to have it all turn
against you to be
blamed in the burning
choking recesses of
each breath for decisions
by untouchable powers to
watch the river of your
everyday turn red your days
turn nights your very sky
fill with swarms of deadly
devouring tininesses your
massive milieu could not
fend off was this how it felt
when no safe distance
could save first born elders
and silly unschooled children
who gathered regardless
what was the hieroglyph for
“death count?” a human with
no animal head as every beast
had quit us in joyous liberation?
did the symbol rise and widen
grow and dominate until
everything infected everything
with enslavement to remoteness and
collapse? if we were all there back at
sinai then we were all there in giza
and luxor did we say “no, nameless one,
not this! egypt loves its children too
their grandparents are not pharaoh let
our liberation not be bought with plague?”
.
Christine in my Crisis
.
We’re sitting in the sunroom
the phone is constant
it rings it beeps so
much support “how
is your dad?” “there
for you” I get up from
beside you I don’t want
to interrupt your shows
from the kitchen I gaze
every minute of every call
back toward you your
profile defines both sun
and room being light
just by being and being
the one and every place
in which I dwell I’m glad
for all the others I breathe
because of you my constant
occasion the o in each hello
.
Wayne-Daniel Berard, PhD, teaches Humanities at Nichols College, Dudley, MA. He publishes broadly in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His latest full-length work of poetry, The Realm of Blessing, will be published in 2020 by Unsolicited Press. He is the co-founding editor of Soul-Lit, an online journal of spiritual poetry www.soul-lit.com  . Wayne-Daniel lives in Mansfield, MA with his wife, The Lovely Christine.
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lamp 2
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First Three Issues 

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #1

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/__trashed-2/ Poets: Howie Good, Marion Deutche Cohen, Alan Toltzis, Charles Rammelkamp, Gloria Parker, Len Krisak, Ed Krizek, Mervyn Taylor, Carl Kaucher, M. J. Arcangelini, Eileen R. Tabios, Bryon Beynon, Greg Bem, Richard Nester and John D. Robinson. 

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #2

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-2/

Poets: Ray Greenblatt, Cathleen Cohen, Cameron Morse, Ed Meek, Joan Mazza, Hiram Larew, April Penn, Grace Andreacchi, Mary Shanley, Bruce E. Whitacre, Jonie McIntire, Liddy Warrell, Nicole Yurcaba, Thaddeus Rutkowski, and Mike Cohen. 

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #3

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/north-of-oxford-the-pandemic-issue-3/

Poets: Don Riggs, John Macker, Lorna Wood, Michael Steffen, Matthew Ussia, Belinda Subraman, Susan Champion, Carlos Hernández Peña, Phil Saunders, Arlyn LaBelle, Peter Scheponik, and Ben Mazer

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Stay Calm – Stay Safe – Stay Home and When Out and About Wear a Mask
Diane Sahms and g emil reutter
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North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #2

Rooted (1)

Painting – Rooted by Belinda Subraman

Thanks to the poets for contributing to The Pandemic Issue #2 from North of Oxford. In order of  appearance we present: Ray Greenblatt, Cathleen Cohen, Cameron Morse, Ed Meek, Joan Mazza, Hiram Larew, April Penn, Grace Andreacchi, Mary Shanley, Bruce E. Whitacre, Jonie McIntire, Lindy Warrell, Nicole Yurcaba, Thaddeus Rutkowski, and Mike Cohen.

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Three Poems by Ray Greenblatt 
.
Losing Time
.
Last night rain tumbled
and ticked down metal drain pipes
making us restive in our beds
glancing the clock numberless times
not certain when we slept.
Today is glaringly
clear, yet, it feels like
the virus continues
to pound on the door.
Meanwhile, nature pushes up
its pinks, purples, golds
and infant whitenesses
as if all was well.
.
Virus
.
The sunlight in the school
across the street is
the only thing alive.
.
As the day rotates
the light moves up and down
the stairway forming students
from glare and shadow.
.
In a classroom it highlights
assignments on the board
now many months old.
.
Emergency lights
remain on at night
automatically.
.
Maintenance wanders the rooms
pushing vacuums at dust
inevitable but
no longer made by children.
.
The Moments
.
We sit in a stern little family group
holding hands for grace
staring at each other
trying to absorb every feature
we might have overlooked
might have never noticed before.
Each bite of our meal
we savor though humble.
          This might be the time for lasts.
Let music we love ring through
our brains like fond echoes.
The book we are reading
we have reread but want
to cherish each word
like never before.
.
Ray Greenblatt is an editor on the Schuylkill Valley Journal. His book reviews have been published by a variety of periodicals: BookMark Quarterly, Joseph Conrad Today, English Journal, the Dylan Thomas Society, and the John Updike Society. His new book of poetry, Nocturne & Aubades, is newly available from Parnilis Press, 2018.
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.
Three Poems by Cathleen Cohen
.
Pandemic Week Four
.
I eye my grandmother, so young
in the photo.
.
She gazes
                 not at me, but
.
out towards the yard
where blue jays knock wrens off the feeder.
.
She leans her chin on fingers
spread out like a fan.
Braids cradle her white neck,
a column, a monument.
.
What now? I cry.
.
She was 18 during the Spanish flu.
Circuit singer, sent back money
to her mother.
.
How we children adored her
singing, playing waltzes on piano
as we twirled. She was always
joking, chirping.
.
So you must have words now!
I implore, but she sits,
elegant, unmoved.
.
I tug her like a doll
from room to room,
position her on tables, chairs, desk
with a view the window, but
.
no,
turn her to face
my stricken face.
.
Measures
.
At first I count
strides
            (each a foot length)
as my mother taught
to measure rugs or the length of a room
when buying a couch.
.
This was decades back.
But now I practice
                              pacing 6 feet
.
then venture out, shocked
by blue jays swooping
.
and the bright red hat
of my neighbor
                        who appears near the hedge
without warning.
.
He’s lonely, wants to chat.
I freeze like a deer, edge back, measure
risk,
       which is not static.
.
Three teens jog past, safe
at a distance but
they’re shouting companionably.
One spits on the ground.
.
Is it safe
                  to pass that place?
When will we adapt
to this new way to orbit?
.
Between Us
.
As was written,
our trials can be lengthy:
forty years of desert wandering,
forty days of shelter in the ark.
.
But I also think of Moses
forty nights on the mountain,
cowering at first, shivering
in a crevice, surrounded by
.
thundering  voice
.
but ultimately
open, receiving.
.
He carried back radiance,
a glimpse of presence.
.
Now I search for radiance
(not in portents or the news)
but in bird flight,
the changing colors of hours,
beloved voices,
prayers sung from balconies, extending
beyond walls.
.
For walls are temporary, porous
to the  radiance
.
that must pass between us.
.

Cathleen Cohen is the Founder and creator of ArtWell’s core program, We the Poets, and a member of ArtWell’s Board of Directors (effective 2018). Following her retirement in 2015 as a treasured member of ArtWell’s staff as Education Director, Cathy continued in a volunteer capacity. As a master teacher, poet, and literacy specialist, she serves as a vital mentor to new Teaching Artists and volunteers. Cathleen holds a Ph.D. in Learning Disabilities from Northwestern University, an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University, a BA from The Johns Hopkins University and a certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

