howie good

Pandemic of Violence Anthology

Topsy Turvy

Featuring poets Howie Good, Rustin Larson, Susana H. Case, Dee Allen, Alex Carrigan, Naila Francis, MaryAnn L. Miller, Megha Sood, Steven Croft, TS Hawkins, Lauren Camp, Chad Parenteau, Henry Crawford, Thaddeus Rutkowski, Michael T. Young, M.J. Arcangelini, J.C. Todd, Antoni Ooto, Byron Beynon, Jane ‘SpokenWord’ Grenier, Linda Nemec Foster, Sean Howard, Brian Donnell James and Greg Bem

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/12/27/pandemic-of-violence-anthology/ 

Pandemic of Violence Anthology

Topsy Turvy

Topsy Turvey by Lois Schlachter

© remains with contributing poets/ artist 

Thanks to all the poets who contributed to Pandemic of Violence from North of Oxford. In order of appearance we present Howie Good, Rustin Larson, Susana H. Case, Dee Allen, Alex Carrigan, Naila Francis, MaryAnn L. Miller, Megha Sood, Steven Croft, TS Hawkins, Lauren Camp, Chad Parenteau, Henry Crawford, Thaddeus Rutkowski, Michael T. Young, M.J. Arcangelini, J.C. Todd, Antoni Ooto, Byron Beynon, Jane ‘SpokenWord’ Grenier, Linda Nemec Foster, Sean Howard, Brian Donnell James and Greg Bem

Thanks to Artist Lois Schlachter for her contribution of art work to this anthology.

Introduction

With the current state of escalating violence in all cities and an increased division between political parties, there is a state of fear throughout our country. As Poetry Editor at North of Oxford, alongside my partner & Contributing Editor, g emil reutter, a decision was made to compile a “Pandemic of Violence” Issue, which included a call to all poets to voice their concerns about violence.

The responses went well beyond our expectations and we are fortunate to have a wide range of voices from outstanding poets, representing the many forms of violence that plague our country and our world.

As always, please stay safe & my sincerest wishes for a peaceful New Year.

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri


Howie Good

Something’s Burning

A black sun dawned over the horizon. Human ashes from the 15 ovens of the crematorium had been scattered as fertilizer on the surrounding fields. When the wind carried the smell in the wrong direction, babies bawled, horses screamed, and birds fell dead from the sky. Meanwhile, the higher the sun climbed, the darker the forest. Prisoners under armed watch would be marched out the main gate to chop down trees and then dynamite and burn the stumps. An occasional murder helped enforce work discipline or relieve the boredom of the guards. We tell ourselves we aren’t those people anymore.

&

I dreamed that dreaming had been banned. In an underground bunker, men and women in gray-green military jumpsuits sat at long tables in front of computers, monitoring the four stages of sleep. Anyone they detected having ambiguous brain waves was visited by special police. I watched as a medical officer made a hole in the top of a man’s skull with an old-fashioned crank hand drill. A hissing flame shot up out of the hole, and I jumped back in alarm. Relax, the officer said with a chuckle, it’s only a memory. There was a regrettable smell of burnt meat.

&

The voice in my head that used to offer timely advice has turned implacable, menacing. Unlike the characters in TV commercials for medications with arcane names, no pill yet developed in a lab has enabled me to go skydiving or whitewater rafting or on an African photo safari. Some days I can’t even make it out the front door. I feel the kind of paralyzing fear I imagine many must have felt during the Revolution when the Committee for Public Safety arrived in town with a traveling guillotine.

.

howie

Howie Good is the author most recently of the poetry collections Gunmetal Sky (Thirty West Publishing) and Famous Long Ago (Laughing Ronin Press).

Rustin Larson
.
888
.
Secret area code. Survivalist compound
in the center of Mountain A.
The air has turned red and smells
like cherries. Mother Goose is cooked.
Pack the station wagon full of ice-
water and run. This ain’t no good.
I’m skeered, Marshall Dillon. Taint no one
on the side o’ justice no more.
I stand like a hungry kid looking
through the bakery window at all
the brownie balls and apricot
kolacky. Soviet era rain jackets
adorn the lovely shoulders of the museum
staff. I eat sausage in the Czech Village
in the record heat. I dowse my thirst
with iced tea. We wear masks when
we are not eating to keep the spread
of the virus down. Rhesus monkeys rattle
cups of pennies at us. The sun is as bright
as a new law from an insane king.
The folk dancers circle each other
with rusted swords and ancient muskets.
It’s precisely the festival we’ve been
praying for; the corn judge swings
from the shady branches; the temple
of garnets expels an avalanche
of red stones for the eyes of rats.
.
rustin
Among his published books are Library Rain, Conestoga Zen Press, 2019 which was named a February 2019 Exemplar by Grace Cavalieri and reviewed in The Washington Independent Review of Books; Howling Enigma, Conestoga Zen Press, 2018; Pavement, Blue Light Press, 2017; The Philosopher Savant, Glass Lyre Press, 2015; Bum Cantos, Winter Jazz, & The Collected Discography of Morning, Blue Light Press, 2013; The Wine-Dark House, Blue Light Press, 2009; and Crazy Star, Loess Hills Books, 2005.

