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.
in the style of Dan Albergotti’s “Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale”
by Tyler Letkeman
Make hot chocolate. Count the icicles that drip from your eaves. Shovel all the driveways. Makes snow families through four generations. Create new constellations. Snuggle up warm in a blanket and dream of running through open space and warm air. Examine your reflection in a frosted window. Zoom with family. Cry along with the fading light. Sing through the long nights. Cut your homework into snowflakes. Bake your grandma’s cookies. Decorate your tree with your favourite ornaments. Decorate your heart with your favourite memories. Listen for the sound of hoofbeats on your rooftop. Be grateful for the stone and timbers that shelter you and the waves and wires that still connect us. Grieve. Grieve for the ghosts of Christmases past. But remember our present, wrapped up in a box in the lengthy dark, is a present to ensure future Christmases.
Tyler Letkeman is a husband, father, brother, son, teacher, learner, reader, nerd, artist, scientist, poet, traveller, vacummer, shy guy, and general-life-enjoy-er. He is the creator, editor, and web-master of four lines (4lines.art), a poetry and art magazine that aims to get to the heart of things as simply as possible, and has recently self-published his first collection of poems, Gaia’s New Clothes. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.
The year of Christmas in March we dipped our fingers in sugar and mud and played at creation with cake.
At night we dreamed of slitting our wrists, no blood seeping out, as if from a doll or seeds bred in darkness at Easter: non-sentient snippets of hair, curled fingers dry underground, pink seashells gleaming with poison.
The year of Christmas alone we waited and waited and waited. We looked for the first new blooming of spring.
Federica Santini lives in Atlanta, GA, and teaches at Kennesaw State University. She holds an M.A. from the University of Siena, Italy, and a Ph.D. from UCLA, where she studied poetry and literary translation. A literary critic, poet, and translator, her work has been published in over forty journals and volumes in North America and Europe. Her recent poetry appears in Snapdragon, Plath Profiles, and The Ocotillo Review among others. She is a 2021 Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference Fellow (Arizona State University). Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.
Well son, your old man was stationed at his bleach-stained futon for months. Armed with just a cheap bong and an X-box.
We rationed our ramen and toiled paper. Unsure of when we’d escape this bunker of ours.
Dorito dust soaked the air like gas with beer cans flying like shrapnel.
And I didn’t bathe for weeks. War is hell.
S. B. Fields is a freelance copywriter in Brooklyn. You can find his work in the Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans as well as recycle bins across NYC. Ever the crippling extrovert, Fields spends his nights at the local corner pub perfecting his upcoming chapbook, Sleeping Sun. See more of his work on Instagram @SBFieldsPoetry. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.
It’s the year of the virus. I’m single and stuck here like a castaway on a two-bedroom island. I’ve been talking to the furniture.
Dinner conversation with Mabel and Cher (my table and chair) can be wooden, so to liven things up I bring out the wine, Frenchmen with charming accents.
I speak to them softly or brightly; they stare glassily, so proud of their sleek green bodies and little cork berets, each one of which I’ve named Corky.
Then there’s Sophocles, my sofa, a great comfort to me at night as we watch the death toll news. He seems unmoved, no stranger to tragedy.
While I fret and wring my hands, he supports me with strong arms, anchoring me to the firmament, although I did spill wine on him last night.
Luckily, Rhoda, my bubbly club soda, was right there in the fridge. I wiped the damned spot clean, feeling grateful to have such good friends.
Lori Bonati is a retired school psychologist with a passion for writing. She is originally from upstate New York but has lived in Tucson, Arizona, for the past 17 years. She is currently working on a middle-grade novel, children’s picture books, and poetry. She also dabbles in songwriting and photography. Her previously published writing includes The Snake Path (winner of the Paradigm Prize, 2018); Song Seeds (Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2019); selected poems, Desert Tracks: Poems from the Sonoran Desert (Lelepono Press, 2019); selected poems, Purifying Wind (Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2020). Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.
Underneath my blinged cotton shield Swarovskis painstakingly hot-glued one by one exact replica of the Pinterest image saved under Modern Beauty
I lifted the corners of my lips unseen He nodded eyes lowered Long lashes above curved steel silhouetting his chiseled bridge shrouded in cheap blue paper bought by the box of fifty
Postured on assigned circles large enough for two feet Invisible border walls protected by conscience Six feet apart A world away Distances that dare not be crossed
Rachel Emmanuel is a New Jersey resident, part-time book reviewer, and full-time wife and mother. In her spare time, she enjoys writing about God, life, love, and the human condition. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.
