A Weed

by Jonathan Shipley

There is probably a poem in that sunflower
that has bloomed alone in my backyard.
I am filled with such despair and I
know that it’s unfounded, to a point.
At least I have a job.
At least no loved ones (yet)
have died. No one has
ever died of despair.
Some would argue that countless have.
It’s okay to have debates such as these.
There are questions about what defines
a weed. The sunflower will be in
full bloom in a day or two, I
imagine. We have failed – our
leadership, our neighbors, ourselves.
A year of our lives will be taken
away from us. We have all suffered
deaths these months. A metaphor is
different than a ventilator, different
than a window, and a grave.
I am not worthy of that yellowing bloom
and yet here I am
trying to define what weeds are.

Jonathan Shipley is a freelance writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. His writing has appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, National Parks Magazine, and Meatpaper. Illustration by VR Ragesh, who is a noted cartoonist from Kerala.

Arum Italicum

by Robin Woolman

Like a pilgrim on my knees
I creep among the throng.
I stab and pull methodically
the veined leaves like hands
begging alms, or palms pressing
close in prayer,succored
by their tiny corms as deep
and crafty as belief. Each year
more Lords-and-ladies appear.
“There is no stemming
their colonies of poison,” botanists
warn,“but temporary abatement,
maybe. Wear protection: gloves,
mask, and isolate what you glean.”
Unseen the tubers divide, thrive:
Hydra teeth from which the Spartoi
Arum spring. Armed with trowel, knowledge,
and time assigned by quarantine, I dig and pull
and listen to the viral news. The smallest thing
can bring a species to its knees. So I crawl
believing with each weed removed–
a prayer is said for all.

Robin Woolman is a performer and teacher of circus skills in Portland, Oregon. The pandemic means she is acting less and weeding more, teaching less and writing more. Her short play, “Worship,” was presented last fall as part of Portland’s participation in Climate Change Action Theater. Illustration by VR Ragesh, who is a noted cartoonist from Kerala.

Oh my brain is doing her best

by Amber Garcia

Oh my brain is doing her best
Her little grey bulbus body churning out fear as fast as she can
And I obey her every command
Soap, worry, repeat
My poor hands have never been so clean
I scratch at my scalp till it screams
Then a bit more
When I get lazy and wash my hands a little bit less
She punishes me with these fevers
fear fevers that cripple me into compliance
when they break I do too

She wanders all day and night
How her tiny mushy feet don’t tire
I’ll never know
She leaves every morning and whispers to me so sweet
“I’ll always keep you safe”
So I monitor the twitters and televisions
Like it’s my turn to guard the village
from the lions and riots and bears
But she never comes home in time for supper
And my fingers are tired of sewing crooked masks
Maybe tonight I’ll kiss her cherub cheeks
And tell her that we’re instituting a curfew

Amber Garcia is a college student in Southern California who enjoys Diet Coke and tending to her container garden. VR Ragesh is a noted cartoonist based in Kerala.

Two Poems

by Hafis Anvar

Dreaming Summer Trapped in a Rain Room

Puzzles consume the last drops of venerated greens—
of caffeine, of corrugated hemp, of sanity,
and its corroded edges. DJ traps the betrayed
restlessness of wet feet into the mocking tap tap
of rhythm-lorn toes poking the soft underbelly
of distorted tapes. Aimless branches of mighty teaks
put yet another rabbit into the hole in the clouds.
Use that thick lifestyle magazine here and there.
Strike down all those greedy termites of wings—
wrong time to have a sunbath under the white light
of CFL, its almosting July June. Boredom counts
the legs of beetles trapped in windowpanes.
I wish for a pet anteater. So curved and perfected
like cuddling girls of monsoon, curling up like millipedes.
Water penetrates the many beehive hymens
Of the stubborn breadfruit tree. 
Exasperated hare-eyes of grass. The greens of it,
look away from the monsoon overdosed yellow—
from the roots, beg another summer.

Paper Towels

Telephone is sad and is feeling cold
On my table,
some old pictures with no footnotes
Papers with straight lines drawn on them
Just straight lines that intercept,
at absurd angles

Silvervine in water turning,
weird blue at roots.
The paper towels
I sent them back to you in last July,
said its raining and I don’t cry that much
Last November, we walked

barefoot on the turf, talked
about Orion and Crux
You said we hunt, or we carry
the cross, and life
is like catching a large avenue,
with the tiny lens of a camera
It stays there, maybe for a moment
At least for a moment, then you walked

Telephone is off the hook;
I am not expecting your call,
May be some paper towels

Hafis Anvar is a poet who spends time between Tiruvannamalai and Rajastan. VR Ragesh is a noted cartoonist from Kerala.

Ode to Rose Hips

by Deborah Purdy

Because you remain —
A handful of rose hips speckling
my desk like slips of paper
next to other scraps
and segments —

Now like crumpled keepsakes,
you were plucked from a shrub
when we stopped to admire the carousel
as we walked along the Potomac River
one airless June afternoon.

Later that day, I held you in my hand
like fresh scarlet berries, inside the Gaylord,
where in the cool air captive birds,
errant like loose longings,
rose to the sky in the nineteen-story atrium.

In that false world of gardens
and streams sunset was magnified.
The birds steered toward the sky as if
endeavoring to ascend with the planes
on the other side of the glass.

Now, on the other side, a few years later,
you are here. I don’t know what happened
to the birds, but you are here, a little wrinkled
and dim, paper-skinned and lightweight
in my hand, where we are all inside.

