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Monday, March 30, 2020

CORONAVIRUS SPRING

by Zeina Azzam 




What I want to say to the tulips
that emerged, again, in March:
I am so grateful to count on you.

There is nothing else to gird me
anymore. This beauty almost
makes me weep.

Do you see how different
the world is now?

And they tell me: no,
as we know it, the world is still the same.
The rains arrived this morning.

The nightingale keeps working so hard
to sing. The starling wails.

If sickness comes
I want to be like the wise tulips,
store energy in my heart bulb

and come back after a hard winter,
dressed in bright turbans
of orange and yellow and red.


Zeina Azzam is a Palestinian American poet, editor, and community activist. She volunteers for organizations that promote Palestinian rights and the civil rights of vulnerable communities in Alexandria, Virginia, where she lives. Her poems appear in Pleiades, Mizna, Sukoon Magazine, Split This Rock, the edited volumes Making Mirrors: Writing/Righting by Refugees and Bettering American Poetry, and several other literary journals and anthologies. She holds an M.A. in Arabic literature.

AFTER THE BIG QUARANTINE

by Esther Cohen


Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, Westchester County, New York


Last night’s class women
who’d been in prison we write
together Tuesday nights in last night’s Zoom class
strong women they’d all been quarantined
so many years one works in a men’s homeless shelter
400 beds poor Brooklyn neighborhood men
are sick and difficult another helps with seniors
in low income housing brings them meals
tells them jokes last night they said that what they
learned being inside in a Big Quarantine
was how much we have to help each other
how much we need to love.


Esther Cohen teaches and is a cultural activist.

THE PROMISE OF HANDIWORK

by Jen Schneider




A single tear drops and pools on uneven hardwood planks.
Startled white mice scamper. Droppings where gravel
and cement once filled buckling wood crevices cushion
wool socked soles. A burgundy chest, adorned with two
brown leather straps and a single metal lock, rests
in the far-right corner. Blanketed in warm layers of dust
and tattered cloth, the family heirloom boasts of guarded memories.

Blurred photos, sweat-stained frocks, penned letters—
Normal times and ordinary folk

To its right, a cardboard box, coated in a film of powder
and particles unknown, houses a machine long silenced
yet now pulsing with hope. Its thick black electrical cord,
wrapped in a tight coil, springs loose as lungs near
and far struggle to contract, then release.

Ready. Set. Go. Breathe.

Soon settled at the square kitchen table, pots
of needles, spools of speckled thread—shocks
of light lavender, crimson red, pistachio green -
and piles of fabric—gingham, plaid, tartan—
emerge with potential born anew.

Unordinary times. Normal folk seek purpose.

Coffee brews, then turns cold. Time presses
on as dry, chafed hands, fingers arched
from years of fieldwork, pull threads, needles,
and long discarded garments from bedroom
chests and kitchen drawers. Bodies work
with an urgency—a race against no ordinary clock—
long stifled and now eager to breathe.

Hours later, the machine continues to whirl
as needles pulse and earlier anxious feet pump
in a calming pattern—One, Two, Three, Breathe.
One, Two, Three, Breathe—generating new life
in old shifts to aid the beat of chests worn down
by a silent beast that silences the beat of a nation.

Moments of silence turn lengthy. Prayers for a world on pause.

Scattered thoughts focus on spools of twisted and spun
threads that bind with supple cloth. Patterned sketches
of protective gear for front line heroes convert
to tangible realities.

Ordinary days in extraordinary times.

In unity we find strength. And hope blooms anew.


Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Recent work appears in The Popular Culture Studies Journal, Bat City Review, Zingara Poetry Review, Streetlight Magazine, Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

PIVOTS

by Roseann Lloyd




He says he doesn't want the people
to come off the cruise ship
because his numbers will go up...
He likes lots of kinds of numbers
besides the ones that go up
especially the ones he can throw around--
like the millions of masks
like the bigshots who call him at midnight
like the number of reporters he can dress
down in one presser:
That's a nasty question
You don't know what I've ordered
You're a terrible reporter
That's a nasty question [yes, for the second time]
It's not racist to say 'Kung Flu'
I'm not a shipping clerk!

