poems

New From Our Book Review Editor

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Poems of the Pennypack – (Moonstone Press)

g emil reutter’s Poems of the Pennypack has just been released by Moonstone Press. The chapbook captures the respite the park provides to residents from the bustle of city life, reutter’s affinity for the park and the nature that thrives in it.

What Others Say:

Poems of the Pennypack is a forthright book, which reflects a lifetime of exploring a place and one’s self in relation to that place. The poems have a quiet clarity as the book becomes both guide and map. g emil reutter writes, “Beauty and violence of nature in plain view / in this nature sanctuary of Philadelphia / called Pennypack.” Reading the poems now in the spring of 2020 readers may find some of the solace they have been seeking and noticing again in nature. As reutter writes, “nature has reclaimed it, meadows, forest and wildlife are abundant.” There is always more to explore, but there are no pyrotechnics. The book is direct and unselfconscious and the poems keep hitting closer and closer to home. -Thomas Devaney

On Line at : https://moonstone-arts-center.square.site/product/g-emil-reutter-poems-of-the-pennypack/221?cs=true%20

Now available: The Pennypack Environmental Center, 8600A Verree Road, Philadelphia, Pa. 19115.

New From The Poetry Editor

I am pleased to congratulate our hard working Poetry Editor Diane Sahms on some recent publications. Diane has always been committed to the promotion of the art as well as promotion of poets. I thought it proper to promote her art with our readers. Click to have a look.

g  

… The Poem Monarch at Tiny Seed Journal.

… The poem Shoes at Coffin Bell Journal.

… The poem Tonight, I bid them all a crowned farewell in the spotlight  at e c l e c t i c a.

… Three Iris poems at Yellow Mama Magazine:

Iris’s mind eclipsed.

Iris’s musings as a single mother.

Iris’s freedom of self through unlocked words.

Dead Shark on The N Train by Susana H. Case

By Lynette Esposito

Released in June 2020 by Broadstone Books,  Dead Shark on the N Train by Susana H. Case is one of those volumes of poetry that reaches beyond the pale to explore gender. sexual politics and violence. The poetic range in this seventy-nine- page tome of poems is broad and compelling.
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Case divides the volume into three sections: Living Dolls, Crime Scenes, and Storm Clouds.  Each section carries the theme of the titles. For example, the poem Diva (After Maria Callas) on page five in The Living Dolls section explores the roll of an expensive and talented mistress who must sneak in a side door to see her dying lover. The poem is in two stanzas with the first stanza dominating in length.  The poem speaks of a songstress being forced to sing since she was a child and turning from it to love.  The first stanza ends with the power play of one lover over another.
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                        If the man you love leaves you
                        to woo the most famous woman in the world
                        because she represents America—more
                        refined and even thinner than you—you’ll hole up
                        in your apartment until he begs you
                        to take him back, threatening to crash
                        his Mercedes into your building if you won’t.
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The poem clearly represents the woman on the side who must sneak into the place where he is dying and calls herself his canary with her voice cracking on high C. The poem is successful in both implied and literal images that tells a story both of love and betrayal.
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In the Crimes Scene section, Jane Doe a short three-stanza poem on page thirty-seven, mixes the image of the unknown female cadavers who are tagged with the name Jane Doe with a Smith who is only a Smith a per centage of the time.  In the second stanza, aggression is hidden in the linen clarifies the situation. The third stanza of the poem is powerful in referencing the fragmented lives women lead– coordinated but undefined.
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                               Fashionable teal and beige heels
                               at the foot of the bed.
                               Matching jacket on the chair.
                               Under the blanket, who is she really?
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The stanza shows the image of a woman who outside of the bedroom presents one image but really is nothing more than a Jane Doe when protected by the bed clothes. Or is she?
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In the final section, Storm Clouds, her title poem is presented on page fifty-two, Dead Shark on the N Train. The narrator speaks of a dead fish being admired then left behind on the subway to smell it up.  Tongue in cheek, the narrator says nothing surprises New Yorkers.  The poem then turns to a confession of how the narrator escaped the place she grew up but only makes it across the river.  This is a clever way of showing how connected we are and that somehow, we don’t stray too far. The reader then sees a picture of not a dead fish on the N but a man on #1 who has a heart attack and dies. His corpse rode the loop.
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If life is about a journey, both the fish and the man were involved with a major difference, one was noticed and the other was not.
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                                 .. .Like a man
                                  in his habitat, he seemed to be napping
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The poem is effective in its presentation of human nature in an everyday setting with an ironic twist.
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I enjoyed this book.  Case takes a consistently fresh approach no matter what subject she addresses.  She has a light touch but profound meaning in her poetic work.
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You can find the book here: www.BroadstoneBooks.com

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Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University, Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.

