Megha Sood

Ten Most Read Poets @ North of Oxford 2022

Ten most read poets as determined by the readership of North of Oxford for 2022

Manasi Diwakar

How Dreams Grow by Manasi Diwakar

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2022/03/12/how-dreams-grow-by-manasi-diwakar/

dd

Layers of Blankets by Doug Holder

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2022/08/08/layers-of-blankets-by-doug-holder/

pv 3

Pandemic of Violence Anthology II – Poets Speak

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2022/08/20/pandemic-of-violence-anthology-ii-poets-speak/

IMG_5016 (2)

The Ballad of Morbid and Putrid By Sawyer Lovett

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2022/01/11/the-ballad-of-morbid-and-putrid-by-sawyer-lovett/

Topsy Turvy

Pandemic of Violence Anthology I – Poets Speak

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

eric

Sisson’s by Eric D. Goodman

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2022/01/11/sissons-by-eric-d-goodman/

ryan

High Stakes by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2022/02/12/high-stakes-by-ryan-quinn-flanagan/

susana

Two Poems by Susana H. Case

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2022/02/12/two-poems-by-susana-h-case/

UssiaDuqHeadshot

The Game by Matthew Ussia

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2022/10/16/the-game-by-matthew-ussia/

Kerry bw 03 crop

Two Poems by Kerry Trautman

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2022/02/12/two-poems-by-kerry-trautman/

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Pandemic of Violence Anthology II – Poets Speak

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© remains with contributing Poets
Photographs © Diane Sahms-Guarnieri
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Thanks to all the poets who contributed to Pandemic of Violence Anthology II – Poets Speak  from North of Oxford. In order of appearance we present TS Hawkins, Charles Rammelkamp, Dee Allen, Mike Reis, Bruce Deemer, Kyle Toon, George McDermott, Lois Perch Villemaire, Alan Catlin, Megha Sood, Tony Dawson, Robert Cooperman, Roger G. Singer, Greg Bem, John D. Robinson, Patricia Carragon, Louis Faber, Henry Crawford, Michael Todd Steffen, Mary McCarthy, and M. J. Arcangelini
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Introduction

Violence of humanity has been with us since mythology came into existence. The myth of Cain and Abel, documents the first homicide; domestic abuse; jealousy of power, all of which continue today. Slavery, wars over land, homicides, and violence in cities and countryside’s have all been common occurrences throughout history. Wars over doctrine; religion; power; fascists; racists; monarchs; autocrats all opposed to freedom of will for people have been collected into the history of every nation and continent where, man has resided. School violence in North America can be traced to 1764. So where are we in 2022?

The poets speak in this anthology of war; racial division; lack of equity; of school violence; of domestic violence; of child abuse; the need for gun control, of violence in the streets. In some small way the editors are hopeful the words of the poets will cast light upon the darkness; make us better people; light a spark to cause humanity to begin to mature; cast the past away; end the violence that plagues our people. A tall order for a small online anthology, but the change has to start somewhere, a beginning possibly to ending thousands of years of humanities abuse of humanity.