Susana H. Case

 One in Three American Children is a Potential Gunnhildr

.
A bunch of us are lazing around after dinner downtown,
savoring dessert, and talking about when we’ll need guns,
conspiracy theorists at the door. A third of American homes
with kids have guns, and I’m revved up to learn to shoot,
to take a few of the assassins with me before I die,
but a few days later, I’ve calmed down—do I really
want to travel to New Jersey for lessons, guns so leaden
to hold when I don’t even like a heavy purse? There are times
when just living makes us crazy for a moment or two.
.
                                                            Gun is such a bland
word, banal in looks and in the way Hannah Arendt meant,
the quotidian opening of the door to the doing of evil. Gun
comes from the Scandinavian, perhaps—Gunnhildr,
both halves of the name meaning war, a sort of doubled war—
and yet there have been only seven mass shootings in Sweden
in the past 120 years, and 611 just last year in the United States.
.
A few months after the gun-filled Gunnhildr discussion
over dessert, we were at the end of a vacation in Stockholm
and called a cab for the airport. That day, there was another
mass shooting back home. The cab driver had heard the news
on his radio. I still remember his voice when he told us,
when he grabbed our luggage, the look on his face.
.
susana
SUSANA H. CASE has authored eight books of poetry, most recently The Damage Done, Broadstone Books, 2022. Dead Shark on the N Train, Broadstone Books, 2020, won a Pinnacle Book Award for Best Poetry Book, a NYC Big Book Award Distinguished Favorite, and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award. The first of her five chapbooks, The Scottish Café, Slapering Hol Press, was re-released in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press. She co-edited, with Margo Taft Stever, the anthology I Wanna Be Loved by You: Poems on Marilyn Monroe, Milk and Cake Press, 2022. Susana H Case
.
Dee Allen
.
Sidearm
.
                                               In the ‘hood,
                                           man’s best friend
                                                    isn’t
                                                   a dog.
                                                An honour
                                          normally going to
                                                 a Pitbull
                                                 goes to
                                     his more trusted friend.
.
                Browning, Sig-Sauer, Glock, Smith & Wesson, Tec-9.
.
                                         Different names
                                   depending on the block
                                     & the owner’s hands.
.
                                                 & like
                                             any trained
                                              Rottweiler,
                                               enraged,
                                            baring sharp
                                                 teeth,
.
                                   they’re lethal when used.
.

Some Monsters
.
                                                    To find
                                                boogeymen
                                                    among
                                              the White race
                                                is expected.
.
                                                    To see
                                                their terror
                                                    hitting
                                                    home
                                           is to be expected.
.
                                            Some monsters,
                                                  though,
                                             happen to look
                                                    Black
                                                       &
                                                   there’s
                                              no conscience
                                          holding them back
.
                                                from pulling
                                               the dreaded
                                                   trigger
                                            & gunning down
                                          many of their own.
.
                                              The least little
                                                disrespect
                                                  sets off
                                       the firestorm hardcore.
.

dee

Dee Allen is an African-Italian performance poet based in Oakland, California. Active on creative writing & Spoken Word since the early 1990s. Author of 7 books—Boneyard, Unwritten Law, Stormwater, Skeletal Black, Elohi Unitsi and coming in February 2022, Rusty Gallows: Passages Against Hate [ Vagabond Books ] and Plans [ Nomadic Press ].

.

Alex Carrigan.
.
I don’t think I can be a hero
.
I don’t think I can be a hero,
even though everyone is telling me to be one.
.
My skin is loose and brittle,
like when I left my journal out in a rainstorm.
.
My fingers peels and snap,
like when I dragged a pen across
.
the dampened and faded pages.
My eyes bleed down my face
.
like those who saw the white flash
that August afternoon,
.
like so many thoughts and lines
I had filled my tome with,
.
each note a desperate attempt
to save some fleeting thoughts from
.
my mind’s entropy.
I want to be a hero,
.
but I think about how I’ll
just be tossed in the rusted trash can
.
found at the park’s edge.
I think about how I’ll be buried underneath
plastic wrappers, choking on styrofoam take-out containers
and pricked on the shards of broken bottles.
.
Soon, I abandon the notion of being a hero
when I see the bag holding my notes
.
crushed under the metallic tongue
to be swallowed by the machinery’s darkness.
.
I felt my head fold inwards,
pushing any remaining thoughts out my ears
.
and out onto the cracked pavement,
filling the space between the cigarette butts and discarded gum.
.
I see myself being buried
and covered over, lost in the ephemera.
.
I wish I could be a hero,
to bring some words down from Mt. Sinai,
.
but I now see that if I can’t even protect
my own tablet of truth,
.
if I can’t even hold it close to my chest,
how can I hold you as tight?
.
You want me to be a hero,
but I can’t even trust myself
.
to be one.
.
alexcarriganheadshot
Alex Carrigan (@carriganak) is an editor, writer, and critic from Virginia. He has had fiction, poetry, and literary reviews published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lambda Literary Review, Empty Mirror, Gertrude Press, Quarterly West, Whale Road Review, ‘Stories About Penises’ (Guts Publishing, 2019), ‘Closet Cases: Queers on What We Wear’ (Et Alia Press, 2020), ‘ImageOutWrite Vol. 9,’ and ‘Last Day, First Day Vol. 2.’ He is also the co-editor of ‘Please Welcome to the Stage…: A Drag Literary Anthology’ with House of Lobsters Literary. Publishing.

 .