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Three Poems by Cameron Morse
.
Crucifixion of a Phantasm
.
Spring rain self-quarantine,
Augustine flays below the scourge
of bodily sickness. COVID-19
the topic of every breakfast, herd
immunity and high-dose Vitamin C,
how you refused baptism
even as your fever heightened.
Christ being nothing to you then
but a phantasm. Outside,
hyacinths purple dank mulch
with their royal robes.
Robins drop to the rippling bird bath
in the light-spangled orchard,
cardboard boxes sogging curbside
in recycling bins. I seize
upon the quarantine to learn the rules
for recycling, the new labels,
and rip the plastic window
screen from a box of spaghetti
noodles. Inhale the cleansing
chill of social distancing: school
closed, reading cancelled,
and today’s sky doubtless is a kind
of phantasm, perhaps even
a phantasm crucified, for all I know.
Its pallor overwhelms me.
.
Infected
.
Vacuity wonders where the world is
that perched upon its shoulder.
Wonders where the wonder
of the world went. Will anything
I say now make sense to me after I’m well?
Will you clear the cobwebs from my eye
shells? Vacuity listens to itself
in the conch, its own voice
carping from a great distance.
Its fatigue is talking. Shrill
as a crow in hardnosed winter air.
Its fatigue lets the dogs
spill into the house, pounce over September’s
bright new upholstery. Lets its forehead
sink into the heel of a hand.
There is no helper here, Vacuity thinks,
where there used to be thoughts.
The virus is everywhere.
.
Burr Oak Woods
.
A walker in black
leggings, pink-dyed hair,
raises her makeshift
mask to ask who stole her car,
where in the woods is
the lost parking lot that holds it.
Worn with cares and fears,
writes Augustine. A screenshot
from Facebook confirms
seven Costco workers COVID-19
where we buy pullups and wipes.
Bethany Falls Trail with Theo
for the first time, my two-year-old
emptying the spray bottle in his
mouth. My body unclenches
on a bench beside the gravel path.
All is stillness in the woods,
the oceanic wind surge, rat-a-tat
blast of somewhere a woodpecker,
faraway rumble of an airplane
lifting its crucifix over us
or against. For each passerby,
I yank my boy into the understory.
For great intervals of time,
there is only us, a single trunk
somewhere is thinly creaking.
.
Cameron Morse was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in 2014. With a 14.6 month life expectancy, he entered the Creative Writing Program at the University of Missouri—Kansas City and, in 2018, graduated with an M.F.A. His poems have been published in numerous magazines, including New Letters, Bridge Eight, Portland Review and South Dakota Review. His first poetry collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. His latest is Baldy (Spartan Press, 2020). He lives with his wife Lili and two children in Blue Springs, Missouri, where he serves as poetry editor for Harbor Review. https://cameronmorsepoems.wordpress.com/
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On Pandemic Island by Ed Meek
.
Now the seven days have become one.
Every day the Monday of a long weekend.
It’s National work-from-home-day.
Call your parents, friends, siblings’ day.
Home school day.
.
Wherever we are, we now inhabit a small town.
S, we take long, meandering strolls.
Random cars cruise deserted streets.
Weary of strangers, we startle
At sniffles, coughs and sneezes.
.
We give everyone a wide berth,
Navigating around them
As if we are in boats.
We live in the singularity
Of the eternal present.
Every day like a snow day
without snow. We plan
for the indefinite future
on an etch a sketch
.
.

Ed Meek has been published by Dash, Constellations, Blue Mountain Review, What Rough Beast, Red Wheel Barrow Review. My new book, High tide, is coming out this summer..

Three Poems by Joan Mazza
.
Sonnet for Covid19
.
Before the quarantine, I made plans
for how I’d spend the time alone at home
with only cats for company. No drone
to deliver milk or eggs. I wash my hands
as soon as I return with what might be
the last fresh lettuce, cucumbers, lemons
for a while. Everywhere—lurking demons
both bacterial and viral. Pity
those who don’t have extra for any extra
food or tissues, would not think of hoarding
Chapstick, dental floss, or Bach recordings,
plus paper books for the coming trifecta
of contagion, solitude, and ennui.
Creating keeps me from going screwy.
.
Silly Shopping on eBay
.
Balm for anxiety, we’re shopping online
buying essentials like coffee and chocolate,
wine and brandy for those who still drink.
Booze sales boom during the threat of Covid19
as it presses against a shortage of masks.
.
I won’t be buying troll dolls with succulents
growing out of their heads, or vintage Barbies
in their original box and clothes for seven
thousand dollars. No tall platform sandals for me,
no exfoliating scrub, or off-the-shoulder blouses—
.
already passé. I don’t need home hair dye kits
or articles on how to pass the time during
the quarantine. I’m grateful not to be married
to Pence or Falwell or Bundy, or the gun and ammo
collectors I once knew. My days are full, hours
.
too few. Like other quilters with a ginormous stash,
I find large scraps for sewing masks and make
them reversible. I’d add some silly beads or buttons,
beards of ribbons. But no to bling. Extra texture
might offer coronavirus another way to cling.
.
No embroidered leaves and daisies like those
on jeans in the sixties, no childish charms will dangle.
I could make bread and rolls shaped like genitalia,
cookies iced with bawdy words to bake my rage
at feeling helpless. But I’m still on a healthy track,
.
won’t gain back pounds I shed. When I come out
of the world of dread, you won’t recognize this thin
and sober, pale and mindful me in my snazzy veil.
.
What I’m doing in quarantine that I didn’t do before
.
My fantasies have changed from a larger house,
tropical vacations and ocean swimming
to shopping at Costco, Walmart, and Food Lion.
In my reveries, I restock my supplies without
the worry of using up my paper products. I stroll
the aisles of specialty shops and choose imported
spices, fresh and crisp broccoli rabe, lettuce,
.
artichokes, and cucumbers. I fill two carts
without fear of stares or microbes lurking
on the wagon’s handle or in the air. In my best
fantasy, I find everything I could ever want
or need, a dream of organic fresh vegetables
that don’t rot. My trash, including wet cat litter,
disappears as soon as I place it on my porch.
.
Today I write in that small leather notebook
of handmade paper and a metal clasp, once
too good to use, record my gratitude for my
deep freezer, electricity, and well water.
Every day, I bless the letter carrier, who
delivers packages and mail, and I repeat
my thrill to have the Internet in my house
.
in the woods. I didn’t expect to be so happy
to be alone without the men who collected
guns and ammo, men who got drunk and found
fault with how I spent my time and money,
except when I paid for beer. I never thought
I’d so easily fall in love again
with my sewing machine, fabrics, thread.
.
Joan Mazza worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, and taught workshops on understanding dreams and nightmares. She is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self, and her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Adanna Literary Journal, Poet Lore, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia. www.JoanMazza.com
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Spoons or Rakes By Hiram Larew
.
What we need now
            is glow –
The sort of night that embers make
The sound in nests
         or apples’ shapes
A glow that gives more than it takes
The kind of spoons or rakes
                 that neighbors love
Those shoreside waves that warm the boats
We need the wool of passing years
               or more
What holding does when little’s near
.
Larew’s fourth collection, Undone, was issued in 2018 by FootHill Publishing.  On Facebook at Hiram Larew, Poet and on www.PoetryXHunger.com
.
.
Two Poems by April Penn
.
Bring a book
.
I don’t recommend reading A People’s History of the United States
by Howard Zinn during prolonged periods of self-isolation.
.
I do recommend the book.
It does much to fight against ruling class narratives of history, but
it’s hard to hear the same cries against oppression over and over,
and see that so many died, unanswered,
and wonder what then will become of us now?
How come what can be foreseen cannot be prevented?
.
History teaches that ideas are not enough.
History is repetitive and boring without poetry.
.
I am reading poetry while also reading A People’s History.
That’s the compromise I struck
against merely listing off a string of tragedies.
.
Shortages
.
Good thing
I can’t
write a poem on
a roll of toilet paper
.
because if I could
I would still have to use
that toilet paper
to wipe my ass
.
and then depending
on who you ask
these poems would be
more or less appealing
.
Everything that goes in
must come out,
but that isn’t true.
Sometimes pain never
.
finds a way to leave.
Does that mean that pain
doesn’t enter or exit?
Pain like water colors
.
bleeding into each other,
escaping boundaries,
self-hood, ah, at last
the artist has to go.
.

April March Penn is a queer poet who visits Anne Sexton’s grave and conducts tarot readings for real and imaginary friends. Penn’s poetry is published in What Are Birds, The Offing, The Fem, The Deaf Poet Society, Maps for Teeth, Provocateur, and other literary magazines. They have featured in Boston at the Cantab Poetry Lounge, Out of the Blue Gallery, and Stone Soup Poetry. Follow them on Instagram: @pennapril

