north of oxford poetry

Two Poems by Kim Whysall-Hammond

Sunlight jags across bare branches
casts long shadows over ridge and furrow
gives no favour aloof in winterbright sky
rabbits  mourn the loss of grasses
russet brown of a red kite hunts above
chill wind cuts my coat
lazily going through not round
Pale primrose lies low
bold daffodils stand to attention
and the budding begins
sticky tree buds emerging from wood
reddish, shading to luminous green
all wait, as do I
with baited breath
for the right moment
the burst of Spring
Drowsy summer, warm and humid
brash coral flowerspikes
lean out of hedgerows
where bees amble and drone
in a bustling household I am idle
not gardening, not busy
sitting making plans to waste more time
Autumn leaves litter roads red and orange
the long slide into the cold begins again
advent madness beckons
like a siren calling us onto the rocks
of family festivities, hidden lonelinesses, retail greed and envy
soon rooftops will grow neon reindeer
all too soon it will be Christmas
She has parked behind me
putting her vehicle
and her body
in the way of traffic to protect me
and I let her
coward that I am
On the edge of a dangerous road
engine failed
lorries flash past only inches away
I shiver in February cold
dressed in office skirt and heels
look in my rear view mirror
Young woman
half my age
earning less than half my salary
public servant and protector
risking herself for me
and I let her
coward that I am
When the rescue truck finally arrives
the driver too scared to remove my car
she quietly tells him his legal duty
returns to her patrol car
I walk over and thank her
she smiles
tells me it’s her job
one she loves
As we leave
she blue lights away to another shout
smiling and waving farewell
Kim Whysall-Hammond is a Londoner, now living in a small country
town somewhere in Southern England.  She has  been published by Total
Eclipse, Fourth and Sycamore, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Three Drops from a
Cauldron, Amaryllis, Star*Line and Crannóg. An expert in obsolete
telecommunications arcana, Kim believes, against all evidence, that she
is a good dancer. You can find her at

At Summer’s End by Elizabeth Gauffreau

rose-hip-bush use jpg
At Summer’s End
We come upon a bank of beach roses
High above Portsmouth Harbor, rose hips
Unexpectedly signaling the end
Of summer. I stop to take a photograph
Crop tight the crimson ellipsis
Crop tight the leafy green symmetry.
In my memory
The fruit is smaller, rounder
The bushes a low sprawl
Of dusty leaves where sand meets road
Above Hannaford Cove, cold sweat
Of exposed water pipe beneath my bare feet.
From somewhere behind me
My mother says, Aunt Etta
Gathered rose hips to make jelly. Aunt Etta
Was my grandmother’s aunt.
In her memory
My mother is pregnant
The summer Aunt Etta
Comes to stay at the cottage
High above Hannaford Cove.
Through dormered window
She watches bemused
As the small stooped figure
Moves among the dusty bushes
Easing the rose hips off their stems.
In her memory at cliff’s edge
Etta strips rose hips from great sprawls of bushes.
Etta must boil rose hips in blackened woodstove kettle
Boil them thick, strain them clean. Rose hip jelly
Will taste of summer’s end
When the farm is frozen over
And the wind blows unforgiving
Off the Bay of Fundy.
Elizabeth Gauffreau holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. She is currently the Assistant Dean of Curriculum and Assessment at Champlain College Online in Burlington, Vermont. Recent poetry publications include One Sentence Poems, Smoky Quartz, Medical Literary Messenger, The Ekphrastic Review, and Pinyon. Recent fiction publications include Dash, Pinyon, Aji, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and Evening Street Review. Her debut novel Telling Sonny was published by Adelaide Books in 2018. Learn more about her work at

Two Poems by Mary Shanley

The Oldest Part of the City
Sometimes, if you lay very still,
you can feel the web tremble.
With the multiple corpses
we drag around inside us,
I was wearying, and then
the air changed, and I was
in motion,
Take me to the oldest part of the city,
where there are faded names of casinos
and loan sharks on the windows.
Where there is one greasy spoon among
a scarce population of people for whom
there is nothing to be done. Faces, hair
and clothing are all from the distant past.
There are whispers and murmurs
among the remnants.
Take me to the oldest part of the city,
to the Four Queens Casino,
where I can dialogue with my dreams;
where I can pretend to be a card shark;
where the ash on one of the heavily made up,
senior’s cigarette, is one inch long
Take me to the oldest part of the city,
where there is no difference between you and me.
But, how then, will I know who you are to me?
There are some things that nobody knows.
It is all hidden in the oldest part of the city.
Choke Talk
Frankie smokes on the fly
outside the Duane Reade store,
where she works as a cashier.
Every break and lunch hour,
Frankie pulls on a Camel
non-filter; her head lowered,
as if shame accompanied
every inhale.
I tried to figure Frankie’s age.
with her slight black figure
and defeat etched into the lines
on her face, Frankie looks older
than language.
When I stop for a quick, “Hello,”
Frankie attempts to speak. She
barely has enough oxygen to choke
out a, “Hello.” Like a balloon losing
air, now I see Frankie, now I don’t;
as she fades in full sight.
Mary Shanley is a poet/storyteller living with her wife in NYC.

