Archives for posts with tag: frontline workers

licensed Thomas Carlson
Thank you to the 66 authors from 10 countries and 20 states who participated in the Silver Birch Press PRIME MOVERS Series, which ran from August 28 through October 4, 2020. We extend our appreciation to the writers who expressed their appreciation to essential workers keeping the world moving during the pandemic—or those who would be doing so if they were still with us! Many thanks to…

Janet Banks
Roberta Beary
Shelly Blankman
Rose Mary Boehm
Mary Camarillo
Stephanie Campitelli
Tricia Marcella Cimera
Joe Cottonwood
Howard Richard Debs
Vandita Dharni
Julie Dickson
Dakota Donovan
Sheila A. Donovan
Margaret Duda
Barbara Eknoian
Attracta Fahy
Jennifer Finstrom
Beth Fox
S.M. Geiger
Vince Gotera
Anita Haas
Bridget Harris
Donna Hilbert
Stephen Howarth
Marilyn Humbert
Joseph Johnston
Tricia Knoll
Michelle Kogan
Judy Kronenfeld
Tom Lagasse
Jennifer Lagier
Joan Leotta
Rick Lupert
Marjorie Maddox
Ruthie Marlenée
Betsy Mars
Mary McCarthy
Joan McNerney
Eileen Mish Murphy
Mari Ness
Cristina M.R. Norcross
Jay Passer
Roger Patulny
Marianne Peel
Rosalie Sanara Petrouske
Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad
Patrick T. Reardon
Jeannie E. Roberts
Sarah Russell
Paul Ruth
Wilderness Sarchild
Carol A. Stephen
Dana St. Mary
Leslie Sittner
JC Sulzenko
Ann Christine Tabaka
Jo Taylor
Alarie Tennille
Mary Langer Thompson
Cruz Villarreal
Smitha Vishwanath
Alan Walowitz
Kelley White
Lisa Wiley
Jonathan Yungkans
Joanie HF Zosike

PHOTO: U.S. Post Office worker, Bisbee, Arizona (April 2020) by Thomas Carlson, used by permission.

by Patrick T. Reardon

Blessed are the dead and the dying.
Blessed, the mourn-filled good-byes
to loves behind glass, behind walls.

Blessed the neighborhoods of pain,
grief communities, lightning-struck homes,
annunciations of the Angel of Death.

Blessed are the respiratory technicians,
nurses, doctors, lab pathologists.
Blessed, the women and men who clean hospital floors.

Blessed are the unhealthy, the aimless,
lost souls, lone hearts, stunted, scarred,
the poor, rich in afflictions.

Blessed, those ascending stairs, entering vestibules,
with groceries, with medicines,
long days, dangerous.

Blessed are those who protect, those who care.
Blessed, those who drive the buses,
masked and vulnerable.

Blessed are those who stay home to save lives,
who can stay home, selfish in their selflessness,
wanting to live, not wanting others to die.

Blessed, the children who know how to adapt.
Blessed, the babies, innocent of the fear
of the invisible invader.

Blessed, the makers of hard decisions.
Blessed, the disease detectives.
Blessed, the inspirers, the hope-sters, the up-lifters.

Blessed are those who bloom in the whirlwind,
who are brave before mysteries,
who embrace living.

Blessed are the dead and the dying,
the courageous and the hand-holders.
Blessed, us, one and all.

