A FEARSOME CRITTERS Z INE
QUARANZINE POETRY IN THE TIME OF COVID-19
THE CRITTER CREW: TEAM QUARANZINE Korbin Jones Editor-in-Chief
Merkin Karr Lead Editor
Kimberly Sternberg Content Assistant
Marisa Lucas Content Assistant
Cover Art: Hannah Soyer This work previously appeared on Words of Reclamation.
Cover Design: Korbin Jones Typesetting: Korbin Jones
Q U A R A N Z I N E : POETRY IN THE TIME OF COVID-19 Joanna Acevedo Matthew Andrews Tamar Ashdot Amy Azano Tanya Azari Bekah Ballard Cassie Birk Najla Brown Anita Cabrera Tori Cárdenas Paola Caronni Elizabeth Chamberlain Miriam Chandy Menacherry Clark Chatlain Rebecca Clay Dana De Greff Julie Derraik Terri Drake Sandra Dreis Lily Erb Hannah Feiner Laura Foley Renee Francoeur Bridget Gage-Dixon Allie Gips Stephanie Gonzalez Jesse Oona Hays Brittany N. Jaekel Emily Knapp Chloe Landisman Kent Leatham David Ross Linklater Alison Lubar Hannah Marshall Nicole McCaffety
April Is The Cruelest Month Palm Sunday 2020 (no)rmal Post Partum falling in love under COVID-19 Phone Call on April 2nd “Destructive Behavior Is” If Sex and the City Was Still on the Air . . . Dear Student in the University’s Humanities Building Prayer to San Anto We, the Social Animals how to wash your hands The Street Dog became King Montana: shelter-in-place Three thirty p.m. Passover, 2020 Quarantine Fifteen Days of Plague Hoofers: Six Feet Apart How To Escape A Global Pandemic York Street Bridge The Croissant Co-ver(g)ing Rumination from Quarantine #2 In the tower To Get More This is the Time april My brain feels like one of Dali’s melted clocks Tanka Poem for the Sky During a Pandemic Caim One for the COVID Days BEFORE THE GOOD MOURNING Empty Tables Good News
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Jessica Mehta Amanda Miller Chelsie Nunn Kendra Nuttall Jo O’Lone-Hahn Jon Petruschke Thomas Pickarski Jean Prokott JC Reilly Ashley Reynolds JR Rhine Lindsay Rotblatt Julia Rubin Barbara J. Schwegman Lindsey Sellman Joshua H. Silavent Laura Sminchak Melanie Smith Jarred Thompson Anannya Uberoi Vidya Venkat Isabel J Wallace Lyndsey Weiner Natalie Welber Sarah White Natasha Zarin Grace H. Zhou
These are strange days, Ambulance Driver Covid-19 Kitchen Flossing QUARANTINE: ANYBODY PIGEON Haiku The World Takes a Breath DISTANCE PPE Your name means Little Fire Journal Entry 4/5/20 March My Love Language is Physical Touch Pandemic The Laundromat in a Pandemic The Pandemic Was Not Dormant, Just Silent Mother’s Day Part Seven The Part About the Trees Making Room May, Madrid Quarantine 2nd floor after midnight Coronavirus 1 quarantine composition Pandemic Baby Seven Days How We Touch
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Days of Plague Terri Drake
What malicious RNA has commandeered my cells soon I will be feverish breathless if I must go I’ll be with you who never believed in afterlife but what life has there been after you who’d be thrilled to shelter in place rid of human interaction nothing but the dogs and a thousand acres between you and language a space to hear yourself think I want to say how soft our bodies are curled up together in the quiet light of early morning having wakened after plague after your own cells replicated out of control after you wrote House of Poured Out Waters referencing a miracle where Jesus healed the sick I want to say we have healed our own bodies that God is our body we’ve danced with through the canyon laid down with in swollen barley fields of dreams we’ve built and slept in before we became unhoused
Falling in Love Under COVID-19 Tanya Azari
he has a sore throat so he asks if he can move in; his parents are older and if i have it, you have it. romantic. of course i say yes. of course he gets better. he still comes over and stays, makes my bed and washes the dishes in the morning, as slowly as he possibly can. there is nothing to do with time but waste it. there is nothing to do with time but spend it with each other. but i am drowning in unemployment and isolation and we both worry i am reaching for him like a red buoy; like a lifesaving device. sometimes he is sitting right next to me but his mind is six feet away. on the day the governor orders us to stay at home, we sit at the kitchen table and watch the storm clouds gathering above the skyscrapers downtown like shoppers waiting outside the grocery store; like trash bins filled with disinfectant wipes. i fall asleep that night, waking in starts and fits, pressing my face to his neck and asking myself can we survive this?
This piece previously appeared in the series â&#x20AC;&#x153;What Rough Beastâ&#x20AC;? by Indolent Books.
Making Room Jarred Thompson
The pigeons have taken over courtyards and hawker stands, squawking: no children chase them into the air. In Venice the canals have cleared: if time is the Earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dialysis machine, could it be ours too? A lone patron orders black coffee in a diner, scrolls through his news, feeds: his face super-imposed on the screen and the window in view of a deserted street. Rush Hour is Not Oursâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;we track the sun from our stoops across the sky; play hide-and-seek with our eyelids. Somehow, the sun always wins.
Quarantine: Anybody Pigeon Jo O’Lone-Hahn
Friends / One: a pigeon in a circle of your friends, maybe cannibals, doctors—beaks vital-sign your soft head. Your atrophy kisses the parking lot. Try to skip like kids in the neighborhood. Try with a twigged leg. Your friends leave you. Wind / Two: Las Vegas is lonely: mouths nonsense updraft lifting plastic bags because the airplanes disappeared. It isn’t like itself. Mom isn’t like herself. In the garage I choose sunbeams or cover. You stumble forward. A sleepy matriarch was photographed by her grandchildren through an unbelievable window. I wish I knew how to splint pigeon-legs. Spend the night? Color / Three: When I slice greens I’m a doctor. The knife likes being needed, claps its hands & cuts my finger. I practically hated you after your DUI. Two blue rags emergency to red, but I tell one to go be gray with you. Why is there still Narcan in my pocket? Do pigeons like blankets? Everything should be warm. Removal / Four: You nestle my broom that swept up all the earlier pains & sleep. Beloved / Five: My vain palm tree sunbathes all morning. My boyfriend runs in place. Before I went to sleep our eyes extended irises colorful lines reached in two parts of one whole. I inhale because all things die. You’re missing. Come Home / Six: A friend of mine was once thought dead, but was later found day-drunk with the birds-of-paradise, mosquitoed & sleepy after having swam across southern rivers & befriending every trucker who wouldn’t hurt a fly. 4
Las Vegas is grinning floodlights because yesterday it rained & grasshoppers will swarm the desert in summer. I already miss you. I tell everyone I know. A hummingbird just ate gnats from the spiderwebs on the dumpster & flies off blue.
The Street Dog Became King Miriam Chandy Menacherry
The street dog became king today, He surveys his kingdom Atop a jeep bathed in yellow blooms, The steady rhythm of sweeping Summer sunshine with noon shadows Birdsong blends into the chugging of a solitary car up a slope From apartment windows the distant chorus Of a displaced dynasty trying To keep business afloat amidst a forced lockdown This is a new universal world order An inverted pyramid of survival With masked humans at the bottom Whereas right on top tilting the axis of power, A virus.
The Part About the Trees Melanie Smith
Can you . . . can you just tell me something good? I’m not sure you’ve come to the right person for that Please . . . anything. Something you ate. A dumb joke I can tell you something fake . . . how about that? Sure, go ahead Here goes The virus is over and we’re all out together People are healthy and safe, we can touch The sun is shining and the trees are dancing and— Wait, isn’t that part real? The part about the trees? Yeah, the trees. Show me the trees where you are Oh, the trees are real. Can you see them now? Yes Good. What else can I do? Nothing. Just sit with me and watch the trees sway
Nicole McCaffety After Sabrina Benaim, Maggie Smith & lyrics from Ximena Sariñana It’s not the kind they used to preach But it too is sacred. I’ve been picking friends like Flowers for my table Y ya no hay nada que nos salve. The good news is not salvation But let’s wait to tell the little ones. Instead, mírame a la cara Promise to tell them How precious it is to touch, To have your piano teacher Move your hand a little to the left, & laugh in the velvet of a movie theater. Respirar, querer gritar There is a world to lose. Tell them— Promise to tell them that was always The good news.
Hoofers, Six Feet Apart Sandra Dreis
Sixteen slender legs, chorus line of deer, clomp and cramp-roll down my neighbor’s fancy brick pathway at dawn, party-crashers leaving a safe, no more than ten gathering. I wonder if they’ve had time to scarf-up chips, hors d’oeuvres, franks in blanket, spinach dip and mother’s potted pansies. Without benefit of glasses, I swear they clutch brown purses as they clatter to the curb for their get-away, perform a clean one-eighty, dive into the sky clearing the six-foot fence to the paltry forest. Swift, silent, an email whoosh. I’d join them but not barefoot in red pajamas. Could that be, fallen in the cul de sac, a brown purse? I race for coffee, brain sugar. My quarantine comfort, Raisin Bran. I take my time, count the raisins.
