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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.

THE GIVING TREE DRAWS THE LINE

by Michael L. Ruffin




The Tree had
grown old.

The Boy had
grown wealthy
and powerful.

“What’s wrong, Boy?”
the Tree asked.

“The COVID-19 crisis,”
the Boy answered.

"How can I help?”
the Tree asked.

 “You can die so
the stock market
can live,”
the Boy answered.

“You can kiss my roots,”
the Tree said to the Boy.


Michael L. Ruffin is a writer, editor, preacher, and teacher living and working in Georgia. He posts poems on Instagram (@michaell.ruffin) and prose opinions at On the Jericho Road. He is author of Fifty-Seven: A Memoir of Death and Life and of the forthcoming Praying with Matthew. His poetry has appeared at TheNewVerse.News and is  forthcoming in 3 Moon Magazine and Rat's Ass Review.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

TEARS

by Mariana Mcdonald


People who have coronavirus can also spread the illness through their tears. Touching tears or a surface where tears have landed can be another portal to infection. —American Academy of Ophthalmology, March 10, 2020


Today I learn
the virus
has been found
in tears.

And I think, yes,
in tears,
in suffering,

in recycled masks,
in the hurried funeral
family members can’t attend.

The virus
has been found

In tears.


Mariana Mcdonald is a poet, public health scientist, and activist.

INFORMATION

by Bob Heman

Those who will die will die alone. Because the others do not want to die as well. The distance too far to ever be broached again. Their last words digital, fading as the signals grow weaker. Until silence is only a blank screen.


Bob Heman lives on an island that doesn’t seem like an island. His poem “Perfect” is included in A Cast-Iron Aeroplane That Can Actually Fly: Commentaries from 80 Contemporary American Poets on Their Prose Poetry (MadHat Press, 2019).

SIX FEET



Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco lives in California's Central Valley and co-edits One Sentence Poems. Her chapbooks Various Lies, Lion Hunt, and Water Weight are available from Finishing Line Press, Plan B Press, and Right Hand Pointing respectively.

Monday, March 23, 2020

CANCER IN A TIME OF COVID

by Art Goodtimes


The One Cancer Voice group of charities has issued advice on COVID-19 for people with cancer .


Strange to be among the target infirmed
at highest risk, after years of
exceptional health & feeling exempt

But we may all end up there too
at the mercy of a virus

that's famous for mutating on the fly
as in bats & pandemics & virulent alleles

If viruses are alive, which we aren’t
even sure is true. Maybe they’re the real aliens
Saprophytes cocooned among us

or as one Deep Creek artist told us
years ago at Dan & Laurie’s art camp
humans are merely vesicles for viruses


Art Goodtimes has a new book out from Lithic Press in Fruita, Colorado: Dancing on Edge: the McRedeye Poems (2019).

NO SPOILER ALERTS

by Dawn Corrigan



Young German adults hold “corona parties” and cough toward older people. A Spanish man leashes a goat to go for a walk to skirt confinement orders. From France to Florida to Australia, kitesurfers, college students and others crowd the beaches. . . . “Some consider they’re little heroes when they break the rules,” said French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner. “Well, no. You’re an imbecile, and especially a threat to yourself.” —PBS News Hour, March 22, 2020


Having a husband
with respiratory issues
leaves me no patience
for the kids who flooded
the beach on Spring Break,
peers who sneer it's
no worse than a flu,
Boomers who snap Don't ask
me to cancel my plans!
I have things to do!
But when I think
in terms of plot
I can almost understand.
We're used to the world
ending, or not,
in 90-minute increments
and even then I often
have to go online
and read a summary
before I can bear
to watch through
to the final scene
and learn whether
we'll divert the asteroid
or defuse the nuke
or develop a vaccine
in time.


Dawn Corrigan has a black belt in social distancing.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

TO MUSCLE MEMORY

by Lynnie Gobeille


"Automat" (1927) by Edward Hopper


He says he plays by muscle memory
Stares off into space while on the stage
In some sort of out-of- body zone.
He asks if writers ever feel that way.
Do we experience the Zen
Of lost time and space?

I think of countless meals burned,
Eggs exploding on the range,
Long past “boiled”—moving on
To become lethal weapons;
As I sat patiently
Waiting for the arrival of the Muse.