g emil reutter


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we be peaches by TS Hawkins
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we be
we be soil
we be root
& we land at the bottom of humanity’s consciousness
yet, we be fruit
shouldering the nourishment of society
the world’s meaty moral compromise
still,
we be peaches
.
we be
we be stars
we be bright
dimmed by perspective
we be unseen
blinded by the galaxy of noise
still, we be vast
we be dense
yet, watered down by milky ways
we be whitewashed
& hung in murky shadows
and,
we be beamin’ — despite
.
we be
we be magic
from words,
to prayers,
then spells,
& incantations
we be lexicon
lingual rubric of mass destruction
we be silenced
yet, vibrate in fricative fury
summoning melaninated majesty
we be conjurin’ — despite
.
we be
we be sound
we be electric boom
muted in alabastrine dissonance
we be music
we be rock
and roll
and rap
and soul
and rhythm
and blues
and funk
and pop
and classical
we be country folx
and bluegrass gospel
and indie
and jazz;
ambient, drumming, and proud
we be world — despite
.
we be
we be ingredients
we be phalanges, tenderness, & botanicals
the anise
hyssop
jasmine
rose
sage
meadowsweet
sassafras
& soul salves
tossed, smashed, and shaken
we be ancestral
flavoring memory & survival in a tapestry of staples
we be displaced by banal palates
that xerox cuisines only nana’s palms can reproduce
we be blanched
yet, finding ways to simmer
and manifest,
and marinade to glaze future forward
we be recipe — despite
.
we be
we be transcendent
we be optical particles
of daybreak & dark showers
fragmented watts cemented in yesteryears of lux
we be targets
infrared beings aiming solely for glory
we be in crosshairs
plucked for the picking
for just existing
we be luminous — despite
.
we be
we be soil
we be root
& we land at the bottom of humanity’s consciousness
yet, we be fruit
the devil’s punchbowl across the globe
shouldering the nourishment of society
the world’s meaty moral compromise
and still,
we be
we be peaches
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HawkinsTS_Headshot8x10TS HAWKINS is an international author, performance poet, art activist, playwright, and member of the Dramatists Guild. Plays, short works, and books include Seeking Silence, sweet bread peaches (formerly, 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. TS HAWKINS
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Virgins and Pride by Charles Rammelkamp
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The Higgins kid came to school
with a gun hidden in his jacket
like a smuggled pet animal,
stood up during an English lit. discussion
of satire and irony,
started shooting his classmates
like targets at a carnival booth.
.
He popped Brian Eastman,
sitting like a sultan
behind his student’s desk,
two holes in his chest.
.
Only the day before,
a harem of girls
swarming about him
in the cafeteria,
Eastman scorned Higgins
with a playground bully’s taunts.
“You ain’t had pussy
since pussy had you.”
.
The girls’ tittering rang
a greater humiliation
than Eastman’s words.
.
The look of terror in Eastman’s eyes
just before Higgins shot
erased the pain of his disgrace,
sure as pulling the plug on a computer.
Nothing left to do
but turn the gun on himself.
.
Author Photo Clara Barton at AntietamCharles Rammelkamp’s latest poetry collection, The Field of Happiness, has just been published by Kelsay Books. Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books. He contributes a monthly book review to North of Oxford and is a frequent reviewer for The Lake, London Grip and The Compulsive Reader.
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Boneyard by Dee Allen
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Shovel the earth &
shovel it deep
.
Lower into the sepulchre
.
Surround the burrowed
Space w/ lilacs & eulogies—
Family tears
.
Seal up the earth again
for a child had been
consigned to rest here
.
For another child
embittered
had shown him his most
glorified toy from youth
his lifelong phobia:
.
The receiving end of a
pistol. The known face of doom.
Locked. Loaded. Blown.
.
Hate-crimes—engaging in war
head-on pale in comparison
to what keeps the silent bosom of the
Boneyard full w/
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                            Fleeting
                                         time
                            Fleeting
                                          shots
                                                    in
.
Places to learn
Places to play—High-risk
High-calibre consecration
Blasting away the future
to bleached bone.
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deeAfrican-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 [ all from POOR Press ], Elohi Unitsi [ Conviction 2 Change Publishing ] and his 2 newest, Rusty Gallows: Passages Against Hate [ Vagabond Books ] and Plans [ Nomadic Press ]–and 56 anthology appearances under his figurative belt so far.
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For George: Evenight by Mike Reis
.
Ascending screaming from vicious knee,
How can your tongued flame
.
Reckon in the shelters of chagrin,
Enkindle from glass-sharp asphalt,
.
Open us like fire
Set to long-stunted flowers,
.
Like new chalk scribing
Change-colored murals over rueful brick,
.
Word-wielded pain, word-wielded evenight
Keened to a quickening?
.
Mike Reis Photo (2)Mike Reis is a writer and environmental historian with poems published in North of Oxford, Gargoyle, Lucille, Urthkin, The Archer, Laughing Bear, The Galway Review, Grand Little Things, Crossways, The Broadkill Review, The Raven’s Perch, Amelia, and Northern New England Review.
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shadow 3
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Snow White by Bruce Demmer
Isaiah 1;18-20
.
No report I’ve read
said if parents of these dead
children own such guns
as slaughtered their sons
and daughters, the cross hairs’ cross
pinpointing our loss.
.
Would those parents’ guts get wrenched
seeing what these weapons did