Rumination from Quarantine #2 Bridget Gage-Dixon
The moon pushes through gray sky, ebbs into the creases of the clouds. Something is burning in the distance the smoky scent slips through the torn screen. The song of tree frogsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; pulses through the window, a shadow of sound on my eardrum. Soon summer will draw her silky back across the murky glass summoning me. Inside these rooms I yearn for suitcase, For the asphalt needle slipping into vein wondria, wendh, to turn, to wind, to weave away from everything tethering me to dwell, to hem, to settle.
May, Madrid Anannya Uberoi
Light-hearted bluebells upturn the May glum. Long queue at the grocer’s today. “Pick some kidney beans for me, dear?” Margaret surveys from her balcony wiping her reading glasses on mulmul always shell shocked her button eyes following my feet as though the town were a deafening foghorn from her seafarer days. Mildly her loaded windchime tumbles. Only seabirds can tell the taste of hurricanes from windless weather. “Safely, honey.”
JC Reilly Each day, my love, you leave the house because you’re considered essential labor, working at a chemical plant that makes hand sanitizer. I never want you to go, risking your health for others, exposing yourself to potential droplets that have meant a death sentence for 90,000 people and counting. Your armor is the fabric mask I sewed, and I pretend that’s all you need, a bit of cotton and elastic, to keep you from breathing in the virus. But it’s no Tyvek suit and decontamination protocol, no sure thing— As the state reopens, and as others begin to rail against wearing masks as an infringement of rights, I worry how vulnerable you become, how little the mask may do to prevent the transfer of disease. But your faith in the mask never wavers, or so you say— As you head out to work again, mask in hand, know the real armor you wear is just a prayer— for you to stay safe, my love, stay safe.
My brain feels like one of Dali’s melted clocks Emily Knapp On Thursday, it snowed. I thought it was Wednesday. It’s Thursday. Are you sure? Yep. Anyways, it snowed.
ambulance driver Amanda Miller i’m in the bath fully dressed; tub dry fan drowning out my voice shower curtain drawn rabbi on the line— my fiancé’s been catatonic for a week. he lays in bed lips locked rising to piss and stumble through the darkest hours of the early morning wails of agony and a fist against a wall jolting me awake. it’s his way of coping said the lady on the hotline how are you coping? yoga? meditation? pretending i live alone? i should mention i’m sick early-stage pneumonia from covid (at least that’s what the doctor said; i couldn’t get a test.) the lady on the line expressed words of sympathy i expressed words of thanks as her voice disappeared. i leapt off the couch into the bathtub called my rabbi a voice familiar (a line to god?) asking: 14
what should i do? how should i care for myself and for him? she shares a mantra i might try on for size: The job of the ambulance driver is to drive the ambulance. i might also consider the feel of i love him, i am not him in my throat on my tongue. better one person breaking down in a small apartment than two. take a lesson from the cat quarantined his whole life to him, this is all normal. to him, nothing has changed. the job of the ambulance driver is to drive the ambulance. i hear sirens â&#x20AC;&#x2122;round the clock through my window. dear ambulance driver, your job is to drive. the person in the back may be gasping for breath grasping for life just remember that is not you; you are not them. youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got one job eyes on the road.
Coronavirus 1 Lyndsey Weiner
my past-husband sits in the dark in a room I’ve never seen on the futon that used to be in our living room laid off after one day of farm work texted me yesterday he saw snow geese while pruning evictions are illegal now I say not I love you or I’m crying picturing our old blanket around his shoulders catastrophe is accidental close contact multiplied
This piece previously appeared in the series “What Rough Beast” by Indolent Books.
Co-ver(g)ing Renee Francoeur
I am sorry for what I said In quarantine But you really should read more First Nations authors And put up the shelves Can’t you find any Anchors? I paint The face of a speckled Freckled calf Its pink nose Nudging This cup of milk Our last for this week Need the rest of the list? I shouldn’t have said that You’re not lazy You’re bored But can’t you water The seedlings And finish learning German? I experiment with sparkling water In focaccia Serve steaming bananas in honey and cinnamon Suck long on the burnt caramel After yoga Pilates Barre While you sit with your thumbs working Eyes empty Reflecting the liquids crystals Pixelating your tiny flat soccer players Your beard still thick with cannabis How can they say I’m half of us?
Tanka Poem for the Sky During the Pandemic Chloe Landisman
The sky wears a mask too. White, opaque, it could be cotton just like mine. The contagion canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t touch her up there. It could hold my hand.
Quarantine Vidya Venkat
I sit and watch my nephews at play. Helmets and shoes on, satchels on the back, They are pretend-astronauts now. “We’re on our way to Mars,” they announce. The drawing-room sofa becomes their spaceship, The velvet cushions become its wings. Perhaps this is the way to survive this quarantine— Finding solace in pretence. For you remain silent and out-of-reach, And my days here elapse in reverie. Like that rainy evening in Paris, When the Eiffel Tower stood glimmering before me, But I couldn’t reach the top, And I went spinning round and round instead, In the carousel of my dreams . . .
BEFORE THE GOOD MOURNING Alison Lubar
I have slept next to loveless before. Heavy, an endless twisted rope that used to just be stomach. Used to be butterflies, now noosed in net. I think I hear them, feel the small wingsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; patter but then I remember, like a grief, like an election gone wrong, like a pandemic, that things will never be like they were. What is there to do, but go to sleep, to dream the world returns to life and I can write love poems again, awaken like a phantom limb.
How To Escape A Global Pandemic Lily Erb
The girl next to me in my college classroom has written G O D on her hand sanitizer. Dorms close the day before spring break and I pack only clothing and textbooks I won’t use. I fly to California with my boyfriend to get high at Joshua Tree, social distancing in the desert. I take my first edible, pass out and watch the joshua trees die around me. When we leave, we pass miles of stand-still windmills like plastic angels and a tumbleweed drifting across the 405 in barren LA. I stay in a small house in San Pedro with my boyfriend because our college is still closed, and we toke up and eat artichokes and ignore the news, then the mayor calls us on our flip phone, and we gather to hear his tin-man voice come through the molecular speaker as he tells us that we are going into lockdown. I’m too young to remember 9/11, but this feeling must be the same one my mother had, holding infantile me and watching New York City crumble on the news, anxious for my father’s daily commute as the world changed fast. The next day we drive north, out of Los Angeles. The sky cracks and the paint chips off, falling on us like hail.
The Pandemic Was Not Dormant, Just Silent Joshua H. Silavent
and when it finally spoke, it retched— a new name, new terms spreading to catch up, like social distancing, which is what I guess it sounds like, but for future explanation: no contact, of course, and stand six feet apart when together, in color—the same length you’ll be buried underground if you breathe the drifting unseen germs, a chain-link wind, gust, gale, tempest in the lungs, and the same length used to tap a mine’s vein, to fathom the sea floor current. First, I tried the irony on as a joke, a wardrobe for the occasion of determining taste. It seems gallows humor plays best to a private crowd. Still, I think it a silly rhyme, and I play with words at all times: I wanna flatten the infection curve, or flatter it to death because flatlining is best. And I don’t wanna lose my cynicism in a time like this when we can still make lists of our favorite things and still make critics of Life itself when the rich would rather die than live poor.
I think, hell, I could show ‘em a home with no doors and how to apply for unemployment and food stamps, but what’s the point? I’ve long 22
I laugh to myself
believed suicide is a personal decision. See, I don’t want to yawn, I might catch it from being so tired, Which is why I pray only in my mind then check my bank account: NO FUNDS but distress is next to Godliness, yeah? Still, the recurrence of genes, marked dreams in the young and old who bring forth and suppress with hand sanitizer or the mass affect/effect on the first day of canceled holy mass at day’s end a mass grave on the second day of mass media exposure at day’s end no mass hysteria— just the right amount— and a government serving the masses peas. Part II Beliefs hang on tree limbs, fruit to be plucked and squeezed Sometimes a great wind brings them to the ground where dirt and worms scourge their taste— in digestion or rot they are no more. And they talk of our lives like we’re ideas: • bones are numbers • blood is for sale • guts are scraps for the dog • flesh is symbolic, still.
And our minds, our spirits? Still pretending.
Part III To be honest, 23
my surest voice is doubt and God, I hope not to be a killer spread ing . . . Shouldn’t that be my first thought? I want to be spared to help but it doesn’t work that way; you’ll have to take what you’re given. Shouldn’t that be my next thought? Hell, who am I to criticize their rationalizations? Hell, I’m looking for restoration, too, of hope, an evaluation of this better prayer: (I will not turn you away, I will not turn away from you) And I read about a poet who survived scars and shrapnel in the First World War and coined names for art sprouting in Europe’s trenches that made him look prescient about his own death because the shit that’s for the birds, man, infected his lungs two days before the Armistice:
how surreal, then, when he screamed his dying breath in a pandemic, “I have more to say!”
