Archives for posts with tag: pandemic

shrek 2
Seeing Shrek at the Drive-In During a Pandemic
by Betsy Mars

Ogres are like onions, and I am too,
taking off the outer skin for a couple of hours
to be close to kin. I peel my gloves off

after the ticket taker hands me a menu
for the snack bar, edge away as far as I can
from the van they wave me next to

which is spilling laughing children. The dark descends.
Shrek slouches before a rising moon, Donkey nearby.
I sigh in recognition, alone in the swamp

heat of my enclosed car, shutting out
the unmasked. In the car to my right
my daughter behind glass, windows up.

We communicate by phone and gesture,
with thumbs up and heads bobbing
to the soundtrack of her childhood.

I am trying to atone, for all my layers –
the rawness, the cutting, the weeping –
of the onion, the irritants which sear.

In the castle a dragon slumbers,
ready to fire up its scorching breath.
At night I assume my true form, hope

that I might be loved anyway;
by light of day I spin candy floss from spider webs,
balloon whatever frogs come my way.

Previously published in Sky Island Journal


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The pandemic was/is a difficult period to endure in many ways and going to the drive-in seemed like it would hark back to more carefree times, though, given the anxiety of the times, it was fraught with its own difficulties. Shrek was, in many ways, the most apt movie to see at such a time, given that this virus was also a scary unknown, full of fearsome qualities. The memory of the evening is bittersweet but really one of the happier times I recall from this period. Being near my daughter and her boyfriend and having a respite when we could immerse ourselves in a beloved film and soundtrack was a real mercy. PHOTO: The author with her Fiona mask.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Betsy Mars is a prize-winning poet, a photographer, an editor at Gyroscope Review, and cat wrangler. Her poetry has recently appeared or is upcoming in ONE ART, Sheila-Na-Gig, and Rat’s Ass Review, among others. In 2021, Betsy’s poems were nominated for Best of the Net as well as the Pushcart Prize.  Her photos have appeared in RATTLE’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Redheaded Stepchild, and Spank the Carp. Her chapbook, In the Muddle of the Night, was co-authored with Alan Walowitz.

a-path-1908 nicholas roerich copy
The Day the Streets Rose Up
by Dick Westheimer

Cincinnati streets to close so restaurants can use
outdoor space for seating
                         Cincinnati Enquirer, May 8, 2020

In the second week of the second month
of the great slowdown of 2020, the streets
lined up for blocks around the Capital
and held up signs that once read Stop and No Parking,
that now proclaimed Set Us Free!

Keep at bay, they say, the heavy burden,
the cars and trucks we’ve carried.
Let the ground beneath us breath free, relieved
of the fearsome weight you’ve put upon us. The soil
whispers up through the press of pavement.

It longs for the feel of human feet treading lightly on its spine,
awaits the chatter of conversation instead of the roar
of road machines, yearns for laughter and the clatter of china
replacing screeching tires and clanging horns, imagines
the aroma of fresh bread and the exile of exhaust fumes.

And in the hush quiet after-hours
when all the people have padded away, silence.

The earth will dream of roots, the pavement will sigh
like an ox unyoked, the signposts will twine like lovers.
And as the streetlights dim, the brownstones will huddle ‘round
and sing lullabies to the bench sleepers.

I will peak from a side alley and weep at all the times
I’d plied those roads, forgotten what lay beneath them—
hunting grounds, the far-reaching roots of virgin forest beeches,
voles and ant colonies, beetles and moles and badger dens.

Now, only the faintest whips
of mycelium survive, still in touch with
the wild cousins, miles away. They await
the day of a greater slowdown yet to come.

PAINTING: A path by Nicholas Roerich (1908).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In the early days of the pandemic, amid the heartache and suffering, green sprouts emerged. The air cleared due to lack of automobile traffic, a sense of collective effort prevailed in many parts of the community, and here in Cincinnati, some streets were closed to car traffic in favor of pedestrians and outdoor dining. The image of the soil beneath the streets relieved of the weight and cacophony of vehicles became the impetus for me imagining—via the writing process—just what a world might feel and look like. Relief indeed.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dick Westheimer has—in the company of his wife Debbie—lived, gardened, and raised five children on their plot of land in rural southwest Ohio. He has taken up with poets and the writing of poetry to make sense of the world. He is a Rattle Poetry Prize finalist. In addition to Rattle, his poems have appeared in Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Rise Up Review, and Sheila Na-Gig, among others. You can find links to Dick’s poems and other musings at

Mother Ganga
by Feroza Jussawalla

If only we could—
             treat you as the goddess
we say you are.

