linda nemec foster

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
.
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 – Spring 2021 Pandemic Issue #7

Dreamscape.
.
Dreamscape by Maria Keane   http://www.mariakeane.com/
.
Thanks to the poets for contributing to The Pandemic Issue #7 from North of Oxford and Maria Keane for graciously providing her art. In order of appearance we present: Ray Greenblatt, Robbi Nester, Tim Suermondt, Charlie Brice, Wayne-Daniel Berard, Eileen R. Tabios, Stephen Page, Joan Mazza, Faith Paulsen, Marion Deutsche Cohen, Maria Keane, Wesley Scott McMasters, Megha Sood, Judy DeCroce, J. H. Johns, Charles Rammelkamp, Thaddeus Rutkowski, Linda Nemec Foster, Stephen Mead, James Walton, Antoni Ooto, Ethel Gofen, Michael A. Griffith, Ken Soyow and Bartholomew Barker.
.
Ray Greenblatt
.
2020 Summer
The boardwalk stretches away
straight and empty as if
          a landing strip waiting for the first plane.
Mr. Peanut exits his shop
squinches in his monocle
twirls his cane and peers
          around in disbelief.
And yet the tantalizers
of caramel corn
and pizza slices
          float on the air uselessly.
In the casino
the roulette wheel still spins,
          fanned cards lie on the green felt.
While on the wide deserted beach
the gulls seem to hoot and hoot
          derisively.
.
This is the dream of a million minds
thinking now in terms of six paces
thinking that their words are muffled
          with winding cloth.
.
Covid Days of the Week
.
minute a bug bite
an hour a mud ball
          in the eye,
but a day
. . . wednesday, thursday, friday, saturday . . .
we lug like a tombstone
tall    dense    mossy
gray    grainy    granite
obit etched,
until the end of the week
to add to the foundation
upon which we build
          a wall of months
so high and gray
it obscures the sky
.
Ray Greenblatt is an editor on the Schuylkill Valley Journal. His book reviews have been published by a variety of periodicals: BookMark Quarterly, Joseph Conrad Today, English Journal, the Dylan Thomas Society, and the John Updike Society. His new book of poetry, Nocturne & Aubades, is newly available from Parnilis Press, 2018. Ray Greenblatt has two books out for 2020: UNTIL THE FIRST LIGHT (Parnilis Media) and MAN IN A CROW SUIT (BookArts Press).
.
Robbi Nester
.
Tu B’Shvat During the Pandemic, March 2021
.
I have been watching out this window, waiting for
everything to change, if only for a moment,
a day, a week. Now, outside my window, three slender
trees, young girls swaying on the sunny path, have
begun to bloom, buds bursting in the spring’s first warm
sunlight. The trees take on soft edges, branches raising
garlands to the sky. Soon, next month maybe,
blizzards of white petals will fall to the grass, and trees
unfurl their leaves. Let the bees enter the vaulted
chapel of each blossom, drink from each raised chalice,
bless us with the sweetness of continued life.
.
Robbi Nester, like so many, is just beginning to emerge from sheltering in place and finding it more challenging than she imagined. She is author of 4 books of poetry, who used much of this year to write and host readings, as well as editing an anthology, The Plague Papers.
.
Tim Suermondt
.
  The City is Returning
                      Easter, 2021
.
But the city is returning
only because more and more
people are—not in a torrent yet,
some streets still looking a bit
lonely, but the signs are there,
like the bridges across the river
that were shrouded in a Covid fog,
the bridges coming to life
in a flow of sun and gulls and human
traffic. I want to wave to and embrace
everyone, but I keep myself dignified
as best I can—there’s much living
to be done for those who made it,
over sorrow and resilience, to this day.
.
Tim Suermondt’s sixth full-length book of poems “A Doughnut And The Great Beauty Of The World” will be forthcoming from MadHat Press in 2021. He has published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, 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.
.
Charlie Brice
.
Mugsi Doesn’t Wear a Mask
.
But I do because of the pandemic.
      Mugsi doesn’t because she’s a dog,
a black standard poodle that
      we don’t cut up to look like the freaks
owned by rich ladies in Manhattan.
.
On our walk we come across masked strangers
            who always appear menacing,
but who invariably wave because
            they are my neighbors and
we all like one another.
.
They remove their masks and I recognize them—
            a sheen of familiarity that brings relief.
It’s always good to see what’s behind a mask,
            even if the mask is an illusion of civility,
something that covers brutality and barbarism,
            even if what is unmasked is the bare bottom
of our culture, the butt end of racism,
            the guttural groan of fascism.
.
Mugsi wiggles her tushie while she walks,
            smells everything available,
is very intense, but always has time
            to wag her tail if we meet
a crossing guard who might
            have a treat for her.
.
Mugsi never holds a grudge even
            when it rains or snows too hard
for me to give her a walk.
            She always forgives me.
She loves to sit in my chair
            when I’m not in it,
and she knows exactly where she
            wants a scratch.
.
Charlie Brice is the winner of the 2020 Field Guide Magazine Poetry Contest and was awarded third place in the 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize. His fourth poetry collection is The Broad Grin of Eternity (WordTech 2021). His poetry has appeared in The Atlanta Review, Chiron Review, Pangolin Review, The Sunlight Press, Sparks of Calliope, and elsewhere.
