In the Pandemic Garden

by Jessica Barksdale


The tomatoes were called Green Zebra
or Jupiter’s Stripes, these varietals
mingled with Yellow as Hell
and Orb of Gold or Total Nuclear
Apocalypse. Who knows?
They were all late bloomers, grown
from seed, trays laid out in the bathroom
for weeks before I tucked them
into their earthen beds.

But what a summer, COVID-19 a feeling
as well as a disease, the garden a slow-growing
pause from quarantine despite the snails
and katydids. Maybe I forced
the plants to stay small, so I would have more
to do. Let me water you forever,
they intuited, knowing at the end,
nothing but certain death.

Meanwhile, the Red Spangled Flag,
Cinnamon Stick Watermelon Big Ass,
and the Bursting with Overwhelming Joy
flamed with burgundy, scarlet, flame,
pulsed to the Make the Damn Homemade
Sauce sonata. Meanwhile, I watered
on, my dark shadow against the fence,
my back bent, stooped, me no seedling,
me the tender, the bearer, the crone,
the woman who holds the hose.



Jessica Barksdale’s second poetry collection Grim Honey was published in April, and her fifteenth novel, The Play’s the Thing, is forthcoming in May 2021. Recently retired, she taught composition, literature, and creative writing at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California for thirty-two years and continues to teach novel writing online for UCLA Extension and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. Liz Baron is an artist and restaurateur who lives in Texas by way of New York City. She and her husband, Jim, founded, own and operate four Mexican-Southwestern restaurants. She got her Bachelor of Fine Art from Pratt Institute but stopped painting when restaurant work and family life consumed most of her time. She is grateful to the online art classes of Sketchbook Skool that helped her regain the joy of a regular art practice. 

Superheroes

By Ruchi Chopra


It was a simple conversation between us–
your eight-year-old self curious about
elephant and monkey god breathing through
their paper-thin skins. 
You stared at the print-out pictures of them
pasted at empty corner in our kitchen wall-
a make a shift temple for us during festivals
and ceremonies
from 482 days in our new home.
Somehow you sensed that these gods look
strong resembling your favorites superheroes
your innocent eyes scan these print-out gods
while we pray for peace, safety and solidarity.

Later in the evening you came with a drawing
of your favorite superheroes and my gods
standing together wearing invisible cloaks-
“mom they all have invisible power to save
the world from Coronavirus.”
I made this for Nani. Monkey god is her favorite.
You clutched a marbled figurine of an
elephant god in your tiny palms-
a souvenir from our India’s trip 2011
kept on my dresser.
Reminds me of simple joys that we miss
we breathe anxiety and fear not
simple joys anymore.

The elephant god now breathes fresh air
through its marbled eyes
kept beside the succulents in your room
Your superheroes drawing pasted
with the print-out gods
in our kitchen wall rechristened as
Superheroes display wall.
Somehow your innocuousness has
sensed the urgency of the situation
we are in-
In the evening, we all pray for
everyone’s well-being.
You remind me to look for the
marbled monkey god
for our Superheroes display wall.



Ruchi Chopra is a former journalist, and social media influencer. Born and raised in India, Ruchi now lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with her family. She is a bilingual writer and enjoys reading and writing experimental poetry and non-fiction. She explores different mediums of creative self-expression through photography, writing, recycled crafts, and collages. Her poetry has appeared in several anthologies, journals, ezines, and magazines. You can find her on Instagram at @banjaran_life. Varada J.M is a 9th-grader based in Kerala’s Koyilandi, studying at Rani Public School, Vadakara. After hurriedly doing homework, Varada divides her time between practicing classical dance and watching horror films. She loves dogs but nobody at home wants one.

An Abundance of Caution

by Lizzy Beck


copious prudence
a surging wave of vigilance
a veritable cornucopia of care

preceded by out of as in
derived from rather than lacking
rather than sold out rather than
the empty shelf of bleach the favorite brand
of tampons toilet paper and canned beans

compare with overabundance
of caution
meaning excess meaning
too profuse an exhortation
to take heed
meaning look children
up at the circling birds

the pretty bellies of the birds
of prey how many above
the playground an abundance
can we count to eight
a fat number more than the days
of the week therefore

an omen of plenty
but plenty of what



Lizzy Beck lives with her family in Western Massachusetts, where she teaches at a small boarding high school. Her work has appeared in Salt Hill, LEON Literary Review, and Harpur Palate. She is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Sally Lelong is a visual storyteller working in a variety of media that lend themselves to use in a conceptual framework. She lives and works in New York, and routinely exhibits her work in a variety of settings from print to thematic installations to street art.

Service

by B. Lynne Zika


The crowded church cranks its hum 
to a shriek, then a roar, 
each noise skimming taut strings of muscle, 
the body violin. 
Eyes closed, I think soundless.   

Go into a field; 
lie with your heart on the earth 
and give to every grieving child 
the exact thing it needs.  

Pick up your shield and stand ready, 
strong enough to watch each day break 
into a thousand perfect shards. 
Sweep sable hair along the width of your lover’s bed, 
with photos of saints and gurus 
smiling from the walls. 
When neither yes nor no is true, 
there is always silence.   

