There is probably a poem in that sunflower that has bloomed alone in my backyard. I am filled with such despair and I know that it’s unfounded, to a point. At least I have a job. At least no loved ones (yet) have died. No one has ever died of despair. Some would argue that countless have. It’s okay to have debates such as these. There are questions about what defines a weed. The sunflower will be in full bloom in a day or two, I imagine. We have failed – our leadership, our neighbors, ourselves. A year of our lives will be taken away from us. We have all suffered deaths these months. A metaphor is different than a ventilator, different than a window, and a grave. I am not worthy of that yellowing bloom and yet here I am trying to define what weeds are.
Jonathan Shipley is a freelance writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. His writing has appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, National Parks Magazine, and Meatpaper. Illustration by VR Ragesh, who is a noted cartoonist from Kerala.
Freckled and smiling wide, sly-eyed, you swagger in (like you do) smirking. As if moments before your entrance you made a left-handed trash-can basket with a crumpled late slip or landed a filthy joke somewhere.
You slide sheepishly into the meaningfully empty chair beside me joining the hurried horseshoe of us and them.
I want to tell you that they think the world is ending.
You flirty-sulk (like you do) in your alarmingly white Liverpool stadium jacket and incandescent pants to match. You’re like a kid in new costume pajamas: proud and ready for monkey business.
Your stubborn chest is stamped with a red cormorant: The Liver Bird. But I see the broken cardinal in the snow lying outside our glass door when I was ten.
You are missing the game for this. I know. Still, you’re beaming twinkling blues at me.
I shiver. I left my cardigan upstairs. My fingertips go white.
I want to tell you that I think the world is ending.
You stretch and yawn, broad and wide; merciless outlines of deltoids and biceps shift and fade under your clothes. You shoulder up to me (like you do) transmitting light and heat directly to my mottled arm.
But it’s not enough today.
I want to fold into you. I want to tell you to hold on. I want to tell you once. I want to tell you forever.
I want to tell you that the world is ending.
J. Margaret Dillon is a Humanities teacher in Annapolis, Maryland, and a former stage actor who sometimes jumps back into the Washington, DC, theater scene. She holds a B.A. in American Literature and an M.F.A. in Theater. She has written very privately most of her life and only recently started sharing her work. This is the first poem she has ever submitted to anything other than her high school literary magazine twenty-nine years ago. It is also her first published poem.K. Nizar, a multi-disciplinary artist from Kerala’s Kozhikode, who began his career on movie-sets doing art works before becoming a visualization artist for a leading newspaper in Kerala.
Thank God! I’m innocent, guilt free at last Poor woman, she died, but it wasn’t my fault
Those long sleepless nights may be finally passed Thank God! I’m innocent, guilt free at last
At least I can try and let go of that past Start fresh with some honey, toss out the salt
Thank God! I’m innocent, guilt free at last Poor woman, she died, but it wasn’t my fault
Joan Dobbie cohosts the River Road Reading Series (RRRS) in Eugene, Oregon, now on ZOOM. Her triolet “When your Man’s a Drunk” took first place in the traditional form category of the Spring 2020 Oregon Poetry Association contest, She has two full length books, Woodstock Baby (2013, The Unforgettables Press) and The Language of Stone (2020, Uttered Chaos Press) several chapbooks, many online and print publications and a new manuscript Pandemic Soap out in the world, searching for the right publisher. Varada J.M. is a 9th-grader based in Kerala’s Koyilandi, studying at Rani Public School, Vadakara. After hurriedly doing homework, Varada divides her time between practicing classical dance and watching horror films. She loves dogs but nobody at home wants one.
This little lady sits on a park bench next to you, a tiny orb of spiders, waiting for a human hand to touch her. Romantic actually, what she will do to get you to take her home. This is not about love; it’s about incubation. She is an evolutionary and she will move through you in just a week like a hot hot wave. It’s impossible to pinpoint what day she slunk inside you. And you are full of her now; she is in your eyes, nose, mouth. Afraid to take her anywhere—she is linked so loosely to your arm. Someone might snatch her from you. Take in a lungful and let her flood. You are all hers now. She is claiming widowhood early. But, you can’t leave her, you cannot unstick her from your breath, not after living so close together. Isn’t she the kind of lover you’ve always wanted? An apocalyptic baby, one who could ruin you, a real Juliet to drive you to the end of thinking, the type that gets you scrutinizing what exactly you will live for when it’s all over.
