Archives for posts with tag: quarantine

In a Time of Hidden Faces
by Carol A. Stephen

This face, my mask of age, slips south
into my neck, wrinkles drawn down by time
and gravity into folds, creases, wattle.
Still, when youth shines forth in my smile, wrinkles
tighten. Years slip away. Or they did—

Now, a different mask, a swath of black cloth
covers dimples, highlights the slight droop
of lower eyelid under my glasses.

Over my shoulder, masks of the past
stare blank-eyed from the wall, and I remember
those days in Venice, that long-ago night in Rome,
the sweetness of a kiss by the Trevi fountain.

Those kissed lips hide now under my new mask, worn
for your safety. I cannot offer you a grin, but
I offer the people of my world my respect,
expressed by this black band across my face.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As we all consider social distancing, and that we are all in this fight against COVID-19, I thought also about my collection of carnival masks, displayed on my wall, as well as how our own faces present different masks to the world.


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

Dream, Day 63
by Zoë Hajec

Free and flying.
This is the life I dream of at night in my temporary escape.
Feet pounding against the hot summer sand and cool waves rushing between my toes.
The sun beats down upon my pale skin.
Light hits the vast body of water before me,
shattering into a million pieces.
Birds chirp and fly freely.
The air smells of the fresh green grass on a cool summer’s morning,
when the world’s surfaces are misty with dew droplets.
The air smells of the rough waves of the Great Lakes breaking upon a boulder and spraying its contents like confetti.
I can see the world’s movements in colors.
Vibrant and alive once more,

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired by a dream I had around day 63 of quarantine. Since the start of the quarantine all anyone ever hears about is what has been lost or canceled. Personally it became too much to constantly think about all the things I couldn’t do anymore, so I started thinking about all the things I could. One of those things is dreaming, and this is my dream.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Zoë Hajec is a high school junior/rising senior heavily involved in her school’s magnet program, CAPA. She enjoys learning and plans to attend a university in the fall of 2021 as a first-generation college student. Zoë also has her own online store called Zoë Dreams on Bonfire, where she sells her shirt designs. In her free time she likes listening to music, reading, and learning sign language. Recently she has begun thinking about creating a blog to publish her writing, offer advice, as well as talk about her online store and her hopes and dreams. Visit her on Twitter and Instagram.

I Might Need This Some Day
by Tricia Knoll

The day began with flag waving. Then drapes, generous blankets going in and rolled out to iced and rumbling trucks. Coffins in parallel lines on a bingo board.

Your thought was nonchalant (waste takes no haste) when you tucked remnants inside the sewing kit: I might need this some day. (No one ever believes that.)

So you dust off that case on a closet shelf beside your first-aid kit and summer’s electric fan and open it up. Acknowledge the red pin-cushion heart that came as wedding gift. Peel open curls of rolled cotton leftovers: stars splattered on black, red boats with sails unfurled. The teddy bears that beared-up your baby’s room as curtains on the window to the fir tree where the raccoon ate the robin’s babies. Two apron strings from your mother when you turned twenty-one. Those never-mind fabrics: old dreams in dark caverns.

This is some day. Now a bear mask on my lips, headdress below my nose. Filter my spare words. See beyond memory in the crosswalk.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Tricia Knoll, a Vermont poet, knows that she is at-risk. She tries to write a poem or haiku nearly every day and wears a mask with small flowers on it. Her work appears widely in journals and anthologies. Her collected books of poetry include Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press), Ocean’s Laughter (Kelsay Books), and Broadfork Farm (The Poetry Box). Her recent collection How I Learned To Be White received the 2018 Indie Book Award for Motivational Poetry. Read more of her work at Find her on Amazon and Twitter.

Picture 52
by Joan Colby

Our daughter is at the door with
A plastic baggie containing two masks
And some alcohol wipes. Ordered from China
A month ago,they have finally arrived
In time, we hope, to save us.

I contemplate if you had survived
How would we have managed—getting you to the
Clinics for the treatments that kept you alive.
These clinics might be closed like
Everything else. To shelter in place, for you
Would have been suicide.

Anyway, you died before that could
Happen. One bad thing, at least, that you
Dodged. You could hardly breathe—
How would you have tolerated this mask?

O my unmasked love, I’m glad you didn’t have
To bear any more even if, for me, it seems
To venture into the poisoned world
With a white cup over my face
Like a muzzled animal—no words, no cry.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written after the death of my husband on Feb. 27 just before the Covid-19 virus hit us. This poem will ultimately be part of a book to be called The Salt Widow.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). Her poems are winners of the 2014 and 2016 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. She also was selected as an International Merit Award Winner in the 2015 Atlanta Review contest She has published 22 books including  Selected  Poems, which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize  “and Ribcage, which won the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Her latest books are Her Heartsongs  from Presa Press, Joyriding to Nightfall from FutureCycle Press and Bony Old Folks from Cyberwit Press. She has a new book forthcoming from The Poetry Box titled The Kingdom of the Birds. She is a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Good Works Review.