to their kid,
skid off course, or dig in, grow entrenched,
like those who’ve attacked
as faked news, as made-up fact
the floods that have drenched
schools, neighborhoods with a sense
of targeted innocence?
.
Our divided quarrel states
no peaceful debates;
Guns – fewer or more –
threatens a lopsided civil war,
treads on mass murder at worst,
both our houses cursed.
.
As if in Nature’s inverse,
a cold-blooded, social climate change
grows increasingly chilling,
with each new killing;
persuasions seen as perverse
threaten to derange,
make the world turn strange.
Bodies shot to shreds
choke our minds and heads,
compounded by the set, shoddy rounds
shot as biting sounds
rendering thoughts and prayers
a cauldron for 2-tongued soothsayers
and ambitions without bounds.
.
Are we bewitched by power
only to be pawns
when the sun’s reddened eye dawns,
wakes us to cower
at bad dreams that wet our bed
with bloody slaughter,
accumulate just like lead
in our streams and ground water?
Good days or bad days,
some part of this always weighs.
No little cat Z will wash it white.
Like Lady McB,
all the game shows on TV
will not bring peace, the price never right.
No kiss-it-and-make-it-better prince arrives
as the maddened make-believer thrives.
Is Reality’s new Rule:
bring poisoned apples to school?
.
A rising, thick flood
fattened with lambs’ blood
makes words float and bob as civilization’s debris:
 those I try to assemble
make my gorge tremble.
There’s no strong, safe branch on reason’s tree
to climb above our heavy, heavier tread
into a deepening, sticky dread.
Bearing arms does not leave our arms free,
leaves us grasping for purpose,
gasping to surface,
all exhaled breaths
failed, wasted, when the last word is death’s.
I keep tasting lead;
I keep seeing red.
.
For Columbine, Sandy Hook, the Mennonite school children, Ukraine and Uvalde, etc., etc. etc….
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BHD smiling for book advert 2021 10 04B. H. Deemer is the author of two self-published books of poems.  He has retired to the shore of Lake Huron
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Real War Crimes by Kyle Toon
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It’s becoming harder to breathe
as nation-states and collective
governments contest to seize,
control, and obliterate
civilization at a swift speed
anxiousness ensues as the
military siege feeds off the
wounded—bleeding from their
hands to their feet, desperate
for upside and reconciliation
amid irrevocable catastrophe
the air is thinly filled with
toxins and pollutants that
can asphyxiate those involuntary
in the crosshairs seeking
refuge and personal safety
open doors. closed doors—
The disguise of an open border—relegated
inhabitants organized by
race, gender, and class
while in the backdrop
the cries of agony,
grief, and bereavement
permeates and settles
as normal ambient background noise
the curtains are wide open
and the luminous light
of socio-racial strife shines
bright—the scope of perspective
is sharpened and focused
giving the observers of the world
a front and centered view of what
moral insensibility looks and feels like
.
kyle toonKyle is a voracious reader of all books on black history, poetry, significant experiences depicting racial inequities, and social justice issues. Currently, he is reading The Destruction of Black Civilization by Chancellor Williams and just finished The First Black Slave Society by Hillary Beckles, and The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday. He is hugely supportive of mindfulness meditation techniques for emotional and cognitive regulation and a steadfast advocate for seeking mental health services. Kyle is a member of the UNIA-ACL (Atlanta chapter), CBPM, and the I Love Black People movement.
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Parallax by George McDermott
From Parkland to Tallahassee
.
These students drove six-and-a-half hours
from their blood-soaked school to the capital
to beg the bloodless officials for help—
the sanctimonious guardians
of grunting, wheezing privilege,
the elders who brush children aside.
.
These students were taught they hold the future:
their duty, they learned, is to shape the world.
But then came the shots, the shouts, the screams,
and then they were running away from their school,
the air corrupted with misplaced odors—
smoke and ozone, blood and vomit.
.
They remember a trick from when they were little:
            by reaching out and squinting one eye,
they could block the sun with the tip of a thumb.
Or erase a looming obstacle.
.
They’re looking now at the capitol buildings—
raising their fists, extending their thumbs,
blinking one eye and then the other.
The buildings remain.
.
They blink again and wonder if maybe
they’re the ones who disappear.
.
McDermott-MoonstoneGeorge McDermott is a Philadelphia poet who lives in Florida (that’s not impossible, not even particularly uncommon). He’s also been an English teacher, a speechwriter, and a screenwriter (those roles are not mutually exclusive, not even especially different). His chapbook, Pictures, Some of Them Moving, was a winner of the Moonstone Chapbook Award, and his poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Painted Bride Quarterly, Fox Chase Review, Notre Dame Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and Chicago Quarterly Review.
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Two Poems by Lois Perch Villemaire
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Such a Beautiful Day
.
Local leaders speak into microphones and say
“It was such a beautiful day”
like terrible things should not happen
when the springtime sky is sunny and blue
.
A teenager drove from the other side
of New York State to Buffalo
posted words of hate in a manifesto
fully armed wearing tactical gear
.
He came to kill innocent people shopping
to buy bread or whatever they needed
for the week never imagining this ugly display
on this Saturday —such a beautiful day
.
He didn’t wait to enter Tops Market
started shooting unsuspecting women and men