I have no more to say from quarantine, I need not spit or gasp when I can barely breathe.
One for the COVID Days David Ross Linklater
All the poets are self-isolating writing poems about self-isolating. Most of them will be bad. So very bad. Many will delete drafts come the flattening of the curve. Hell, it’s hard to write the BIG stuff. Politicians, athletes, celebrities and presidents —the BIG ones—all taken to ground same as the forklift driver, ice cream scooper, poet. Meanwhile, the rockets still fly. Slim Whitman still croons down in the grooves, that lonesome cattle call serenading the lot.
Tamar Ashdot no bouquets of babyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s breath to purchase on the sidewalk without plastic gloves. no expansive blue ceiling on facetime. real sky. no sound of birds or leaves rustling in brooklyn. i crane my neck to hear the television show coming from a neighborâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s open window. no vinyl unlistened or floorboard undanced. no sidewalks without shapes of tape. we will stand in our own black duct boxes on cortelyou road following arrows like a social distancing assembly line. no laundromat trips. we will hang shirts & socks & tablecloths from the chairs we once reserved for guests. no trees above so i halve my body every morning between the free world & the confined to water my growing cilantro seeds. no rain drops on bare faces. we will ache for the normalcy of touching an elevator button or yawning on the street.
Your name means Little Fire Ashley Reynolds
You were conceived on a misty cold day in fall. The pumpkin festival fell short of sunshine and pony rides. Your brother ran a fever and sat limp in our laps, stirring only to move a few feet through the crooked corn maze. At ten weeks we reached Christmas and after the carols were sung and the presents unwrapped, I bled. Fire ran through my body and for days I begged for a cool rag on my head and a baby to hold in my arms. You persisted, expanding through the weeks, unphased by the slow burn of contagion that spread across the world. While the people were told to stay inside, we sheltered you in my body, and searched for release in the still cool days of early spring. But the fire ants crawled up from the ground, menacing, and told us that relief would not yet be ours. So we count the days, with no way of knowing what is to come, except for the heat that markedly arrives every spring, riding a wave of pollen, and dusting everything in a hazy glow. Forcing us back indoors. We think of you and the unknown world to which you will be born. We cannot gather together to celebrate your coming birth, but we anticipate your journey from the skies. A phoenix, blazing above the ashes amidst the fire of a Georgia July.
To Get More
Stephanie Gonzalez I forget, I’ve forgot, I can’t remember why I’m living like this I think with my cheek on the wall as I try to be one of those pale lizards Lurking by the ceiling He tries to save me from the cobwebs The eight legs that crave me, sorted throughout my graduation flowers By the silent daytime lamp. I open the shades for them to breathe through cloudy water As I disrobe into my faded jeans and t-shirt But the familiar finch erupts to strike me, my face—wittingly, Indulgent to the cookie crumb refraction Demanding me to let him in— To lose control and eat him whole.
The Croissant Laura Foley
My wife has baked croissants as a Sunday treat, in the odd time of quarantine, and the jam is raspberry. Still, one taste to the tongue and I’m twenty-three again, at the Hungarian Café on Amsterdam, in the shadow of St. John the Divine, and the jam I taste is the apricot one they served then, as Clara and I watch church on a phone propped against a book, as the pastor, our friend, intones kind words about our shepherd Alys who recently left this life— we can see a candle he’s lit for her flickering in the empty church— this bite, this bit of now, however delicious, so hard to stay in one place and yet the real deliciousness is just here just now, this crispy crumb of all that’s left.
Pandemic Baby Sarah White
Born in the last days of the old world, I grieve your newborn self, lost to my friends, your grandparents. Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve only met seven people. Three of them live here. Your car seat is unfamiliar, never slept much in the carrier, never been to church, never left the state. Naps always on time in your own bed cozy and safe, but so small, small world.
My Love Language is Physical Touch Julia Rubin
and I am working on not touching tables or handles or faces— mine or anyone else’s. I think about self-quarantine and what we do when we cannot love in our first language. When Ezra was tiny he could only see eight to twelve inches away. He only knew I was there if he could reach out and touch my cheek. I used to call out to my mom from the other room over and over. I didn’t need anything just everything. I don’t know what I want just stay where I can see you. Stay where I could hold your hand. I am what they call A Hugger because it’s the only way I know I exist, we exist, love exists. I am working on staying 6 feet away, avoiding people on the path, saying hello from a distance. I think about how we’ll love when we all live in plastic, how we’ll find a new language, how it needs to be even better than before.
How We Touch Grace H. Zhou
When I talk to my parents, their faces are mere inches on a screen that fits in my palm, their shouts so small, full of distant seas in a shell I hold to my ear. They tell me a neighbor carried eggs to their stoop, cartons carefully wrapped, and I tell them ours left cookies at the door one evening, touched by nothing but parchment paper, still warm. Here, none of us touch skin to skin, but we let our fingers caress glass, leave traces on parchment skimming eggshells and sugar dough. Dropping yolk to pan, holding crumb to lip, we feed each othersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; uncracked hearts like the potlucks after bygone Sunday service when our hymns descended from the rafters and our voices mingled in the hallway, rising and falling like a heartbeat, saying delicious saying is that so saying nice to see you again.
Post Partum Amy Azano
It wasn’t postpartum depression but a sadness I had kept you safe inside of me for 9 months Controlled what you ate, where you went You weren’t exposed to smoke or alcohol A sac of safety between you and the world But even then as I would tire easily and seek Harbor in rest, you would wake. I imagined you having a party Sneaking out now that Mom was out of the picture And I would whisper be safe and hug my belly Finding peace and rest knowing you would grow. But soon you were across the room from me I once even confessed that I missed you and Everyone laughed and looked confused but it was true You were across the room fighting against a swaddle And I wanted to rescue you from a world I couldn’t control. Months ago I missed you again You were across town at a high school party I was hoping you were steering clear of drugs and alcohol I tried staying up but I tire easily and didn’t stir When you came in quietly so as not to wake me. Now in quarantine I am reminded of those early days That early womb, your teenage room Our silly fights that matter nothing now I long to see you run from the front door Greeting friends, growing, glowing Never again socially distanced from the people you love Partum is the Latin word for creative A world we need now to masque what we can’t control An attempt to foil a depression, swaddled and Fearing for safety May you know chaos, a thousand sadnesses, loves lost and heartbreak, free abandon, recklessness. I pray you that postpartum.
Kent Leatham “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” (John Muir) “Christ before me, Christ behind me Christ within me, Christ above me” (St. Patrick’s “Breastplate”) The lab says my white cell-count is low.
We are a belt, a bracelet, a bowl we are
My great-great-great-grandfather mined for coal, and all that means.
We are a circus, a compass, an eye we are
When the fire inspector came through later, he announced the levels of asbestos, lead, and mold I’d lived in for three years before the blaze were almost—he closed his eyes, as though in rapture or prayer—simply miraculous.
We are a circle, a wreath, a ring we are
Strange planets, coursing through stranger orbits. Strange bodies, coursing through stranger veins.
We are a court, a crown, a corral we are
“The color of the lungs at birth is a pinkish-white; in adult life a dark slate-color, mottled in patches; as age advances this mottling assumes a black color.” (Gray’s Anatomy, 1858) My mother tells me she longs for heaven. She’s had her fill, she sighs, of this hell.
We are a wheel, a whorl, a world we are
“Caim,” writes Johann Weyer, known as Piscinarius, in the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum of 1577, “is a great president, taking on the form of a thrush, but when he putteth on man’s shape, he answereth in burning ashes, carrying in his hand a most sharp sword; he speaketh best of things to come; he was of the order of angels, and now ruleth thirty legions of devils.”
We are a loop, a hoop, a horizon we are
“Circling prayers, known as Caim,” murmurs eco-spiritualist Mary DeJong, “are used to create a ring of safety around one’s self and their beloveds. The invocation begins with an arm extended outwards, pointer finger tracing the shape of a circle. This creates a sacred space as a way to include the vast community of life of which we are fundamentally a part.”
We are a circuit, an aureole, an equator we are
Like blood, saviors should be found within. Like blood, saviors should be recycled. Like blood, saviors should honor the dead.
We are a noose, a halo, a corona we are
April 17, 2020
2nd floor after midnight Isabel J Wallace
We haunt ourselves more than usual these days, and we ask: what kind of fear molded my bones, what kind of strength? but the answer is as incomplete and toothed as the question, and we are pleading with the ground beneath our feet to stay solid, just a little longer, just a little longer, surely help is on the way. We asked, and we answered ourselves. Lord preserve the little echoes— someone, somewhere, please remind us who we are. We took our oaths, and we meant them (we didn’t speak the words expecting to die). We haunt ourselves in these halls; we ask what is the best way to wear our souls? On our sleeves to be seen, or behind the masks we can’t afford to throw away?
