When the Media Say Health Care Workers Are on the Front Lines in the Battle Against COVID-19

by Matt Hohner

         for Antoinette Antetomaso

I think of my grandmother, a nurse
in a U.S. field hospital in Europe
in WWII. She would remind us
every conflagration is absorbed in
injury by people, suffered by scarred
survivors and uncountable dead. She
steely green eyes, teach us the difference
between fighters and fixers, that health
care workers wait behind the front lines to
receive us with medicine and grace in our
most graceless hours. She would show us
with hands that bathed wrist-deep in chests
of shredded men that we are the soldiers
in this most personal of battles, our bodies
the front lines of a war against an unseeable
foe, silent invader of lungs and throats, that
we expose ourselves to a crossfire hurricane
of infected breath and touched surfaces each
time we venture out, that our homes are bunkers
against the spread. She would tell us to hunker
down and wait for a needle of mercy in the arm,
a cease-fire of safety signed with a syringe, for
church bells and sirens to herald the all-clear.



Matt Hohner, a Baltimore native, is a local, national, and international award-winning poet, and has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. An editor for Loch Raven Review, Hohner’s book Thresholds and Other Poems, his first full-length book, was published by Apprentice House Press in Fall 2018. Hohner has held a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, made possible by a grant from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation. He was recently awarded second place in the 2021 Fish Publishing International Poetry Contest in Ireland. His second collection of poetry will be published by Salmon Poetry in 2023. Arabella Luna Friedland is a visual artist and writer based in New York City. She’s influenced by a childhood with cartoons, a classical education in anatomy and life drawing, and a firm belief that all art — is a portrait.

Teaching Beauty During a Pandemic

by Colette Tennant


Today I taught the Renaissance Code for Beauty –

High forehead
Ears – pale pink roses
Arched eyebrows
Golden curls
Chestnut eyes
Ivory cheeks
Small mouth
And a smile that could point the way to paradise,
but only if she showed six teeth or less.

You might wonder why all of this mattered.
Because philosophers, balanced between
Aphrodite and the Virgin Mary,
believed beauty could somehow
cleanse a little corner of their ancient,
earth-sullied souls,
could tilt them back toward God.

I lean near the screen, toward
their sweet faces – their breath.



Colette Tennant has two poetry books: Commotion of Wings and Eden and After. Her most recent book, Religion in The Handmaid’s Tale: a Brief Guide, was published in September of 2019 to coincide with Atwood’s publication of The Testaments. 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.

The Long Exhale

by Christopher Clauss


I will not die
while I can still hear her say,
“Daddy”
while there are plans for family vacation
languishing on the kitchen table,
dandelions in the yard waiting to be blown

There will be no slipping quietly
no tolling of bells to be pondered

Her dresses are pink and twirly
the way she likes them
She will not be pleased to wear formal black
to sit quietly and not play by the coffin
or pluck petals from each bouquet

I will breathe
whether lungs consent or refuse
There will be pictures of us
taken tomorrow
moments next summer that will etch themselves
into our eyes
traditions that we will start when she is older

and she will learn to carry on
the way I learned to carry on
to close our eyes
and remember



Christopher Clauss is an introvert, Ravenclaw, father, poet, and middle-school science teacher from Keene, NH. He has represented New Hampshire six times at the National Poetry Slam as a member of the Slam Free or Die poetry slam team. His work explores the bliss and turmoil of faith, parenting, teaching, marriage, and community in rural New Hampshire. Christopher’s poems have been published in Gingerbread RItual, Bombfire Lit, Slamchop, and Recipes for the Resistance from Pizza Pi Press. His mother believes his poetry is “just wonderful.” Both of his daughters declare that he is the “best daddy they have,” and his pre-teen science students rave that he is “Fine, I guess. Whatever.” Karen Shimizu is not fond of writing bios. She loves to draw, paint, cook, garden and play cello, but does none of those things professionally. Professionally, she is the executive editor of Food & Wine magazine. She lives with her family in Birmingham, Alabama.

