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Sunday, May 31, 2020


by Wendy Hoffman

Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times, May 29, 2020.

The moon lifts its holy head like a sanctified queen.
Humans should not be there or leave bent over, backwards, reverent.
But competitive men are curious which they believe gives them the right.
This country, which turned away victims but
invited defeated Nazi scientists,
rips the untouchable veil from the bottom up
and ejects transparent astronauts,
stooges, sacrificed heroes.
A large striped boot print tattoos crevasses, crevices,

When I was four playing outside, a neighborhood boy twice my age or more
wanted to see me down there. He pointed his skinny finger. I squeezed my thighs
together but already trained never to say no, I watched my cotton undies fall to
my turned in ankles. The curious boy who rode his bicycle through hilly blocks
pretended to be a scientist. He inspected and had a good look.

They have a good photographic look while jobless people
on earth look up and remain hungry.
I watch rockets on TV,
hide my reddened face from our irreverence.

Wendy Hoffman had amnesia for most of her life. When she regained memory late in life, she wrote books about what she had forgotten. Karnac Books, London, published two of her memoirs in 2014 and 2015, as well as her first book of poetry in 2016. She co-authored a book of essays in 2018 for Routledge. Her third memoir is forthcoming from Aeon Books. Hoffman has a MFA and lives on the Olympic Peninsula with her little dog.


by Penelope Scambly Schott

The NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken as they made their way to the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Saturday. Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press via The New York Times, May 30, 2020

Speeches, music, drive-by
awarding of all 18 diplomas:
fire engines and ambulance
lead the noisy parade
through our small town.

I sit on my curb
raising my half-empty
mug of cold coffee
to personally congratulate
each gowned kid.

Two hours later at Canaveral
astronauts Bob and Doug
are rocketed into earth orbit.
Tomorrow they’ll meet up
with the space station.

can our 18 graduates go
in this time of quarantine
as the local wheat is rising
into small golden capsules?

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.


by Sari Grandstaff

Sari Grandstaff is a high school librarian in the Catskill Mountains/Mid-Hudson Valley of New York State. Her poetry has appeared in many print and online journals such as TheNewVerse.News, Eastern Structures, and Chronogram. During National Poetry Month 2020 her haiku was chosen to be featured by poets Danez Smith and Jane Hirshfield on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

Saturday, May 30, 2020


by Scott C. Kaestner

“A riot is the language of the unheard.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Set fire to the streets
where George Floyd
was lynched.

Blow up the notion that
being Black is punishable
by death.

Tear this motherfucker down
the blue shield enabling
these acts of terror.

Dump gas on the fire fueling
people’s fury with the futility
of having this happen again.

Another Black man slain
in the name of justice.

Another oppressor sticking his knee
into the neck of progress.

“I can’t breathe... please stop!”

Stop pretending this will get better
and won’t happen again.

“I can’t breathe... please stop!”

Stop blaming victims
and talk about systemic racism instead.

“I can’t breathe... please stop!”

Stop the insanity
and scream “no justice, no peace!”

“I can’t breathe... please stop!”

Stop playing by biased rules
fight fire with fire.

And burn

Scott C. Kaestner is a Los Angeles poet, writer, dad, husband, and former coworker to many. Google ‘scott kaestner poetry’ to peruse his musings and doings.


by Donna Katzin

In the streets of Minneapolis                                                            
fires, flashbangs rip night from slumber
as marchers breach barriers,
swell down 27th Avenue
to the Third Precinct.

From its roof, gas wrings tears
from eyes that thought
they’d cried themselves dry,
chokes lungs that burn for breath
in memory of George Floyd—
unarmed, pinned like a sacrificial lamb
by four white men in uniform                                            
for seven never-ending minutes            
while a knee to his neck slowly squeezed
the last air from lips pleading for his life,
gasping Eric Garner’s last words—
I can’t breathe.

While he worked, the cold killer stared into the camera      
of a seventeen-year old brown-skinned girl
who may never graduate from nightmares.

For black mothers, fathers, sons, daughters
terror hangs like a hungry noose.                                                                  
Never takes a vacation.
Refuses to sleep.

It’s not that every officer is a murderer.
It’s just—you never know.

Donna Katzin is the founding executive director of Shared Interest, a fund that mobilizes the human and financial resources of low-income communities of color in South and Southern Africa. A board member of Community Change in the U.S., and co-coordinator of Tipitapa Partners working in Nicaragua, she has written extensively about South Africa, community development and impact investing. Published in journals and sites including TheNewVerse.News and The Mom Egg, she is the author of With the Hands, a book of poems and photographs about post-apartheid South Africa’s process of giving birth to itself.


by Daniel Lance Patrick

Protesters confront a row of police officers outside the White House in Washington, DC, on early May 30. Photographer: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images at Bloomberg.

