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Poetry | May 2020


Last Updated: 05/06/2020 1:55 pm

Phillip here. Phillip at the top of the stairs. Phillip at the bottom of the stairs.
Phillip looking through windows at other people's windows.


For this issue, I received over 1,200 poems from over 400 poets.
I would have liked to have printed them all.

I hope this finds you and yours safe and well.
Be safe. Be well. Be compassionate. Be creative.


The Pandemic

A time of doubt,
But somehow it feels normal,
Like it was meant to be.
In the blink of an eye
We just had to do it
A feeling of relief,
Nothing to stress over,

No grades
But also missing them,
Because they have a purpose.
Oh, and the pain of not being able to see dear ones,
Miles away
And waiting…
For some good?
Is this the new normal?
Or should we expect something more…

—Jahnvi Mundra (13 years)

Eye All Bloodshot from the Drought

“Someone that has nothing better to do ought to write a letter pro bono publico to the papers about the muzzling order for a dog the like of that.” —James Joyce, Ulysses

My poems are getting ugly
& I’m sorry
where sorry is sympathy
& not remorse

I too wish they were pretty again
I too wish they might sing again
. . . and open my eyes
. . . and love your amber skies
But there is not time anymore
for lines such as these

Now is a time for lines torn
from bus routes
Now is a time for lines torn
from power grids & supermarkets
lines torn from supply-chains
suddenly unable to feed the world’s
hopelessly hungering mouths

Now is a desperate time
demanding lines torn from rotten grounds—

in a scorched forgotten field
starved dogs
cry —
they wait beneath
cracked insecticide sprayers
tasting the chemical
blood dripping
as a joke they pray
for rain for water

Now is a time for starved dogs’ tongues
held out under broken lines
& for all mouths
held expectantly open & upward
under broken skies

is a demanding time
of broken news
and of saline drips
feebly nursing feeble bodies
in turn only nursing hopes yet feebler

Now is an intravenous time
of dispensations
Delivered in slowlove
torn from the disparate mass

is a late time
drop by

& sorrylove itself
has lately gotten ugly
by hopeless



—Anthony Hamilton

Many-Hued Lament on The Quarantined Times

1) The ozone-layer is healing.
We stay indoors and mend its hole.

2) In the autobiography of my corona days,
The four walls of my room un-fold into
Blank-pages for me to write,
I open the door only to open my mouth.

3) In my calendar, there is a string of red-digits from
Mid-March till we see light at the burning end of a cigarette.
It is not an eternal Sunday.

4) This too shall pass but for the time served I seek parole
To loiter the pages of The Plague by Camus without learning any lessons.

5) In the story of evolution, I back-pedal a retreat into the shelters
Of self-isolation and one-arm distancing.

6) After getting tested, I saw the coordinates of the tip of an ice-berg.
Track the trail of your shadow if you contract the virus.

7) Exhaled panic may spread like wildfire.
Quarantine the nightingale in your mouth.

8) The timeline of retreat of the virus is
Like the contours of a receding shadow.
The darkness persists.

9) Break the chain like scissoring a Suez
Through the crowd.

10) The night sky is cleared of celestial debris.
The swan has docked at a sea-port.


Bad Bargain

What the f**k? She just coughed in my face?
Really? And isn’t he standing too close? What
the f**k does he think he is doing? Why is he
here at this time anyway? He’s not a senior.
I wish I had a hazmat suit. I feel like I’m in
a very bad movie. My husband was flipping
through Netflix choices and asked
if I wanted to watch a movie called Contagion,
F**k no. We’re living that movie. So surreal.
Who’d ever thought? My car wouldn’t start
this morning, but where did I think I was going,
anyway? I made a bargain with God. I told him
I would believe in him if Trump got the virus.
God hasn’t done his part. F**k.

—Linda McCauley Freeman

Nursing Home Pantoum

I call to hear my mother’s voice
She eats so little, drinks Ensure
So sorry I can’t visit now
we say I love you at the end

She eats so little, drinks Ensure
I keep disaster from my voice
we say I love you at the end
She worries that I’m not all right

I keep disaster from my voice
I hear fear in every word
she worries that I’m not all right
Everyone’s so strange here

I hear fear in every word
I’m in a hospital, she thinks
Everyone’s so strange here
nursing staff wear bunny suits.

I’m in a hospital, she thinks
friends disappear from the dining room
nursing staff wear bunny suits
the dead visit her in dreams

Friends disappear from the dining room
I call to hear my mother’s voice
the dead visit her in dreams
so sorry I can’t visit now

—Sharon Israel


The thing is, you can’t know

You’re watching her last dance recital,
dizzy with vertigo at the Fisher Center,
gazing at the stage from the second balcony.

What would you do if you knew?
Would you linger forever in this moment?