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Viral by Grace Andreacchi
.
It can’t hurt us
it’s too far away
(that’s what we said at first)
It can’t hurt us
let’s dance, let’s play
.
When it came closer still
we thought we were safe
look outside! the sun is shining
the world is not coming to an end
that’s what we said
.
Soon, very soon we were dead
first the old and the weak
then the little children
then everyone else
.
the earth did not mourn us
only the cats and dogs
for a little while wondered
turned sad frightened eyes
in search of us, this way and that
and then forgot
.
the birds in their cages
screamed and starved
after that all birds were free
the ocean returned to the fish
the air to itself, pure and sweet again
.
the foxes moved into our empty houses
made themselves at home
tearing rabbits to bits on the sofa
sleeping in our beds
.
the lion chased rich prey
through golden waves of grass
the tigress gave birth to sweet wet cubs
in the humming forest
the birds made fresh nests
in the new sprung woods
.
the earth did not mourn us
greedy monkeys
too clever for our own good
some of us were beautiful
some of us were kind
we perished along with the rest
nobody left to say goodbye
.
Grace Andreacchi was born and grew up in New York City. She was educated at the Academy of Mount St. Ursula High School, and went on to study theatre at the Stella Adler Studio. A brief period on the stage was followed by the study of philosophy, first at Hunter College (New York City), and then at Binghamton University (Binghamton, New York). Since 1989 Andreacchi has lived in Europe, moving first to Paris, then rural Normandy, and later to Berlin (1994–1998) and London, where she now resides.
.
A Smooth Stone By Mary Shanley
.
Put a smooth stone in your pocket
and when you touch it remember
.
the waterfall splashing at Jefferson
Market Garden, remember the Japanese
Garden in Golden Gate Park.
.
Remember to take time to sit
in quietude and let the serenity
wash your clean from the images
of global destruction from the killer virus.
.
Put a smooth stone in your pocket
and remember to wear a face mask
to cover your nose and mouth.
Protection from Covid 19, invisible killer
that will take our lives if we don’t practice
social distancing and stay inside.
.
Put a smooth stone in your pocket
and live one day at a time. Forget
trying to envision what our world
will be like when the virus is stopped.
No one knows the post virus world.
.
Put a smooth stone in your pocket
and wash your hands multiple times
per day. Try not to touch your face.
This is deadly serious.
.
Put a smooth stone in your pocket
and hope the president will have
an awakening an realize how
reckless and dangerous his inaction
towards Covid 19 has been.
.
Put a smooth stone in your pocket
and hope the president will care
more about life than the stock market.
.
Put a smooth stone in your pocket
and hope the president will release
funds for first responders’s safety
equipment and ventilator’s.
.
Put a smooth stone in your pocket
and give thanks for all the health
professionals who have come out
of retirement to stand on the front
lines of the Covid 19 war.
.
Put a smooth stone in your pocket and hope that
The inept and dangerous president 45 will be removed
from office on election day, 2020.
.
Put a smooth stone in your pocket
and remember to keep holy your thoughts
about those sick and dying from this virus
today.
.
Mary Shanley, poet/storyteller, living in New York City with her wife, Lisa Genet.
.
.
What I Saw at Station Square By Bruce E. Whitacre
.
I will walk to Station Square
Though I won’t take the train
Or check out new cocktails at the bar.
I won’t worry about departures or arrivals,
Weather delays or locked waiting rooms.
I haven’t looked at a schedule for weeks.
Tickets crumple in my pocket.
The trackside trees are leafing out without me.
The funny man who pees all the time
Is no longer a comfort station customer.
The pushy lady who grabs the first seat
Must now roll easily from kitchen chair to couch,
I suppose.
.
            We gaze at screens, not out the windows
Of the empty trains passing by without us
Through a region frozen in emergency,
Of seething hospitals and blinded shops.
Trains clack over the heads of parents juggling children
And accounts unaided and without success:
Too much out of reach; too much passed them by;
Too many cash-earners gone.
Their losses will pull the spikes from all our rails,
Knock the train from the trestle,
And there will be nothing to wait for
Coming round the bend.
.
I turn back down the silent streets
And walk home from Station Square.
.
Until recently Bruce E. Whitacre was a nonprofit manager in the theatre field. His work has been published in the online journal, Cagibi, and he has been featured reader at the Forest Hills, Queens Public Library.  He received an MFA in Dramatic Writing from Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and has served as a literary and theatre manager in the nonprofit sector.
.
.
Three Poems by Jonie McIntire
.
Easter Sunday for Cynics
.
When churches weren’t open
or her legs too brittle to hold,
my grandmother would watch
on tv, read from pamphlets, reread
old passages in a tattered bible.
.
She found God every time,
from Jerry Falwell to
the cartoons of the Latter day
Saints to the sun on her back porch.
.
I wake early, Easter Sunday in a
cynic’s house during dark times,
and I check on the robin’s nest
tucked away in a second-story
corner window ledge.
.
Three days ago, just mud and straw.
Then one egg within a day,
two in another. Now,
three perfect eggs more beautiful
than sky or sea.
.
Would You Rather – Covid Edition
.
Go to the local grocery store looking like a bandito at high noon
or have to forage in the back of your pantry for something involving saltines and spicy mustard?
.
Be stuck at home with your relatives in a house where everything echoes and creaks
or be stuck in a small quiet space with all of your loved ones scattered elsewhere?
.
Start training for a marathon though the weather is tit-chilling bitter
or make day-drinking a practice you perfect so well you are usually asleep by 7 pm?
.
Spend so much time with your significant other that you are constantly
fucking or fighting (but both are very passionate)
.
or spend so much time seeking solitude that here we are in this house together with only our resentments to share?
.
Third Week of Quarantine
.
Because we hear
highway traffic
even in the house,
.
it is easy to think
we can go,
but watching cars from
.
bedroom window,
he mistakes longing
for love and still
.
has no idea
if I like green mints
or red.
.
Jonie McIntire, author of Beyond the Sidewalk (NightBallet Press, 2017) and Not All Who Are Lost Wander (Finishing Line Press, 2016), will be releasing her third chapbook, Semidomesticated, later this year. She hosts two monthly poetry reading series, Uncloistered Poetry and Art & Performance Poetry, and is the poetry editor for Springboard, a teen literary journal. Recipient of an Arts Commission Accelerator Grant, she has poems published in journals across the country and even stamped into cement in Toledo, Ohio as part of the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo’s Sidewalk Poetry series.
.
.
Coronatime by Lindy Warrell
.
How very lucky
you and I
to see the sky
and breathe.
.
Lindy lives by the sea in Glenelg, South Australia. Her poems appear online, and in journals and anthologies. She has recently published three chapbooks of free verse, evoking the Australian outback, cityscapes, old age, random moments and disturbing things.

.

Two Poems by Nicole Yurcaba
.
1.
at times
i feel clandestine
as i whisper
i have information
to the grocery shelves’ remnants
i carried home in a freezer bag
.
2.
fantasy:
i strip
for Richard Z. Kruspe
while wearing
fishnets
and a N95 mask
.
Nicole Yurcaba is a Ukrainian-American poet and essayist, who teaches at Bridgewater College and serves as the Assistant Director to the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival.
.
.
Homeless Friend by Thaddeus Rutkowski
.
I see my homeless friend
(“friend” might be an exaggeration,
but we know each other’s names).
He is where I expect to see him,
but he isn’t sitting on his usual bench.
He is sitting on a fire hydrant
that has a cover: a sort of lampshade
over the knobby top of the pipe.
“They took away the bench,” he says.
We look through a display window
and see the bench inside a fancy café.
“They’ll bring it back out,” I say,
but I’m not sure if that will happen anytime soon.
The bench might stay inside for months,
until the shutdown ends.
.

Thaddeus Rutkowski lives and writes in New York City. Thaddeus Rutkowski

.

.

Four Poems by Mike Cohen
.
Unable to Make Sense of It (April 2020)
.
Senses don’t always make sense.
In the midst of the viral pandemic,
you get the sense
of being invulnerable to anything else –
that all you have to do is avoid the dread disease
and you’ll survive.
.
A middle aged man, walking
along a crowded sidewalk,
steps off the curb to maintain
healthy social distance from other passersby,
and is struck by a utility truck.
.
His death,
though brought about by the pandemic,
is not attributed to the disease.
Just another senseless casualty.
.
Humanity and Virulence (March 2020)
.
Uh-oh! Here comes another of those humans.
Of course, I’m human too, but
I know the human coming toward me
is not me.
And he’s likely loaded with viruses.
Most of us are. And his collection of viruses
is probably different from mine.
Some viruses are more virulent than others, some less;
just as some humans are more human than others, some less.
But I intend to stay clear of this human
and his viruses,
however virulent or human they may be.
.
Infected (March 30, 2020)
.
The demon is inside.
Inside you is a deadly virus
or a deadly fear
of a virus so deadly
it can scare you to death.
Either way,
there’s nothing you can do.
Once you’ve let it in,
the demon is inside.
.
Helpless (March 2020)
.
The impassive grey sky does nothing to cheer us.
It looms, immovable as the thought of a virus
that hangs in the air between our heads
and the unfeeling firmament.
I throw stones at it, want it to crack
a smile, let a sliver of blue show through,
release a beam or two to shimmer down
and halo someone – anyone – to save us.
But my stones fall short,
come down, each with a thud,
as the grey sky looks on, unimpressed.

.

Mike Cohen lives and writes in Philadelphia. You can find him at: MIKE COHEN SAYS

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#2 cover

 

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue # 3

Leaves and Stays (1)

Painting – Leaves and Stays by Belinda Subraman

.

