Virtually Two Miles from School

by Katherine Laufman

Ear fearlessly pressed against 
my teenage daughter’s door, 
unobtrusive like a female British detective.
DCI Jane Tennyson would be proud.

My girl is laughing in blossom
bursts, like the shifting spring breeze.
Toes on warm floorboards, knees balancing
a crackling laptop. 

She’s a virtual girl, a “Zoomie,” 
her classroom and its people piped
into her room. At first a sloppy pandemic
epiphany, now an exhausting necessity.

In a Zoom breakout room, 
they’re breaking down
genetic code until the connection
breaks: disrupting her signal, 
stinging sharp, like a sudden ousting
from locker talk. Her friends, far off,

Tensing with her verbal vacancy, 
I begin whispering an unheard
reminder, our daily mantra: 
“Give yourself grace, 
even when the show on the screen
goes on without you.”

My breath dammed, bursting only
when I know she is reconnected;
her room once again resounding
with far off familiar voices
falling like
in the garden.

Katherine Laufman lives in Northern California and  is a former Special Education Teacher and small town newspaper editor. She has a B.A. in English from Colorado State University. She had several poems published when she was fresh out of college, then life happened.She is enjoying her renewed fascination with writing poetry after a 28 year hiatus. 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.

Late Quarantine Thoughts on Vietnamese Cold Noodles and Grilled Pork Patties

by Terry Kirts

How can I make a salad without my hands?
I try with gloves, but the noodles skid
against the rubber, the mint bruises
where I pluck it from its stem. Cilantro
blackens, frail devil, out of spite. I might as

well bare skin to the guest who has breathed
in my kitchen, spit toothpaste in my sink.
Who among us isn’t doomed? Lime and fish
sauce sting my knuckles, reminding me
I’m permeable, I’m cut, that blood, too,

seasons the dressing. Thus a simple supper
on a cool May night feeds the heart its iron,
its hyssop. Could we, like kings and tsars,
have tasters to take the noble fall
for our enemies’ venom? Still, we sigh

at sharp flavors of shallot and grill smoke,
knowing there are greater joys than long living.
Aren’t all meals prepared with love
also tinged with inescapable risk? We each
wash our own plates, as if it keeps us safe.

Terry Kirts is the author of To the Refrigerator Gods, published in the Editor’s Choice series in poetry by Seven Kitchen’s Press in 2010. He is a senior lecturer in creative writing at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. His poetry and essays have appeared in such journals as Third Coast, Gastronomica, Alimentum, Sycamore Review, Green Mountains ReviewTaco Bell Quarterly, Presence, and Another Chicago Magazine, as well as the anthologies Food Poems and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana. His culinary articles and restaurant reviews have appeared widely, and he is currently a dining critic for Indianapolis MonthlyRalph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.

Plague Diaries – April 11, 2020 (an acrostic)

by Jennifer Hernandez

Chalk drawings of rainbows 
and hearts in the windows
let me believe that
my mother will survive the full-
blown pandemic predicted to fill
emergency rooms two weeks
from tomorrow; even though her
oncologist is “on vacation”, Mom’s on the
road to recovery, or so we believe, since
Easter is nothing, if not a time to
trust the stories we tell ourselves. I whisper,
hum, chant, beg, pray that
every little thing will be alright, like it
says on the sign at the house on
tenth street, where the couple sits
on camp chairs in their driveway sipping
rum and cokes, waving and smiling at
me, as I walk, walk, walk my old black lab.

Jennifer Hernandez lives in Minnesota where she teaches immigrant youth and writes poetry, flash, and creative non-fiction. She has performed her poetry at a non-profit garage, a taxidermy-filled bike shop, and a community garden. Recent publications include Ekphrastic ReviewTalking StickVerse-Virtual, and Silver Birch Press. 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.

Stay in the Moment

by Kim McNealy Sosin

In the sculpture gardens,
            Musée Rodin in Paris,
            amongst the Burghers,
            an ancient moment
            in Paris and Calais.
Sprawled in my chair,
not there,
             yet there.
I cradle my book.

Noon and too dark out
All molecules of air stalled,
             cold, damp.
A typical November
on the Great Plains.

Stay in the moment
ubiquitous advice.
I consider this moment,
clutch my book.

            So here I am, in Paris again,
            springtime, late June,
            wandering, admiring,
            page after page.
            The Thinker,The Kiss.

I could be anywhere,
Iceland, Timbuktu,
African photo safari,
            not this place.
In any moment
            not this moment,
of raging pandemic.