it rattles my windows as it picks up speed
gusting between apartments
as a wind tunnel

if I was the praying type I’d pray for the death
of the damaged leader
for what he has done and hasn’t
I wish it like a gale force

throwing what isn’t tied down

it’s not how Mama taught me—
but if there was a god it might agree

as the wind rips through the courtyard
I can hear the powerline banging against a pipe

and in all the debris that settles
I just might
find forgiveness

Daniel Lance Patrick is a poet, songwriter and musician. His poems have appeared in The Sandy River Review, The Northern New England Review, NPR, The Buffalo News, among others. He won an Emmy for his work during the London Olympics.


by Mary K O’Melveny

Larry Kramer (June 25, 1935 - May 27, 2020)

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
—epigraph to The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer
from “September 1, 1939" by W.H. Auden

Angel of agitprop.
Terror of timid times.
Shout first, schmooze later.
A shriek into skies
defeats discreet death.
Being polite never
gets appropriate attention.
Rage against the slight,
against the folded lie.
No heartbeat can stay quiet.

How we say goodbye
always matters more than
we think when the party
is on. How many names
can be embroidered on
quilts or printed in papers
before we go mad with grief
or sit stunned into silence?
Losses cannot be private
or they will mean nothing.

Quiet farewells are for sissies.
Frankly, we need more fury.
Power never changes course out
of duty. There must be shame.
We listen when wolves howl.
We may want to be loved alone
but we must act up to make
it so. The spleen is the most
important organ of the body,
next to a normal heart.

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.

Friday, May 29, 2020


The endless origination of my Black son

by Jessica M Granger

file photo

The bones of my pelvis shift like tectonic plates
to accommodate your breadth, the gap widening—
a cramping uterus expelling you in tireless
pulses, your spherical head firmly cradled
against my ischium as you peek through—
the obturator foramen at future possibilities,
but more likely pain for what I’ve made you;
the weight of you ripping my rigged pubic
symphysis in two, the way a cop may you,
you placing a foot in a notch of the iliac crest,
(but not too quickly) and heaving as you plummet—
straining as your spine slides against my sacrum,
the violence of it snapping my sacrospinous
ligament, you grabbing it with your tiny hand—
holding me together as I dislocate your shoulder;
yet you release it for your final descent, must
let me remain broken and unfixed in the bed as
you struggle to clamber in millimeters toward
your final effacement with me, your first as you—
egressing from the canal to open your aboriginal
eyes and face the predisposed world ahead of you.

Jessica M Granger is a half-Cuban, half-Portuguese writer. She holds a bilingual MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas El Paso. She is an Army veteran, divemaster, and mother who seeks to understand life by writing about it. Her work can be found in TheNewVerse.News, SHANTIH Journal, The Molotov Cocktail Magazine, As You Were, and Ruminate Magazine, among others. She currently resides in Columbus, Ohio.

Thursday, May 28, 2020


by Lynn White

A protester is seen at the area where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was pinned down by a police officer kneeling on his neck before later dying in hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. May 26, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/Eric Miller

We are being suffocated
in this society
of masks and
of family connections
and corporate interests
smothering us
with hidden pillows of power
and corruption,
of prejudice
hardly hidden
in institutions
we thought would protect us all.

We are all George Floyd potentially
behind the mask.

Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality and writes hoping to find an audience for her musings. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Peach Velvet, Light Journal and So It Goes.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


by Howie Good

I have seen them corrupt water and air, spew contagion when they speak, block the light from windows with their empty bulk. I have seen them gather armies of the deluded and the stupid, place the law in the keeping of shit-stained hands, turn away smirking from the motherless, the helpless, the lost. I have seen them obscenely rub up against dictators and corpses, reserve for themselves the best or the most, erase the last trace of truth with acid, chisels, and a blowtorch. I have seen them make a crisis of every loving gesture, a crime of every beautiful thought.

Howie Good is the author most recently of Stick Figure Opera: 99 100-word Prose Poems from Cajun Mutt Press. He co-edits the online journals Unbroken and UnLost.


by Mike LaForge

Trucks being used as temporary morgues outside the New York City Chief Medical Examiner's office on May 12. Credit: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images via The New York Times

“My Mother Died of the Coronavirus. It’s Time She Be Counted. Not having an accurate, honest, nationwide way to tally Covid-19 cases will only add to the current tragedy.” 
—Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times, May 25, 2020

The uncounted
do not clutter

they die at home

on faded sheets
damp pillows

with fever sweat
and sacrifice
they never wanted


to trouble us
with their numbers
though we shudder

over curves
elongated shapes
eloquent and flattened

we do not count
the dead
who stay at home.

Mike LaForge has worked at various times as a forklift operator, a door to door salesman, a martial arts instructor, and a teacher of English to students who use English as a second language. He currently lives near Vancouver, Canada, and has been writing poetry as a hobby for most of his life. His poetry has appeared previously on TheNewVerse.News.


by J. D. Mackenzie

Novices learn in wax and clay
Freemen with mallets use stone

When the numbers grew so large
That the Emperor declared victory
Senators looked the other way

Mounds of bodies
Too many to count—
One hundred thousand?
How could this be?