Naila Francis
.
Unwilling Requiem
(for Walter Wallace Jr.)
.
When his mother begged, don’t shoot
And his community chorused, don’t shoot
And the night insisted, don’t shoot
And the stirred up memories mouthed, don’t shoot
And the triggered ache cried, don’t shoot
And the welter of weariness moaned, don’t shoot
And the broken litany chanted, don’t shoot
And the months of marching roared, don’t shoot
And the blood-soaked earth keened, don’t shoot
And the children of our children whimpered, don’t shoot
And the wounds that keep weeping wailed, don’t shoot
And the ghosts of the gunned down bellowed, don’t shoot
And the shaking trees and the scent of rain and the cinnamon
tea and the four of swords and the glare of smoke
and the barking dog and the body brown and the kingdom
black ¬and the names unnamed — and love
.
and love
.
love howled,
don’t shoot
and the bullets
became stainless,
stayed, a silence
unsplintered,
listening.
.
Bring Down the Angels
.
Let them come, fists of myrrh and moonstone,
no white robes but t-shirts — we give you back
each name —no wings but ribbons to weave bullets
into bellflower, bee balm, endless lucent calm.
Skip the harps, the celestial choir.
Let them sing like denizens from the soul
of Donny Hathaway with his sack full
of dreams on their backs.
.
Let them come, take these tears, turn
them into summer rain, mother’s milk,
memory
we all are shimmer at the start,
sweet and holy-stained.
.
Bring the angels down.
Let them flood these streets, wash
them healed, harmonious, on earth
as it is heaven.
.
And if not, then let them
rage, a night crescendo,
flame on feeble tongues.
.
Naila Francis_Bio Photo
Naila Francis is a writer, poet, grief coach, death midwife and ordained interfaith minister living in Philadelphia. Her writing has appeared in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times newspapers, and in online publications such as venuszine, Mystic Pop and Sharkpreneur, as well on greeting cards for American Greetings. Her poetry has appeared in The Scribbler, North of Oxford and Voicemail Poems.
.
MaryAnn L. Miller
.
Questions for the Defendant (Accusations)
.
When you sought a gun, who was it you planned to shoot?
You have been instructed in scapegoating.
You belong to the militia of mistaken country.
You are the hypnotized, the superior skinned,
the paranoid wary of the wrong things.
You cluck like a chicken in a vaudeville show.
.
When you got that gun, who was it you planned to shoot?
You must have had someone in mind, that you’d claim
to be afraid of when the mesmerist snapped his fingers;
a literal triggering of your hate glands making venom
spew like bullets screaming from your lungs
firing too many times to be self-defense.
.
Almost makes me want to buy a gun.
Who is it I plan to shoot?
.
MAMillerHead
MaryAnn L. Miller is the author of Cures for Hysteria (Finishing Line Press 2018) and Locus Mentis (PS Books 2012) and forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2022, Falling into the Diaspora. She has been thrice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry, book reviews and essays have appeared in Mom Egg Review, Ovunque Siamo, Stillwater Review, Wild River Review and numerous other publications, and in the anthologies Welcome to the Resistance, and Illness as a Form of Existence. Miller is also a visual artist, with her artist books in the collections of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and of President and Mrs. Obama, plus many other national collections. Miller has Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis. Her website is: www.maryannlmiller.com.
.
Megha Sood
.
Living Fallacy
.
Yes, I choose
choose not to be blindsided by the facts
printed in the reams of the newspaper daily;
salient facts spoon-fed by the national media
that every man has a voice
a life created equally
.
When the invisible virus guts this town like fish
bones out the fears seeded in every living soul;
revealing that breath of yours might be the last one
the truth forgotten for years
has finally been brutally told
.
It tells us that every breath is
indeed a privilege
life is not marked by
the color of skin, creed, and religion;
blinded by the false narratives for eons
breathing the lies is the false supposition
.
The truth breathing its last
filling the corrugated skies
thick with blood and smoke;
caught like a deer in the headlights
facing the end of a police gun
bodies piling up the streets
when the protectors’ starts to devour
.
Fear culled in bones that you could be the next
definition of equality
based on the false perspective,
a constant war of narratives;
truth mercilessly hanged
in the hidden gallows of murky politics
.
That invisible enemy which sits boisterously
on our couch laughs at us
claiming its territory
marking every corner we touch;
teaches us that every man
indeed is created equal
.
The virus teaches us equality,
that it does not spare the rich or the downtrodden
and does not dispense rights
based on the skin of your color
.
That it doesn’t judge you how your tongue rolls
unlike when the country you live,
suddenly treats you like an infection
and selflessly disowns.
.
The virus does not  discriminate
like a police shooting
the virus does not discriminate
during a traffic stop
it took an invisible enemy of 100 years
sprawling in the hidden corners of society
that it is the colorless breath which counts after all
.
A lesson etched in the folds of history
reiterated and retracing itself
the virus doesn’t close the eyes
doesn’t blindfold me or you
when the black blood lace the sidewalk of this nation
the nation which is built on the fallacy
that all men are created equal.
.
MeghaAuthorPicture (1)
Megha Sood is an Award-winning Asian American Poet, Editor, Author, Literary Activist from New Jersey, USA. Recipient of 2021 Poet Fellowship from MVICW ( Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creating Writing) and a National Level Winner for the 2020 Poetry Matters Project. Recipient of  “Certificate of Excellence” from Mayor, Jersey City. Associate Poetry Editor Literary Journals Mookychick(UK), Life and Legends (USA), and Literary Partner with “Life in Quarantine”, Stanford University. Author of Chapbook ( “My Body is Not an Apology”, Finishing Line Press, 2021) and Full Length (“My Body Lives Like a Threat”, FlowerSongPress,2021). She blogs at https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/  and tweets at @meghasood16.
.
Steven Croft
.
Optimism
.
Three stories of stone, shattered domes
of corner towers on a bombed out roof, once
opulent, imperial, now pockmarked, gutted
by the artillery of Mujahideen in a previous war,
