Covid Cozy

by Siri Espy

I’m so happy to be here
social distancing with you, my dear
we said for better or for worse
and there’s nowhere in the universe
I’d rather be than this damn house
24/7 with my spouse

I’ve given up on getting thinner
as I cook you one more dinner
you never even try to squelch
a hearty after supper belch
sometimes it’s like a fancy prison
but with Netflix on the television

I think we’re slowly going bats
it’s just you, me and the cats
but isolation seems so wise
with Corona virus on the rise
we watch as all the cases tick up
and await the thrill of grocery pickup

A grand romantic interlude
is a splurge of evening takeout food
there’s no weekend getaway
but we celebrate each garbage day
there’s sickness, health and in between
but we never mentioned quarantine

There’s really nowhere else to hide
I guess we’d better stay inside
until the virus goes away
it’s quite a lot like Groundhog Day
but there’s nothing else I’d rather do
than social distance here with you

Siri Espy is retired from the corporate world, where her writing included two books, numerous articles, and innumerable reports and bullet points. Her varied career included stints as a psychologist, market researcher, college instructor, consultant and health care planner and marketer. The mother of an awesome daughter, she lives in Greenville, North Carolina with her tolerant husband and three crazy cats. She is delighted to rediscover her creative side and unleash her quirky sense of humor.  Surekha spent her formative years in the beautiful hills of Nilgiris before she moved to her hometown, Thalassery, to pursue a career in fine art. Her works have been in many exhibitions across India, and most recently to “Revived Emotions,” an international exhibition at Ratchademnoen Contemporary Art Centre, Bangkok. She served as the head designer for a leading Kerala based jewelery chain for 17 years, leaving behind an oeuvre of more than 3000 designs. Painting has always been her first love, exploring the moods of nature, and finding shades, colours, tones and textures in landscapes, especially focusing on her memories of Thalassery and Nilgiris. 

Mask Time

by Faruk Buzhala

Masks seal mouths as shut-up does
mystifying lips, shrouding smiles; then our
Teeth are but hermits, what’s bad breath
then? as words sift thru sans regrets.

We wanna beat them viruses, beat
Them from coming in and going out

Masks scab makeup, rendering
Lipsticks oblivion, botoxed lips too
As we don’t believe we actually breathe

They sit on our falseness in this worst hour
As, not least responsible ones care for all

Streets are all masked people, come a familiar
Face, we let down guards sharing a glimpse 
A sign of the old tribe from an old habit!

Kohë maskash 

Bartim maska per te mbyllur gojet!
Nen to nuk na shihen buzet 
Nuk na shihen dhembet
Nuk na dallohet buzeqeshja!
Nuk na ndjehet era kundermuese
Dhe fjalet i nxjerrim te paartikuluara!

Bartim maska per t’mos na hyre virusi brenda
Apo per t’mos e nxjerrur jashte nese brenda ate e kemi!

Bartim maska mbi maske fytyre!
Grave nuk u shihet buzekuqi 
Nuk u shihen buzet e fryra me botox 
Nuk iu ndjehet fryma!

Bartim maska origjinale
per te fshehur falsitetin tone
ne kete kohe pandemie
ndjekim keshilla nga insritucionet shendetsore
se si duhet kujdesur per veten dhe te tjeret 
Edhe pse shume nga ne ato nuk i zbatojme!

Bartim maska derisa ecim rrugeve
dhe kur te shohim fytyra te njohura ner to
Heqim maskat per t’i pershendetur
Ne shenje respekti!