A June Afternoon

by Pratibha Kelapure

               Innocence Long before Pandemic – Circa 1975

standing by the roadside, in sweaty sari
by the street vendor’s wicker basket
I enjoy the spiraled pineapple slices
the delightful taste revives my hazy brain
sweltering in dampness, Bombay sizzles
soles of my chappal cling to the pavement,
I rush to the railway station to catch my train,
but oh, these trees hold me in their thrall
The golden spires of towering poinciana
turn the city of toil into the city of gold.
pink cassias, the soft scent of mogra
afternoon evaporates; a sudden sound
a loud sky boom, the sweet petrichor of
the first monsoon drops and steaming earth
A lightning flash and the roaring thunder
shower the city with joy and wonder
My sari is soaking wet, I curse my umbrella
My mind full of thoughts of home
and aroma of warm dal and rice



Pratibha Kelapure is an Indian-American poet residing in California. Her poems appear in Choice Words: Writers on Abortion (Anthology, Haymarket Books, 2020), Entropy Magazine, Plath Poetry Project, miller’s pond poetry, The Lake, and many other literary magazines. 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.


Plague Mirror

by Jim Madigan


When the plague stepped off the plane
it held a mirror for all to see.
It showed the broken promise of
liberty and justice for all.

As plague danced across
the country, the mirror
made visible the crusted carbuncles
of a for profit healthcare system,

and illuminated the warehoused
elderly, kept in their rooms,
unable to receive visits from their children
while they grew sick and died.

The plague mirror brought the carceral
state out of the shadows, publicly
laid bare that we lock away people
of color, the uneducated, those mentally disabled.

Plague slipped through walls and cells
to touch Mumia in a Pennsylvania prison,
who lived, and Nickolas Lee in Cook County
Jail awaiting his parole violation hearing, who did not.

Unmistakably, the mirror unmasked
the rich get richer, the poor get
more numerous. Workers in service
and health essentially expendable.

While the duopoly of the oligarchy
debated and divided over what to do,
they were able to agree
on a malignant military budget, so:

No universal healthcare.
No free public education for all.
No homes for the homeless.
No end to the police state.

The plague laughed as the death
count climbed, and the rulers 
proclaimed through the media they own:
“Things are under control,
               the mirror is cracked.”



James Madigan is the father of three daughters, a librarian and is enrolled in the Masters program for Creative Writing – Poetry at University of Illinois Chicago. He has been published in Mantis, Oddball Magazine, Tiger Moth, and others. He lives in Oak Park, Illinois. 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.

ONE MORNING AT THE TOWER BALCONY

by Aaron Pamei


The wizened old man across the other tower

Makes a three-step shuffle to turn himself around

As he makes his interminable ten-minute morning round.

Haru, the grey splattered cat lies on the balcony ledge,

Whiskers glistening as the morning sunlight bounces off the streaks,

A gentle hum of the traffic creeps into the back of the head

As my city wakes up gently to a 40s jazz piano drift.


The lukewarm summer breeze blows to bowed sleepy buds

Promising a hot day and a blustery crusty dusk,

A loaded breakfast tray lay on the red-towelled table;

The kaolin coffee pot smokes out of its pouted spout

As the BBCF cups wait expectantly to be filled.

A single cornett of a blue morning-glory gloriously

Plays its silent reveille to the beginning of a new day

Stirring my soul into a wakefulness like a feather fluff

Lifted off by the soft caress of a careless breeze.


I close my eyes and exhale in whispered gratitude.



A poet, a singer songwriter, and a passionate ultra-runner, Aaron Pamei is a civil servant in the defence Ministry.  Several of his poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, like International Journal Setu, IFP, The Little Journal, Insulatus, etc. Most of his songs and poems deal with social and human conditions. A loving father to two daughters, and wife, he currently lives in Delhi. 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. 

Mirror Neurons

by Joyce Nash


On either side of a pane of glass
our reflections sit close, but alas.
The mirror of me
could touch you I see,
but can my heart cross a six foot crevasse?



Joyce Nash lives in a region of Southern California that was previously home to the Kawaiisu people. She is a reader and a writer, but she tries not to let that get in the way of her daily practices of reading, writing, and revolution. 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.