Thanks to the poets for contributing to The Pandemic Issue #3 from North of Oxford. In order of  appearance we present: Don Riggs, John Macker, Lorna Wood, Michael Steffen, Matthew Ussia, Belinda Subraman, Susan Champion, Carlos Hernández Peña, Phil Saunders, Arlyn LaBelle, Peter Scheponik , David Kozinski, Maria Keane, and Ben Mazer,
.
Covid-19 Sonnets by Don Riggs
.
Monads
.
In 12th grade, Mr. Gallagher taught us
about Leibniz, and how he thought monads
made up the world, whatever “monads” were.
Now I think that Leibnizian monads
are individuals isolated
in their apartments with the radio
or TV or computer bringing word
of what individuals who make up
the collective are doing outside, one
by one, talking on Skype from their kitchens,
communing on Zoom from their living rooms,
or venturing out in their bandannas
to see the city empty except for
other masked loners keeping their distance.
.
con notation
.
Social distancing’s an oxymoron
of sorts developed just for this current
situation to convince everyone
we come together by staying apart.
To cooperate is to operate
with, but it is in isolation that
we work together, “operate” coming
from “opus” or “work,” one’s magnum opus
being one’s great work, by which the future
will remember us, if it remembers
us at all, as Catullus was almost
totally forgotten, one manuscript
of his works surviving by chance, a lone
flower uprooted by the passing plow.
.
Testing the Waters
.
After a day or three alone at home,
I took the bus downtown today to do
some things I had to do despite the ban
on leaving your apartment and putting
yourself in the possible position
of contacting other human beings,
any of whom could have contracted the
disease of the moment, but since they all
thought that I could have been a carrier,
they kept a good six feet or more between
us and only a handful rode the bus.
I asked the driver if there was any–
“Saturday,” he said without my asking
the question, “It’s Saturday all week long.”
.
Be Careful What You Wish For
.
Okay, I’ve been hoping for some event
to occur to relieve me of the duty
to show up Monday for jury duty,
not that I’d hate it, but in the event
that the trial, if I were chosen, would
go on and on for weeks without being
resolved and keep me from my job, being
a teacher, who can’t cut class when he would,
and somebody in the collective has
said, be careful what you wish for, for you
may actually get it, which I have
never taken seriously, but has
happened big time recently; perhaps you
have noticed: all the free time I now have…
.

Don Riggs is author of Bilateral Asymmetry, his poetry has appeared in many publications and he teaches several courses for the Department of English and Philosophy at Drexel University.

.

.
Four Poems by John Macker
.
Exile
.
If I stay out here in this spring garden
exile long enough, the sun will return.
They say at the bottom of the gravest doubt
there is satori: it’ll brighten
even the dimmest of our sad hearts. I’m
missing their life stories already, their
voices compatible with all the other voices,
the cordiality, timorousness or genius
of their incomplete sentences.
.
I follow a shovel into the earth. This is what
the desert once was, a brazen hike through
unaccounted for territory, where the
inarticulate prayers rise like smoke signals,
easily believed and dispersed.
.
No answers
from the government or the bobble-headed Poe
figure all dressed in black on my desk or the
photo on my wall of the firing line of Apaches,
     “fighting terrorism since 1492.”
To reconcile what matters most with what might not,
these brazen sorrows,
                                    the first apricot tree blossoms
puncture the frigid air.
.
Imaginary Dolphins of Venice
.
The wishful thinking of dolphins swimming
in the canals of Venice
lousy panacea, beautiful hallucination
not to mention serendipitous swans, the
color of no more war.     Social distancing is
six feet to a thousand miles depending on
the color of your eyes. This light breeze-
spiked chime sounds either resigned or
aloof, I can’t tell which, and the thrashers
emote as though nothing is as communicable
as music.
.
The space between myself and everyone else
advances with age and I’m aging by the speed of sound.
This morning there was chicken sausage sizzling
and scrambled eggs, scents filled the kitchen.
Empire is now sharing a cup of coffee with the
rest of humanity. I don’t even know their names!
Empire is her holding me like I was the last
hermitage on earth. Our berserk dogs need their
Sunday hike, bereft of parishioners and sometimes
I don’t think the desert will summer us out of this
any more than dolphins will carry our grey ashes
out to sea.
.

The Day Ornette Coleman Played “Sadness.”