Hollie Dugas lives in Louisiana. Her work has been selected to be included in Barrow Street, Reed Magazine, Crab Creek Review, Pembroke, Salamander, Poet Lore, Watershed Review, Whiskey Island, Chiron Review, Louisiana Literature, and CALYX. Hollie has been a finalist twice for the Peseroff Prize at Breakwater Review, Greg Grummer Poetry Prize at Phoebe,Fugue’s Annual Contest, and has received Honorable Mention in Broad River Review. Additionally, “A Woman’s Confession #5,162” was selected as the winner of Western Humanities Review Mountain West Writers’ Contest (2017). She is currently a member on the editorial board for Off the Coast. Dana Carlson is a painter, illustrator, and web developer (by day) living in the lovely, leafy borough of Queens in New York City.This piece is called “Almost Batik Landscape 2.”
How it begins the seed stirring like a bird becoming a bird becoming more like we become more this time of year. And in the air a new threat added to the old ones. A cold spring and damp. It’s easy not to notice the daffodils, the red tulips, forsythia. I start out on my daily walk. The mask heats me up. It’s all too much. Masks, gloves, wiping things down. It’s like living in an operating room. I nod at the postman, a weak hello. I wash my hands vigorously after taking in the mail. It’s like we are living in two dystopias now, the political and the public health one. There’s talk of snow flurries. In May. Reading Facebook will do it. Man’s inhumanity to man, that cliché literature trope. Is human nature human? I wonder sometimes. A man wiped his nose on a store employee because she asked him to wear a mask. Hundreds of stories like this. Thousands. Angry, armed domestic terrorists storming state capitols. I notice two trees with tight, bright red buds that will become leaves. I want to adore the earth. These flowers, these trees frozen in their growth.
I want to read a long, old-fashioned letter. Or write one. I want the old ways. In any form. I cross Lombard Avenue heading toward Buzz Cafe for a to-go latte. Everything is to-go now. We can’t pause for long, except within the confines of our own walls that grow closer daily. At times I feel like that character in “The Tell-Tale Heart”, hearing the beating, thinking I will be found out for who I am. That kind of claustrophobia. I note the boarded-up 7-11, another economic casualty. A squirrel dashes up an old oak. I walk around Barrie Park. Yellow tape surrounds the playground. A slight mist begins. A group of soccer players kick a ball. They are not supposed to be here. The parks are closed. Do I turn them in? It seems we are always monitoring others’ behavior. Asking whose rights come first. In Catholic grade school we were taught to respect our elders. So many are being rolled out on gurneys these days from nursing homes. No more than ten spaced-apart mourners can attend the service. “There will be deaths,” say politicians as they panic to reopen the country. In Italy they say the younger generation is now virtually without grandparents. After my three times around the park, I head back home. I want that feeling of longing to be back in the warm nest of my home after a trip away instead of hunkering down in it as my place to shelter. What I need is someone to blame. Besides the President. In ancient Greece, human scapegoats (pharmakos) were used to allay a plague. We need to draw lots like in “The Lottery” and stone someone. Instead, ill winds, a frozen spring.
Marc Frazier has published poetry for decades in journals including The Spoon River Poetry Review, ACM, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Slant, Permafrost, and Poet Lore. He has memoir in Gravel, The Good Men Project, decomP, et al. His fiction appears in Flash Fiction Magazine and Autre. His three poetry collections are available online. See Marc Frazier Author page on Facebook, @marcfrazier45 on Twitter, or marcfrazier45 on Instagram.Bill Mazza is a visual artist using chance, duration, and accumulation to reinterpret landscape as a relationship of people to their mediated environments, through painting, performance, and community-building collaborations.
You are far. Like Mars far. Like from the couch to the kitchen far. Like end of the check-out line far. Like you’re next to me but we aren’t talking far. Like “but my phone charger is upstairs” far. Like 3900 miles far. Like eight hours and three flight changes far. Like a fifteen hour drive far. Like international texting rates far. Like impossibly far. Like “the concert is a whole week away” far. Like 204 marathons far. Like country roads far. Like “where is the nearest gas station” far. Like commercial break far. Like Canada far.