Spaghetti Western Ballad

by Michael Brockley


Your friend, who often critiques the film How the West Was Won with its reluctant harmonica-playing hero and its blue-eyed killer, posted a video of the Seekers singing “I’ll Never Find Another You” on Facebook. You don’t remember the movie anymore, having confused its plot with a collage from the Clint Eastwood catalog. But you weep every time balladeers launch into the chords to the lyrics you lived with for six months in 2012. When yet another woman asked you not to write her into your poems. When your white German shepherd could no longer feel your hands brushing against the grain of her coat. Before you smoothed her hair from crown to tail. It was the year you read Behind the Beautiful Forever and This Is How You Lose Her.. Near Thanksgiving you sang Springsteen to the woman, rhyming “I’m on fire” and “born to run.” And Christmas carols from the last week of November, until she escaped into a Key West short story sometime between New Year’s and Epiphany. The day you surrendered your German shepherd to the Rainbow Bridge you don’t believe in your debt of loneliness came due to the blue-eyed bounty hunter with his taunts about belts with suspenders. You’ve watched Unforgiven like an addiction. ever since. As if seeking the answer to a question no one will ever ask you. As always, unprepared to travel through another storm without a guide.



Michael Brockley is a retired school psychologist who lives in Muncie, Indiana. His poems have appeared in Fatal Flaw, Woolgathering Review, and Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the LIfe and Work of Bob Dylan. Poems are forthcoming in Flying Island, Last Stanza Poetry Journal, and The Pine Cone ReviewLiz 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. 

And The World Will Be As One

by Howard Richard Debs


I am still waiting.       
I was living in Chicago, commuting
downtown, just married, starting a family.
the Vietnam War was raging when I first
heard the song “Imagine”
it hit Billboard’s top ten.
That was ’71, a year of war
between India and Pakistan,
the IRA bombed the Post Office Tower
in London, dictator Idi Amin took control
of Uganda, Greenpeace began.

We moved to upstate New York
the Finger Lakes region, in ’74 our
second was born. the same year
as Watergate; Nixon resigns, there’s
a global recession, Turkey invades
Cyprus, Israel and Syria agree to a
ceasefire on the Golan Heights.

In ’76 we packed up the kids and
the dog and headed south
to Florida, our new home
in a bright red Datsun wagon.
That year Peron was overthrown
in a military coup in Argentina,
there was a conflict they called
“The Cod Wars” between Iceland
and Britain over fishing rights,
the Soweto riots in South Africa occur,
the beginning of the end of apartheid.

Graduations, weddings, baby showers,
funerals, life goes on; it’s 2021,
in the grip of a pandemic
we just marked The 51st anniversary
of Earth Day around the world,
now the Russians say they’ll leave
the International Space Station
and build their own by 2030.



Howard Richard Debs is a recipient of the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards. His essays, fiction, and poetry appear internationally in numerous publications. His photography is featured in select publications, including in Rattle online as “Ekphrastic Challenge” artist and guest editor. His book Gallery: A Collection of Pictures and Words (Scarlet Leaf Publishing), is the recipient of a 2017 Best Book Award and 2018 Book Excellence Award. His latest work is the chapbook Political (Cyberwit.net). He is co-editor of New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust, forthcoming in later 2021 from Vallentine Mitchell of London, publisher of the first English language edition of the diary of Anne Frank. Art by Karyn Kloumann, founder of award-winning indie publisher Nauset Press

Pandemic Color

by Rosie Prohías Driscoll



Mami loathes the overgrowth
of gray framing her face

darkness skimming shoulders.
Unable to bear another day

she summons her sister:
Ven – ¡que ya no puedo más!

Tía arrives, box of L’Oréal
Excellence in hand, bickering

about Mami’s life choices, today
the shade of light ash brown

that will only accentuate
her wrinkles.

Together they enter the bathroom,
take their places.

Tía quiets herself
lays gloved hands upon

her sister’s bowed head
combs color into thirsty roots

then exits, does not wait
the thirty minutes it takes

to witness the miracle
of Mami emerging

like Lazarus
risen to life.



Rosie Prohías Driscoll is a Cuban-American educator and poet living in Alexandria, Virginia. Her poems have appeared in numerous online and print publications, including The Acentos Review, Saw Palm: Florida Literature and Art, SWWIM Every Day, Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality and the Arts, Sin Fronteras/ Writers Without Borders, and No Tender Fences: An Anthology of Immigrant and First-Generation American Poetry. In 2020 she was a finalist for the Orison Poetry Prize. Her first full-length poetry collection, Poised for Flight, is forthcoming in 2022 from Finishing Line Press. Arabella Luna Friedland is a visual artist and writer based in New York City. She’s influenced by a childhood with cartoons, a classical education in anatomy and life drawing, and a firm belief that all art — is a portrait.