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My Mother’s Transvestites by Tiff Holland

tiff
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By Charles Rammelkamp
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As in her 2011 flash fiction collection, Betty Superman, winner of the Rose Metal Press’ Short Short Chapbook contest, the star of this poetry collection is the narrator’s mother. But she’s not the only star. There’s so much else going on in these poems, from reminiscences of a Midwest childhood to fluctuating gender identity to sex, death, marriage and parenthood.
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But the title poem and the prose poem that begins the book, “Hot Work,” both focus on the men who come into her mother’s beauty salon, men who “would like nothing more than to mingle under dryers, nibble donuts, discuss The Enquirer with the other ladies.”  The poem concludes:
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My mother applies the transvestites’ make-up. I feign sleep in a shampoo
chair, sneak peaks at finished products: wingless angels with five o’clock
shadow, tottering in circles between the dryers and the styling chairs,
trying in that small space to learn to fly.
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How like her mother’s female clients, whom Holland shows us in “The Beauty Shop Ladies”:
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They really want to be movie stars
Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford, Vivien
Leigh. They’ve seen “The Women”,
and they like to lounge on the settee-
shaped shampoo chairs while awaiting
their turn as the focus of my mother’s
attention.

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They all smoke in the way
of the rich and famous, holding
Salems and Winstons with just
the tips of their middle and fore-
fingers, close to the filters, calling
attention to their manicures,
the hue of their lips.
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The narrator’s mother skillfully juggles the fragile egos, like a magician. Other poems involving the mother include “Vanilla” (“Still in rollers, cigarette clenched between dentures, / Mom sat at the kitchen table….”), “Resemblance,” which is also about the narrator’s daughter, “Kenny,” “Orange, Brown, Yellow, Red,” “Thanksgiving,” and “The Vagina Tax,” in which she alludes to her mother’s death. This poem also concerns the narrator’s daughter.
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I admit, when the amniocentesis came back
Girl, I suggested murder-suicide: you, me
the Girl in my belly. I refused to birth into
this world another being to make only
seventy-six cents for every dollar
a boy would make.
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The mother appears in others, but this is a nice place to segue to two of Holland’s other potent themes, gender identity and sex. Early on, we get a picture of the narrator as a tomboy. In “Vanilla,” the mother dresses her son up like a girl, and of course the kids on the bus picked on him. The narrator pounded them. In “Flared,” we also read about clothing, and the narrator’s distaste for girlie clothes. “Foundations” which also deals with feminine garb, begins:
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About the time I was trying to decide
whether to have a sex change operation
but before I threw all my dresses and skirts,
my slips and nylons in the trash,
my boyfriend invited me to a fancy nightclub
for New Year’s Eve.
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This poem is neatly balanced by the final poem in the collection, “The Last Dress,” in which the narrator reflects on the last female garment she kept, but only for “wedding or funeral, over / seventy degrees, my / attendance obligatory.” As in the poems already cited and others like “Once I Wore a Red Bikini” and “”Don’t Ask,” the narrator’s ambivalence about gender roles as manifested in clothing and appearances is likewise upfront and center.  The poem – the book! – ends with positive self-affirmation:
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Really, I abandoned it because
I had no where to go in which
I had any reason to be someone
other than myself.
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Speaking of funerals, they are the subject of more than a few of these poems. “Carry On” is about the narrator’s father’s funeral. “Grandma Gone Out of Breeden West Virginia” is about burying her grandmother on the day she turned eight. “Eulogy for O’Toole” is about her mother’s second husband’s funeral. “Elegy for Uncle Bill” is a sweet tribute to a loved uncle, who in some sense still lives on. “In some theories of time, / everything is happening at once.”
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Indeed, the poems in which the narrator re-creates her childhood in Ohio are like this. “Purple Town,” “A Piece of August,” “Yanked” and “Burning Ghost Money in Akron, Ohio” bring the Midwest to life. The narrator married at seventeen to a boy going into the army, and several of the poems address this aspect of her coming of age, such as “Watch, Necklace, Luggage,” which is about the wedding, the reception in the Eagles hall where her Uncle Buddy’s band supplied the entertainment.  “Between home and homesick is the highway, / the Day’s Inn at Cave City, Kentucky,” she begins the poem, “No Need for Room Service.” It’s a poem about escaping from home. The occasion for this poem is not clear, though I like to think of it as the narrator and her husband after the wedding.  “Just past claustrophobia, we slip / from Central to Eastern Standard Time….” A vivid character named Tracy, a sort of “town slut” figure, appears in three of the Midwest poems, including the title poem.
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There is so much to admire about My Mother’s Transvestites, not the least of which is the humor that makes you smile on almost every page, the sympathetic characters, not the least of whom are the narrator and her mother, and the humanity that lies underneath it all.
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You can find the book here: My Mother’s Transvestites
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Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for Brick House Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, was  published by Future Cycle Press.  Most recently Catastroika  was released by Apprentice House in 2020.
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Two Poems by Evan Anders