I sprinkle Ganges water on myself
to purify myself, every morning,
when I suspect an evil eye
has been cast.

I do not ask, if—
The water is pure, clean, bacteria-free.
I take the word of the seers that
Mother Ganga purifies herself

But I cannot help wonder,
as I see images of the Covid dead
floating, fully clothed, abandoned—
not even cremated.
How do we love thee,
let me count the ways,
in the number of bodies abandoned
in your bosom, to do as you may have done,
for aeons?—But at least then,
they were ashes, not clothed in plastic
body bags.

How can we save thee—Ganga, Jamuna?
Let us start: by using the ghats,
by cleaning the burning pyres
that burn the heart of Mother Earth,
but most of all, just by respecting thee,
O ancient rocks and rivers, the sacred Himalayas,
by really seeing the sacred holy ones, reincarnated,
from Kashi to Comorin, resplendent in the flowers,
our Mother, Gaia, grows out of them, and not,
the ones we cast adrift in waters turning to sludge.

Let the goddesses dwell in pristine waters
clean snow-clad mountains,
not in our castaways, offered as holy offerings.

Let us worship the goddesses
as they would want,
in their own clean abodes.

PHOTO: A new day on the River Ganga (Ganges River) by ImHR111 (2021).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Feroza Jussawalla is Emerita Professor of English at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Originally from India, she is the author and or editor, and co-editor of several scholarly works, in postcolonial literature. Her collection of poetry, Chiffon Saris, was published by Toronto South Asian Review Press and The Writer’s Workshop, Kolkotta (2002).

pat steir 1
The Story Of Our Lives
by Ndaba Sibanda

The story
on the state
of the world
reignites his
reading ritual—
it torches a fierce fire
in his soul, in his heart,
his mind wonders & races
after the mysterious variants
that are causing nothing else but
mayhem and misery across the world,
he rebukes: stop this archaic hide & seek
game, how can you change the rules of the
match in the middle of the game? this isn’t
entertaining, fair & sharp, it’s cruel, variants!
that’s why Heartlessness is your…first name
& nickname, Mulishness is…your surname!

Forsaken floods & wildfires, & other disasters,
I puncture your tireless tyre with a powerful prayer!
for our planet & its people need peace & progress,
I see more & more conservationists, editors & scribes
contribute to the action and activism on climate change.

A work of art
that explores
the greater snags
the global village
faces on a daily basis
especially the climate
change crisis and the corona
oh…my confessions…pandemic!

Previously published in Lipi Magazine.

PAINTING: Sixteen Waterfalls of Dreams, Memories, and Sentiments by Pat Steir (1990).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is my impassioned appeal and prayer for the urgent attendance and resolution to the climate change crisis.

Ndaba Sibanda

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ndaba Sibanda is a Bulawayo-born poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who has authored 26 published books of various genres and persuasions and has coauthored more than 100 published books. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Page & Spine, Piker Press, SCARLET LEAF REVIEW, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, the Pangolin Review, Kalahari Review, Botsotso, The Ofi Press Magazine, Hawaii Pacific Review, Deltona Howl, The song is, JONAH magazine, Saraba Magazine, Poetry Potion, Saraba Magazine,  The Borfski Press,  East Coast Literary Review and  Whispering Prairie Press. He has received nominations from the national arts merit awards (NAMA), the Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook Prize, the Best of the Net Prose, and the Pushcart Prize.

bees ea seguy
My Facebook Feed Tells Me
by Ann E. Wallace

that milkweed and butterflies
are this year’s sourdough bread
and backyard chickens
as the pandemic has turned
our attention from life
that must be kneaded and tended
each day and in earnest,
filling solitary days, one
after the other,
with small tasks
and gratification that is in sight
but does not come quick
or easy. A year in, we take
a breath and make
space for the wild things
that pollinate and multiply
when we step aside
and let them be,
reclaiming once
manicured city slips
of greenery
as the early pandemic
bakers and hen handlers
now relax into gathering seed pods
for next year’s bees and planting
parsley for the swallowtail
caterpillars to munch,
each doing its job without ado
as we learn to withdraw
our heavy hand.