.
Wayne-Daniel Berard
.
Mars
.
The unhypocritical
virus says “aren’t
I lovely? Velourishly
spherical don’t you
adore my red fleurettes?
Don’t I deserve to live
just as much as you?
Person, it’s nothing
personal I can’t just
change lifestyle eat
plants eschew carbon
(not that you would)
you are my incubator
and the purpose of
viral sex is procreation
if the mother dies
you know how that is
impregnating your paradigm
because you can’t give it
up even if it kills you allow
me I learned from the best
worst case we sleep our
smallness in your big sleep
and catch the next meteor
to the next world wasn’t
that your backup plan too?
See you on Mars, mamma.”
.
Wayne-Daniel Berard, PhD, is an educator, poet, writer, shaman, and sage. He publishes broadly in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. His poetry chapbook, The Man Who Remembered Heaven, received the New Eden Award in 2003. His non-fiction When Christians Were Jews (That Is, Now), subtitled Recovering the Lost Jewishness of Christianity with the Gospel of Mark, was published in 2006 by Cowley Publications. A novel The Retreatants, was published in 2012 (Smashwords). A chapbook, Christine Day, Love Poems, was published in 2016 (Kittatuck Press). His novella, Everything We Want, was published in 2018 by Bloodstone Press. A poetry collection, The Realm of Blessing, was published in 2020 by Unsolicited Press. Noa(h) and the Bark, was published in 2020 by Alien Buddha Press. Wayne-Daniel lives in Mansfield, MA with his wife, the Lovely Christine.
.
Eileen R. Tabios
.
The Covid-19 Hay(na)ku
.
There are other
ways of
dying—
.
But when it
occurs, we
wonder
.
even when we
sometimes must
forbid
.
ourselves from asking
such insensitive
questions
.
The Lockdown Tanka
.
But the near-strangled
planet shook off its blanket
of smog—the canals
reveal frolicking fish—we
see scales and eyes as sapphires
.
Eileen R. Tabios has released over 60 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in 10 countries and cyberspace. In Spring 2021, she released her first novel, DoveLion: A Fairy Tale for Our Times (AC Books, New York). Her award-winning body of work includes invention of the hay(na)ku, a 21st century diasporic poetic form, and the MDR Poetry Generator that can create poems totaling theoretical infinity. More information is at Eileen R. Tabios
.
Stephen Page
.
A Virtual Constitutionalist Convention
.
A honey bee hovers around yellow flowers
Growing out of Teresa’s vertical garden.
.
In the rectangular cement planter that divides
My office and the living-room patio decks
.
Newly planted lavender stands tall
Vibrating gently in the breeze
.
Between red daylilies
And clusters of blue columbine.
.
Last night I watched a virtual convention
Where people talked disdainfully about Dictator Reginald.
.
They spoke about his autocratic, manipulative, bullying tactics,
His lies, his divisiveness, his homophobia, his racism.
.
Of course, the DR trilled epitaphs and threats at them
And is still trying to dismantle the United Colonies Postal Service.
.
The mandarin-haired DR sits in is square office watching TV
While the plague outside attacks his voters.
.
The Orchids
.
My wife is preparing French toast,
While I sip coffee in front of the sea
.
That for the last five years
Reached farther inland every high tide.
.
A sparrow lands on the patio deck,
Hops over closer and tilt his head while studying me.
.
On the coffee table behind me,
The orchids which have for four years
.
Had only been wire-supported stems
This morning blossomed with purple-streaked petals.
.
Last night, on the international T.V. news channel,
Non-mask wearing Nationalists sat side-by-side in droves
.
To gaze up at the non-mask wearing Dictator Reginald
Screaming “A phantom virus! Climate change is fictional!”
.
“Make our colonies great again!” he bellows,
While wild fires rage on the split screen.
.
Life with and Without Father
.
I love opening an old book
And am struck with sunlight
While standing in an attic
On a wood floor,
The air swirling with flecks of dust.
.
I am driving Father’s white pickup
On a state highway
No traffic
                        The open road
                                                            Trees lining the ditches.
.
I am at a baseball park
                        Lying on the outfield grass
                                                The afternoon sunlight bathing me.
.
My father died
Of a heart attack
While seated in a hospital admissions
Room, while ambulances were lined up
For blocks outside the hospital.
.
Today Tyrant Reginald said, “I have learned
A lot about COVID-19,
The old-school way.”
.
Our Own Demigod
.
And all this time I thought
That Tyrant Reginald was just
A dictator, but it turns out
He is a God, immune to the virus.
.
Yesterday, he sucked all the air around him
And raspingly declared, “You have nothing to fear,
Unless you are already dead! Go back
To work, go back to school, go
Eat inside restaurants, don’t
Wear masks!” His bleary eyes
Stabbing into the camera lens.
.
Then he turned around,
Grabbed a golf bag,
And bordered Sea Soldier 1.
.
Stephen Page is part Apache and part Shawnee. He was born in Detroit. He is the author of four books of poetry, several stories, essays, and literary criticisms. He holds degrees from Columbia University and Bennington College. He is the recipient of The Jess Cloud Memorial Prize, a Writer-in-Residence from the Montana Artists Refuge, a Full Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, an Imagination Grant from Cleveland State University, a First Place Prize in Poetry from Bravura Magazine, and an Arvon Foundation Ltd. Grant. https://smpages.wordpress.com/