in the parking lot leaving a trail of death
he confronted and shot the security guard
.
Police quickly appeared on the scene
he still had time to kill 10 on such a beautiful day
all shot with an assault weapon they lay
before he gave himself up falling to his knees
.
His motivation was called “pure evil”
setting out to murder based on race
in a close knit African-American community
this killer had carefully pre-planned the place
.
It’s happening too often in cities and small towns
We can’t tolerate mass shootings anymore
ending lives as they go to school or shop at the grocery store
innocently making their way on such a beautiful day.
.
Close the Skies
.
We watch as history
unfolds on CNN
a leader looming
on the screen addresses
a silent reverent US Congress
this modern day hero
young, strong, unafraid
grateful for
overwhelming support
needs more for
the survival of his people
forced to leave their
destroyed homes
some remain to defend
freedom of their land.
.
Voice of the translator
sounds out of place but
words are true and honest
“Close the skies”
This man, this warrior
appeals to leaders of
our country to save lives.
He asks them to recall
            the horror of Pearl Harbor
He asks them to recall
            the destruction of 9/11
.
A video reflects suffering
of his people, his children,
his eyes are steady
on the rest of the world
asking for compassion
asking for everything.
.
loisLois Perch Villemaire resides in Annapolis, MD . Her prose and poetry have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies such as Ekphrastic Review, Flora Fiction, and One Art: A Journal of Poetry. Lois was a finalist in the 2021 Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry. She enjoys yoga practice, amateur photography, and raising African violets.
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Alan Catlin
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I remember
.
standing behind
the bar at work
TV tuned to CNN,
sound that can’t be
adjusted turned all
the way to loud whisper
watching the kids
from Columbine
hands clasped on
their heads
running for their lives
.
I’m in shock
in tears and the night
waitress, a college kid,
 asks me,
“What’s wrong?”
.
I tell her that
someone is shooting
high school kids
The ones you are seeing
are the ones that made it
.
We stand there,
silently watching
a sequence that seems
stuck in an endlessly
repeating loop,
crying
.
Who knew this was
only the beginning?
.
Alan Catlin is the father of two teachers and the grandfather of four school age grandchildren.
He is the poetry and reviews editor of misfitmagazine.net Home Page
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The Revolving Door by Megha Sood
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I start the radio first thing in the morning
blaring noises, starving children screaming
dying in the refugee camps
a place for refuge,
a place for solace
.
A diffused IED unexpectedly
goes off in some part of the world
abruptly ending the dreams
of a 5-year-old
on the way to eat his favorite bread
.
The movement is on the rise
the streets are jam-packed
my heart is emboldened with grief
and the eyes have run dry
another day,
another set of fliers,
and another hashtag trending
.
But this incessant fear of endlessly trying
like a hamster on the wheel
succumbed to this voiceless din
with no destination in sight
a blob in the pool of
faceless charades
.
I drag myself sluggishly
to my office building
waiting at the entrance
of this giant rotating door
to start its next turn.
.
MeghaAuthorPicture.
Megha Sood is an Award-winning Asian American Poet, Editor, Author, and Literary Activist from New Jersey, USA. Recipient of 2021 Poet Fellowship from MVICW (Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creating Writing) and National Level Winner for the 2020 Poetry Matters Project. 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, 2022). She blogs at https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/  and tweets at @meghasood16.
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Two Poems by Tony Dawson
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Screenshot
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Children are screaming, their mothers are weeping
as they pick their way slowly over the rubble
of what used to be Mariupol.
Unburdened by luggage but weighed down with anxiety,
they scramble to safety
through streets strewn with sadness.
Hemmed in by havoc, pale faces, red-eyed with tears,
transmit their fears to us,
safe at home watching the news.
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Picture Post…Mortem
.
Watching reports of the war on TV,
viewers are horror-struck to see
a frantic mother, howling in despair
while a pair of paramedics try to save
the life of her shrapnel-wounded baby.
Maybe, just maybe they can… but they can’t.
The maternity hospital was not bombed in error,
it was a deliberate act of Russian terror.
Next, the camera shows another young mother,
face blank, hair lank, flopped on the floor
of a hospital corridor.
She’s clutching her child that survived the air raid.
Stunned, in shock, she’s silently crying
because her other two children
are presently lying dead in their beds.
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TONY IN SEVILLA RECORTADA
Tony Dawson has lived in Seville since 1989. His writing has appeared in print in Critical Survey, Shoestring Press, Poems-for-All, Chiron Review, and Pure Slush, as well as online at Loch Raven Review, London Grip, The Five-Two, The Syndic Literary Journal, Horror Sleaze and Trash, Cajun Mutt Press, Poetry and Covid, Beatnik Cowboy, Retreats from Oblivion, and Home Planet News, (in the latter case in both Spanish and English).
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The Great God AK-15 Speaks by Robert Cooperman
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In the beginning was the blunderbuss,
slow and inaccurate as a drunken mosquito;
then flintlocks, less cumbersome,
but still not the speed of a good bowman:
Red Coats lucky, and alive, to prime and fire
