Archives for posts with tag: pandemic

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I Am Still
by Tricia Knoll

waiting for the strength to lift the boulder from your back
lift the pain that makes you stumble and crumple
when all I can offer is help to put it on the ground

for the tears that used to fall so readily
to advise me that I have not grown cold
or too old to take on injustices, inequities

to feel the age that I am, remember decades
running marathons to this hesitant walk
on ice without the glamor of skates

not only to drop the mask despite my fondness
for the silver one with roses. I cannot bear
the rows of graves, coffins stacked.

for the women to go back to work, with salaries
not lost from time away, for the babies to have daycare,
the children to have their teachers live

to sing with others. My voice is not good, zooming
and fast forwarding even church. Face to face
Skidamarink A Dink A Dink with my grandson

Perhaps not last. Let theaters open to audiences
silencing cell phones, anticipating the moment
lights ignite a stage to begin an unknown story.

PHOTO: Radio City Music Hall by Hiroshi Sugimoto (1978).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem for the I AM STILL WAITING submission call from Silver Birch Press. At first I wanted to list all the difficulties in the world that I want to see change: voter suppression, indifference to refugees, sexual harassment, but the list soon got so long it overwhelmed me. So I narrowed the focus, trying to come into my winter morning in my dining room with the sun glinting off the snow and figure out what in that immediate moment was what I’m waiting for. As of this writing, I am halfway to my second COVID shot which seems like a great privilege. I can binge on cable news and movies, but I really want to go see a play one day, feel the anticipation of an opening curtain.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tricia Knoll’s poetry appears widely in journals and anthologies. Her collection include Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press); Broadfork Farm (The Poetry Box); Ocean’s Laugher (Kelsay Books), and How I Learned To Be White (Antrim House) which received the 2018 Indie Book Award for Motivational Poetry. Her chapbook Checkered Mates was published by Kelsay Books in March 2021. Visit her at triciaknoll.com.

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I Am Still Waiting for
by Lynne Kemen

my COVID jab.
And I am still waiting for the woman
in front of me reading
about Meghan and Harry to
move her damned groceries
to the conveyer belt.

I am still waiting for my cat to get up,
Relinquishing the chair formerly known as mine.
I am waiting and waiting for the only
food that my cat can eat to be in stock.

And I am still waiting for daffodils
to poke their yellow heads
out of muddy soil.
And I am still waiting for schools
to let my grandchildren
go back to regular days,
and play with friends,
to learn in-person.

I am still waiting for the sound
of returning geese.
And I am still waiting for my jealousy
about another’s poem to abate.

I am perpetually waiting
for inspiration to land,
and for the newest makeup,
the newest burner of fat,
the newest vitamin to boost my brain.

And I am still waiting for the man
with the dumpster.
I can barely contain myself.

PAINTING: Wild Geese Over Reeds by Huang Yongyu (1977).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I wrote “I Am Still Waiting for,” I tried to think about the things that made me itch to move forward, to get on with things. I wanted to channel Ferlinghetti’s impatience, irritation, hopefulness.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynne Kemen lives in the Western Catskills of New York. Five of her poems are featured in Seeing Things: An Anthology of Poetry, Edited by Robert Bensen (Woodland Arts Editions, 2020). Her chapbook, More Than A Handful, was published by Woodland Arts Editions in 2020. Lynne’s work has also appeared in La Presa and Silver Birch Press. She is a Board Member of Bright Hill Literary Press, as well as several other nonprofit organizations.

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Still
by Massimo Soranzio

I am still waiting
for a word to come

then for the next one
and for the thought

that will combine them
to draw some sense

out of the blank page
where old words were

washed away by time
when everything stopped

so when I looked
nothing was the same

and being creative
suddenly meant

re-inventing life
to make it like

it was before
or not quite

but making do.

IMAGE: Work No. 384 (A sheet of paper folded up and unfolded) by Martin Creed (2004).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Since the spring of 2020, I haven’t been able to avoid writing about (or “around”) the pandemic and its consequences, how life has changed and we are trying to adapt, and how we will probably never be able to go back to the same life altogether, but we might have been changed so much by the experience, that instead of reconstructing our old life, we are more likely to start building a new life over the ruins of the old one.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Massimo Soranzio is a teacher and translator living on the northern Adriatic coast of Italy. His poems have appeared online and in print in a few anthologies, including Silver Birch Press’s Nancy Drew Anthology. He blogs at reflectionspoetry.wordpress.com.