.
Joan Mazza
.
Ode to Variants
.
You who insinuate yourself into every
living thing, you who invade and commandeer
the cell’s machinery to reproduce yourself
by the billions, with only a simple nucleic acid
in an envelope of lipids and protein,
.
let us praise your innovations. Proficient
at disguise, you are a survivor, evader
of antibodies, antivirals, phagocytes,
and cytokine storms. Ever mutating, you
sidestep human high tech assaults like
.
black belts in karate. Though invisible,
your morphing army marches forward,
adjusts to human precautions of masks
and distance, ever more contagious, more
virulent, resistant. O, mighty miniscule
.
life form, you never surrender. Ignorant
and mindless, without intention or will,
you keep us locked up, ever on standby.
You live by the command, Adapt or die.
.
Joan Mazza has worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and is the author of six books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam). Her work has appeared in Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, and The Nation. She lives in rural central Virginia where she writes a daily poem. www.JoanMazza.com
.
Faith Paulsen
.
Another Poem About Light
.
I
Homesteaders now, before going out,
we strap on our paper masks. Beyond our walls,
just steps away, the wind’s ashes toll like a bell:
The faraway dome is breached.
Rushing home, we slam the door
shed our shoes, their mouths open.
.
We are hungry—
We have nothing to eat or breathe that isn’t
tainted. We begin to think that the bad spots
are cherries. In cupped hands we hold
our losses.
.
II
One house has plenty of eggs. The other has all
the apples they need. You buy half the beans
in the market. We tell each other we can
make something out of this. Just then
a girl in a red satin headband recites a poem about light
and in spite of jinx and dread, we begin.
.
String teardrop bulbs from the streetlights,
dangle from windows our brave-enough flags.
Night comes,
a snow lantern, lit from inside.
.
III
Let us wake up now and eat rice with orange peel.
Let us spread our
bread with honey.
We will not live through. We will live
during.
.
We will sing a capella the chorus of light
not at the end —
but in —
the tunnel.
.
Faith Paulsen’s work has appeared in many venues including One Art, Ghost City Press, Seaborne, and Book of Matches, as well as Thimble Literary Magazine, Evansville Review, Mantis, Psaltery and Lyre, and Terra Preta. Her work also appears in the anthologies such as 50/50: Poems & Translations by Womxn over 50 (QuillsEdge). She has been nominated for a Pushcart. Her chapbook A Color Called Harvest (Finishing Line Press) was published in 2016. A second chapbook, Cyanometer, is expected in 2021. For more information, please check the website at https://www.faithpaulsenpoet.com/
.
Marion Deutsche Cohen
.
The Abandoned Muscles
      The Excel Physical Therapy mailing tells us that achiness is common during
      quarantining.
.
I do my exercises every morning.
Make sure to do a few extra wriggles in extra directions.
I walk 4,000 steps a day, 500 at a time all throughout.
I play my piano, Beethoven’s late sonatas, arms all over the place, am even beginning to
    trill with my left hand.
I move my writing muscle, Zoom muscies, cimbing stairs muscles, dancing muscles.
   sex muscles.
But there must be muscles I’m forgetting.
.
Outdoor muscles, Reading Terminal Market Muscles, grocery cart muscles, thrift-
    shopping muscles.
Muscles that are protesting
giving me gentle reminders
appearing in dreams
trying to move the way they’d move in reality
and therefore moving too much.
Clenching too much.
Cramping too much.
Aching too much.
.
Angry muscles, muscles turned mean.
Obsolete muscles that won’t go away.
.
Physical
.
Am I only imagining that I’m finally feeling my age?
Sinus crap, jaw pain, clenched back, the possible recurrence of trigeminal neuralgia?
And now I can hear my heart beating.
It sounds like water dripping from my childhood drainpipes.
Sometimes it wakes me up.
Or maybe it’s only the nightmares.
Different nightmares from before.
That people refuse to stay six feet away.
They come at me, hands dripping with droplets.
In one dream there was an orgy of them.
Or it’s past the equinox but the days are getting shorter rather than longer.
Every late-afternoon the darkness begins sooner than the late-afternoon before.
And my husband tells me his nightmare.
The door to our house was put on backward
locked from the outside so anybody could get in
and he needed the key to get out.
The locksmith arrived right away but then took away the entire door
said he couldn’t get back ‘til next week.
All week long outside kept seeping in.
Inside was disappearing.
There was no such thing as inside.
.
Marion Deutsche Cohen is the author of 32 collections of poetry or memoir; her newest poetry collection is “Stress Positions” (Alien Buddha Press), and her latest prose collection is “Not Erma Bombeck: Diary of a Feminist 70s Mother” (Alien Buddha Press). She is also the author of a book of #MeToo poems, two controversial memoirs about spousal chronic illness, a trilogy diary of late-pregnancy loss, and “Crossing the Equal Sign”, about the experience of mathematics. She teaches a course she developed, Mathematics in Literature, at Drexel University’s Honors College. Her website is  http://www.marioncohen.net
.
Lantern by Night

