We face an unprecedented era of extremity under Covid-19. We share that as humans. Our stories differ across nation and other structures that web the human world. We can witness from where we are and share what we witness. Let's work together as one world of poets.
when the virus had worn itself into history the wolf emerged from his hiding place and bought a trinket from the kid down the street
someone had used chalk to make a picture of paradise on the sidewalk
the artist next door dressed for summer summer was something the wolf had thought had gone away forever eaten by a microbe even smaller than a snowflake but here it was summer or something like it with not even any cold winds
the wolf didn’t need cold winds this must be a dream after all that the virus had done to the world the last year
if the wolf were asleep he’d have to turn over but when he tried to turn over all he could do was spin people thought he was dancing and started to dance too soon someone was playing music and the whole world thought it was happy the wolf was happy too vaccine he didn’t even think of cows or of lambs for dinner
Dale Jensen was born in Oakland, California, and has degrees in psychology from UC Berkeley and the University of Toronto. He has seven books and four chapbooks out, has co-coordinated several poetry reading series, and edited the poetry magazine Malthus. 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.
Stop that damn whistling my grandmother would say while we were digging crabgrass from her yard.
And stop banging on that piano— the player piano at The Potter Game Club where we would gather for reunions needing no one to play it really, the keys magically playing on their own, but I still liked to give it my own spin.
I don’t remember my grandmother ever singing, or dancing, or even tapping her feet to any beat, but, now, in the senior home, post-pandemic, she sings soprano in the halls, the dining room, the notes piercing, shattering time, the staff and other residents rattled, but these are notes of survival, of perseverance, and when I sing to her now, she smiles.
Lisa Lynn Biggar received her MFA in Fiction from Vermont College and is currently completing a short story cycle set on the eastern shore of Maryland. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous literary journals including Main Street Rag, Bluestem Magazine, The Minnesota Review, Kentucky Review, The Delmarva Review and Superstition Review. She’s the fiction editor for Little Patuxent Review and co-owns and operates a cut flower farm on the eastern shore of Maryland with her husband and three cats.Varada J.M is a 10th-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.
My father’s frame is taut, bent from the waist but straining to straighten, and he walks like a toy soldier, one plodding foot in front of the other. I’m watching the news after dinner when he comes to me holding a plastic sleeve of orange cheddar slices.
“There are four slices of cheese missing,” he reports.
Born in 1929, the son of refugees, he has always been thrifty, saving the rubber bands from vegetables, sucking every fiber of meat from a bone, picking up grains of sugar from the table with a licked finger. I anticipate a complaint about my mother eating too much cheese. Instead he informs me, “It says on the package there are eleven slices. But they only gave us seven!” I try to clear up his confusion: “It’s not a brand new package.” “But I just opened it.” “No you didn’t. I opened it last week. We’ve eaten four slices. I made Mom a grilled cheese for lunch.” The cheddar’s high level of sodium endangers his heart, so I had made him a sandwich with mozzarella instead. He’s unaware of the substitution, just as my grandmother didn’t know, decades before, that he taped shut the holes in her salt shaker. An industrial appraiser, he was always coming up with mechanical solutions. Now the zip lock seal on the cheese slices has confounded him, the package appearing as new.
This is the dance of dementia. Everyday tasks need elaborate explanation till they don’t matter. But now it’s imperative that he understand. This is why we wash our hands for twenty seconds. This is why old people must stay at home. This is why we didn’t wear masks but now we should. I have trouble understanding myself. “Four slices are missing!” he insists. “We have a lawsuit here!” Though one small part of my brain chuckles, most of my mind is fatigued. My father encouraged me as a child to write letters to the editor, to speak up against wrongdoing. How can he not understand there are more pressing matters outside our quarantine?
There are not enough masks. Tests are scarce. Black and brown people are disproportionately dying. As of today, over 30,000 people have died and roughly 600,000 people have been infected in the U.S. They are numbers, sterile, appearing on the tv screen. Not 1.5 million, I tell myself. At least they’re not as bad as our own private genocide.