.
The deadened sky worships Buddha anarchy
I smile at the flummoxed president
New York Home Improvement Jesus says
we all ought to get together for the
future of jazz in America. Did you know
that at 8:45 a.m. hominid rush hour
someone on earth became a mother
a rockstar    a Golem     a bluebird
or eats a peach blessed by the pope?
Performs a black mass
watches a busy urban river
lose all of its nerve endings?
.
I watch my wife undress and I bounce
a feather off of her shadow, chilled April
light, a lost season’s pink moon.
The world prepares Ornette’s lips again
for Sadness.    Through the early spring cobweb
of a window, one shovel full of compost
after another. Not so far away on the steps
of the capitol, armed true believers defy the wind.
.
Without a Mask
.
I’m a pariah in the produce department
stuck between the okra and pomegranates
between a celery stalk and a hard place.
Americans in Sprouts are avoiding me
like the plague. I am Judah Ben-Hur’s
desperate leper.      I show them my
disposable gloves, one for each damned
hand and they see only my face indelibly
etched, a wizened map of pestilence and
war. I’m obviously from some alien land
that refused to protect itself from assault:
What did Macbeth do?      Believe Burnham
Wood or his own lying eyes?
.
All they see is a miscreant who quit shaving,
who came from some disheveled 1950’s Auden-
scape that “reeked of stale coffee grounds, tarry
nicotine and toe jam mixed with metro pollution
and catshit . . .”
.
A teenager was sanitizing all the cart and basket
handles. All the shoppers had my number and it was
tattooed on my face where a mask should’ve
been, protecting them from my army of
pathogens.     I social distanced my cart
up to the register. Next time, I’ll wear my
homemade mask to protect, if nothing else,
my compromised anonymity.
.
John Macker’s most recent books of poetry are Atlas of Wolves and The Blues Drink Your Dreams Away, Selected Poems: 1983-2018, which was a finalist for an Arizona/New Mexico Book Award. For several years he was contributing editor to Albuquerque’s Malpais Review. He has published 11 books of poetry. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
.
.
Pandemic Spring, with Azaleas by Lorna Wood
.
Isolate behind our glass,
feverishly wiping our droplets,
we are interrupted.
.
Wantonly they gather on boughs
that have given their all to bend
under the mad choir.
.
They hide their fragile stamens coyly in
crumpled white petals like nested tissues.
They flaunt themselves from delicate pink but
full-throated clusters, aspire unashamed
from lavender blooms, or (nostalgically)
with red and white stripes, hint at holidays:
aprons, candy stars, carefree homecomings.
.
Rank on untidy rank, the choristers,
trumpet mouths agape, peal out
rebukes. Their thoughtless burgeoning
is not for us. We must turn
to sterile wisdom, fervid fears.
.
Lorna Wood is a violinist and writer in Auburn, Alabama, with a Ph.D. in English from Yale. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in DASH, great weather for MEDIA’s 2020 anthology, Leaves of Loquat V (second prize, 2018 Loquat Literary Festival), Poetry South. Lorna has also published fiction, creative nonfiction, and scholarly essays, and she is Senior Editor of Gemini Magazine. Follow her at https://lornawoodauthor.wordpress.com
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.
Days at Home by Michael Steffen
.
The fridge hums early in the morning with
unsettling urgency to get out of
the house, though it should know by now, a month
of Sundays on, we’re hanging in the cave
another day, and likely will all through
the merry month of May. The garbage trucks
groan out the window where little else moves.
The world for drama ‘s lost our look to Netflix,
gatherings on Zoom to beguile the distance,
a book on Churchill with a cup of tea,
this silence in the sky looming. It dims
unseen and weird like something out of science
fiction, all in subdued anxiety.
It’s spring. Leaves are dangling from their limbs.
.
Michael Steffen lives and works in Somerville, Massachusetts. His poems have been published, including in Another Chicago Magazine, The Boston Globe, The Connecticut Review, Ibbetson Street, and recently in The Concord Saunterer, His first book of poems, Partner, Orchard, Day Moon, was published by Cervena Barva Press in 2014.
.
.
Leakers: a Covid Poem by Matthew Ussia
.
Dead spring falls
in the neighborhood
warm breezes but
too early for shade
.
Libby is eager
to pull me out of a
webinar lecture PowerPoint
and into the empty streets
.
the busses roll by empty
she lunges at squirrels
three walks a day makes
the era of social distancing
the time of her young life
.
And while she stops
to sniff a tree-trunk
I wonder
how many folks
are in these houses
.
asymptomatic
when they went
into self-quarantine
.
now liquefying into
their mattresses
becoming one
with the floorboards
until the neighbors
notice the smell.
.
Matthew Ussia is an English professor, writer, and thereminist from Pittsburgh.  Previous works have been featured in the Dreamers Anthology, Winedrunk Sidewalk, The Ekphrastic Review, and the Open Mic of the Air Podcast.
.
.
Five Poems by Belinda Subraman
.
Going Inside
3-17-20
.
Here I am eating
the best snacks
I have for quarantine
forcing myself to the backyard
planting flowers and buddhas
building a garden
nourishing peace
grasping for calm
with panic vibes darting
the atmosphere.
I meditate neurotically
paint, write these notes
to the world from El Paso
where I self-isolate now
with a dry cough
occasional sneeze
slight sore throat
addicted to pandemic tv.
.
Isolationship 
3-31-20
.
Nearly a thousand died today in the USA
of the novel coronavirus.
I push myself to do the solitary walk outside
as my husband is not well enough to accompany me.
.
I’ve made a thick green womb
around a tree
in my backyard garden
I can no longer buy plants, pots or dirt
but I can split profuse aloe vera
and it likes stretching out
filling in new places it is welcome.
An aloe finger offers itself
from an elevated perch
next to my outdoor chair.
It actually curves on the end
as if it wants to be held.
I clasp its cool finger
and feel comfort
and connection to life.
Isolated in quarantine
I take comfort where I can.
I have a husband, two cats
and plants who love me.
.
Brief Escape Bummer
4-9-20
.
The trip to the fast food place
wasn’t exciting as I expected.
Three people were clumped
behind the window laughing,
one handing out food
with no mask or gloves,
yet we ate it
sitting in the car
outside a park
closed due to Covid-19.
.
El Paso had 225
confirmed cases today
and one death.
.
Quarantine felt safer,
a huddling in a womb,
cozy and familiar
with someone I love.
.
Home is a comfortable prison
and I just wanted to go there.
.
El Paso: 393 Confirmed Cases, 6 deaths
4-16-20
.
I’m living an inverted dream
waking up in a nightmare
of being trapped in a 50s
black and white B movie
bad script, stiff actors.
When the villain shoots
the Sheriff with the prop gun
he dies. At first we think
his acting has improved
but the fake blood doesn’t stop
because it’s real.
The stone stare
of the whitening face
is becoming a monument
to life, a reminder it all ends.
He won’t get up again.
.
The killer is invisible.
The theaters are closed.
Life is not a movie
and this isn’t a dream.
.
Tonight We Tried Out For a Sci-Fi  Movie
April 18, 2020, El Paso: 505 cases/ 8 deaths
.
We were two old hippies
on a mountain top in a cool wind.
One sat banging on a clanky
knock-off pan drum
while the other played the car door
with one hand
clicking the fingers on the sun visor
with the other.
People may have been stunned
entertained or bemused
three parking spaces apart
while the deadly unseen
stalked and threatened.
.
From the darkness arose
music to match the mood.
We were aliens who hear
another register
no human can detect
pleasing our own race
in another galaxy
saluting our infinite connection
to all graced to hear
together touched by grief
and compassion
with hope for at least
the most boring day we ever had
before Covid-19.
.
Belinda has been writing and publishing for about 30 years. Her own writing has grown to span a vast array of subjects, styles and publications. She has traveled in over 20 countries, lived in Europe for 6 years and was part of an East Indian family for 22 years. These cross-cultural experiences often inform her work as well as her experiences as a Registered Nurse. These days her poetry, stories, and art can be found in hundreds of journals, reviews, anthologies, books and chapbooks. Since 1994 her archives are housed at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, in the Center for Southwest Research.
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War and Peace By Susan Champion 
 .
How to retain our peace?
In this germ war
.
Enemy hidden, like a sniper
Bullets ejected silently
Not from your enemy,
Your best friend, your neighbour, your child
…. This war, turned feral, wild
So
How to retain our peace?
In this germ war
 .
Stay home, you’re not alone
Sing praises, rejoice!
With gratitude, for life
For love, give voice
In prayer
For those in danger
Warriors, going over the top
To save a stranger
.
How to retain our peace?
In this germ war
.
Remember older wars, conquered
Real or imagined, you came through
Learnt to cope with loss
Regained your sanity
Among the broken pieces, tossed
Into your soul, your brain
Put your trust in Jesus
To regain your peace again
 .
Susan Champion  April 2020
Alicante, Spain
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Three Poems by Carlos Hernández Peña
.
hibernation, beginning spring 2020
.
so, during the day
parents work from home
while kids are schooling on line
.
at night, there are no concerts, no shows,
no theatres for plays or films,
no restaurants, coffee shops or bars
.
streets and parking lots
like airports and train stations
also, pretty much empty—
people fear their savings
will be emptied soon, too
.
like at the grocery stores, toilet paper
gone within a few hours
among other hygienic and food items
.
until 8pm, so far, only open spaces are open
most of us enjoy that—since temples
and gyms have also been closed
.
where is Gretchen? —I’d say it myself:
perhaps, this is just a reminder
from Mother Earth, to stop fighting
among our arrogant selves, instead
care for each other, including her, Earth
.
daily walk, Thursday, March 27, 2020
.
floating shadows of apparently aimless branches—
my thoughts about our current predicament:
confined to present safety and uncertain future—
another day, another walk, connecting smiles
and greetings, we are on a sci-fi stage with COVID-19—
who will come to our rescue—
can’t jump into these branches like a monkey
for sanctuary far above in the clouds
or deep into the water… how long patience—
.
cold spring outside my window, a never-ending weekend shutdown
.
this is not a fork on the road, this is not a mirador
across endless fields at the top of some high mountain
.
neither that clear moment in time
where you can see forever, no, it’s more like a stop—
.
regardless of where you were or where you are,
corona virus doesn’t care about delicate health
.
of relatives, friends or bank accounts,
a new romantic relation, traveling plans,
.
the last months of the school year, or daily work…
almost all came to a stop: such an uncertainty
.
hasn’t hovered in our time this long, philosophers
and mystics perhaps disagree with scientists—
.
none trust politicians—not quite our best hope, better
befriend nurses and doctors, now—show them gratitude
.
Carlos Hernández Peña was born in Mexico City and is the author of Moonmilk and Other Poems. He translated into Spanish Behind God’s Back by KányádiHis work appeared in Drunken Boat, Fox Chase Review, US1 Worksheets, Hayden’s Ferry Review and other journals.  He recently retired from Segal, employee benefits consultants and actuaries in Princeton, New Jersey.
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2020 by Phil Saunders
.
empathy’s spirit
empties into deep currents
chasms of disaster
.
in cries for relief
songs and jokes bring lost laughter
soothe for fearful hearts
.
unwanted curves speak
globe’s painful barometer
our lives saved or lost
.
for the common good
severe measures presented
isolations test
.
short term wilfulness
fuelling disaster’s whirlwind
undoing good work
.
country lives fearing
strangers bringing pestilence
joining fires ruin
.
facing people’s loss
Treasury’s bounty given
hard line rules foregone
.
one’s dignified Queen
contrasts pompous President
inspiring subjects
.
during ‘great lockdown’
creativity soared
giving morale wings
.
minds looking forward
passed current never never
awaiting respite
.
work in progress – 29 March to 20 April 2020
Phil Saunders – Belair, South Australia
.
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Two Poems By Arlyn LaBelle
.
The morning that you died, I read about a flood
.
about the earth growing soft, walls
splitting like fruit.
.
I would not have waited either.
.
There is no place to store
our grief, no
white walled room
pierced with uniforms
for mourning, no
flowers,
.
so when it comes we breathe
opened mouthed, like children.
I’m found
sitting on the floor.
.
When they mail me things of yours
they will sit in a corner of my room
for days, a floor adrift in muddy waves
until they cannot harm me.
.
I built a cave in my body
.
for the three of us to hide.
I will do the breathing for us.
They will not take you
outside.
.

Arlyn LaBelle is a poet and flash fiction writer living in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared multiple times in the Badgerdog summer anthologies as well as The Blue Hour, LAROLA, JONAH Magazine, The Oddville Press, Songs of Eretz, Grey Sparrow Press, Cease, Cows and The Southern Poetry Review.