—D. E. Cocks

Personal Day

I get to feel what the rest of the world feels.
I get to be home, be safe, feel bored.

I am essential again.
I will hold back my tears again.
Remind myself to breathe again.

But when this is over,
I don’t want to be essential anymore.

—Genevieve S.

Essential Worker

One sheet of glass separates me from them.
A mask approaches, with bimbo white bread and canned gravy.

I ask them if they want a paper bag or reusable.
They sigh, “You really don't have any more plastic bags?”
They think I am Cuomo.

Toes tap anxiously waiting for me to hand them change,
Passing the money over and under walls
With a gloved hand.

Attached to the mask,
There should be a person.

Attached to the glove,
There should be a hand

Behind the wall,
There is a cashier.

—Lauren Salerno

Bathing Suit

Five days in a row it has been hanging
on the line. Fresh air and sun light
drying it in the place between winter
and a troubled spring. It is my prayer flag,
my reminder of how everything changes,
the pool suddenly closing due to the virus.
Eating breakfast the cough began,
the breathless strain to finish sentences,
your eyes filling with alarming concern.
I see the forgotten suit swinging
in the afternoon breeze, shadow and light
falling on the deck. A pendulum
of slowed down time. It has gone through
a heavy rain storm, a lull of drying out again,
and still intact as I carefully unpin it,
needing to believe it will be worn again.

—Elizabeth Brule’ Farrell

Empty seat.
Empty boots.
The hoax hits home.

—Charlotte Berwind

The Entrant

Perhaps life is a gate,
and we are always passing through, and it is always open,
until it’s shut.

—Margarita Serafimova

Mornings During the Virus

When we can touch, I will invite you on the porch to sit
next to me. The swing now empty, has shadows from before.

Days, I fill it with birdsong. There are many birds whose voice
I never noticed until now. Some birds have raucous voices.

An especially brave wren gently taps the glass. Our feeder is empty.
We cannot take the risk. When we can touch, I will summon you early,

ask you to stomp on the porch, and make me greet the hummingbirds.
My father, now gone, used to try and catch them going off to business,

to their Blue-plate special flowers. If we waste the day,
the peepers will join us with their tedious love songs. I will

make us pots of tea. I hope I will not take this for granted. Mornings
are short, remembering a long time.  If you cannot be with me, I will mourn you.

Forgive me ahead of time, but I will notice for you, I will try to
make all this matter. If you can be with me, forgive me, but the tea will cool

and we will squander hours. The peepers and birds will go silent.  I will listen
for you. The music of your voice will replace the need for all the rest.

—Laurie Byro


first-time father
holds his new-born

walks with his wife
shoulder to shoulder

at the mailbox they trade
mail for baby, baby for mail

I join them
stand six feet away

welcome their son
and wish them well

watch them
on the footpath back

the baby
in his mother's arms

the sun seems brighter
than a minute ago

—Tony Howarth

Sweet Slime

We’ve been conserving. Being less wasteful. I use less toilet paper. We ate a salad without lettuce last night.  Water, electricity, less of everything. We learn how much we don’t need when we don’t got it. The banana experiment was a failure though. Freezing them just turned them into slime when we took them out for breakfast. But I’m thankful even for mushy bananas, for their sweet slime. Around the house there’s been talk of banana bread. We’re making a plan.

—Brendan Press

Who are these people
Infesting every room?
Family by name

—Kevin Freeman


Books to avoid: The Stand, Journal of the Plague Year, Childhood's End
Also films: Mad Max, Waterworld, I Am Legend, On the Beach
Wash every surface. Wash self. Rewash surfaces.
Choose between ski mask and scarf.
Persuade self that Lysol smells like pine.
Phone someone. Anyone. Enemies are eligible.
Sort shirts in closet by color.

Pet the cat. Pretend she welcomes it.
Keep six feet from everything save the keyboard.
Wash the keyboard.
Wash the cat.

—Ted Taylor

April 1, 2020

By the window this morning, light flooding through. And what do I make myself available to? By the window this morning, light flooding through. And what do I make myself available to? By the window this morning, light flooding through. And what do I make myself available to? By the window this morning, light flooding through. And what do I make myself available to?

—Christopher Porpora

Where’s Carl

I took my brother’s ghost to the river for a beer.
To the spot we fished. He is the one I miss.
I drink until he slowly disappears.

—Gary Barkman

pAndemic hAiku

I’m an atheist
And yet each thought ends the same—
Thank god I’m sober

—Martha Frankel

grey geese returning
moon of equilibrium
fill these dreams with pink


in last night’s dream
unmasked and bare-handed
I hug you close once again

—Sari Grandstaff

Nurse’s Rounds

love is
kind love
is patient
love is
love is…

—Joe Bisicchia


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