I tell him—
Maybe that is what love will be
In this time of Covid19 and
Social distancing is really
All muscle memory with no touch.
I tell him not to worry—after all—
Hell—this is nothing new to us.

Artists are used to creative isolation.
And all this fear over Solitude?
—Just another name
For how we live our lives.
He picks up his guitar and plays—
I turn back to my computer.

Our words hanging there
Along with our silent fears
To be digested later.


Lynnie Gobeille: Co-founder and retired Co-Editor of the Origami Poems Project. Champion of all things Poetry & Magic.

TENDERLY

by Patricia Carragon




The evening breeze caressed the trees tenderly . . . 
The shore was kissed by sea and mist tenderly . . .
—music by Walter Gross; lyrics by Jack Lawrence


Chet Baker’s trumpet sings

unrestricted airwaves
in a senseless world

lonely trees by the promenade

wooden arms and hands
feel wind’s breath

an empty shore

a bedroom for sea and mist
to play without panic

courtyard ball games

a father spends time
with his son

a writer watches

social distancing
from the 2nd floor


Patricia Carragon’s recent publications include A Gathering of the Tribes, Bear Creek Haiku, First Literary Review-East, Jerry Jazz Musician, Live Mag!, Muddy River Poetry Review, Narrative Northeast, Panoplyzine, and Stardust Haiku. She has forthcoming work from EOAGH and The Paterson Review. Her latest books from Poets Wear Prada are Meowku and The Cupcake Chronicles, and Innocence from Finishing Line Press. Her first novel, Angel Fire, is forthcoming from Alien Buddha Press. Patricia hosts Brownstone Poets and is the editor-in-chief of its annual anthology. She is an executive editor for Home Planet News Online. Patricia lives in Brooklyn.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

HALF STAFF

by Laura Rodley




Flags should be at half staff
for the innocents who went before us,
the front line sounding the alarm,
take heed, watch out, we’re the first.
Without them, there would be no frantic
rushing to close the gates of the broken dam
waging Covid-19. Without them,
no one would take Covid-19 seriously.
For the other elders at Life Care Center
at Kirkland, Washington,
and for the elders in other nursing homes
who receive no more visitors,
for the taxi drivers, actors in community
theater, restaurant workers, singers,
for those on their own front line,
for the medical workers, among the first
to be ill, the first to be tested, for the first wave,
the loss of the world
as we know it, gone,
flags should be at half mast,
for the knock to internal feelings of security
for the loss for many of financial security
for the loss of a sense of direct community
found by walking amongst each other,
flags should be at half staff.
Yes, communities have regained strength
through illustrious singing and the internet,
but for the innocents who went before
alerting the souls aboard this ship of planet earth
before their leaders did,
the flags should be at half staff.


Laura Rodley, Pushcart Prize winner, is a quintuple Pushcart Prize nominee, and quintuple Best of Net nominee. Latest books: Turn Left at Normal by Big Table Publishing and Counter Point by Prolific Press.

MISTER BURR GOES TO WASHINGTON

by George Salamon


“Ms. [Summer]Mossbarger ate nothing. She skipped breakfast and lunch, taking her first bite of food—food-pantry fried chicken—at about 5:30 p.m. All she consumed from the time she awoke that morning until she ate dinner were sips from a cherry Dr Pepper. “I’m not going to let my kids go hungry. If I have to just eat once a day, that’s what I have to do.” Ms. Mossbarger, a disabled Army veteran, does not work, and Jordan Spahn, her husband, has seen his work as a carpenter slow. Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times


"Senator Richard M. Burr sold hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock in major companies last month, as President Trump and others in his party were still playing down the threat presented by the coronavirus outbreak and before the stock market’s precipitous plunge. . . . At least three other senators sold major stock holdings around the same time, disclosure records show.” —The New York Times, March 20, 2020

"Coronavirus and Poverty: A Mother Skips Meals So Her Children Can Eat. Americans with tight financial resources have fewer options as they navigate coronavirus closures and layoffs." —The New York Times, March 20, 2020


'There's gold in them thar hills,' so they
Said in the days of the gold rush, now
The gold's in them thar halls of Congress,
Where, if you're on the right committee,
You can be a millionaire in a tizzy.
But in other parts of the land of the free
A mother skips meals so her kids can eat.
Both stories ran in the Times the same day,
Where we can learn one more time that
Money talks while all else walks, right
Down to the shelter or out on the street
Where you'll suffer the stings and arrows
Of discarded needles, an empty belly
And the loss of all hope.
America? America!


