Grief: April 17th, 2020

by Nancy Agabian

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

And The World Will Be As One

by Howard Richard Debs

I am still waiting.       
I was living in Chicago, commuting
downtown, just married, starting a family.
the Vietnam War was raging when I first
heard the song “Imagine”
it hit Billboard’s top ten.
That was ’71, a year of war
between India and Pakistan,
the IRA bombed the Post Office Tower
in London, dictator Idi Amin took control
of Uganda, Greenpeace began.

We moved to upstate New York
the Finger Lakes region, in ’74 our
second was born. the same year
as Watergate; Nixon resigns, there’s
a global recession, Turkey invades
Cyprus, Israel and Syria agree to a
ceasefire on the Golan Heights.

In ’76 we packed up the kids and
the dog and headed south
to Florida, our new home
in a bright red Datsun wagon.
That year Peron was overthrown
in a military coup in Argentina,
there was a conflict they called
“The Cod Wars” between Iceland
and Britain over fishing rights,
the Soweto riots in South Africa occur,
the beginning of the end of apartheid.

Graduations, weddings, baby showers,
funerals, life goes on; it’s 2021,
in the grip of a pandemic
we just marked The 51st anniversary
of Earth Day around the world,
now the Russians say they’ll leave
the International Space Station
and build their own by 2030.

Howard Richard Debs is a recipient of the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards. His essays, fiction, and poetry appear internationally in numerous publications. His photography is featured in select publications, including in Rattle online as “Ekphrastic Challenge” artist and guest editor. His book Gallery: A Collection of Pictures and Words (Scarlet Leaf Publishing), is the recipient of a 2017 Best Book Award and 2018 Book Excellence Award. His latest work is the chapbook Political ( He is co-editor of New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust, forthcoming in later 2021 from Vallentine Mitchell of London, publisher of the first English language edition of the diary of Anne Frank. Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press


by Daisy Fried

Helicopters sang out in the South Philly sky
And morning wind blew branches against our windows.

It was the hour my dream swarm
Twisted me pale on my pillow;
When like a bloodshot eye darting and twitching,
The last lamp stained the day incarnadine;
Where, trapped in my surly body
I recast the battle between lamp and day
As my struggle between intention and accident,
And like a face wiped dry by breezes,
The air was full of thrilling, fleeing things—
Anger, Change—
I was tired of writing, or you were,
You were tired of fucking, or I was.

This and that torched boutique sent up smoke.
Somebody heaved a planter into another store window.
The shopkeeper put the safety back on his sidearm,
With stinging eyes dialed his insurance adjuster.
Someone danced on a police car.
Someone blew up an ATM and his hand off with it.
Women who forgot to stop bearing children
Mopped their brows and chewed on ice;
It was the hour when, sweating and starving,
They gave birth to their latest moaning and cursing;
Like a sob cut short by foaming blood,
A siren, another, tore through the fabric of morning;
Buildings snuffled like marine mammals
Bedded down in smog sea.
Old ones in nursing homes, their minds gone,
Hawked up last juddering breaths.
They’d been abandoned
As I sometimes wish to abandon you.
Someone crept home, broken by stupidity.

Shivery Dawn in her green pink shift
Crawls up the Schuylkill, into the parklands.
Angry Philly, rubbing her eyes,
Grabs up her tools again, that old worker.

after Baudelaire’s “Le Crépuscule de matin”

Daisy Fried’s fourth book, The Year the City Emptied: After Baudelaire is forthcoming from Flood Editions in 2022. She is the author of three other books of poetry: Women’s Poetry: Poems and AdviceMy Brother is Getting Arrested Again, and She Didn’t Mean to Do It,all from the Pitt Poetry Series. She has been awarded Guggenheim, Hodder and Pew Fellowships. Recent poems have been published or are forthcoming in Paris Review, The Nation, Threepenny Review, American Poetry Review, Subtropics, Zocalo, At Length and PN Review. She isa poetry critic, poetry editor for the journal Scoundrel Time and a member of the faculty of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. She lives in Philadelphia. Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press