Empty Tables Hannah Marshall
I am stuck at home two weeks now. That is, our rural county had its first confirmed case of COVID-19. And in my mother’s rural county, the same. My daughter is home and home and home. The grand issue: we are all given to entropy. More specifically, the economy is tanking—that is, many small liberal arts colleges are closing. That is, many college students are in debt and won’t be finishing their degree. More to the point, heaven is a nice thought experiment. That is, Dante thought witches some of the most egregious sinners. Dante had no issues sending the prophet Mohammed to hell. That is, our planet is burning. By which I mean, California and Australia burn while my Mississippi town floods. That is, our basement is so damp, is filling, is causing the wood floors to warp. The yard, full of spring beauties, the forsythia in bloom. Cardinals and squirrel nests and starlings’ weird chirpings. Lawn mowers, inaugural grass clippings. Go on, go on. Fathers pushing strollers. Mothers riding bikes. Old women alone in their houses with big stacks of library books which they can’t return. Empty, signposted playgrounds. Marius Pontmercy is singing. I am distracted by the sunwarmth. I am distracted by the ants crawling over the kitchen sink. Time is my commodity. How rich I can be, how poor. My daughter’s Legos. My husband’s Zoom meetings. The thin strips of ink in my notebook. And the question, which always is, more or less, When are we going to die? Even more, I’m noticing how alone we have never been. Not really. I am noticing the neighbor’s truck is absent. The factories still thrumming. Lightbulbs lit. That is, earth’s wasted breath.
The Laundromat in a Pandemic Lindsey Sellman
Things are a little grayer inside these walls. A little damper. The aroma of sweet soap and wet cotton permeate the air. The floor is littered with lint, dust bunnies, and forgotten pocket change. Judge Judy is screaming from a fuzzy-screened television. An old man talks with the sole employee about the virus. Their voices are grim. There is an elderly woman that smiles at me through a mask. She tells me she is not contagious, that she just has cancer. I smile back but my stomach twists because I know how people are, how they must look at her in a time like this. The blue sky that smiles through the window is not reflective of the pandemic that just arrived on our doorstep. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s spring now and the air is supposed to be filled with fresh hope but instead we are trying to wash our clothes quickly so we can return home, hunker down in our hampers until this virus goes.
Covid-19 Kitchen Chelsie Nunn
Alexa, who invented ketchup? And just like that, you’re in a hellscape. These corn dogs don’t eat themselves, and I’ve cried every day for one whole month.
Jon Petruschke During quarantine she sends food, cleaning supplies and nudes.
“Destructive Behavior Is” Cassie Birk
A Digression of 11 Lines 1. Buying roller skates 1a. Walking for hours instead 2. Baking cookies while listening to Wuthering Heights on repeat 2a. Tweeting about it 2b. Taking personal offense when no one wants any 3. Treating Dominos delivery like meal prep 4. Eying another bottle of whiskey 4a. Buying equal parts whiskey and cup noodles 4b. Instagramming whiskey achievements to validate alcoholic tendencies 4bi. Like leaving the zoom party to vomit alone 4bii. Is it drinking socially? 4c. Mixing whiskey into a craft sour beer is not a cocktail 5. Discovering spiritual growth podcasts while accepting your tarot deck does not understand you 6. Trying to find the creative impact you have made on the universe 6a. See 2b. 7. Staying in bed until noon 7a. 2pm 7b. 5pm 8. Finding out people are skirting social distancing without you and See 2b. 9. Leaning into the depressive spiral 9a. See 7. 7a. And 7b. 9b. See 2b. 9bi. Or not to be that’s a question in a nobler mind 10. The inability to find your own words 10a. Can you insert GIFs into a poem? 11. Thinking you must take on social distancing alone
If Sex and the City Was Still on the Air . . . Najla Brown
If Sex and the City was still on the air . . . Samantha would fuck every hot delivery guy Until she caught the virus and some hindsight She’d let Carrie know over the phone, I ordered some cock not this fucking cough. If Sex and the City was still on the air . . . Charlotte would disinfect every surface And if Harry so much as sneezed She’d ask him to get a hotel room Does he know how hard she worked to birth their children? If Sex and the City was still on the air . . . Miranda would be complaining about Trump She’d threaten to divorce Steve for voting for him Because as Steve says, He’s such a straight talker. She’d respond with say that to your at-risk mother. If Sex and the City was still on the air . . . Carrie would be mourning New York While quarantining with Mr. Big. He’d leave for his vineyard after week two And she’d call up the girls to figure out what she did.
Quarantine Fifteen Julie Derraik
Non-perishables stock the pantry in apocalyptic frenzy, A chocolate box of moral upkeep hangs above my head Gingerales for stomach fails line up neatly 4x6 The kinds in the plastic rings Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d break apartfor fear of choking some innocent fish There they lie; Tempting some virulent altercation, The fallout of a nuclear sneeze, Inevitable starvation. Yet here I grapple onto a plain tortilla, Scarfing down my life supply Thinking: Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d rather eat here And now. And set an earlier date to die.
Kendra Nuttall I didn’t floss my teeth until a stranger on the internet compared not flossing to not wiping, after which, Americans and Europeans argued about the cleanliness of toilet paper versus bidets and I dislodged a chunk of meat from my molars. I didn’t care about the virus until Italy went into lockdown and Americans started to pray and hoard groceries and guns. There’s no toilet paper at Walmart. No masks in New York. No vacations to Europe. No funerals. No kisses. Even the bidets are sold out. I wonder what’s the point of flossing now?
Phone Call on April 2nd Bekah Ballard
my grandmother is calling me more now because she loves to say ‘it is what it is’ and to hear me say ‘it ain’t what it ain’t’ this time she laughs a deep laugh that ends with a soft sigh what is that sigh? it can’t be fear, she doesn’t know fear because she believes in salvation it isn’t worry because for her worry is a virtue that keeps the saints around her still spinning in their orbits we go on talking while i try silently to figure it out she tells of her hair that needs cutting of their walks around the neighborhood— thirty minutes each, what beautiful houses, what love shared between the two like kids, she says, with sweet sincerity what are you eating and do you get lonely? your mother does if that money comes, we’ll get our porch redone (boy does it need it) but i’ll believe it when i see it! if i think that sigh is sadness i’m fooling and maybe even projecting it all helps me reframe those last words with which she leaves me to understand a sigh of contentment when i hear it— ‘i’m just going to look in the mirror and try to be happy.’
April Is The Cruelest Month Joanna Acevedo
The tree outside of my building is flowering. Outside of your apartment, in Tampa The palm trees wave in the breeze. We come from different climates. I wonder— Have you ever seen snow? Do you know what it feels like to come out of your room And feel the bite of the wind? When it’s too cold to smoke, we go anyways Fingers freezing Holding iced coffees Heelings clicking on the pavement on the way to the M train on mornings When I have to teach. So much has changed in the last three weeks. The world has slowed down. Now I have this: kitchen, bedroom, out on the stoop To smoke. Work and work. It is getting warm again in stops and starts Raining heavily. They say April is the cruelest month. I wait for your intermittent phone calls. They break up the endless time, the waiting For something to happen, that never does. I pick flower petals from my laptop screen. You tell me about your friends, your mother, your lost jobs. When nothing happens, will We still have things to tell each other? Like: I love you? I miss you? I have to hope that we will. It keeps me going. In my dreams, you swim in a pool with other people. The water is clear and cool. You look like you did that day on the beach—sunny and sun-kissed, smiling. Finally Happy. I want to hold on to this dream but like all dreams, it slips away. I can feel you Slipping away from me. Don’t go, I say to you. I won’t, I can feel you saying back.
april Brittany Jaekel My husband shaves. I dab cream under my eyes. The baby giggles at his reflection, misunderstanding. There is no one else. We work at our assembly line of dishes, laundry, reaching deep into the pantry, bottles, the two squares of toilet paper, using burp cloths for Kleenex, crying over wasted formula, the washing and washing of hands, elbowing the elevator button, standing in the vacuum of missing onions potatoes mushrooms chicken eggs milk size 1 diapers in the grocery store, losing the cherry blossoms, the zoo. We disobey the order, driving ourselves over the Bay Bridge one morning. White-capped water crawled and crawled beneath us, another world.
Montana: shelter-in-place Clark Chatlain
tonight, at 12:01 am. here we have made place our own word. somewhere meaningful. obviously, context matters. still, there is a spring wind almost every night. you can imagine the pines swaying in the dark and the few little green things that are coming up in the garden and beside the trails fluttering. but no work today. no hours. or only a handful. mortgage or rent due next week. what there is plenty of is monotony. punctuated by graphs and numbers and maps. press conferences. a little bit of calm terror just before dinner. so we walk Mt. Sentinel. sentinel: watching over us. gray sky. snow blowing but not accumulating. shelter-in-place. remain. find safety and comfort here. persist in this here. I listen to the spring wind in the morning dark. the television muted and the glare blinding on the wall behind me.