Let the record show a single letter
At least for now, at this moment
Let the victors tell their story
Until we stop this madness

J. D. Mackenzie is holding up well, if by holding up well you mean writing poems every day and desperately trying to convert classes from traditional to online for an American community college in western Oregon. He and his family live in the foothills of the Coastal Range and are quickly relearning the art of growing their own arugula. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


by John Azrak

I pull down my mask, gaze out over the Sound
the coastline asleep, buoys bare, the distant kayak’s
shell a streak of yellow paint; fog eclipses
the Throgs Neck Bridge and John Prine is on a jelly roll—
has been since I left the house—loose-limbed and impish
feeding the pigeons some clay, walking off his blues slyly
taking down the disheveled girl in the White House,
Lady Liberty, she must be, caught in an embarrassing situation
but—oh yes, John—a situation just the same. What you knew.
I take a deep breath, pull up the mask, adjust the AirPods—
two miles down, three to go—happy to walk with James Taylor
to Mexico then Carolina in his mind as I head to the Point
where across the sound Gatsby’s East Egg absent
the green light, Dylan conjuring the sun, sand, spirit breezes
of Mozambique, the pretty girls (so many) left behind
before off he is to imaginary Black Diamond Bay, storm brewing
verse to swelling verse until a volcano erupts that sinks the island,
all souls lost when I reach the inlet’s park, its empty picnic tables,
trash-bagged b-ball hoops, hooded like criminals on crosses,
deserted monkey bars: Misery loves company but not these days.
I forego my half-way bench (germs? really? maybe? fuck it)
under the curved spine of a dogwood I lean against, scroll through
the sleek Fitbit watch— number of steps, miles, calories burned,
numbers for the heart senseless, embarrassingly so, with nearly 100,000
Americans dead on trump’s watch—and I need to run, Sonny Rollins
blowing a heart thumping storm of his own, tribute to St. Thomas,
the no doubt about it Virgin Island, ancestral home of the young
saxophone colossus, upbeat Sonny, pulsating New York City Sonny,
now ninety Sonny still playing, plague be damned, what hasn’t he
faced up to? I think, climb the Vanlose Stairway in Copenhagen
with Van Morrison’s soul rollicking live in Montreux band
before the quick transfer to his Trans-Euro train—
Kilroy was here Kilroy was here Kilroy was here
flashing on walls hard driving Van picking up my pace
as I hop the Marrakesh Express, CSN”s sweet harmonies
broken by Dylan’s edgy longing (she might be in Tangiers)
the Slow Train Coming slowing me to a jog on the final bend,
John Prine coming back around, missing him as my heart races—
Hello in There, John, Hello

John Azrak lives in New York and has published fiction and poetry in a wide variety of literary journals and anthologies.


by Chad Frame

"I’ve been gay all my life and I know God is a God of love, not of hate. How can I (put) down the fisherman when I’ve been fishing all my life?” 
     —Little Richard (December 5, 1932 – May 9, 2020)

If it don’t fit, don’t force it. Can’t help it. Son,
you better watch your step. Papa put me out
of the house, curtains and makeup, cherry-

red, long hair hanging everywhere. All
around the world, the magnolia smells
sweet, and white cotton warm. You said

you loved me, went to the window, peeped
through the blind—a whole lotta shakin’, good
goddamn. How can I put down the fisherman

when I been fishing all my life? Bad luck
baby put a jinx on me—ooh! my soul!—
this land of a thousand dances. You keep on

knockin’, but you can’t hear this jukebox jumpin’.
Keep on knockin’, gonna ring your door
till I break your bell. Go, cat, go. Rip it up,

good golly, heeby jeebies. Uptempo,
directly from my heart, you call it rock & roll.
At regular tempo, you keep on knockin’,

rhythm & blues. You keep on knockin’, baby,
say you only want to dance. Well, alright.
Come on over, baby—but you can’t come in.

Chad Frame’s work appears in Rattle, Mom Egg Review, Barrelhouse, Rust+Moth, and other journals and anthologies, as well as on iTunes from the Library of Congress. He is the Director of the Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program and Poet Laureate Emeritus of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the Poetry Editor of Ovunque Siamo: New Italian-American Writing, a founding member of the No River Twice poetry improv performance troupe, and founder of the Caesura Poetry Festival and Retreat.

Monday, May 25, 2020


by Scot Ehrhardt

To my seniors in Literature and Composition class, Spring 2020

You aren’t alone in missing milestones.
I had a kickass poetry unit planned for April
that might have changed the way you existed
in the world--at least, the world before.

I’m not sure what you did learn. Maybe
that rites-of-passage bend and blear,
walking an evening labyrinth in
a poorly-made gown. Maybe
that Patience is too timid a virtue,
that you should have held prom early—
on the driveway of your first love,
something acoustic on Bluetooth—
and danced in the bursting light of forsythia.
You could have touched someone longer,
when people touched.

Bluetooth is the opposite of poetry.
You would have learned that in April.

I’m afraid to open the door again,
to a preserved mid-March classroom—
what papers I left, the withered
potted plants, the perfunctory chalk
message that was supposed to be read
by you, who have long since moved on
and maybe understood something new
this April, though it won’t be poetry,
not like it would have been from me.