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Blessed” was originally published in Third Coast Review in April 2020, when the pandemic was still somewhat new.  The poem was an attempt to encompass a great amount, particularly the inequality of death that has resulted. Alas, the sadness and fear of those early days, and the inequality, are still with us.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon, who has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, is the author of nine books, including the poetry collection Requiem for David  and the history The Loop: The “L” Tracks That Shaped and Saved Chicago. His poetry has appeared in Burningwood Literary Journal, Esthetic Apostle, Ground Fresh Thursday, Literary Orphans, Rhino, Spank the Carp, Main Street Rag, The Write Launch, Meat for Tea, Silver Birch Press, UCity Review, and Under a Warm Green Linden. His memoir in prose poems Puddin: The Autobiography of a Baby is to be published in 2021 by Third World Press.

dentist office
Dismantling a Mouth
by Betsy Mars

First, survey the surrounding areas:
forehead temperature, check;
hands, sanitized;
oxygen saturation adequate;
no contact with suspicious persons.
No recent travels to foreign lands.
Remove the mask. Swish
with hydrogen peroxide for a minute,
spit into a vacuum which sucks
any danger away. Now for x-rays.
The room is prepared, purified air.
The technician hovers, shielded
and gloved, protected from poisons
which might leach from the soil
of your mouth. Another cone covers
the air immediately above your face,
sealing the area from any contaminants
escaping your mouth, as she scrapes,
picks, excavates. Finally satisfied,
she polishes, making teeth shine —
a bright clean smile
rarely seen these days
as you replace your mask.

PHOTO: Dr. Carolyn Doherty and dental hygienist Stephanie.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I recently went for a dental cleaning and checkup, though I had been wary about going. They assured me on the phone that they had all kinds of procedures in place and I was really impressed with all that they had done to assure that it was as safe as possible. Despite all that, I was thinking about the dedication and courage it takes to get up close and personal with someone’s mouth (outside of household mouths) these days, and the thought occurred to me that it was like diffusing a bomb or walking through a minefield, though I mean no disrespect to people who do those jobs, and I certainly don’t really feel it’s comparable. Still, there is an element of risk now in such intimate work, and I feel very appreciative of their willingness to do it. My gums and teeth are very grateful for the overdue attention.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Betsy Mars is a poet, photographer, and an occasional publisher. She founded Kingly Street Press and published her first anthology Unsheathed: 24 Contemporary Poets Take Up the Knife in October 2019. Her work has recently appeared in The Blue NibLive Encounters, and The New Verse News. Her chapbook Alinea was released in January 2019. In the Muddle of the Night, her collection written with Alan Walowitz, is coming soon from Arroyo Seco Press. Visit her at, and find her on Facebook and on Twitter.

castaldostudio licensed

stephen text

Photo by Castaldo Studio, used by permission. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have advanced kidney disease, which also causes anemia. I have to monitor my hemoglobin on a regular basis. Last year, an internal bleed sent me to the hospital for almost two months. When I learned two weeks ago that my hemoglobin had dropped very low again, I immediately thought “Here we go again!” But the idea of going anywhere near a hospital right now was frightening too. Usually, they want a referral at the hospital, but this time, thanks to the wonderful nurse who took my urgent call, I was taken right away.  I spent about eight hours there altogether, but it would have been much longer in normal times. The wait is not usually five minutes; it is usually several hours. I cannot thank the staff at the hospital enough for their care, their professionalism, and for the way they put themselves on the line every day. At no time did I ever feel at risk, other than from my own body!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol A. Stephen’s poetry appears in Poetry Is Dead, June 2017, and numerous print publications, including Wintergreen Studios chapbooks, Sound Me When I’m Done and Teasing the Tongue. Online poems appear at Silver Birch Press, Topology Magazine, The Light Ekphrastic, and With Painted Words.  She won third prize in the CAA National Capital Writing Contest, and was featured in Tree’s Hot Ottawa Voices.  She served on the board for Canadian Authors Association-NCR and co-directed Ottawa’s Tree Reading Series. She has five chapbooks, two released in 2018 — Unhook, catkin press, Carleton Place, and Lost Silence of the Small, Local Gems Press, Long Island, NY.  In 2019, Winning the Lottery, Surviving Clostridium Difficile was published by Crowe Visit her blog at

woraphon banchobdi licensed

The Caregiver
by Alarie Tennille

I’m wearing a mask
like I’m part of the medical team.

