Making A Joyful Noise

by Mary K. O’Melveny

Pans and pots clang, bang from open city
windows.A firefighter plays bagpipes
outside ER doors. A cellist serenades
from her porch. Another by way of zoom.
Violinists comfort from their balconies.
A trumpeter perched on an aerial ladder
plays O Mia Bela Madunina
in the square of Milan’s Il Duomo.

Music has calmed us in our direst days.
Thaletus sang hymns to Spartans as
they huddled behind doorways to avoid
cobblestone streets ravaged by death.
Henry the Eighth cloistered with his organist.
Black plague singers marched through London.
Civil rights marchers sang We Shall Overcome
as they faced down our scourge of racism.

From every vantage point, armadas
of choristers have deployed to defeat
our latest melancholia. This revolution
has been televised. Across the world,
all rise in praise of joyful noises.
Honor our s/heroes with harmony.
Librettos liberate. Amandla!
We are singing. Singing for our lives.

Mary K O’Melveny,  a retired labor rights lawyer,  lives with her wife in Washington DC and Woodstock NY.  A Pushcart Prize nominee, Mary’s work has been published in many print and on-line journals. She is the author of A Woman of a Certain Age and Merging Star Hypotheses (Finishing Line Press 2018;  2020) and co-author of the anthology, An Apple In Her Hand (Codhill Press 2019). K. Nizar, a multi-disciplinary artist from Kerala’s Kozhikode, who began his career on movie-sets doing art works before being a visualization artist for a leading newspaper in Kerala.  

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.

Dragons with Long Tails

Julene Tripp Weaver

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.

Pain in the Time of Covid

by Monica Shah

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.

Faculty Meeting, March 13, 2020

by J. Margaret Dillon 

Freckled and smiling wide,
you swagger in
(like you do)
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’re late.

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.

Leaves of Three, Let Them Be

by Mickie Kennedy

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.

Pandemic Platinum – Free Verse

by  Nancy Hambrose

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
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.

Roads to Roam

by Paige V. Maylott

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.


by  J. MacBain-Stephens

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
like this one
and that one is already gone
and the next minute
hasn’t happened yet
and we say
yeah, yeah
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.

Two Poems

by Fizza Abbas


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
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