butterfly
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divinity of spring
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            sculpting the silence
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            we know rain is upon us
            we know there is rage behind the sun
            we know the gutted butterfly will rise
            from her tomb to question the dawn.
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            this will not enthrall
            the thorns but nothing will.
 .
            if we are free
            .
            complaining is the only form
            i’m capable of displaying.
            .
            with each death we become
            further detached from the breast
            increasingly animalistic
            continually somber
            periodically sober.
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            when nothing remains
            but horizon
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            spring will have sprung
            oblivious to suffering
            .
            oblivious as always
            in his fit of rage
            god will go
            unnoticed.
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                                    we are rumors
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time whittles
the wick
.
unrelenting
my forefinger drips blood
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a couplet of wine
amongst the stratosphere
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we are rumors
.
brush strokes
overanalyzed
.
a signal of forces
left to our devices.
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sorrow begs sorrow,
you know
.
we were created
in a glimpse
.
constructed
to be extinguished.
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evananders
Evan Anders brews coffee for mass consumption in Philadelphia. His poems have appeared in Philadelphia Stories, California Quarterly, North Dakota Quarterly, and Poetry Quarterly.
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Flowers Growing in Time-Lapse to Music by Judy Kronenfeld

cot
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Flowers Growing in Time-Lapse to Music
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In this spring of contagion, I get caught
by those videos of the vegetable world—
with its own inexorable will—
pushing up through heavy loam:
bent buds straightening
and unfolding
on stiffening stalks—
dear as cramped bird heads
stretching out
of beak-cracked eggs;
just-new petals
flutter-testing themselves—
touching as birth-wet calves
stumbling up on shaky legs.
And no decay.
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All the blind plants busy
as an orchestra playing
prestissimo, almost fast enough
for my mortal eye to imagine
cotyledon to stunning blossom
known all-at-once
in timeless Mind—the barrier
of becoming, broken.
As if there were
an instant plan
for everything natural,
and it was perfectly
beneficent.
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MJE_6853a
Judy Kronenfeld is the author of four full-length collections and two chapbooks of poetry, including Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017), Shimmer (WordTech, 2012), and Light Lowering in Diminished Sevenths, 2nd edition (Antrim House, 2012)—winner of the 2007 Litchfield Review Poetry Book Prize.