George Salamon lives and writes in St. Louis, MO, at the center of our nation's heartland.

Friday, March 20, 2020

PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING

by Diane Elayne Dees






I am afraid to go the grocery store,
not because I am an older citizen,
but because one of my feet is longer
than the other, and I will spread
the virus with involuntary asymmetry. 
Roughly two-thirds of us have one
foot longer than the other; many
have a longer leg. My shoulder 
blades are not the same, 
nor are my eyebrows or my ear 
canals. I am a walking repository
of novel coronavirus, dangerous
at any speed. I look closely 
at photos of Senator McSally, 
trying to determine whether 
she is symmetric. I know she talks
out of both sides of her mouth,
but does she do so symmetrically?
I cannot help being asymmetrical;
I was born this way. How long  
have I been spreading deadly
diseases, I wonder, and why 
has no one stopped me before
now? This is a deadly health crisis:
Measure your body parts now,
before you cause damage
with your crooked ways.


Diane Elayne Dees has two chapbooks forthcoming. Her microchap "Beach Days" is available for download and folding from Origami Poems Project. Diane also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women’s professional tennis throughout the world.

CREDIT WHERE CASH IS DUE

An Ode to Andrew Yang
by James Schwartz 


When Andrew Yang dropped out of the presidential race a month ago, he couldn't have possibly anticipated the centerpiece of his platform — universal basic income — would be the bipartisan solution that Republicans and Democrats in Washington are rallying behind amid the coronavirus crisis. “Certainly I would never hope that UBI gets adopted because of this terrible virus. But I will say it's somewhat surreal to suspend my presidential campaign in February and see it potentially implemented in March,” Yang told [The Washington Post] in an interview on Tuesday. Photo: Andrew Yang speaks during the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)


They kicked around the idea in Switzerland,
MLK was for it, in the days before coronavirus,
Andrew Yang then bringing the tool back,
They sneered it wouldn't work, of course,
They questioned how it would be paid,
For, and by whom: not them to be sure,
Now that we're quarantined outside the box,
They iron out the details of a UBI,
Rebranding themselves as saviors,
Credit where cash is due.


James Schwartz is a poet, writer, slam performer and author of 5 poetry collections including The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America. Twitter: @queeraspoetry

Thursday, March 19, 2020

AN ABUNDANCE OF CAUTION

by Michael L. Ruffin




Out of an abundance of caution,
we are washing our hands
seventy-six times a day.

Out of an abundance of caution,
we are avoiding large
gatherings of people.

Out of an abundance of caution,
we are trying not
to touch anybody.

Out of an abundance of caution,
we are disinfecting
everything in sight.

Out of an abundance of caution,
we are sneezing and coughing
into our sleeves.

Oh, and out of an abundance of caution,
we will henceforth vote for only
science-affirming, rationally-thinking,
forward-looking, plan-making,
crisis-anticipating, confidence-inspiring
candidates for any and every office.


Michael L. Ruffin is a writer, editor, preacher, and teacher living and working in Georgia. He posts poems on Instagram (@michaell.ruffin) and prose opinions at On the Jericho Road. He is author of Fifty-Seven: A Memoir of Death and Life and  of the forthcoming Praying with Matthew. His poetry has appeared at TheNewVerse.News and is  forthcoming in 3 Moon Magazine and Rat's Ass Review.

BASEBALL LITANY IN A SEASON OF SICKNESS

by Earl J Wilcox




May the birds—Cardinals, Orioles, Blue Jays—
       safely fly north.
May the Cubs, Tigers, and Diamondbacks
       hibernate without fear.
May the Marlins and Rays swim peacefully
        in warm waters.
May the Seattle Mariners find respite and peace
       in their homes.
May the Angels guard all our lives, Padres pray
      for us all.
Finally, O Great Scorekeeper, may all the boys of
Summer—from sandlots to stadiums—be protected

in your tender care and all-seeing eye until we hear
the organ play and men in blue say, “Play Ball.”


