Eating in Isolation

by Nancy Susanna Breen

I’ve risked drive-through from the start,
partly because I’m a horrible cook
(bad food tastes even worse
in lockdown), partly because
I depend on the human contact.
The fries and chicken fingers help,
but what saves me is sharing
recognition and greetings
with the masked figures
handling meals from the windows.
We know each other on sight,
ask “How are you?”
although there’s no time
for conversation. For days
I often see and speak to
no one else. Their smiling eyes
reassure me the world
didn’t disappear
and leave me here alone.

Nancy Susanna Breen has published three chapbooks of poems, the most recent being Burying the Alleluia (2019, Finishing Line Press). Her latest, Shutting My Father’s Mouth, won the 2020 Morris Memorial Chapbook Competition and will be published by New Dawn Unlimited. She isolates in Loveland, Ohio. 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.

I’ll Show Them

by Ann Privateer

The planet’s on fire
They need a lesson before dying
Untethered souls as they might be

Where is the permanence we were
born into? Those of us who refused to
“step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s
back”? But we grew up with plastic everything, radical getting and speeding.
How many cars does one person need?

We feared 2000 might mean the end
But life went on and so did we, unhinged
Unheeding that we, the planet, was walking off a cliff! Even Greta the young
Girl who made sense but…change, what
me? I’ll never change my ways, the planet
will be yours, young folks, you do it.

Ann Privateer is a poet, artist, and photographer. She grew up in the Midwest and moved to California to attend college. Some of her photographs have appeared in Third Wednesday. She won a best of show at the county fair for an abstract oil painting entitled Tooling. Her poetry has appeared in Manzanita and Entering, to name a few.

Walking a Cemetery Path During the Pandemic

by Nancy Smiler Levinson

here lies Ray Bradbury    here ‘our darling’ Eva Gabor
Natalie Wood is at rest in this garden spot
imagine a soft song near this rippling pool
where lies Miss Peggy Lee    ‘music was her life’

August, the anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s
death    her crypt festooned with glossy photos
daffodils and wreaths of roses white and red
draped in memory by her ‘Immortal Fan Club’

lush lawn     porcelain flowerpots
camelias    calla lilies     mixed bouquets
rows of dense manicured hedges
slender spruce and pines skyward pointed

there is no one here today, not a living soul
here a granite bench beneath a tree
this camphor tree   so majestic    wondrous  
I sit sensing its life given by a mighty force                    

breathing     sheltering     with canopy’s whispers
embracing me with long, curved arms   
branches as sturdy as its massive, braided trunk
I am a visitor    here on this breathtaking earth

Nancy Smiler Levinson is author of MOMENTS OF DAWN: A Poetic Memoir of Love & Family; Affliction & Affirmation, as well as work that has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including  Poetica, Voice of Eve, Constellations, Sleet, Third Wednesday, Burningword Literary Review, The Copperfield Review, and elsewhere. In past chapters of her life she published some thirty books for young readers. She lives and writes in Los Angeles. 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.

When Your President is Insane and You are Washing Your Hands Twenty Times a Day

by Dotty LeMieux

You might not think these things are connected
the rambling disjointed press briefings
the directives from the CDC
steps we follow when doing
the distance disco
the seventy-nine year old head
of Infectious Diseases from the NIH
who still puts his hands up
to his face when the leader of the Free World
says something profoundly dumb

later you might drive to Tomales Bay to eat
sandwiches in the car and walk
along the beach at low tide and watch
the fancy footwork
of fishermen keeping their balance
on the rocky shoreline, while
cows on the opposite bank
make moving silhouettes
against the rain-greened hills

at home, you avoid
turning on TV until you wash wash wash
your hands singing
Happy Birthday or Sweet Caroline
or Row Row Row your Boat
until your fingers are as pruney
as those of a Russian
masseur in an overheated sauna

and when you have walked the dogs 
and see, to  your surprise, again —
as it is always a surprise these days —
the budding of spring   
regal blue crocus, imperial daffodils
golden poppies waltzing with their lupine lovers
to the thrumming beat
of nature  pulsing  through their roots

and you have come home and performed
the hand-washing polka
yet another time, and have fed the dogs, 
in that minute, between Judge Judy
and the five o’clock news,
which will only repeat
the daily death toll
the casualties
the common cruelty
of the new normal

only then, will you look to the sunflowers
on the ledge beside your window,
slow dancing,
turning their shaggy yellow heads,
a little later each day,
to the not quite syncopated rhythm
of the last ballet
of a dying regime.