Scot Ehrhardt writes and teaches in Baltimore, MD. His first collection of poetry One of Us Is Real was published in 2016. He has appeared in Little Patuxent Review, Tidal Basin Review, Switchgrass Review, and Lines + Stars. He supervises two journals for young writers: The Mill and Lexophilia.


by Sharon Olson

I was seventy-one and still counting
when I counted the grocery bags arriving
at my front door, each one labelled
I guess for the shopper’s convenience,
some mnemonic only he had derived,
Poems 1 of 8, Poems 2 of 8, and so forth,
and they were like poems, each item
of slightly different size and voice,
tuna can haikus next to sonnets of milk.

I chalked it up to coincidence, until
the next week new bags came, this time
marked Lyric 1 of 7, Lyric 2 of 7, so
we knew we were in some sort of
telepathic, telegrammatic finger-
tapping sync-apathy, as if he knew
I must write poems and would eat
to write them, not eating words
but snippets of lyric, edible syllables.

The market has stipulated one week
between orders, and I am as I said
earlier seventy-one and still counting.
And so I find myself wondering
what the next code will bring, what
subliminal message my messenger
will write to signal our connection.
He must be a poet, too, composing
behind the front lines and so essential.

Sharon Olson is a retired librarian, 71 and still counting. Her book The Long Night of Flying was published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2006. Her second book Will There Be Music? was published by Cherry Grove Collections in 2019. She lives in Lawrenceville, New Jersey where along with everyone else she waits it out. Her grocery bags truly did arrive marked as mentioned in the poem.

Sunday, May 24, 2020


by Katherine West

An abandoned corpse wrapped in plastic and covered with cardboard lies on a sidewalk in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on April 6. —CNN

There is wind but no water
After a truck drives by the dust
Takes a long time to settle
Bushes along the road are not green
Bushes along the path
In the evening
Are more than green
Burning bushes all of them
They are the prophets
The saints
The messiah

Orange butterflies
On yellow daisies
Are psalms

The hundred birds at dawn

And the dust?
And the drought?
The dying
Lined up outside hospitals
In Guayaquil?

The fires?
Burning before houses
Signal fires
So someone will come
Pick up the dead

Carry them away
To heaven
Seraphim and cherubim
And hymns
And again the birds
At dusk
The elegy of the thrush

And you limping
And me listening
And sapling shadows long across the path
Like a gate

Katherine West lives in Southwest New Mexico, near the Gila Wilderness, where she writes poetry about the soul-importance of wilderness, performs it with her musician husband, Yaakov, and teaches seasonal poetry workshops that revolve around "wilderness writing."  She has written three collections of poetry: The Bone Train, Scimitar Dreams, and Riddle, as well as one novel, Lion Tamer.  Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Lalitamba, Bombay Gin, and TheNewVerse.News  which recently nominated her poem "And Then the Sky" for a Pushcart Prize.

Saturday, May 23, 2020


by Jimmy Pappas

Source: Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

Because of this I will weep and wail; I will go about barefoot and naked. I will howl like a jackal and moan like an owl. —Micah 1:8


the page of a book
            can be a leaf
                        can be a butterfly wing

a book in a college dormitory
            on a Saturday night
                        with a young man studying

can be a starting line
            can be a point of departure
                        can be a loaded gun


closing a book
            on a young man studying
                        can be a wormhole

to travel across
            the United States
                         to California

to Vietnam
            to Cambodia
                        to death


I closed the book
on a young man

A bit of light air
grazed my cheek,
pushed me along.

The weight of air
at sea level is 14.7
pounds per square inch,

but what is
            the weight of air
                         with friendship?


How does a young man studying plead?

Like this: Please, guys, I'm in trouble.
I'm gonna flunk out. I need to study.
Please let me do this.

How does a young man ignore his friend's plea?

Like this: Come on, Man. It's Saturday night.
We're going to party. You can study tomorrow.
There's always time.


How do you close a book on a friend who is studying?
Do what I did: Just take the cover and flip it over.


What makes a breeze?
            The warm air of friendship rises.
            The cold air of ignorance settles.


The breeze moved us through an evening of drinking,
through a day of lounging around until thinking became
exhaustion, became another day of forgetting
until you left us and we forgot about what we did.


pages of a book are many butterfly wings


a chance encounter in a Greyhound bus station

you had the smell
            of fear and death

my friend told you not to go
but you were not one to stir a breeze


On May 23rd, 1970, I saw a giant beetle
lying in a Saigon gutter on its back
struggling with its legs to turn over.

That evening I made love to my girl friend
while you were humping the boonies in Cambodia.


I don't know what the breeze told me that night,
but I did know it would always be there at my back.

It whispered in my ear,

                        butterfly wings are leaves

                        leaves of a book are butterfly wings

Something happened. I didn't know what it was.


When I learned about your death,
I could not understand one thing:

How could anyone
            have expected you
                        to kill another human?


I wear my military jacket to get in the mood.
I find your name on the Wall.