A longtime contributor to TheNewVerse.News , Earl J. Wilcox has been a baseball fan even longer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

SOCIAL DISTANCING

by John W. Steele





Not knowing who is shedding Novel Corona,
it’s not so bad to huddle in our caves

plugged into our phones and laptops, Zoom.
As for lining up in bare-shelved stores

who needs toilet paper, food and drink,
soap and sanitizer anyway?

Meanwhile the crocs have stopped their bellowing,
called a truce. They’ve reached across the swamp

and offered one another bite-sized hunks.
The old-bird alpha-male has softened his tweets

and started to squawk about how he is going to kill
the virus. November looms large. The other crocs,

afraid he’ll chase them from the swamp, are cowering,
hoping he won’t snap and spill their blood.


John W. Steele is a psychologist, yoga teacher, assistant editor of Think: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction and Essays, and graduate of the MFA Poetry Program at Western Colorado University, where he studied with Julie Kane, Ernest Hilbert and David Rothman. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Amethyst Review, Boulder Weekly, Blue Unicorn, Copperfield Review, Heron Clan Anthology, IthacaLit, The Lyric, Mountains Talking, The Orchards, Society of Classical Poets, Urthona Journal of Buddhism and the Arts, and Verse-Virtual. He was nominated for a Pushcart prize, won The Lyric’s 2017 Fall Quarterly Award, won an award in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition, and was awarded Special Recognition in the 2019 Helen Schaible International Sonnet Contest. His book reviews have appeared in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and Raintown Review.

ENDEMIC

by Robert Knox


Illustration by João Fazenda for The New Yorker


Let's not believe in science
Let's just play it all by ear
Let's say it's all a swindle
There's nothing, folks, to fear
Let's blame it on the other guys,
who want to take our place
It's a hoax! And a disgrace!

Swindle time, scoundrel time
Don't let it all unwind
Dwindle time, fiddle time, reduce the prime
Con job on the knotty pine
A little bug in the system's all
Just wait, I'm sure we'll soon be fine

We're practicing our magic word
Like the Marvel man's 'Shazam!'
We'll say our word some lovely night
and deconstruct this sham
There is no call for fright
It will disappear when we say the word
We'll wonder why—it's so absurd!—
we ever could have been so dense

Don't ask me what the word is now
I'll keep you in sus-Pence


Robert Knox is a poet, fiction writer, Boston Globe correspondent, and the author of a novel based on the Sacco and Vanzetti case, titled Suosso's Lane. As a contributing editor for the online poetry journal Verse-Virtual his poems appear regularly on that site. They have also appeared in journals such as Off The Coast, The Journal of American Poetry, South Florida Poetry Journal, TheNewVerse.News, Califragile, and Unlikely Stories. His poetry chapbook Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty, published in 2017, was nominated for a Massachusetts Best Book award. The chapbook Cocktails in the Wild followed in 2018. He was recently named the winner of the 2019 Anita McAndrews Poetry Award.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

FIERCE FRAGILE SEASONS

a poem in four parts
by Jill Crainshaw




I

mama cardinal studies me as i stand
in rain-wet morning sunlight

i see fire flash in her feathers
when she flits and flashes

from fencepost to flaming forsythia
nesting in preparation for whatever

springtime color waits to touch the earth

II

sepia-soaked scrapbooks ensconce
human fragilities exposed

i study faces retreating from
fiery colors of aliveness buried

in catacombs where mortal coils
were torn away too soon from butterflies

waiting even now to meet the sunrise

III

night settles down into streets emptied
of laughing children and lingering lovers

spinning cocoons to hide fragile dreams
while the world shuts out a sinister stalker

a brave pinion pushes open a window
slips a lonely song into the silence and hope

throbs in voices that swell together on the breeze

IV

backyard cardinals carry
springtime rhythms in their beaks

wrens domicile in the abandoned eaves
of the church belfry next door

and we humans study yet again how to
weave into our nests fiery threads of hope

longing to color unsettled nights with song


Jill Crainshaw is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a liturgical theology professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

FEAR ITSELF



Elizabeth McMunn-Tetangco lives in California's Central Valley and co-edits One Sentence Poems. Her chapbooks Various Lies, Lion Hunt, and Water Weight are available from Finishing Line Press, Plan B Press, and Right Hand Pointing respectively.