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
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Henry Crawford
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View From The Refrigerated Truck
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The one below me died last Thursday.
They took him to the ICU the day before.
Put him on a ventilator.
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Next to me a woman I remember
from the waiting room. The steel doors opened
to a blast of sunlight and cold vapor.
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Stacked her in the first
vacant space.
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My wife caught me coughing.
Drove me down in our yellow Honda Civic.
She knew this woman.
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They’d gone to junior high together.
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There’s room for another body
on my left. I saw a technician sneezing
as they were hooking up my drips.
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It might be nice to see her again
but not here.
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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.
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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.
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Megha Sood
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Insane “New” Normal
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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
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you are left alone
in a vacant mind
lying on the death bed
reminiscing the day love embraced you
around a summer bonfire
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now loneliness bounces off
sepia-tinged walls
death draped in pristine
white sheets sitting
at the foot of the bed
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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.
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A Condolence Call
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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
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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
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Sudden loss disjoints your body, the pieces don’t seem to fit anymore
Body and language are extricable. Our tongue moves in the way
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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
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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.
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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.
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Which starts again the same way it ended yesterday Or was it tomorrow?
With sidewalks pitted with the bones of the dead.
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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
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like a failing enjambment from one meaningless conversation
to another till we ran out of the small talk. The silences between
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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.
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This City Weeps. This City Wails
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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.
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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
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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.
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This city wails. This city weeps.
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Conjecture
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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
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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.
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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
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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.
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What buds have birthed in the small garden, I wonder.
Some losses are too heavy to count, some debts are too big to pay.
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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.
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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/
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Sheila Allen with Emily Jensen
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Silent Killer
    -For Mark Romutis
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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
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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
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These are lyrics written after my brother died on April 12. – Sheila Allen
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Kerry Trautman
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Introvert Quarantined
.
It should be heaven here at home with people I
love and made, bright things I
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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M. J. Arcangelini
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Pandemic Ghazal
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pacing the yard just past dawn. Birds chattering,
free to fly wherever they wish.
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Television talking heads spewing numbers,
pointing to charts, somehow translates into lives.
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Mask as fashion statement. Sequined mask. Flag mask.
Mask as political position. Frightened old masked man.
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What are your symptoms this morning? What?
You don’t have any? Look again. Look again.
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Talking to shadows. The empty guest chair.
The solitary bed. Swapping photos with Onan.
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Even the recluse gets lonely when he’s
denied what he had chosen to forego.
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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.
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Stephen Bochinski
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Us
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Christine Riddle
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Sheltering in Place: Week 5
.
In the pre-dawn stillness I imagine I can hear the Earth’s heartbeat
pulsing in harmony with the cosmos, reliably in orbit,
unfazed by this pandemonium. Meanwhile, I’ve been flung off course,
diverted onto a foreign trajectory, destination uncertain.
I mask, I distance, but mostly I shelter in place