Faruk Buzhala is a poet from Kosovo. He was the leader and manager of many events in the city of Ferizaj, including “De Rada” a literary club, 2012 – 2018, and the representative of Kosovo for the 100 TPC organization. He also writes short stories, essays, literary reviews, travel tales, etc. He has published five books: Qeshje Jokeriane (Jokerian Smile) 1998, Shtëpia pa rrugë (House without road) 2009, Njeriu me katër hije (Man with four shadows) 2012, Shkëlqim verbërues (Blinding brilliance) 2015, and Një gur mangut (A stone less) 2018. His poem appears in English and the original Albanian. Darren Anthony was born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Largo, MD. After many successful years in fashion and later restaurant management Darren decided to pursue his love of photography. His work has been featured in Der Spiegel and Musée Magazines. He resides in Bed-Stuy, New York. 


By Karen Paul Holmes

The media has been shooting its label gun
at me lately,
when I’ve been trying to believe
I’m the same as fifty years ago—all Renoir color.

My mother survived cancer at eighty, believing
she didn’t have it.
Like me, she never felt different from herself.
Now, maybe a few creaks in my knees and hips,
and cellphone in the fridge by mistake,
I still dance to Bruno Mars,

which I will do at my wedding
though it awaits a time
when family can travel across states and seas
gathering to toast this last-chapter happiness.

Last night: Adirondack chairs by the fire,
embers and wine mesmerizing us.
We made up messages
the rising sparks might send.
Our marshmallows found a niche glowing sunset-red—
we licked each gummy finger clean.

I read poetry on the porch today to the murmur
of the ceiling fan
and watched his sweet, smooth face
sleep in the hammock.
My hale, not-elderly-to-me man.

Leaving the house, we wear masks.
They hide smile lines but not the rings
under our eyes.
If one of us gets home after the other, we meet
outside the door and kiss and kiss,
hoping the porch light won’t suddenly click on. 

Karen Paul Holmes has two poetry collections, No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin, 2018) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich, 2014).Her poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac and Tracy K. Smith’s The Slowdown. Publications include Prairie Schooner, Pedestal Magazine, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Diode Poetry Journal, and many more.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.

A Little Before Twelve

by Cynthia Andrews

I saw you today again in my mind
and we made love. You touched my
hand & held it for a very long time,
just as you have always done.  I kissed
your neck and the bristle of your cheek and
you pulled me toward you.  I got out of
the subway a little before noon, still
thinking of you after the long train
ride and surrounded by the smell of roses.
I was your muse, conjured up by your own
mind as a dream filters through a poem like
a goddess of light in a black gauze dress. 
You stroke my hair slowly and softly and make
me giggle and talk poetry long into the morning
hours.  You touch my hand and hold it for a
long time.  I kiss your neck & the bristle of
your cheek.  Your hand suddenly dips into
my blouse and I slap it hard, but you make me
laugh so much that it really doesn’t matter. 
One of my buttons drops to the floor and I
hear it click but I really don’t care what’s happening
around me, except for how good your skin feels
on me.  I feel your wet lips on mine and can taste
the beer you had a moment ago.  I saw you again
today in my mind and we made love again.

Cynthia Andrews is a veteran of the New York City poetry circuit, and has read in such venues as The St. Marks Poetry Project, Mid-Manhattan Library, The Nuyorican Poets Café and the Cornelia Street Café; as well as the radio programs, Teachers and Writers in the Morning, WBAI FM and Cable TV. Her work as appeared in Downtown Magazine, The Voice Literary Supplement, Tribes Literary Journal, Longshot, etc.; as well as the anthologies ALOUD: Voices from the Nuyorican Café, In Heat, The Unbearables, Will Fight for Peace, etc.  She was one of the first to be included in the Spoken Word library of Poets House. Nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 1995 and 1996, she was also recognized by Downtown Magazine for the Downtown Year of the Poet Award in 1996. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and resides in New York City. Arabella Luna Friedland is a visual artist and writer based in New York City. She’s influenced by a childhood with cartoons, a classical education in anatomy and life drawing, and a firm belief that all art — is a portrait.   