three rounds a minute.  Only two?  They died.
.
But with the repeater, the six-shooter,
my power started to flex and grow, though
it took the Gatling, the Tommy, the galloping
Apocalyptic Horseman of the machine gun
for men to realize the gun was God.
.
But it wasn’t until my divine birth
that I was worshipped: men enraptured
to give my trigger the merest flick,
so I’d preach I sacred tongues.
.
You accuse I tempt madmen
to murder innocents for no reason
except that it’s far too easy to obtain me
along with enough rounds to obliterate
a whole elementary school.
But is anyone, no matter how young,
really innocent?
.
Men tremble in ecstasy, to be conduits
of my righteous power: a million holy volts
coursing through their trigger fingers:
better than sex, than fentanyl,
they beg to be my slaves.
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RCoopermanPhoto1Robert Cooperman’s latest collection is GO PLAY OUTSIDE (Apprentice House).  Forthcoming from Kelsay Books is A NIGHTMARE ON HORSEBACK
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Sharp Corners by Roger G. Singer
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I hear the
drowning in my head
where turbulent waters
behind the eyes
swell and wane
coursing to the sides
with pain pressing
against judgements
serving proof of
a prisoner locked
within the gray lines
without a key
as the story is
replayed between
the walls
.
Roger G. Singer lives in Florida and is Poet Laureate Emeritus Connecticut Coalition of Poets Laureate
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Figures by Greg Bem 
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1: Musing
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The crack is the rupture inside. The lines form crooked to the horizontal. Dreams are beautiful and chaotic. The hands are enflamed and jagged. Winged fingers. Ruptured bubbles within microscopic crevasse. Moonlit airplane sinking across to escape. And the wizards wait. And the witches choke on cackle. On highway alert, rumble of fiction. Imagine just out of  sight of the interstate.
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Imagine that and I am coughing through peace. Diadem of karmic gesture. The completed jester’s smile. Home again, a safety net, a safer Net, an etiquette to bind them, and in their hearts the binding is glowing and growing. It can’t be stopped. It can’t be. We will be consumed, dwarfed by replay, the result, the reverb. We will be consumed, con, a con, the Mac Low Eon instance.
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Just in time: justice, in time as I write this, right this.
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2: Them
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The Drone Women
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Less about the human than the carriage. Carrying age, carrying life of our age.
This is the speech with which we birth, circuit blood and broken spines, slippage.
And the meander through a pit-scape of ohs and ones, what’s it even say?
What’s even it mean? Hallmark of the creators, the robot pleasantly demonic,
blue eyes gazing into my abyss, of limited possibility, and we’re all attached to hip,
we’re all diming our way through time’s latest, the “say” of sooth and the errs of our ways.
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The Ghost Knight 
.
Herald of mist and slew, slough and what’s missed, what’s been missing, really,
what have we been dreading with the lengthening of days, more of an exposure, really,
the lines getting longer, the lies playing out louder, liars challenging sour,
and I am a pondering being, slipping in and out of the purvey, the periphery,
the puff puff bliss of history, and the wash is a light, cloudy blue, cloudy eyes,
mistakenly foggy, but the devil is in the details, where we get lost and stand, violently, still.
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The Radioactive Man
.
At the poet’s keep, a book with a cover with two beings lacking faces,
south lake where we go to find the canny connections, a canopy for hummingbirds
and cobwebs, a place lightly lit by a mooted sun, muted, mutant, mutate,
and the ochre suit matches the ochreish face, also blank, I spun it around, I hid it,
I’m ogrish, malevolent benefactor, the sinners in my hands, my anger disruptive.
The thin, black gun represents vacuums and the vacuous, pushing and pulling at once.
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The Samurai 
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It is the katana that forms, thin slice of whole, slice of thought, sliced, rotted, at once.
An earlier memory where I’m passing aisles of filthy books, thinking perhaps I’m rotten.
And perhaps it’s a ronin, masterless, dead masters on thinly sliced floors, clean,
corners and ridges, etches, meaty palaces, thin slip of rounded beam, wood like bone, bracing
heavens, passage towards made by body’s breath, an elegance unlike the Maoist quote on a Samurai website, where have I gotten, found myself, in this lossless space, wilderness, kempt and upkept.
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The Recidivist
.
Inching forward into the depths, memory comes to light after 12 years of entombment:
the Waldrops, loving Gizzi, loved the New Depths of Deadpan, and how could you not!
Knotted in the world, Ezmeralda and Bogota one moment, Aleksi Perälä and Lahti the next,
I dream in poetry that knots, that colludes, that jumps out of windows and tails it highly to
the weeds, never greasy, always chaffed, long dry spell sting of skin rubbing skin, blades
upon blades, figure rejoined, saga etc, continuity, bearish committal, suddenly I remember
how resin can stick.
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Madly a Scientist 
.
Flock of dread spikes, the dreaded spike in the fluted chamber, greenly and wizened,
sickly you’ve become wise in your old brews, methods of Bunsen decades long in the make,
the way you wear your grin is a calm psychopathy, hiccup, run away with ye, goes the zone,