Dotty LeMieux works as an environmental lawyer and campaign consultant in Marin County California, where she lives with her husband and two dogs. Her work has appeared in publications such as Rise Up Review, Beautiful Cadaver Social Anthologies series, Writers Resist, MacQueen’s Quinterly. Poets Reading the News, Gyroscope Review, and others. She has three had chapbooks published and edited the poetry and art journal Turkey Buzzard Review in northern California until the mid-1980’s. A new chapbook, Henceforth I Ask Not Good Fortune, is scheduled to be published by Finishing Line Press in December. 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.

Spotting Mars in a Pandemic

by Ann Malaspina

tiny flare
in the indigo sky
millions of miles
above the yellow house
next door– 
i spot you  
in my quarantine,
a prick of gleaming
light like 

Ann Malaspina is an award-winning  children’s author and poet living in New Jersey. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her next book, Zeke the Weather Geek: There’s a Lizard in My Blizzard, written with co-author Joan Axelrod-Contrada, will be out in 2022 from Kids Can 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.

On the Record

by Jessica L. Walsh

I say it must be coming for us
because I don’t see it coming for us.
I look at the dog’s picture from 3 years back
and find an old, old beast,
tired of delivering to us his loads of love.
He greys and whitens, mats and tufts.
How exhausted he is,
and how greedy I am not to see it,
urging him on to and on to August
when he was ready that April,
the same month a doctor felt my husband’s neck and frowned.
I turn to his picture and from here I see
swelling, the push in and out of tumors
that had grown for years, perhaps a decade,
but when I’d pressed my lips to his neck and lingered,
I felt only desire, never disease.
Each day now I say we are fine.
Let the record show I believed it
and knew all along I was wrong.

Jessica L. Walsh is the author of two poetry collections, most recently The List of Last Tries, and two chapbooks. Her work has appeared in RHINO, Ninth Letter, Sundog Lit, and more. She is a community college professor outside of Chicago but a native of rural Michigan. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.

I am in Taiwan

by Stephen Douglas Wright

It was said:
There shall be wars and rumors of wars,
Famines and earthquakes
Kingdom against kingdom,
And these things must pass,
Though it will not yet be the end

This year:
Australia was on fire
Locusts swept through Africa
My country and so many others,
Beset by disease

What else have I forgotten?
Even unforgotten, what do I omit?
The newscycle eats history and people
I don’t know if I’m in its mouth
Or watch from a closing distance

I worry :
For my parents,
family and friends
I don’t know if they are in its mouth
Or watch from a closing distance

I am in Taiwan:
The lion mauled the bodies of other earth
Only nipping the paw
Of this tortoise-shell island
On whose back mountains grow
And whose tragedies and wars
Have only been, to me,
Rumors and memories of tragedies and wars
Past and future
Covered by concrete and jungle

All my sadness
Of which these distant happenings
Are only a part
Becomes as insignificant as the sand ,
Carried eastward with the waves,
Until east, having gone so far,
becomes west And I, this sand,
drift back to my homeshore 

Stephen Douglas Wright is a poet and playwright from Michigan and living in Taitung, Taiwan. He holds a bachelor of arts degree with majors in theater, philosophy and political science from Aquinas College. His poems have been published in Aquinas College’s Sampler, and in Michigan’s Best Emerging Poets 2019. He will be published in Menteur Magazine. 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 Once and Future Queen

by B. Lynne Zika

“I should not talk so much about myself
if there were anybody else I knew as well.”
                            —Henry David Thoreau

The pines thin as years pass, falling
not to axes to warm a hearth 
or heat a stove for morning bread
but to tractors, ripping away impediments 
to sweetly named clusters of fake brick or stone,
cluttered garages, sidewalks, 
a neighbor’s window 
pressed close enough to touch. 
Even in my glory days

I wouldn’t have chained myself to forklifts.
When all believe a thing is progress it can’t be stopped.
I would have planted trees instead; 
a weed can bring a highway to its knees.
Outside my door a bird whistles:
Maybe so, maybe so.
Buds populate all corners of the farm.
The tips of hydrangea and rosebush 
defy their winter shrouds. Daffodils
have come and gone. I ought to sow 

but the turf still grows thickly behind the barn, 
unturned by fingers gnarled now.
They once broke ground.
They planted 

and wiser heads than mine prophesied:
Never work, never work.
But I harvested corn.
I made a reader weep. I hate the tears
which plague women now grown old,
pitying ourselves for everything undone:
Too late, too late.
I knew a painter with failing sight,
and on the worst days she laid 
on her great-aunt’s tablecloth of white China silk 
squares of mustard-yellow satin, 
red flannel, turquoise crêpe-de-chine. 
Anyone could have named the artist.