Kim McNealy Sosin is an Emerita Professor of Economics at the University of Nebraska Omaha.  Her post-retirement interests include writing and photography. Her poems and photographs have appeared in Fine Lines, Failed Haiku, Daily Haiga, Voices from the Plains, Landscape Magazine, The Heron’s Nest, Wanderlust Journal, Ekphrastic Review, and Sandcutters. The artwork that accompanies her poem is her own. It depicts Rodin’s Burghers of Calais.

Vaccine Tango with the Red Red Rose

by Meghan Sterling

In the dream, Covid like a maraschino cherry in my arm,

traveling down veins full of syrup, red as iron, red as

a bead in my ear. You shook with rage in the driver’s seat,

almost collided with a woman asking for change. No one

was wearing a mask anywhere, not in the library at my

book signing, not at the vaccine clinic, not on the street

thronging with basket weavers. The Bandaid on my arm

was holding in my sickness like stage fright. Swallow

and step onto the stage. Covid was making me bold,

the way it bounced around inside my body

like a game of Arkanoid, bounce off the paddle, rebound

to the other cell wall. Red spikes like a Rambutan, o

that soft white center like sinking one’s teeth into an eyeball.

You weren’t laughing, hated my book, my squirming cells,

the virus a stone in my throat, a cherry lozenge swallowed

and caught on the uvula, swinging like a punching bag in those old

loony tunes. Covid tap dancing around just under my skin

like a bug under a rug, as you railed and wept, ending our marriage.

Meanwhile, Covid peeked out from behind my red-rimmed eyes

and snickered. Meanwhile, Covid rolled its round hairy body as if

my body was a ball pit, lunging from edge to edge with the glee

of a kid at Chucky Cheese.  

Meghan Sterling lives in Portland, Maine with her family. Her work has been published in Rattle, Cider Press Review, Inflectionist Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Driftwood Press, Sky Island Journal, Literary Mama and others. She is Associate Poetry Editor of the Maine Review, a Dibner Fellow at the 2020 Black Fly Writer’s Retreat, and a Hewnoaks Artist Colony Resident in 2019 and 2021. Her collection These Few Seeds is forthcoming from Terrapin Books in April, 2021. 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.

Love Bubbles

by Carolyn Steinhoff

Evil is possessed, unlike mere misery,
of a dark glamour nobody pities.

            –Franz Wright

Discover where the Lost Men,
JA, James B, Muddy, the others,
got their freedom and courage:
this is the assignment given
to certain members of the populace
chosen for their formlessness.
Their mission: put together
a tutorial on how to distinguish
between pitiful unhappiness
and glamorous evil, unhappiness’s
“most successful disguise.”
But the invisible shepherd
has driven this domesticated segment
into a pen called Distraction,
where they can’t work,
where the distinct ones,
who could once be stroked and punched,
who have never killed
their consciousness, their longing
for love that never comes,
have been rendered as 30-second
on-demand videos and shares
that no one shares or demands.
Words of love now leave their mouths
as bubbles the wind carries off and breaks.
When the words were sounds,
they acted like a hall of sound
down which the vague and precise alike
could stroll, between walls of sound
that neither reached to them
to entice them to stay forever,
nor spooked them into getting out
as fast as they could. Now, as bubbles
streaming forth and popping, their songs
create a festive atmosphere for the dying,
while the figures of the living
are being unraveled,
their ideas pulled from inside them
like a thread from a sweater.
The Lost peek out from behind a bush
in the wilderness. Are we horrible or sad?
the shaky white masses ask of them,
as they fill the once empty apartments
and pine for a cuddle. Here is how
you sort out the difference:
the Idea, justice for all, whose neck
is under the boot of the baby-man
with the sceptre,
wrests free and holds up a torch,
while the lowly shepherd cries
in a tearful tangle and we comfort them.

Carolyn Steinhoff’s poems have appeared in various journals, including And Then and Emerge. In the blurb the late John Ashbery contributed to her book, Under the World, published by Nauset Press, he said in part, “These are haunting plangent poems that reverberate in one’s consciousness long after reading.” Sulochana Mahe is an artist based in India’s former French outpost, Mahe. She dissolves herself day in, day out in social work, and art. Her work includes teaching painting to cancer patients, helping them overcome their sense of being doomed. She taught art to 150 prisoners at the Central Prison, Kannur, moving their minds to the softer sides of life. Teaching art to women at a care home in Thalassery gives her joy that colors can’t.