and wonder what’s to become of us.
.
Other crises arrive in a spectacle: tsunamis, wildfires, Twin Towers.
But this time there was no seismic shift, no arsonist, no terrorists.
This one crept in quietly and scattered like mercury uncontained.
Like fog at sea it knows no bounds, its reach is limitless.
Its victims transformed into weapons.
.
Whether human creation or Nature’s spawn it lives among us now.
And I must accept that the unthinkable is reality,
that we were so smugly unprepared,
that we are all vulnerable.
.
In the pre-dawn stillness, birds still sing.
.
Christine Riddle’s poetry has appeared in Moments of the Soul, Ink to Paper, Prize Poems 2020, and will soon be published in Tennessee Voices an Anthology. An essay appears in Far Villages.
.
Maria Keane
.
Containment
.
Blackened flowers
tangle in weeds.
Crimes become catacombs of amnesia.
.
Time lapses, behavior struggles for the
flavor of freedom, the right to claim
air to breathe, enduring the
struggle to stay alive.
.
Scarred wings of memory
struggle for liberty, all movement
shocked by a third rail of dying.
.
Keane’s published poetry, has been the recipient of several literary grant residency awards by the Delaware Division of Arts.  Her poetry has received national honors by the National League of American Pen Women. A book of poetry, Being There (includes illustrations by the author) was published in October, 2018.  It was awarded a First in the Creative verse/ book award by the Delaware Press Women Her visual art was awarded a Professional Fellowship in Works on Paper in 1997 by the DDOA and the NEA.
.
Marko Otten
.
rainforest lockdown
.
we have known rainforests
visiting them partly for our pleasure
we penetrated them deeply keen on their mysteries
.
every time I thought I’d come out a better person
returning home wiser like mister natural
.
a week after reinstated lockdown
we tried to venture into the inner city
to skulk around at night
the only people under blue towers and
most silent raining
.
streets glistening under lampposts and neon lights
suddenly plain to see: a wilderness exposed midtown
wilder than what we’d seen anywhere ever before
retreat
confused guessing
wait a minute: wasn’t that a cab few blocks down?
yes we did see one
maybe not
something was moving
or driving around
or did you
for a moment I just…
.
retreat
no better person to return home
unexplored wild calling
.
Marko Otten is a Dutch poet who reads and writes poetry in English. The expressive powers of the language got him hooked. Marko Otten is a published historian and a supervisor in education. He graduated at Groningen University (1982 with honors) and took classes at New York University and at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. He is married to Anne. Their children Judith and Martijn married and settled in Zutphen and Barcelona respectively.
.
Patricia Carragon
.
send me an angel
(inspired by Klaus Meine and Rudolf Schenker of the Scorpions)
.
wisdom comes with maturity   but it’s hard to be wise
when your nation caters to avarice and ignorance
.
you never saw the storm seize the new year
& like the government   life shuts down for struggle to thrive
.
anxiety doesn’t believe in social distancing
sends cryptic messages between you and your mask
.
you did your best   prayed for that miracle
that fell prey to lies & deceit
.
open your eyes   your angel left for another zoom call
.
stay locked in your quarantine
watch gray feathers   etched in red   blow off the fire escape
.
the trapper & the furrier
            (inspired by regina spektor)
.
2020   a strange   strange year
like a time bomb   waiting   for breaking news to strike
.
beasts in filthy cages
pellets and food   pets from puppy mills
.
children sleep in soiled cages
family separation   asylum still out of reach
.
dystopian predictions   dystopian facts
.
big business declares war on its workers
unions   wages   healthcare   live at triage
.
newspeak from the white house
twists failure into praise   fiction into history
.
our self-proclaimed leader plays mobster roulette
the press   elections   & laws face execution
he gives carte blanche to an alien dressed as the flu
.
& the sick keep getting sicker
with too many fevers   chills   coughs    & losses of smell & taste
.
death toll rising   ghost towns replace cities
bodies overflow morgues   the homeless live underground
.
tests & cures not fast enough
business as usual for corporate generals
.
2020   a strange   strange year
people shut indoors   waiting   not knowing what to believe
their time bombs   not knowing when to explode
.
Patricia Carragon latest books from Poets Wear Prada are Meowku and The Cupcake Chronicles, and Innocence from Finishing Line Press. Ms. Carragon hosts Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual anthology and is an executive editor for Home Planet News Online. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
.
Jonel Abellanosa
.
Dirge in the Time of the Pandemic
.
The dark is mastering me, peace of mind
a measure it plays as if it desires personhood.
I give the twelfth hour a simple name –
.
“Midnight.”
.
Curtains hiding glass panes hint blue,
place in my mind where time doesn’t pass,
no need for anything to be done, no need for
.
accomplishments.
.
Light flashes outside, and I know the sky
over my heart speaks no thunder.
When the moon leaves, I resume my part
.
in the world.
.
Living has become so hard, loved ones
families lose like notes a mournful song
leaves to silence. It doesn’t have to be
.
this way
.
but in the world that holds echoes
“Greed” is more powerful than the powerto end the music that keeps repeating.
.
Jonel Abellanosa lives in Cebu City, the Philippines. He is a nature lover, an environmental advocate, and loves all animals particularly dogs. His poetry and fiction have appeared in hundreds of literary journals and anthologies, including Windhover, The Lyric, Star*Line, Fox Chase Review, Poetry Kanto, Marsh Hawk Review, That Literary Review, Bosphorous Review of Books and The Anglican Theological Review. His poetry collections include, “Meditations” (Alien Buddha Press), “Songs from My Mind’s Tree” and “Multiverse” (Clare Songbirds Publishing House), “50 Acrostic Poems,” (Cyberwit, India), “In the Donald’s Time” (Poetic Justice Books and Art), and his speculative poetry collection, “Pan’s Saxophone” (Weasel Press). He loves to self-study the sciences.
.
Reizel Polak
.
Delivery during Quarantine 
.
This unexpected sight the sad
park benches unfriendly to elderly
to pause take pleasure in the shrubbery
the whistling birds yellow tape crossed over
armrest to armrest defends against
a tranquil freedom to sit in the company
of others to talk tell a joke and yet
every one has begun to know
to stay apart cover-up one’s mouth
one’s nose still the eyes can speak
I see another pedestrian walking this way
your face I think looks gloomy your glance
far away I nod I smile with my eyes
in this square I pass through and out of
an eerie-quiet air the hedgerow birds
sing out of sight double whistles
I wish I knew to name these voices
such comfort I admit to love deeply
the sound of the birds calling to each other
the sound of creation every new day