As Promised, the fire by David P. Kozinski

As Promised, the Fire 
In the heat I saw colors
no one else could or cared about.
In the fire we lost most
of the things I cared about.
The wills, birth certificates, passports
were lodged at the bank. The art
became smoke,
then a charcoal smudge.
In the fire I smelled apple and azalea,
cedar and hemlock,
mother and father;
what they worked for.
Far from any city
stars burned holes in the skin
of my dream time. Laughter, sirens
spun rings around the world.
I was offered in the fire
the hope of revolution and stasis.
I lost people I loved during the years
of occupation. Not dead, they were misplaced,
stuck away in cupboards, hidden
in lockers, in paperwork. I sought
and could not find them again.
I heard much in the darkness
you brought with you. Most
of the captured images came clear.
You lost people too.
You prayed for them.
They died, their lights went out
and others could be seen.
Everything burned, even things
you wouldn’t expect; rivers and harbors,
identities, principles many
boasted they’d die for.
I saw the colors of ideas, some
for just a moment, while others burned
into my palette. The more profound,
the duller the hues – matte-finished gun metal,
hospital green – while funny little concepts
rose like globes from a soap bubble pipe
and popped right out of existence.
From where we huddled
dying stars sounded
like the shrieks of toads when they jump
from embankment to water, gone in the ripples.
Even the thick doors of perception
shut bank-vault tight, tall
as cathedral spires, went up.
At the end, geysers erected
steam towers to sustain the sky,
to hold it back.
Some authorities told me about cold fire
that cuts through the hardest hearts,
arteries pulsing with angry lorries
and crazy cabs. I reminded them
the avenues and boulevards are also strolled
by hand-in-hand youth,
by skeptics as well as cynics.
There’s no shame in sweat, I told them,
even the kind that poisons
the very ground when flicked
over a garden wall.
I asked these magi for references
that might unlock my box of promises
where the bedeviling of man
is kept down, churning in mushroom dark.
I read to them as they lay in blindness,
fallen into adult beds with linen
as dirty as any hospital could make it,
infirmity our timekeeper.
DPK Headshot 9-2019 (photo by P.A.M. )
David P. Kozinski received the 2018 Established Professional Poetry Fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts. His full-length book of poems, Tripping Over Memorial Day was published by Kelsay Books. He received the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, which included publication of his chapbook, Loopholes (Broadkill Press). Kozinski was named 2018 Mentor of the Year by Expressive Path, a non-profit that facilitates youth participation in the arts. He serves on the board of the Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center in Philadelphia and the editorial board of Philadelphia Stories. He is Art Editor of the Schuylkill Valley Journal.

a field of manhole covers by Jason Baldinger

a field of manhole covers
seems every morning
after sun-up the sky commits
suicide. we’re left to pockets
of gray to sit with endlessly
pull myself together, out of bed
inventory or lottery, which new
old thing hurts. stop. listen
time throbs, fuck middle
age is a helluva drug
stare out the window, don’t
notice traffic too busy
staring through time
memories fall out my eyes
I remember hangovers
better than anything,
a field of manhole covers
some years don’t dry out
too much time stretches
between narratives
that time frays and ends
same the first time as every time
I realize this might be all that’s left of this heart
Jason Baldinger is a poet from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  A former Writer in Residence at Osage Arts Community, he is co-founder and co-director of The Bridge Series. He has multiple books available including The Better Angels of our Nature (Kung Fu Treachery) and Everyone’s Alone Tonight with James Benger (Kung Fu Treachery Press) as well as the chapbook “Blind Into Leaving (Analog Submission Press). His work has been published widely in print journals and online. You can listen to him read his work on Bandcamp and on lps by the bands Theremonster and The Gotobeds.

up in the night by Edward L. Canavan

up in the night
use and advantage
eyes trained
on the inside track
a hunter of wandering reflections
as the leaves of life turn
it is best
to set the heart for the sun
so the darkness will subside
every now and again.
Edward L. Canavan is an American poet whose work has been published in The Opiate, Harbinger Asylum, Cholla Needles, as well as the January 2018 issue of North of Oxford. His first poetry collection entitled “Wreck Collection” was recently released by Cyberwit Press.    Edward currently resides in North Hollywood, California.

