Archives for posts with tag: poets

by Thomas R. Thomas

I am nervous
venturing out
from the safety

of our home
My wife

to any virus—
stray bacteria

and now
so I gear up

when venturing
out the door when
in dire need

Breathing the
warm air behind
the mask

I start the engine
drive to the

put on the
purple gloves
then toss them

before I
get back
in my car

wipe all that
I touch  with
clorox wipes

and throw my
clothes in
the wash

before I feel
safe to greet
my sick wife

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thomas R. Thomas publishes the small press Arroyo Seco Press. Publications include Carnival, Chiron Review, and Silver Birch Press. His books are Scorpio, Five Lines, Climbing Eternity, in which the world is turned upside down, the art of invisibility, Star Chasing, The High Cost of Dying, and, soon to be released from Tebot Bach, three on a wire.

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Plague And Its Doctors
by Lynn White

It must have been terrifying,
a deadly illness airborne
spread by miasma.
It sounds like a conspiracy theory now.
Perhaps some thought so then.

It all sounds so familiar

the specially made Personal Protective Equipment
required for those treating the afflicted.
Boots and gloves,
head to toe waxed covering
with sweetly pungent perfumes underneath
and a stick to make sure people kept their distance.

It all sounds so familiar

the distinctive mask,
so distinctive
it is popular in events today.
But the shape was necessary then,
its long beak delaying the passage
of miasma to the doctor’s lungs,
with a cocktail of disinfecting herbs
for further protection.

It all sounds so familiar.

But its efficacy was limited.
They had misunderstood
the causes and remedies.
We have more evidence now
but still wrestle
with competing theories.
So when all is stripped down
and the masks are off
we are still ill equipped.

It all sounds too familiar.

Photo by conor rabbett on Unsplash


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy, and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud “War Poetry for Today” competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications, including Apogee, Firewords, Capsule Stories, Light Journal, and So It Goes. Find Lynn at and on Facebook.

Mindfulness for the Lone Commuter
by Oz Hardwick

It’s a mask day, so I tie on the old plague doctor before going for the bus. It was cool when I bought it in Venice, and it still is, really, but these days they’re everywhere, mass-produced in the Far East and less than a tenner on eBay. The bus is mostly owls and butterflies, heading for school or the office, thumbing their phones and nodding to songs only they can hear, tapping into the day’s mesh and flutter. Kids today don’t know what a plague is: they’ve never woken up sweating and felt for lumps, never checked for spots on white cotton, never burned friends and family on the waste ground by the gas works; but when everything swims into focus, can any of us truly say that we know we were born? If nothing else, I have a wallet full of loyalty cards and pockets full of keys, a beak stuffed with herbs to keep me breathing. Tomorrow is a hat day, then, after that, everything’s up for grabs.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I bought a plague doctor mask while visiting Venice in the early 2000s, and it’s the most extravagant of many that I wear from day to day. I used to only wear it for special occasions, but now it’s come into its own and I wear it in my sleep most nights. It’s become a cliché to say that we all wear masks, but it’s become a cliché because it’s true.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Oz Hardwick is a European poet, writer, photographer, occasional musician, and academic, whose work has been published and performed internationally in and on diverse media. His chapbook Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI/Recent Work, 2018) was the winner in the poetry category of the 2019 Rubery International Book Awards, and his most recent collection The Lithium Codex (Clevedon: Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2019) won the Hedgehog Poetry Press Full Fat Collection prize. He has also edited and co-edited several anthologies, including (with Anne Caldwell) The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019). Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the Creative Writing programmes. Visit him at

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by Kaitlyn Perrin

A stone’s throw
from the old home
very present in the past
Emotions like an echo
bouncing back in a space
that feels so vast

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I drove past my childhood home recently, and experienced the usual feeling of nostalgia, a little pang of joy; like firefly light at night. But this time it felt oily; like it was covered in a layer of grease. Filmy; I could feel the weight of this new feeling; fear? The unknown? I became fixated on it, and noticed it creeping up in many aspects of my life, since Covid. Isolation has generated a chasm in many people that can be pervasive and dangerous even in the tiniest spaces. Harmful, like a game of pong playing endlessly inside our heads; unless we find a way to vent it out.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kaitlyn Perrin is a poet, as well as a flight attendant with Air Canada, Jazz. She lives her life like a choose-your-own-adventure book; documenting her experiences through poetry. Her passion for writing flourished while studying Creative Writing at Concordia University, before it took off in the aviation world. She recently finished a three hundred poem anthology on the adventures of personal growth in flight. She is a passionate adventurer, drawing inspiration from the natural world, and an avid reader of fantasy-fiction, sci-fi, and horror. Her previous credits include Look Harder,” a poem in Anti-Heroin Chic’s issue on grief and loss, Stamp,” a poem in Shot Glass online journal, and a chapbook published with The Blasted Tree, entitled “Chewing Around the Rind.”