Latern by Night  by Maria Keane   http://www.mariakeane.com/.

Maria Keane
.
A Reckoning
.
I beg
to hear the river rushing
an incessant rocking
down a deep corridor
where darkness—
its there
I am tied to it.
.
Not even wings can free me
from the black
for a reason we suppose—
is for the good.
.
Night blooming trees
feed a need to breathe.
Their perfume
saturates the senses
splinters a fracture
to eliminate hysteria.
.
Walking through a web
 I break, unraveling
the first silence
under the sole edict
of sound.
I see it now
and quench some dark history
in the presence of anxiety.
.
I will walk in shadow,
hold on to murmers,
listening for you to arrive,
You reduce the havoc of the trees
repair my will
to believe
all things are only in the moment.
.
Wesley Scott McMasters
.
A Haiku for a Pandemic
.
It is so quiet;
or have I grown tired
of the same voices?
.
Wesley Scott McMasters teaches and lives just within sight of the Great Smoky Mountains with his dog, Poet (who came with the name, he swears).
.
Megha Sood
.
Unclaimed Freedom
.
The cerulean tinge peeking through the barbed wires
a gaping hole, like an open, stretched out calloused palms
seeking empathy in hunger, in pain
color tinged rays making their way
 through the mishmash of thick wires
.
I squint my eyes to even the shades
 Even then I can see the mesh obstructing  my vision
there is too much restriction these days
the invisible virus boisterously ruling our lives
Holding lien to our breaths
making us beg for the next one, a novel privilege
.
I want to rip apart this entrapment
Pry it open the obstructed view of the open skies
Let the fraying ends come loose
Shifting wings like a soaring eagle
in the vast cerulean skies
laced with mellifluous melody,
I want to taste freedom through my squinty eyes
.
I know this calling,
I can feel the warmth in my bones
the sorrow draining from every iota of my existence
I take the clamps, cut the wires
one joint at a time
slowly but surely
.
Making way for my petite body
to pass through the thin gaps
of this corrugated mesh
and claim the freedom
which is truly mine.
.
Megha Sood is a Poet, Editor, and Blogger based in New Jersey, USA. She is a Poetry Editor at MookyChick(UK), Life and Legends (USA), and Literary Partner in the project “Life in Quarantine” with Stanford University, USA. Works widely featured in journals, Poetry Society of New York, Kissing Dynamite, and many more. Author of Chapbook ( “My Body is Not an Apology”, Finishing Line Press, 2021) and Full Length (“My Body Lives Like a Threat”, FlowerSongPress,2021).National Level Winner Spring Mahogany Lit Prize and Three-Time State-level winner of NJ Poetry Contest.Blogs at https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/ .Tweets at @meghasood16
.
Judy DeCroce
.
A Repeat of the New
.
“It’s happening again, because it’s new to them.”
—Antoni Ooto
.
A reply
natural in the hum
.
beginning with the concrete
and then a buzz annoying
.
a mystery in context
for such a transparent idea.
.
Strangeness is marching
through a metaphor none saw coming.
.
Is it danger or a riddle?
(hard to know)
.
The moment shakes us in
and we grab its edges.
.
Along the way
ideas stand and rearrange.
.
It’s happening again…
because it’s new to us.
.
Judy DeCroce, is an internationally published poet, flash fiction writer, educator, and avid reader whose recent works have been published by The BeZine, Brown Bag Online, North of Oxford, The Poet Magazine, Amethyst Review, The Wild Word, OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters, and many journals and anthologies.
.
J. H. Johns 
.
“There was a Time Before the Time” 
.
                                                           There was a time
                                                            before the time
                                                            when things changed;
.
                                                            slowly-
                                                            then instantly-
                                                            we went
                                                            from
                                                            the momentary past
                                                            being an instant away
                                                            to that same past
                                                            which became
                                                            a historical memory;
.
                                                            so quickly;
                                                            so instantly;
.
                                                            what used to be
                                                            our present
                                                            dissolved
                                                            in a viral concoction
.
                                                            that was out to kill.
                                                            There was a time before the time.
.
            J. H. Johns “grew up and came of age” while living in East Tennessee and Middle Georgia.  Specifically, the two places “responsible” for the writer that he has become are Knoxville, Tennessee and Milledgeville, Georgia.
.
Charles Rammelkamp
.
Coronavirus Cooties
.
“Daddy, Ian said I had cooties,”
Stephanie pouted to her father
about a kid in her first-grade class.
.
Amused and gratified to hear
the term still in use,
generations later,
her father asked,
“What are cooties?”
.
“They make you fat,”
Stephanie answered without hesitation,
disgusted by the fact,
body-type issues infecting
even elementary school children.
.
Originally World War One soldier slang
for body lice in the trenches,
cooties had mutated over the years,
just like any other virus.
.
In her dad’s day, girls gave boys cooties,
boys gave them back to girls,
like an unacknowledged venereal disease,
polio in the 1950’s,
AIDS in the 1980’s.
What next, in 2020?
.
The Bald Guy with Long Hair
.
I was in the Documentation Department
at Infodyne, in the late 1980’s,
working on operations manuals.
.
“Go talk to Woody,”
my supervisor advised when I went to him
with a question about COBOL coding.
.
“The guy who works with the mainframes,”
Paul clarified when I confessed
I wasn’t sure who Woody was.
.
“He’s always in here talking to Joyce,”
he went on, as if I knew
the people my colleagues consulted.
.
“The bald guy with long hair,”
Paul finally explained, a poker player
producing the ace up his sleeve.
.
“Oh!” I exclaimed.
Now I knew exactly who he was talking about,
the skinny guy with the shiny pate
and hair down to his shoulders,
a Fu Manchu mustache.
.
Why do I remember this now?
It’s been four months
since my last haircut,
wary about going into a barbershop
in this age of COVID.
.
That could describe me:
the bald guy with long hair
(not to mention eyebrows like caterpillars).
.
Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. His most recent releases are Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books and Catastroika from Apprentice House.