The World Takes a Breath Thomas Pickarski April 6, 2020 Lower Manhattan It’s a big city view from the window of my tiny apartment. Rooftop decks on the five story brownstones across the courtyard are abandoned. Yards are deserted and there’s a mulberry tree coming into full bloom. It’s an odd silence. Like the way sound seems cushioned after a snowstorm and doesn’t travel very far. Did I miss my Saint Patrick’s Day birthday? That morning I fumbled with pliers and scissors in my mouth over a hand mirror on the kitchen table as I took my dental stitches out, and the mailman never came. I’m riveted by the stories and news reports. Constantly pausing the video streams to savor the still photographs and study the statistical charts. Today they’re saying we might be at the apex, and there’s talk of temporarily burying the dead in city parks, as funerals are not allowed. My body feels ill when I listen to our empty soul of a president, I’ve ordained my governor as a great leader. I was madly in love with an overabundance of solitude long before the world around me was forced to conform to the same realm. I’ll savor deeply, as this may never come again.
Passover , 2020 Dana De Greff
We celebrate our exodus from slavery in Egypt every year on Passover; this year, there is no exodus but rather, an arrival. An adjourn. Suspended indefinitely, we, us, unable to remove chametz from our homes unable to remove ourselves. I am the wheat the spelt the barley oats and rye. I rise to fall and still. Still, I stay. We forget the first Passover—Moses told the Jews To stay home, protect firstborn sons from the tenth plague. This year, let us count the plagues: 1. The president 2. Greed 3. Capitalism 4. Profit over bodies 5. No masks 6. No ventilators 7. No beds 8. No rooms 9. No healthcare 10. No We forget that much more than horseradish can bring a tear to the eye. Maybe on the Seder plate this year I should put a metaphor of you an allusion of you, the ones I love and miss and long to touch. Still, staying home, we must not forget is not passive. It is a way to protect as in biblical times; staying home is not a form of passivity but a way to protect community from harm. Still, in the darkness and doubt I do not hope for ‘next year in Jerusalem.’ I hope for next year
here holy holy holy with you.
Palm Sunday 2020 Matthew Andrews
The donkey ambles into town with quiet steps to meet empty streets, rainwater congregating on fallow concrete, the gospel of sweat pooling in the palms of clenched fists behind closed doors.
These are strange days, Jessica Mehta
the world mourning as oneâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;all my life heart breaks were solitary pursuits and now, naked streets wail back at the vacuum roaring inside. We panic by: arms pregnant with moly, snowy softness brings us back to mamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s arms (remember, at one time, someone loved us) more than their own skin breath thing weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve ever hunted and howled for is slipping off shaking shelves. When did home get so keeningly lonesome to bear?
Barbara J. Schwegman What I think of are the stories of my mother and father. My father, turning off all the unused lights that my sister and I had left on. My mother, stocking canned goods on the pantry shelves. My father, taking the leftovers from our plates, “Give it here, I’ll finish it.” Both of them, remembering a time when there was not enough. Born in the early part of the last century, living through World War I, the Great Depression, ration cards through W WII. As children, did my parents have indoor plumbing? Was toilet paper a luxury? Or were the pages of the Sears Roebucks in use? There were mentions of corn cobs And other substitutes. I hear my father’s voice saying more than once, “You don’t know how good you’ve got it.” He’s right. The Depression saw breadlines on almost every block. Toilet paper was not as important As food, keeping the electricity on, paying the rent. Starvation and despair were commonplace.
There is one thing though, they did have that we cannot have now. Human Touch. A hug from a grandmother, a visit from an aunty, cousins, uncles. Gatherings of large and small families. Sitting on the front porch with neighbors. Having face to face conversations With friends. Sharing meals, dancing cheek to cheek, singing in choirs or just a duet. Hopefully, this virus will not take too many lives. Hopefully, this isolation will not scare us from hugging friends once more, when we can. Hopefully, when this ends— and it will— we will remember what it’s like to be together. And we will cherish that. And we won’t give a damn about toilet paper.
We, the Social Animals Paola Caronni
It can’t be true, At first we thought. There has to be a mistake. The numbers are wrong, we tested too many people, Even those who just sneezed once While at the Accident & Emergencies With a broken leg or arm. It has to be a conspiracy Plotted by our European neighbours Jealous because – no doubt – we have the best food, The best pizza, the biggest number of UNESCO heritage sites, The second-longest living people in the world, The Pope, Michelangelo, Leonardo and all On top of fantastic weather, beautiful seaside, islands, mountains. And also, we’ve not been the target—yet—of any terrorist attack. Not satisfied that Venice is already sinking And Rome is a mess, They sent us the virus, As an invisible ‘patient zero’ Causing unwanted stress. And in doing so, they killed not only us, But our very essence, Our being Italian. But we, the social animals, Felt threatened Just by hearing ‘quarantine’ Even if the word—coined during the Black Death—comes From the Italian ‘quaranta’ and it means forty, Now already cut down to fourteen. We felt trapped Like panthers at the zoo Forced to move around in a tiny space Thinking of how to break free from the cage. Not to mention we would never wear a face mask, Not only useless, but absolutely not cool, Making us look like real fools. So, as soon as news broke That the North was going to be in lockdown 56
Many jammed the train stations And fled down to the Southern towns. Some of us said that Italy was not only affected by brain drain, But now, morons’ drain, And the South was suffering again. We, the social animals Went on sipping our aperitivo undisturbed, Sitting snugly by the river, or canal With prosecco flowing As the numbers of the ill and dying Were growing. They were old, they said, and already ill. But goodness, When you’re 80, in Italy, you still have another 20 to go. Yet, we felt invincible and protected, In our own private microcosm Not at all affected. Suddenly, when we came to the realization, When lockdown meant that we had nowhere to go And anyway, nobody wanted us anymore, It was—as all things Italian—too late. The sirens of ambulances passing by our homes, The IUC departments overflown Hospitals on the brink of collapse Retired doctors and nurses called back to work Around the clock. The fear that not only we had not enough resources But that we were all mortal. Regardless of age, We could not ignore We had to fight another war. Now we, the social animals, Lock ourselves into four walls Sit on the sofa dealing with family bore, Cultivating our own garden from the third floor, Smart-working and remote-learning indoors. So, forgive me if tonight I’m not craning my neck To reach you cheeks, to stamp my kiss Or extend my arms for a hug Or shake your hand As if you had for sure a bug. 57
Excuse me if—like my government has ruled— The one-square-meter distance between us Is the only cure. I wonder what lesson we’ll draw from this When it’s all over, when we’ll manage to recover. Would we look back and say That we, the social animals, managed to get our lives back Not because we’re unruly And can’t live without kisses, hugs, wine and dine, But because finally we realized that It was not as individuals, not alone That we could win this war?
DISTANCE Jean Prokott
a found poem from student journals during distance learning before the plague began, I checked out an encyclopedia of plants, trees, shrubs, and bushes, and the woman at the coffee shop gave me a tarot card reading, warning me of change. I just look up the answers. it’s very difficult to ask questions, so I’ve stopped doing homework, I just look up the answers. I’ve been drifting away from my friends. some slowly and some faster, but away nonetheless. I drive around for hours every night, thinking of places in Arizona, and on my 18th birthday, I’m taking my cats and I’m leaving. I hope you are well, Ms. Prokott, I know my issues are small. last week, my grandmother held the cross she got from her mother while she was slowly dying, and my mother is mad that I am not sad enough for her mother’s death— but I cried because the ice cream truck, the one with the shady vibes, chipped painting, and glitchy music, probably won’t cruise around the neighborhood this summer, and I cried playing Pictionary,
and I cried because there’s a squirrel on the deck who is fat because I’ve been feeding him too much. the milk carton we cut into a bird feeder is swinging with the wind. the silk tie that keeps it tethered to the tree is coming loose. my therapist told me last week my “assignment” was to talk to my father, so I drew a map of our yard, laid down in the damp grass, and looked to the sky. I don’t know that I like my tele-therapist very much, but our gardens needed a trim, so I cleaned up all the dead leaves and ivy. (p.s. - how long do you want these journals to be?)
Mother’s Day Part Seven Laura Sminchak
Tucking my patient into bed, I take his temperature once more, praying the thermometer will give some indication it is broken or joking. I am a ghost slinking to the yard, finding a flower bed buried under layers of English ivy and weeds. A long-forgotten trowel left alongside a child’s green plastic rake. Oh, that day-pregnant and coaxing my white-haired toddler to say “dirt” as we planted milkweed for the butterflies. He could not find his words. I could not find mine either, anxiety clutching at my throat, heavy as stone on my chest. Obstacles were intruders on a carefully curated course. We settle ourselves to the ebb and flow of complication-relentless icy waves and the gentle slosh of bathwater, an ocean that is never still and never ending. I drop my shovel and take off my gloves unceremoniously. I have lost the light. Maybe it is not the virus. We will have no results for days. In times such as these, is it better to suffer or to wait to suffer? Impossible to say. Will you watch it all pass, not leaving any part of you lodged deep in the filthy muck of it? 61
White-haired silent boy I could not leave you there. You are of me, connected with two heavy cords called Hope and Despair, grown from my blood and my cells, diamonds, steel, and other unbreakable things, braided thickly with sacrifice and joy in equal measure. But with arms around your impossibly burning body, even bound together like this, we are very small.