The dead bug in the corner of my room
has nearly turned to dust. 
My pantry bows its head, too embarrassed
to hold its skinny self up to scrutiny.
I know my excuses; we’re intimate now:
I’ve been ill
under the weather 
on a diet 
out of town. The last is best.
While I was away a pandemic was born. 
I heard on the plane coming home 
that my local Walmart
offers seniors an undisturbed hour of shopping,
ensuring the giant’s public image 
but gaining very little money. 
We geezers are not apt to read fine print on cereal boxes
at six o’clock in the morning. There comes a time
to celebrate foresight, 
no matter how unintentioned. 
The night I flew home,
suitcases hauled in, taxi paid, 
I wandered to the kitchen
in search of local-only sustenance 
to mollify my culture shock
and lay my innards to rest.
’Twas like dancing with an orthopaedist
the day before you break your leg.
From the icebox I gorged on cornbread,
sweet milk,
an honest-to-god shot of moonshine 
flavored with peach 
and the inexorable clove—
a feast born to the purple
if I do say so myself.

Now, lying abed, 
I draw my purple robe around me.
Let them place a crown on my head
when hats no longer matter.
Thorns will do.
I won’t be here to complain.
But I’ll leave behind
all the vowels I have known
whispering faintly
She’s gone, she’s gone.

B. Lynne Zika’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary publications: Poetry East, Exquisite Corpse, The Anthology of American Poets, etc.  She has written for newspaper and radio and for trade and consumer magazines. In addition to editing poetry and nonfiction, she worked as a closed-captioning editor for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. She received a Pacificus Foundation Literary Award in short fiction, and her photography has received the Celebrity Award and the 2020 Choice Award from Viewbug. The photograph that accompanies the poem is her own.

Joseph Cornell and Houdini

by Jan Zlotnik Schmidt

(Joseph Cornell watched Houdini perform at Coney Island in 1905 when he was a young boy.)

There are all kinds of boxed-in worlds. 
Boxes that trap memory. 
Boxes that enclose and hold in desire. 

A miniature woman, looking like Frieda Kahlo,
Is suspended in her shallow wooden box. 
Held up by threads, filaments attached
to a firmament in wood. 
Perched in air,  her blue cobalt
flowered skirt fanned out like a miniature
parasol,  she hangs there paralyzed 
in her etherized world. 
Waiting to be set free.  Or maybe not. 
Maybe she’s suspended in a moment of desire. 

In another box of his the firmament is dreamed
black with specks of stars, a petrified cosmos. 
Miniature constellations, like flecks of white dust,
splatters of paint in patterns, held in place.
Orion, Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, the North Star
in a spangling of hope.  And in the front of the box
fluted large emptied wine glasses speak
of once human presence.  A couple perhaps
staring out at the  night sky.  Remembering their youth.
Their desire to break free.  Their unfettered longing.

Did the young boy who watched Houdini    
swathed in black cloth  then shut in a trunk
and finally emerge to gasping crowds
imagine the lure of boxes trunks and closed in spaces?
What they could provide.  
And did Houdini love that feeling of crouching
wreathed in chains, inside a trunk, 
in utter darkness set down in the sea?
Hunched over, did he have the pleasure of
suspended motion, of hearing only his sharp intakes of breath?
Did time stop for an instant as he remembered    
his surge to the surface of the sea
then the quiet return to dark depths?

Did they both crave circumscribed worlds?
That solitude, that silence,
that stillness of memory?

Jan Zlotnik Schmidt’s work has been published in many journals including the The Alaska Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, and  Kansas Quarterly..  Her work also has been nominated for the Pushcart Press Prize.  Two volumes of poetry were published by the Edwin Mellen Press (We Speak in Tongues, 1991; She had this memory, 2000) and another, Foraging for Light recently was published by Finishing Line Press. (2019). Ralph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.


by Joan McNerney

Sneaks under shadows lurking
in corners ready to rear its head
folded in neat lab reports charting
white blood cells over edge running wild.

Or hiding along icy roads when
day ends with sea gulls squalling
through steel grey skies.

Brake belts wheeze and whine
snapping apart careening us
against the long cold night.

Official white envelopes stuffed with
subpoenas wait at the mailbox.
Memories of hot words burning
razor blades slash across our faces.

Fires leap from rooms where twisted
wires dance like miniature skeletons.
We stand apart inhaling this mean
air choking on our own breath.

Joan McNerney’s poetry is found in many literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Poet Warriors, Blueline, and Halcyon Days, Four Bright Hills Press Anthologies, several Poppy Road Journals, and numerous Poets’ Espresso Reviews have accepted her work. She has four Best of the Net nominations. Her latest title is The Muse in Miniature available on and 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.