Conversations

Conversations by Maria Keane   http://www.mariakeane.com/

.
Thaddeus Rutkowski
.
Cold Day Outside
.
I see my homeless friend
sitting on a step and smoking a cigarette
on an unpleasant day.
The air is filled with water, and it bites.
“Where’s your mask, man?” I ask.
“I’ve got a mask,” he says. “But I’m outside.”
He’s right. “The virus doesn’t travel well through air,” I say.
Then I ask, “How long have you been here?”
And he doesn’t answer.
He looks like I caught him doing something he shouldn’t.
“How many hours?” I ask.
“Five,” he says.
Indeed, he should not been sitting outside,
in the cold and rain, for five hours.
It is not natural.
I give him a bill, and he says, “Bless you.”
But I’m not the one who needs blessing.
.
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.
.
Linda Nemec Foster
.
Pandemic Litany: The White Chair of Absence
.
If death has a color
it would be white, the color
that reflects and scatters
all visible light:
this chair, this chair
becomes my mantra–
.
white chair of solitude
white chair of isolation
white chair of the absent father
white chair of the abusive mother
white chair of the forgotten–(say it)
white chair of the forgotten–(say it)
white chair of the forgotten child
white chair of the silence that comes before
white chair of the cry that comes after
white chair of solitary confinement
white chair of the hole in the gut
white chair of the bone-white fist
white chair of the shroud
white chair of the wedding veil
white chair of the dark secret
white chair of the white lie
white chair of the what now (what now)
white chair that doesn’t leave
white chair that doesn’t arrive
white chair of the recurring dream
white chair of the yes
white chair of the no
white chair of the maybe
white chair of my birth
white chair of my–(say it)
white chair of my–(say it)
white chair of my death
.
and the wind in the long grass
above my white bones
above my white bones
is the only voice I have
.
Linda Nemec Foster has published eleven collections of poetry including Amber Necklace from Gdansk, Talking Diamonds, and The Lake Michigan Mermaid (2019 Michigan Notable Book). Her work appears in numerous journals: The Georgia Review, Nimrod, New American Writing, North American Review, and Verse Daily. She’s received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and awards from Arts Foundation of Michigan, National Writer’s Voice, Dyer-Ives Foundation, The Poetry Center (NJ), and Academy of American Poets. Her new book, The Blue Divide, is forthcoming from New Issues Press (2021). The first Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Foster is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College.
.
Stephen Mead
.
                     Blue Mask Seas
                                                                                   (for my Friend, Tom Stephany, taken by                                                                                                                    Covid on World AIDS Day 2020)
.
They are so easy to picture:
that ridge for the nose a wave’s curve
& the surrounding white outline being froth’s tips
creased pleat upon pleat…
Even the hue is a Madonna’s robe gentleness sky-expansive
though these horizons are grayer, often opaque,
a chloroform of loss stopping things up.
Face without a body, not modeled in the round
is how one dictionary describes that eye-less paper relief
there on the parking lot paving, blowing now across the sidewalk
& into the weeds lining the pharmacy’s brick exterior,
its chained-up trash can overflowing with refuse,
all the six-pack plastic for a tortoise’s intestines.
This stray one didn’t make it to that heap anyhow, whether a careless
sort of pocket-escapee or dropped on purpose as a take that
Mother Nature. Caring is sharing.  May others be touched
as you have touched me.
Come, don’t be cynical about how so many are angry
& searching for a companionable mob to show that their great misery
is oh so inconveniently displeased about shops & salons, (the nerve of them)
wanting their employees protected when Privilege
is now a Liberty Fight to carry Uzis through marches for Peace
to keep mutating and spreading genome A to genome Z.
No one is tear-gassing that, pleading “can’t breathe”
like in the sterilized wards the size of stadiums if put together
globally – see – waving white flags to reflective face shields,
goggles & layers of gowns stretched into latex, the gloved touch
an antiseptic cry of good-bye mirrored in beeping equipment,
the hissing, decompressing & pumping ocean of lives
named or unnamed in today’s pandemic headlines
tomorrow’s may forget once vaccines return normalcy,
that other great body, blood-red, industrious, tidal & churning
or is that just the fear, blue mask asks blue mask,
that the human species has learned nothing
.
James Walton
.
Tsundoku
.
(the condition of acquiring reading
materials but letting them pile up
in one’s home without reading them)
.
They are laid out for this Sunday
stations between lockdown dates
and if an ear is pressed to them
.
words singing out of lethargy
rise out of loose leaf castings
.
from waiting rooms across the city
a fall of sound as another bearer
signals to lounges kitchens hallways
.
that awakening hope of release
in the chugging unopened language
.
where skimmed pages delayed
hanging on by the faded light
of patience stretched amongst the piles
.
convey the railway alphabet
a slower mystery of words
.
stops to start again ticket less
written as we are by each other
for carriage into other lives
.
James Walton is published in many anthologies, journals, and newspapers. He is the author of four widely acclaimed collections of poetry. ‘The Leviathan’s Apprentice’, ‘Walking Through Fences’, ‘Unstill Mosaics’, and ‘Abandoned Soliloquies’. His fifth collection will be released shortly.