This piece was previously published by the Global Poemic.
Seven Days Natasha Zarin
March 14 Rubbing our eyes we look outside, walk along a barren street and learn to fly a kite March 15 Every lingering cough has reverberations our only respite is in the trees March 16 You drive into the shrinking city as we are retreating from the world March 17 Now, we turn to the forest the forest does not turn away I make a promise to myself remember this later March 18 Surfaces beyond the field lose their name, become Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t touch until the new name loses its meaning, and we have to go home March 19 Hanging laundry outside, water falls at my feet as I ring out a towel and reach for another never have I felt the strength of my grandmothersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; hands never have I needed it more March 20 Embers pause like unanswered questions now, when we look into the fire we are really looking for bits of before, for what remains under the char
Lindsay Rotblatt Inhale. Each morning I check Like reading the obituary But instead of names and faces and favorite hobbies I see numbers with many commas This act at first was one of anxious curiosity Seeing the destruction in Italy Wondering This can’t be our fate. I grocery shop cautiously But still enjoy the humanity I small talk with the cashier An act not to be repeated again I check the numbers 9 cases at my university Travel related There is no community spread At least that’s what the keyboard warriors say 15 cases. I wonder how my family is doing They live in a state far less favored by our president But far more resilient My mind is easily distracted these days I get out bed and take my temperature A new morning ritual Like matcha or NPR I’ve been avoiding the radio this past week I already know what will be said 25 cases. The gyms are now closed Ivory towers are replaced with silver keyboards and makeshift backgrounds A fictional landscape of a time when our worlds were much greater than the four walls of our homes 64
I’m getting antsy. I walk to the park once filled with music and colors I see a small group sitting together I feel frustration Surprised by my reaction I wonder how this experience will fundamentally change me The me who loves seeing people gather I wonder 35 cases today. The graphs look exponential But they have colored them neon pinks and yellows To take the edge off 37 cases. Now we shelter in place We create connection through communal bread baking and push-up challenges I am not one for a push-up 45 cases. Settling into this new headspace I find comfort in memes and the breeze when it occasional blows the trees outside my window My daily walks keep me sane As I stare at my neighborhood geese I spent five years ignoring No new cases today. I am hopeful As I open my front door With a nitrile glove It’s a quiet weekend. Perhaps we get a reprieve on Sunday God’s day they say No new cases I call some friends. We lament the same brightly colored numbers and bar graphs Different cities, but the same grocery lines We feel an odd connection An unnerving unity in all this It’s Tuesday morning now. I’m not quite sure where Monday went 65
But here I am Reading the morning numbers 79. Exhale.
Prayer to San Anto Tori Cárdenas
for AWP 2020 Before AWP 2020, I had been to San Antonio once in my life (at three), and between the cancellations and coughing, I have decided to go again. I do not return for the marine life— I have heard whales are just elephants swallowed by unhinged jaws, but those were not credible sources. I have had dreams of running to board planes since last March, but the nightmare flights and avenues of books aren’t why Igo. I go to see again with twenty-five more years in my eyes, to relearn my sense of taste. Whirling around to clubs and sky bars and to hotdog stands, that one with the best fucking hot dog I’ve ever eaten, riding hungover on the 32 bus to the center of town with my friends, my heroes, past graffiti and cats and stairs down to the riverside and its statue of San Antonio, exactly like the one we knelt before on the altar at home, palms stretching to shade him. Help me to find what I lose every year: my speaking voice, my tongue, my patience. Help me to find my way back home, but not yet, because there in the audience, my brothers, tias, primxs—everyone is trying not to but hugging anyway, arms reaching out like they knew the shelves were empty, like 6 feet was a desert to be crossed in search of paletas or a cold Modelo. And in that city like a body, boats and cells bobbing down an anaconda river, or snoozing in a sunny car window across the tornado plains, there are my mothers, holy as sharks and as undying, preening the children they have kept alive, healed and held, immune to illness and losing our direction. In all this sickness, let there be limonene, piñon salve, Vicks on my chapped nose. Let there be frijoles. Let there be embraces. Let there be a break in the fever. Let there be a gentle waking to Mom cooking breakfast just after sunrise, in a house with smiling children and dogs. Let there be love.
how to wash your hands Elizabeth Chamberlain as your world gets smaller so do your thoughts until all you can think about is the chemistry textbook diagram of the hydrophobic tails of soap molecules binding to anything that’s not water, water washing away the sticky collective your head is hydrophilic, too, and so you slide down the wall of the shower and let rivulets find the ridge of your eyebrows, surface tension of your eyelashes keeping your eyes dry, warm liquid pooling in your belly button knowing nobody’s touched anything since you last did, who else would’ve touched your keyboard, your phone, your doorknobs, your vacuum, your face (stop touching your face) still, when you pass the sink, you turn on the water try to remember any of the better songs with 20-second choruses and instead sing “happy birthday” under your breath again, dear so-and-so two dozen times a day, dear so-and-so
York Street Bridge Hannah Feiner
Of course I would run into you during the pandemic No makeup, no wedding rings (you used to say my dark circles were pretty) Of course I would run into you on the York Street Bridge Running stroller, sweating feet, muddy rain boots Of course you—immune to social distancing—would try to hug me Peel back the Bob’s rainshield to see my daughter Of course you would skirt, offended down the riverbank “Are you a doctor now? A shrink?” Of course you would—with great drama—almost lose your footing on the slippery gravel “Do you still live in Ta-ran-a?” Of course men smoking on the wired-together rocks beside the water would be watching us “Can I walk you back to your parents’ place?”
Dear Student in the University’s Humanities Building Anita Cabrera
00. School holidays weekend mornings late Thursday nights You are there. In the 3rd floor alcove with discarded furniture. 0. One day after a teen kills 17 high schoolers with a semi-automatic, my sister posts on Facebook If cars kill people, I guess we should outlaw them, too. I buy a ticket to visit her anyway. She has cancer. 1. The deejay on the radio station tells one about un borracho splayed on the sidewalk outside the bar . . . “Es el Coronavirus, dice el.” Ja ja ja. And another . . . How do you greet ¿un asiano? ¡Corre Corre Corre! 2. I bring you two oranges and bottled water. I keep it in my bag, afraid of offending. 3. The president calls it the Chinese flu. Kung flu they echo back. 4. Aversion to risk is a spectrum. I cancel the flight to my sister’s. 5. Eight neighbors in beach chairs sitting in a circle on a driveway, closer than 6 ft apart. Do I salute resistance? Or expose it by posting a photo on NextDoor? 6. Campus patrol lets me in the locked building. On the way to my office, I catch you behind a laptop screen, disappearing inside the same sweatshirt. Papers, books, take-out box and chopsticks—the landscape you camouflage in. 7. The dream: I was scorekeeper on the radio news gameshow. The host criticized my handwriting and I kept messing up the tally. Nonetheless, I woke hopeful for humanity. 70
8. In their nineties, the in-laws are on lockdown at the senior residence. Even family cannot go in. We drop off strawberries and Clorox wipes outside the front door. 9. Leaving my office, I pass by just as you cough loudly, twice. 10. Three people around a long wooden table. The prosecutor won’t let the defense attorney use the hand sanitizer. “It’s mine,” she says. “Buy your own,” the bailiff adds. 11. My sister’s PET scan shows the cancer is gone. We talk on the phone about herbs and water filters. She describes rockhounding, how she digs for gems, spends years waiting for rock to speak to her, to tell her where to cut. 12. I email the building’s facilities guy, ask to have someone fix the lock of my door. I add: P.S. There’s a guy living in the building. I think again. I delete the part about you. 13. We wear masks. We look away. The neighbors bring lemons from their tree. We hang teddy bears in windows for children passing by to spot. 14. I wonder if you’ve found the disinfectant and Gummie Vitamins just outside the alcove.