a kind of eureka blast toward Eureka hills, smell of weed-encrusted decision-making spills
across intersections, sinks in sticky to the heel, the world melting into Dalisean clockwork.
Meanwhile, lest we forget: a black glove, the green splatters, buttoned buttons, and the red lenses.
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3: Missing
.
Bowl in one hand, plastic in one hand, lift up, pour corn past teeth to mouth, and the chewing, and the swallowing into a throat’s greeting. The eyes glaze over. What’s missing? The nose crinkles. What’s missing? The ears dry out and flake. What’s missing? The neck grows bumps and loosens. What’s—missing? Safe passage. Safe construction. Safer discussions. Safety has its place. You are in good hands. you are in, good hands. You are, in good hands.
.
On my way here there was a feather. And there was a myth. And the spilling of the beans. And the rickety footsteps along the rotted floorboards. And the night that spoke in corners and the boundaries of the lamplit curbs. Chirps from dead smoke detectors. A laundry list of constraints. Everything around a tool and a curse. Those wizards, those witches, that jester, that gesture. All comes crumbling down, into a puddle of something vaguely edible and objectively terrifying to the
onlooker.
.
What’s missing, what’s missing. A smooth transition as the six have gone home to be with their masses and prayers.
.
greg-bem-bio-507x338Greg Bem is a poet and librarian living on unceded Duwamish territory, specifically Seattle, Washington. He writes book reviews for Rain Taxi, Yellow Rabbits, and more. His current literary efforts mostly concern water and often include elements of video. Learn more at www.gregbem.com
.
.
pv 2
.
Katie in California by John D. Robinson
.
When she was one year’s old her father
moved the baby into the basement,
chaining her hands to a toilet-chair:
she made too much noise: she slept in
a playpen with a top that was locked:
he would violently force feed the
little girl and as she could not
swallow comfortably, she would
vomit and her father would become
enraged and would shout and
scream vileness and would bark
and snarl like a rabid dog and on
countless occasions he would beat
her with a big stick:
mother and two teenage sons
lived in fear, knowing of the
horrors happening below them
every fucking day: after eleven
years, her mother and one of
the son’s took the young twelve
year old to hospital: initially
the nurses guessed her to be about
seven or eight years old:
shocked at the girl’s physical
appearance and neglect she was
hospitalised: she was unable to
walk or speak, and the
authorities were alerted: the sadistic
asshole father was charged with
severe child abuse and neglect, before
trial, he shot himself through the
head: the mother was judged as a
victim of psychological, bullying,
coercive, threatening, controlling
abusive behaviour: briefly the girl
moved into a State-run children’s
home and then was placed into a
.
family foster home who held
extreme Christian views and values:
one time, when she vomited into a
bowl and then continued to eat,
the foster father hit her hard
across the head and then she
refused to eat as she feared that
would vomit again: she would
self-harm by scratching
her arms repeatedly until they
bled heavily she was then taken
back to hospital and after, she
was given back to the care of her
mother, which lasted just a few
weeks before she returned her back
to the authorities who again
placed her in a children’s home.
her days thereafter are unknown
and even fifty years later the
real identities of the little girl and her
parents have not been revealed.
.
robinson
John D. Robinson is a poet from the United Kingdom and is the publisher of the micro press Holy&Intoxicated Press.
.
The End of the World by Patricia Carragon
(sung by Skeeter Davis)
.
In her dream,
her parents’ wedding photo
burned slowly.
Their ashen marriage
vaporized in life and death.
A grayish puddle formed a stain
on the chest of drawers.
.
She woke up
and went about her day,
listened to an old song,
“The End of the World.”
Depression read her Tarot cards.
A heart bled,
pierced by three swords.
A woman tied and blindfolded,
surrounded by eight swords.
A woman wept in bed,
nine swords hung above her wall.
Her futility walked
in her parents’ shoes.
.
The world didn’t care
if her life was going nowhere.
The sun and stars went into hiding,
two mourning doves stopped singing,
islands of plastic floated in the sea.
Bad news kept recycling—
the world still on suicide watch.
.
On the news,
there was another shooting.
Children’s hearts bled,
pierced by three bullets.
Justice tied and blindfolded,
surrounded by eight white men.
Mothers wept in their beds,
nine AR-15s hung above their walls.
Futility walked
in American-made shoes.
.
Pattie May2022
Patricia Carragon’s latest books are Meowku (Poets Wear Prada, 2019) and Angel Fire, (Alien Buddha Press, 2020). Patricia hosts Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual anthology. She is an executive editor for Home Planet News Online. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
.
We by Louis Faber
.
We fled the ghettos
in fear for our lives, the mob
hating us for our faith, for
being the other, for being there.
.
We came here hoping
to share in the promises
we heard, but we were still
the others, shunned, forced
into new, unbordered ghettos.
.
We now blindly support
the country established
for the likes of us, a place
where the others are shunned
and forced into ghettos.
.
And we shun those
from the south fleeing
for their lives, the gangs
hating them, saying they
are the others, but we
say the promise no longer
applies, and we turn them away,
and we die a bit more each day.
.
louis
Louis Faber is a poet and photographer living in Port St. Lucie, Florida.  His work has appeared in The Poet (UK), Dreich (Scotland), North of Oxford, Erothanatos (Greece), Defenestration, Atlanta Review,  Glimpse, Rattle, Borderlands: the Texas Poetry Review, Pearl, Midstream, European Judaism, The South Carolina Review and Worcester Review, among many others. A book of poetry, The Right to Depart, was published by Plain View Press.