By Meg Files

The creatures, clothed and unclothed, are in the ruins —
yes and the tango skeletons naked beneath gossamer —
here they are in the world with us sequestered. They
will inhabit our stadiums, the band shells, a cabana —
it’s not that before they were afraid but uncurious —
and now caped antelope, the furred wild turkey, a
gowned coyote wander our streets. We forget we are
animals here inside. You sharks, you spotted deer,
mountain goats, wild boar, puma — you are costumed
but we do not see you. So what, you say? What’s new?
They enter the school without uniforms except for
the knee socks, they levitate onto desks, bite books.
Unknown, unknowing, we hide in the CVS though
the beer and the tampons are endangered. The ghosts,
the ghosts in their lingerie boogie to silent beats. Do
they know each other, the creatures and the ghosts?
We, inside, cannot know. But our mates are nodding
on couches, and some wine still resides, and we have
abandoned our costumes. The creatures have satisfied
their lack of curiosity and are returning to the forest.
The ghosts in their chassé hang with the creatures. We
fools in sweatpants have forgotten that we are animals.
Go ahead, when this is over, the beasts are telling us,
try to live in your ruins. The monsoon has come at last.
Adiós, we would say, but we understand your word. So.

Meg Files is the author of the novels Meridian 144 and The Third Law of Motion, Home Is the Hunter and Other Stories, The Love Hunter and Other Poems, Writing What You Know, a book about taking risks with writing, a poetry chapbook, Lit Blue Sky Falling, and a forthcoming novella, A Hollow, Muscular Organ. Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press

Journey Around

by Caroline Crumpacker

The present continuous is a trying tense for many people.
My friend from Germany says I go now   when she is ready to leave.

There is no pith like an Au Revoir is there?

We are not dashing through the present   any longer. We need it whole.

It’s that kind of a time.

I keep thinking of A Journey Around My Room
written by a man on house arrest following a duel.
He wears elegant traveling clothes to visit different parts of his room
            assigning each its own  elaborate   psychogeography .

Should we take up the game    ?
I wear huge pearls  for   the realms and eras  
of my bedroom this evening.  The storied  surface of   my  desk.
My favorite book.   Something I wrote on Facebook   immortalized
and   I wear the pearl of Lao Tzu     or did I just read about it. .

I tell my friend it’s that kind of a time and we exchange thoughts on sorrow
but not sorrow itself    unless mirror neurons work  online .   Do they ?

I read that hunters a few States over    fearing an
increase in wildlife protections   kill hundreds of wolves  at once.
As if cruelty is   becoming condensed.

I arrive in the kitchen enthralled 
the coffees and teas and jars of spices. 

I think about the Persian soup  that is said to change lives. 
Though everything changes lives  these days.

I read the world needs a shutdown every two years
to reach modest climate goals.
It’s a good time    for the planet
  when we are  reduced   to an essence
  wandering our rooms for adventure.

Each rug each  pillow     as in  going a little mad
  doubling and trebling our images on  screen.

I read that  a new level of blue is created
ultramarine   twilight   I wear Bulgarian Rose  in its honor  .
  Or did I just read about  the fabled roses  that smell of cinnamon
  the  orchard near the   troubled  border  line  deep in the woods
      crawling with ghosts  .

My Swedish bookshelves  a fable of simplicity  and bright showrooms.

Somewhere along the way  I come upon a sequel,
  The Nocturnal Journey Around My Room
  apparently just  as witty  and disturbing
           who can bear it? 

Caroline Crumpacker is a poet and translator living in the Hudson Valley. She has one book (Astrobolism, Belladonna Collaborative) and three chapbooks and is a contributing editor to Matters of Feminist Practice. Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press


by Sally Zakariya

Almost daily it seems
the stack grows higher
threatening alphabetical avalanche

We read and sleep and read again

Meals become necessary interruptions
phone calls welcome distractions
as we reach for a bookmark
so as not to lose the place
not to lose a sentence
  a word
    a thought
the one that might keep us safe
from the virus that rages outside
while we read

Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in some 75 print and online journals and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her most recent publication is Muslim Wife (Blue Lyra Press, 2019). She is also the author of The Unknowable Mystery of Other People, Personal Astronomy, When You Escape, Insectomania, and Arithmetic and other verses, as well as the editor of a poetry anthology, Joys of the Table. Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press.

The Puzzle

by Harriet Stratton

       …what draws itself apart pulls itself together.

Mother sits just where I left her
before the visits stopped—

at the jigsaw table. She puzzles
over small shapes scattered like shards

before her. The big picture, propped,
offers color and pattern clues,

the comfort of familiar objects,
a postcard from the past.  She’s trying

to piece it all together. That’s the game.
That’s always been the game

and her game, at age 96, is persistence, intention,
not dwelling on how it all came apart.