we stop by Darul Aman Palace on the road
into Kabul, cut the engines.
.
Above me tiny brown songbirds chirp, flit
from the sills of gutted windows as I stand
in the sill ring of a gun turret under a wide sky
of light blue, crisp air like ice against my cheeks.
One of those places you never forget, this
monument to the destruction of a country.
.
But the vista of a spring morning in the valley:
freshets of melting snow on the rocky brown
plain, beyond that, along the river, the capital city
of glass windowed buildings and traffic circles
bustles.  On its outskirts, crooked arm and shovel
of an excavator stands like an idea of the future.
.
Turbaned surveyors take sightings from tripods
on the ground for the new Parliament buildings.
By the giant rolling eggs of two concrete mixers,
gowned workers start to pour foundations.
In the whole morning valley, not a single sound
of gunfire.
.
Steven Croft
Steven Croft lives on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia on a property lush with vegetation. He is the author of New World Poems (Alien Buddha Press, 2020). His poems have appeared in Willawaw Journal, Canary: A Journal of the Environmental Crisis, The New Verse News, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, North of Oxford, Poets Reading the News, and other places.
.
TS Hawkins
.
across the pillow, we …
.
we have gathered here
to sketch in vague uncertain outline
the spirited world in which some Americans live,
attempt to survive and thrive
acknowledging
in a half-hesitant sort of way,
that you eye us
the black us
the brown us
curiously
semi-compassionately…
conceptually
with your gaze
never brazen to state directly
so, you jail us
belittle us
lynch us
then, tag us
with your jealousy
and, those of us remaining
want to ask
why do you label us the problem?
.
the black us
the brown us
sprawled between problem and privilege
can’t breathe
or exhale when convenient to quo ascribed to a status
the white you
the independent you
the free you
ashamed only when necessary to profit margin
benefit from unjust
just until
swept under the rug
becomes bulged and molded with the stench of denial
why do you label us the problem?
the brown us
the black us
etched on gentried window dowries
socially woke fabric treatments
mistreated eminent domain
the walking purchase
unable to read the fine print of colonization
while the white you
the independent you
the free you
hashtag counter arguments
that only make sense if utopia meant equity
.
so, the black us
the brown us
forced to riot on
with the scores of seventh sons
born with veils
knowing the cry
the siren
the awkward glance
the litany of lies
on the noose
on the whip
on the bullet
that bears their name
the white you
the independent you
the free you
tweet on
face the book
never having to open one
yet, Instagram headlines
filter raw edges
focusing on the one pixel separating us
the brown us
the black us
from you
the white you
the independent you
the free you
propelling a manipulated identity
where privilege uploads viral acceptance
news knowing no better
sucks up the safe
discarding a truthful structure
because there is serenity in ignorance
.
the black us
the brown us
reduced to simmering smile
seldom able to afford the call to justice
opportunity rarely picking up the phone
all occupied in complacent dial tones
with the revolution scattered through TikTok
waiting to be LinkedIn
folx are unaware of how to search for change
but, the white you
the independent you
the free you
carve bread crumbs to reflective hues
some slightly darker than you as pity
the haunting echo of a blackened soul
welling up just enough to don
America as surname
just enough to garner human sorrow
the mediocrity
of all the lives mattering
.
why do you label us the problem?
the brown us
the black us
cursed and spit on by you
with doors of prosperity propped
yet, closed to advancement
with patience on close heels to insanity
the white you
the independent you
the free you
are by no means trialed
never having to surrender
nor be questioned
always held delicate
and hopeful
able to ponder a future
.
why do you label us the problem?
when we stand
the black us
the brown us
you kick
the white you
the independent you
the free you
when we rally
the brown us
the black us
you scream
the white you
the independent you
the free you
when we rebel rightfully
the black us
the brown us
you gentrify, colonize, revitalize  needlessly
and, the brown us
the black us
die
systemically
mentally
emotionally
spiritually
and, catastrophically
.
so, when those of us remaining ask directly
why do you label us the problem?
you seldom answer a word…
.
HawkinsTS_Headshot8x10
TS Hawkins is an international author, performance poet, art activist, playwright, and member of the Dramatists Guild. Plays, short works, and books include Seeking Silence, Cartons of Ultrasounds, Too Late to Apologize, In Their Silence (formerly They’ll Neglect to Tell You), #RM2B, The Secret Life of Wonder: a prologue in G, AGAIN, #SuiteReality, “don’t wanna dance with ghosts…”, Sugar Lumps & Black Eye Blues, Confectionately Yours, Mahogany Nectar, Lil Blaek Book: all the long stories short, and The Hotel Haikus. . Ongoing projects: TrailOff and Community Capital: an Afrofuturism South Philly Walking Experience. http://www.tspoetics.com
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Lauren Camp
.
Constancy Has Become a Hypothetical Curve
.
Today a child gets married and we neither laugh nor raise an arm.
.
They have dismembered a man
                         in Saudi Arabia by digits.
           The furniture of his body. Wooden weight.
.
Out of the mess of this, I remind you about our slow-
            stain of limbs and skin.
.
You open a palm to white capsules and oblongs. Later, when you drag
.
rocks from the truck, I boil
eggs, turn the bubbles.
I don’t say silence or whine but ceasing a need.
.
We were in the mountains a first time.
                                                         In the jungle.
                                                         And in cities begging
the bones of the middle ear to hear
every random frequency. Each morning I wake
.
            to the black cat at the door with his startling call.
.
LCamp02
Lauren Camp is the author of five books, most recently Took House (Tupelo Press). Honors include the Dorset Prize and finalist citations for the Arab American Book Award, Housatonic Book Award and New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Witness, Poet Lore, and Beloit Poetry Journal, and her work has been translated into Mandarin, Turkish, Spanish, Serbian and Arabic.  www.laurencamp.com
 