Monday, March 16, 2020

PEAKING

by Rachel Voss


“This week, as a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, I voted to declare a state of emergency. On Friday, we made the difficult decision to shut down schools for nearly 700,000 students across 700 square miles for at least the next two weeks.” —Nick Melvoin, The New York Times, March 14, 2020. Photo: An empty athletic field at Hollywood High School on Friday.Credit: Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press via The New York Times


Spring’s come early, tenuous
crown of flowers settled

on the frowning brow
of the globe, one nature

under quarantine, invisible
borders fencing in liberty, just

barely perceptible from
a bird’s eye view. All

is in bloom, like a rash
on a fevered body, like

a restless teenager cooped up
at home: vernal, profuse,

spent. We know what
the cherry blossom signifies.


Rachel Voss is a high school English teacher living in Queens, New York. She graduated with a degree in Creative Writing and Literature from SUNY Purchase College. Her work has previously appeared in The Ghazal Page, Hanging Loose Magazine, Unsplendid, Jokes Review, NonBinary Review, 3Elements Review, and Bodega Magazine among others.

HEY NINETEEN

by Gary Glauber


“We are writing this on behalf of 64 teachers at New York City’s Stuyvesant High who love their students and love their school. That is why we need the city to close it.” —Samantha Daves, Maura Dwyer and Annie Thoms, The New York Times, March 14, 2020. Photo: Students at Stuyvesant High School at the end of the school day Friday.Credit: Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press via The New York Times


It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

A student is proud of his clever renaming of the virus.
He calls it “The Boomer Remover.”

It’s all fun and games until the coughing goes dry.

One with the sniffles sneezes and the kids around him yell “Corona!”

It’s all fun and games until the fever runs high.

One kid has been to a conference where several have since been identified
as having the virus.  “Why are you here?” I ask.
“Don’t want to forever be known as that patient zero kid who
infected everyone else.”
“But you are,” I think.

It’s all fun and games until there are no more cleaning supplies.

Another kid claims his uncle has it because he saw the doctor that first saw the lawyer before he was sent to the hospital. There are at least ten similar stories
I hear throughout the course of the school day.

It’s all fun and games until everything’s cancelled on the fly.

If most kids can easily survive it, they start out oblivious to what
they might be bringing home to their grandparents or parents.
Still, a few days later, some register concern, while others start to panic.

It’s all fun and games until so many people die.  


Gary Glauber is a widely published poet, fiction writer, teacher, and former music journalist. He champions the underdog, and strives to survive modern life’s absurdities. He has two collections, Small Consolations (Aldrich Press) and Worth the Candle (Five Oaks Press), and a chapbook, Memory Marries Desire (Finishing Line Press). A new chapbook of surreal work The Covalence of Equanimity, a winner of the 2019 James Tate International Poetry Prize, is now available from SurVision Books. Two other collections are forthcoming soon.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE CORONAVIRUS

by Pepper Trail




We never stop touching
                                             the face
                                                             of Earth

Every breath is taken back
                                                   in
                                                         by another

We are all infected
                                     by the world

There is no place to go
                                          away

These hard lessons
                                      and good


Pepper Trail is a poet and naturalist based in Ashland, Oregon. His poetry has appeared in Rattle, Atlanta Review, Spillway, Kyoto Journal, Cascadia Review, and other publications, and has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards. His collection Cascade-Siskiyou was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry.

AN OLD MAN'S RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS

by Earl J. Wilcox




Some say, I’m in the most
vulnerable group waiting
for the virus to overtake me.
Others of us say, bring it on.

The body of an old man
is not like a withered tree
spindly-limbed legs, eyes
dim and going dimmer
hands frail and fragile,
the last leaf of an aging spruce
or willow, body bare as
maple or boxwood come
waning days of autumn.

An old man’s body is
a well-tuned bass
standing upright
leaning into its player
focused fondly strumming
taut strings but yielding
deep-toned music
resonating with grace.