I place my
            right knee
            on the ground
I place my
            left arm on
            my left knee

In my right hand I hold a piece of paper
with a handwritten couplet on it:

Over the distance of 10,000 miles I heard your cry
of how very very much you did not want to die.

I set the paper down at the base of the Wall.
I rested my forehead on my arms. I could not pray.
I wanted to cry, but I was unable to.
Instead, I looked up and stared at my reflection.
I placed two fingers against your name on the Wall.

Behind me, elementary school children on field trips
ran through the grass laughing. They have not yet learned
that the world they see today will not be the same world
tomorrow. A breeze will blow and carry them along.
Today they do not understand, tomorrow they will.
They will feel the breeze and understand the butterfly.

One young boy who hangs back,
                        by all the noise,
reminds me of George Fell,
            who must have been
            the gentlest soldier
            who ever lived.

Jimmy Pappas served in South Vietnam during the war as an English instructor with South Vietnamese soldiers in helicopter training. At the same time, George Fell, his friend from college, died in the incursion into Cambodia on May 23, 1970. On that day, commanders announced the death of 190 American soldiers, 500 South Vietnamese soldiers, and 8,000 "enemy troops" in what was described as a "success." One day, several years before that, Jimmy and his friends closed a book on George while he was studying one Saturday night. George flunked out of school, and their paths went in different directions. To this day, George's college friends still love him.

Friday, May 22, 2020


by Katherine M. Clarke


Our puppy arrives, six pounds
of squirming golden fluff chirping and burrowing
under my arm, trembling against my breast.

I reach back to my mother’s knee to find
what I’ve forgotten I know, singing
knick-knack paddy whack give the dog a bone

and nestle him into his crate with Mr. Krinkle
whose face he chews off but who still obligingly rustles,
offering rope hands and feet to gnaw on in the night.

As pandemic chaos reigns outside, love grows inside,
my beloved Lily handling and tending this small body
bursting into life, insisting on what he wants and needs

tired or not, frightened or not, a life counting on her.
She walks softly in stocking feet to feel him underfoot
to know when he races over her toes to hide.

Scooped up Micah rides high along her arm,
a pasha attended by his servant.
Firsts abound—sleeping through the night,

tasting snow, eating grass, throwing up.
Accepting a collar and lead as she hustles
him out the side door to the yard.

Victory, cheering, applause. Relief for both.
No need for social distance as the lord of all wriggliness
plays with Delores, a stuffed sheep, and Road-Kill Buzzy,

the flat woodchuck toy. A spiky rubber teething ring
on the shower curtain spread over the living room rug
as if a sphere of the virus had leapt from the television

screen filled with images of tents and stadiums for hospitals
warehouses loaded with coffins, trucks filled with bodies
while we shelter at home, grateful, joy strewn all around.

Katherine M. Clarke is a professor emeritus of Antioch University New England. Her essays and poetry have appeared in Writing it Real, Breath and Shadow, Wordgathering, Oasis, The Sun Magazine, and Northern New England Review.


by Anne Myles

A Laredo man living in Iowa is critically ill with COVID-19, and thanks to a co-worker who refused to give up, he has reconnected with his family. "I just feel like I made a Facebook post, answered a few messages and calls, but it was everyone's efforts that came together. It was the small things that added up to one big thing and that was getting to find Jose's family." Zach Medhaug and Jose Ayala, a Laredo native, are among the dozens of Tyson employees who tested positive for COVID-19 after an alleged outbreak at their Waterloo, Iowa facility. —, May 4, 2020

there’s a wild, forgotten greenbelt
wrapping the creeks for miles.
The trees are close and full of quiet;
they open to still mirror pools.
Breath, footsteps, birdsong,
deer-dash, otter-splash.
In May, a sea of Virginia bluebells,
light purplish spume above deep leaves,
floods the woods to the edge of sight.

In Waterloo we watch the waves
of a century’s migrations break:
Black, Mexican, Bosnian,
Burmese, Congolese, Micronesian.
City of refugees and of no refuge,
city of industries here and gone
where the remnant of Rath Packing
still looms downtown, a darkened shell.
Scarred city river-riven—east side,
west side—half-sutured by ten bridges,
the Cedar silted, shallow, shining.

In Waterloo four green goddesses
from atop a long-demolished courthouse
cling to the brick roof of River Plaza:
Agriculture, Science, Justice, Knowledge.
They pose, holding vague implements,
blank faces still, almost compassionate.
Their skin burns hot in prairie sun.


In Waterloo, at the far edge of town,
sprawls the Tyson plant. Neighbors
of many languages work side by side
in the chill, the clang, the cutting, the flesh,
the coughing, the fevers, the fear.
The line for testing coils around the lot;
over a thousand positive, they’re living
the consequences of all that makes us.

At Tyson, maintenance worker Zach
made friends with self-contained José.
Zach got the virus but was barely sick;
José’s ventilated and unresponsive.
Zach calls every day to talk to him,
play music. He posted José’s picture
and found his family back in Laredo.
They’re fighting for him together now
in Waterloo, not giving up faint hope.