For the second time
in three days,
I’m sitting on a gurney,
watching my blood pressure creep up, up, up
on a monitor
as I’m prepped
for surgery. Try taking
deep breaths.
No help.

Then she arrives
with her I’m here for you smile
and reassuring hand on my arm.
“Would you like a warm blanket?”

Nothing short of waving a magic wand
could be better. Why must operating
rooms be icy? She tucks me in.

In my mind, she’s the same nurse
who went through the same steps
48 hours ago, but I know she isn’t.
Slowly and clearly she explains
what will happen next. Asks,
“Any questions?”

She sees me –
an intelligent human being,
a rational adult who minutes ago
felt like a weepy five-year-old,
but who now wants to show
this mom surrogate
how brave I can be.

Photo by Woraphon Banchobdi, used by permission. 

Tennille Poet of the High Seas copy

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As my poem indicates, the wonderfully efficient and calming nurse represented her type. The nurse I had two days earlier also performed her job like I was the only person needing her complete attention in that moment. I’m sure they told me their names, but I wasn’t in any shape to remember those. If either one happens to see this, I hope they’ll feel the gratitude. You can tell from my recent photo what part of me required surgeries, though I’ve been having fun telling people I’ve joined a pirate’s crew. For those curious to know the real story, let’s just say I knew it wasn’t going to be a routine cataract removal. The nearly two-hour operation resulted in complications requiring a second, longer, emergency surgery and a much longer recovery period. It’s been several months now, and I’m just starting to feel human again, but wear the patch to spare you.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alarie Tennille graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place. Her latest poetry collection is Waking on the MoonHer first collection, Running Counter Clockwise, was first runner-up for the Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence (both books available on Amazon). She was recently honored to receive a 2020 Fantastic Ekphrastic Award from The Ekphrastic Review. Please visit her at to check out her blog and learn more about her writing.


At the Hospital
by Leslie Sittner

The ambulance pulls into a dedicated emergency bay, and I’m carefully and quietly unloaded and wheeled into the small receiving area—no waiting room! The EMTs give my information to a masked person who wheels me into an adjacent private room. Everywhere it is quiet. Lights dim. Barely audible footfalls. No frantic, frenzied, dramatic emergencies. Everyone covered in fresh-looking PPE. I realize that I’ve done the right thing. I relax a bit. Soon the various nurses and eventually the physician attend to my three broken nasal blood vessels with calm reassuring descriptions of the next procedural steps. Three super-sanitary hours later, I am released with protocols to follow-up with an ENT for a TeleHealth visit.

This frightening emergency event was treated with the most personal and caring attention and best professional efforts that anyone could hope to experience.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Unloaded at one dedicated ambulance ER bay.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Not only do we honor our first responders for their bravery and service but all family, friends, and neighbors deserve our gratitude for their generosity, care, and concern. My neighbor retrieved me from the hospital and brought me safely home; her husband calmed the dog, let her out, and fed her after cleaning and disinfecting the bathroom and putting the bloody towels in the washer to soak.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Hospital lawn sign acknowledging all within.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner’s print works are available in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press (2016 -17-18-19-21), Adirondack Life Magazine, BraVa anthology, and read on NPR. Online poems and prose reside at unearthed, Silver Birch Press, 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, 50 Word Stories, Epic Protest Poems, and Adirondack Center for Writing. A collection of essays about European travels with her ex-husband in the late 1960s awaits publishing. She is currently editing the memoir written by her ancient dog while compiling her own book of haiku with photographs.