and here what comes along ahead tugging
on a leash a little dog turning back
to glance at me where I follow its owner
at a distance along this path descending
to the grounds of willow trees what odd
connection this dog wagging its tail
seems to awaken between my human element
& animal life another pedestrian this way
you nod I nod as we slip past
each other to my errand on nearly-
abandoned streets residents as separate
distinct unique on this extraordinary ride
on Earth bound-up in the presence
of the Unknowable to see best we can
entering the written pages of history to come
.
I am a member of The Academy of American Poets. My poems have been published in Midstream, Ibbetson Street Press, Greville Press Pamphlets U.K, others, and one pending publication in Annals of Internal Medicine.
.
Lois Perch Villemaire
.
Peanut Butter
.
I have a mild sore throat and feel lightheaded.
Tightness in my chest and congestion.
Back of my hand to forehead.
Feverish?
Oh please.
I can’t have the virus.
I could develop respiratory issues,
Have to be hospitalized,
And need to go on a ventilator.
They say only 20% survive
being on a ventilator.
They say a symptom of the virus is
losing sense of smell.
I march to the kitchen pantry,
Pull out a jar of peanut butter,
Unscrew the top,
inhale deeply through my nose.
Ah, yes, I definitely smell peanut butter.
Thank goodness.
.
Lois Perch Villemaire lives in Annapolis, MD. She is inspired by life experiences and enjoys writing poetry, flash fiction, and memoir. Her work has appeared in Potato Soup Journal, The Drabble, FewerThan500, Pen-in-Hand, MWA Journal, and Global Poemic. She blogs for annapolisdiscovered.com and annapoliswellnesshouse.org
.
Stephen Page
.
Grocery Shopping
.
I am sitting in our dull-gray
Pathetically petite rental car
With the cracked windshield and tiny
Unhubcapped tires,
(Last Friday Teresa smashed our sleek
White SUV that drives like a yacht
Gliding over calm waters)
Alone, my mask around my neck,
Waiting for my her
To finish grocery shopping
(Only one family member
Is allowed entrance at any time).
.
When will I ever learn?
I have been here before,
I have been here before,
I have been here before,
Thousands of times
(Though mostly before the mask),
Hungry, thirsty, hours
                                    Passing by,
Worrying if maybe she had fallen,
And medics are attending to her,
(I don’t have my phone, and she left hers
For me to hold onto)
But knowing that most likely
She was wandering inside the clothing stores
Inside the shopping mall
That just reopened,
Only to know, that as I don my mask and enter
A hunting/fishing gear store that opens
From the parking lot, that she will
Reappear outside as soon as I enter,
Looking for me,
Searching the parking lot
For me and our ugly rental car.
.
I purchase a camouflage backpack,
A 9 mm pistol, a hunting knife,
and a hand-size stun device.
I stuff the three defense/attack components into
The outside pocket of the pack,
And as I exit the store,
There she is, wandering the lot,
Her arms stretched, her shoulders hunched, holding
Bags filled with things
Only she thinks we need,
Having no idea that she is late
For an appointment with our lawyer
Concerning the accident, or that I
Had been waiting for hours.
.
I am past starvation and dehydration,
But I smile behind my mask
As I walk toward her.
I gently lift the packages from her surgical gloved
Hands.
.
Stephen Page is part Native American. He was born in Detroit. He holds degrees from Palomar College, Columbia University, and Bennington College and is a rancher in Argentina . He wears a mask whenever he ventures outside and socially distances.  He loves his wife, spontaneous road trips, long walks through woodlands, and making noise with his electric bass.
.
John Stickney
.
 Somewhere Among  Us a Virus is Taking Notes
        (after C. Simic and Z. Herbert)
.
This virus
is the perfect
student
.
Unlike you
it is careful
of boundaries
.
Exact marks
entered
in the margins
.
It sees you
eyes
calm and clear
.
And
at the end
of term?
.
A report card
filled with the
“Highest” marks
.
(inspired by the push to open US Schools)
.
My Bookshelf Background
.
Broadcasting here
From within
A definite space
Of relatively
Small intent –
.
Oh, ain’t we
Just all
So well read
.
(inspired by the backgrounds of experts featured on TV through the magic of Zoom)
.
Look To The Sky
.
Because the mice escaped the lab
with the ability to control similar sized minds,
they have roped themselves to the backs of ravens
and plan an aerial assault
on your cupboard filled with
Cheetos,
Cheese Curls,
Cheez-Its,
Cheese Nips,
Cheddar Bunnies,
Cheez Wiz
and those delicious,
cheesy
Goldfish.
 .
(inspired by the Pandemic Fifteen caused by snacking)
.
John Stickney is a poet/writer originally from Cleveland, OH, currently living in the coastal area of Wilmington, NC.)
.
Ethel Gofen
.
If the symptoms of Covid-19 you feel
Here’s a doctor’s plan to help you, I’ll reveal:
Inhale, hold your breath five seconds, then exhale.
Do this five times in a row and do not fail.
On the sixth breath end it with a cough galore.
Then repeat this whole breathing routine once more.
Next lie on your stomach, pillow at your head.
Don’t lie on your back but on your front instead.
Spend ten minutes taking breaths slightly deeper
Than normal.  (Later you can be a sleeper).
This allows your smallest airways to get air.
J. K. Rowling claims this method gave her care
When she had the symptoms though never a test
For Coronavirus this plan is the best.
.
Ethel Gofen is a retired freelance writer, author of two books as part of a series, Cultures of the World, for which I wrote the volumes on France and Argentina in 1990 and 1992. Ethel and her  husband and both had Covid-19 in May although I had no symptoms.
.
Nan Ottenritter
.
street garden
.
cathedral-like canopy above
black asphalt below
kids in the street
chalked glorious flowers
blooming where they are planted
.
as a child
.
in the garden,
nowhere to go,
on my own for
what-to-do,
i remember possibility.
.
quarantined today
in the garden,
nowhere to go,
some to-dos,
i sing the purple iris,
.
the bird rejecting thistle,
downing suet.
a sense of possibility
flirts, hovers.
i await its landing.
.
The beforetime
.
is over, she said.
I knew what
she meant, having
stopped imagining
a going- back,
a return to normal.
.
In the beforetime,
stock portfolios and
stocked kitchen shelves
shielded me.
The presence of others
was mostly a comfort,
working invisible magic
in my heart.
.
In this middletime,
I hunker down,
grow a garden,
grow myself,
with only a wire to the world,
a good book.
I am finally
in and of place.
.
Nan Ottenritter is a poet and musician living in Richmond, VA. Her works have appeared in the Artemis Journals: Women hold up half the sky, TheNewVerseNews, Poets Reading the News, Life in 10 Minutes, the 2019 Poetry Society of Virginia Anthology, and As You Were: The Military Review.
.
Larry C. Tolbert
.
To Accept Once and For All
.
I open with praise for
Our dark-skinned
Brothers and sisters
Your dogged
Determination
To be free,
Watching family
And friends
Strange fruit indeed
One by one cut down
From trees,
.
Snarling dogs
Water cannons
Never good news in
Police rifle reports
.