The plant closed, but has reopened.
Outside, the typical scraggly rally.
We line up by the drive at shift-change,
waving, holding signs: Protect Workers.
Estamos Con Ustedes. Capitalism
is the Pandemic. Through car windows
masked faces glance back quickly,
difficult to read. A few hands lift.
We hear faint screaming: pigs or gears?
Grass flares, the sky throbs blue,
everything’s sliced hard against it.


And now a long-ago lover phones
to ask if I’m okay. She’s seen Waterloo
on Maddow, CNN. I say I’m fine,
safe as can be. I tell her walking
the trails here makes me happy.
I tell her I see my privilege;
I didn’t even know about the plant
twelve minutes from my house.
I try to explain, it’s like I married
a city instead of a person, so far
from where I started, my own diaspora,
but after decades I still don’t know it.
I say, it’s more than what you hear.
I say, our bluebells are so beautiful.

Anne Myles retired from the University of Northern Iowa, where she was an Associate Professor of English. She is working on an MFA in poetry at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her poems have appeared in journals including North American Review, Friends Journal, Lavender Review, Gyroscope Review, Green Briar Review, and Whale Road Review.

Thursday, May 21, 2020


by Randy Brown

with language borrowed and adapted from the U.S. Army “Soldier’s Manual of Common Tasks” (Skill Level 2)

In this DOD photo from 2012, “Bushmaster” soldiers receive refresher training on the proper wear of the field protective mask and the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology protective garment, and gain confidence in their equipment by unmasking in a gas chamber at Fort Stewart, GA. Photo by Sgt. Mary Katzenberger

“Some reopening states are already claiming victory over the coronavirus. 
But the real consequences won’t be clear for weeks.” 
The Atlantic, May 15, 2020

Note: Before conducting unmasking procedures,
make every effort to otherwise confirm
the absence of contamination.

Note: The senior person present selects one or two
soldiers to unmask.

Note: It is best to disarm the people selected
prior to ordering them to unmask.

Conduct unmasking procedures in the shade.

Direct selected individuals to each take a deep breath,
to break the seals of their masks (keeping their eyes open)
for 15 seconds, and to then again seal and clear their masks.

Observe for 10 minutes.

If no symptoms appear, direct the individuals
to unmask for 5 minutes
and to then again don, seal, and clear their masks.

Observe for 10 minutes.

If no symptoms appear, direct everyone to unmask.

“All-clear.” Go back to work. “Re-open the economy.”
Shake hands. Get a haircut. Kiss.

Observe for delayed symptoms.

Note: You might have to wait a couple of weeks
just to be sure.

Randy Brown embedded with his former Iowa Army National Guard unit as a civilian journalist in Afghanistan, May-June 2011. A 20-year veteran with one overseas deployment, he subsequently authored the 2015 poetry collection Welcome to FOB Haiku: War Poems from Inside the Wire. He also co-edited the 2019 anthology Why We Write: Craft Essays on Writing War. As “Charlie Sherpa,” he blogs about war poetrycivil-military discourse, and military-themed writing.


by William Aarnes

At protests, mostly white crowds show how pandemic has widened racial and political divisions. —Los Angeles Times, May 8, 2020

“The seeming needs of my fool-driven land”

. . . the need to flock
to beaches, to swarm

into parks, the need
to hear a preacher

in person, to crush
together in bars . . .

the need to fear
the foreigner, to toy

with the facts, the need
to exploit the poor,

to be free of caring
about the dying . . .

the need to brandish
a weapon, to rally

in support of a fool . . .

William Aarnes lives in South Carolina.


by Kate Bradley-Ferrall

My cottony bra arrived yesterday, flattened
in a limp, black bag an essential worker delivered.
I chose the sporty one because it had the most positive reviews
about relaxing and staying-at-home.
Five stars for comfort.
Light. Soft.
Minimal support is fine right now.
Hardly anyone sees me below the neck these days.
This Zoom-worthy bra barely cradles my weighty breasts,
which I refuse to call “the girls.”
Why do people call them that? Mine have been
squashed, tugged, suckled, bitten, stroked, and adored,
the work of many years of strength and wisdom,
not of flippant schoolgirls giggling in sunlight,
their own breasts small puffs beneath fresh, white blouses.
Today my hardened bust heaves
at the thought of you dying alone.
And I feel guilt for lounging
in an optional heather-blue bra,
while a stiff mask cups your nose and mouth,
and an invisible weight crushes your chest
in a stagnant darkness that binds
you to an unfamiliar bed.

Kate Bradley-Ferrall is staying inside with her wife, two daughters, and her quarantining mother. A former award-winning television producer and scriptwriter, her creative work has been published in The Colorado Review, Sick Lit and children's magazines. She currently walks her dogs. A lot.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


by Deirdre Fagan

The two vigilantes in their pickup chase Ahmaud Arbery whom they eventually kill.


We real cops. We
Pop pops. We

Shoot straight. We
Leak lead. We

Trim thin. We
Spin sin. He

Die soon. We
Gain fame.

