Just Another Covid-19 Saturday

by Jackie Oldham

Saturday, March 28, 2020

I. Late-Night/Early Morning Supplication, 2:08 AM

Dark rain falls.
Drops spray
on the roof,
the windows,
the ground,
the grass,
the trees.

Not a hard rain
This time,
But a mist
In a shroud of fog.

Will the wetness
refresh the world
beyond my door?

Will this shower
lull me
to sleep?

The air is warm
and moist,
the heat turned off.
My brow is wet
with sweat.

I get up.
Take my temperature.
No fever.
Yet, a heat rises,
Inside my forehead,
which, nevertheless,
is cool to the touch
but not clammy.

Before the rain
disrupted my train
of thought,
I was making my peace
with Death
Considered writing
an epitaph:

“Having lived much longer
than her premature birth
had suggested—
9.42 times
The mythical 7-year cycles
of life projected—
she was now prepared
to leave this world,
if God so willed.”

Not to save the Economy,
But to go to her
Rest in Peace,
Feeling Blessed.

II. The Silent Hours (Or, How I Remembered the Day), 3:38 PM

In my home, where I have lived
alone for 26 years,
I keep Silent Hours,
to hold the world at bay.

Beyond these walls and windows,
only rare noises break in.

The stray wail of a dog.

A car engine revving
as a neighbor
drives through the block.

A car door slamming
as the neighbor returns home.

Birdsong does not penetrate.
At least, not during the day.
Except for the coo, at dawn,
of a mourning dove
whose nest was once
my side porch light.

And only in the darkest hours
might a hoot owl’s call
pierce the night.

But these sounds of life
are not the ones that disturb me.

Rather, it’s the toxic noise
of the tv that threatens
to destroy me.

Within these walls,
the only sounds welcomed
are the metronome
of the clock,
the click of the
gas-fueled pump
that sends now-needed heat
through the radiators,
the periodic hum
of the refrigerator.

Not even the shrill bell
of the telephone
sounds today.
Telemarketers and scammers alike
are at rest.

III. How This Day Really Progressed (Fire and Rain)

Before 9 AM,
I was wrested from deep sleep
by loud rolling thunder,
followed by the wails
of fire trucks nearby.
For a minute or two,
I even smelled smoke
through the closed windows.

Soon, I was on my phone,
searching Facebook
for the latest news
and misinformation.

A neighborhood group
was reporting a fire,
just three streets over
from my home.

There were no reports
of injuries or
the extent of
property damage.

I hadn’t imagined the smoke.

Scrolling along,
I came upon reports
of another fire
in my quadrant of the city.

Dramatic photos
of a church steeple ablaze,
with commentary
from members
and neighbors nearby:

A historic Baltimore Catholic Church
(on the National Historic Registry)
had been struck by lightning,
and the top of the steeple—
a large metal cross—
had fallen headlong
to the ground!

Captured in flight
by our sole newspaper,
this improbable feat
was shared
ten times over
on Facebook newsfeeds.

Witnesses confirmed
that building remained intact,
as the pastor of the
now-Pentecostal congregation

vowed to rebuild
and thanked God
that its usual
Saturday-morning meeting
had been canceled.

Thus, many lives were saved
By Covid-19.

Jackie Oldham is a writer from Baltimore, Maryland. Her poetry and essays appear mainly on her blog, baltimoreblackwoman. These writings have led to invitations to read her work at local venues [Ikaros Restaurant, Baltimore, MD (2018 and 2019)], for the Quintessential Listening: Poetry podcast (2019 and 2020), and the Black Poets Matter series, presented by Mad Mouth Poetry (available on Facebook). Her essays have appeared as Editorials and Letters in the Baltimore Sun newspaper. Her first short story, “Age-isms,” was published in midnight & indigo, a journal featuring Black Women writers. She is retired from a career as a production copy editor and trainer for a firm (originally Waverly Press) that specializes in printing and publishing scientific and medical journals and books. Sabiyha Prince is an anthropologist, artist, and author based in Washington, DC.  Her books and essays explore urban change and African American culture, and her paintings and photo collages grapple with memory, identity, kinship and inequality.


by Alison Hurwitz

Almost every evening around  
the hour of 10 p.m. we hear them:
explosions puncture pinwheels all
across the surface of the city night,
the sound of everything pent up
that has had to be submerged,
pock pock pock pock BOOM!

They drive our rescue dog berserk,
and make him cower, barking out his
protest by the door. He trembles,
can’t translate from anything 
he understands, though his kind do
mark their territory, scenting every
bush and hydrant, naming it their own.