Earl J. Wilcox is in his eighth decade.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CORONA

by Mark Ward




i
No. We sit against the walls,
a room-width apart, texting
filthy emojis, slack-jawed
but careful not to drip on
anything. You put on gloves, panting
through your mask and send me
a gif: two people kissing. Us.

ii
Practice Social Distancing.
We take this opportunity
to claim corners of the house:
the sitting room becomes a DMZ.
You hole up in your office, maskless
and healthy. You’ve really just been
seeking an excuse, haven’t you?

iii
The gays still fuck, will fuck
through anything. If AIDS didn’t
stop us, nothing will. Grindr
lit up like a Christmas tree,
gaudy baubles dangling. The glory-
holes however asking status again:
Have you been away recently?


Mark Ward is the author of Circumference (Finishing Line Press, 2018) and Carcass (Seven Kitchens Press), as well as a full-length collection, Nightlight (Salmon Poetry, 2022). He is the founding editor of Impossible Archetype, an international journal of LGBTQ+ poetry, now in its fourth year.

Friday, March 13, 2020

CORONA THE GREAT

by David Radavich





At last, the Emperor
has no clothes!

Before, his courtiers
held up one fake
outfit upon another,

each one more ugly
than the last.

But now the nakedness
is complete—

the folds of flesh,
the missing heart,
the feet that refuse
to march, the skin
that crawls.

He becomes himself
utter and alone—

the spawn
of mirrorers
and mercenaries

who now cough
and sneeze

into oblivion.


David Radavich's latest narrative collection America Abroad: An Epic of Discovery (2019) is a companion volume to his earlier America Bound: An Epic for Our Time (2007).  Recent lyric volumes are Middle-East Mezze (2011), The Countries We Live In (2014), and the forthcoming Here's Plenty (2020).

Thursday, March 12, 2020

COMPASSION IN CHIEF

by Tricia Knoll





We lost heartfelt
in the mocking
of disabilities.

We lost empathy
with one toss of paper towels
to the devastated.

We lost all trust.
what test is beautiful
for the virus of fear?

We lost a tender voice
with respect
for the dying,

for the worry of sickness
for those of us
targeted in our chests.

We lost our trust
in the beautiful test
for the virus of fear.

We hear the echo
of amazing grace notes
in a by-gone tenor

that true Compassion in Chief.





Tricia Knoll remembers the singing of "Amazing Grace" by our last President while this one seems to think the scare of corona virus events is mostly financial.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

MOZART REQUIEM STREAMED IN A TIME OF COVID-19

by Anne Harding Woodworth




NOTE: This concert [of the Mozart Requiem] will be closed to the public; please do not attempt to visit the concert hall.
—Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, March 7, 2020


On this night of wrath and lacrymosa
the hall is hollow except for soloists,
chorus, orchestra and conductor, who,
at his back, feels eyes that aren’t there.

And at the end, when he turns to take a bow
before the crowd that has stayed away,
it’s as if he’s infected with the emptiness he sees.

The phantom audience, in its contagious silence,
offers no sound of shout or cough or applause,
no standing ovation for those who have just sung out
through an ether of airwaves to the undead.

Confutatis is understatement.

Against all advice, the conductor shakes hands
with the first violinist, who stands ready to leave
with her instrument that played flawlessly, while
the chorus begged eternal rest for whoever was not there.


Anne Harding Woodworth is the author of a six books of poetry, with a seventh appearing late this year.  Of her four chapbooks, The Last Gun won the 2016 COG Poetry Award, and an excerpt from it was subsequently animated at www.cogzine.com/watch. Harding Woodworth is a member of the Poetry Board at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, and of the Board of Governors at the Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst MA.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

IN MEMORY OF TWO HONEST MEN,
ERNESTO CARDENAL AND MY FATHER

by Penelope Scambly Schott




I am taking off my hat in prayer for Nicaragua.
I don’t have a black beret like Ernesto Cardenal’s.

I have a dark blue beret like my dead father’s beret.
It is my dead father’s beret. My father was no radical:

he was shocked to learn that a government will lie.
I’m not lying to you now: I don’t have a black beret

and I am no revolutionary. Our president keeps lying
while my trusting father lies in his grave, hatless.


Penelope Scambly Schott is a past recipient of the Oregon Book Award for Poetry. Recent books are House of the Cardamom Seed  and November Quilt.  Forthcoming is On Dufur Hill, a sequence of poems about a small (pop. 623) wheat-growing town in central Oregon.

