Oh yes, I’m sheltering in place, and social distancing—watching life energy drain into germaphobia—a grandmother screams to protect her cart at the grocery store. Sanitizer the new king. We stand six feet apart on sidewalks marked with chalk we wait to enter a store, or the farmer’s market, move forward with encouraging statements You’re getting closer! three double steps till Almost there! We avoid elevators, the rule: two at a time. On watch, eyes down, for direction-arrows in supermarket aisles. But I lived through AIDS, know how to slip on a mask. I’m not afraid of this virus.
Julene Tripp Weaver is a psychotherapist and writer in Seattle. She has a chapbook and two full size poetry books. Her most recent, truth be bold—Serenading Life & Death in the Age of AIDS, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and won the Bisexual Book Award. Her work is widely published in journals and anthologies, including: The Seattle Review of Books, HIV Here & Now, Mad Swirl, Stonewall Legacy Anthology and Day Without Art Special 30 Year Edition. You can find more of her work on Twitter at @trippweavepoet or on Instagram at @julenet.weaver. 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.
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.
Freckled and smiling wide, sly-eyed, you swagger in (like you do) smirking. As if moments before your entrance you made a left-handed trash-can basket with a crumpled late slip or landed a filthy joke somewhere.
You slide sheepishly into the meaningfully empty chair beside me joining the hurried horseshoe of us and them.
I want to tell you that they think the world is ending.
You flirty-sulk (like you do) in your alarmingly white Liverpool stadium jacket and incandescent pants to match. You’re like a kid in new costume pajamas: proud and ready for monkey business.
Your stubborn chest is stamped with a red cormorant: The Liver Bird. But I see the broken cardinal in the snow lying outside our glass door when I was ten.
You are missing the game for this. I know. Still, you’re beaming twinkling blues at me.
I shiver. I left my cardigan upstairs. My fingertips go white.
I want to tell you that I think the world is ending.
You stretch and yawn, broad and wide; merciless outlines of deltoids and biceps shift and fade under your clothes. You shoulder up to me (like you do) transmitting light and heat directly to my mottled arm.
But it’s not enough today.
I want to fold into you. I want to tell you to hold on. I want to tell you once. I want to tell you forever.
I want to tell you that the world is ending.
J. Margaret Dillon is a Humanities teacher in Annapolis, Maryland, and a former stage actor who sometimes jumps back into the Washington, DC, theater scene. She holds a B.A. in American Literature and an M.F.A. in Theater. She has written very privately most of her life and only recently started sharing her work. This is the first poem she has ever submitted to anything other than her high school literary magazine twenty-nine years ago. It is also her first published poem.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.
I startle myself homesick— not of a place but of a time, when my daughter crawled and chewed the corners of books on the lower shelves in my study. When caught she would laugh, her arms and legs sweeping wide.
After she began to walk, she would enter a room, then leave to come back minutes later without clothes: the same laugh, this time joined by me and her mother.
When we made butter cookies, she would hide some around the house for later. We would find them months later and she would smile proudly, reaching for the cookie.
There was the time she wore her roast beef as a mask, the time her younger brother chased her with cheese—which to this day she still avoids, despite once loving it.
I have a picture of her grinning through a thick yellow slice, having nibbled a spot for her eyes, nose and mouth. It seems wrong she spurns a food because 10 years ago her brother was the cheese monster, but very little can change things now. I just don’t like the taste, she says, scraping it off her pizza.
I wanted one last summer with them before my daughter goes to college but instead we self-quarantine: no amusement parks, no days at the boardwalk. Everything is a sameness of work and occasional errands.
My son rarely comes out of his room, playing games online and generally avoiding the family. My daughter fills her summer with social media and Facetime with friends.
I grieve the little inconveniences, the fact my daughter didn’t get her prom or her senior skip day. She still doesn’t know if college in the fall will be in person, or online. So much is a bag of fortune cookies without their slips of paper.