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I Am Still Waiting for My Heart to Catch Up
by Cristina M.R. Norcross

After celebrating our youngest son’s
15th year on this earth,
I am still waiting for my heart
to catch up with the hurried footsteps
of time.

I am still waiting for my arms to realize
that my sons don’t need me to lift them
into a car seat anymore.
Our oldest can now drive
the car himself.
My prayerful thoughts
can still guide them,
willing them to arrive safely in our driveway.
My steadfast words
of faith in their gifts can uphold them,
like scaffolding offering support
at vital pressure points,
or the red training wheels from bikes
now gathering dust in the garage.

I am still waiting for my invisible shield
to go unnoticed,
but this will never be.
They see the candle of concern in my eyes.
They notice the way my attention hovers,
the laser-like focus of my mother brain,
as I listen to their needs
and remember those they never even thought of.

The time of stepping on Legos and wiping
tomato sauce from chins has ended,
but the tiny hands
that once held my finger in sleep
will know that reaching out
always results in finding me.

Like music from another room that lingers
and dances me into the next chapter,
I am still waiting for my heart
to catch up with time.
So I keep looking down at my watch,
then up at the sky,
where the robin’s egg blue of tomorrow
promises to cradle my sons’ hopes,
even when I can’t be there
to open the door.

PAINTING: Motherhood by Pablo Picasso (1901).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The blink of an eye that was 2020 caused time to race like a swift runner. Try not to close your eyes, I thought. You just might think we skipped a year and leapt into the next one. Time passes quickly enough for parents, while watching their children grow up. Our lives become busy, spinning wheels of school, activities, and chores. The pandemic caused time to both stand still and flow rapidly, like a river. Our teenaged sons grew by leaps and bounds this year, while we were looking out the window at the world, with longing. I hope that we can all slow down and take a breath. I am still waiting for my heart to catch up with time’s arrow.

PHOTO: The author’s sons in younger years.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cristina M. R. Norcross is the author of eight poetry collections, and is the founding editor of Blue Heron Review (2013-2021). Her most recent book is Beauty in the Broken Places (Kelsay Books, 2019). Her forthcoming poetry collection, The Sound of a Collective Pulse, is due to be published by Kelsay Books in Fall 2021. Cristina’s poems have  been published in Visual VerseYour Daily PoemPoetry HallRight Hand PointingVerse-VirtualThe Ekphrastic Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among others. Her work also appears in numerous print anthologies. She has helped organize community art and poetry projects, has led workshops, and has also hosted many open mic readings. She is the co-founder of Random Acts of Poetry and Art Day.  Visit her at cristinanorcross.com.

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Best-Laid Plans
by Cynthia Anderson

What happens to a dream deferred?
—Langston Hughes

In the 1960s, the preteen girl
who is me scours her local library
in a small New England town
devouring what they have

on Iceland. My paradise—
a place where everyone cares
about poetry, where books
are the national pastime

and there are more authors,
and readers, per capita
than any other country
on Earth—

not to mention
glaciers and volcanoes
hot springs and waterfalls
the wild rocky coast—

Land of the Eddas!
I imagine belonging there
in ways I’ll never
belong here.

The dream freezes
but doesn’t die. Finally,
retired, I have the time,
money, a friend to go with.

We book the trip
for April 2020—
then COVID explodes.
At least, we get a refund.

So I am still waiting
for Iceland—unlikely
to try again, as global
warming worsens

and my need to stay
home grows stronger—
deferred dreams
can live forever.

IMAGE: Iceland travel poster by 12thStFactory. Prints available at RedBubble.com

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I couldn’t believe my good fortune in finally booking a trip to Iceland, a lifelong dream. I planned to attend the Iceland Readers’ Retreat with a friend in April 2020—10 days of total immersion in Icelandic culture and literature. Then, as COVID unfolded, I watched in stunned disbelief as my long-deferred dream went unfulfilled. However, I continue to enjoy all things Icelandic from the comfort of home.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she has published nine poetry collections, most recently Now Voyager with illustrations by Susan Abbott. She is co-editor of the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens and guest editor of Cholla Needles 46. Visit her at cynthiaandersonpoet.com.