Settlers by Eileen Tabios

Perhaps we understood
we were practicing
but thought it benign:
what was wrong
with building housing
for the owls?
O the length of the pole
to raise that house
as high as many oaks
surrounding our home.
O the shine on
that roof of silver
corrugated steel.
O the wooden pieces
layered like siding
against outside walls
for a rustic décor
we understood the owls
would ignore but still—
            we thought—
enhanced the landscape.
But no owls knocked
on its doorless door.
For years we would
interrupt our waiting
to loosen earth around
the pole for moving
the arched entrance
towards more of
sunset, then more
of dawn, in search
of the right angle
to entice the owls.
For years we’d search
the ground beneath
the “owl condo” for
crushed bones spat out
after their meals
of less romantic wildlife:
rats, mice, voles…
For years Laura, who
was born and raised
in the area, watched us
silently (though we did
not notice her pursed lips)
until this morning
when I shared that
my husband and I
recently realized
we’d lived for two decades
in our house—“longer
than any other place.”
Laura replied, “Want
to know why no owls
live in the place you built?”
I made my eyes as wide
as those I’d seen on
internet pictures of owls.
“Those owl houses are for
barn owls. Your land
is inhabited by great horned
owls who eat barn owls.”
My eyes widened further
as if I already knew that
the eyes of great horned owls
rank among the largest of
all terrestrial vertebrates.
As if I already knew that their
eyes are adapted for nocturnal
hunting to provide a wide,
almost completely binocular field
of view, a large corneal surface
and a predominantly rod retina.
As if I already knew that instead of
turning its eyes, the owl must turn
its whole head. As if I already knew
that the great horned owl is capable
of rotating its neck 270 degrees.
“Great horned owls live
atop trees and would never
enter the house you built
atop that skinny pole.”
My eyes began to shrink
turning my gaze inward:
how much have we failed
to learn in the two decades
of living on this land
that has hosted
our most intimate sleeps?
What else should we know
that we failed to learn?
What else should we know?
I hear them in the distance
perched on treetops too high
for me to visit. Hoo hoo, bu-
bubu booh, who-hoo-ho-oo…
Their calls resist translation.
1eileen tabios

Eileen R. Tabios has released about 60 collections of poetry, fiction, essays, and experimental biographies from publishers in ten countries and cyberspace. In 2020 she will release a new poetry collection, Because I Love You, I Become War, and a short story collection, PAGPAG: The Dictator’s Aftermath in the Diaspora. Her award-winning body of work includes invention of the hay(na)ku, a 21st century diasporic poetic form that has been used by poets and artists around the world. Her writing and editing works have received recognition through awards, grants and residencies. More information is available at Eileen R. Tabios

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #4

Party Underground (1)