Day Dreams
Day Dreams by by Lois Schlachter
.
Chad Parenteau
.
Arizona Open
.
Free to be
our own targets,
.
resume dances,
ballroom roulette.
.
Someone has
been home
.
this whole time
with all they want.
.
Release white rabbits,
mechanical hounds.
.
Someone will pay for
all we sought and won,
.
repent for all sins
never confessed.
.
New Author Photo, 10-21-21(1)
Chad Parenteau hosts Boston’s long-running Stone Soup Poetry series. His poetry has appeared in journals such as Résonancee, Molecule, Ibbetson Street, Cape Cod Poetry Review, Tell-Tale Inklings, The New Verse News, Off The Coast, The Skinny Poetry Journal, and Nixes Mate Review. He serves as Associate Editor of the online journal Oddball Magazine. His second collection, The Collapsed Bookshelf, was nominated for a Massachusetts Book Award.
.
Henry Crawford
.
Saturday Night
He was collapsing into a display of
soup cans flying and bullets into the eyes
of racked sunglasses with all the debris falling
to the convenience store floor and caught
on the security cam above the checkout
but the front cam got only the bursting of glass
splintering in the headlights of an outside car
and two hours later we saw the story written
in the crawl at the bottom of our flat panel screen
so we remoted in to see an iPhone close-up
of the cashier’s face framed in a flash of realized
horror while the outside cam showed an SUV
pulling away and someone else’s phone provided
the iron-fire sound of an AR-15 ripping through
the small commercial strip with everything coming
into the satellite truck and the team inside
working the consoles while a blue suited man
in a black wool coat stood outside calling the action
in front of a frieze of fluorescent yellow
emergency technicians crouching in the cold
and talking in vapor breaths around their vehicles
in another hastily arranged parking lot set
as we went from shot to shot replay to replay
camera to camera in a living room away and
someone said let’s go back to the game.
.
Henry Crawford Small Cropped
Henry Crawford is the author of two poetry collections, American Software (CW Books 2017) and The Binary Planet (The Word Works 2020. His poem The Fruits of Famine, won first prize in the 2019 World Food Poetry Competition. His poem Blackout was selected by the Southern Humanities Review as a finalist in the 2018 Jake Adam York Witness Poetry Contest. His poem Making an Auto Insurance Claim was selected as an honorable mention in Winning Writer’s 2019 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. His poem “As We Were Saying Goodnight” was selected as the weekly “poets respond” by Rattle. He has produced numerous online poetry events and is currently the host of the online poetry series, Poets vs The Pandemic.
.
Thaddeus Rutkowski
.
Summer of 2020
.
In the morning,
I see many windows boarded up,
including the windows of the building
next to our building.
And I think, Wow, they got close
to breaking the windows downstairs,
in the bank ATM vestibule,
where homeless guys sleep.
They might have targeted the capitalist bank,
but what would be the point
of making the homeless guys homeless again?
.
I walk along the street,
past many boarded-up windows,
until I see my homeless friend, Nathan,
sitting on a standpipe on the sidewalk.
And I ask, “Have you gotten some free stuff?”
and he asks, “Where?”
“From the stores whose windows are broken.”
And he says, “That’s bullshit.”
.
Thad at Parkside 8-11-16
Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of seven books, most recently Tricks of Light, a poetry collection. He teaches at Medgar Evers College and received a fiction writing fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.
.
Michael T. Young
.
The Last of Its Kind
.
Nothing we believe in equals its hunger
to recognize a face among the lean shoots.
It shrieks above rock-clotted streams,
spotting a self, knotted in the spools,
swirling in a wake of frothy quills.
.
This search for a mate in the interiors
is condemned in a downpour that drowns
the image. He snuggles into the weight
of water jeweling his fur. His eyes
constrict to the size of his losses.
.
Every habit of his nature slides toward
absolute namelessness. He grooms
his tail as night deepens. After, he curls
into the dark so tight, even his bones
disappear into the vines and stilt roots.
.
mikr younh
Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. His poetry has been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac. It has also appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as The Banyon Review, The Inflectionist, Talking River Review, RATTLE, and Valparaiso Poetry Review.
.
M.J. Arcangelini
.
Endless War
.
After the horror of Hiroshima
and the senselessness of Nagasaki
brought an end to what came
to be called the Great War
my country turned to continuous
wars of aggression
wars of intervention
both overt and covert
from Korea to Nicaragua
from Vietnam to Afghanistan
from Chile to Somalia
in places too easily forgotten
in places never explicitly named
in places held secret by career
politicians and capitalist overlords
seducing disadvantaged countries
with genetically modified seeds
and child crippling herbicides
corporations pillaging, plundering
taking whatever they want from
wherever it is and killing
whoever gets in their way
murderers and thieves in jewels,
designer suits, and expensive haircuts
delivering bullets instead of food
while around the globe deluded
American soldiers fight and die
for the freedom of corporations to
exploit endless profit from their blood
violence exported across the world
cannot help but become entrenched
at home unto even the children who,
armed with deadly playthings
in the battlegrounds of schools
and the streets of our cities,
murder and maim each other
while we wait for some madman,
elected out of ignorance and fear,
to take control of forgotten weapons,
to loose them from their hidden silos
where they’ve been resting, waiting,
poisonous fruits of the atomic age,
thermonuclear verdicts finally
unleashed on all corners of the earth,
until there will be nothing left worth
taking and no one left to take it.
.
mj
M.J. Arcangelini  has resided in northern California since 1979. His work has been published in print magazines, online journals, (including The James White Review, Rusty Truck, The Ekphrastic Review, The Gasconade Review, As It Ought To Be) & over a dozen anthologies.  The most recent of his five collections are: “What the Night Keeps,” (2019) Stubborn Mule Press and “A Quiet Ghost,” (2020) Luchador Press.
.
J.C. Todd
.
Leaving Aleppo
.
dark side of awake, gray from walking
Ashur’s feet bloody, too little skin left to heal
.
my shambar, a bundle for apricots and lakma
the baby limp with fever, eyelids gummed with fester
.
I carry this
.
our garden’s scent, grape leaves at midnight
lemons at noon
.
Jaddati drying our clothing under the arbor
so they think that we are there
.
I carry this
.
Jaddati at market buying mutton
as if she cooks for four
.
Jadddati buying mutton
just enough for one
.
I carry this
.
soft jingle of her earrings sewn into my hem
hard-edge questions the shabiha hurl at her
.
my thirst an ember
her silence a brazier of coals
.
I carry this
.
scream of metal
and birds in the wind
.
knowing they will take her
knowing she will not come home
.
I carry this
.
I will not set it down
.
Notes for “Leaving Aleppo”
.
shambar: shawl
lakhma: bread
shabiha: citizens appointed to enforce Qur’anic law and the laws of the military force that
          controls an area.
.
JC Todd-300dpi-1600 ppi
J. C. Todd’s recent books are Beyond Repair, an Able Muse Press Book Award honoree, and The Damages of Morning (Moonstone Press), an Eric Hoffer finalist. Honors include the Rita Dove Poetry Prize, Poetry Society of America finalist, and fellowships from the Pew Center, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Leeway Foundation, and residency programs. Her poems have appeared widely, in such journals as Beloit Poetry Journal, Mezzo Cammin, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner. She teaches with the Rosemont Writers Studio.
.
Antoni Ooto
.
We’ll Remember…
.
“Stop the Steal”
.
that day—when the weight of the mob
breached the barricades.
.
When anarchy broke through,
.
scaling walls, crushing,
storming The Hill,
bludgeoning police.
.
A shot strikes a woman
and the incensed mob screams on
.
scouring hallways crazed,
battering doors, disrupting the senate
.
encouraged by our tyrant and his cronies
to a “test by combat”
.
All this—
a performance as proudly grotesque figures
carry away trophies.
.
It was the worst and the least of our nature—
it was the winter of a nation coming apart
.
posted forever through a cell phone lens…
revealing no enemy but ourselves.
.
(January 6, 2021)
.
Antoni Ooto
Antoni Ooto lives and works in rural upstate New York with his wife, poet, Judy DeCroce. He is a well-known abstract expressionist painter whose art is collected throughout the US.
.
Byron Beynon
.
The Morriston Incident
.
He held his daughter
at gunpoint,
in the front room of their house
where her impressionable nerves
unravelled and a young memory screamed;
full of noise, always edging,
he took the extreme route,
steering his thoughts haphazardly
to where images became loose.
So when she heard him
shouting that he needed more time,
his mouth became an obstacle,
an open wound she captured
like a photograph developed fully
inside her disturbed mind.
A cold landscape echoing
as he fell at her feet,
his final, warm breath bubbled,
the piercing of innocence,
a vivid scar which remained.
.
BWB (WSS)
Byron Beynon’s work has appeared in several publications including North of Oxford, Agenda, Wasafiri, The London Magazine, Poetry Wales, San Pedro River Review and the human rights anthology In Protest (University of London and Keats House Poets).  Collections include The Echoing Coastline (Agenda Editions) and A View from the Other Side (Moonstone Press). He lives in Wales.
.
Jane ‘SpokenWord’ Grenier
.
Bang Bang
.
bang bang
god damn
a bullet shot somebody down
shot some body down
somebody down
down
can you hear the mamas moan
deep in tears they drown
bang bang a bullet shot her baby down
her baby down
down
your brotha your uncle your granpa your son
your fatha your auntie your granmma your mum
your sister your daughter your only one
bang bang bang bang a bullet shot your loved one down
your loved one down
down
I wish that somebody could school me
tell me how the fuck that this can be
because I just don’t see
the why
and so I ask myself where is this hatred coming from
I search my mind, explore my heart for some
reason why
bang bang a bullet shot somebody down
shot some body down
bang bang bang bang
it’s usually someone brown
bang bang
that dreadful sound
bang bang bang bang
societal meltdown
bang bang
some body shot some body down
shot them down
.
jane-spokenword.interviews
Jane ‘SpokenWord’ Grenier is a a street poet, spoken word performer, and visual artist, Jane’s work is rooted in the history of jazz poetry to the political movements of the 60’s. Connecting the elements of spoken word and music, her aim is to preserve the cultural heritage of wording to document life and foster a broader collective community. Her performances include venues from museums, to busking street corners and living rooms everywhere. Along with her collaborator, Albey on Bass. 
.
Linda Nemec Foster
.
Litany of the Abused
.
She is the broken clock whose hands are frozen–motionless sparrows on the table.
She is the gleaming iron and the thin snake of its cord.
She is the braided rug thrown in the middle of the room
She is the waterproof mascara that denies the blessing of rain.
She is the deep mauve lipstick hiding the smile.
She is the bright red stiletto stuck on the wrong foot.
She is the blonde hair dyed to perfection–a cascade flooding her shoulders.
She is the white of the plain sheath dress–empty palette, a stifling shroud.
She is the black onyx in a chain encircling her neck.
She is the closed window of the bedroom, a darkening sky, a jagged cloud.
.
Linda Nemec Foster jpg
Linda Nemec Foster has published 12 collections of poetry including Amber Necklace from Gdansk (LSU Press), Talking Diamonds (New Issues Press), and The Lake Michigan Mermaid (WSU Press: 2019 Michigan Notable Book) co-authored with Anne-Marie Oomen. Her new book, The Blue Divide, was published by New Issues Press in 2021. The first Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan (2003-2005), Foster is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College.
 
