Updated regularly. Add your voice.

Sarah Clancy


May 2020

This crazy spring froze me right inside
its own unnatural thaw. When I look to
the generation behind myself I see nothing
but a glossy spread of good fellowship

that never happened. All our relations
gathered at an outdoor grill, listening
to Stevie Wonder sing his hymn to Little Rock.
Imagine that! Call us out for our wild alliance

in a place so long ago that people
still brushed shoulders on the street
and passed bread and stories around
the dining room table.

I’m going to drive these pristine roads alone
in a silver Valiant wagon. Just watch me
fly right past you as I swing back
into the sweet and crowded past.

Benediction for a Baby Born in 2020

Let her be healthy and let her be safe.
Let her climb on the turtles and run
through the spray of the Three Rivers
Fountain and when she is old enough,

let her sit on the stone rim of her city
drinking sweet coffee with friends
and laughing right in the face of worry.
Let her draw sidewalk rainbows in chalk

traced from the prism offering
to the quiet of her bedroom wall.
Let her read it as a fable with the moral
broken into all the colors of curiosity.

Let her know the names of the dogs
on her street, count lightning bugs
on Valley Green, borrow your best books,
and blast her raucous music. Occasionally.

let her learn what we all think we know
about chance and kindness and all the small
disasters, about whispering sweet dissent
in the ear of everything gone wrong

and just when all assembled sigh and say,
“Kid, you sure know how to pick a year!” let her
new name remind us of dogwoods in forests,
of footpaths, apples and quiet tenacity,

of perfectly ordinary joy.

 

Daniel J. Flore III


NERVE-ORONI

I’m scared
to meet
the pizza delivery guy
at the door
that’s what happens
when you have social anxiety
maybe I won’t have to meet him
if it keeps going like this
I can cancel my order
because I’m so nervous
I can’t eat

 

Pandemica

I can’t take this
stuck, covid 19
not a store open
to buy something
inessential
(which are the best things to buy)

I’ve gone to corona hell and I don’t even have the virus
which could be my next circle of covid hades

the gas station slot machine
keeps taking my money because it’s the only thing to do

it’s all
just the same old toilet
draining me
into the sewer
again

there must be some reason
I woke up this morning
or maybe there isn’t
and I missed my chance at heaven

 

Quarantinea

everything looks miserable
even the book I’m reading
which is one of the only things I have to do
so does the bed where I sleep
which is one of the only other things I have to do
I go out on the deck and smoke
and think why isn’t she talking to me
but I don’t talk to her either
we’re too not busy on our phones
I need a shower
I keep leaving the house without my face mask and gloves
which make me look like I’m performing an alien autopsy with a baseball cap on
I haven’t done the dishes
the laundry falls wherever it was taken off
the only thing that’s gotten good is the high quality of the bitching that goes on in the house with
“This sucks” and
“I’m bored”
being the most
deadly phrases of all

 

Social Distancing Lap Dance

she wore a mask over her mouth, both tits, and her cooch
and she gave him a lap dance from 6 feet away
his jollies only stretched as far as his imagination

 

Sonja Benskin Mesher


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Silent Lotus


on INSTAGRAM

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The Morning Sky

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Tea Leaves & toothpicks

Jordan Trethewey


First Good Friday of the New Ice Age

It’s difficult to turn off apocalyptic thought
on the pivotal day of guilt
celebrated by the Christian calendar.

Nothing appears poetic
under a mid-April blanket of snow—
birds do not chirp in horny ecstasy.

Beaks bitch about flash-frozen insect protein,
and a cruel game of hide and seek
played with seeds.

Crows flaunt freedom of movement
while humanity is sequestered in fear—
there is a new killer no law can corral.

Did this terrorist wake
from pre-historic slumber
while we spiked our thermostats?

Our elected loan sharks seek subterfuge—
consult public-relations, accountants,
agree this doesn’t need to be a tragedy.

Place the elderly and infirm at the front—
they’ll agree they’ve already consumed
their fair share of resources.

So hide your ma and pa, grandma,
grandpa, and your sister with CF,
‘cause COVID’s comin’.

