If you don’t think you do anything right

by Ellen Stone

 

                                                For John Prine

Make beer bread w/one can of cheap lager.
Consider becoming more flavored yourself.
Eat more bone marrow. Reduce cruciferous
vegetables, especially cabbage. Soak your feet
in well water centered with rind of blood orange.

Remember clubs of cheery types of people who
gather in groups like knitters, coin collectors
& those who like old dolls. Do more meditation
when recycling & garbage has finally been collected
Sing at sunrise or when the dew comes off the grass.

Embrace your household of living beings –
mice, squirrels or your offspring. Find
a handful of fountain pens, freaks & curlers
or the right side of the bed. Ask everyone
one song that makes them cry every day.



Ellen Stone taught special education in public schools in Kansas and Michigan for over 30 years. She advises a poetry club at Community High School and co-hosts a monthly poetry series, Skazat!, where she lives with her husband in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ellen is the author of What Is in the Blood (Mayapple Press, 2020) and The Solid Living World (Michigan Writers’ Cooperative Press, 2013). Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart prize and Best of the Net. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.


My Singer Contracted COVID

by Elaine Sorrentino


We forged a friendship
when the kids were small, money tight,
the unexpected birthday gift
that screamed of possibility; 

this machine with its basic
straight and basting stitches,
its practical and fun zigzag, 
and other sexier stitches 

I later learned earned names 
such as Scallop, Icicle and Diamond,
all contributing to the creation
of shiny silver knight costumes, 

long-tailed green dragons 
with gold bellies and oversized paws,
quilted Christmas stockings
sporting each child’s name on the cuff,

wide wale corduroy knickers  
for the high school version of Carousel,
all tailored with my reliable
indestructible sewing machine.   

Cancer changed priorities
and my Singer found a home
in the back of the closet
with other abandoned pastimes 

until Covid coaxed it out
to fashion protective masks
but instead, sewed one straight
row, then jammed in reverse. 



Elaine Sorrentino is Communications Director at South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, MA. Her work has been published in Minerva Rising, Willawaw Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Ekphrastic Review, The Writers’ Magazine, Haiku Universe, Failed Haiku, and has won the monthly poetry challenge at wildamorris.blogspot.com. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Sleep Until Noon

by Elisa Subin


The garbage truck, the neighbor’s dog, the drop

of a toilet seat from next door, we share a wall, I wonder what they hear, we don’t yell, in fact, last night you won a gold medal for strongest

Silence

Tickling the sheets for an extra hour, watching TV Land reruns, calming the old dog, scolding the late night teen, replaying long forgotten embarrassments, existential worries, stop snoring, give me the blanket,

Cut your ragged jagged toenails already

And still at 5:30am

I am up, slippers, bra (yes, bra) and coffee in that old, stained mug, wearily proclaiming me World’s Best Wife

Yet morning is my only solace

So please dear sleep until noon



Elisa Subin is a poet whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in 34 Orchard Literary Journal, CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly, Not One of Us, Jam & Sand and Nebo: A Literary Journal, among others. She won an Honorable Mention in the Reuben Rose Poetry Competition. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City. The illustration depicts Emily Dickinson in a cable-knit sweater.

To Outwait the Pandemic

by Jeff Burt


what I wanted was a Ray Griffith sweater,
one with bulk, hand-knitted

by an aunt, decades old and worn,
warm, awkwardly fit yet comforting,

with measured sleeves and cuffs not frayed
though pulled and loose at the elbows

with that little collar that fenced the neck
from cold, that when you pulled out a pen

and paper something warm and witty
spilled onto paper, or a letter glib

with insignificant news, a caricature
or profile of idiosyncrasies,

a letter of comments on the weather,
a teabag like a wet plum on paper.



Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California with his wife. He works in mental health. He has contributed to Heartwood, Williwaw Journal, Red Work Journal, and Montana Mouthful. He won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review Narrative Poetry Prize. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City. The illustration depicts Emily Dickinson in a cable-knit sweater.

Pandemic Paunch

by Patricia Mosco Holloway


I used to have space,
a place where my stomach
could go–at least 
for the few seconds
I’d try to tuck it in
to achieve that flawless
flatline profile
I knew was mine.

Post pandemic quarantine,
pizza-ed, macaroni-and-cheesed,
fed fresh bread and potatoes mashed,
I am now one solid mass.
No room inside for anything
to inch. Everything’s rounded,
filled to the max. No spaces between
even organs, arteries, nerves.  
Vertebrae?  Packed tight.

But more than the starches, 
the carbos and fat, I’ve swallowed,
sucked up months of virtual
everything: concerts, coffees,
choirs, holidays, birthdays, church.
Too many boarded-up windows
and doors down empty streets.
Tired of all the blue links cramming
my computer, the masks hanging
from everywhere–doorknobs, pockets
lamps, ears, even from my rear view mirror.

I’ve swallowed isolation, which you 
would think might be empty, but
it, too, grows inside me, protruding, pressing
against each inch of my taut drum skin.
I ache for some space
to break
free



Patricia Mosco Holloway is a writing teacher residing in Denver. Some of her work can be found online at Rattle, The Ekphrastic Review, New Verse News, in The Explicator and in college textbooks teaching writing about literature by Rolf Norgaard and writing about theater by Suzanne Hudson.  She is a 2019 finalist in the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Coffee House, December 2020

by Lee Patton


Though fake fire hisses out gas flames
between logs fashioned from steel,
the convivial intent seems real.
Today, the gaseous blaze plays

to an empty alcove inside
an emptied coffee house with seats
taped over. PLEASE ENJOY on first read
really pleads TAKING TREATS OUTSIDE.

The adjacent jazz-worshipping
bar’s taped over too, FUN PREVENTED
BY ORDER OF HEALTH DEPARTMENT
Let’s Drink Again, Together, Next Spring

Somebody’s grandmother subs, working
as a barista, aw-hecking when she flubs
another order.  “So sorry, bub!”
Outside, two friends try distant lurking

in puffer jackets, wool hats––darts
of mammal steam with each word more.
You’d think they’d been expelled outdoors,
mere beasts feeding in the cold, apart.



Lee Patton, a native of California’s Mendocino coast, has enjoyed life in Colorado since college. His first poetry collection, In Disturbed Soil, is forthcoming in 2021. Recent poems appear in Heirlock, Impossible Archetype, and New Verse News. His fifth novel, Coming to Life on South High, comes out in 2021. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.

On the Record

by Jessica L. Walsh


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.

Things to Do in a Winter Lockdown

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.


From the Inside

by Federica Santini


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 SnapdragonPlath 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.

Daddy, how did you do your part back then?

by S. B. Fields


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.