May 3rd (Q Day #50): Día de los Muertos Mask
by Robert Minicucci

This mask, purchased from an artist friend living in Ohio with his wife (a           great writer),

is my Double-Crested Blue Jay to viral insults and assaults.

Greet gray death with color.

“We all die a little each day as we live,” chirps the happy skull. “It’s           always close.”

A dark flock constantly circling.

When it gets closer, I will make one last

poke-of-the-finger at a scraggly crow’s short sharp beak

just as the rest of the murder encircles me and feasts.

This mask protects or smothers. Depends on your choice.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Minicucci lives near Exeter, New Hampshire, with his wife, two of his three children, and a brindle rescue hound named Josie. He came back to poetry after reading One of Us Is Lost by Robert Dunn (a local Portsmouth poet), and Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon, whom he met in 2018 at a University of New Hampshire reading. He’s had work published in the New Hampshire-based poetry zine Good Fat, as well as the online journals Spank the Carp and Rat’s Ass Review. He is on twitter @robertminicucci when he’s not working on his chapbook.

May Day 2020 – Monologue
by Ken Hartke

Mayday! Mayday!
How can this possibly be a Friday?
What the hell happened to Thursday?
It seems the daze dribble out unseen.
Um . . . days. Oops, Freudian slip.
I probably need to watch that. People talk.
On Wednesday, the ants took over the kitchen.
I remember that like it was yesterday.
That was my big safari day.
I went deep; into the seldom-seen regions
— parts unknown down below the sink.
Raid smells funny. Squirt — squirt.
The ants retreated but are undefeated. They’ll be back.
My mask is in the car. I just checked. Again.
My lifeline to real people.
It’s still there. It is still there from Tuesday.
That was my last contact with the outside world
— Contact, as in the spoken word; as in
to a real human. Three humans…I just counted.
Monday, I went for groceries.
Yeah…Definitely Monday.
Masked Monday. Everyone is masked.
Masked, masked, masked…
We have up and down aisles now. More rules.
I’m the one going the wrong way — rebel that I am.
Old ladies give me the masked stink eye as they pass.
(Maybe that was a wink?)
A crafty friend made me a mask — blue with white ties.
Very nice, too. I discovered that I can’t tie a knot
behind my head. My usual surgical mask,
the one in the car, loops behind my ears
along with my glasses and hearing aids.
It’s busy back there. I think I need bigger ears.
Pretty soon my hair will be so long
I won’t even need a mask.
I compared eyebrows with my cat
— he still is winning. But not by much.
He is my therapist at this point.
He thinks I’m nuts. He’s starting to hide.
I notice there’s a lot of that going around.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I think the novelty of masks and isolation has worn thin for some of us. We are prone to mind games and second-guessing after weeks of solitary confinement — as many single people are experiencing. That is the idea behind this rambling “monologue” poem (of sorts).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ken Hartke is a writer and photographer from the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico, but was originally planted and nourished in the Midwest. His New Mexico images now inspire much of his writing. He has contributed work for the Late Orphan Project’s anthology These Winter Months (The Backpack Press), and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. He keeps an active web presence on El Malpais and other places.


Masks of Industry
by Cecilia Kennedy

A parade of masks stretches out on Facebook, their straps trailing the pages. Sleek, sparkling—full of bold patterns and vibrant colors—they go by on industrious friends’ posts. People I know are turning them out—20, 30, 100 a day. Some have made hundreds, and they donate them. Beneath the posts, the memes march past, on the edges of the fabric, reminding me “there is no comparison between the sun and the moon. They shine when it’s their time.” I’m not supposed to judge my “productivity based on what was ‘normal’ in January.” But I do. I do, when I see the masks. And here I am, in the middle of a pandemic without a sewing machine or talent for sewing.

Refreshing the page just lengthens the parade. Teens make N95 masks on 3-D printers and fly planes to deliver supplies. The fireworks at the end are the announcements: Masks Required in Stores. In a panic, I knock on the neighbor’s door to ask for a donation. I’m handed four sturdy masks that are too big, but maybe they’ll shrink.

In the store, we watch each other with wide eyes—looking, looking, looking. I like the strawberry print that another woman wears. Someone else wears a pink flamingo patterned mask—and I wish I could make my own. I’d fashion it from old jeans and bedazzle it.