.
Antoni Ooto
.
We’ll Remember…
.
“Stop the Steal”
.
that day—when the weight of the mob
breached the barricades.
.
When anarchy broke through,
.
scaling the walls,
crushing, storming The Hill,
bludgeoning police,
.
a shot fires into a woman
as the incensed mob screams on
.
scouring the hallways
crazed,
battering doors, disrupting the senate
.
through a “test by combat”
encouraged by our tyrant and his cronies
.
All this—
a performance of “might makes right”
.
as proudly grotesque figures
carry away trophies.
.
This was the worst and the least of our nature—
it was the winter of a nation coming apart
.
before a cell phone lens…
revealing no enemy but ourselves.
.
(January 6, 2021)
.
Antoni Ooto is an internationally published poet and flash fiction writer. Well-known for his abstract expressionist art.His recent poems have been published in Amethyst Review, The BeZine, Green Ink Poetry, The Poet Magazine, North of Oxford, The Wild Word, and many journals and anthologies. He lives and works in upstate New York with his wife poet/storyteller, Judy DeCroce.
.
Ethel Gofen
.
Coronavirus Haiku
.
Coronavirus:
Epic pandemonium,
Pandemic upset.
.
If you’re feeling scared,
Change those letters to sacred;
See it in each soul.
.
Vaccines have arrived.
Herd immunity awaits.
We shall overcome!
.
Ethel Gofen is a poet, author of two books in the series, Cultures of the World, for which she wrote the volumes on France and Argentina in 1990 and 1992.  She and her husband both survived Covid-19 in May 2020.
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Michael A. Griffith
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Mercy
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What kills you fastest,
the fleece in your lungs or thorns
in your throat? Choking and the loss of vision
as constriction becomes everything.
.
Worms and fireflies swim across darkened eyes.
Everything becomes constriction.
Your hands not your own, your spine a jellyfish.
Pinprick of a voice over you: No,
everything is not alright.
.
Heat—wet, oppressive, surrounds you.
Heat—no air worth breathing,
what air is to be had? Gulping
is never enough, gasping is never a help.
Python oozes heavy around your chest.
.
Surrounding you, the urinal smell,
as the tube is taped to your lips
in a machine’s tinnitus whine.
A sting to your upper arm—
and constriction becomes mercy.
.
Michael A. Griffith teaches at Raritan Valley and Mercer County Community Colleges in central NJ. He is the author of three chapbooks of poetry, Bloodline, Exposed, and New Paths to Eden. Mike hosts a monthly poetry workshop through the Princeton Public Library. Recent work appears in Kelsey Review, 13 Myna Birds, Impspired, Page & Spine, Haiku Journal, and North of Oxford.
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Ken Soyow
.
Deadly Virus
.
She cried when I left,
each time knowing it could be the last.
.
She used to keep meticulous records,
said the woman who did her taxes.
It’s sad watching her grow old, said a friend,
as my mother limped past with her walker.
.
I was there in March, as the rope tightened —
screening, testing, restrictions,
daily notices of what they’d do
if any cases in the county,
if cases among nursing home staff
or among residents —
.
I cut my visit short, skipping coffee
Friday morning for fear of a lockdown.
When are you coming back? she asked,
left alone with her caregivers
planted in front of the TV.
.
When the pandemic is over.
When they let me in, I said.
.
Pick me up and take me home, she said.
You are home, I said.
The furniture looks familiar, she said,
but this isn’t home.
.
Are you coming to visit today?
No, I’m six hundred miles away,
and they’re not allowing visitors, I said.
Maybe your brother could pick me up.
.
She sat in her wheelchair, often napping.
She dreamt her dead husband was calling
from the doorway.
.
It was a stroke, the doctor said.
.
Ken Soyow is a retired physician, living in Massachusetts.
.
Bartholomew Barker
.
A River Flows Through Us All
.
I was talking with this fish
the other day while I rested
on the banks of the Eno River.
She’d noticed a change.
.
The water was clearer,
the air quieter
even the bugs tasted better.
She felt lucky—
.
Lucky to be alive
in this glorious time.
She had no word for virus,
so I explained that my people
were sick and dying.
.
She sympathized— wished
the best for me and my school
and as she swam away she remarked,
In the weeds or over rocks—
by the shore or in the darkness—
a river flows through us all.
.
My Hermitage
– or How I Started a Pandemic
.
I last touched
a germ-covered body
over a year ago
and I am finally blossoming
into my hermitage
with a beard longer
than Longfellow’s.
.
I was bored with bookstore readings,
stale coffeeshop open mics,
workshops in sterile libraries
and tired of everyday showering,
putting on both socks and shoes,
the horror of going outside
in fetid heat or brittle cold.
.
So, with candles and wine,
I cast a spell of words,curling forth the RNA—
Rhythm, Neologism, Anaphora—
to spread through journals
and blogposts, infecting
my innocent readers.
.
All so I could languish
in these long nights,
sit in darkened rooms alone,
listen to Gnossiennes
and write, write, write
until the antibodies
kick down my door.
.
Bartholomew Barker is one of the organizers of Living Poetry, a
collection of poets and poetry lovers in the Triangle region of North
Carolina. His first poetry collection, Wednesday Night Regular, written
in and about strip clubs, was published in 2013. His second, Milkshakes
and Chilidogs, a chapbook of food inspired poetry was served in 2017.
Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut
for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes
money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit.
.