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Two Poems by Peter Scheponik
.
Flowers and Loneliness
.
Violets and dandelions, what pleasure they bring
with their purple petals and sunshine smiles
lining the grass along the edges of the walking path
running beside the Perkiomen Creek.
In the distancing of these lockdown days,
the closeness of these flowers have a way
of healing my heart, of filling my soul
with the promise of new life, of being whole,
even when the world is spinning out of control
with separation that makes me lose my balance.
Until I see these perfect blooms,
offering beauty to brighten darker moods,
to lift my mind to higher realms,
to make me see my better self,
petal by petal, making a heaven of this hell
of feeling alone.
.
Easter Sunday Elegy
.
There was such a ruckus raised when the churches were closed for Easter.
Headlines of the Pope preaching to an empty courtyard in the Vatican.
Bocelli’s Ave Maria filling the streets of Milan.
People bemoaning the fact they couldn’t gather in the Father’s house
to praise the Son on His special day.
But I say, what is all this fuss?
Is not the blue sky a cathedral roof?
Is not the flowering earth a cathedral floor?
Do not the birds’ wings bring to mind the angels?
Does not the return of the tulips and daffodils ring belief
in rebirth and resurrection?
Do not the robins sing sweet hymns of musical perfection?
What need have we of mortar or stone,
of steeples or stained-glass windows?
Whether we’re in a group or all alone, God’s doors are always open.
There are congregations of faithful trees, whispering prayers
through the lips of their leaves.
There are flocks of birds like practiced choirs, singing alleluias
that bless the hours.
And God, in His holiness, richly showers His countless blessings on all.
.
Peter Scheponik has recently been published in Adelaide, All the Sins, Big Windows Review, Boned: Skeletal Writings, Del Sol review, Grey Sparrow Journal, North of Oxford, Ottawa Arts Review, Peeking Cat Poetry, Poetry Pacific, Red Eft review, Sincerely, Smoky Blue Magazine, The Black Lion Journal, The Phoenix, Time of Singing, Visitant, Westward Quarterly, WINK: Writers in the Know, The Wire’s Dream, and Streetlight Press.
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Nostalgia in the Year of the Plague by David Kozinski
.
At the PNC in Graylyn Shopping Center,
I knocked on the lobby door
wearing accoutrements of a bandit
or a surgeon; waited, communing with the ATM,
watching crows and gulls own the parking lot
through the big wide windows.
.
Long ago, when shares of companies
came in paper form – as ornately inked as currency
in violet, indigo, rust, oxblood, olive –
I lodged my sheaves in a rental at the bank.
When I was told, by my girlfriend, no less,
that I was a cold S.O.B.
I said I liked stopping by the branch
on a chilly morning, opening my box
in a cozy cell and spending
a warm quarter-hour renewing acquaintances
with my blue chip buddies.
They stood for support, traded only in facts,
always presented splendidly, and spoke quietly
if at all.
.
Now those friends are gone – consigned to insubstantiality,
memorialized in artless keystrokes. Yet, somehow
I need a bigger box – for wills, testaments,
titles, bits of jewelry, death certificates,
deeds both current and done.
.
Instead of handing the little key
to the woman who led me to the vault
she had me slip it in with my latex-gloved fingers.
We exchanged muffled pleasantries
about strange days, about Easter
that was more like Halloween and I joked
that I hadn’t walked into a bank wearing a mask
in a very long time – and by appointment,
no less. She chuckled at that, even though
she’d heard that one before,
like earlier that morning, more than once.
.
.
A Reckoning by Maria Keane
.
I beg
to hear the river rushing
an incessant rocking
down a deep corridor
where darkness—
it’s there
I am tied to it.
.
Not even wings can free me.
from the black
for a reason we suppose—
is for the good.
.
Night- blooming  trees
feed a need to breathe.
Their perfume
saturates the senses
splinters a fracture
to eliminate hysteria.
Walking through a web
I break, unraveling
the first silence
A Reckoning
.
2.
.
under the sole edict
of sound.
I see it now
and quench some dark history
in the presence of anxiety.
.
I will walk in shadow,
hold on to murmers,
listening for you to arrive just in time.
You reduce the havoc of the trees
repair my will
to believe
all things are only in the moment.
.
.
The Spiritual Aftermath by Ben Mazer
.
After the war, we happened across the grounds
of a closed up manor, abandoned for many years,
and there we sat a long time, making vows
to stay together millenniums beyond
the crooked smile of the grocer and his pounds
of fish piled into newspapers at evening,
at evening when the swirling clouds let down
their blues and magentas to the city’s frown.
You in your fine-spun cloak of scarlet wool
throughout the war have felt the pause and pull
of many a district, seen from overhead
while every sleeping person is in their bed,
and scattered thus, throughout the city’s streets,
divined how all of history revisits
these scenes where many a cheerful orphan played,
and through the long hours we have watched and prayed.
Thus we commemorate a burnt out time,
sparseness of flowers, in a springtime clime.
.
The looms have made a wartime peace again,
and sough the earth with temporary flowers,
that blossom brightly from the earthen men,
and promise fills the silence of our hours,
taking long walks over hills, across the fen,
relieved of our extraordinary powers
by deaths that do not fail to tell us when
the bells engorge the hills with all their sound,
or when strange wraiths of children gather round
to fill with distant laughter tops of trees,
mysterious burdens of the diocese.
Twenty years we had of it in exile
from each other. Luck has come our way.
With patience and with slowness through each day
we learned to talk again, we learned to smile.
.
The wind was strands of Dracula, children playing,
we sailed all day the river in a punt,
after great loss were in it for the hunt
after the secret of our early maying.
But each was quiet, and spoke none too soon,
of fragmentations of the lunar June
that jarred and turned us in the depths in saying,
and brought us to the hour of our Lord
the strong inaction of our strange accord.
.
Once before the war, a secret garden
had been the locus of our shy inquiries.
And though by force I never knew your mind,
I saw you weeping in my inmost dreams,
yet I was paralyzed to tell my love,
a young man with insoluble dreams.
But when I left you, then I fell apart,
and went a way that left me no recourse
to action in the first spring of my youth,
who in the secret garden knew I loved you.
Now with a caution that is politic,
and dressed in woolen cloaks to warm the winter,
we sit a long time on a burnt out grounds,
assessing the increments of our separation.
.
Trains glide and hurtle to the countryside,
letting on passengers, compartments slide
open, the evening light is coming on,
that cuts through the thick gray of English day,
with English armour steeped in manor halls
professing patience and a little knowledge,
to the child’s coloring book the very edge,
ancestral portraits hanging on the walls,
how natural the words they say.
A disappointment at best, the lurching stops
above the balding heads and at the tops
of imagination’s temporal-spatial spread,
of ideas that maintain the mingling thread
of mail, and ledgers, a new rubber bra,
to hold the sportsman in his hunting awe.
These are the thoughts the evening meditates on,
whistling against armaments and bombs,
the poor of England are still in their wombs.
.
But here in New England different worlds apply,
with rustic beauty set against white spires,
golden and glowering as a fatal day,
in company of your pure white array.
Why is it that I always want to die?
Was it myself had taken you away
from sight, for always, seeking to be blind,
so honourably to revulse my mind,
Sebastian sung out by the chapels’ choirs.
I come back and walk there with you still.
There is no other urge I have to kill.
.

Ben Mazer is the author of several collections of poems, including White Cities (Barbara Matteau Editions, 1995), Poems (Pen & Anvil Press, 2010), January 2008 (Dark Sky Books, 2010), New Poems (Pen & Anvil Press, 2013), and The Glass Piano (MadHat Modern Poetry Series, 2015). He is the editor of The Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom (Un-Gyve Press, 2015), Selected Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (Harvard University Press, 2010), and Landis Everson’s Everything Preserved: Poems 1955–2005 (Graywolf Press, 2006), which won the first Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Foundation. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and is the editor of The Battersea Review.

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3-a issue

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #1

Under the Corona Moon (1)

Painting – Under the Corona Moon  by Belinda Subraman

Thanks to the poets for contributing to The Pandemic Issue #1 from North of Oxford. In order of  appearance we present: Howie Good, Marion Deutche Cohen, Alan Toltzis, Charles Rammelkamp, Gloria Parker, Len Krisak, Ed Krizek, Mervyn Taylor, Carl Kaucher, M. J. Arcangelini, Eileen R. Tabios, Bryon Beynon, Greg Bem, Richard Nester and John D. Robinson.

 

Flight into Darkness By Howie Good

I seem to have discovered my shadow side – a wardrobe with mystery contents, blue and purple and full of leprous spots. Which isn’t to say I feel sad or lonely. Rather, I’m noticing different details. The world right now, mostly it’s news of the virus. We first heard the rumors from travelers. Men: quiet, faces drawn; women: often sobbing. We didn’t believe them. The weather was just too beautiful. We lazed around, eating cherries, one basket after another, and ignored the shrill, jangly bird cries and the elderly stumbling down the road from time to time, buckling under their loads..

Howie Good is the author of What It Is and How to Use It (2019) from Grey Book Press, among other poetry collections.