I must pivot away from this vicious old man
and so I turn away from anger to the child
who has come up to me in my chair.
Who says, You look so old. Really old.
Yes, I say, I've had a birthday since I saw you.
Did you see me before I was born?
No, I saw you downstairs playing.

How many numbers do you have?
(After a brief pause for me to decipher)
Desmond, I say, I have 76.
Oh, that's really old.
How many numbers to you have, Desmond?
He holds up fingers on one hand and counts out loud.
1, 2, 3, 4.
Yes. Four. You are growing up.
His grandmother smiles and says her number: 67.
We're sort of twin numbers.

Later at home, I say
Husband, our days are numbered.
Let's enjoy each one.
Let's get married again
When summer comes.


Roseann Lloyd lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has published four collections of poetry—Tap Dancing for Big Mom (New Rivers Press), War Baby Express (Minnesota Book Award for Poetry),  Because of the Light, and The Boy Who Slept Under the Stars: A Memoir in Poetry (the latter three from Holy Cow! Press)—as well as an anthology co-edited with Deborah Keenan, Looking for Women: Women Writing about Exile (Milkweed Editions), winner of an American Book Award.

IN QUARANTINE WITH AN OLD AMERICAN CLOTHES DRYER

by Harold Oberman




Upstairs I hear the clothes in the dryer turning and falling,
Zippers staccato on inside the drum,
Rhythmless but constant like the crickets outside,
Not quite music,
                           not quite noise.

The heating coil's broken so clothes tumble
In hope movement will dry them—
Post pond dogs running loops until Fall,
Tongues out, fur against air—
In theory water losing its grasp and dripping off
From the sheer persistence of an appliance
Electric and half-crippled.

In another hour, after the sun cycles again below the horizon,
After the shadows caucus as always and proclaim it night,
Just after the evening news,
I'll walk up the stairs, check the progress,
Drape half-damp shirts on chairs like flags on coffins,
Let the thick socks rotate on,
And say to myself I should get this damn thing fixed,

This old rotating drum with revolutions grown cold.


Harold Oberman is a lawyer and poet locked down in Charleston, South Carolina.

DISTANCING

by David Rosenthal






David Rosenthal lives in Berkeley, California and teaches in the Oakland public schools. He's been a Pushcart Nominee and a Nemerov Sonnet Finalist. His collection The Wild Geography of Misplaced Things was published by White Violet Press.

NOPENING DAY 2020

by Earl J. Wilcox





In one hand, a brown paper bag
holds my tuna fish sandwich,
sweet tea in a paper cup. I drag
my old beat-up folding chair
to the edge of my front drive way.
Dogwoods and pink azaleas provide
the color today instead of bright red
like that on my Cardinals baseball cap.
I fold myself down slowly, take out
my sandwich, sip my tea, wait
expectantly for the Clydesdales
to parade around the stadium. Atop
the wagon sit Musial and Brock—both
long gone—who wave back to me.
I stand as the National Anthem
is sung off-key, join in the last couple
of lines.  On a wire overhead a single
mockingbird joins my song, my game.


A longtime contributor to TheNewVerse.NewsEarl J. Wilcox has been a baseball fan even longer.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

COVID-19

by Gary Lark





Here we are
waiting for the world to end.
Enough stuff to last a month
and angst hanging outside
waiting to gobble us up.

I go out back
to the garden
plant spring seeds
in an eight-year plot
and collect some vitamin D
for the long haul.

Sheltering in place,
seeing even less people
than I usually do.
A neighbor turns out her little dog,
we wave. I check the rat traps,
some of the bait is gone.
They lose a few every day.


Gary Lark’s work includes Ordinary Gravity (Airlie Press); River of Solace (Editor's Choice Chapbook Award from Turtle Island Quarterly); In the House of Memory (BatCat Press); Without a Map (Wellstone Press); Getting By (Holland Prize from Logan House Press). Daybreak on the Water is forthcoming from Flowstone Press. His poetry has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Catamaran, Hubbub, Poet Lore, ZYZZYVA, and others.