“quarantine composition” Natalie Welber
maybe it’s because i’ve watched 31 episodes of grey’s anatomy in the last 72 hours and so i’m feeling sappy alone unhappy enough to think of you but then i always do and god i hate it i hate how it’s one a.m. in the literal apocalypse i should be asleep but i’m wired with adrenaline, epinephrine and i’ve spent the last hour and a half crafting ways to get you to respond to an instagram story typing that out really rubs in how depressing it all is depressing like when (spoilers ahead) meredith slept with george and karev didn’t kiss izzy and christina kept the apartment and addison showed up revealing that shepherd had a wife ruining meredith’s life and the thing is that you responded to that poll a week ago on instagram a poll, after a year and a half of radio silence big plot twist, you know? no it’s a poll what’s a poll just a poll but you see that’s what isolation does for you it gives you time to think over to feel all those things you’ve suppressed all this time there’s an episode an entire episode two in fact it’s a double header cliffhanger two entire episodes in which meredith grey holds a bomb in her hand a literal bomb and yes it is fictional 72
and yes it didn’t wouldn’t never couldn’t happen and yes i wish i was over this by now but you see the bomb never went off that’s why it was so bad that it was still inside the patient and meredith had to hold it to stop the bleeding and to keep it from moving so it wouldn’t go off so it wouldn’t blow up but this bomb our bomb never went off never was found kept hidden in my chest cavity never told a doctor never told you who lit the fuse and it never went off so it’s just sitting there balancing simmering it just sits there and now i’m ever so slightly leaking blood and i’m a different person now as are you, i assume but goddammit christina has burke and george kinda has callie and meredith has had has mcdreamy and izzy’s with karev plus she sorta has the other guy what’s his name denny or lenny or anyone the point is everyone in this show has someone and sometimes, late at night (tonight) i get stuck thinking about your steady confident grip and your hazy hued record collection and your lake breeze eyes and i wonder and i wonder if you do, too
In the tower Allie Gips
Hours before the vernal equinox and Fat wet flakes confetti our patio furniture, Still free to wander where they want, When they want. To their dampening quiet, I wash dishes, fold laundry, practice yoga. I try to forget that I cannot leave but Each minute falls just as heavy as the Mounting drifts outside. Miles away, my lover is wrapped in Dwindling paper and plastic, doing A job that just days ago didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t feel So dangerous. That was the old world. In the new world, each speck he carries Home is an assault on our imagined Future. I discard everything but this moment And set up a decontamination zone in The garage. Through the television screen, The slow-breathing yoga instructor says To take this calm and carry it forward, let it Permeate whatever real-world tasks remain. But what if the only task left is to worry? I worry about the slick snowy roads I worry about the open-armed hospitals I worry about the man I love, the man I plan to marry, the man whose children I ache to raise. I worry he will leave me Without wanting to. I breathe through my nose But it does not make a difference. I wait Like Rapunzel for his arrival. Once, I, too, Carried the sword, but now I find myself Stripped and naked, unable to help him Defend the kingdom. Tomorrow, the snow Will rest still and clean; no one to dirty it, No one to scold it for arriving on the first day Of spring. Tomorrow, maybe, I will find tasks
Beyond worry. But not today. Today, I braid my hair into a long rope. Strand by strand, I try to pull him home.
This piece previously appeared in the â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Curve: Special Edition of The Human Touch.â&#x20AC;?
This is the Time Jesse Oona Hays
This is the time for the depth of the ocean, the magnetism of gravity, the tide pulled by the moon in Virgo. This is the time for feeling into our ancestry. For the forest primeval.* This is the time. The time for reunion. Reuniting with true love of Self. The â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;? burning incandescent. This is the time for family loved ones. The loves of our lives. Those we kiss and bless each day. Time to gaze into the yellow cup of a daffodil that catches a sunbeam. The dew on leaves. Small droplets of transparent love. This is the time to love and to hold. The time for the light and the red of the heart, the root chakra grounding into the Earth, sound. Twisting, spiraling to reach crystal rock-bed. A time for faith. To dispel the unnecessary. The time to wade knee deep in un-knowing. Feeling its discomfort. Holding it longer. This is the time to follow the heart. This time is a challenge. A gift deep down. A re-connection to Spirit. To test our fear and stay grounded. This is the time.
*Line taken from Evangeline, by Longfellow
Three thirty p.m. Rebecca Clay
And where is the lesson here the great freedom you keep choking on its space is relative and your window becomes your eye becomes the top of the well. Is there liberation in space or in matter? does it need echoing valleys or bodies pressed close or space between these deflated ribs, hunched kidneys empty of food, alcohol, thoughts . . . How thoroughly do I need to excavate before I know you and then will I even desire will I even recognize the deliverance It will not need to come It will already have been Delivered. I need that sweet taste after thirst not an ocean, me deep in it how petty my wants how small my imagination how ignored the smooth cogs behind my eyes. They work best that way. Awareness is air drying out the oil. Grind away baby, chase that drop.
This piece previously appeared in the series â&#x20AC;&#x153;What Rough Beastâ&#x20AC;? by Indolent Books.
Journal Entry 4/5/20 JR Rhine
There’s this episode of the Twilight Zone I always come back to, and the summary is this: a book-worm accountant survives the nuclear apocalypse by accidentally locking himself in a bank vault. When he makes his way out, much to his pleasure, he finds humankind and all its disturbances have been eradicated. At last, he’s left to his chosen vice in peace: literature. Then, just as he’s about to crack one open, his glasses fall and break. Being severely myopic, this spells doom for our lone sur-vivor. The camera pulls out to reveal the smoky ruins of his town, the figure of a man quickly slip-ping into despair growing smaller and smaller among the destruction, until soon enough he is con-sumed. Breaking fourth wall, here I am in the basement of my father in law’s (having recently moved in) surviving an unprecedented epidemic as much as the next. And being a closeted intro-vert, I’ve enjoyed much of my time alone reading, writing, playing music, and watching movies. But like any good American schoolboy afflicted by religious dogma and capitalist trauma I can’t help but wonder if and when my metaphorical glasses will shatter—to be left in a blurred and smoky haze amidst the ashbin of history.
CONTRIBUTORS Joanna Acevedo received her B.A. in Literary Studies from the New School in 2019. She currently studies Fiction at New York University, where she is working on her M.F.A. Her work has been seen in Track Four, Mikrokosmos, Not Very Quiet, and Rigorous Magazine, among others. Matthew Andrews is a private investigator and writer based in Modesto, California, whose prose that has appeared or is forthcoming in The Dewdrop, pacificREVIEW, Deep Wild Journal, Song of the San Joaquin, and Eunonia Review, among others. Tamar Ashdot was awarded the Academy of American Poets College Prize in 2016 and 2018, as well as the Andrew Bergman Creative Writing Award in 2015 and 2016. Tamar’s work has been published in The New York Times, gothamist.com, poets.org, and District Lit, among others. Amy Azano is an associate professor of adolescent literacy at Virginia Tech. Tanya Azari has been published in Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Words Dance, and Tinderbox Poetry Journal, among others. They live in Los Angeles, California, where they are writing, reading, and FaceTiming their way through the “safer at home” order/self-quarantine. Other work can be found at wwww.azarinotsorry.com. Bekah Ballard is a graduate student at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, where they also teach Rhetoric and Composition. This is their first publication. Cassie Birk is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa. She hails from the Pacific Northwest. Her poems have been featured in Primary Carbon Magazine and Funny Looking Dog Quarterly. Since she’s a Pisces, she is looking forward to letting her feet sink in the wet sands of Oregon beaches when the world gets safer. Najla Brown traded West Texas’ oil pumpjacks for Houston’s oil skyscrapers where she spends her days writing tag lines and her nights writing everything else. Her work can be found in Coffin Bell Journal, The Molotov Cocktail Literary Journal, and elsewhere. Anita Cabrera has had work appear in The Berkeley Fiction Review, The Berkeley Poetry Review, Brain, Child Magazine, Colere, Acentos Review, and other journals. They were the 2017 winner of The New Guard’s Machigonne Fiction Contest. They live in San Francisco, California with their husband and sons. Tori Cárdenas is a trans poet from northern New Mexico. Paola Caronni is a translator and instructor of Italian. They are the editor of the online lifestyle and culture magazine Ciao Magazine. Their poetry appears in Desde Hong Kong: Poets in Conversation with Octavio Paz, Quixotica: Poems East of La Mancha, and Mingled Voices, among others. Elizabeth Chamberlain has never lived through a pandemic before. In a normal year, you might find her teaching writing classes, playing board games, traveling. Now she’s at home, swearing she’s going to take up crocheting again, once she’s done endlessly refreshing the internet.
Miriam Chandy Menacherry is an award-winning filmmaker based in Mumbai, India. Her best known works are The Rat Race and Lyari Notes. Her films have premiered at the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam and been broadcast on Arte, National Geographic, BBC, Al Jazeera, and Netflix. Clark Chatlain has published poems and prose in several journals, most recently the anthology Poets Across the Big Sky II and the journals The Evansville Review and The William & Mary Review. He currently lives and works in Missoula, Montana. He blogs at microproseblog.wordpress.com. Rebecca Clay is a resident of Chicago, Illinois and works in mental health. She studied creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is turning to poetry as a way to document days passed in relative isolation. Dana De Greff is the author of Alterations (winner of the 2018 Rane Arroyo Chapbook Series published by Seven Kitchens Press). Her work appears in PANK, Origins Journal, Philadelphia Stories, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Gulf Stream Magazine, The Boston Review, and The Miami Herald, among others. Julie Derraik is a young Latinx poet from North Carolina. Terri Drake is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Her book At the Seams was published by Bear Star Press, and her chapbook Singing in a Dark Language was published by New CollAge Press. Her poems have been published in Perihelion, Quarry West, and From Whispers to Roars, as well as others. Sandra Dreis is an emerging poet whose work is forthcoming in Creosote. Their debut work of young adult fiction, “The Ecowarriors - The Bluffs of Baraboo,” received a Silver Nautilus Award (Environmental) in 2016 as well a Kirkus Review when it was published in 2015. Lily Erb is originally from Long Island, New York. She is currently studying poetry at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has a keen interest in feminist and classical literature, and was awarded the Michener Scholarship for creative writing as a freshman in the spring of 2019. Hannah Feiner is a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ontario. During this Covid-19 pandemic, she is conducting patient appointments virtually and trying to homeschool her daughters. Laura Foley is the author of seven poetry collections. Why I Never Finished My Dissertation received a starred Kirkus Review and was among their top poetry books of 2019. Her collection It’s This is forthcoming from Salmon Press in 2021. Laura lives with her wife among Vermont hills. Find her at www.laurafoley.net. Renee Francoeur is a 31-year-old Canadian journalist and magazine editor. By day she writes for law enforcement and by night she bakes, paints nudes, and writes poetry. She has been published by Three Line Poetry, Standard Criteria, and Squawk Back. She is also a member of the Ontario Poetry Society. Bridget Gage-Dixon has had works published in Lily Poetry Review, Two Bridges Review, and Roanoke Review, as well as others. Allie Gips is a doctor specializing in both palliative medicine and emergency medicine. Her partner, Eric DeVries, is also an emergency medicine doctor.
