Archives for posts with tag: pandemic

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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.

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Ambulant in Twilight
by Roger Patulny

Everything is blue-black
she starts late from a nap
scattering bank statements;
Jack jumps across the covers till she
smacks him with a pillow toward his basket for his dirty PJ top
and mask of royal blue
while his father beeps his Tucson in the driveway.

The sky is a magenta smear
she runs the steel-blue bus down, now
hollow as a broken shoe, and
gasping, texts a joke to Jack about
a bus all stuffed with painted toes as she
sits among the statues, distant masks of colour
stiff against the racing cobalt of the clouds;
ambulant in twilight.

She ties her hair beside the sliding door
between a raft of tests;
temperature, symptoms, hot spot lists,
she drinks her herbs and
sticks her COVID coloured dot spot
to the cornflower of her dress
and gasps and laughs
to the flicker of fluorescent
tearoom lights
about the empty pallets
bare of masks and sanitiser,
and worries with her colleagues if
there will be enough for after?

She does the dance of donning
body bound in sterile gown and plastic covers for her shoes
a wimple of a balaclava, goggles, mask
and face shield last but for the
double gloves
and walks the sober, foggy path along the designated blue line.

Freshly unwrapped forceps
lie sweatless on the tray
of basic instruments tonight
she passes a retractor,
worries Jack is not in bed
and dreams of holidays, colour books and cigarettes
till the diathermy smoke
from the cauterised flesh
produces aerosol and risk
and she sighs and dons again.

Disposing of the Rampleys stained with
umber antiseptic
his dad calls with the bad news;
he can’t do next week after all, away
and so she pleads again to change her shifts then

puts the needle holders down,
exits to her favourite band
to get a can of cocktail from the café, then
texts Jack to say good morning and
don’t be late for school and
shuts her eyes to feel the sun.

PHOTO: Georgia Brown at work in a hospital in Australia. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The creative approach behind this poem started with a focus on the lived experience of my friend Georgia, and the challenges she goes through balancing a highly complex job as a surgical nurse with caring for her young son as a single parent. The poem evolved as she revealed complexities about the fascinating work she does — from dress procedures to use of instruments — and the complications COVID has brought to this world and to her life and well-being.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roger Patulny is based in Sydney, Australia. He is an academic, writer, and poet, with fiction published in the The Suburban Review and poems in CorditePoets Corner InDaily, the UK arts magazine Dwell TimeThe Rye Whisky Review, Indolent Books, and the Mark Literary Review; excerpts and links to Roger’s recent published creative works can be found here.    

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March/April 2020
by Attracta Fahy

My son calls from Los Angeles, six
thousand miles from home,
lockdown already begun—

“Sleeping at the hospital”

his visit home cancelled.

Next day I call him; no answer
Messaged—
What’s up mom?
Busy here—All ok?

For three weeks—just texts;

12th March
Can’t talk
ok? Getting bad here

15th
Lost three patients today
Placing tubes in four

18th
It’s worse—working non-stop
you ok?

21st Mother’s Day—Ireland
army called in

Don’t worry you’ll see me when
it’s over

22nd
Ploughing on trying to see people
as more than patients, a number, a graph
on a screen, pictures in a camera

24th
Supplies arrived today—constant admissions
I love you mum

25th
When this is over I’m flying you to me

27th
Struggling not to think; the loneliness,
patients not allowed loved ones, only us.

28th
N95 glued to my face, we won’t all make it,
friend died, two colleagues sick in NY,
preparing for the worst

Don’t worry! taking vitamin C

29th
Will get worse before it gets better

Stay safe mum, worried you’ll get it

1st April
Shutting pumps moment after death
and on to the next—every room emergency

One body bag after another, eight this morning
others waiting for a ventilator.

2nd
First day off in eighteen; called back—surge

Tested—have antibodies, must have got it—
mild fever three weeks ago
thought it was exhaustion

3rd
Wish I could travel to help at home—
here is home too.

5th
It’s terrible here

7th
Robby tested positive, flying to New York
to see him, colleagues covering my shifts

11th
Robby passed—I’m heartbroken mum

Devastated

14th
I’m working—very low
I should be strong!