Indiscriminate and dominant—
disease on droplet air
doesn’t give a damn about sin.

first pandemic girlfriend

my son is 12
starts Grade 7
meets a girl

in classroom bubble
teachers bounce
between rooms

not the students
cocoons of 15
considered safe

they smile
at each other
like we did

things change
he says
teacher’s don’t care

about idleness
as long as work
is complete

feel free to pass
notes: yes or no
do you like me

education assistants
will even help
with spelling

sanitize hands
for discreet holding
sneak a peck

on mask during
bathroom bubble breaks
or sunlight stimulus

forget lunch bag note
with name, number,
I like that you smell

like wet dog
sheepish grin
small sister teases

he chuckles
new confidence
looks good on him

disguises penchant
to blend
in camouflage couture

Trish Saunders


KNOWING

The sky falls. Evening opens before us, perfect.
Here is a table, white-cloth’d, glasses chilled.
Fern fronds wave in the cool light.

Come and drink! Here are wine, vodka, lemons and gin.
Smoking’s encouraged;
a favorite chair is cushioned, ready.

Everyone’s waiting. See the guests–everyone she’s loved
or loathed, fucked over, or been fucked up by,
throughout her life. Of course, she is dead.

Please, night sky– be kind to my mother.
She might think she’s dreaming.
Who will console her at the moment of realization?
Maybe knowing will be enough.

 

TOMORROW

Sit down in the empty park. Bang your head against a maple tree.
Observe the pale watery sun overhead  as it touches your knee,
then close your eyes.  This will help you not hear  the bells
of  Our Lady of the Lake  Catholic Church at ten o’clock

when they toll ninety-four times—one peal for each elderly man and woman
who expelled a last exhausted sigh of relief
in a nursing home or hospital quarantine center,
or home alone clutching a notebook,  Important Numbers to Call
scrawled across the cover.

Your former boss is dead, her nephew, too. You will return to work
sometime in June,  but you will not enter each other’s houses again,
your mouths will not open to laugh at the looniness
of empty sanitizer dispensers, a Cover Your Cough!
notice next to the No Exit sign.

Tomorrow, your own life will return.
Your mother and father are dead already, thank God.

 

Dick Holmes


Spring Break Without End

The options were
The Boca Boogie
The Get Your Rat On,
The Merry Lego,
The Black Death, and
The Boccaccio.

You could get anything
from a slice to a 64-incher.

We’d been shooting for sunset
in the Keys, but by the time we got
as far down as Boca Raton,
our beer chest was empty and
the sounds of our stomachs were
nearly drowning out the heavy metal
blasting from our speakers.

After some drunken debate
about the relative virtues
of the options, we decided on
a 64-inch Boccaccio
and a pitcher each of Corona.

In anticipation of our
spring break trip,
we’d been guzzling beer nonstop
long before spring break
actually started. We were
so out of it we’d inadvertently
fallen off our screens.
No Facebook, no Instagram,
no Twitter, no TV even.
Nothing did we know about what
the world outside our little tribe
was beginning to find out.

Several pitchers and slices later,
we staggered back to our van
and got back on the road south
to the Keys.

“Hey,” one of the still somewhat
alert ones among us piped up,
“how come all the traffic is
heading in the opposite direction?!
I mean, this is
spring break, for Chrissake!”

 

Distancing

He could feel the weirdness,
the massive scale of it, imagine
what it must be like for others, but
it was mostly life as usual for him.

Even before he retired, he’d
long been a social distancer.
In his younger years, he’d had
a number of relationships that
involved living together, but
only for short periods of time.

For the majority of his years, he’d
lived alone. He’d gotten so he
preferred the solitudinous lifestyle,
being free to do or not do
whatever he wanted—at least,
that’s what he reassuringly
told himself whenever his aloneness
shouldered its way to the
forefront of his consciousness
and shape shifted from a sense of
quiet presence into one of
dissonant, mocking absence.

By the time the pandemic set in,
there was only one item left
on his bucket list, which he now
alternately called his fuckit list
because the more items he crossed
out, having accomplished them,
the more he realized how ephemeral
and unfulfilling they’d actually been.

He still held hope for the final,
unique thing on the list, though.
Unlike all the other items, it was
not a material thing, so, he figured,
it had potential for inducing some
lasting spiritual experience.

Since the negative side of his
aloneness had become increasingly
assertive lately, he proceeded
to pursue that last item on his list
right after he’d completed
the next-to-last item.