Hot Sauna

Hot Sauna  by Maria Keane   http://www.mariakeane.com/

Summer 2020 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 2020 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/

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Stay Safe – Vaccinate – Mask Up
Diane Sahms and g emil reutter
.

Amber Necklace from Gdańsk

 

amber
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Reviewed by: Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
 
 
Linda Nemec Foster reiterates this real and imagined theme of yearning and self-discovery throughout the four sections of Amber Necklace from Gdańsk.
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In poem after poem of sculptured landscapes of Old World and New, of Poland (before WW I) to USA of today, Linda Nemec Foster yearns for wholeness, yet knows that this severance of self the “she” (“the other self”) from the Old World will be never be found “in the New,” as in the appropriately titled poem, “Doppelgänger” she writes:
                            …A mere roll of the dice that I’m here
                            and she somewhere else
 .
                            …because a simple act of birth that place me
                            in suburbs south of Cleveland and
                            not in a town across the river from Oświęcim
 .
The last line of the poem puts the reader at a screeching, yet realistic halt:
                             …may we never recognize each other on street.
 .
 Is this an acceptance of harsh reality, of being born in Cleveland, Ohio “on the opposite side of the world” to first generation parents (whose grandparents left Poland) and the realism that she will never be able to experience or have lived the life of “the other self.”   I believe the last line of the poem is realistic; however, within every artist/poet there is imagination; there is the “what if” question; there is the wishful desire to have that which you know you can never really have.  As if, perchance, there could have been a meeting of the “other self,” that is if Fate could have allowed her to live a different life (she never knew), a life she could never truly know. Yet, the fact is she was destined to live here in Ohio, in the New.  It is this longing that exists – to have known a different life, to have been given an opportunity to be a different self “other self” in this opening poem that stays with the reader especially because of the powerfully ironic last line
                            …may we never recognize each other on street.
Can one re-unite the two? No, never, and if we could then would we be better off not knowing what life would have been like anyway.  A bit paradoxical? Absolutely!  The “longing” to be someone we could never be, yet at the same time thinking we should have at least had a “chance” at it. A choice, perhaps This is the unknown, the not knowing (that can never truly be satisfied); and that which a second generation girl/woman ponders, especially when one is blessed/cursed with a creativity poetic mind. A mind that questions.
 .
This is a book of interconnected narrative poems with an undertow of longing for a life we can never have. Therefore, the second poem, “Doppelgänger,” has set the stage for the remainder of the poems in this collection.  The fact is she was born here, but her love is reflected in poems about a family she knew and a family she will never really know.
 .
The poems roll into and out of each other with a constant pulling undertow of longing, which is never understated in her poems about people and places.  Each poem beautifully written, beautifully sad, hurts the reader deeply, because there’s a void which cannot be filled. Especially evident in the poem,
“The Immigrant’s Dream” where each of the three stanzas begin with “a recurrent dream” and ends with a woman’s voice whispering two very strong final words: “You’re home.”
 .
This wise archetypal dream woman trying to offer closure tells the immigrant “you’re home” to give the disconnected speaker peace, resolution.  Yet, there really is no peace, no closure for three generations of women, who must live without a sense of true peace; and it’s not just the woman speaker, who is displayed but it is her grandparents, parents, and her own son that carries the burden of loss. 
 .
This sense of loss, in more detail, is also relevant in the poem, “Young Boy in a Tenement House, Holding the Moon.”
                                He is anonymous as a fairy tale.
                             His bare feet could be my father’s
                             or perhaps my son’s…
 .
the speaker’s father and / or son’s feet, and as the poem continues it includes the boy’s mother –
                            his mother five flights up
                            keeping six kids at bay, waiting
                            for that basin of water…
 .
So it is at this turning point of generational weariness that a child sent for water for an awaiting mother and a large family of siblings that the poet allows the boy to express his inner feelings.  The boy in this poem uses his imagination to cope with the un-copeable and this is where Nemic Foster has the young boy’s basin become the moon.  The reader knows a round basin resembles a full moon, but what is so poetically crafted here is that the boy
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                            …smiles/ not for the camera, but to himself, as if he’s holding a captured moon
Here the “moon,” may appear subtle, but to Nemec Foster it not subtle at all, rather the skilled use and choice of the word “captured.” It is not used as a verb here, rather an adjective, and not a “capturing” moon,” but a “captured moon,” as if the child and his entire family residing in a tenement were in a “captured” state of existence, as new comers to a foreign land (America in lieu of Poland).  The moon is metaphorically alone in the darkness and “captured” (involuntarily) in a gravitational orbit.  Poland is now dead to him as the moon, as the “captured moon.”  Captured defined is “to take into one’s possession or control by force.”  Now, pushing the envelope further, the boy whispers to the moon,
                             and whispering to it, his breath
                             lost in its silver and dust:
                             księżyc, księżyc, latać,  latać, daleko.
 .
And before the translation, the poem is interrupted by an foreign language (Polish), not English, because the boy and his siblings, mother, and possibly his extended family (grandparents, great-grandparents) are all displaced in America, not only by their residence in a tenement house, but by language itself. Now, the last two translated lines in English, as the last to lines of this poem:
                             Moon, moon, fly away, fly away,
                             and please, take me with you.
Here, the child’s plea, “please take me with you” to my real home, because the moon can see all, Poland and America, and the child is homesick for something he cannot have.
 .
The aforementioned poems are in the very beginning of Section I – Conjuring Up the Landscape and in continuing in that section Nemec Foster writes poems about her father learning to count in English; immigrant child at school; “The Old Neighborhood”; her mother, “The Silent One,” etc.  and ends the section with the poem, “Sitting in America at the End of the Century” with these last very painful lines (both in Polish and English) addressing her grandparents (Maria and Tomasz, Zofia and Franciszek)in the poem’s last stanza:  
                             … A distant granddaughter surrounded by cars,
                            longing for a language that’s more akin to damp
                            earth than linguistics, stuttering in a tongue
                            so natural to them they know what she’s trying
                            to say, even before the halting words
                            leave her lips.  Bardzo mi przykro,
                             nie wiem. I am sorry, I know nothing.
 .
A real page turner, so captivating that you, the reader, become engrossed with each poem, as I have; but you must continue onward with a reverent, dirge-like pace through the remaining three sections, as they will hypnotize you as well.  She is allowing their voices and her voice to be heard, so you can learn of the honesty, integrity, and beauty of each lived life. These narrative-memoir poems tell the familial immigrant stories of her grandparents and parents and also Nemec Foster’s very own second-generation story of, mentally and physically, crossing the Atlantic from America to Poland and then back to America again.
 .
Since I have elaborated in Section I, I will try to consolidate the remaining three sections, and this is not to diminish those sections, no, not at all, but in order not to make this – a too long review. 
Section II – The Rivers of Past and Present;  Section III- Dark Amber of Regret; &  Section IV – To Smile at the Closed Mouth of Loss will keep the reader totally engaged.  I will pick one poem from each section to focus upon, as briefly as I can, in order to do justice to both poet and poem.