by Leslie Sittner

Sitting quietly at the computer writing,
blood explodes from my nose onto the desk.
Racing to bathroom sink to rinse off,
blood pulses, pumps into pools.
It doesn’t stop. I pinch the nose sweet spot, head back.
10 minutes, 20 minutes, it doesn’t stop. Stress.
What do I do? Fearing a hospital visit, knowing I can’t drive myself
I grab another towel, head tilted back, stumble to the neighbors.
They call an ambulance, escort me back home.
The dog is racing around room to room, inside, outside
confused, afraid from the tumult. Stress.
Ambulance arrives with two EMTs,
several more neighbors hover on the lawn.
Bedlam. Stress.
Dog must be contained before they enter with the gurney.
Challenge. Stress.
Professional, kind, genuine concern, they can see the issue,
tell me no, no, no, hold head forward and down
so I don’t swallow or choke on blood.
You’re doing it the “the old way.” Stress.
Politely sitting me down, they record my medical history
take my stratospheric blood pressure. Stress.
I remember to grab my purse, give dog care information to the neighbor
before I’m gently strapped atop the gurney, trundled out the front door,
raised into the waiting ambulance.
Blood has been flowing for 45 minutes,
taking my BP several more times, it lowers slightly.
Nervous, I ask about their runs of the day.
Smiling, they tell me I’m the first call of their shift,
they and the transport are newly refreshed, disinfected.
Do they think I’ll be kept overnight?
Probably not, they want to get folks out as quick as possible.
Reassurances. Less stress.
In transit, laying there, strapped down, my phone rings.
Managing to access it, my distant daughter and grandsons
are calling to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day.
Smiles and ironic laughter all around.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: An ambulance from the corps that transported me to the hospital.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Adding to the fear of this scary development was my panic about going to a hospital during this pandemic; recently a friend experienced a minor stroke and was driven to an ER by her husband. After a long interval in the waiting area, she was placed in the COVID ward for 24 hours. I was determined to go by ambulance. My EMTs were the epitome of professional, patient, helpful, and comforting responders; they got me to the hospital safely and calmly. When I contacted the unit to request the names of my EMTs for this gratitude piece and hopefully get their photo, I was told this isn’t possible: They consider all runs to be “just doing their job” and prefer no special recognition, especially photos and names. I honor their brave service and respect their humility. Thank you.

PHOTO: Lawn sign honoring all first responders.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner’s print works are available in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press (2016 -17-18-19-21), Adirondack Life Magazine, BraVa anthology, and read on NPR. Online poems and prose reside at unearthed, Silver Birch Press, 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, 50 Word Stories, Epic Protest Poems, and Adirondack Center for Writing. A collection of essays about European travels with her ex-husband in the late 1960s awaits publishing. Leslie is currently editing the memoir written by her ancient dog while compiling her own book of haiku with photographs.

alina rosanova
Physical Adjustments
by Sheila A. Donovan

Physical therapy put on the back burner.
Unsafe to utilize large therapy equipment
from recumbent ellipticals, bicycles,
gliders, to therapeutic treadmills.

Dangerous to utilize small equipment,
medicine balls, ropes, balance boards
elastic bands or kettle balls.
Coronavirus demonizes equipment.

BAD FALL injures arthritic knee.
Orthopedist prescribes PT.
“Best to do it now, while coronavirus
has slowed down.”

Therapists accepting minimal patients.
Must wear mask, use hand-sanitizer,
have temperature taken
before getting physical therapy.

Assistants tend to all equipment,
from elastic bands to ellipticals,
wiping them down with sanitizers,
after each-and-every use.

Miraculous therapists, all equipped with
masks and rubber gloves,
treat tender muscles and
nerve endings of needy patients.

I am thankful to the PTs for
risking physical contact with
pain-ridden patients.
My heroes!

PHOTO: Physical therapist works with patient during pandemic. Photo by Alina Rosanova, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written to reflect the physical therapy I get two days a week.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sheila A. Donovan’s poems have been published in the anthologies Reflections Journal, Poetry Cram, Journal of Modern Poetry, Theatre of the Mind, Dear Mr. President, and Budlong Woods Writers anthology You Don’t Know.  She has three poems in the upcoming Budlong Woods Writers book Love, Death and Everything in between.  She earned the Contemporary American Poetry Prize Honorable Mention for her poem “Universal Failure.” Sheila has been a judge at Louder Than a Bomb, has volunteered with Open Books — teaching kids how to write slam poetry — and for 30 years was a volunteer for Off the Street Club. Her poems and art have been exhibited at Woman Made Gallery. She’s been the featured poet at numerous venues around Chicago, including Beach Poets and the Harold Washington Library.

licensed iago lopez
Back from the Front
by Anita Haas

“They kept coming. Delivery
vans, mail trucks even.”