Harriet Stratton, the teenager, loved poetry but studied, practiced and taught Fine Arts. Once retired, she re-embraced her first love and joined the Poetry Collective of Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver. She’s published a number of poems in local literary journals but remains proudest of a protest poem in The Colorado Independent.  She lives on the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press.

The Shadow Breaker’s Song

by Michael H. Brownstein

I will wait for the sun to make it’s way up the stairs.
Then I’ll enter the place of underachievers, liars and thieves.
Where else can defiance be so simple?

Once she lied about water.
Twice she lied about silk.
No one waited for a third time.

The house of shadow glows with a light within shade.
Lost value finds itself on its shelves among the many books.
When the moon escapes its cage, this is where it comes for safekeeping.

Michael H. Brownstein’s latest volumes of poetry, A Slipknot to Somewhere Else (2018) and How Do We Create Love? (2019), were recently released (Cholla Needles Press). Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press.

Coronavirus Spring

by Peter Branson

‘That every house visited be marked with a red cross in the middle of the door, “Lord have mercy upon us” to be set close over the same cross until lawful opening of the said house.’ (London, 1st July, 1665) – from ‘A journal of the plague year’ – Daniel Defoe, pub 1722

Between 22nd Aug & 26th Sept, 38,195 Londoners died of plague, a far greater percentage of the population then that number would equate to today.

Back there, once it has taken hold, they know,
not rocket science, die-cast, there is no hope,
so prudent people recognise the need
for quarantine until the pestilence
has passed. The streets are wild with whispers, cures,
quack remedies dispensed by mountebanks.
Some, heedless of fair warning, desperate folk,
plunder the houses of the living dead.
Ours is the age where wizards charm within
the twinkling of an eye, both sight and sound
broadcast. We’re puppet masters of their world
made flesh, crave other senses too, the balm
of fond embrace, the salve of healing kiss,
‘Love conquers all’ the seal of tenderness.

Peter Branson, full-time poet and songwriter, has been published widely, including in Acumen, Agenda, Ambit, Envoi, London Magazine, North, Prole, Warwick Review, Crannog, Causeway, Iota, Poetry Salzberg, Butcher’s Dog, Frogmore  Papers, Interpreter’s House, SOUTH, Crannog, London Grip, High Window, THE SHOp, Sarasvati, Measure, Columbia Review, and Huston Poetry Review. His last two collections, Red Hill and Hawk Rising, were published by Lapwing, Belfast. He was shortlisted for a recent Poetry Business Pamphlet and Collection competition. Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press.

Nothing is Happening

by Genevieve Legacy

my dog speaks in toenail clicks,
shifts her weight behind the door,
another patient click—
there’s no such thing as alone,

Himalayan blackberries
invasive stretching,  
reach for more ground,
the meanest thorns
in the neighborhood,

moth white butterfly
crazy wobble flight,
gray fence, black rock wall,
a mailbox squatting across the road,
sticking out its red plastic tongue, 

the holly bush has found a new location,
strident prickle-leaves in silhouette,
imagine the sting,

overgrown cascade of ivy,
a black tank-top woman walker,
a Subaru, a dark escalade,
wild grass shoots where my kid didn’t mow,
it will take my ferocious choppers
to cut it back,

light shifts from gray to less,
blackberry branch bobs green berries
too soon to pluck, an SUV passes
my window on the street side world,
voyeur of the supra mundane,

dry red shrubs across the street,
ginger bush from 1972
my mother’s armpits
a statement of freedom, rebellion?  
my own search for what’s right—
hairy legs & pits, a prolific bush,
earthy sandal shoes—
no one can tell me what to do.

there’s no escape from this house habitat,
20 thousand leagues under the sea,
a Japanese apartment capsule in space,
nowhere to go but the bathroom,
out the window mind wanderer,
black crow line of flight,
straight out of view—

another metallic rolling box,
a dog walking a woman
my dog’s back at the door wondering
where the hell everyone is?

Genevieve Legacy is a writer-artist living in the South Puget Sound Region of Washington State. With an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, Legacy was a freelance writer for the alternative weekly publication Jackson Free Press from 2012-2016, writing about jazz and blues musicians, artists, spiritual practice & pilgrimage, restaurants, and rodeo clowns. Her poetry has been published in The Hazmat Review, Napalm Health Spa, Poetry Superhighway, and Sensitive Skin Magazine. Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press.