 .
Section II– The Rivers of Past and Present has four prose poems, with the exception of the poem, “The Two Rivers in My Story.” Once again these poems do not spare the reader their emotional empowerment, with an intense flow of prosaic images, narratives, and truths felt by a transplanted poet.  America’s Cuyahoga River aligns, yet conversely misaligns with Poland’s Vistula River – just as the past aligns, yet conversely misaligns to the present, at least in Nemec Foster’s telling of rivers and time in her prosaic poem, “The Women with the Two Rivers Growing from Her Hair” (wonderful title). Here, Nemec Foster recounts a “true” story told to her by her mother about her grandmother, Maria.
 .
                  …I know it’s true because my mother told me that her mother saw it with her own two  eyes.                  
.
Interestingly enough, oral history imagined or true is prevalent among immigrant families and serves as a connective thread often linking one generation to the next, especially in this story of women.
 .
     Maria, my mother’s mother with green eyes who died long ago, whom I never knew, but could only imagine.
 .
Without giving the total story away here are some lines of her grandmother’s story told by Nemec Foster’s mother to her, whereby the flow of the women of her family and the flow of rivers align and misalign with each other.
 .
              One day she decided to leave her mother, her father, all her sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends and come to the New World and live in America.
 .
Her grandmother settled in Ohio in a boarding house near the Cuyahoga River and it took her weeks to pronounce the river’s name.
 .
She especially loved the sound of the city’s river, Cuyahoga, even though it took her many weeks before               she could even begin to pronounce it. …As if trying to will the river into her tiny bedroom on the third                    floor of Mrs. Okasinski’s boarding house.
 .
The grandmother’s dream of the Vistula River in Poland, where she turns into a mermaid.  A straight up metaphor, why, because oral tradition and the imagination usually go hand-in-hand.
 .
           She was a mermaid swimming in the deep, clear waters of her homeland, the Vistula River.  Her legs had              turned into one huge fin, her beautiful hair had become filmy seaweed.  Even her green eyes had turned                into the blue-white of mother-of-pearl.
 .
Nemec Foster hits the comparisons hard: Old World – Poland vs. New World – America; Vistula River vs. Cuyahoga River; the Past vs. the Present; and then with her brilliant choice of poetic language, the Simile
 – “like” for comparative purposes. 
 .
              The Vistula flowed around her like scattered diamonds.  For the first time since leaving  Poland, she felt homesick.  In the morning when she awoke, the rain was still falling, like  drops of a river from the sky.
 .
In finishing this comparative poem, there’s unification and /or a blending of the two separate entities into the one identity, separate but united in the poem’s summation:
.
 Her long, golden hair had explicably transformed into the two rivers she loved so much:  blue Vistula of the fish-maid; green Cuyahoga of the exotic song. They flowed from her head like twin cascades of the past and present, the old and the new.
 .
And finally Nemec Foster’s heart wrenching metaphors provide hidden similarities between her grandmother and / or immigrant women and their descendants, directly and poetically equating them to river/water images:
 .
                 Some say the woman disappeared into the rivers that claimed her.  Some say she  walked into the rain and became the rain. And some refuse to believe that a woman’s hair can change into the waters of two rivers by mere act of a strange dream.  But then,  they don’t know the woman.
 .
Section III- Dark Amber of Regret succeeds II, but not with prosaic poems, rather 13 shorter poems. These poems – move the reader along the high wire of regret and longing, looking at each side Old – New, Poland – America, as if the speaker, a high wire walker were treading very carefully in a world where a fine wire-thin-line exists; and they must forever walk the path of an “examined” life with no real resolution, one always existing alongside the other.  This disconnection between two world’s trying to connect is stated in the first lines of the poem “Moje Rozwiane Włosy” where the East is separated from the West:
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                            Beyond any control of the East /West border,
                            Oder/Neisse line, the arbitrary demarcations
                            of free market and fixed economy, my hair
Here the speaker, I, uses the image of her “hair” to connect her.
At the beginning of the poem:
.
                             …my hair
                             my hair has become wild, electric halo that refuses…
and at the end of this poem:
                             …My hair, my wild hair,
                            wanting to be a braided rope that connects the two.
 .
The hair image of the “I” speaker resonates back to the grandmother, Maria, and her “long, golden” braided hair (Section II, above). The speaker (probably Nemec Foster, herself) using a very womanly image of her hair is trying to connect the disconnect.  Actually the braiding of three long individual strands (daughter, mother, grandmother) into one braid connects the three women together in their two distinct worlds.
 .
I would be remiss not to state that Section III’s poems are extremely musical as a whole.  Many stanzas like verses of songs binding many voices together, as if each poem the voice of an instrument, a symphony playing melodiously together. Lovely musical titles too, and poems enriched with naturalistic settings containing names and colors of flowers and trees, such as “Mazovian Willows – Chopin’s Nocturne, Opus 9” (Chopin exiled from Poland); “Song of Sorrow – On Listening to Gorecki’s Third Symphony “ (written as a rhythmic Villanelle);  After the War: Purple Flowers Spilling from the Window;” etcetera.  There is one very daunting poem, “Chapel of Skulls – Czermna, Poland” that does not fit the uplifting musical category of many of the others in this section.  It is realistically and humanistically devastating, more funereal.  I believe this poem a silent reminder to Nemec Foster that despite her families disconnect from Poland, there would be nothing more terrible then for her family to have been in Poland during WW I and WW II.  Not just our own deaths, as the poem reminds us in America and Europe, but the reminder of the
                             …mass graves at Katyn
                             or the empty crematorium at Auschwitz
                             can prepare you for this.
 .
Nothing can ever really prepare you for “this” meaning death.
 .
Further, the last poem of Section III is the book’s title – “Amber Necklace from Gdańsk” and this poem echoes back to the braided hair, but this time three
.
                             strands of the past braided around my neck.
                             White amber of memory, gold amber of song, dark amber of regret.
 .
So, three colors of amber as memory, song, and regret are braided appropriately, as title of this book of poems.
 .
Section IV – This last section moves through character and place poems, but the reader is struck by the last three lines of the last poem, “Dancing with my sister.”  Here the poet not only echoes back to this Section’s title – To Smile at the Closed Mouth of Loss –but concludes the book appropriately as follows:
                             We glow because we came from the same burnt-out dream
                             of second-generation immigrants and learned to smile
                             at the closed mouth of loss and dance, dance, dance.
 .
Linda Nemec Foster and her sister have truly learned to smile despite loss and the reader gallops along with Linda and her sister “to the Beer Barrel Polka” with “RESPECT” for the glowing women they have become in America.  In the second-generation immigrants’ fight for recognition, Linda Nemec Foster has won the braided Amber Necklace from Gdańsk glowing with three “tears (tiers) of the sun” around her neck.

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Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, a native Philadelphian, is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Images of Being (Stone Garden Publishing, 2011), Lights Battered Edge (Anaphora Literary Press, 2015), and Night Sweat (Red Dashboard Press, 2016) – available at Amazon. Her poems have appeared in a number of online and print publications.  Awarded a grant in poetry from the AEV Foundation in 2013, and named the winner of the Working People’s Poetry Competition, 2015, she has served as Poet in Residence at Ryerss Museum and Library and as Poetry Editor of the Fox Chase Review.

Visit her at http://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com  and https://dianesahmsguarnieri.wordpress.com/