Cop Shows

by Karol Nielsen

We watch cop shows one after another during the long hours of quarantine. CSI: Miami looked good because it starred actors from a favorite series, NYPD Blue. The show opens with a grizzly murder or the discovery of a corpse and the suspects quickly emerge. It’s full of beach and pool parties, bloody postmortems, cheesy lines, and unbelievable confessions. Too often I pick up my cellphone and check messages, social media, even the news, and lose the thread. But I always hope that the next episode will draw me in.

Karol Nielsen is the author of the memoirs Black Elephants (Bison Books, 2011) and Walking A&P (Mascot Books, 2018) and the chapbooks This Woman I Thought I’d Be (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and Vietnam Made Me Who I Am (Finishing Line Press, 2020). Her first memoir was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing in nonfiction in 2012. Her full poetry collection was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry in 2007. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Guernica, Lumina, North Dakota Quarterly, Permafrost, RiverSedge, and elsewhere. She has taught writing at New York University and New York Writers Workshop. 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.


by Sheila DC Robertson

I walk earth’s edge 
   where sea stitches sand 
   in shells and fragments 
Tiny cenotaphs along wrack lines 
   empty reminders of life 
   marking ephemeral tides
I reflect: What is constant?
   What is temporary?


Standing in lines   
   six feet of separation     
   distance    tension    shortages
Anticipating  breadlines   eviction notices

News oppresses in waves
    exhausted nurses   anti-maskers
The new normal 
    haggard faces of essential workers 
Meat packers   maids   garbage men
Cogs in assembly lines   suffering the virus
Armed resisters   infecting Democracy
Who manipulated the warnings?

Who will gain?    Who will lose?    Nightmares
   mass graves     funeral processions
I lie awake wondering 
   where the next danger lies


As I walk this tracery     I mourn 
       the wrack lines
          of spent life 
          the death of truth
            compassion and caring   
For empty ideals 
   Will there be a Cenotaph?

Sheila DC Robertson seeks beauty off the beaten path in the varied landscapes that define the Northwest. She is happiest wandering the Pacific’s edge or camped out in America’s remotest deserts.  Her articles, stories, and poetry reflect these rich landscapes. They have been printed in publications including Crab Creek ReviewTravel & Leisure Magazine, Trouvaille Review, New Feathers Review,Writer’s in the Attic and North Coast Squid. Darren Anthony was born in Brooklyn, NY and raised in Largo, MD. After many successful years in fashion and later restaurant management Darren decided to pursue his love of photography. His work has been featured in Der Spiegel and Musée Magazines. He resides in Bed-Stuy, New York. 

The Gravedigger

by Alexandra Graffeo

A sea of concrete, gray and cracking
Flows beyond the window panes, planters
Full of fledgling sprouts, waiting to push
Through the chill of March and into
April showers, a promise of strength
Built into their twisting stems. The
Sun is strong, and the days are long.
The walls are dark blue and closing in,
Patterns starting to churn and shift. I
Can hear them outside, laughing,
Not knowing what it’s like to be alone,
Unaware of how small the room has
Become. A familiar voice is begging
The gravedigger for a locket of golden
Hair as I lay down in a sea of pillows
and start digging my own holes.
It won’t be long now.

Alexandra Graffeo is a poet and writer from Staten Island, New York. She earned her Master’s in Fantasy Literature from the University of Glasgow, where she focused her studies on female representation in fantasy, with a special emphasis on Arthurian women.  Alex’s poetry and short stories can also be found or is forthcoming in OyeDrum Magazine (where she works as the Managing Editor), The Raven’s PerchDisquiet Arts, and Last Leaves Magazine. Sally Lelong is a visual storyteller working in a variety of media that lend themselves to use in a conceptual framework. She lives and works in New York, and routinely exhibits her work in a variety of settings from print to thematic installations to street art.

Coming Out of Quarantine (A City Dweller’s Story)

by Cassandra Pereira 

I don’t even care if a dog peed here
I think as I nestle myself
into the base of this tree
making a nest of it
not like a bird
not like a dog
but like a human.