Vacation From Life
Vacation From Life by by Lois Schlachter
.
Sean Howard
.
the plaguers (during poems, nova scotia)
.
nightfall
.
the stopped cars bathe
the road in blood, heavy
& slick, however hard
the rain…
.
storm
.
3 a.m., the wind dying: woken
            by the quiet cry-
.
 
                       ing, after &
                                  before the
 
                                    roar…
.
dawning
.
there are, it seems,
endless volumes
to work through,
tear – slowly &
fast – apart. this
.
disarticulate ill-
iteracy: are we, as
it sounds, angry
at our ignorance,
or ignorant even
of our shame,
.
oblivious of our
grudge against a
world we may, un-
rest assured, soon
.
end?
.
sean 2 (1)
Sean Howard is the author of five books of poetry in Canada, most recently Unrecovered: 9/11 Poems (Gaspereau Press, 2021). His poetry has been widely published in Canada, the US (including North of Oxford), UK, and elsewhere, and featured in The Best of the Best Canadian Poetry in English (Tightrope Books, 2017).
.
Brian Donnell James
.
“Rollerboy”
.
The disco ball is in a slow rotation,
Emanating, cascading showers of multicolored lights
Throughout the roller rink, I watched
This black boy, in full afro
Stand, and then pirouette in the middle of the floor
He is majestic, floating, now surrounded within a swirl
Of skaters rolling on the hardwoods
He is as lovely as a swan, enclosed within the reeds
Yet it seemed he was alone,
Yes it seems we were alone
Just he and I in loneliness
.
Church folk say he “gay”
They say they know from the sway in hips
They say when kids leave him beaten
Teased and called names on schoolyards
It’s just child’s play, how could words hurt?
But if words truly hold no power
Why do they pray on Sundays?
This was his introduction to judgment, this poor child
They wanted him to void his vibrancy, diminish his light,
To train him to paint in faded silhouette and muted rainbows
His invitation to hold shame and bury it forever,
.
And though I never really knew you
I too was a black boy who knew loneliness too well
I wanted to scream, do not accept their version of you!
And tried to speak but could not utter a sound
It would be the the last time, I ever left someone in need
.
Roller boy
Wherever you are in this world
I want you to know
I have thought of you
Everyday since the day
I saw you stand, and then pirouette
In the middle of the floor
You were majestic, floating
Now surrounded within a swirl
Of skaters rolling on the hardwoods
You, are as lovely as a swan
Enclosed within the reeds
And Yes, I prayed for you
So that you would never be
.
Alone
.
brian
Brian Donnell James is a “United Nations” and a “National Poetry Month” award winning poet who regularly speaks at universities and colleges across the country. He is an emerging writer who has been published in Africa, Europe, and throughout the United States. He is a poet fellow for the Martha’s Vineyard Creative Writing Institute and has been a poetry judge for Penguin Random House, Maryland Library System, We Need Diverse Books, and Poetically Correct.
.
 