Nikki Marrone is a spoken word performer, published poet, photographer, and wearer of many hats. She is motivated through feelings, of which she has plenty. When she’s not wandering around the world or documenting her adventures, she splits her time between motherhood, performing, creating, and starving as an artist. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.
It’s not something you can train for, not something to expect. Rather, it’s a cold morning, a cup of coffee, a weird wobble in the air stream leading to a polar vortex. Nothing is as it seems. The future will intervene.
Morning’s here, with rain falling, still and ever. Son’s leaving for a job interview. Daughter’s sleeping. Cat’s keeping watch. This is how the day starts, and how, finally, it begins to end.
Vivian Wagner lives in New Concord, Ohio, where she’s an associate professor of English at Muskingum University. Her work has appeared in Slice Magazine, Muse/A Journal, Forage Poetry Journal, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Gone Lawn, The Atlantic, Narratively, The Ilanot Review, Silk Road Review, Zone 3, Bending Genres, and other publications. She’s the author of a memoir, Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington); a poetry collection, Raising (Clare Songbirds Publishing House); and the chapbooks The Village (Aldrich Press-Kelsay Books), Making (Origami Poems Project), Curiosities (Unsolicited Press), and Spells of the Apocalypse (forthcoming, Thirty West Publishing House). Varada J.M. is a 9th-grader based in Kerala’s Koyilandi, studying at Rani Public School, Vadakara. After hurriedly doing homework, Varada divides her time between practicing classical dance and watching horror films. She loves dogs but nobody at home wants one.
I startle myself homesick— not of a place but of a time, when my daughter crawled and chewed the corners of books on the lower shelves in my study. When caught she would laugh, her arms and legs sweeping wide.
After she began to walk, she would enter a room, then leave to come back minutes later without clothes: the same laugh, this time joined by me and her mother.
When we made butter cookies, she would hide some around the house for later. We would find them months later and she would smile proudly, reaching for the cookie.
There was the time she wore her roast beef as a mask, the time her younger brother chased her with cheese—which to this day she still avoids, despite once loving it.
I have a picture of her grinning through a thick yellow slice, having nibbled a spot for her eyes, nose and mouth. It seems wrong she spurns a food because 10 years ago her brother was the cheese monster, but very little can change things now. I just don’t like the taste, she says, scraping it off her pizza.
I wanted one last summer with them before my daughter goes to college but instead we self-quarantine: no amusement parks, no days at the boardwalk. Everything is a sameness of work and occasional errands.
My son rarely comes out of his room, playing games online and generally avoiding the family. My daughter fills her summer with social media and Facetime with friends.
I grieve the little inconveniences, the fact my daughter didn’t get her prom or her senior skip day. She still doesn’t know if college in the fall will be in person, or online. So much is a bag of fortune cookies without their slips of paper.
I want to comfort her and let her know everything is going to be ok, even in the times ahead when I won’t be there, when she teaches her own children a simple rhyme of warning.
Somewhere back in time is the girl who is scared of all plants because she once had poison ivy.
Mickie Kennedy is an American poet who resides in Baltimore County, Maryland with his family and two feuding cats. He enjoys British science fiction and the idea of long hikes in nature. His work has appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Artword Magazine, Conduit, Portland Review, Rockhurst Review, and Wisconsin Review. He earned an MFA from George Mason University. K. Nizar, a multi-disciplinary artist from Kerala’s Kozhikode, who began his career on movie-sets doing art works before becoming a visualization artist for a leading newspaper in Kerala.
And, I would go, really. And, is it about time we all got along, but that was a no and the real answer would require more sense than the crazy crisis we are going through presently, and the truth, ah. It would have to be from a line we used to know, an old phrase, like a poem dealing with trees I memorized, along with everyone else in Mrs. Virtue’s first grade at Luther Burbank, where the teacher handed out pastel marshmallows when we behaved. For truth would have to be untouchable, like a hand we used to know, to hold– as if it were our own— the left reaching for the right, fumbling along thru this magnificent universe we kind of know, or at least pretended it to be so.
Millicent Borges Accardi, a Portuguese-American writer, is the author of two poetry books, most recently Only More So (Salmon Ireland 2016). Her awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Fulbright, CantoMundo, California Arts Council, Yaddo, Fundação Luso-Americana, and Barbara Deming Foundation. She lives in California. Ralph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.