I once could retreat to the castles in my mind where dragons and gorgons and centaurs lounge with foxes and wolves and hippos in the company of royals and peasants alike, all waiting to be written into existence, all waiting to meet each other anew in the stories I cultivate which can only be brought forth through my will to bring pencil to paper or fingers to keyboard. I once could summon these characters, could converse with these close friends of mine, at the first sprinklings of steamy water or at Cinderella’s curfew hour.
But now silence.
Bursts of creativity squashed by a giant tinier yet more formidable than Jack’s. Gone are the days when voices argued over whether I should give in to imagination or to sleep because now voices outside my head are drowning them out with anger and hurt and blame, and it is the pounding of my heart that I hear rather than even the faintest whispers of character chatter. My fantastical friends are all trying to recover, like I am, from the crumbling of castle walls. And I’m left to wonder will they be okay? Will I be okay if they are forced to find refuge in someone else’s castles? Or when this is all over, will I be able to see the turrets peek through the clouds again, to visit the fortress unconquerable?
Sarah Morse lives in San Diego, CA. She graduated in 2019 from Point Loma Nazarene University with a B.A. in Literature, and in the same year, her capstone paper on Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time made the Global Undergraduate Awards’ Highly Commended list. She has been relying on books, Netflix, and Disney+ to get her through the quarantine.Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.
In a brownbricked semidetached house in winding Spring Road, Wrecsam in a snaking row of brownish hours a man staggered a pumpkin in a damp kitchen.
And then bricked silence continued.
It was too orange\too round\too calm for him.
And that was just the beginning of Autumn.
Serena Piccoli is an Italian poet, playwright, performer, artistic director. Her political chapbook silviotrump was published in 2017 by Moria, Chicago, USA. Her poems have been published in anthologies and magazines in USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Nigeria, Italy and Romania. She mainly writes about political, environmental, social contemporary issues with a touch of irony, both in English and in Italian (her mother tongue).She is a lesbian feminist human rights advocate. Twitter: @piccoli_serena. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.
We do have luxuries. Our worries remain plentiful.
I take to naps like an addict. I sneak them, I need them, I lie about them.
We take long walks around ourselves. When our masks slip, we put them back on.
I acquire a cantaloupe and let it sit on the counter. When I can wait no longer, I open the hard brown wrapping with a knife. Inside it’s Christmas, sunset-colored sweetness, tiny seeds scattered like wrapping.
Evenings my husband and I sit in the backyard, drinking wine and passing uncertainties back and forth. Will this happen? This? This?
One morning at the end of one strange month, I write out a calendar for the next. I smooth the paper, then hold my pen still, leaving the squares empty as windows.
Hilary King lives in California with her husband, two children, one cat, one dog, and many masks. She writes poetry as a way of witnessing, as an aid to memory, as a way to explore the mystery of human beings and being human. Her poems have appeared in Fourth River, Belletrist, PANK, Blue FifthReview, Cortland Review, Mom Egg Review, and other publications. She is the author of the book of poems, The Maid’s Car.Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.
and also a month of boxed wine and seventy pasta meals
three times a day we growl at each other taking turns facing off
you go run around the backyard I’ll turn circles on the stoop
but at 5pm when the sun quiets down we have our drinks and cheer
he curls up on the sofa, you curl up at my feet only then are we allowed to dream
like snails wandering over our plants they come slow and sticky
leaving their trails over us in our empty glasses
peaceful for a time and glowing until we wake up again growling
How Not to Pay Rent
I didn’t know it was possible to talk so long about eggs every morning we plan out our days using them as a measure meal to meal, style and taste I’m sick of talking about frittatas. I want to talk about how not to pay rent, how to get my health insurance back how to look for work again, who’s hiring? Desperation is starting to scratch at the backdoor like chickens but sure, I’ll take mine this time with chorizo and a little onion.
Keri Smith has her MFA in Poetry from the New School. Her first book of poems, Dragging Anchor, came out on Hanging Loose Press in 2018. Until the COVID shut down of NYC she worked in bars, and is still out of work for the foreseeable future. She is lately either at home in Brooklyn with her husband and chihuahua or joining her neighbors at protests. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.