Painting – Party Underground by Belinda Subraman

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


Hart Island by J Thomas Brown
They come to me, a time-worn island, once more.
They come to me in rows two wide, in layers three deep,
and I am too weary from the holding and can hold no more.
A child, grasping a handful of my grass, once said to a poet:
What is this grass? He answered he did not know,
that it seemed to be the beautiful uncut hair of graves.1
The tides, in unceasing motion, have worn my sides away.
My belly of earth, no longer fit for the task, splits, gives up its secrets.
See the clean white bones on their march into the bay.
Here, the water laps a shoulder blade resting on my gale eaten shore.
Nearby, protrudes the thigh of a Union prisoner who starved in the South,
and here, the ribs of one too poor to pay.
Over there, the jaw of a woman who died alone,
unsaved by burning pitch and cannon blast to scare Yellow Jack away.
Close by, the bones of a homeless man found in an alleyway.
Enough, enough. Today, a backhoe and fresh scrobis2
for the unclaimed who have passed.
May at last their dreams be happy,
beneath the leaves of grass.
1. From Song of Myself by Walt Whitman, 1892 version . . .it seemed to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
2. scrobis: a trench or grave
J Thomas Brown has had short stories published in Scarlet Leaf Review and Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet. I am a contributor to Lingering in the Margins: A River City Poets Anthology, Rattlecast, and Grotesque Quarterly Review. Mooncalf, a collection of poems, was self-published as an ebook and as an audiobook by Authors Republic. Two novels, The Land of Three Houses (historical fiction) and The Hole in the Bone (historical adventure fantasy), were published in 2018.
Two Poems by Emily Bilman
Time’s Disintegration
Will Covid-19 spread from the fish markets
into a metallic pool where we will mutate
into primordial fish while others remain above
the disintegration of Time? Will we, at last, leave
the bats, foxes, and pangolins in the own
kingdoms, safe from our manipulations
to avoid Covid’s thousand mutations?
Will we slow down our pace as in our
confinement to prevent Dali’s warped Time
from turning the metallic pool into bullets? Or
will our broken Time dry out all the olive trees?
Will flowers mutate into plastic objects floating
on a jelly-sea of brine below the surface? Or
will currents still circulate in the oceans
and clear the air we breathe? In the post
Covid-19 space, will our Time be stretched
into the poem’s eternal present, allowing
us transformative change through
language, rhythm, and thought?
The Stages of Cruelty
1751 & 2020
While a gentleman offers a tart to stop the murderer
The dog is killed with an arrow stuck to its body
While another boy pulls on his throat with a rope.
A youngster ties a bone to another dog’s tail and grins
While the dog tries to catch it. Cats are hung on a pole
And a bird’s eye is cauterized with a stick as boys watch.
The sadism of Hogarth’s slum-boys that turns boys
Into tyrants, in turn, makes men into poachers who murder
Pangolins and sell their scales for medicine, their meat for food.
Bitten by bats, pangolins, traded and consumed for their meat
Spread the Covid-19 virus, killing thousands by lung
Constriction, leaving the rest of us in mute confinement.
Dr. Emily Bilman is London Poetry Society’s Stanza representative in Geneva where she lives and teaches poetry. Her dissertation, The Psychodynamics of Poetry, was published by Lambert Academic in 2010 and Modern Ekphrasis in 2013 by Peter Lang, CH. Three poetry books, A Woman By A Well, Resilience, and The Threshold of Broken Waters were published by Troubador, UK in 2015 and the latest in 2018

Two Poems By Akshaya Pawaskar
As light as they come
We were sitting tall
atop a Howdah.
Looking down our noses
at the mastodon tusks,
thinking them servile
thinking them tamed,
How our tiny bodies
usurped nature,
overthrew gods
and straddled
mapped Pangea,
navigated Thalassa,
touched Mars.
Now a scream pierces
the sky, silently
reverberates across
We cower for shelter.
Houses turn sacred
they have a glamour
as temples are abandoned,
gods walk out of the idols
and follow us home.
We run for life
to the deepest recesses
hiding from enemies
invisible, wingless
as light as they come
yet carrying death
on their formless backs.
The way of the world
How we are divining the civilization,
How we are trying to exorcise the evil,
How it is always intangible smoke like.
How we feel guilty about writing poems
yet how they churn out faster from
stillness of the sealed houses.
How we watch the numbers ebb and flow
watch the uptick and lose hope.
How we light candles, bang utensils
and make noises to break the silence.
How those who set out on a soul searching
journey are returning home and learning
they are none the wiser, yet how
we are rediscovering ourselves inside
the four walls, going back to basics.
How a pandemic starts and ends?
How does one come out of this crisis,
a changed person, a better human.
How long till one forgets the lesson,
the history repeats and we start again
from scratch, the humbled ones.
Akshaya Pawaskar is a doctor practicing in India and poetry is her passion. Her poems have been published in Tipton Poetry journal, Indian ruminations, The Blue Nib, North of Oxford, Rock and Sling, Shards and Red Fez.


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

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

First Three Issues 

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #1 Poets: Howie Good, Marion Deutche Cohen, Alan Toltzis, Charles Rammelkamp, Gloria Parker, Len Krisak, Ed Krizek, Mervyn Taylor, Carl Kaucher, M. J. Arcangelini, Eileen R. Tabios, Bryon Beynon, Greg Bem, Richard Nester and John D. Robinson. 

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #2

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

North of Oxford- The Pandemic Issue #3

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


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

North of Oxford – The Pandemic Issue #2

Rooted (1)

Painting – Rooted by Belinda Subraman

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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



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


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


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