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March 2020 By Marion Deutsche Cohen
.
“Don’t touch your face,” we’re told, so then my nose starts itching.
And anyway, my face is lonely for my hands.
My hands are lonely for my face.
My body loves itself.
Every part of my body loves every other part.
“Stay six feet away,” we’re told
but my hands can’t get six feet away from my face.
.
.
Two Poems by Alan Toltzis
.
Coronavirus Sky
.
“In Los Angeles. . .air pollution has declined
   and traffic jams have all but vanished.”
                    The New York Times
.
Parting her pouting lips, the sky streamed in.
Blue swirled around her tongue, her teeth,
coating the insides of her cheeks. Jaws clenched,
she swallowed once and then again, becoming
the wild blue and feathered thing
she always expected she would be.
.
Rattled
.
Breath—damp, warm,
rhythmic—rose in small puffs
from the top of my face mask,
clouding my glasses.
.
We had set out
to hike the reservoir,
but the virus closed it.
So we skirted it instead,
edging along narrow curves
of hard-packed, yellow dirt
hemmed between road
and retaining wall
that braced the hillside.
.
And there, at shoulder height
atop the retaining wall,
tongue and fangs locked me in.
The rear half of the snake’s body
slowly slunk back and sideways,
defending itself—an unyielding
cacophony of gravel and rattle.
We veered off the path
into the street. Stunned,
shaken, giddy with relief,
we warned two hikers,
wearing bandanas,
desperado style over their faces.
.
That night,
clouds obscured moon and stars.
We felt their influence, anyway.
The rain started
and I considered three elements
that guide us in times of crisis:
safety, desire, love.
You pulled close, whispering a fourth:
                        witchcraft
and bit my shoulder
hard enough to make me wince.
.
Alan Toltzis is a native Philadelphian and the author of 49 Aspects of Human EmotionThe Last Commandment, and Nature Lessons. A two-time Pushcart nominee, he has published in numerous print and online journals including, Grey SparrowThe Wax PaperBlack Bough PoetryEye Flash Poetry, and North of Oxford. Find him online at alantoltzis.com and follow him @ToltzisAlan.
.
The New Normal by Charles Rammelkamp
.
“Miss Ida’s failing,” Brenda told us.
We’d come across each other
on our afternoon walk through the park,
like a stroll through the prison yard,
our break from confinement,
all of us wearing face masks.
We stood ten feet apart,
on either side of the footpath.
“Marcia mentioned it to me the other day,”
Brenda went on, shaking her head sadly.
“At least it’s not the coronavirus.
She’s just running out of energy.
She’s what, ninety-three? Ninety-four?”
.
Miss Ida was the memory of the neighborhood.
She’d lived here most of her life.
She’d seen all the changes.
Her divorced daughter Marcia lived with her.
.
“She looked like she was losing it
at your Christmas party,” my wife remarked.
“We hadn’t seen her
since your last party the year before.”
.
A jogger came loping past then,
a young guy in shorts,
and we all backed off a few more feet.
.
“So you could tell?” Brenda asked
after he’d passed.
“Marcia’s even talking about hospice care.”
.
“I’m afraid we won’t see her
at your next Christmas party,” I lamented.
.
“If I even have one,” Brenda replied, grim.
“If we can have Christmas parties ever again.”
.
 Charles Rammelkamp is the author of The Secretkeepers, two collections of short fiction, A Better Tomorrow and Castleman in the Academy, and four previous collections of poetry, The Book of Life, Fusen Bakudan, Mata Hari: Eye of the Day and American Zeitgeist. Rammelkamp is is currently Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, Abby, to whom he’s been married for about a million years. They have two daughters and two grandchildren.
.
.
The Line By Gloria Parker 
.
Because no one knows where to draw it, it shifts.
Maybe you’re coughing, have a fever or feel fine.
My Florida friend washes door knobs, wears gloves
to the mailbox and orders groceries over the phone.
The handier ones sew masks, pull weeds from their
gardens, make muffins and critique their poems online.
My brother calls to make sure I’m alive. I tell him I’m
weathering at home, watching the news, sleeping a lot.
We look for the right words: Russian Roulette, crapshoot,
a week of Sundays, a drag.
I find old dust masks in the basement, a half-full box
of yellowed latex gloves in the garage
and go to the grocery store at seven with the other
white-haired; half-armed, confused, in danger.
.
.
Virus by Len Krisak 
.
Submitting to the state’s demands
That tie us to the common good,
We keep our distance, wash our hands,
And act exactly as we should.
Lest we give in to plaguey death,
We mimic feckless Pontius Pilate,
Scrubbing up like Lady Macbeth
To keep our threatened lungs inviolate.
All this although we plot no killing,
Especially murder of a king.
Instead, we scour, contritely willing
An unseen microbe’s vanquishing,
Surely work that must be done
If we’re to say the war is won.
.
.
Pandemic By Ed Krizek
.
Today I took myself out
of quarantine.  The sun
was welcoming,
the temperature mild,
sky blue and almost cloudless.
.
We are walking
on charnel ground,
trying to avoid death
by embracing life,
from six feet away,
.
Reality is the present
as the virus multiplies.
I am not afraid of death,
.
just not ready,
.
yet.
.
Maybe tomorrow…
.
.
Three Poems by Mervyn Taylor
.
News of the Living
.
Where’s Leta, that I may greet and
 hug her, her arms, her face white
with flour. She’s been baking all
.
day, to help her son Curt with the
business. Is the shop flourishing,
the autistic grandchild doing well?
.
I can’t think whom else to inquire
after, except Dudley, who long ago
retired into himself, drew the covers
.
up to his chin, as if he knew this day
was coming. Ah, Leta, I know you’re
holding them all above water,
.
while the floodgates of this virus
open all around us. You’ll convert
your house into boat, kitchen into
.
galley, beds into rafts, blowing into
the sails till your air runs out, then
fanning with your apron, fanning.
.
Day of the Virus
.
Behind a wall, small voices. Children
play unseen in an overgrown garden,
paving stones leading to a closed gate.
They remind me that this curfew is
temporary. They’re safe from the madman
who walks into the grocery shouting
the things that are on his list: bread,
Vienna sausage his mother fixed before
she passed. The wall around the garden
is high. Their game is magical, mother-
in-law tongues for swords, lilies for hearts.
They swash and buckle, have tea under
an almond’s broad leaves. Sheltered
from the disease now plaguing the world,
they sip, using adult words, like devastation.
.
Corona Impromptu
.
In Napoli, they are playing a song,
voice and clarinet, notes flying
between buildings, high and low.
.
It started on a fifth floor balcony,
was answered by the sax on a
seventh, corner condo, and then
.
the chorus, hardly masking tears,
rolling the r’s in Rigoletto,
saving their breath for the rush
.
the flourish of the horn coming
from a ground floor apartment
lighting the kit of pigeons
.
landed on a ledge. Silence ruled
for a minute, and then the birds,
startled, took off, the high C
.
of a girl in a bedroom window
passed on to the doorman,
holding his hat like a tray,
.
carefully, as though a vaccine
had been found for the virus,
as the last note faded away.
.
Mervyn Taylor, a longtime Brooklyn resident, was born in Belmont, on the island of Trinidad. He has taught at Bronx Community College, The New School, and in the NYC public school system. He is the author of six books of poetry, including No Back Door (2010), recognized by the Paterson Poetry Prize for literary excellence, and most recently, Voices Carry (2017). Currently, he serves on the advisory board of Slapering Hol Press. A new collection, Country of Warm Snow, is due out in 2020.
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Two Poems by Carl Kaucher
.
Virus
.
I fear the virus is replicating
in syncopation
to the sounds of 5th street highway
but as the nucleus bifurcates
it sounds like a third grader
playing violin atonally.
The vibrating scratch of sounds
echo hauntingly from an attic window
next door
the light of which seeps into
the mist sopped evening air.
.
It’s an infectious sound
contagious like Covid 19
which perhaps originated in a mutation of funk
swarming in a feted puddle in the gutter
saturated with oil and gross gobs of spit,
cigarette butts and funginated gunk.
This made me think of a TV program
where someone made a candle
formed from hairy ear wax
but, I digress.
.
As I was walking by, I thought
maybe if I just stay on the sidewalk,
keep my line of thought pure
within the crosswalk,
that virus wont set it’s lecherous looks
upon me.
See, it’s more the stuff of back alleys,
the venomous viper of vagabond ways
drifting down the rusted railroad tracks
into low and seedy spaces
moping around the outskirts of town.
.
As the puddle was percolating
a robust feverish scum
that fed the stream of mass communication
haunting every cell phone in town.
And, the violin sounded as a dry cough,
a screech of lyrical lung fungus
working the crowd into a frenzy
just shortly before
they raided the liquor store
and marijuana dispensaries
for medicinal purposes only.
.
Let’s hope optimism is still relevant
and we are being open to change.
Let’s hope the wiring doesn’t fray
and the plumbing doesn’t spring a leak.
Let’s hope that telemarketer
doesn’t phone at midnight again
or that the internet
doesn’t lose it’s signal strength.
Too many beautiful chords have been written
only to be misplayed.
Too many lives are being shortened
for us to protest a return to our trivial ways.
.
Echo
.
He was hanging at the corner
lookin all shifty and suspicious
while waitin for the bus.
Wearin a beige bomber jacket,
metallic aviator sunglasses,
his long gray hair tumbling out
of a wide brim leather fedora
and a big cross hangin from his neck.
Fixing a fierce pathogenic glare my way
as I pass, he says; “How ya doin man?”
I says; How are you sir?
“I’m alright, brother.”
.
Alright then, so
I further on a few more paces,
look back
then ask; Your Covid 19, aint ya?
“Naw man, I’m 18”
Oh Yeah?
“Yeah.”
Like, what have you been up to?
What brings you round these parts?
“I’ve just been hangin out,
you know, hangin.”
Hanging, huh?
“Yeah.”
Then I looked down at the ground,
kicked a small stone around,
commenced a few steps more,
looked up again and he was gone.
.
I knew it was 19
that arrogant son of a bitch
but all of a sudden I get hit
with a rock that some little kid threw
whose sister was sitting in a tree
carving ECHO on the trunk
with a big bowie knife
much too mature for her years
as I suddenly get jump started
by a big mad toothed rottweiler
with salivating fangs
thundering wildly towards me
while angrily barking my name,
blood trickling in my eye.
.
Seriously so,
next time I’ll stay at home folks
for strange things certainly are afoot.
.
Carl Kaucher is a poet from Reading, Pennsylvania who transverses boroughs and cities across Pennsylvania.
.
.
Three Poems by M. J. Arcangelini
.
Magic
.
With Ganesh above the entrance
and a mezuzah on the door jamb,
do I have enough magic to ward
an evil virus away from my home?
.
Do I need a crucifix? A pentagram?
What suggestions have you?
Three witches with a cauldron?
Buddhists chanting mantras?
.
Or just latex gloves and N-95s?
And where can I get those?
Tell me, quick!
I feel symptoms coming on.
.
On the Trail
.
Dogs snarl at each other
One barks “Single file!”
The other barks back
“Where’s your mask?”
They strain at the leashes
Of civilized society and
The leashes stretch taut
Ready to snap at any time.
.
This Morning’s Rain
.
Would that today’s slow, steady rain
could wash the virus from the land,
could wash the fear from our hearts,
could erase the spaces between us,
could erase from the newsfeed the
incompetence of those with power,
could cleanse every surface,
could sanitize every hand,
could make it safe to breathe in public,
could bring our friends and family
back to us from death and distance,
could make it safe to obtain food,
could make it safe to greet a stranger,
could wash the fear from our voices,
could wash the virus from our lives,
with a simple slow and steady rain.
.
Two Poems by Eileen R. Tabios
.
Triggered
            —April 2020
.
Mom and Dad taught me a lesson
that would break then make their heart
leak from their eyes to run in rivers
matching their facial wrinkles
if they learned I not only understood it
well but inhaled it to become part of me:
.
hunger.
.
To be immigrant is to be hungry,
as when Dad punished himself to stand
in line for bricks of government cheese
colored in a yellow so bright it must
have been radioactive. But the worst
is when the immigrant becomes full
-bellied only to remain hungry for
something more complicated to attain
in a new country: respect.
.
Years later, I went through their life-
savings to attain a college degree—it
did not protect me: my husband and I
woke to an empty refrigerator one
day before the next day’s paycheck.
We were lucky; we could have used
a credit card we were fortunate to have.
But he was mindful of beginning to
carry credit card debt; he anticipated
that small card was the wrong step
on a very slippery slope that’d already
taken down many of our hungry peers.
.
We got luckier. In the darkest of depths
of the cupboard lurked one more can
of tuna we swiftly opened and salted
and mayoed for dinner: tuna salad!
Visit me any day since and there always
lurk a dozen cans of tuna somewhere
in the house—a last wall of defense
against any attack, unforeseen or not.
To avoid its expiry dates, we donate
them every year to a food bank while
we replenish our valued soldiers stock.
.
Then Covid-19. We were prepared
but hoping the enemy doesn’t vanquish
our warriors stock. May the frontliners
at the grocery stores survive and may
this battle end soon, end soon, end soon …
.
Teepeed by Covid-19
      —after YouTube video “How It’s Made—Toilet Paper”
.
Cancel visiting Rwanda’s
gorillas for too much You
-Tube videos on pulp
.
-ing recycled paper
into descendants of Viking
wool, ancient Roman
.
sponges, and royal French
lace. But let’s not ignore
the true prize: a chance
.
to learn from what suddenly
makes us cringe from leaves
and corncobs—how we abused
.
other species until, slyly,
the animals remind: nature
has always been Darwinian.
.
.
Three Poems by Bryon Beynon
.
Nurses
.
Think of the humanity
behind the mask,
a gift of patience
for the enormous task;
challenges which continue
to descend on the mind’s calling.
The sublime stars light
you homeward,
guiding the engaged heart
from the darkness
at the inner window.
.
The Balcony
.
For months he lived
inside a room
with two single beds,
cane-chair, table, lamp,
shower, and the air-conditioning
generated at night
when he’d stand
on the outer edge
looking at the polished stars,
thinking of other worlds
turning round like faces afraid.
The silence of his balcony,
with no pollution or sub-zero
temperatures made time
more agreeable.
His sense of order
in life was to survive
as he dialled
a long-distance number,
the one kept inside
his head in case of emergency.
.
The Truck Driver
.
The headlamps burn
into the road
frightening the darkness
into prayer.
There is no security
only a vague memory
labelled with the past.
Each mile confirms
your panic.
You wish to travel home
but the night-rider
has taken over
your mind as fuel
burns in an engine
.
.