When you are a stranger, 
do you think you will walk into a room 
and someone will rise from the couch 
and cry, “Oh, it’s you!”? 
We are all waiting to be known, 
cawing from treetops, 
chirruping through the dusk.   

Go into a field. 
Lay your heart against the ground. 
Climb inside the world 
and see through its eyes, 
ravenous, 
yes, 
a wolf among thieves. 



B. Lynne Zika’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary publications: Poetry East, Exquisite Corpse, The Anthology of American Poets, etc.  She has written for newspaper and radio and for trade and consumer magazines. In addition to editing poetry and nonfiction, she worked as a closed-captioning editor for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. She received a Pacificus Foundation Literary Award in short fiction, and her photography has received the Celebrity Award and the 2020 Choice Award from Viewbug. The photograph that accompanies the poem is her own.

The Fall of the American Middle Class as Seen from Our Location in the Woods

by Ericka Lutz


the glass on my iphone is a spiderweb of shatter

the burned out bulb in the antique floor lamp
is special order, and back-ordered

the refrigerator cheese drawer cover broke off
and there’s no replacement available online

the jet printer/scanner ink dried up but
the replacement cartridge has dried up too

and the downstairs laser printer only prints if you change
the network then unplug and replug in the printer
after you hit print and before you hit confirm and then
only every third time and
never on documents that matter

upstairs, the toilet  has sediment in the lines so
we keep the tank lid on the floor of the bedroom under
the armchair which wiggles when you sit on it

and fill a pot in the sink
and pour water into the tank to flush

and the downstairs toilet is clogged
no matter how many times Dan works it
with the drain snake, so the snake dangles out of the toilet

and will until the plumber comes in 9 days

the cats killed the upstairs palm by
shitting in the dirt and snapping the fronds so
we moved the heavy pot outside but
there’s still dirt on the wood floor

because the Dyson makes a high whine and has no suction
and the old upright Hoover sucks only through the hose
so I’ll need to get on my knees
and my knees hurt when I kneel
and when I climb the stairs

downstairs the front wall is taped and textured but not yet painted
the floor near the wall is covered with plastic sheeting and
stacked with tools

the cold water in the kitchen sink is slow though
the hot water runs fine

and raccoons ate the goldfish in the plastic pond
outside but the pump still works though the pond fills
with maple leaves and pine needles

the washing machine died again and
the serviceman is MIA so
Dan – double-masked with a jumbo jar of sanitizer –
heads out for socks and BVDs to our small town Walmart
where mask-less crowds hang in the aisles and
twice a week there’s a fist fight

while I post frantically on NextDoor for used washers
ignoring conspiracy theorists and fearful MAGAs

and Dan comes home tired and angry and scrubs his hands
and builds a fire in the woodstove because
the furnace won’t be installed until February as
it, too, is back-ordered

and it’s Happy Hour and we sip Laphroig
and Viognier

and the Smart TV won’t update so we we sit on the couch
scrolling news on my old MacBook
which only works as a browser

broken like everything is but pretending we’re not



Ericka Lutz‘s short fiction, CNF, and poetry has been published in Literary Mama, Verve, The Slate, Green Mountains Review, Scrivener Creative Review, Sideshow, and many others. She was a two-time Fellow at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and winner of the Boston Fiction Festival. The SF Chronicle called her novel, The Edge of Maybe, “an unconventional family drama and sexy satire.” She lives in the foothills of Northern California. Nancy Andrews is an artist living outside of Philadelphia. Self taught in photography, she has been perfecting her images for over 15 years. Her subjects include abstracts, images inspired by nature, and observations of the world around her. Along with photography, she spends her days teaching art to little ones, playing ukulele and romping with her two little pups.

Two Weeks After My Second Moderna Shot

by Andrea Livingston


On my evening walk, a high-pitched sound swirls through
the pines, as if a windstorm were electrifying bare branches, 

as if their cones were clacking together like castanets.
But there is no wind tonight, only the bizarre buzz in the air. 

Could it be the roar of my neighbor’s lawn mower?
No, the shrill notes are falling from the highest limbs. 

Years ago, I heard a similar ruckus at a Day of the Dead
celebration. A couple were shaking their maracas so vigorously,

I feared their rattles would break, the beans
spill all over the street. But when they varied the rhythm, 

tapping the instruments lightly with their fingertips,
the vibrations rose into the night like hummingbird wings. 

I read billions of cicadas are returning to the East Coast
after 17 years underground where they’ve been busy 

digging tunnels, drinking sap from tree roots, preparing
to surface into sunlight to sing their seductive songs. 

Perhaps some have already decided to migrate to California
and sprout like crocuses from our fertile spring soil. 

Walking down the wooded path I’ve taken this long, silent year,
I imagine hearing their come-hither calls, reminding me it’s safe 

to inhale the evening air without fear of the blue-black vulture above.
I’ve learned there’s a time for silence, a time for song.