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Beauty Mask
by Kelsey Bryan-Zwick

     Year by year/the monkey mask reveals/the monkey.

Lay cucumber slices
over the eyes
and use rose petals
spritzed with rose water
to layer face.

Lie back and breathe in
fine lavender scented
candles, undertones
of sage smudge.

Scrub with sugar
oats, coffee grounds
and coconut oils
caress with shea

Make and unmake
this mask, your skin
every inch
a garden.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is a response to a favorite haiku of mine by Bashō.  I have for a long time wanted to write a response to this poem and in this moment felt the real need to connect this idea to beauty as a part of health.  How our feelings and confidence can really determine who we get to be in the world.  The poem is short, sweet and I hope it helps bring joy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelsey Bryan-Zwick is a Spanish/English-speaking poet from Long Beach, California.  Disabled with scoliosis from a young age, her poems often focus on trauma, shedding light on what has been an isolating experience.  She is the author of Watermarked (Sadie Girl Press) and founder of the micro-press BindYourOwnBooks.  Kelsey is a Pushcart Prize and The Best of the Net nominee, and has had poems accepted by Spillway, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Trailer Park Quarterly, Redshift, Rise Up Review, Right Hand Pointing, and Silver Birch Press.  She was Moon Tide Press’ Poet of the Month for May 2020, and is writing towards her new title, Here Go the Knives, Find her on her blog and on Instagram.

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by Sarah Alfonsi

I remember when the McDonald’s playplace was the biggest thing in the      world
When sidewalk chalk was seeds
Brand new worlds sprouting from the concrete
The sun was hot
And the playground was mine
And I was nine years old
I fashioned masks of daydreams and stardust
Just because I could

Make-believe was the strongest reality I had
A shifting masquerade
Princess, pirate, fairy
Potions of dirt
Wands and swords of sticks
And masks of leaves and grass

I had nothing to hide
There was no shame in my little mind
No insecurity
Radiant smiles are not easily dimmed
Bold imagination not easily smothered
If I hid, it was because I was a spy undercover
Or a superhero
Wearing capes of bathroom towels
And masks of cardboard and construction paper

I was living a summer-long daydream
One I couldn’t quite fathom waking up from
But, God, I couldn’t wait to grow up
So, I did what I did best— pretend
I play-acted maturity
Sought boyfriends and other teenagedom milestones
When I was hardly double digits
I tried to fit the world in the palm of my hand
There was a different kind of mask then

Suddenly, I was so afraid
How do I look? How do I act?
It’s middle school now and I’ve learned that people can hate me
So, I crafted new masks
Masks of outcast
Masks of
Pulling my hood up tighter so no one will ask why I look so tired

And now I just wish I could go back
Regain the simplicity of living without fear
Maybe one day telling stories will feel the way it did when I was nine      years old again
Maybe one day, I’ll remove my mask
And replace it with one of cardboard or stardust

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve been thinking a lot about both the past and the future recently, which I think has a lot to do with the quarantine we’ve been under. The four years of high school are going by so fast, and now I’m missing out on the last few months of my junior year (and possibly most or all of the summer). So, in this piece, I’m reflecting on all of the different figurative masks I’ve worn throughout my life and how, whether I like it or not, I’m carrying all those different versions of myself into the future with me.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Alfonsi is 17 years old and a junior in high school. She has always loved writing and aspires to work in the animation industry as a writer, storyboarder, and voice actor. She also has a YouTube channel on which she posts both original songs and covers.

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by Angie Raney

In and out
and back
and forth.

I imagine my breath
as hot plumes of air,
trapped in a bubble
of my own being.

the heat seeps through cloth
and it makes me
but no more unsettled

by the thought of sickness.

I think,
a mask can protect from many things:

a virus
a sneeze
polluted air

but what a mask cannot shield us from
is the disease
of prejudice,
of racism,
of hatred.

the plague of
an inequality
so evil and vile
does not inflict.

It poisons.
It revels in injustice.
It kills.