Rest in peace
Silenced freedom’s friends
You, not Jesus, died for our
Original sins
.
I praise the
One in six people
Our founding fathers
Labeled dark-skinned
Alienable exceptions
Within a
White constitution
At our country’s
Inception
.
I praise your
Black constitution
For enduring the
Resulting
Unimaginable
Abuse
.
Your free labor fueled
An economy to
Unholy heights
Drove a nation’s soul
Along sharp saber’s edge,
Unfathomable
Pools of blood,
Unmeasured
Depths of shame
.
Your road to hell paved
With such good intentions
Of ill-bestowed certain
Self-evident truths
—All men created equal
With unalienable rights,
Among those
Life,
Liberty, the
Pursuit of happiness—
.
I close with this prayer,
May we all awake
Sooner and better from
This 2020 nightmare of
Worldwide disease,
Economic collapse,
Inept, venal leaders and
Social unrest to
Unite and achieve at
Long last call
Long-sought
Justice on race in
A world
That works
For all
.
To accept once and for all
What has always been true
That—
Unalienable rights
Denied
Become wrongs
To accept once and for all
What has always been true
That—
We are “E Pluribus Unum”
“One from many”
 Black, brown, yellow
 Red, white, and blue
To accept once and for all
What has always been true
That—
We are all one race
The Human Race
Me     And     You
.
Larry C. Tolbert is a writer and poet with master’s degrees from the University of Illinois and San Francisco State University. Raised by grandparents on a Southern Illinois farm, he has lived in Northern California his entire adult life. His work has been published in Birdland Journal and ESCOM Journal (College of Marin).
.
Kirsty A. Niven
.
Setting
.
Pink clouds brush the slates of tenements,
a sugary blush, candy floss breath –
the world is a bleary-eyed painting,
the street a Dundonian Hopper.
.
The only eye that sees me here,
a glass square with lace eyelashes.
Tear stain speckles mark the glass,
machine gun sputters in a speakeasy.
.
Dust fills my lungs like an hourglass.
My plaster skin dries in the heavy air,
the steady descent to forgotten stone.
The centre remains a hollow.
.
A cavern with an echoing scream –
dropping downwards into an infinite abyss
judged by stabbing stalactites
for another isolation infused ramble.
.
Finality falls over the chimneys.
.
Kirsty A. Niven lives in Dundee, Scotland. Her writing has appeared in anthologies such as Landfall, Nocturne and Of Burgers and Barrooms. She has also featured in several journals and magazines, including The Dawntreader, Cicada Magazine, Dundee Writes and Causeway/Cabhsair. Kirsty’s work can also be found online on sites such as 45 Magazine, Ponder Savant and Nine Muses Poetry.
.
Roderick Deacey
.
A Virus Among Us     
.
These days, we live in hope – we can’t be sure –
the damage is extensive, I’m afraid!
Things won’t return to how they were before
.
So, must we wear these masks for evermore
like characters in some bizarre charade?
We hope not, but we really can’t be sure.
.
We dine well-spaced outside the café door
and pray no-one is sick where the meal’s made.
Is their home-made bread as good as before?
.
Shall we drink till we can think no more?
Turn back the clock and let our worst fears fade?
Hopes can come true, can’t they? We’re not so sure.
.
Each day we count our dead and keep the score;
this cruel curse is like a deadly blade!
Things can’t go back to how they were before.
.
The mighty plague has dragged us to the floor!
So shall we rise up once more, undismayed?
That’s our hope, but we know one thing for sure –
we won’t go back to who we were before.
.
Roderick Deacey is a performing poet based in Frederick, MD, appearing regularly in the DC area with his bass-player and drummer. His book of beat poems, “neo-beatery ballads” was published in 2019. Deacey won the Frederick Arts Council Carl R. Butler Award for Literature in 2019.
.
Gwil James Thomas
.
Now That The World Has Changed.
.
If there’s one thing that the world
isn’t short of at the moment
it’s Coronavirus poems –
but now that the world has changed,
that’s not hardly fucking surprising either.
.
I remember one wild and lost year
constantly finding fresh trouble,
whilst clinging to my past –
until one day I finally
opened my eyes to the world
around me and decided that
it was time to move on,
but as I did I also found the world
had moved faster than I’d remembered
and I’d wanted it to somehow
slow down for a little while
so that I could catch back up with it –
then recently it did and now
everyone’s wearing hazmat suits,
turning on one another
and slowly going bat shit crazy.
.
Meanwhile, I sit here counting pennies,
whilst waiting to pen the next poem –
telling myself that this shit storm
simply is what it is until somehow,
someday it’ll be no more.
.
Some Things.
.
Back home again,
I saw an old
hometown hero
pull up to the lights –
he’d been another
regular in the
local pub
and to be blunt
I was surprised that
he was still alive –
but he’d lived more
lives than most
had anyway
and he leaned out
of the window,
complaining to me
about the crazy tenant
in the bedsit below his,
before then telling me
that he was off
to buy some booze
and I realised he’d
told me the exact
same things
before I’d left town
two years ago
and I watched as
he pulled off
with Free Bird
playing through
the same broken
car stereo –
glad that some things
since this virus arrived,
had stayed the same.
.
Gwil James Thomas is a novelist, poet and inept musician. Originally from Bristol, England he’s also lived in Brighton, London and Spain. He’s a Best of The Net and Pushcart nominee whose written work can be found in numerous publications. His most recent chapbook’s here: www.analogsubmission.com/chapbooks/gwiljamesthomas-cocoontransitions
.
JeanMarie Olivieri
.
Grocery Shopping
.
Trapped
in the car
waiting for the parking lot
to empty just a bit
.
My local grocery store
is an older, smaller model
than her suburban sister-stores
yet it seems now to hold
the entire neighborhood  ̶
a potentially lethal block party.
.
I will not be trapped
by fear.
I mask up and enter.
.
Looking Forward
.
Crowd surfing at Burning Man
New Year’s Eve in Time Square
Championship playoffs
.
Too much time alone
I’m dreaming of places
I never wanted to be
.
Standing in this desert
hope like water in my canteen
I am squinting into the future
looking at life beyond six feet
All I see is you
.
Molt
.
Weeks turn to months.
I have been confined too long.
Seeking solace in the night
I molt my skin
don a discarded shell
and dig a home into wet sand
careful to escape the boiling pot.
Sometimes my skin thickens
my feet harden into hooves
and I race the veld with my herd.
On clear nights with a full moon
I spread my wings and soar
a sleek predator
bringing fast death to small animals
before roosting in my nest
to awaken with feathers by my bed.
.
JeanMarie Olivieri is a mostly retired business writer who mostly writes poetry. She has been published in online journals and several anthologies. She is a co-organizer for the Living Poetry Meetup group, and an editor for the Heron Clan Poetry Anthology series. Follow her at https://jeanmarieolivieri.wordpress.com/
.
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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

