The Mask’s Weight

by Amanda Anastasi

It is not the mask that restricts you.
This thin covering of cloth

may slightly dampen the tenor
and reverberation of your voice

and cloak the creases around
your smiling or pursed mouth

and leave just your eyes to say it all.
It is reminding you of the ever

present gag you nod yes to daily
and weave your life through

and around; that invisible hand 
upon your mouth, propped up

and fixed in place by your own.
There are ample spaces between

for self-expression, making
the window bars more tolerable

and almost appear as though
they are not actually there.

You must realise now
and perhaps you always have

that a bird can remain in its cage
when the door has been left

open for hours. You are
and always have been free.

Amanda Anastasi is an Australian poet living in Melbourne who has been published in journals both locally and internationally, from the Australian Poetry Anthology to The Massachusetts Review. Her debut poetry collection is 2012 and other poems and she is also the co-author of The Silences with Robbie Coburn (Eaglemont Press, 2016). Amanda is a two-time winner of the Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize and recipient of a 2018 Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship. She is currently Poet in Residence at the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub until 2022, where she is writing poetry to raise awareness on ecological issues and the climate crisis. Ralph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.

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.

New Pens

by Victoria Crawford and George R. Ross

New pens, new pens came in the post!
desired cartridges colored rainbow
just when I’m an isolation ghost,
bright writing created to glow

Old fashioned fountain pens I’d bought
new pens, new pens came in the post!
Stay-At-Home delay, I forgot
they arrived when needed the most

Package and bubble wrap engrossed
dull day surprise striptease unwrap—
new pens, new pens came in the post—
like treasure spread across my lap

Colors and words dance in my mind
solitary, joy uppermost
letters, poems, beauty filled time
new pens, new pens came in the post!

Victoria Crawford and George R. Ross, strangers retiring in Thailand, met in a poetry appreciation and writing group and became collaborative poets that have had their works published in journals such as Pensive Stories, Braided Way, Cold Noon, and Active Muse. George returned to his family and now lives in Boston, MA, while Victoria is still in Chiang Mai with her husband and other family. Their partnership continues through email. Older with pre-existing conditions, both spent months in isolation and lockdown, where poetry was a guide to the possible. This poem appeared previously in Highland Park Poetry’s Poem a Day in November Ralph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.

Coming Out of Quarantine (A City Dweller’s Story)

by Cassandra Pereira 

I don’t even care if a dog peed here
I think as I nestle myself
into the base of this tree
making a nest of it
not like a bird
not like a dog
but like a human.

Blades of grass lush around my legs
I get lost in the tiny world they shade
discovering that dear sight—I forgot
how I love it, have missed it:
a broken bit of leaf
     conspicuously on the move.

I’ve read an ant will pilgrimage 
100 yards
      to feed the queen;
2,000 each way I travel today

      to feel the Earth
                   soft beneath
a long journey

a long while beating my feet hard
against all the unyielding concrete
between my door and this moment. 

Cassandra Pereira is a writer, artist, and creativity coach with degrees in creative writing and education, and a background in neuropsychology.  Her work is dedicated to fostering peace and joy through creativity and contemplation. Ralph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.

My Zoom Graduation

by Stephen Paul Miller

         delivered to our graduating English majors, May 20, 2020

Keeping vigil with one who has left   
Never again responding   
Not recognizing the time of death  
One’s face in starlight.   
    What’s a poem? A bunch of words creating feedback and taking off on  
    it not slowing on the curves then climbing overtones in the valley’s mist  
    graduating for now looking down on your global lit class where astral  
    cams zoom and make you think hmmm you are the stars in the night.  
    In our hole settling down preparing you you you for who who who  
    knows if you can make it anywhere you’ll do it in New York with no  
    one there a virus and a flu too tired to infect anyone fall asleep in each  
    other’s arms—don’t begrudge them, crane up your social distance—  

the camera is the star  

in a Busby Berkeley flying rug—Berkeley, friends call him Buzz, a  
    mind-altering Hollywood choreographer who in Gold Diggers of 1935  
    at last directed even non-dance parts in synchronized story rhythm, is  
    recording multitudes flowing up in budding phantasmagoric Keynesian  
    lenses through which the first macroeconomy looks down from over  
    sixty feet in the air—Buzz puts holes in every WB ceiling—and for the  
    last few years you’ve been looking down and still are but now you’re in  
                                                in everything for the first time—  
                                                                      the dancer and the Busby one.  