First he reread and
contemplated what he’d written
at the bottom of his list:
For eleven consecutive days,
meditate unceasingly on breathing
while sitting, lying, standing, walking,
and doing whatever.

“Well,” he said to himself. “Here goes
the proverbial nothing.”

And with that, he began his
meditation marathon.

Moment after moment,
day after day, he consciously
directed and redirected
his focus on breathing. He deeply
breathed in and out; breathed
a gamut of distractive thoughts
born of boredom, memory,
worry, fantasy, emotion;
breathed a will to return
to intentional focus on breathing.

On the eleventh day, once the sun
had gone down and twilight
had come to its moment
of perfect equipoise, he felt
something in himself give way,
as if he were an amoeba that had
just completed reproduction,
delivering its double.

“Who or . . . what are you?” he asked
the apparition his third eye must have
manifested before him.

“I’m your god.”

“My God?!” he gasped,
presuming the spiritual experience he’d
hoped for was at last beginning
to take shape.

“No, heh heh, your
lowercase god. Your
personal god—you know,
the intricately conditioned ego
pulling your strings,
calling your shots,
programming and navigating
your worldly life for you?”

“Wha . . . I . . . didn’t—”

“Yep, you didn’t know.
But now you do, at least for now.”

“For now? . . . Just for now?”

“You’ve been meditating nonstop
for eleven days. That may seem like
quite a long time, but
collectively that number of days
adds up to only a single moment.”

“So, where do I—or we?—go
from here?”

“Well, now that you’ve become
aware of me, this behind-the-scene
aspect of yourself, you basically have
two options: You can try to
transform or transcend or get rid of me
and somehow take on
the services I’ve been providing,
or you can simply go on as you
have been going, with me
utterly hidden in the background.”

“Go on obliviously, you mean?”

“Hmm, I wouldn’t put it
that way exactly, but I’m
biased, of course, heh heh.”

“And whichever way I opt to go,
who’s to say that won’t
actually be you still calling the shots
and pulling the strings?”

“Ah, now that’s a real question,
one requiring a profound, nondual
answer that goes beyond words,
yours and mine.”

 

Starr


A Warm Cup Of Bleach Before Bed
(Viral Spiral)

Wind coughs
precisely projected
droplets,

planetary punishment
masked by Mother Earth.

Enteric.
A viral spiral
in exchange for
oil spills and
mass murders.

Airborne.
Nice is the new drug.

Side effects may include
breathlessness
joblessness
homelessness
sleeplessness
and death in waves

(good-bye.)

 

Soodabeh Saeidnia


Untitled

falling blossoms
feeling abandoned
no shoes dancing
on the street​

 

Barrier

there is a thin
layer
between me
and my enemy
made of the finest
filtration material,
an electrostatic
non-woven
polypropylene fiber,
called n95

Belongings Got Some Rest (as of April 2020)

a pair of black heels,
a tiffany blue party dress
chocolate and burgundy lipsticks
fine face powders
fragrant breath mints
a blister of allergy tablets

the file of uncompleted pantoums
written for the Friday open mic
and
the memory of
our last gathering
in the Zinc Bar

Jefferson Carter


PLAGUE MASK

My wife models the Johnny Was face mask
she ordered from Amazon, the material,
a profusion of extravagant blossoms,
enhancing her green-gold irises & the cute
little crease between her eyes. I’m studying
my navel, the skin just above it, hirsute
& blotched, how it pulses to the beat
of my heart. I never understood Newton’s
First Law of Motion, but the Fourth Law
of Motion, which I just invented, promises
the heart will always persist in its state
of uniform motion. Let us pray.

 

SHELTERING AT HOME

I come to
in the kitchen, leaning
against the stove,
gripping an empty bag
of Trader Joe’s white cheddar popcorn,
tasting salt but unable
to recall opening the bag
& eating its contents.

Funny how the time slips away,
sang my favorite cowpunk,
funny how I once needled
my foodie friends
when they oooed and aaahed
over some chef’s presentation:
“Hey, guys,” I’d say,
“we’re going to eat it, not

fuck it.”  You can imagine
my popularity.  How I miss
my best friend
& my other friend too.

 

Paul Brookes


When The Clapping Stops

Nurses will get a cut in pay.
Immigrant nurses will be deported.

Those who get phoned by “Contact and Trace”
call centres will be perpetually self isolated,
the 14-day period extended after each person
they tended to gets the second wave of the virus.