Andrea Livingston’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in MockingHeart Review, The MacGuffin, Rust + Moth, the 2020 Marin Poetry Center Anthology, Sky Island Journal, Rise Up Review, and elsewhere. Her poem “Paper Cranes” received honorable mention in the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Poetry Contest of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works as a public policy editor and writer. Sabiyha Prince is an anthropologist, artist, and author based in Washington, DC.  Her books and essays explore urban change and African American culture, and her paintings and photo collages grapple with memory, identity, kinship and inequality.

Because We Only Know How to Measure

by Laurel Benjamin


Fishermen know. I would come upon them
in the fog, surprised both of us,
creases in sand dunes like hideouts
as the Pacific caught my shoes
unseen until barely light
and bubbles in the tide, clams talking

as loud as the surf.
The men never nodded, just beated
their poles out, knowing forward motion
would save them, and soon the sun
would rise full and they would lose
their moment, pack up their gear,
walk up to the parking,
remove their boots, their macs,

and leave.
Now in the second year of the virus
retrospective photos show streets, cafes,
whole city blocks shut down.
Shuttered shops dovetail with protests
against police, and now groceries

carboarded up again
and my curtains came out uneven,
one panel a nine inch hem
the other uncontrolled, pins dropping
with their blink blink, and I put too much pasta
in the casserole, bechamel sauce taking
the supporting role
for even if we know the practice of sewing, of cooking,

we are not guaranteed the outcome
of one year and the heat of the next—
which terms do we use to describe
what we cannot control
and cannot name
(though we name it)
the arc of embers.



Laurel Benjamin holds an MFA from Mills College. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women’s PoetryCalifornia Quarterly, The Midway ReviewMac Queens Quinterly, Wild Roof Journal, Tiny Seed, WordFest Anthology, Global Quarantine Museum Pendemics issue, Ekphrastic Review Bird Watching Challenge finalist, Oregon Poetry Association’s Poetry Contests honorable mention, Sunspot Literary Journal’s long list, among others.She is affiliated with the Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and the Port Townsend Writers. Jim Baron is the owner, with his wife Liz, of the Dallas-based Blue Mesa Grill restaurants and TNT/Tacos and Tequila. He’s been a surf bum all his life, with his late brother Bob and younger brother Dan. He spends a couple hours every day painting water colors, and happiness for him is being on the beach with Liz, Kate, Zak, Ian, and Lola, the labradoodle, who runs the show.

Five Poems

by J.I. Kleinberg

as we choose

going on

our goodbyes

the fiction

weary travelers



Three-time nominee for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards, J.I. Kleinberg is an artist, poet, and freelance writer. Her visual poems have been published in print and online journals worldwide and on Instagram. She tears words out of magazines in Bellingham, Washington, USA.

More & More Vectors

by Yuan Changming


Another broken line of thought about the pandemic sweeping the whole world

Two worlds dueling fiercely against each other within every space

Three spirited dragons throwing fires from the sagging sky

Four dozen celled chips occupying all the brain circuits

Five scores of tsunamis of dark matter invading from beyond the universe

Six hundred inner black holes sucking reason and feeling alike

Seven thousand fishes keeping charging towards the beach 

Eight million mosquitos roaring together more aloud than lions and tigers

Nine billion viruses struggling to come out of Pandora’s box with evils

Ten trillion zombies and vampires marching along each road and street

Jumping from deep waters & among muted echoes of its own calls

A whale sings: Time to wake up, time to wake up, damned Humans!



Yuan Changming hails with Allen Yuan from poetrypacific.blogspot.ca. Credits include Pushcart nominations and publications in Best of the Best Canadian Poetry (2008-17) & BestNewPoemsOnline,  among others. Recently, Yuan served on the jury for Canada’s 44th National Magazine Awards (English poetry category). Nancy Andrews is an artist living outside of Philadelphia. Self taught in photography, she has been perfecting her images for over 15 years. Her subjects include abstracts, images inspired by nature, and observations of the world around her. Along with photography, she spends her days teaching art to little ones, playing ukulele and romping with her two little pups.

The Ordering Impulse

by Stefan Sullivan


I heard a thud. Then several more.

Glossy photo books were tumbling from the shelves.

The Endangered Polar Bear
The Wine Road of Piedmonte
Untouched Appalachia
Ghost Motels of Route 66

Our dinner guests used to leaf through these books
while we lobbed cheerful questions from the kitchen,
while we poured stuffed olives into wooden bowls.

These books had not been touched in a while.

And now, they were scattered on the floor.

My wife looked at me with the wildest eyes. Her hair was everywhere.

“The Appalachia book was sticking over the edge. That’s how it started.”  

“But why’d you throw all the books on the floor?”

A tear slid down her cheeks.  

“It didn’t bother you?”



Stefan Sullivan is the author of a novel set in 1990s Siberia (Die Andere Bibliothek/Berlin) and Marx for a Post-Communist Era: On Poverty, Corruption and Banality (Routledge/London). His poetry has appeared in The Secular Heretic, Barzakh (SUNY Albany), and on the radio with WNYU fm. He lives in Washington DC. Stella Bellow is an illustrator currently attending Parsons School of Design in New York City.