That urge resides inside us larger
mammals too: the need to fusillade
the air with exclamation points,
declaring “I am here, I matter,
and I add my energetic volley to the 
atmosphere, venting into air, exploding 
all anxiety around a sudden proclamation.

We swear, each time, and slam the windows 
shut, cuddling our incendiary dog
as he quivers, shaking with anxiety. 
Our human kind of cortisol increases
with the sound, but then, I also can
decode adrenally the urge to touch
frustration to the fire. I’d like igniting

my foreboding into flame, exploding it,
releasing sudden bursts of light.
I sit and ponder how we each
discover fireworks that let us 
air out grievances, allow us to 
expostulate, to detonate distress
into an aureole of sparkling stars.

I may exclaim, deride the pyrotechnic
outburst of my fellow human beings:
The hour! The dogs! PTSD Veterans!  
How can they be insensitive! But truthfully,
some part of me is outside in the night with them.  
In honesty, this poem is my pinwheel, spinning 
out a tail of trepidation with spellfire.

I light the fuse of meaning, detonating
all my adjectives in the heat house of
this stanza, waiting for the powder of
my poem to explode in dynamiting circles,
expanding metaphors in blinding light
across the darkness of our current time,
combusting entropy and turning it to flame. 

Alison Hurwitz holds a B.A. in English and Anthropology from Lawrence University.  She is a dancer, wedding and memorial officiant, and poet.  While Sheltering in Place for COVID-19, she has written one poem a day. Her poems have been featured in Volumes 1 and 2 of Poetry in the Time of CoronaVirus, and she was one of eight finalists for the grand prize offered on publication of the second volume. Her work will next be seen in the September 2020 edition of Words and Whispers. When not writing, she is grateful for time with her husband, two young sons, and rescue dog.  She lives in San Jose, CA. 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.

Pain in the Time of Covid

by Monica Shah

You stay indoors most days, locked away in your beige
suburban house. Friends are virtual – you know this.

Your mask protected others from your panic but not you
from pain. No virus needed to turn your body against you.

When they say only the elderly and chronically ill are at risk,
they mean you. You start most mornings with belly breaths

and pranayama, heat and ice, a slice of lemon. You know too
how to order groceries online, watch movies alone, attend meetings

from home, do without from within. You learned to wear a mask
long ago. Years before the quarantine, when you started

turning away from people, this was already your life.
Everyone wondered if there had been an accident or fall or sickness –

something, anything, to assign reason or blame. When they decide
who to stop treating first, you are part of the equation. Its been

twelve weeks since you went to the gym, six since you shopped
in a store, two since you walked to your mailbox in shoes, but only

a day since you saw a doctor. Perhaps it was a virus back then too,
its prehistoric RNA invading your body, efficiently commandeering

fragments of your cells, coopting your immune system.
Does it really matter how? This was not supposed to be your life.

Monica Shah was born in London and grew up in various small towns in the UK, Africa, India, and America. An educator, her writing often explores the intersection of identity, culture, and society.  Monica’s poetry has appeared in several literary publicationsincluding Three Drops from a Cauldron, Edison Literary Review, Unlost, Kaleidoscope, Muse, and in the anthologies Bolo Bolo and Celestial Musings. 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.

Fog in the Tunnel

by Randy Prunty

Not a list but a listening
to the birds that shout
and pop and whistle
derisively at us shut-ins

Not shut-in but shut-up,
boarded up, like a window,
like homeless camps
with tarps over tents

Not homeless but unhoused.
Unapartmented. Unhoteled.
Uncondo’d. Untrailered.
Unjailed, but just barely.

Not barely but bravely
we fight technology
and zoom away with friends,
strangers, therapists.

Not strangers but strays
minutes away from feral
needing love but settling
for food and anxiety

Not anxiety but anhedonia
that needy nemesis
keeping us hopelessly tuned-
in to the mire of daily news

But a mire is not a mirror
unless your face is swamped
like all of us
with the other’s murk

Not others but . . .
ok, others, because maybe
your doxa is not my doxa
but my skin is all ours

not skin but skin and bones
bones like letters on a page
eruptions announcing our presence
– fingers of an everted glove

there’s a finger but then a dismissal
a carved and shiny word or
anything you just almost said
can’t be kept so got rid of it

not rid but riddle – ride and ride
until you see your own eye
not from your face
but up from below

everything is from below
wrapped up like a book
out for a cold day of reading
or speaking if given a chance

Randy Prunty‘s recent work can be seen in New American Writing, the tiny, and Parentheses. His chapbook called Red Wax was published last year by the micropress Ethel. He works in Oakland as a bus driver and I’m married to poet Elizabeth Robinson. 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.