And the clapping outside houses,
the banging of pans and fireworks,
will echo in the distance
in the distance,
the distance,
distance.

 

Miya Ko


Face Mask

You, I, both strangers now,
the shifting shapes of our eyes speaking
of the air you shun, deducing the spit
to many unknowns, the softest moans
of fevers, the tastelessness of phlegm,
the quivers of scared, scarred skins,
the loss of spring burrowing in nostrils,
we, suddenly, are the symptoms.

I can only surmise the speech
of what is concealed, the whole mouth,
imagine the slight movement of your lips
when they remember berries, the noise
of slow sipping, the counted brushing
of the excitement clinging to fingertips,
the blown smoke circles, all hesitations
feigning, the undetected bluffs.

You stare, my tongue inside,
hiding like socket balls behind shut eyelids,
no hairs, none of those stubborn leftovers
between molars after chewing, the itching
of my throat quiet, the words you cannot
hear even if I say them, the muffled cough
becoming a hint of existence, the sighs
underneath the unwoven spandex.

 

Tiko Lewis


slave songs—2020

lawd
we march

lawd
we chant

lawd
we pray

lawd
i sing the body to a hemorrhage

i sing
“the fires are not my doing
neither is the fear
nor the brown skin

i put my weapons into the ground
i sign my resignation in the dirt”

lawd
it’s broken
all still broken
the house windows
the store shelves
the po-po cars
the stale white words from particle board podiums
and the black lives
and the “us” loves
“us”

every dream is sharded
every hand is cut

lawd
i sing
“we need cha now”

i sing my body to a hemorrhage

 

Lawrence George


::six pack of Mexican beer::

the Coronavirus
will be televised
‘cause that shit gets ratings

and my septuagenarian dad
will contract
the dreams of the young
watching Fox News
shitfaced
sitting on his couch in ‘Zona

they say pneumonia
is like drowning
off the coast of Antarctica

 

Cameron McClure


Public Safety Advice

use gloves
so the virus can’t see your skin

keep your distance
it carries a baton

wear a mask
it enters like tear gas

protect health workers
you’ll need them when you can’t breathe

Lockdown–Week 1

My life has ended, Lowe’s is shut
I’ve varnished shelves but
need some screws and a mounting bracket
cos nails in drywall just won’t hack it.

I know for some these aren’t real issues
but I have nowhere to store my tissues,
some inter-leaved but most on rolls;
dry wipes and wet wipes to suit all holes,

some ready primed with aloe vera,
that soothing balm of the covid era,
soft and delicately scented
in case your bathroom isn’t vented,

a choice of Classic or Gentle Clean
a bit like matt or satin sheen –
not the texture of the paper finish
but one is thicker, the other thinnish.

In my personal en suite
I’ve opted for some Premium Elite,
in the cloakroom which guests frequent
is Quilted Organic without a scent.

With puppy accidents in mind
I’ve loads of the cheap unbranded kind
(when its perforations get out of sync
delaminate, unwind – that works, I think).

For family using the upstairs loo
there’s Triple Softy to wipe their poo
and Bounty absorbent for the toddler’s wee
which goes astray – he’s only three!

With store shelves empty I’m feeling crass
so attracted now to the paperless ass.
I think instead, to avoid invective
I’ll install a bidet – it’s more effective.

 

Eliot Jacobson


Pandemic v. Pandemic

i rarely go out anymore
either that or i go out every day
depends on what you call walking Rosie
watching her piss and shit
endlessly crossing to the other side of the street
mask on, mask off
like we’re toxic waste dumps

Rosie’s lost half the
hair on her tail
i’m reading amoxicillin for
flea bites helps with itching
it could be infected anal glands
now they’re talking about rabbit plague
mortality is guaranteed
a squirrel in Colorado
a marmot in Mongolia
cats, ferrets and minks in Miami

i don’t know which masks around here are clean
which is the one i wore yesterday
or the day before
they fuck all night long
in the morning i discover them
on the kitchen counter
hanging from door knobs
falling out of my pockets
damp from the juices they collected
do not reuse
printed on the inside fold

Rosie waiting by the door
Rosie piss shit
Rosie losing hair
kitchen counter
knobs damp reuse
toxic fleas Colorado guaranteed
mask on, mask off

~

Marcel Herms


Isolation

 

Horror show (a picture of tomorrow)

 

Marc Woodward


Thunder at Key West

Will there still be music when this world ends?
When the stave of power lines has fallen?
A strumming in the trees, a weak rhythm
beaten on the shell of a dead tv?