Close to 200 folks lost their lives in Massachusetts today. The state lists the dead by their age. There are usually a few in their 50s. A bunch in their 80s. Today there are several 100s. Who are they? Old people who were going to die soon anyway, unable to count their last breaths.
“Why did you even open this?” I ask my father. “Are you hungry?” “I opened it because it says there are eleven slices and they only gave us seven!”
I listen to his rage, a flag ripping in the wind. Our ability to fathom unimaginable loss, like a few slabs of cheese—missing.
Nancy Agabian is a writer, teacher, and literary organizer, working in the spaces between race, ethnicity, cultural identity, feminism and queer identity. She is the author of Me as her again: True Stories of an Armenian Daughter (Aunt Lute Books, 2008), and Princess Freak (Beyond Baroque Books, 2000), a collection of poetry, prose, and performance art texts. Her recent novel, The Fear of Large and Small Nations, was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially-Engaged Fiction. She is currently working on a personal essay collection, In-Between Mouthfuls, which frames liminal spaces of identity within causes for social justice. A longtime community-based writing workshop facilitator, she teaches creative writing at universities, art centers, and online, most recently at The Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU, The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in NYC, and her own Zoom series, “Connected Rooms”. She serves on the board of the International Armenian Literary Alliance. Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press.
At the Lisle stop, their breath hangs in the air like empty thought balloons as they shuffle toward the boarding doors. She takes the seat across the aisle from me, slides over to the window. At Downers Grove, she checks her watch, pulls her cell phone from her purse.
Hello, Sweetheart. Are you already awake? How are you feeling? Good! Did you sleep well? I laid your school clothes out for you on your chair. Don’t forget to brush your teeth. Will you do that for Mommy? That’s my girl.
The Hinsdale station flashes by the window. We’re an express to Chicago now. Everyone around us sleeps, heads pulled into scarves, into coats against the cold.
Your breakfast is on the counter. Be sure to put the milk back in the fridge. Yes, I miss Daddy, too. Yes, I know. Me, too. Me, too. You’d better get ready now. Mrs. Hennipen will be there soon to walk you to the bus. Don’t forget your key. It’s on your necklace.
I love you, too, Sweetheart. Have a good day at school. ‘Bye.
Clutching the phone like a talisman, she leans her head against the window; falls asleep, nodding slighting in the lights of the stations we pass.
John Hicks is a New Mexico poet. He has been published or accepted for publication by: South Florida Poetry Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Bangor Literary Journal, Verse-Virtual, Blue Nib, Poetica Review, and others. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Nebraska, Omaha. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.
A witch is worth more than her herb stores and potions. And yet.
Oh, that summer…
That was the summer when I did not make jam or preserve, pickle, or can, too deep in grief to mind my craft.
Rows of empty jars line my shelves and now a winter wind, a hungry wind, howls outside and I won’t starve (probably).
Hollow heart, husk of a heart, must I forgive myself before I say: replenish yourself?
Jeana Jorgensen earned her PhD in folklore from Indiana University. She researches gender and sexuality in fairy tales and fairy-tale retellings, folk narrative more generally, body art, dance, and feminist/queer theory. Her poetry has appeared at Strange Horizons, Nevermore Journal, Liminality, Glittership, and other venues. 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.
Sadly, the bar where we first met No longer exists. It was shuttered When the Governor closed all the bars, And it never opened again.
The small stage where Motown’s last Living funk brother performed Every Tuesday night is dark And deeply silent.
The corner booth where she drank Rum and coke and me draft lager’s Is empty and the neon of primary colors At the bar are all black.
I remember the light shimmering On her sequin top and me knowing And lamenting my weakness for Sequins of any color.
The lights will always be on for me, The music playing, and the unfading image Of her shimmying to shake the sequins That fully colored that night.
Doug Tanoury is a Detroit poet who has been published widely in print and on the Internet. He has written a number of chapbooks including Detroit Poems, Merida Poems, Getting Religion and Tolstoy’s Ghost. 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.
This time, it is possible the world has changed again.