His films bring on superheroes—in ‘38 Superman creator Jerry Siegel  
appropriates “Lois Lane” from Lola Lane—star of Busby’s ‘38 Hollywood  
     Hotel  and Jimmy Cagney’s torn Footlight Parade producer/hoofer character’s  

As if from the mythic heights of your English class Busby is filming the  
    ethereal “Shadow Waltz” of Gold Diggers of 1933—Please see
everyone on high spiraling wooden ribbons, dancing in and out of hang- 
    ing mirrored floors becoming one and many neon violin(s), with one  
    and many neon bow(s) pulsing your kaleidoscopic eye where Buzz sails  
    his trapeze through citizens as music/music as citizens  
             swirling below and in his floating camera boom perch  

        when much like the current pandemic  
the massive 6.4 Long Beach earthquake rocks LA knocking out power  
    throwing Busby off his flying dance directing boat thirty feet above us.  
    Hanging by a hand, his cinematographer pulls him up.  
    Sensing dancers in the dark falling off flight upon flight of narrow rising  
    runways, Buzz shouts  

“No one move till someone opens a door and lets in some light!!!”  

            That’s the president we need that’s you.  

Stephen Paul Miller is preparing his next book of poems, Beautiful Snacks (Marsh Hawk Press). He’s a Professor of English at St. John’s University in New York, where he live on East 8th Street. His ten books include The Seventies Now: Culture as Surveillance (Duke University Press), There’s Only One God and You’re Not It (Marsh Hawk) and Being with a Bullet (Talisman). Venues where he’s been published include Best American PoetryPublisher’s WeeklySalon, Barrow Street, New American Writing, Posit, and the New York Daily NewsRalph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.

O Que Nao Mata, Engorda

by Marina Carreira

What would you say to the stoic anchorman
telling us to quarantine inside our homes,
surrounded by everything bulk?

You, raised on olive trees and their switches,
who survived seven siblings,
Salazar, East Newark in the 70s.

You wouldn’t listen to doctors telling you
to wash your hands several times a day,
expectorate into your elbow.

É. Your Avô pay that water bill,
you’d scoff, wiping your runny nose
with crumpled tissue from yesterday,

Only animals sneeze on themselves. 
Today an older man said step back
six feet please while he grabbed

too much bread for two. A tired
woman with a face mask sliced
the chouriço like a sad violinist.

What do you see from your sealed
hospital window besides an ocean
you don’t remember bathing in,

a sun that hasn’t cloaked your bones
in weeks? Here, I conjure you
up, what I’ve left of your wisdom,

to get me through this pandemic while
my partner watches videos on preserving
vegetables. This is how we survive, she says.

We can store cheese in salt for months.
Ai ai, 
you would mutter, O fim do mundo.*
Ouve lá, you would ask, já comeste?**

* “End of the world” (Portuguese)
** “Hey there…have you eaten” (Portuguese) 

Marina Carreira is a queer Luso-American writer and multimedia artist from Newark, NJ. She is the author of Save the Bathwater (Get Fresh Books, 2018) and I Sing to That Bird Knowing It Won’t Sing Back (Finishing Line Press, 2017). As a visual artist, she has exhibited her work at Morris Museum, ArtFront Galleries, West Orange Arts Council, and Monmouth University Center for the Arts. Ralph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.


by Colin James

Crepes thin enough to slide under a door
and other signs that you’ve been here,
like your bullying attempts at thoroughness.
I only slept with you once for Christ’s sake.
The ancient’s have a saying, “The man who
climbs a tree wearing prosthetic limbs
is not likely to accurately identify
the ornate mosaic tiles of his dream’s floor.”
And may our love child never experience
a cafe like this ever again without WiFi.

Colin James has a couple of chapbooks of poetry, Dreams Of The Really Annoying from Writing Knights Press and A Thoroughness Not Deprived Of Absurdity from Pski’s Porch Press. He lives in Massachusetts. Ralph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.