Covid Story: An Artist Sheltered in Place on the 31st Floor (excerpts)

by Linda Stein

For months now, looking out from the 
elevation of my 31st floor balcony, 
I eye-gulp the panorama before me, 
embracing, with cell phone photos, 
its architectural details and vastness,
its sea-sky moving tableau.

Internalizing the eerie emptiness in the streets, 
I shift back and forth 
from comfort to contagion, 
now awed by the magnificence before me, 
then in dread, as I think of the brave
Covid caretakers carrying on, 
despite fear and adversity.

There is a vessel 
navigating north on the Hudson River
with a slowness intimating the pace of progress
toward solving our global dilemma.
I watch it disappear in my viewfinder, 
boat yielding to brick, 
much as I wish 
virus would yield to vaccine.

This architecture, my architecture, 
jutting high in the sky, 
wrangles with my forlornness, 
insisting that I focus, not on the heart-rending, 
but on the handsomeness of the 
edifices before me, 
extraordinary in their extreme 
verticality, volume and variety.

It is as if I were tracing and stroking 
each building with my fingertips, 
now low with flat roof, 
now bursting into the sky, 
impossibly slender, 
impossibly high.


My surreal thoughts of illness
morph into a more sanguine surrealism.
I feel empowered 
to make anything happen now 
in a landscape of my creation 
(so long as my defenders are 
here and standing guard).

This new setting is now
a stage for performers, 
a framework in which to romp and rollick. 
It allows for movement with an 
expansive outreach in space, 
the antithesis of confinement and constraint.

How my spirit leaps as I 
create this world of conviviality, 
without the virulence of virus 
to interfere with my whimsy. 
Here, people can angst-lessly 
go about their business, as they
saunter, exercise and frolic with free rein. 
They know they are being patrolled and protected.

These social scenes contrast starkly 
with the tug of Covid’s required social distancing, 
its stillness and silence, 
broken only by a siren’s blare, 
bringing one’s thoughts abruptly back to the 
present-day skittishness of 
sickness and mortality. 

Linda Stein is a feminist artist, activist, educator, performer, and writer. She is the Founding President of the non-profit Have Art: Will Travel! Inc (HAWT) for Gender Justice, addressing bullying and diversity. HAWT currently oversees The Fluidity of Gender: Sculpture by Linda Stein (FoG) and Holocaust Heroes: Fierce Females – Tapestries and Sculpture by Linda Stein (H2F2), two traveling exhibitions with educational workshops. Two more exhibitions will travel soon: Displacement from Home: What to Leave, What to Take (DC4) and Sexism and Masculinities/Feminities: Exploring, Exploding, Expanding Gender Stereotypes (SMF). In 2018, Stein was honored as one of Women’s eNews’ 21 Leaders for the 21st Century. In 2017, Stein received the NYC Art Teachers Association/UFT Artist of the Year award, and in 2016, she received the Artist of the Year Award from the National Association of Women Artists. Her artwork accompanying these excerpts is entitled “Romp and Rollick.”


by Colin James

Crepes thin enough to slide under a door
and other signs that you’ve been here,
like your bullying attempts at thoroughness.
I only slept with you once for Christ’s sake.
The ancient’s have a saying, “The man who
climbs a tree wearing prosthetic limbs
is not likely to accurately identify
the ornate mosaic tiles of his dream’s floor.”
And may our love child never experience
a cafe like this ever again without WiFi.

Colin James has a couple of chapbooks of poetry, Dreams Of The Really Annoying from Writing Knights Press and A Thoroughness Not Deprived Of Absurdity from Pski’s Porch Press. He lives in Massachusetts. Ralph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.

Waiting in the Hospital Parking Lot

by Royal Rhodes

On this false Spring day
the off-green embankment
I no longer can mount
without huffing and puffing
like a lung-damaged wolf
trying to blow down
a brick apartment house
— that rise of manicured turf
displays on its muddy crest
the spindly black limbs
of rigid trees, leafless
against a solid cloud bank
of sky that never ends
as I try to enter the hospital
and half expect the spectral
chorus line of a Totentanz
from Bergman’s “Seventh Seal”
to traipse across the horizon
the last dancer extending
a still-warm beckoning hand
on mine at the locked door
with its cold steel handle.
The glass reflects my fear,
but I still extend my hand.