I call; horror and grief in his eyes
hair almost grey,
“I’ve seen too much, mum”

PHOTO: Empty freeway during early days of quarantine in Los Angles, California (March 2020). Photo by Drew Tilk on Unsplash.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My son lives and works on the frontline in Los Angeles. He has had a very difficult year and at present is feeling the consequence of the grief and trauma he witnessed and experienced over the past few months. Although sad, he remains positive, determined, and brave. He is lonely, but thankfully has wonderful friends and colleagues, a great sense of humour, a mischievous character who loves to make others feel happy. He is comical, entertaining, and very loving. When I started to write, I was overwhelmed with my own sadness, so as I want this to be about him, I decided to use some of his messages and texts to me over one month during the pandemic. It gives a sense of the connection between mother and son who are 6,000 miles apart. It is also in some part a diary and record of this time.

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AUTHOR’S NOTE ABOUT HER SON: My son Deacon Emmet Farrell moved from Ireland five years ago to train as an anesthesiologist in the State University of New York. His dream was to live in America. Despite dyslexia, he earned a degree with distinction in Genetics in University College Cork, afterwards earning a masters distinction in Molecular Medicine in London University UK. Following this, he began a postgraduate degree in medicine in University College Limerick. After finishing medical school, he began an internship in Beaumont Hospital Dublin before taking up his residency in New York. After qualifying with awards as an anesthesiologist,  he received a Fellowship at Cedars-Sinai Los Angeles, and moved there in August 2019. In October, he contracted and overcame bacterial meningitis. His colleagues and the staff where he worked were exceptional in taking my calls and reassuring me. I was to visit for his graduation in July 2020, and he was due to visit home in August. But neither of us could travel because of the restrictions. During the pandemic, Deacon lost colleagues, patients, friends, and his close friend Robby. Despite this, he remains dedicated and committed to his work, deciding to stay on and live in Los Angeles. We miss him terribly in Ireland. Love and prayers to all of you.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken at JFK airport in New York City during April 2019, just before my son graduated as an anesthesiologist. We met at the airport as I arrived from Ireland, and he came straight from a night shift still in his scrubs.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Attracta Fahy’s background is Nursing/Social Care. She lives in County Galway, Ireland, works as a Psychotherapist, and is mother to three children. She completed her MA in Writing NUIG ‘17. She was October winner in Irish Times, New Irish Writing 2019, and is a Pushcart and Best of Web nominee. Her work has been included in a number of anthologies, shortlisted for Over The Edge New Writer, and Allingham Poetry. She was a featured reader at the January Over The Edge Open Reading in the Galway City Library. Fly on the Wall Poetry published her debut chapbook collection, Dinner in the Fields, in March 2020.

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The Sounds of Virus
by d.r. sanchez

The dogs know
News shared loudly throughout the neighborhood
Something is keeping their humans home
Happy days of rubbed bellies and snuggles
But they smell the fear

The birds know
Normal springtime chatter eerily louder
Something is muting the highway noise
Busy days over empty streets and towns
They sense the tension

Holding the leash
Outside my house, I try to hide the cough
I have a virus, not that one…I think
We listen the cacophony of the roarless highway
She barks to her neighbors

NOTE FROM THE AUTBOR: Even “regular” illness in the times of a global pandemic can be scary and isolating. The world stands still, holding its breath, trying not to cough. Our pets and nature’s creatures are confused by the abrupt change in human behavior. I live by a busy interstate highway. The constant roar of traffic is gone. The birds are louder. The neighborhood dogs are talking more excitedly these days rather than in warning. Step outside. Hear the difference.

Debra R Sanchez

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debra Sanchez has moved over 30 times and has lived in five states in two countries…so far. She leads and attends various writing groups in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area, and also hosts writing retreats. Her writing has won awards at writers’ conferences in various genres, including children’s stories, poetry, fantasy, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Several of her plays and monologues have been produced and published. Other works have been published in literary magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. Visit her website, debrasanchez.com, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her books can be found on Amazon. And My Mother Cried/Y Mi Mama Lloró was awarded “Best Children’s Book of 2017” at The Author Zone (TAZ) awards. Prompted, Prodded, Published: How Writing Prompts Can Help All Writers also received a 2017 TAZ award in the nonfiction category. Raw & Unfinished received a TAZ award in 2018 for poetry. Her most recent children’s book Snow Pants for Isabella/Pantalones de Nieve para Isabella is nominated for a 2020 TAZ award. Her dystopian play Pages: A Library Play (Páginas:Un Cuento de Bibliotecas) was published in 2016 in both English and Spanish. All of her books were published by Tree Shadow Press, where she is also an editor and