.
Bullet Points by Henry Crawford
.
Let’s start by shooting
Franz and Sophie Ferdinand
and soon we’re digging trenches
but before you can say the words
Pearl Harbor
we’re lowering the boom on Nagasaki
and crashing planes into the 9/11 sky
it’s just a need we have
to make things clean
destroy the town to save the town
show our Shock and Awe so we can say it’s done
like Agamemnon
finally getting his winds or Paris before him getting his prize
the way The War to End All Wars
ended in a double replay railroad car
no appeasement in our time
whether crossing the Rubicon or dropping fire
on the sleeping streets of Dresden
or raining missiles on a Ukraine mall
we will get our way
saying never again or remember the Lusitania
or this will not stand
my father died at Marathon
he died on Pork Chop Hill and on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
and it’s always just
300 men and just four years
or make it 30 or maybe just 100
and there’s always just the wounded
or just collateral damage or just a few with minds aflame
unable to forget just killing one another
in another just war.
.
Head Shot 2 (1)
Henry Crawford is the author of two collections of poetry, 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, As We Were Saying Goodnight, was nominated for the 2022 Rhysling Award given out by the Science Fiction Poetry Association for the best science fiction, fantasy, or horror poem of the year. He is a co-director of the Café Muse literary salon, and was the creator of the Zoom poetry series, Poets vs The Pandemic, sponsored by The Word Works.
.
pv 1
.
Two Poems by Michael Todd Steffen
.
Victim
.
There was a daily weirdness in her life.
Nose rings. Fluorescent hair. Leather. Joan Jet.
At one with her youth, she did nothing by half.
She took a class on Shakespeare that I taught.
Cross dressers. And a dude with sonnets for
another dude. The Bard was like way cool.
Brightly she got the double sense of fair.
She got the perilous privilege of the Fool.
The ways of the world are anything but just.
She marched to end corruption, AIDS, and hunger
and twerked on the dance floor where a sudden burst
of gunfire took her breath, and sealed his anger.
His ‘butch boss’ had fired him from his job
so he unloaded on a whole night club.
.
Deaf Heaven
.
For they lie, our departed, in the satin
lining of their coffins. However hard
we plea for their return, we are not heard
with them, chalked and indifferent as church Latin.
.
The heart cries to the sky that’s gray and leaden—
Light and blue, o please! By heaven’s withered
blossoms the bees wax the hives of the dead
son and father, infant, mother, maiden,
.
our beckoning throats hardly above whispers.
Here the silence of churches pounds its gavel
solemn as the one tone of a vespers
.
bell with the darkness falling. From the navel
we are fed this knowledge. Our last gasp goes
oblivious under the requiem in the chapel.
.
michael steffen photo ok chr
Michael Todd Steffen is the recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship and an Ibbetson Street Press Poetry Award. His poems have appeared in the window of the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, as well as in journals including The Boston Globe, E-Verse Radio, The Lyric, The Dark Horse, The Concord Saunterer, and Poem. Of his second book, On Earth As It Is, now available from Cervena Barva Press.
.
For the Parents by Mary McCarthy
.
What can I give you
so deep in your well of losses
there are no miracles to pray for
no return to hope for
no remedy for all the empty
places in your hearts
.
I wish I could hold you up
keep your head above
the swell of grief,
protect you from
the urgent undertow
offering to sweep you
forever away from shore
.
That place so full of stone
and sandpits ready
to swallow you
replace grief with a choke
of sand, crush your chest
like an empty can
filling the terrible hollow
stopping the howl
that is the only word
you can still make
.
A hard wind scouring you out
clean and dead as bone
leaving you nowhere to hide
to get past this blasphemy
of murdered  children
the sin of survival
the heavy burden
of empty arms
the cursed chance
defying reason, useless now
as thoughts and prayers–
.
It will not get better
only farther away
the days relentless
in their progress
yet unable to tear you away
from this day, this place
this house, your last
connection, before everyone
dries their eyes
and tries to forget.
.
20200321_145913
Mary McCarthy is a retired Registered Nurse who has always been a writer. Her work has appeared in many anthologies and journals, including “The Ekphrastic World,” edited by Lorette Luzajic, “The Plague Papers,” edited by Robbi Nester, and the latest issues of Verse Virtual, Gyroscope, Earth’s Daughters, and Third Wednesday.
.
Memorial by M. J. Arcangelini
.
This is not just a memorial
for 9 murdered transit workers,
10 murdered shoppers,
19 murdered schoolchildren,
and the countless number
who have come before
and since.
It is a celebration
of the depth
of the ongoing love affair
between America
and its guns.
It is a demonstration of the
devotion felt for blood and bullets,
testament to the tenacity of
those who place the freedom
to shoot quickly, irrevocably,
above the lives of those
who would be killed.
And this is not just a poem
it is a cry of pain and fear,
a howl of frustration,
a wail of warning,
as again we mourn
the senseless murders of
people whose only mistake
was to show up for work,
or school, or go shopping on
a day when a festering
malcontent with
a personal arsenal
finally snapped.
.
mj
M.J. (Michael Joseph) Arcangelini, born 1952 in Pennsylvania, has resided in northern California since 1979. He began writing poetry at 11. He has published in little magazines, online journals, & over a dozen anthologies.  He is the author of five published collections, the most recent of which is “A Quiet Ghost” 2020, Luchador Press. Due out in the summer of 2022 is “Pawning My Sins” from Luchador Press.