Royal W. Rhodes taught Religious Studies at Kenyon College for almost 40 years. His interests include liberation theology, third world religious experience, monasticism (East and West), religion and the arts, and the Meanings of Death. He has given poetry readings at various locations, published poems with online journals, and also a series of art/poetry books with The Catbird [On the Yadkin] Press in North Carolina. Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press.

Old Cemetery Hidden in a Woods

by Jane Yolen

Your scoured stones, the names
barely readable, as if those below
had already risen on this Easter morning.
I touch the cold outlines, dates
of births, deaths, think of centuries
you have lain here undisturbed.
Such patience, which you may never
have had in life, is God’s gift to you,
while he sorts through hundreds, thousands
of war and virus victims only now
banging on his gates,
changing the neighborhood
with their entitlement and demands.

Jane Yolen has 389 books published, almost all by traditional publishers. She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America. She writes for adults and for children. Her books include novels, graphic novels, verse novels, non-fiction, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, children’s picture books, poetry for adults and young readers, cookbooks, music books, and ten books of adult poetry. She has been given 6 honorary doctorates from New England colleges and universities. One of her many awards set her good coat on fire. 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.

Taking It Back

by William Torphy

Wild life sees its chances
now that human life
has temporarily receded.
Coyotes howl in backyards
red foxes gaze bluntly
into hermit living rooms
strobed in blue light.
Birds wing more grandly
now the skies are free,
hawks swoop low
over empty patios
and asphalt parking lots.
Bees banned before
strike at windows
defying fatality, now
they know the sweet taste
of nature’s good life.
Even the thieven ravens
settle into coalescence
with avifauna of the easy sort
the robins & chirping sparrows.
Last night I heard the crash
of my trashcan, upended
by family possum, or
possibly a racoon posse,
leaving jumble for the deer.
This morning, a grass snake
slithered up to the front door
as if to brazenly declare,
“I’ll not be beaten back again.”

William Torphy’s poetry, reviews and articles have appeared in Sebastian Quill, Artweek, High Performance, Expo-see, and the Occupy SF anthology. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and journals including Bryant Literary Review and Arlington Literary Review. His political opinion pieces have been featured in blogs, including Solstice Literary and OpEdge. Ithuriel’s Spear Press has published Love Never Always (poetry), Snakebite (young adult fiction) and A Brush With History (biography). Sabiyha Prince is an anthropologist, artist, and author based in Washington, DC.  Her books and essays explore urban change and African American culture, and her paintings and photo collages grapple with memory, identity, kinship and inequality.

Belshazzar’s Table

by Lori Lasseter Hamilton

knees knocked, wood shook
like Lebanon cedars lightning-split.
Eyes widening, hand writing
“mene, mene, tekel, upharsin”,
God’s fingers carving glyphs.
You’ve raised gold goblets in boastful toast
between Babylon walls. Cups not meant to leave temple
but your father stole them.
Nebuchadnezzar never thought his son would meet end
at Mede’s hands.
God’s numbered your days.
You’ve been weighed
in the balance, found wanting.
Belshazzar, your Babylon falls,
split between Persians and Medes
lying in wait outside gold walls
as your servants bring you Jerusalem cups.
You refused to honor God, worshipped silver,
proclaimed only these gold cups are wine-worthy.
You thought nothing could touch you
but you never saw the cuneiform script that reads
“Blood Must Run”,
the way I saw it in a dream
on white wallpaper sheet,
with thin blood streaks striping the white.
Sometimes like Daniel I dream,
same dream since I was six,
of a heaven I could reach
by riding elevator from church first floor,
and when I got there,
heaven was a hardware store
with Native Americans roaming the aisles.
Last night I dreamed an all-girl band played in a back room
and on the wall in front of their microphones,
“Blood Must Run” in the center
but I wonder, whose blood?
Yours, mine, America’s, Belshazzar?
Maybe mine must run
or maybe blood of bulls must trickle down to melting ice
while gold glass shatters in Vegas towers.
Sun rays explode hotel windows,
God’s fingers drawing glyphs again.
All’s dusted gold, even man’s denials that
“everything’s better than ever”.
See his tiny, maskless mouth mouthing the words
great and fine?
Lips the color of amber grain waves,
proud, nude, and cloth-shorn
as America’s blood runs, red wine
on Belshazzar’s feast table.

Lori Lasseter Hamilton is a member of Sister City Connection, a collective of women poets, storytellers, and spoken word artists in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. She is a medical records clerk for a Birmingham hospital, and she earned a bachelor of arts in journalism from University of Alabama Birmingham, with a minor in English. Some of Lori’s poems have appeared in Steel Toe Review, Birmingham Arts Journal, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry. She is a 50-year-old breast cancer survivor. Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press.