I want to comfort her and let her know everything is going to be ok, even in the times ahead when I won’t be there, when she teaches her own children a simple rhyme of warning.
Somewhere back in time is the girl who is scared of all plants because she once had poison ivy.
Mickie Kennedy is an American poet who resides in Baltimore County, Maryland with his family and two feuding cats. He enjoys British science fiction and the idea of long hikes in nature. His work has appeared in American Letters & Commentary, Artword Magazine, Conduit, Portland Review, Rockhurst Review, and Wisconsin Review. He earned an MFA from George Mason University. 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.
Gray at 17, coming in as a stormy, churning hurricane Like my teenage years. Coloring my hair for the first time the night before my high school senior prom. Afraid my date would notice the tiny, snowy strands saluting from my tousled pixie cut across my temples, around my ears, along my nape. Left in Revlon’s Espresso an extra ten minutes, washing away my nervousness down the drain. Relief in the mirror. My secret covered. Tender-age feminine ego restored.
A monthly ritual afterwards. I am in captivity, bound by Darkening my roots, hiding my truth, delaying the process of revealing reality subconsciously rooted in the fear of aging. Stained sinks and shirts, skin and self-esteem The chemistry altering natural maturation. All from a bottle of ammonia and peroxide.
Silver slivers by 22. Dyeing layers of hair protein Dying myself Moment by moment In all the spaces and places college dorm bathrooms job interviews a wedding day my daughter’s birth family celebrations night school classes PTA meetings All the rushing making a house a home.
Lava strands at 35. An eruption from the fissure of a first marriage. Volcanic, I am a hot mess. Picking up the pieces of my hair of my life to dye and to die to begin again. My mettle produces metal-hued roots, coarse and wiry Like armor, yet leaving me vulnerable, still. So I continue highlighting strands into my 40s, foiled attempts to find me. Woven and separated, Cutting away the dead ends Covered in Clairol’s Autumn Brown Feathered into French Roast Swept over hazel almond-shaped eyes For class reunions For friends’ celebrations For online dating profiles.
And then, an awakening begins. Letting my hair grow, thick and strong Like the deep and lasting love From long ago for a freckle-faced boy with chestnut-colored hair Rediscovered in His salt-and-pepper low fade His Irish Sea blue eyes His Leonian spirit His familiar laughter His safe presence His hand in mine, husband and wife.
Together, we turn 50. The world is uncertain, Collapsing familiar notions of stability, ego, and vanity Together, normalcy fades, like color Giving rise to the highlights of freedom to just…be. Aligning ourselves in all the quarantine quiet. And like a pervasive disease, a decision creeps in and envelops my world To release control To escape confinement To strip camouflage Honoring Inviting and finally Allowing my brunette bob transition to gray. My line of demarcation a brave, organic ceasefire, a growing, striking division of past and present.
His hair sprouts thinner, his whiskers advance whiter. His smoky goatee drags smooth on a dirt torpedo. Running his fingers through my hair, He encourages me to join him on the journey. “No fear,” he says. “Let it go,” he assures me. His insight is simple, soulful, profound. I surrender and say,“we are left with living wisdom wisps of gray.” He smiles knowingly. We are one others’ platinum in the pandemic, resistant to tarnishing.
Nancy Hambrose is a celebrated thirty-year veteran in education, teaching literature, writing, and ESL to students – kindergarten through college. Finally emerging from the closet as a personal essay writer and poet, Nancy’s honest voice, coupled with resiliency, is her gift. Her work has been published on Motherwell, Dreamers Creative Writing, and Metaphor. An avid birdwatcher, backyard astronomer, and plant enthusiast, Nancy lives in joy with her husband Christopher in Haddon Heights, New Jersey. 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.
Because, for now, I cannot leave my home, And profoundly crave this warmer weather, Within my mind I will find roads to roam.
I’m learning to fear my microbiome. So, six feet apart – we stand together; Because, for now, I cannot leave my home.