 
 

Optical Paradox

Optical Paradox by Lois Schlachter

.

Greg Bem

The Fiend from Leschi, a Dirge from the Capitalist Front

Why Hello there. Hello! Good morning.

I am yawning and it’s been a split.
I’ve come from the dip where the land is flipped,
where it kisses the sun, keeps the runs
of cars lassoed and bogged and ripped
into a vibrated chopped walk, sputter, and spurt,
an autumnal dew slow frost aflow timeless smoking
like the toothy gun’s barrel, unwinding,
the one we proclaim we never plucked or finding
as we stalked across landscaped lawns
their awkward ornaments shucked before dawn—

Leschi, I woke with you,
and oh Leschi how you have deceived me again!

Flashing colors, flushed dollars,
mogul yawns, crows along the lawns,
shitting, shatting, shiting,
and there! a hawkling twitching
talons upon spliced electric posts sitting,
me watching the hop-hop heaving
projectile aplomb, kneading
and the morning’s here,
orangeing those purples, here
rotten air, the weaving gifts near
a prey in the wild’s abundance, sheered
and shadows stroked away,
and it’s early so there’s still time to pay.

Leschi, what warped shaking along the spine of the morning!

And so I have awoken fully, and this place has spoken to me!
Grieve, grieve, goodbye to the darkened gristle of the eve,
froze or wet, solidly mashed, splayed and spread,
sinewy surfaces we slept in dread, sleep upon together,
the weather a tendoned frame forever
by which to subtly triangulate and gasp the meaning of the dead, debate.

And you were screaming, Leschi, this whole time, abandoning my eyes,
melting and blurred, a flux in the flight of the grubbed sun!

Time’s awry, awake, alighted, in the heart of this hood, I recollected,
I watched the good ol’ boyish Cascadian flay, with numerous slays,
the ideology in the beholder of kinship and wickedry, hey, and smoldered looks,
epitome of a gentle madness, mildly made matrixes took,
dainty, fresh, scathing cut, the wayward racistly, of flesh and hook,
how these blocks and blocks pound and shake and haunt us,
follow us along fleeing routes to that sour lake I once mistook beyond us,
flowering with obscurities and obscenities and moldy little free libraries’ books,
radical swampy passersby (like me!) huddling, not sharing looks,
hushing and damned along Lakeside byways and nooks,
covered in stains toward patterns varied and reckless we crooks.

But Leschi you do so impose, you do,
and keep us spurred on in that reflection of you!

It is obviously here I find my sick gut heaving,
oh grieve, grieve, grieving
alongside dead fish lake Washington, seething,
grieving at the occupation and the abandonment of needs,
oh grieve, grieve, and in here, in Kezira, grieve!
It is startling now,
let us pleasingly look through slightly overgrown prow,
yards and just a bit dusty the windows
(like cubes, boxes of gelatin and butter
a sleekly sickening almost boring shuttered
emerald green as the world wakes fully and mean
in a certain exquisitely rupturing Leschi machinic pristine)—oh!

Oh so you, Leschi, are what I’ve left temporarily
that I to be with these busy bees,
as I know I will return to you and suckle and simmer,
in this deadening winter among heat lamps and leather
and pleather and wither, oh, oh, oh Leschi you dim flicker!

Noon among the ramparts and the dungeons and the keeps,
keeping calm and letting affluence pass me on,
pass me along, through and through,
wringed as a rue, or ruse the truth
a battery and bludgeoning, the rot never sleeps,
secretly appalling as I rise and fall,
breath to breath, sprawl ecstatic,
positioned heft, me so moved a little further left,
yet always in the way, always in this hallowed hood
precisely positioned swamp and sway,
highway of a empath’s mood,
flooded rainfall flippant, stalling, egotistically brutalizing with it.

From Leschi with love, yes, Leschi,
oh palatial source of a mal and maul,
a grin and groan, the creaking hips,
weakened knees, slow and blown!

Leschi, even here I see your pleasing sense,
your diseased ease, the eased disease.

So you, you all, I’ve come here from there, you see, as the evening brings forth its company,
from that humpback corpse monument I come, that dereliction I’m done,
that land of snout and sneer, of disregard from here, half smiling beer-cheeked lunatics dears
driving to a screeching halt (those hills so filled with fears!)
plosive, there, there, grieve, grieve, goodbye oh night, or day, whatever,
goodbye my land of knights and shadow ever,
seethe, creep and pall, goodbye, oh slighted ward and all!

Leschi, its early, but you are so nightly shadow early
and morning cower of sword and swording in the shadow’s hour!