ABSENCE OF LEADERSHIP

by Frederick Wilbur
"Stack 'Em Up" by Pia Guerra at The Nib


The porch chair of the ramshackle
house has been empty longer
than the roof has valued its paint,
windows their perfect transparency.
In this country the corruption
of kudzu finds its decadence;
rodents delight to call it home.
Henchmen-like crows hangout in trash
trees that strive to imprison a way of life.
Dignity is lost: the joy of joke
and neighborly welcome,
the husbandry of the honest and the decent.
It is not about the empty chair,
but the man who should be there.


Frederick Wilbur has authored three books on architectural and decorative woodcarving, and a poetry collection, As Pus Floats the Splinter Out. His work has appeared in many print and on-line reviews including Shenandoah, Main Street Rag, Comstock Review, The Dalhousie Review, Rise Up Review, and Mojave River Review. He was awarded the Stephen Meats Award by Midwest Quarterly (2017). He is poetry editor for Streetlight Magazine.

WHEN A VACCINE WON'T FIX STUPID

by Marsha Owens




we play roulette with the dying
           wrap nurses in black plastic bags
           one day it’s like a miracle
           easter will be glorious
 i wonder
   what i should do today
            have always wanted to go to scotland
            but i’ll go to my kitchen instead
            circle my first world problem alone
 the stupid, it burns


Marsha Owens lives and writes in Richmond, VA. Her writing has appeared in both print publications, including The Huffington Post, Wild Word Anthology, The Sun, and online at TheNewVerse.News, Poets Reading the News, Rat’s Ass Review, and Rise Up Review. She is a co-editor of the recently published poetry anthology Lingering in the Margins and a proud recipient of the Leslie Shiel Scholarship Award for Writers Who Read, awarded through the Visual Arts Center in Richmond.

Friday, March 27, 2020

WE AS CATS

by Brian Rihlmann




there comes a time
to sit in the sun
to sit in the sun
and do nothing
but take in the world
the sights, sounds, and smells
and then close your eyes
relax and breathe
feel the warmth on your skin

more of this
could be a revolution
quiet as an infestation of termites
could transform the world
more than any religion
any ideology or messiah
any new invention
more than any solution
we could think of

cats understand this necessity
the importance of inactivity
instinctively, they know this
they sleep a lot
they do just enough
and they are sane
they bring out their claws
when they have to
pad around on soft paws
the rest of the time
leaving no futile scars
upon souls, skin
or earth


Brian Rihlmann was born in New Jersey and currently resides in Reno, Nevada. He writes free verse poetry, and has been published in The Blue Nib, The American Journal of Poetry, Cajun Mutt Press, The Rye Whiskey Review, and others. His first poetry collection Ordinary Trauma (2019) was published by Alien Buddha Press.

PANDEMIC

by Sandra Sidman Larson




After Wallace Stevens


The house is quiet.
What might be said
is never ending.

Straight backed,
nothing between
the headlines explained.

It is only a question for
the dog in his curl,
only a question
of instinct

telling you
wars will
be fought.
Regardless.

And viruses will spread
on the world’s breath.

You live
in a parallel universe.
Neither you nor your dog
will move mountains.

An algorithm
from some higher power
is needed.

You might find salvation
if you wait
until the last leaf falls
the dog speaks

or the skies open, filling
you with the vision
you long for.

This probably won’t happen.
Patience.
A future is still possible.
Plan for it.