Deirdre Fagan is a widow, wife, mother of two, and associate professor and coordinator of creative writing in the English, Literature, and World Languages Department at Ferris State University. Fagan is the author of a chapbook of poetry Have Love published by Finishing Line Press. Her poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and academic essays on poetry, memoir, and pedagogy are available in various creative and academic print and online journals and collections.


by Betsy Mars

Ahmaud Arbery falls to the ground after being shot.

When you want a commodity, a spokesman,
team spirit, sales soaring, think fast,
think brawn, think black.

Think pounding pavement. Think
of those hard-earned calves jumping
on command. Think of a casket.

I mean a basket. A hoop, rope
hanging from its neck.
Think of a shot, circling the rim,

going down as the buzzard, I mean
buzzer, ends the game. If you train off-court
or just enjoy a runner's high, I'm sorry.

Be prepared to run, to shoulder the blame—
a steal from behind—as your muscles
strain, push off on defense. Find the hole,

cut inside. Man-to-man or zone, you don't
stand a chance. They've got the big guns,
the refs in their pocket.

Betsy Mars is a prize-winning poet, educator, photographer, and recent publisher whose first release, Unsheathed: 24 Contemporary Poets Take Up the Knife, came out in October 2019. Her work has appeared in Kissing Dynamite, The Blue Nib, Poetry Super Highway, and Rattle (photography), to name a few, as well as in a number of anthologies. Her first chapbook Alinea (Picture Show Press), came out in January 2019. Her father was a professor and her mother was a social worker, and their progressive beliefs as well as her childhood years in Brazil deeply influenced her values. Her passions are language, travel, and animals; the latter two often conflict as her pets prefer she stay at home. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


by George Salamon

Protest on 23 April against the Trump administration’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters via The Guardian.

"Faced with an appalling US coronavirus death toll, the right denies the figures."
The Guardian, May 15, 2020

After close to 90,000 in our land
Have been buried or burned, the
World remains as it is. You grasp
What is essential: They are dead.
Shunning theatrical shallowness or
Surrendering to the lure of eternity,
You seek earthly innocence.

George Salamon does his mourning in St. Louis, MO and most recently has contributed to The Asses of Parnassus, Dissident Voice, and TheNewVerse.News.


by Jasmine Kitses

Photo by RYAN REMIORZ/THE CANADIAN PRESS via The Globe and Mail (Canada)

If taking a nap means
if the whole sky
            lets go of its corners
if you feel empty
        for no reason
                                for no reason—

if we could
let ourselves
be riveted
to this          
very moment

Jasmine Kitses is a poet from San Francisco.


by Barbara Simmons

Build-up, they call it, the slow accretion colorless
at first. Later I guess you’d think my teeth had bathed
in egg yolk if I’d let it go that far. Especially if I were smiling today.
But today, I’m not thinking recession as in my gums, but as in
our economy, how the graphs display the V’s that look like troughs
not mountains. Feels too much like my slackline has no anchors,
that I’ll be eternally between, above, not able to begin or end. Reminds
me of those hemlines we called handkerchief, the 70’s loved them, I
loved them, made me feel that I was whirling standing still. More standing
still on stars or footprints or just blue tape lined up outside Target
or the post office, I’m wondering if last night’s dreams are still available,
shelved someplace, line forming here, I’d even pay for their retrieval. Lost
moments, lines breaking up. I’m back inside my mouth, imagining what they’ll
find after I’m beyond words. Not anything as artful as the lapus lazuli
the 1000-year old teeth held, medieval teeth, medieval scribe, medieval woman
breathing in the bright blue pigment, licking her brush while blue began
its residence in her mouth. What would my mouth hold—a piece of jasmine rice,
the inhalation of surprise and joy, the drupelets of a final raspberry, the
exhalation of all the lines I’d thought about and haven’t had a chance to write.

Barbara Simmons grew up in Boston, now resides in San Jose, California—the two coasts inform her poetry. A graduate of Wellesley College, she received an MA in The Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins. As a secondary school English teacher, she loved working with students who inspired her to think about the many ways we communicate. Retired, she savors smaller parts of life and language, exploring words as ways to remember, envision, celebrate, mourn, and, always, to try to understand more about being and living and expressing her identity and human-ity. Publications have included, among others, The Quince, Santa Clara Review, Hartskill Review, Boston Accent,  TheNewVerse.News, Soul-Lit, 300 Days of Sun, Capsule Stories: Isolation Edition and Perspectives on KQED, the NPR local affiliate. 


Eugène Delacroix: “Ovid among the Scythians,” 1862. (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Damian Balassone is an Australian poet whose work has appeared in over 100 publications, most notably in The New York Times.  He is the author of three volumes of poetry, including Strange Game in a Strange Land.

Monday, May 18, 2020


by Ellen Austin-Li

I speak to my son through a wooden door, his bedroom a quarantine zone, Day 12. 