Stephanie Gonzalez is the daughter of Nicaraguan immigrants. She is a graduate of the Accelerated Master of Architecture program at Florida International University. Jesse Oona Hays is a mother, a writer, and a teacher. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband and daughter. She is inspired by the mystic and misty, sea-brine infused nature of the Pacific Northwest. Being mother as well as Mother Nature are pivotal to her work. Brittany N. Jaekel is a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland. Emily Knapp is a poet, humor writer, and comedian living in Denver, Colorado. She is originally from Chicago, Illinois, but fled west because she really likes seeing the sun in February. Her poetry was recently featured in Writers Resist and her satire can be found on Funny-ish. Chloe Landisman is an up-and-coming fiction, nonfiction, and poetry author based in New England. She is currently completing her Bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in fiction at Connecticut College. When not in school, she spends her time reading, writing, and watching 1970s Japanese horror films. Kent Leatham has poems and translations that have appeared in dozens of journals, including Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Fence, Softblow, Able Muse, and Poetry Quarterly. He received an M.F.A. from Emerson College and a B.A. from Pacific Lutheran University, and served as an associate poetry editor for Black Lawrence Press. He currently teaches writing at California State University Monterey Bay. David Ross Linklater is a poet from Easter Ross in the Highlands of Scotland. His work has appeared in Glasgow Review of Books, Gutter, DMQ Review and Ink, and Sweat & Tears, amongst others. His pamphlet “Black Box” was published in 2018 with Speculative Books. His Twitter is @DavidRossLinkla. Alison Lubar currently lives in New Jersey with a bad dog and an overgrown garden. She is a queer womxn of color/other whose life work (aside from wordsmithing) has evolved into bringing mindfulness practices, and sometimes even poetry, to young people. Hannah Marshall has poems that have appeared in New Ohio Review, The Madison Review, Anglican Theological Review, Chiron Review, and others. She lives in southcentral Illinois, where she works as Advising Editor for Greenville University’s literary journal, The Scriblerus, and as a poetry editor for South 85. Nicole McCaffety is a poet currently living in Columbia, South Carolina. Jessica Mehta is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, interdisciplinary artist, multiaward-winning poet, and author of over one dozen books. Her novel The Wrong Kind of Indian won gold at the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards and at the American Book Fest Best Book. Amanda Miller is a Brooklyn-based writer and actor. Their writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Freerange Nonfiction, Underwired Magazine, Runaway Parade, Cratelit, and more. In 2013, their memoir One Breath, Then Another was published by Lucid River Press.
Chelsie Nunn is a practicing visual artist and educator in Knoxville, Tennessee. Their artwork has been recently shown at the UT Downtown Gallery, Walter’s State Community College, and Pellissippi State Community College. Their poetry typically centers on life as a queer Appalachian woman. Kendra Nuttall is a writer and poet from Utah. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Utah Valley University with an emphasis on creative writing. Her work has previously appeared in Chiron Review and Maudlin House, among others. She currently lives in Utah with her husband, David, and dog, Belle. Jo O’Lone-Hahn is a poet and visual artist based in Las Vegas. She is a current M.F.A. candidate in poetry at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Jon Petruschke grew up in the Philadelphia area. He currently resides in Portland, Maine with his wife and two cats. When not writing, Jon works as a therapist in his private practice and enjoys the beautiful outdoors. He has a book of poetry— Dream Haiku: Poems from Nights and Naps. Thomas Pickarski is a multi-media visual and performance artist based out of New York City, New York. Jean Prokott has poetry published or forthcoming in Arts & Letters, Anomaly, RHINO, and Red Wheelbarrow, among others; she is a recipient of an AWP Intro Journals Award, a recipient of the Joan Ramseyer Poetry Award, a finalist for the RHINO Founder’s Prize, and a finalist for the Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Prize. JC Reilly writes across genres to keep things interesting. Her latest collection, What Magick May Not Alter, a Southern Gothic novel-in-verse, was published by Madville Publishing. She serves as the Managing Editor of Atlanta Review. Follow her @Aishatonu on Twitter or @jc.reilly on Instagram. Ashley Reynolds holds a Master’s degree in English Education. Her poetry has been published in Life As Ceremony and The Blue Mountain Review. Her nonfiction writing can be found online at Her View From Home and Motherly. You can connect with her on Instagram @imagine_momma. JR Rhine is a poet, musician, and educator living in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. His newest collection of poems, Expired Damages, is now available online. He is married to Naomi and his cat is Lugosi. He tweets at @jarjarrhine and is on Instagram at @jrrhinepoetry. Lindsay Rotblatt is a doctoral candidate in Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. Her research interests include risk and resiliency factors relating to cognitive aging and neurodegenerative disease. Julia Rubin is a writer and poet living in Rhode Island. She received her M.F.A. in Fiction from UMass Boston. Her work has been published in The Collapsar, Mortar Magazine, Typo Magazine, Hello Giggles, and Bust Magazine. Barbara J. Schwegman has been a writer of poetry their entire life, but never did they feel comfortable sharing with anyone other than close friends. This is their first publication.
Lindsey Sellman is a junior at Kent State University studying journalism and creative writing. She is spending quarantine in Stow, Ohio. She spends her time taking her dog on walks to get out of the house and waiting for her essential worker boyfriend to return home. Joshua H. Silavent is an award-winning journalist based in the greater Atlanta area. He was named Beat Reporter of the Year in Georgia by the Associated Press in 2016 for his extensive reporting on homelessness and affordable housing shortages. Silavent also writes lyrical, narrative and “reportorial” poetry and short fiction. Laura Sminchak has had work appear in From Whispers to Roars and Academy of the Heart and Mind. She lives in Ohio and is a licensed attorney. When she is not writing, you can find her adventuring with her young children and drinking an embarrassing amount of coffee. Melanie Smith grew up with words and trees and creatures as nearly sacred comforts, and that framework has helped them see and receive gifts that the human loved ones who are farthest away don’t even realize they are giving. The power to sit with someone, albeit virtually, and watch their trees dance—maybe we’ll be ok. Jarred Thompson is a writer in lock down in Johannesburg, South Africa, during the COVID-19 pandemic. He believes art, good science, and ethical social policy will get humanity through this. Anannya Uberoi is a full-time software engineer and part-time tea connoisseur based in Madrid, Spain. Her poems and short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Cypress, Plum Tree Tavern, Tipton, Jaggery, LandLocked, Deep Wild, Lapis Lazuli, and eFiction India. Vidya Venkat started writing poetry during her adolescent years, and published her first collected volume in 2006. She has worked as a journalist and editor in India for over 10 years. Her poetry has recently been featured in Rattle Poet’s Respond open mic. Isabel J Wallace is a queer writer and surgical nurse working in the wilds of northern Florida. The swamp has left her predisposed toward ghost stories and the certainty that something is always lurking just out of sight. She has been published in Malaise, a collection of horror short stories by queer authors. Lyndsey Weiner is a graduate of Stonecoast M.F.A. and teaches writing at Syracuse University. Natalie Welber is a poet and student at Northwestern University currently tackling the challenge of zooming in to virtual acting classes from her childhood bedroom. Along with writing, she has spent much of her quarantine playing the flute, listening to Harry Styles, and watching plenty of Netflix. Sarah White is a mother of two and a part-time academic guidance counselor living in Madison, Wisconsin. Her poems have been published in eclectic. Natasha Zarin has work that has appeared or is forthcoming in The Maynard, Event, and Teacher Magazine. She lives in Surrey, British Columbia with her family and works as a school counsellor.
Grace H. Zhou is a writer and cultural anthropologist based in Oakland, California. They are a Ph.D. Candidate at Stanford University, where they also teach classes on gender, power, and ethnography. They serve as Poetry Editor of ABD Zine and cowrite the newsletter These Strange Times.
fearsome critter: any creature from early lumberjack folklore said to inhabit the wildernesses of North America.