After the inundations and dust storms
the refugees and mass migrations.
What new blues will we conjure when hunger
presides like an incurable disease?

How many meals are we from anarchy?
Right now keyboarders breed conspiracy,
backwood militias nurse Pol-Pot fantasies
where liberal is opposite to liberty.

You’d like to believe instinctive kindness
would shine within us, brighter than daylight
seen through the flung doors of a cathedral,
but the approaching darkness is spleen deep.

Expect the return of the Pharisees,
a kingdom of priests and superstition,
the cruelty of summary justice
and tribal warlords.

Consumerism
will seem a fable of milk and honey;
the one way street of capitalism
a warm boulevard of benevolence.

Maybe you’ll remember music coming
from a cafe verandah in Key West
as smiling people come and go, a girl
flicking her freshly washed hair explaining

This is a song about an ex-boyfriend,
who didn’t like my music and she’ll sigh
like it was important and insightful
while you knew the only honest music

was the sound of your empty bourbon glass
rolling unstoppably towards the edge
of the red mahogany bar, rumbling,
dark as ocean thunder making landfall.

 

Lockdown Day No.?

We’d lost count of pyjama days
so I said we must get dressed
Let’s pretend we’re going out.

I donned my pin stripe suit
and you swiped on a smile
with bright apocalypstick.

We met in the kitchen
and puzzled the dog – sure
we must be going somewhere.

I made zombie cocktails
with leftover liqueurs
aged to imperfection.

We invented a playlist
for Armageddon
and danced to apocalypso

and Leonard Cohen.
You said his singing made you
wish you were dead.

There’s no hurry I replied.
Let’s tear off our clothes
and make love like it’s the end

of the fucking world! I said.
At ten in the morning?
you sighed. So I made another

Kahlua and Grenadine ‘My Corona’,
a ‘True Apotheski’
(Suze, grappa, toffee vodka)

and a ‘Smiley Virus’ (secret recipe)
and we watched the news again.
Not with a bang but a whisky.

 

Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri


A Laugh

The bars close down.

The virus.

So, I have my own drinking night. I line up four glasses of Merlot in my bedroom. Prep my playlist. Debussy and Tchaikovsky mingle with shadows. Moonlight arpeggios weep and brass instruments crash.

But there’s no laughter, gruff and awkward, like Seth Rogen, or lilting and light. No bodies in backwards baseball caps and black tank tops. No youthful faces laughing over pool and missed shots. No Lady Gaga on the jukebox.

Just a rectangular room. A bed. A computer. White walls.

Dusk deepens, lavender shadows darting.

I laugh.

Laughter cracks.

Another thing lost.

 

Martina Rimbaldo


The housejail (photography)

 

Mike Casetta


covid-culture

If you stand away from me
& I stand away from you
& you & you & you
many people will need to live on rafts
& cling to the cliffs on the sides of mountains.

Ex-city dwellers will find their creative selves
by spitting plant pigments
over their hands then onto the walls
& ceilings inside their caves.

Folks like me will return to the tall trees
using ropes instead of liana vines
unless you are lucky enough to
stand east of Sierra Leon
& west of the Congo Basin.

Umgawa means, keep your distance,
asshole! Umgawa also means,
find your own Jane, motherfucker!

Mary McCarthy


Against Contagion

I am washing the dishes
slow and careful
as stitching up a wound
one more ceremony of order
like all those other small acts
we are always doing
and never done-
the washing and folding
that holds these spaces up
walls and windows
each task one more sandbag
set against the rising flood
wiping the doors and knobs
with bleach, alcohol, Lysol,
the way Grandmother
would trace a line across them
with fine salt
to keep the invisible enemy out–
None of it now more
than a formula
repeated in the dark-
something to lean on
a shelter brave and flimsy
as a tent in a hurricane
the kind of hope we beg for
even though we know
nothing will save us

Melissa O’Flaherty


Without the use of rods

when in quarantine stance
we are the sum of our divinity
plus one foot in between
so near to the obscure

above veiled mouths
I spy my friends by the smile in their eyes
we transcend, us crowns of creation