Sandra Sidman Larson, twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, has three chapbooks to her credit: Whistling Girls and Cackling Hens, Over a Threshold of Roots, (both Pudding House Press Publications) and Weekend Weather: Calendar Poems.  Her chapbook Ode to Beautiful was published by Finishing Line Press in 2016 and her first full manuscript by Main Street Rag Publications in 2017.  Her poetry has been published in many venues such as the Atlanta Review, Grey Sparrow, Earth’s Daughters, and TheNewVerse.News. As a poet with grandchildren and great nieces and nephews she longs for a world where children are safe.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

FINDING A PLACE TO SLEEP IN A PANDEMIC

by Susan Vespoli


PHOENIX — The clock is ticking for our state's homeless population, when it comes to preventing the potentially devastating effects of the coronavirus. Advocates who have been waiting for action from County and State officials, are now looking for their own ways to move the most vulnerable out of crowded shelters before it's too late. Since March 12 ABC15 has been pressing public health officials about how it plans to prevent, treat, and quarantine the more than six thousand people experiencing homelessness around Maricopa County should COVID-19 strike that community. Many are senior citizens and have underlying conditions, which are the groups for which the mortality rate is the highest. —ABC 15 Arizona, March 23, 2020 Photo: A homeless person sleeps in a mostly commuters free entrance of the LIRR in Midtown Manhattan on March 17. The first death of a homeless New Yorker from coronavirus has been confirmed by city officials. —New York Daily News, March 25, 2020. Photo Credit: Luiz C. Ribeiro


As the wind spins the whirligig
on my patio into a frenzy,
then knocks a plastic tub
against the shed with a thud,

followed by a downpour,
lightning bolts and thunder,
I wonder where the homeless
will sleep tonight,

numbers multiplying
like the virus.
Will it catch them
as they bed down

on bus-stop benches,
in tunnels along the canal,
or sprawled on the lawn
at an intersection? Like the man

I saw the other day lying on his back,
eyes closed; cart piled with rumpled
fabric and overstuffed plastic bags,
his legs straight out.

I figured he was dreaming,
his mouth turned up into a little grin
but tonight, as the storm bangs
the yellow aluminum rocker

on my patio back and forth
like it’s inhabited by a ghost,
I wonder if he’d just died
happy to be released.


Susan Vespoli is a poet/essayist from Phoenix, AZ who has been watching the number of people without homes escalate. In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, how many of us might end up there, too?

TODAY AS I HEAD INTO MY CLINIC IN THE TOUGH CITY

by Kelley White

via GIPHY


the brain-injured man who always blesses me
from his porch beside the parking lot is calling down
the Full Power of the Living God on my head
and I am grateful; inside, on the counter in the ‘rash room
someone has left me three blue masks with elastic straps,
the kind house-painters use, and I am grateful,
the patients coming into the building for check-ups,
and bedwetting, and autism, and ADHD, and knee-
pain-for-a-year-and-a-half and stomach-ache-for-my-
whole-life are all wearing surgical masks. They won’t
tell me where they got them. I have stashed some
toilet paper, and I am grateful, perhaps we can trade.

Miss Aesha, my granddaughter’s pre-school teacher
has posted a virtual hug on instagram with her arms
stretched like angel’s wings in her beautiful spring green
veil and matching garment; my daughter has posted back
pictures of the family baking focaccia; Evelyn
is measuring and beaming—both parents are home
now that they’ve had to close the Cake Shop, and she
is grateful. Now the water is down. Planned work
on the century old water and sewer lines, and I am
grateful it’s not more. And that I have not lost my secret
stash of hand sanitizer. Yet. My staff are hitting me

with dozens of questions I can’t answer—is it true? my
cousin’s husband’s friend said if you’re over 80 you can’t
eat eggs or cheese; I have a knee replacement, is that
risky; my teeth hurt, is that a sign of the disease? Do I need
to cancel my colonoscopy, my MRI, my breast biopsy?
I’m a pediatrician, I’m grateful I don’t have to know
all this. But we have no ‘adult’ doctor. Our ob-gyn
doesn’t want to cancel her prenatals but she herself is 73.
None of us are young. I’m 65. Our phone operator
is 87! She won’t go home. She’s afraid she won’t get paid.
Hers is the only paycheck in her family. I promise her
she will. I’m grateful for her. She leaves after a half day.
Hers may be the only life I save.


Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.