Oh, how I wish there was a mask
to filter hate.

My breath is hot and sticky,
but my breath is still mine
and this
is a privilege.

In and out
and back
and forth.

Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Angie Raney is a soon-to-be-junior at DePaul University studying Creative Writing, Spanish, and Anthropology. She originally hails from Hopkins, Minnesota, and is the youngest of four daughters. Her poetry and prose have been recognized by You Make Me Feel Less Alone twice, and Angie is also presenting her piece, How to Be Mentally Ill, at DePaul’s 2020 Spring English Conference.

Red Bandana
by Nancy Wheaton

During the month of March I lost track of the days.
Once I dreamt I was walking the desolate landscape
inside Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory.”
Amid the drooping clocks, I explored the mountains with the ants.
In April and May, people were making and donating masks
from scraps of material.
Shopping became a way of acknowledging
that we are creative and kind.
A most touching scene was in Rite Aid,
where an elderly woman waited patiently,
wearing a Grateful Dead mask,
while the gentleman in front of her listened
to an explanation of the possible side effects of Viagra,
as he was a first-time user.
He wore a red bandana as a mask.

PAINTING: “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali (1931).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nancy Wheaton lives and writes on the New England seacoast, which is now barricaded with police tape.  She walks on nearly empty streets through town, exploring new neighborhoods.  Out of stillness, she hears piano pieces being practiced and guitar solos.  She has named two chipmunks “Cheeks” and “Gordy” because they share the droppings from the feeder with the cardinals every day.

by James Penha

We were staying over in the living room
of our besties—she . . . and he whom I loved

obsessively to no physical avail but with
whom I remained colleague, editor, muse

philosopher, and madman poet partner—
anything to remain close. He held as well

as my heart the truth I steeled to share
with Mary my longtime girlfriend

as we finished off the cheese and sangria
sedative for the night on the living room

carpet. I have to tell you, I said, something
serious—You’re sick! she interrupted. No!

She’d felt my melancholia so often, she said,
she feared I was dying. And so she saw

a cloud lifting. But it was my mask needed
lifting before Mary. The phantom must

be faced tonight! I used to think, I said,
I could never love anyone until I found

him (sleeping now with his wife not me
in their bed) whom I loved more—veil

gone—than I could ever love Mary —I I I
cared for her even so! and therefore had

to be honest before we got carried away
into some some some thing apparently

normal because, I had to make crystalline
in this void of night and peculiar silence

that I was gay.
                        We had watched Monty
Python that night with our friends but
nothing flying in its circus matched
the absurdity as I turned for her reaction.

Mary? The solace secured in my survival
had cloaked her in a sound and soundless sleep.

PAINTING: “The Three Masks” by Juan Gris (1923).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his verse appeared in 2019 in Headcase: LGBTQ Writers & Artists on Mental Health and Wellness (Oxford UP), Lovejets: queer male poets on 200 years of Walt Whitman (Squares and Rebels), and What Remains: The Many Ways We Say Goodbye (Gelles-Cole). His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Follow him on Twitter @JamesPenha.

Mask Photo
by Jennifer Finstrom

            The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
                                    –Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

On March 7, you have no idea
what’s coming. It’s a Saturday and
your plans are to meet one man at
the Art Institute to see El Greco:
Ambition and Defiance on the first
weekend that it opens and then to
meet another for dinner at Miller’s
Pub. But you’re behind on grading
and you only go to the dinner part,
spend the afternoon in bed on your
laptop. This decision has nothing
to do with the men, but neither of
them seem to have liked your original
plans. You try to remember how you
explained it, know how good you are
at hitting a truth that doesn’t reveal
all but is nonetheless true. You won’t
see the exhibit now for months, if
ever, tie long scarves over your face
when you go out to walk alone, your
voice muffled by velvet, anything you
might say even more masked. And
here in poems you know you’re still
curating, only selecting what pieces
of the story you choose and no more.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Just this past summer I began a collection of ekphrastic poems about dating in my 50s. The direction the poems are taking is shifting in recent days amid the climate of uncertainty, but I’m still keeping on with the project.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Finstrom is both part-time faculty and staff at DePaul University. She was the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine for 13 years, and recent publications include Dime Show ReviewEunoia ReviewStirring, and Thimble Literary Magazine, with work forthcoming in Gingerbread House Literary Magazine and  Rust + Moth. Her work also appears in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks and several other Silver Birch Press anthologies.