Monday, March 09, 2020

CLEARITY

by Mark Williams


Cartoon by First Dog on the Moon


“Hello. I am Austin Baggerly and I am giving my speech
in Mrs. Colley's fourth grade class at West Park Elementary,
which you already know since you are my friends
and you are here too. Mrs. Colley said to give a speech
on something that our country needs more of.
I asked my mom what our country needs more of
and she said clearity. I asked her what is clearity
and she said the state of being clear. I asked her
which state is that and she said the blue ones. Mom says
a person can never ever be too clear. Never.
She says for example take our President who says
the first thing that comes out of his mouth only then
it is too late since it is already confusing everyone.
Like he said when it gets warm the virus will give up
and quit killing old people. I hope so cause Grandma Baggerly
is old and I do not want her to die. But how do we know
the virus does not like hot weather too? It could.
Or when he said he wants to leave the people
on the boat since that would be good for the numbers.
What does that mean? What numbers? Whose numbers?
I heard my mom on the phone telling Aunt Alice
that she is surprised to learn Mike Pence has balls.
She does not mean basketballs or baseballs eccetera.
Even golf balls. She means for once he stood up like a man
to the President and said we do not have enough tests
to see if we have the virus after the President said
we have all the beautiful tests we need. Mom says
just you wait the President will fire Mike Pence
if he keeps being clear since that is the one thing
the President is afraid of even more than the virus.
So always be clear. Also wash your hands. And
Mom says to tell your parents and grandparents
to wash their hands of the President this November.
So that virus doesn't spread too. Thank you.”


Mark Williams lives in the red but otherwise good state of Indiana. His poems and stories have appeared in The Southern Review, Rattle, New Ohio Review, Drunk Monkeys, The American Journal of Poetry, and the anthologies American Fiction and The Boom Project. His poems in response to the current administration have appeared in TheNewVerse.News, Poets Reading the News, Tuck Magazine, and WritersResist.

BUG

by Gil Hoy




I know it's not
what you want,
but I can't live
if I can't get
inside of you.
To be precise,
I'm not really living
at all. I have no cellular
organelles, no DNA.
I can't grow on my own
and require your genetic
instructions to survive.
I can't continue to multiply
and thrive outside of you. Soap
and water are my kryptonite. Is it
selfish of me to want to exist?
I pray you don't really think so.
Even if  what I have is not much
of a life. Please consider things
from my perspective. If I could,
I'd organize my fellow contagions.
Get us all together to create
a super Pac. I long to keep
the status quo. Both Biden
and Sanders, they scare me.
They listen to scientists. That
nescient man in the White House
doesn't understand what I'm about.
Which is fine with me. Think of me
as a microscopic, infective agent
just looking to blossom. Be kind,
be compassionate come November.
Let's keep our arrangement of quiet
indifference intact. Let's just leave
well enough alone.


Gil Hoy is a Boston poet, Democratic political activist, and semi-retired trial lawyer. He studied poetry at Boston University through its Evergreen program. Hoy received a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from Boston University, an M.A. in Government from Georgetown University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. He served as a Brookline, Massachusetts Selectman for four terms. Hoy’s poetry has appeared, or will be appearing, in TheNewVerse.News,  Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Tipton Poetry Journal, Chiron Review, Ariel Chart, MisfitMagazine, The Potomac, The Penmen Review, One Sentence Poems and elsewhere.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2020

by Mary K O'Melveny




Once again three old white
men will mansplain about
child care, abortion rights,
how pregnancy pratfalls
can stall a fine career.
No one questioned their
electability,
told them to lean in, smile
more. Or less. Or back off.
Be more charming. Sound less
smart. Dress up. Dress down.
Pretend their lives were not
history lessons. About
a bazillion women
know more than these guys, laugh
at their careless presumptions,
clueless, charmless speeches,
responsibility
denials.  We weep too.
Because change never takes
place.  It seems that pinky
promises are made to
be broken. Everyone is
so, so sorry.  No one
feels like celebrating.




Mary K O'Melveny is a recently retired labor rights attorney who lives in Washington DC and Woodstock NY.  Her work has appeared in various print and on-line journals. Her first poetry chapbook A Woman of a Certain Age is available from Finishing Line Press. Mary’s poetry collection Merging Star Hypotheses was published by Finishing Line Press in January, 2020.