Because you laughed when I said the world needs poetry

by Jaime Speed

I tried to tell you the world
needs poetry as much as a vaccine
I read strangers’ faces like tarot cards for signs
of myself in the smashed cauliflower of their worry

I catch the rattling in my bones again, the pitch
of my favourite song and no one stops
me from listening to it 37 times a day
like the flash of whiskers your memory stipples to my thigh
I chart the stars with my teeth
grinding dot to dot connecting the world
needs teeth whitening, gym time, vitamins, fresh music, less
freckling, less skin, less self, less silence, more sirens
tangled hair, family ties, a row of dog ends dancing
in your patchwork quilt saved
for later, singed but not burning, we handle
threads & bits of fabric like lock downs, enforced
alone time, a space big enough
to outgrow ourselves

isn’t so bad our horoscopes
predict disqualification, it’s ok
to write the whole year off
as long as next year
we’re gonna get away with it
the world is a syndrome
and we’re just the symptoms matching
the bane with our own grit
I brush my teeth 7 times a day
left-handed, hands washed
7 times more, no body
sees this part in the movies
the braiding and unbraiding of hair
re-watching the lifecycle of ladybugs
empty arms anxious to rake up
their springtime shells in a jumble
of unearthed debris the year over
heaped up and hauled away
with the defamed ruins of last year’s garden
know that I hear you when you say
you hadn’t meant to leave it
so untended, it’s ok, dear, the world
needs forgiveness for a crime it didn’t commit

Jaime Speed lives, works, and plays in Saskatchewan, Canada. A fan of reading, gardening, throwing weights, and dancing badly, she has recently been published in The Rat’s Ass ReviewDear Loneliness ProjectHobo Camp ReviewAnti-Heroin Chic, and OyeDrum Magazine, with work forthcoming in Psaltery & Lyre and Channel along with collections by Ship Street Poetry and Gnashing Teeth Publications. 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.

sociability (2020)

by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky

on this meek and mild morning
in our sudden isolation
I am staring out my window
while a doe is Sunday strolling
through a neighbor’s greening lawn
followed safely at a distance
by her spotted new world fawn

Felicia Sanzari Chernesky is a longtime editor, slowly publishing poet, and author of six picture books, including From Apple Trees to Cider, Please! and The Boy Who Said Nonsense (Albert Whitman & Company). In 2018 she moved away from the masthead of an academic quarterly to work with people who want to share their stories, ideas, and poems in print. Her poetry received a 2020 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards honorable mention. Her fiction has been nominated for a 2021 Pushcart Prize and Best Microfiction Award. She lives with her family in Flemington, New Jersey. 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.   

My Singer Contracted COVID

by Elaine Sorrentino

We forged a friendship
when the kids were small, money tight,
the unexpected birthday gift
that screamed of possibility; 

this machine with its basic
straight and basting stitches,
its practical and fun zigzag, 
and other sexier stitches 

I later learned earned names 
such as Scallop, Icicle and Diamond,
all contributing to the creation
of shiny silver knight costumes, 

long-tailed green dragons 
with gold bellies and oversized paws,
quilted Christmas stockings
sporting each child’s name on the cuff,

wide wale corduroy knickers  
for the high school version of Carousel,
all tailored with my reliable
indestructible sewing machine.   

Cancer changed priorities
and my Singer found a home
in the back of the closet
with other abandoned pastimes 

until Covid coaxed it out
to fashion protective masks
but instead, sewed one straight
row, then jammed in reverse. 

Elaine Sorrentino is Communications Director at South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, MA. Her work has been published in Minerva Rising, Willawaw Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Ekphrastic Review, The Writers’ Magazine, Haiku Universe, Failed Haiku, and has won the monthly poetry challenge at Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Zoom Hour

by M.J. Iuppa

Sitting in the discomfort of being here, I know you are listening

and not listening; I know you have things on your mind. I know

you are looking at your keyboard, doing two things at once; wishing

the cat would jump up on your lap, or the dog begging to have its

head scratched, or your 8-year-old, who has been quiet all morning,

pleading outside your workroom for a cheese & mustard sandwich

on soft white bread, without crusts, and cut into triangles & served

on the red plate that says: This Is Your Day.

                                        And, you will shout as we read your lips:

 Wait, I am trying to do something. Give me a minute.

I know you’re listening for the reassuring sound of your child’s full

body thud just outside your door, and those tiny nails (you really

should clip those nails), dragging against the hardwood floor, in

that slow, deep scratch that takes your breath & proves that I know

you are listening and not listening; I can see your eyes close, even

as I am talking, and I am grateful that you showed up today. I know

you know time is precious. You don’t need to hear it.

                                       Refresh— start, again.

M.J. Iuppa’s fourth poetry collection is This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017). For the past 32 years, she has lived on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Check out her blog for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew. 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.