ILLUSTRATION: Bees by Eugene Séguy (1890-1985).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I fell ill with COVID-19 at the very start of the pandemic and am now a long hauler. Sidelined and on bedrest through spring 2020, I became a fascinated observer of my friends’ early pandemic activities—the bread making, the bird watching, the urban vegetable gardening and chicken raising—as reported on their social media feeds. A year later, still recovering, I noticed a shift, an intensification of sorts, in my friends’ activities as they turned to restoring native plants, safeguarding butterfly eggs, and nurturing natural habitats and food sources for birds, devoting their attention to making space within our city for the earth to heal itself. Next summer, I hope to be well enough to join them in this important work.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ann E. Wallace, a poet and essayist from Jersey City, New Jersey, is author of the poetry collection Counting by Sevens (Main Street Rag). She has published work in Huffington Post, Wordgathering, Halfway Down the Stairs, Snapdragon, and many other journals. Find her online at and on Twitter @annwlace409.

coyote thomas hawk
I Am Not a Dog
by Mary O’Brien

I hear you early, morning,
when I am reading and trying
to write about the wildness so distant to me now.

I hear you trickster—chattering, signaling.
You have seized upon the avenue of encroachment
left by our retreat into urban lives.

Along the edge you travel,
You do not blink, but skulk,
your sacred manner Twain’s living allegory of Want.

If you are foraging an opening into our world,
prying an edge we think is seamed shut,
could you catch our long-tailed, big-toothed, shaggy marauders
venturing into your domain, when curbside bins are empty?

Soon you may be scarce again.
Through withdrawal or attrition,
your howl silenced, at our hand.

Telemetry is tracking you,
An ear tag guarantees your future.
Did you notice? You were not supposed to mind.

PHOTO: Coyote by Thomas Hawk.

obrien coyote
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During the great pause, I thought frequently of the vacancy humans had left in the wilderness we are so fond of making into our playground. Were its wild inhabitants doing better without us? This poem was written in the early morning hours, when the air is still and all is quiet. I could hear the wildlife on the periphery of my neighborhood going about their business during the hours we humans usually sleep. Neighborhood dogs sleep too, unaware their territory is being invaded by their nocturnal kin. Native American legend, as well as the scientific name Canis latrans, tag Coyote as “barking dog.” But in the legend, Coyote, the Trickster, claps back: “I am not a dog.”

PHOTO: California Coyote by Mary O’Brien.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary O’Brien is an environmental writer and installation artist. Her writing evolves out of her engagement with place and community, and the research she develops for environmental art installations. Her nonfiction works delve into ecological loss and community resilience. O’Brien’s public art installations can be seen at Her essays have been published in Soren Lit, Field to Palette, Stanford University’s MAHB Journal; The Solutions Journal; and in Women’s Eco Artist Dialogue. Visit her on Facebook and Instagram.

Author photo by Daniel McCormick. 

chinese pumpkin painting
Pandemic Pumpkins
by Barbara Quick

Yesterday I saw the first paddle-like
pale-green leaves of the Cinderella pumpkin
pushed up from the hilly mounds I made
as graves for one of last year’s gourds
that went to rot before it could be used.

The English peas I’d planted on top
had come up first,
as delicate as pen-and-ink fairies,
tendrils blindly curling forth to find
support for their climb.

On my hands and knees,
I cleared the ground of weeds—
and added a row, along the fence,
of sunflower seeds.

Though their fruit and flowers
are still months away,
my pumpkins are already
fat and dazzling orange
in the mind’s eye,
the sunflowers yellow
against the late-summer sky.

Seeds are hard to come by now;
the sunflowers long past
their use-by date.

But still, any time a dried-up seed
manages to germinate and grow,
flower and thrive, it’s truly a miracle.
Who’s to say a seed won’t wait
three years or even ten?

Seed banks count on some of them
possessing the biological patience
to stay viable, on pause,
till they’re embraced by dirt again,
licked to life by water,
and awakened from enchanted sleep
by sunlight and heat.

I’m witness to this resurrection
every day of my gardening season.
How can I not believe
that life will triumph
over lockdown and decay?