His brilliant smile hides behind a mask. I pine to hold him. I leave his favorite food by the door: Ramen with two eggs, yokes poked open with chopsticks. and a dollop of hot sesame oil, yellow cake with sweetened condensed milk (like NiNi makes), cinnamon tea with honey. One bathroom extends his bunker. I am too afraid to enter to clean. If this is Coronavirus, it’s too late for his brother and so for us all, as he showers there. Sooner or later we’ll all get it—a cavalier cloak covers my husband's fear. He is on the Crisis Airway Team at the hospital. Back in my burn-nurse days, I learned to be strict with gloves, scrubs, gowns, masks. We have broken technique. Don’t you answer the call to work, he said in a naked moment. If I don’t make it, someone has to be alive for the boys. We are broken. Day 12 and my husband finally agrees. We are not a safe house. I text my son about the bag of Cadbury Mini-Eggs I laid on the floor outside his door.

Ellen Austin-Li is an award-winning poet published in Artemis, Writers Tribe Review, The Maine Review, Mothers Always Write, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Masque & Spectacle, Green Briar Review, Panoply, and other places. Her first poetry chapbook Firefly was published by Finishing Line Press in 2019. Ellen is a student at the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.


by Michael Mark

I danced in my house, every room, Watusied
into the cul-de-sac, in my neighbors’ yards,
driving dogs mad, setting off alarms. I Twisted
and shimmied, broke it down home-style to
the blasts, screeches, and wails for my neighbors
in their afternoon pjs, who banged on their windows,
flipped the finger, pointed pistols, semis, until
their yelling and banging turned into yodeling
and bumping and they switched on their entertainment
systems and danced in their living rooms with me
on their lawns. We danced at a safe distance, masks
on. They must’ve thought, This is kinda marvelous.
I danced on the runways and on the one plane cleared
to fly me to my sick dad. I danced for the captain
and I danced in the hospital where my 94 year old pop
was able to—to the gasps of the ICU nurses, whom I
waltzed with—raise a finger and conduct the band
in my head and we held hands so he wasn’t alone,
scared, and he felt I was a good son.


Here’s what really happened: I abided by the edict,
stayed in, ate canned soup, rationed toilet paper,
washed my hands with soap while I sang songs
for two full minutes, sang to make sure I didn’t skimp,
sudsing conscientiously to rub those viral germs away,
adhering to the officials, and to keep from getting bored
I danced to the song I sang in the bathroom, even while
I dried. I danced in my house, and in my neighbors’
yards. I Boogalooed in the grocery with the elderly,
the most vulnerable, like my dad, in New York, alone,
94, who I can’t be with, and we danced in the oatmeal aisle,
cookie aisle, the Depends aisle, the pet food aisle.
They knew all the steps and we wore masks and gloves
and I took them by their tiny hands and we twirled
and twirled.

Michael Mark’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Copper Nickel, Michigan Quarterly Review, Salamander, Salt Hill Journal, The Southern Review, The New York Times, The Sun, Waxwing, The Poetry Foundation's American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily. He’s the author of two books of stories including Toba and At the Hands of a Thief (Atheneum). @michaelgrow


by Earl J Wilcox

Early this morning just after the sun
begins its day in our neighborhood

two elderly men arrive in their
little white truck, its bed hauling

shovels, axes, a pick or two, wheel-
barrow, assorted rakes—and their

little black boom box. They are here
to whale away at a big patch of wild

weeds and grass I need defeated from
my front yard. I sit on my porch step,

not to oversee because they have known
for all their lives how to work against

weeds and other stubborn growth.
The pandemic is no match for these

two whose social distancing may not
suit the virus gurus. As they dig and

rake and haul away their talk animates,
fills the air—hardy laughs, grunts

accompany tugs against tough grass.
pauses to wipe a brow, massaging

a calloused hand, back stretching.
In their galaxy today, the antibody

is talk mixed with dollops of country
music, occasional arias of southern

gospel plus a local car salesman still
hawking the best deals in town.

Earl Wilcox is reopening his back yard to squirrels, robins, and cotton tail rabbits. Early worms show up at their own risk.


by Joan Colby

Postal workers at the Bemus Point NY Post Office behind a new partition, designed to keep customers and staff safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Jim Wehrfritz for the Post Journal (Jamestown NY).

We eye each other warily
Above our masks
Keeping our social distance.

Is this the one, this guy in the tan jacket,
This woman holding a package in gloved hands,
This older man limping with a cane,
This teenager whose mask keeps slipping?

This one? The super spreader of a virus
Unknown to its carrier, asymptomatic.
The one whose contaminated breath
Floats a particle toward us.
Who can we trust? The employee
At the post office desk behind a plastic shield,
The stockers in the grocery aisle unloading cases
Of gingerale or flavored tea.

We hurry in and out of wherever
People gather, even though they obey
The taped lines—six feet? It’s said the virus
Can ride the airways for hours or days
Or months or years, who knows?

Everything we’re told is uncertain,
Hopeful, bold or despairing.
We hasten away from those
Who might somehow touch us.

Joan Colby’s Selected  Poems received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize, and Ribcage was awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Her recent books include Carnival from FutureCycle Press, The Seven Heavenly Virtues from Kelsay Books and Her Heartsongs from Presa Press. Her latest book is Joyriding to Nightfall from FutureCycle Press.