Every 8 p.m. we emerged, blinking,
from our cozy, book-lined
bunker, to applaud you
from our rooftop.

“It was a trade center turned field hospital.”

And every night we stared
at the coiffed, heeled announcer, pointing
at rising columns on charts
labeled “Infections” and “Deaths.”

“And they lay them on the sidewalks, some
already dead. The families forbidden to say goodbye.”

But the media already told us;
No masks for you, garbage bag
capes. Shortage of
beds, ambulances, ventilators;
patient-lined corridors, ice rink morgue.

“The nearest sink was 800 metres
away. We couldn’t wash them. The smell …”

But TV sucks reality out of things. Tricks
you into believing it’s all just a movie.

“Many colleagues with families didn’t go home
at night, afraid of infecting them.”

But you were real. Telling me,
blinking down at your coffee, voice
wavering. After it was all over.
For now, at least.

“But I did. After my shift, I’d collapse
on the couch, hug my dog, and sob.”

PHOTO: Healthcare workers in Spain dealing with the coronavirus crisis applaud in return as they are cheered outside their hospital on March 26, 2020. Photo by Iago Lopez, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Lockdown here in Spain was especially severe during the months of March, April, and May. We were restricted to our homes and only permitted to leave, unaccompanied, for work, food, or medicine, and within a one kilometer radius. At 8 p.m. the streets rang out with applause from balconies. Since we don’t have a balcony, we rediscovered our building’s rooftop, where we could stretch our legs, applaud the healthcare workers, and get some vitamin D.  When we could finally leave and see people, I met up with a nurse friend of mine. Her story inspired this poem.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anita Haas is a differently abled, award-winning Canadian writer and teacher based in Madrid, Spain. She has published books on film, two novelettes, a short story collection, and articles, poems, and fiction in both English and Spanish. Her poetry has been featured in Quantum Leap, River Poets Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Vox Poetica, Verse Virtual, Wink, Songs of Eretz, Parody Magazine, Silver Birch Press, and Founder’s Favourites. She spends her free time watching films and enjoying tapas and flamenco with her writer husband and two cats.

PHOTO: The author on her rooftop during lockdown.

licensed sandor kacso
by Sarah Russell

Leavings are untidy. Remembering
what you want to say as the car pulls away,
or the cell phone drops into your purse,
restraint in an embrace, the casual

see ya, when you ache for more.
There was that time my mother died—
a stiff, proud woman who did not touch.
She lay in bed, while her brothers and I

hovered. We asked if she needed a blanket,
if she wanted music, if she were hungry,
thirsty. At each offering, she jerked her head
from side to side, tight-lipped, angry.

Then the young, Hispanic hospice aide reached
out and took her hand. She knew what leavings
needed, what my mother couldn’t bring herself
to ask for, what we didn’t understand to give.

My mother sighed and held that gentle,
reassuring hand. The aide leaned in, caressed
a wisp of hair on her forehead. My mother smiled,
and took her last breaths.

Photo by Sandor Kacso, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For over 30 years I’ve regretted not knowing what my mother needed at the end of her life, and how grateful I am to the young woman who did. It helped to finally honor both of them in this poem.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Russell’s poetry and fiction have been published in Kentucky Review, Poppy Road Review, Misfit Magazine, Rusty Truck, Third Wednesday, and many other journals and anthologies. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She has two poetry collections published by Kelsay Books, I lost summer somewhere  and Today and Other Seasons. She blogs at