.

pv 4

.

.

The Editors

d pan ii

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,  The Northern Virgina Review, among others. Poetry Editor at North of Oxford, an online literary journal, and former high school English teacher, she currently teleworks full-time as a Procurement Agent. More can be found about Diane at her website :  http://www.dianesahms-guarnieri.com/

g pan ii

g emil reutter is a writer of poems, stories and occasional literary criticism. He is the books review editor and site manager at North of Oxford. Seventeen collections of his poetry and fiction have been published and he can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/

.

Pandemic of Violence Anthology I – Poets Speak: https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2021/12/27/pandemic-of-violence-anthology/

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pv 8

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.

.

Pandemic of Violence II Anthology Release Date

pv 3

The release date for Pandemic of Violence II Anthology- Poets Speak has been moved up to August  20, 2022.

My Body Lives Like a Threat by Megha Sood

mega

By Candice Louisa Daquin

If we consider poetry as a polemic for societal change – then Megha Sood’s full-length poetry collection, My body lives like a threat, will strike a deep chord in the reader’s psyche. Sood doesn’t aim to soften the blow; her truth is brutal and honest, wrapped in her wordsmith craft. Social activism runs like a hot vein through these poems, imploring us to step outside boundaries and challenge the broken system until it begins to give way.

“Your breath on my skin spits and marks its boundaries. Your words carve out / the burnished wounds. The bourgeois display of pain splayed for the whole world. / To whom this body belongs? Suffering is nameless. Carved out of the tongues of those / who abused us. Misunderstood and mispronounced like a foreign language.” (Entry/Exit)

Reading these poems separated into four relevant sections, we’re submerged in a collective outrage against inequity and racism. When in recent history have, we needed a book like this more than now? They say it takes a village, and Sood’s words are a veritable village of experience. Her reach into empathy and intelligent understanding (“This lack of emergency / this hunger frothing between our teeth” – True Lies) of how the machinations of oppression, patriarchy, and injustice work, is uncanny and deeply moving. Sood’s poems deftly unravel the lies we’re told; instead, she presents the gory truth about suffering, bias, and prejudice as it really is.

“Where were the entry points for the catacombs this city / was hiding for so long chewing and spitting out the half-eaten narratives. / The flawed narratives. / Where is the blind mouth of this cave which /devoured everything which one was once black and beautiful.” (Safekeeping).

We badly need civic-minded, eyes-open poets like Megha Sood. Not to write pretty poems but to storm into a room and present the truth for all those who are too comfortable to do anything about it.

“the unbroken trails of tears have yet again / dusted by the ashes of dead and unknown / screaming from the headlines of the paper, / lying helpless at our doorsteps / waiting to be hauled in we are averting our eyes to living these days.” (Are You Listening, World?).

If poetry can cause social change, and I believe it can, then My body lives like a threat will drive a much-needed stake into the heart of apathy; forcing us to confront our notions of what is acceptable. Megha Sood has written a battle cry, and I for one am turning up. Her fierce unbridled words are searing truths for a world that has misplaced the art of truth-telling. Maybe she’s the original reason people wrote poetry.

“You are not carrying your freedom in your arms /your right to bear arms/ when the only right you give to a mother / is to stick a cross in the middle of an unknown street / giving a piece of land for her dead son.” (An Act of Self Defense, After Ahmaud Arbery).

This intense poem about a shattering event, continues scathingly:

“To hell with your right to the Second Amendment / when it’s laced with the blood / of a black brother whose murder / you are incessantly / trying to justify as self-defense.”

We think of poets as breaking conventions but even then, to blatantly call out a system with the purity of outrage, is relatively new because for so long those complaints were denied publication and only localized. Sood stands outside parochial group-think as an outsider looking in, sharing with us a collectivized observation through her no-holds-barred approach. Perhaps when you have experienced the immigrant journey and survived it, you have transcended notions of ‘place’ and you can write fearlessly on what you witness without needing to watch your tongue. There is a freedom to Sood’s truths that most will find refreshing and necessary. When poets share the inequality of the world, they forge conversation. Sood’s style is a perpetual question, calling out that which is unacceptable but accepted, that which is wrong but justified.

“how thin is the separation between / the love and the acceptance, / despair and the second chances, / between the judged and the forgiven.” (Demarcation)

And should you for a moment, think this poet is safely removed, speaking from a distance, then reflect please on the title of this book and its message of survival. Megha Sood the woman who has endured and thrived even when she thought she could not. Consider the aching truth of what it takes to survive and how even if we do, we understand the pain in a molecular level ever afterward:

“My pain impaled on the stars in the nightly sky / I shine through my pulverized skin, / the broken pieces I foraged together / to make a whole of me.” (My Survival Story).

When Sood says “I am the knowledge in the verse.” She’s not being pithy, she’s harkening to the reality of being a woman: “I’m the war cry, the mortal fear / residing behind the enemy lines.” (My Survival Story). Aside from being a well-informed polemic on the depleted state of racial equality today, Sood’s work is intensely feminist, standing in defense of all women in the 21st century. Some may say, we don’t need defending, but as long as inequity exists, that’s simply not true, and without speaking out, change will never be wrought. We need poets like Megha Sood, not just in India or America but every continent, until it becomes universally accepted to treat all people with respect. The book’s title is both a woman’s body being under threat but also being a threat (to the established norms of violence and oppression) gives a clever double-meaning to this collection’s title. With reproductive rights under attack, this is beyond timely.

This canny poetess is a leading voice in Indian-American poetry with her voice carving a way through the false belief that everyone has an equal chance in America today. Her blunt, informed, fierce voice refuses half-measures, and stands shoulder-to-shoulder alongside other social justice warriors, utilizing the power of poetry to identify and harness meaningful change.

You can find the book here: https://www.flowersongpress.com/store/p/my-body-lives-like-a-threat

Candice Louisa Daquin, Senior Editor, Indie Blu(e) Publishing. Poetry Editor, The Pine Cone Review. Writer-in-Residence, Borderless Journal. Editorial Partner, Blackbird Press. Author of Tainted by the Same Counterfeit (Finishing Line Press, 2022).

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.

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 I – Poets Speak

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.
.
Michael A. Griffith
.
Mercy
.
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.
.
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/

 .

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

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #6

“Windowbox Flowers and Rain Barrel”

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

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

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #5

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

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #6

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

 

Spring Pandemic Issues 

North of Oxford presents The Pandemic Issues.

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #1

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

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #2

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

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #3

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

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #4

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

Diane and George April 2020

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