Three Pandemic Poems. Greg Bem. April 2020

1

covid

continues.

Every blossoming tree

an aphorism.

Every flower

a world.

Dogs walked

Strollers pushed

Gazes averted

Voices muted

A land of inward seeing

endured breathing.

Through the masks that begin                    to shape,

 define,

 each position,

 each presence.

every love and every distance

2

I spend my time in dreams,

dreams of forms.

A neighborhood of wishes.

A wish list contains

wood, brick, concrete.

Garden beds are choruses.

Flash:

HorrorAwe a fantasy word.

The horrorawe of centering.

Sing:

Pull the nodes from temples.

Cease the electric waves.

Open:

A man I presume homeless

pulls it out and starts to piss.

More:   than words

 than sounds

 written into sidewalk weeds and dust

 with weak sprays of urine and frowns

3

Wishes of rolling traffic

Traffic that sees all and none as the same

Why do we see each other now?

And how, as well?

.

Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at gregbem.com.

.

.

Alone Together by Richard Nester
.
How much does a coronavirus weight?
If one sat on a bee’s whisker, could the bee still fly?
Would the flowers shoo them away
in fear, would they miss them?
Heavy enough, I guess, like poison popcorn balls.
Too many of the sex-crazed devils
crowded in too small a space can bring down a city,
a country. A fleet of lead-lined freezer trucks
can’t haul off our sorrow. We’ve no choice
but to widen our gaps—hearts as big as Wyoming—
or they’ll widen them for us, the narrow bastards.
They don’t wear masks. They don’t read
the Constitution.  Bits of what we once were,
starving for more, with their trauma-circus clusters
of stars. A grain of wheat is the size of a pyramid
to them. Imagine Egypt without cats.
I hear them gnaw my sleep.
.
Richard Nester has twice been a fellow of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He has published essays on social justice topics in The Catholic Agitator, a publication of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, and poetry in numerous magazines, including PloughsharesSeneca Review, and Callaloo and on-line in The Cortland ReviewQarrtsiluni and Inlandia. He has three collections of poetry published by Kelsay Books, Buffalo LaughterGunpowder Summers, and Penguin Love. His reviews of poetry have appeared in North of Oxford.
.
.
Three Poems by John D. Robinson
.
Italy: Covid-19: Story
.
He walked into the supermarket
and filled the hand-basket with
food and then queued, keeping
to the social-distancing
guidance:
at the checkout he explained
that he had no money to pay
for the food but he and his
family needed the food: he
was not threatening or
aggressive in any way, pitiful,
humble, even pathetic:
security was called and he
was escorted out of the store
empty handed:
what the fuck would you
have done?
this is a tough one
but I’m fucking soft so
possibly would have said
to the guy look, come back
in 3 hours and I’ll try
and have something
for you and then maybe
asked for donations from
colleagues and customers:
could you have gone home
taking the face of this
man with you?
.
Only When
.
Only when it’s taken away that
you realize the beauty, the wonder
of freedom,
to walk freely,
without fear
amongst brothers and sisters,
it’s only when it is no
longer there, the love, compassion,
the humanity,
the common sense
of intelligence,
it’s only when you find these
things taken for granted
taken away, that you begin
to know what a fucking
hellish time we can create
for one another:
there’s not much else to care
for in this brief life
except for love and it’s
continuation.
.
Thank Fuck
.
The entire globe in lock-down:
supermarket shelves empty of
bathroom/toilet goods, the
panic of not being able to
wipe your ass with tissue
paper, of hand cleansing
cream: shelves empty of
dried foods: pasta and
rice: tins of produce
growing thinner,
vegetable and fruit
becoming scarce but
along with clothing and
electrical goods, the
shelves of wine were
well stocked and thank-
fuck for that small
mercy of comfort
at the moment.
.
John D. Robinson is a poet from the U.K. You can find his most recent collection, “A Hash Smoking, Codeine Swallowing, Wine Drinking Son of a Bitch” here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1073081400?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860
.
.
pandemic
.
.
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