 

Atlas of Wolves by John Macker

atlas
.
By g emil reutter
.
John Macker is not a poet to make you laugh, he is not a poet to perform his poetry in such a manner as to void its serious implications for John Macker is a poet grounded in decades of lineage arriving at his current destination. Atlas of Wolves consists of strands of words flowing across pages into the darkness of life brightened by the moon, measured by history and acute awareness by the poet of his surroundings.
.
First Stanza of Border Wall Blues:
.
When not speaking in tongues
its soullessness borders on the devout.
From the top of the wall, we’re out of range
of anything animated or proselytizing
from the top of the wall
there are no degrees of separation
from the heat
the desert is a fever dreamt graveyard and
the wind is alive with hymns.
The wall wages a war of insurrection
on the landscape
dispossessed javelin mothers cry at the moon
rattlesnakes sell death rattles
safe for children without homes.
.
The words sing from the page of the wall, separation, heat, graveyard with hymns, of insurrection, of mothers crying at the moon and rattlesnakes selling death rattles. The poet links the strands of desperation into imagery so profound to enable the stanza to cause an immediate reaction within the reader.
.
The first stanza of winter poem provides fresh imagery although in a dark setting revealing the reality of life:
.
Driving through winter fog
it’s difficult to see
a raven peck at the lost movie
in a coyote’s
frozen eye
that last saw the morning
star, a hawk
kiting, an anxious flock of
cedar waxwings
or the world’s wounds
tombs or bombs
.
The poet creates landscapes with words in the section titled, Still life and Border Crossings. He pays homage to winter and the moon in the second section, In Praise of Winter’s Essentials and sings to us in the third section, Gorge Songs.
.
These are poems of truth without need for explication, woven with imagery and metaphor. One can say that Macker has joined his beloved moon and ever expansive glory of the stars in the dark sky.
.
.
g emil reutter can be found at: https://gereutter.wordpress.com/about/
.
.
.

Two Poems by Jessica Dubey

people-matching-artworks-Stefan-Draschan
.
Where Art Ends & We Begin
.
After a People Matching Artwork photo by Stefan Draschan.
.
She wades into the painting,
Monet lilies up to her waist.
The drape of her dress
moves with the current
of violet-blue brush strokes.
She lifts her phone, takes aim
the same moment a camera
blinks behind her.
She is collage,
a flower pressed into a book,
not lost in the painting
but found.
How long did the photographer
wait for her
camouflaged in the reeds
of the crowd?
His body still as the paintings
on the wall.
Waiting for something as wild
and elusive as chance
to be drawn to the water
and drink from it.
.
Rewired
.
This is not how I envisioned my day—
drenched in humidity, hand extended
to receive screws and bolts,
brackets and washers.
My husband leans over an engine
four weeks after surgery,
four weeks after his head was pried open
like the hood of this car
so the surgeon could reach in,
remove a piece of his skull, cauterize
and staple him back together.
I cringe each time he straightens up,
hits his head on the hood,
imagine him in one of the helmets
designed for infants whose heads
are misshapen at birth.
All of his reshaping unseen,
neuroplasticity reconnecting
spark plug wires and intake hoses
so that his brain recognizes
the horizon rather than being adrift.
I know he should rest, but
maybe this is what he needs most,
to use his hands and his head
bent over an engine.
Instead of the incessant hum in his ear,
he hears his father’s voice
instructing him
how to dismantle a machine,
then make it work again.
.
jessica dubey photo
Jessica Dubey is a poet living in upstate New York. She was Kissing Dynamite’s September 2019 featured poet. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Oxidant | Engine, Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, Barren Magazine and IthacaLit.