Being absent from it, as I was, these months
I make no judgement on how that has gone.
when the dis-ease came, I went off course a
(more than I imagined)
and went somewhere I hadn’t expected.
The last time this happened, ….we gathered together
after the mutilating “radiance of 1,000 suns”
burst over us in Los Alamos,
We barely survived
the consequences of separating
Radium ☢ isotopes
step in the
advance to |
we danced briefly before eating death as our regular meal in bomb shelters.
(And I hold my peace on how that went.)
This time after months,
of living within a small, cellular, galaxy,
robes to ourselves
we are ready to emerge. ….to have and to hold
All of us
entering into the luminous bending fire
of survival, uneasy with new wisdom,
unchanged in our desire ….from this day forward
to be with one another.
This time I will go somewhere with you,
to sing about what happened here ...until death do us part.
What else is as useful after such events?
Think what they might have sung at Los Alamos.
Lo Whittington is a writer in Iowa City who has maintained a blog for over ten years on living as a transplanted New Yorker in Iowa. She has participated in various poetry readings in Iowa City and has two pieces forthcoming in the annual Midwest Writing Anthology, These Interesting Times: Surviving 2020.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.
as their bedtime story, on the laptop my mother has skyped in,
William Shakespeare for Children, edited edition primary as the choice she gives them spoiled
for comedy, so when they pick Hamlet we are both surprised. Tragedy
is sad, I say. We know, my son tells me
in his night-sky pajamas. Shakespeare sounds fun, my daughter counters
winding the braid of her hair like an arras around the room of her hand.
To my delight, they are breathless, frozen by the ghostly stare,
Elsinor battlements, murder most foul both agree Hamlet is a whiner
and I, grateful that they edited Ophelia still feels a pang when he sends her discretely away.
Children’s editions are light in ambiguity so Hamlet pretends, he loves, he obeys
enough for heroism, still everyone is delighted when he skewers Polonius,
pirates and a duel, my husband and I act it out with wooden spoons as my mother reads,
children howling when I am slain, twitching on the denrug, eyes on the carefully locked front door.
Do I tell them of the time I saw it live, at the Barbican, cemented, brutal,
all the golden threads of my life five rows from the stage,
they were everyone mine, Hamlet, Claudius every word and though I knew them all
I wept as if I had suddenly become aware that all things die.
Katherine Hagopian Berry (she/her) has appeared in the Café Review, Rise-Up Review and Glass: Poet’s Resist, among other places. Her first collection, Mast Year, was published in 2020. She is a poetry reader for the Maine Review.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.
Mary Grace van der Kroef is a poet, writer, and artist from Ontario, Canada. She is a person of faith, a mental health warrior, and a lover of the simple things in life. She writes to bring light in to the world, and highlight those simple things she loves. Her work has appeared in various journals, including Dwelling Literary, Fahmidan Journal, and Hencroft Hub. 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.
A Romantic aesthetic trashed today, out of fashion,
Fuck flung around like grass seed,
Awesome attached to every third noun,
And Lucien Freud’s bloated bodies
leaping off canvas to strut the national stage.
Trending, a head-to-head race to vulgarity.
Locked-in, wine required, needs still surging.
Virginia Beards lives on in the oxymoronic Amish/fox-hunting farm country of southeast Pennsylvania after teaching British and European literature for 23 years at Penn State University. Her poetry book Exit Pursued by a Bear and Others was published by Oermead Press in 2014. She also has three short stories in Chester County Fiction (2014); poems in Scoundrel Time, and in W.O.E.—Writing on the Edge (U. of California, Davis), a critical edition of a 19th century British novel (Rutgers University Press), plus assorted “scholarly” articles. Other: an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr College. Recently she won a prize from Scoundrel Time for the best pandemic poems.Liz Baron is an artist and restaurateur who lives in Texas by way of New York City. She and her husband, Jim, founded, own and operate four Mexican-Southwestern restaurants. She got her Bachelor of Fine Art from Pratt Institute but stopped painting when restaurant work and family life consumed most of her time. She is grateful to the online art classes of Sketchbook Skool that helped her regain the joy of a regular art practice.