Deborah Purdy lives outside Philadelphia where she writes poetry and creates fiber art. Her work has appeared in Gravel Literary Magazine, Cleaver Magazine, The American Poetry Journal, and other publications. Illustration by V.R. Ragesh, who is a noted cartoonist from Kerala.

A Brief History of a Time in the Second Decade of the 21st Century

by AM Kamaal 

It is later spelled out:
The aerial suffering, hard-knocking
On each open door of our homes
Without punctuated pause, 
And warnings. And concise words
Of caution, breezing in the air
Preach nothing but sheer solitude
As if nothing is more important
To our living than silence, and
Mascaras, and six more feet away
From our respective grave.

AM Kamaal is a Nigerian poet and writer. When he’s not writing, he reads Jericho Brown and Ezra Pound, listens to the evergreen songs of Àyìnlá Ọmọwúrà, or watches Hollywood. Illustration by VR Ragesh, who is a noted cartoonist from Kerala.

Dance of the Long Pause

by Louisa Muniz

All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth
—Chief  Seattle

Back & forth. Front to back. Side by side.

That forgetting & remembering

dance of who we are.

If earth’s rhythm holds the groundswell

of well-being    how do we heal her wounds

when we can’t remember

the language of flowers, rivers, trees?

We forget    everything is part of everything

& everything belongs to us all.

Forget forgetting. Tell me how the earth—

a sentient being    breathing, sweating, quaking,

bears our transgressions.

All spring the cherry blossoms cascade

in pink weeping blooms, heart-struck

by the red breasted bird—quiet, patient reverent

his hymn      a  hallowed invitation

to return to love, return to love, return to love

from the dance of disconnect.

Nothing moves for weeks. Unearthed in stillness  

I remember     I am—

trailing vine, fallow wind, spinning star

suspended in sky  searching for light. 

Louisa Muniz lives in Sayreville, New Jersey. Her work has appeared in Tinderbox Journal, Words Dance, Menacing Hedge, Poetry Quarterly, PANK Magazine Women’s Anthology TL:DR Press and elsewhere. She is the Sheila-Na-Gig  2019 Spring Contest Winner for her poem “Stone Turned Sand.” Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net. Her Chapbook, After Heavy Rains by Finishing Line Press is forthcoming. Illustration by V.R. Ragesh, who is a noted cartoonist from Kerala.

Juxtaposition of Corona

by Alok Kumar Ray

Now see everywhere natural bounty unfurls it’s wondrous revealing
Virgin beauty of nature vivaciously resurrects past glories very scintillating 
Rivers, lakes, oceans and tributaries have regained prowess of withstanding
Now see they look very racy, pristine, sublime and exciting
Now see the natural deep blue colour of the sky so striking
Now see how cotton like clouds are seamlessly floating  
Birds chirping in ecstasy while flying 
Pollution free are cities, towns, industrial hubs and places of outings
City dwellers after so many years clean air inhaling
Bliss of solitude busy markets, malls, cinema halls, parks enjoying
Traffic posts, roads, railway stations become for stray dogs and cattle grounds of roaming 
But during Corona pandemic human relationship is severely languishing
Suspected persons are debarred to touch even their own siblings sans proper medical scanning
Bosom friends become untouchables due to frightening
Outsiders are caged in quarantine centres due to deficits in trust shouldering
Thermal, blood and swab tests create unidentified cleavages no doubt irritating
Cremation grounds have become congested due to corpses flooding
The whole world, people of all races, religions, colours and creed are after a dreaded virus undoubtedly cunning
Nation-states having the status of superpower biting the dust and are flustering
Social media sites notice unprecedented postings of poems, write ups on humanity outstanding
Humans like turtles prefer to stay safe in their shells without second thinking 
Only protective asylum the home has become for humans’ dwelling

Dr. Alok Kumar Ray is a bilingual poet from Odisha, India. His poems both in Odia and English have been featured in many anthologies across the globe. He is a Senior Lecturer in Political Science and teaches both undergraduate and post-graduate students. Illustration by VR Ragesh, a noted cartoonist from Kerala.

Corona Resilience

by Gerard Sarnat

Most fix-its’re stumbled through,
others not so much.

I finally do make my peace risks
of electrocution

outweigh benefits mending drive-
way light switch.

But a bad ankle sprain addressed
early resolves

quicker than this septuagenarian
takes for granted.

Sunday morning, my wife brings
me Peets’ coffee, &

2 of us schmooze in comfy chairs,
listen to spring rain.

She turns on iPhone that fell in
her bath yesterday

then sound won’t work — though
now somehow does.

Perusing weekly news shows, we
cook chicken soup.

Gerard Sarnat won the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize, and has been nominated for a handful of recent Pushcarts plus Best of the Net Awards. Gerry is widely published in journals including Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, and New Delta Review. He is a physician who’s built and staffed clinics for the marginalized as well as a Stanford professor and healthcare CEO. VR Ragesh is a noted cartoonist from Kerala.

Bent Canvas

Arya Mohapatra

The painter
Now asks
If I mind leaving

His paint boxes alone
And stop smearing my little hand
Across his new canvas

Ink streaks all over

I smile and wipe my fingers on my
And walk away

And look at his colours
Behind the curtain

Arya Mohapatra is a thirteen year old teenager of Bhubaneswar, India. A slam poet, she has performed her poetry regularly and has won the third place in the Rabindranath Tagore Awards 2020. Illustrated by VR Ragesh, noted cartoonist from Kerala.