 Am I dreaming? It is further out now, this crumbly erudite stance,
lanced freak I am with bruised hips and eyefuls of streaks,
were it easier to just say goodbye and fall asleep,
no we are stuck in the middle a quagmire beneath a diamond sky,
the bridge boundaries concrete phalanxes, giant spies,
sly, slumped and lurched, they go on and on by and bye bye,
me a bye bye, me a buffoon,
me look up and down the drool caught in a spoon and dipped back in,
to begin again, cycle incomplete, impossibly this retreat
is possibly is, oh quiz me, oh keep me,
tear me apart and weep, or send me along my sheepliness,
the whoosh of my hair as this,
the wind never picks up, wind shadow, piss,
it’s a gaunt, gaunt world, it’s a mad, mad gaunt, this
the lecturer is on a twin of haunches, up and twisted, through the wrist,
roses blistered, how’d they get that, the rolling forward, way,
the motion of healthy, sitting and walking, say
jogging and the bicycles are weapons, aren’t they,
it’s a cool entity, calm and cluttered entity, aren’t they,
can you can it, can you hair ate, fell over the candlestick,
this way, stamps along lower back, no confused hey.

Oh, oh Leschi! Save me!

An earlier version of this poem was performed with the Jim O’Halloran Trio in Seattle, Washington at a restaurant far south of Leschi.

greg-bem-author-bio

Greg Bem is a librarian and poet living on Mount Baker Ridge in Seattle, Washington. He occasionally performs poems, reviews books, leads a faculty union, and creates multimedia artworks. He can be found on Twitter at @gregbem and via his website at www.gregbem.com


Contributing Artist Lois Schlachter 

lois

As a graduate of Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Lois Schlachter was formally educated.  In the graduate program of life, Lois paints whatever comes into her head, working directly from her hand to the canvas with little to no planning.  With her love of line, handsome and vibrant color, Lois leads the viewer into her world of rhythm and comfortable composition. Lois was born in Philadelphia and currently resides in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania which is in the southeast part of the Pocono Mountains.  Her studio is in her home which overlooks a lovely lake. www.fineartbylois.com

Editors 

diane hs

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, a native Philadelphia poet, is author of four full-length poetry collections and most recently a chapbook, COVID-19 2020 A Poetic Journal (Moonstone Press, 2021). Published in North American Review, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sequestrum Journal of Literature & Arts, Chiron Review, The Pennsylvania Journal, and Brushfire Literature & Arts Journal, among others, with poems forthcoming from The Northern Virginia Review.  Poetry Editor at North of Oxford, an online literary journal, and former high school English teacher, she currently teleworks full-time as an Acquisition Specialist. More can be found about Diane at her:  http://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com/

gerx

g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. He can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about  

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.

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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

 

From the Poetry Editor

Diane March        From North of Oxford, this windy March issue blows us in two directions: backward into childhood, i.e., the past and upward into a distorted heavenly sky.

Rustin Larson’s poem, “Slap” conjures up Stanley Kunitz’s slapped check in “The Portrait,” but Larson’s metaphor literally moves us into confusion with his opening lines: “It was confusing. It’s / like getting on the wrong / bus and arriving at / the wrong school.” It’s as if childhood were a treacherous journey for the speaker, which leads the reader to his second poem, “Bats and Spiders,” where the end lines of his first stanza are “Your / mother would never have / aborted you’ says my aunt. / Things like that get me / thinking.” There is a mastery and magical craft to this poem that you will want to read and re-read, complete with…”The witch’s hand / felt in her shaggy purse for / a coin.”

Wesley Scott McMaster’s “Gypsy Blood” has Romanian blood running through this poem’s veins. Dedicated to his father, who he cried with, when the speaker, I, “watched my grandfather’s body / weak and frail / carried out to be burned / to be made into dust.”  Not traveling on a bus like in Larson’s first poem, McMaster is wearing “shoes that are worn out / soles worn thin.” Walk with him and you will feel “rain or snow”, “the shit in city streets”and you will hear the voices of his ancestors “soaked in blood…gypsy blood.”

Thaddeus Rutkowski’s mode of transportation to the past, in his poem, “Where I’m From” lists several ways of getting around as a child: “I used a bike, my feet, or skates” never making “it more than a mile or two / from my childhood home.” With mixed maternal and paternal lineage his “goal was to learn to drive. / …and blow out of there.” His next poem, is where the winds of March blow upward, even inward, as we enter, “In the Buddha’s Tooth Temple,” and “We walk into a temple in Singapore to see the relic: / a tooth of the Buddha.” Led by walking, the speaker, more like a tour guide, helps us to see inside the temple, maybe even inside the winds of time, and in arriving, “No one is in the room. / There is no crowd around the pedestal.”

As wind circles, we are blown into the cross current poems of Howie Good.  Not quite Nietzschesque as in “God is Dead,” rather possessing a drier wit and sarcasm, Good’s poem, “God Is a Joke That Nobody Gets” puns on the resurrection, in a modernistic way. “Your god” (with a lowercase “g”) “tumbles/ to the ground dead, then / gets up and dusts off his pants.” Good’s speaker reduces god into an unsympathetic human, someone like an uncaring boss, who is a lot of hot air / a wind bag, that “does a crap job intervening / in human affairs.” Believe it or not, a lot is seen and said in a minimalistic way; how ironic to condense a poem about god into only nine lines—the speaker bringing down the mighty powers of god. Good’s defying humor ensues in a “little snippet” of his squirrely poem, “Against Narrative.”

Check out this month’s issue, stay grounded, and “Beware the Ides of March.”

With much respect & admiration for these our March Madness poets,

Diane Sahms, Poetry Editor, North of Oxford

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Two Poems by Howie Good

squirrels-birdfeeders-removal_full_width
.
Against Narrative
.
A thieving squirrel defies
the squirrel-proof bird feeder,
clinging to it upside down,
arrogant tail waving off cardinals
and black-capped chickadees,
until just this little snippet
of a story is all that’s left.
.
God Is a Joke That Nobody Gets
.
Your god sews eyelids shut,
gesticulates with the soggy,
chewed-up end of a cigar,
.
does a crap job intervening
in human affairs, tumbles
to the ground dead, then
.
gets up and dusts off his pants,
and tries to slip in the door
without the dogs going crazy.
.
Howie Good is the author most recently of Stick Figure Opera: 99 100-word Prose Poems from Cajun Mutt Press. He co-edits the online journals Unbroken and UnLost.