Blades of grass lush around my legs
I get lost in the tiny world they shade
discovering that dear sight—I forgot
how I love it, have missed it:
a broken bit of leaf
     conspicuously on the move.

I’ve read an ant will pilgrimage 
100 yards
      to feed the queen;
2,000 each way I travel today

      to feel the Earth
                   soft beneath
a long journey

a long while beating my feet hard
against all the unyielding concrete
between my door and this moment. 

Cassandra Pereira is a writer, artist, and creativity coach with degrees in creative writing and education, and a background in neuropsychology.  Her work is dedicated to fostering peace and joy through creativity and contemplation. Ralph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.

‘New Normal’ Catch Up

by Mary Chydiriotis

Saturday night as I prepare for our catch up

cocktail glass enthusiastically stands upright

double shot vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice

a hint of lime     a smoky room

encased in laughter and music (fills my mind from another time)

Alicia Keys sings about leaving Brooklyn and being inspired by bright lights Empire State of Mind

I throw my (never worn) Damson blue pantsuit on the white cotton sheets

an elegant Mikimoto pearl necklace and earrings

mismatched they make for a funky ensemble

twenty-three minutes to seven

I gulp the drink and pour another

months ago an eighteen-dollar Cosmo sufficed

now two for one at bottle shops               free delivery

it’s cocktail paradise                            

hair iron heats

I apply eyeshadow

Mulberry Red lipstick

My bunny soft slippers are on stand by near the laptop

My recent book purchases stacked for show and tell

twelve minutes to seven and my hair still looks frizzy

five minutes to go I get into my outfit, slip on my heels, pour another drink

my hair is as straight as it’s going to get

(I could always use a Snapchat filter)

I enter Zoom, pout and wait for Laura to start the meeting

I hear the whirr of a mini drone outside my window

Mary Chydiriotis lives in Melbourne. In 2019 a selection of Mary’s poems featured in ‘Poetry of the sun and the sea: from Homer to slam poetry’, a Greek Studies course at La Trobe University. Loud and Red, her first collection of poetry, was published by Ginnindera Press in 2020. Viswan Zorba is a stereo composing artist who burnt midnight oil in a Pune film studio for three years, before returning to Kerala to rediscover so many things including its weather and cuisine, alongside developing camaraderie with his father. The duo hit bumpy roads across Kerala in a beat up car, meeting people and filming his father’s meditation tutorials for a YouTube channel, thus exploring his interests in film-making.  

We Drive Nine Hours

by Anne Marie Holwerda Warner 

to the Porcupine Mountains
to camp in mid-nineties heat 
with black flies and no lightning bugs.

Thunder comes the first night but never rain.
Pray for a north wind is the lone consolation of the campground host.

Hiking: attempted, but a weak link sites anxiety and tight shoes while her upper lip sweats, her topknot flops, her braced teeth seethe. She’s hunched over roots of hemlocked foothills. 

There are moose in these woods. But our sighting list includes only five toads, two pollywogs and a cooler-dumping bear that punctures milk, eats plumbs, leaves the pits. 

And yet: that Great Lake—
the chillest, most voluminous—
lives up to her name. Superior. She astounds, astonishes, exceeds all things. 
Tread her clear waves and you’re not cold. You’re alive. Stand still among the bends of textile-esque regality, plumes of her navy blue dress up to your neck and clearly see your toes on the sandy bottom—as if only sun-catching air were between the upper you and the lower you. 

Let her tumbled, earth-toned stones yield pressure against your arches as you stand generously social-distanced while the bone of your bone and the flesh of your flesh balance on an amber-wet driftwood pine trunk and study the lines in a green rock, then a purple rock, then a rock born for skipping. 

This is why you came.

Anne Marie Holwerda Warner is a Chicago carpenter’s daughter perched in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her poetry has appeared in The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Moonchild, gravel., Q/A Poetry, Ghost City Review and Earth & Altar. Her work is forthcoming in The Hour.  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.