Some days this house feels like a catacomb: The dusty air, shuttered in, and alone – Retreat to my mind and find roads to roam.
But with windows wide, joy is inward blown. A child’s squeals and the tease of evening meals – Because, for now, I cannot leave my home.
Thankfully, I’ve got escapes of my own: I’ll tour books, and games, or with friends online – Away I travel on the roads I roam.
I’ll longingly recall this sanctum domed, With fresh united ways we’ve lived apart- though, just for now, I cannot leave my home, so, in my mind I will find roads to roam.
Paige V. Maylott has published several short stories in Hamilton, Ontario’s INCITE Magazine as well as a self-published tabletop game book. She is currently writing an intersectional memoir on managing critical illness and transgender identity creation through online exploration. A life-long resident of Hamilton, Ontario, she lives with her partner, her dog, two cats, and a pet rabbit. Her day job is at McMaster University where she works in Library Accessibility Ser vices helping students with disabilities to find creative alternatives for print course materials. 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.
She lays in the hospital bed a tube in her chest her blond hair not the usual shine her glasses on the side table she cannot laugh or cry at her mother’s death three days ago or the tube inserted in her chest will become displaced and it’s draining fluid I show up to show my love moments like this one and that one is already gone and the next minute hasn’t happened yet and we say yeah, yeah maybe and could you and try to speak and breathe but not laugh don’t you dare laugh because life is serious and precious and if you laugh you might die I’m the one who told you about that article I read about Lord Yama walking the earth looking to take the sick away with him to the underworld and the cold weather the dark winter days the death of a mother and she cannot cry cannot laugh sucks air down a tube
J. MacBain-Stephens went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and now lives in Iowa where she likes to rock climb. She is the author of four full-length poetry collections and 12 chapbooks. Her chapbook Teeth Have a Hardness Scale of 5 is forthcoming from Sputnik and Fizzle Press. Recent work is in or forthcoming from The Pinch, Cleaver, Yalobusha Review, Zone 3, and Grist. She also hosts an indie reading series sponsored by Iowa City Poetry called “Today You Are Perfect.” 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.
I still remember physics class at school, ‘It’s nothing but a plane curve that works under the influence of gravity’, my teacher said.
I did not know curves need an armour too, often I wondered.
Now, when they tell me the death toll, I create an imaginary line, joining the locus of points but it doesn’t become a curve.
Perhaps the ball is still ahead of the curve!
I thank the debris falling from my clay house, for providing a three-course meal to my little ones amid pandemic
Fizza Abbas is a freelance content writer based in Karachi, Pakistan. She is fond of poetry and music. Her works have been published on many platforms including Poetry Village and Cabinet of the Heed.Illustration by 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
Like the sunflower rain-soaked this morning, that is how I want my head to be, with your wet kiss on my brow. I wait for the day when our eyes will meet. But we go in opposite directions and you go out of frame.
Behind the glass panel two people strike a deal. I cry inside as I purchase an enormous tomato for five bucks and there is no more toilet paper.
I move away from a cougher. It does not stop me from saying bless you. An evening star sparkles above the supermarket. I get a rise out of the circling bird in my line of sight.
Somewhere far away a door opens and closes and the woman I would love to kiss my brow has gone to sleep for the evening.
I have a mask on my face the color of the sunflower. I head home and my hands feel strangely rigid on the steering wheel. Suddenly, I feel calm. In the distance the woman I love sleeps.
Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal lives in California and works in the mental health field in Los Angeles. His poems have appeared in Blue Collar Review, The Crossroads Magazine, Mad Swirl, and Unlikely Stories. 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.
Tali Cohen Shabtai, is a poet, she was born in Jerusalem, Israel. Tali has written three poetry books: Purple Diluted in a Black’s Thick, (bilingual 2007), Protest (bilingual 2012) and Nine Years Away From You (2018). Illustration by 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.