PAINTING: Pumpkin (Chinese SuZhou Art), available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Pandemic Pumpkins” is one of more than two dozen poems I found in the garden during my year of lockdown with my husband, violist Wayne Roden, at our little farm and vineyard about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. Half the poems in this as-yet unpublished chapbook are about gardening. The other half are about the particular interpersonal challenges imposed on people everywhere by the pandemic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Award-winning poet and novelist Barbara Quick, a native Californian, has been a practitioner of organic gardening since the age of 14, when she dug up the ice-plant at the roadside fronting her mother’s house in Los Angeles to plant tomatoes and Swiss chard. Her fourth novel, What Disappears, will be published in May 2022. Her second novel, Vivaldi’s Virgins—published in 12 translations since it first came out in 2007 (and still in print) is available as an audiobook and was optioned this year as a mini-series. Barbara’s poetry has been included in half a dozen anthologies, including the two that published “Pandemic Pumpkins” this year: the 2021 Farmer-ish Print Annual and Pandemic Puzzle Poems. She has a poem forthcoming in Scientific American. Her just-published chapbook, The Light on Sifnos, won the 2020 Blue Light Press Poetry Prize. Five of her poems were recorded this year by Garrison Keillor and featured on The Writer’s Almanac. Visit her at

Directions to Come Ashore
by Laurie Kuntz

after a line in the poem
“You Tell Us What to Do” by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

These are not times to be stranded in seawaters;
although, each day we board that boat with no life jacket.

In the distance on tawny banks
the pelicans and gulls announce their presence

remind us to stop comparing these days of solitude
to a lover who has left us with nests of memories.

In these times, living in a scarred earth, we need the ordinary,
the quotidian moments to allow the wounded world to heal.

Lift a cup of chamomile to chilled lips,
listen to the peck, peck of a sparrow on the flowering plumeria,

hum the ear-wormed tune of reviving, till it becomes a mantra—
its melody a map directing us to come ashore.

PAINTING: Black-Headed Gulls by Charles Tunnicliffe.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem came from a time of feeling hopeless about the state of the environment. In order to find hope for all things needing to be renewed, humanity needs to step back and think about how to heal the earth. As the world slowed down during the pandemic, the environment healed. The air cleared, animals thrived, and amidst the devastating pandemic, we did learn what it takes to create a cleaner more sustainable environment. In this poem, “coming ashore” is the route needed to do right by the earth we inhabit. Stop the noise, stop the pollution, stop the extinction of life, come ashore and do the right thing.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laurie Kuntz is an award-winning poet and film producer. She taught creative writing and poetry in Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines. She has published two poetry collections (The Moon Over My Mother’s House, Finishing Line Press, and Somewhere in the Telling, Mellen Press) and two chapbooks (Simple Gestures, Texas Review Press, and Women at the Onsen, Blue Light Press), as well as an ESL reader (The New Arrival, Books 1 & 2, Prentice Hall Publishers). Moment Poetry Press has published a broadside of her poem “The Moon Over My Mother’s House.”  Her poems, “Darnella’s Duty”  and “Not Drowning But Waving” have been produced in a podcast from LKMNDS and her poem “Darnella’s Duty” is published in a new Black Lives Matter Anthology. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her chapbook, Simple Gestures, won the Texas Review Poetry Chapbook Contest. Recently retired, she lives in an endless summer state of mind. Visit her at

To not forget
by Sacha Hutchinson

Forget not
evening song
of stone chat in
newfound silence
it chinks like

Forget not
empty roads with
bicycle smiles
uncut verges
alive with scent
colour and insects.

Forget not
green spring rain
a drizzle that waits
as if frightened to fall.

Forget not
the moon, its ice
blue quarter
the lemon line
of dropping light.

Forget not
when we noticed
the unfastening of
leaf, wing, flower.

Forget never this
stolen time, when
shattered Earth

PHOTO: Spring meadow (Ireland) by Jonas Fehre.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This short poem looks back at lockdown and how we were restricted in our activity and movement. We were able to go for short walks near where we lived, many discovered or rediscovered the natural world. This slowing and restriction allowed wildlife to recover. We need to learn from this and reduce travel. It is important to appreciate and protect our local habitat. Protecting our planet is an enormous task but starting at a local level is always possible.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sacha Hutchinson is an eye doctor working in Galway, Ireland. She was born in Dublin. She attends both a weekly poetry workshop with Kevin Higgins  and  many Over The Edge events. Her poetry has appeared in Ropes (2018), in the  2018 and 2021 spring editions of Skylight 47, the 2019 autumn edition of The Curlew, impspired volume 3, Live Encounters (June 2020),  Pendemic (May 2021), Drawn to the Light Press (February 2021), Poetry in Lockdown Archive (UCD 2021), and Lothlorien Poetry Journal (2021). Shortlisted for Poetry for Patients in 2018 and 2019, she was longlisted for Over the Edge  New Writer of the Year in 2018 and shortlisted in 2019. A featured reader of Over the Edge November 2021, she received a bachelor of Arts in art and design in 2010. She has an interest in exploring the environmental message through paint and poetry.

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.


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