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How to teach remotely during a pandemic
(an acrostic poem )
by Jennifer Hernandez

Put on lipstick before you start the meet.
Ask students to mute their mics and sign into the chat.
Never assume that random family members aren’t listening to your every word.
Dogs, cats, and younger siblings are welcome visitors to the virtual classroom
except when barking, meowing or screaming while the
mic’s unmuted.
I used to be an old-school teacher, but
Coronavirus has
taught me a thing or two.
Elkin. Aron. Sebastian. Theresa. Jamela.
Axel. Juan Diego. Alina. Arina. Olu.
Chromebooks connect us, let us
hear voices, laughter. Let us see images & when
I’m lucky – even faces.
Newly vaccinated, I am both anxious and apprehensive to
greet students in person for the first time in nearly a year.

PAINTING: Teaching by Norval Morrisseau (XX Century).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Teaching online has meant learning a plethora of new skills. I have long prided myself on not being a “slides” teacher, rather engaging my students in interactive lessons that include lots of movement, partner and small group work, and often construction paper and markers. Everything changed drastically when my district moved to distance learning in March 2020. We muddled through last spring. Since this fall, I feel that I’ve become quite adept at staying true to my teaching style and embracing the technology that has allowed me to continue the work that I love. In the early days of the pandemic, I was taking a Short Poems class with LouAnn Muhm through North Beach Writers Retreat and was introduced to the idea of the “hidden acrostic.” This form has allowed me to write about the pandemic, something which I’ve needed to do.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Hernandez lives in Minnesota with her husband, three sons, senior black lab, portly tuxedo cat, and pandemic puppy. She has taught immigrant youth for over 20 years and also writes poetry, flash, and creative nonfiction. Recent publications include Ekphrastic Review, Talking Stick, and Verse-Virtual (Pandemic Poems). She has been teaching remotely from her living room since March 2020, but hybrid is looming with concurrent full in-person and distance learning not far behind.

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How to Give a Hug
by Howard Richard Debs

It’s been forever
since we did it.
Today my twin
granddaughters
became teenagers.
Last time I saw
them in person,
it was their grandma’s
turn to have a birthday
I won’t tell which one.
Let’s just say she was not
yet a teen herself
when Bill Haley &
His Comets hit number one
with “Rock Around the Clock”
and Twinkies had been
packed in school lunchboxes
for a pretty good while before
she came along.
Her birthday this time around
coincided with a year’s
worth of pandemic,
still keeping us apart,
from family, friends, those
dear to us, the ones we love.
So on that occasion
we only saw the twins briefly
masked and social distanced
on our driveway; one of them
baked a cake which we rationed,
savored for quite a while,
sweet pieces of recollection
of how it used to be.
I read an article about
all this, it states that touch
is the only sense crucial
to humans’ survival.
This day, with our CDC
vaccination cards filed
carefully away, out of practice
for sure, we reached
with arms wide encircling
each child pressing them
close, holding them as if
we would never let them go.

PHOTO ART: Hugs and Kisses Banner by Maya Moody, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Some things seem instinctive, natural. Until you can’t do that thing, until it is precluded, taken away. Then you have to in a sense relearn it. I try in my writing to call attention to that which is mostly not fully acknowledged about common and ordinary things we do. That even the elemental act of a hug is built layer upon layer of what comes to make it special. The physical act itself is accompanied in the back of our mind maybe with the remnant of the taste of a birthday cake, a fondly remembered bite of a Twinkie from long ago perhaps, a recollection of dancing with someone in our life to a favorite song many years before. Touching is certainly one thing essential to our being human. Many of us surely more fully recognize how important this and other kinds of human interactions are out of the sad experience of this pandemic; hopefully, we will not soon forget what we have come to better appreciate, what we have learned about what really matters during this unprecedented time.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me hugging the twins, now teens; it will always be a special hug for me, on a special day for them.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Howard Richard Debs is a recipient of the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Award. His essays, fiction, and poetry appear internationally in numerous publications. His photography is featured in select publications, including in Rattle online as “Ekphrastic Challenge” artist and guest editor. His book Gallery: A Collection of Pictures and Words (Scarlet Leaf Publishing), is the recipient of a 2017 Best Book Award and 2018 Book Excellence Award. His latest work Political (Cyberwit.net) is a nominee for the 2021 Eric Hoffer Awards. He is co-editor of New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust, forthcoming in later 2021 from Vallentine Mitchell of London, publisher of the first English language edition of the diary of Anne Frank. He is listed in the Poets & Writers Directory.

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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.