For Truth would be from a Line

Inspired by Gastão Cruz

by Millicent Borges Accardi

And, I would go, really.
And, is it about time we all got along,
but that was a no and the real answer would require
more sense than the crazy crisis
we are going through presently,
and the truth, ah. It would have to
be from a line
we used to know, an old phrase,
like a poem dealing with
trees I memorized, along with everyone
else in Mrs. Virtue’s first grade
at Luther Burbank,
where the teacher handed out
pastel marshmallows
when we behaved.
For truth would have
to be untouchable,
like a hand we used to know,
to hold–
as if it were our own—
the left reaching
for the right, fumbling along thru
this magnificent universe we kind of
know, or at least pretended it to be so.

Millicent Borges Accardi, a Portuguese-American writer, is the author of two poetry books, most recently Only More So (Salmon Ireland 2016). Her awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Fulbright, CantoMundo, California Arts Council, Yaddo, Fundação Luso-Americana, and Barbara Deming Foundation. She lives in California. Ralph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.

Once They Are Yellow

by Vance Walker

We leave the newspapers on the driveway
For a few days, four maybe, a week or longer, who cares? 
He reads it online anyway, and I only for some of the comics and the Ask Amy
Not the horoscope or news, horoscope too freakily on the nose 
And the news is old by the time it is printed
Once they are yellow, they move to the porch, out of the way, behind the bench
They are not quite ready to enter the house
Once in a while, I flip them over with a three-tined garden cultivator 
To check the date
See if they are ripe enough to read, to handle, to touch
They say they are folded and bagged by machine
But who knows if that’s true, or true everywhere
And the man has to handle it to throw it out the car window, you know

We leave the mail in the mailbox near the street
For a couple days, who knows, who cares?
Carefully check to see if there’s a check there or 
Something tempting to a mail-thief even though it’s a safe neighborhood
If so get it into the cardboard box inside the front door 
For safekeeping without actually touching it
Until it’s safe to open it
Maybe open something valuable or intriguing or needed or ordered
Not with gloves, necessarily, but wash hands afterward or afterwards
Careful not to let any paper touch the cut on finger
Check the cardboard box periodically so as not to be late with a credit card bill
Everything else is on autopay, almost everything, not stuff like DMV stuff
But credit card bills can be checked online anyway
Never any letters, no one writes letters anymore
Except Dad, he does.
Shurtleff did, he died.
The mailman has to touch so many things 
That so many others have recently touched
Is he scared?
We put a—wrapped—Easter egg chocolate in the mailbox for him with a note:
For the Mailman— Thank you!
I happen to be doing yard work when he drives up
Actually I see him nearby so I linger to see his reaction
I am way more than six feet away
He sees the note, reads it, takes the candy, sees me, gives me a little wave, a little smile, says, “Thanks.”

Vance Walker lives in quarantine with his husband and two children in Southern California. His writing has appeared in the Vita Brevis Press, a recent issue of The Gay & Lesbian Review, and the San Diego Update. Ralph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.

Haunting Memories

by Darryl Denning

An old cattle ranch
In hills of Mesquite
East of Palmdale
A huge circular tub
Wide wooden slats
4 feet above ground
25 feet in diameter
A makeshift pool
Every kid was welcome
We swam and splashed
Dunked a few heads in
The fresh spring water
Mom wisely stopped us
Going there just in time
Three swim mates
Polio virus victims
The two brothers
Paralyzed legs but
They did get better
The other poor kid
From an iron lung
To a wheelchair
To double arm crutches
No full recovery for him
The memories haunt me

The 70’s wild and free
In our prime and swinging
All of this destroyed as
AIDS attacked in the 80’s
My very best friend dead
Nine other chums gone too
A time of gloom
A time of great suffering
Funeral fatigue
The memories haunt me

Now COVID the silent
Seniors sacrificial lambs
Twilight Zone Zombies with
Masks hiding clenched teeth
Virus lurking, closing in
Hoping my friends and I
Are excused from
This horrible death
Memories manufactured
Day by day by day
On their way to
Haunting me also

Darryl Denning was first published at the age of 12, as a prizewinner in the Los Angeles Examiner’s Bill of Rights Essay Contest. His poetry has recently been published in the Saved Objects Project, Offbeat Magazine, the Curious Element, Flashpoint Publications, and Chelsea Station Editions.  He is the Facilitator of The Writing Group at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. Ralph Almeida is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY.