Archives for posts with tag: pandemic

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How to Tell Time in a Pandemic
by Barbara Crary

The day dawns in muted tones of mauve and pale yellow behind the bare branches of the maple tree. We awaken early to the calls of male and female cardinals announcing their presence to one another in the cold winter breeze. Today the dawn arrives earlier than it did yesterday as we move almost imperceptibly toward spring. We wait for our walk until the sun is high in the sky, hoping for warmth and contenting ourselves with the sparkle of sunlight on icy banks of leftover snow. We walk for an hour with no clear destination beyond our return home to an afternoon of coffee and conversation as evening falls. Dinner follows and in the gathering darkness, we drowse contentedly before it is time for bed. The moon, ever changing and ever present, rises to watch over us as we sleep and hope to dream. The day dawns anew.

sunrise to sunrise
no need to number the days
the sky is our clock

PAINTING: Sunrise by Georgia O’Keeffe (1916).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In this year of the pandemic, I have found myself increasingly attentive to the rhythms and beauty of the natural world. I’ve begun writing haibun as a way of focusing my attention more clearly, and have found this a great source of pleasure during the lockdown.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Crary is a retired school psychologist who lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She started writing poetry several years ago, and often writes in short forms such as haiku. She enjoys the discipline of creating found poetry using words selected from existing texts. Barbara was a contributing poet to the collection, Whitmanthology: On Loss and Grief and has also written for Silver Birch Press.

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How to Lose Your Mom Over and Over
by Lylanne Musselman

After her hard falls, more messy accidents,
you give in to the reality mom is too hard to handle
at home, since dementia has deteriorated her health
in these two years you’ve been sole caregiver.

Confined to her wheelchair, it’s a mystery how
she escaped the first nursing home you thought
extremely secure. You’re thankful she didn’t become
a statewide Silver Alert in that chilly October air.

With mom settled into a new facility, you make it through
a first Christmas without her at family gatherings. Visit her
four or five times a week. Adapt to other’s well-meaning phrase:
“You’re so lucky! At least you still have your mom.”

Never expect a pandemic lockdown of nursing homes,
or that her hugs from last March will have to hold you.
Call her often, she doesn’t understand why you’re not visiting,
she cries hearing your voice, you never know how to hang up.

Summer, a reprieve of outdoor visits, with masks, six feet apart,
no hugs, no touching. Hard for her to understand the need
for distance, she accuses you of not caring whether she’s dead
or alive, then begs to drive. So much for happy visits.

In autumn, her nursing home locks down again. You’re thankful
they have no Covid-19 cases. Until they do in late October,
then the call: “Your mom has a fever spike.” Nurses assure you
she’s tested negative twice. In November, she’s isolated

in the Covid unit, afraid and alone. Her nurse calls several times:
“Your mom is yelling nonstop! We don’t know how to calm her down.”
Upsetting since no visits are allowed. That Monday, go stand outside
her window. She recognizes you, but she’s a shell of herself.

Her death glares you in the face. Hospice needs to be called.
On Friday the 13th: “Honey, your mom is going to meet Jesus.
It won’t be long.” These words are hard to hear anytime,
but when you can’t be there, it’s cruel. You’re isolated, lost.

You hope she’s in a better place. Know she hated the rest “home,”
being forced to play Bingo, being limited to that wheelchair,
never knowing why her parents weren’t visiting.

PAINTING: Mystical Conversation by Odilon Redon (1896).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I saw the call for a “How to” poem, I knew I had to write about what it was like to deal with my mom’s dementia, the nursing home, and then her death. 2020 was a hard year. I felt by writing about the experience in this way, it would not feel like such a heavy poem, and it would be one that I could write without feeling that I couldn’t deal with the pain of it all over again. Anyone who deals with a loved one with dementia knows what a hard thing it is, and then when a pandemic hits and puts so many limitations on everyone, it makes a hard situation harder. My mom didn’t survive the year, and I’m still processing all that’s happened. Being a poet helps, as most of us know it’s how we process our feelings.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: I had to include a photo taken last summer during the few months that I was able to visit my mom, outside with a mask, and at a distance. She was not one to keep her mask on. I miss her, and those hard visits.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lylanne Musselman is an award-winning poet, playwright, and visual artist, living in Indiana. Her work has appeared in Pank, The Tipton Poetry Journal, The New Verse News, Rose Quartz Magazine, Silver Birch Press, and The Ekphrastic Review, among others, and many anthologies. Musselman is the author of five chapbooks, including Red Mare 16 (Red Mare Press, 2018), a co-author of the volume of poetry, Company of Women New and Selected Poems (Chatter House Press, 2013), and the author of the full-length poetry collection, It’s Not Love, Unfortunately (Chatter House Press, 2018). Musselman is currently working on another volume of poetry. Visit her at lylannemusselman.wordpress.com and on Facebook

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How Not to Disappear (Pandemic Style)
by Elya Braden

Take your temperature. Blow up the same red
balloon at irregular intervals; expel your breath

into the sink. Schedule Zoom calls with your dog.
Screen share every pimpled, buck-toothed photo

of your younger self to remind you who you were
and whom you’ve tried to leave behind. Read

every story you can find on the 1918 Spanish Flu:
how it spread, how it ebbed, how it returned,

how it killed and how quickly history wiped
30-50 million souls from its pages. Scissor

your old love letters and yesterday’s obits into a collage
of loss. Google the word for “death” in 27 languages.

Drift through every new Facebook group, mushroom
clusters of panicked souls searching for connection,

liking random posts in a Morse code of caring. Name
your age spots “freckles” and play connect-the-dots along

your arms in sidewalk chalk as you wait in six-foot intervals
outside the only local Trader Joes not closed for illness.

Magnify every detail of your shrunken life: post
photos of yet another homecooked meal, your sleep-

curled cat, the first lemon fattened on a branch,
the hummingbird sexing your pink hibiscus. Fill

a jar with the dimes and nickels of these moments,
a currency you’ll invest in poems to remember

what we’ll all soon try to forget, clutching at our memories
of “normal” like fragments of last night’s dreams.

Previously published at Sheila-Na-Gig online (Volume 4:4, Summer 2020).

Collage by the author (December 2020).

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE COLLAGE: I wrote the poem in late April, fairly early in the pandemic, though we didn’t know it then. I didn’t create the collage until December, when everything in the poem felt more intense. Hence the calendar months represented in the artwork. It’s all cut and paste of the various images and words. The red balloon is a real balloon glued on. Some of the images in the collage are from personal photos (the lemon, the hummingbird, the jar of change). I used tracing paper for the different words for death so they would blend in more. The calendar pages, the ticket stubs, and the clock are all from a book of images of ephemera to be used for art, and there are pieces of obits from the LA Times. I know the image of the woman holding the thermometer is from Unsplash (free images). I’m not sure where the other images are from. I do a lot of collage art and Soul Collage cards so I always have boxes of pre-cut images on hand.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  I have a hummingbird approach to creativity. I create with intensity and focus, but don’t do it every day and rarely enter into the creative process from the same door. The inspiration for “How Not to Disappear (Pandemic Style)” was a journal entry about my fears of disappearing in the early days of disconnection from my friends and poetry tribe. I realized that I was spending more time photographing small things around me and posting this minutia on social media in a way I hadn’t before. The artwork that goes with the poem was inspired by a workshop I took on “The Waiting Room” and what we do while we are waiting for the world to return to “normal.” It came to me to gather images from the poem and beyond to express the emotions of the poem in a visual, intuitive way.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elya Braden took a long detour from her creative endeavors to pursue an 18-year career as a corporate lawyer and entrepreneur. She is now a writer and mixed-media artist living in Los Angeles and is Assistant Editor of Gyroscope Review. Her work has been published in Calyx, Causeway Lit, Prometheus Dreaming, Rattle Poets Respond, The Coachella Review, and elsewhere and has been nominated for a Pushcart and Best of the Net. Her chapbook, Open The Fist, was recently released by Finishing Line Press. Visit her at elyabraden.com.

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When Living in Homo Bulla
by Mark Blickley

As a person of refined tastes, I prefer Van Gogh with ears.

I am living a life of the mind, but why does it have to be my mind?

Too many people are as shallow as a serial killer’s graves.

When others lose their way they find apathy.

All diseases are dormant until they attack.

When one is king of a pond, you fear ripples.

Smokers know every puff is a kiss goodbye.

The pressure is not to have pressure.

Errors cause evolution.

I lost weight but have found it.

The key to success is in the shape of a sword.

IMAGE: Boy Blowing Soap Bubbles (Allegory on the Transitoriness and the Brevity of Life) by Karel Dujardin (1663).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: These musings occurred to me during our year-long pandemic. “Homo Bulla” is the Latin phrase for the medieval theory that man lives his life in a bubble.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Blickley is a New Yorker and proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. His latest book is the text-based art collaboration with fine arts photographer Amy Bassin, Dream Streams

PHOTO: The author standing before Socrates by Constantin Brâncuși (1922) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

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Blessed
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.

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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.

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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!

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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 Creations.ca. Visit her blog at quillfyre.wordpress.com.

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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.

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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.

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I Do Not Know Your Name
by Ann Christine Tabaka

I do not know your name,
but you were there for me,
there for everybody.
I was hurting,
I was scared,
I needed help.

It was a frightening time – it IS a frightening time.
There are no answers, only questions.
The world is upside down.
There is nowhere to turn that is safe right now.
You stood there – a soldier for the cause,
letting me know / letting everyone know
it would be okay.

Quietly, efficiently, you did what you needed to do.
I was in your capable hands as I was rolled into surgery.
You were / are one of the countless,
behind the masks,
wearing white or green.
You put your life at risk every hour – every day.
Tirelessly you work to save others,
thinking little of yourself and your own needs.

Many would not be here today without you,
an angel in scrubs and sturdy shoes.
You are one among a rank of caring souls,
that reach out with a passion for life.
You left my world as quickly as you entered,
but you are there, always there …
I do not know your name – you are every Nurse.

PHOTO: Guardian angel nurse by Sathish Kumar Periyasamy, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a true story. I am 69 years old and needed surgery during the midst of the pandemic, when many elective surgeries were put on hold. I had to find a new doctor since mine had left the area.  The new doctor was wonderful, and scheduled me to have the surgery within two weeks’ time. All the nurses and technicians at the hospital were wonderful and caring. I never learned all of their names, but each one treated me as if I was the most important person in the world at that exact moment.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ann Christine Tabaka was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry. She is the winner of Spillwords Press 2020 Publication of the Year, and her bio is featured in the “Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2020,” published by Sweetycat Press. Internationally published, she has won poetry awards from numerous publications. Her work has been translated into Sequoyah-Cherokee Syllabics and into Spanish. She is the author of 11 poetry books and has recently been published in several micro-fiction anthologies and short story publications.  A resident of Delaware, where she lives with her husband and four cats, she loves gardening and cooking. Her most recent credits are The American Writers Review; The Phoenix; Burningword Literary Journal; Muddy River Poetry Review; The Write Connection; The Scribe, North of Oxford, Pomona Valley Review, Page & Spine, West Texas Literary Review, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Foliate Oak Review, The Stray Branch, The McKinley Review, Fourth & Sycamore. Visit her at annchristinetabaka.com and on her Amazon author’s page.

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Lullaby at Dawn
by Jo Taylor

I remember it was your college years.
A weekend at home, and you were sleeping
in. An act of mutiny for your grandmother
who had raised nine children during
the Great Depression and the war years
and who had never slept past sunup
in the nine decades of her life. She simply
could not contain herself. Now that one
don’t do nothin’.

Today in this global pandemic, I see
you working the night shift,
your big brown eyes behind shield
and N-95, and I swell with pride. I hear
your stories from the ICU, about another
granddaughter facetiming you to help
her say goodbye to her beloved matriarch,
your sobs and chest heaves clouding
the plexiglass masque like steam rising
from a body of water after a summer rain;
about a coworker holding her sibling’s hand
every day, exhorting him to return to life;
about the young nursing student with whom
you feel a special affinity, rallying when iron
lung and human spirit and the Divine mesh
for a miracle.

And for the record, my daughter, as Aurora
signals the end of yet one more long night,
I suggest there are other kin beaming
and bragging and swelling with pride.
If you close your eyes and lean in quietly,
you might hear the aged one humming
“Brahms’ Lullaby” from across the Milky Way.
I bet she is whispering, Sweet dreams.

PHOTO: The author’s daughter, Cortney Wade, at the hospital where she works.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Lullaby at Dawn” was written to recognize my daughter’s contribution to alleviating suffering during the coronavirus pandemic. She is a perfusionist, who, in normal times, is part of a heart surgery team, but who in these days also works with COVID patients who rely on the ECMO (a machine that circulates blood through an iron lung, allowing the body to rest). Her stories are both heartwarming and heart-wrenching.  Needless to say, her work makes a mother proud.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jo Taylor is a retired, 35-year English teacher from Georgia. Her favorite genre to teach high school students was poetry, and today she dedicates more time to writing it. She writes to bear witness, to give testimony to the past and to her heritage. She has been published in The Ekphrastic Review, Silver Birch Press, Poets Online, Literary North, Heart of Flesh Literary Journal, and One Art.

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Graphic by Yekaterina Nalimanova, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My Aunt, who resides in an upstate New York state nursing facility, is the topic of this true poem. She is grateful to the dedicated medical staff, both caregivers and companions. Her family is most grateful that she is safe and hope to be able to resume in-person visits soon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julie A. Dickson is a New Hampshire poet whose work addresses nature, current events, animal welfare, elephants in captivity. Her poetry has appeared in various journals, including Ekphrastic Review, Poetry Quarterly, Blue Heron Review, The Avocet and The Harvard Press. She is a member of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire, and has coordinated workshops as well as 100 Thousand Poets for Change. Her full-length works of poetry and Young Adult fiction can be found on Amazon.