When I’m done shopping, when I’ve held my breath while walking past mask-less strangers, I place my covering into the wash, hoping I can get a tighter fit. That’s my super- power: shrinking. I snap a picture of my work and add it to the parade. A caption about my progress reads: “Four masks shrunk during lockdown. How the sun and moon do shine!”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cecilia Kennedy taught Spanish language, culture, and literature as well as English composition and literature courses in Ohio for over 20 years. She now lives in the Greater Seattle area with her son Alex and her husband Nathan. Since 2017, she has published over 20 short stories in literary magazines and anthologies online and in print, including The Writing Disorder, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flash Fiction Magazine, Mad Scientist Journal, Coffin Bell, Headway Quarterly, Open Minds Quarterly, and Gathering Storm. Her blog Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks chronicles her humorous attempts at cooking and home repair.

Feeling at Peace in a Field of Turquoise
by Jeannie E. Roberts

Somewhere, there’s a mask, and somehow it was lost, left behind.
You tend to lose things, especially on walks — cram gloves
and hats into pockets, throw scarves over your shoulder,
though they slide, fall to frozen ground. Plodding across roads,

forging new paths, heavy boots as companion, you return home
overheated, beaded with heartiness of cold weather exercise.
Once, you found your favorite scarf mangled by snowplow.
You can’t fix terminal loss. Still, you tried to mend it.

The mask you lost, left behind was abstract, intangible,
sewn with interior stitches, yet, those with vision could see it.
Amid shadow, you stood before windowed gathering,
watched people share ready conversation, easy interaction.

You weren’t allowed to enter. Even so, you kept trying to pry
open the window. It’s as if your insight sensed something
amiss, created shield, energetic field, protection from further
frostbite and judgment — as if you were being guided elsewhere,

away from the human condition, the downside of humanity.
You don’t know. You do know the capabilities of the human
heart, its upside, generosity — the coronavirus has proven that,
for human beings have expressed compassion, united in goodness

and kindness, displayed courage and perseverance, as they help
others, risking their own lives in the process. What tangibles you
can’t fix, like scarf, you discard. What intangibles you can fix,
like windowed gathering, you transmute into brighter,

unified manifestations, where humanity shines as integrated
whole. Now, you wear fabric mask, patterned with peace signs
and flower shapes, a pandemic gift made by your neighbor.
Somewhere, somehow, you lost, left behind, the mask stitched

with inner longings, the one patterned with grief, loss, and panes
of separation. Although, you continue to lose things, overheat
when you walk, you feel at peace, like sea of Caribbean hydrangea,
patch of blue Himalayan poppies, where scent of lilac welcomes
field of turquoise.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The mask theme evoked many ideas: ceremonial masks of native cultures, masking one’s natural personality as a means of social conformity, internal masks and masking behaviors created as coping and survival mechanisms, and, of course, the protective mask worn to slow the spread of COVID-19. My poem is a journey of awareness, awakening, and of surrender.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeannie E. Roberts has authored six books, including The Wingspan of Things (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), Romp and Ceremony (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Beyond Bulrush (Lit Fest Press, 2015), and Nature of it All (Finishing Line Press, 2013). In 2019, her second children’s book, Rhyme the Roost! A Collection of Poems and Paintings for Children, was released by Daffydowndilly Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books. She is poetry editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the StairsWhen she’s not reading, writing, or editing, you can find her drawing and painting, or outdoors photographing her natural surroundings. For more, visit her at

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the 118 writers from around the world who participated in our MY FRONT DOOR Poetry & Prose Series, which ran from March 18-May 20, 2020.

Many thanks to the following authors for taking us through their doorways — and helping us feel connected during these challenging days.

Suzanne Allen
Cynthia Anderson
Alicia Austen
Jane Berg
Alice Venessa Bever
Shelly Blankman
Rosemary Boehm
Steve Bogdaniec
Anne Born
Nancy Brewka-Clark
Gregory Brooks
Kelsey Bryan-Zwick
Charis Buckingham
Karyl Carmignani
Patricia Carney
Jan Chronister
Tricia Marcella Cimera
Joan Colby
Clive Collins
A.S. Coomer
Joe Cottonwood
Neil Creighton
Isobel Cunningham
Michelle D’costa
Subhankar Das
Michelle Davies-Brown
Howard Richard Debs
Ashini J. Desai
Steven Deutsch
Julie A. Dickson
Katherine Edgren
Joseph A. Farina
Vern Fein
Jennifer Finstrom
Lourdes A. Gautier
Midge Goldberg
Vince Gotera
Vijaya Gowrisankar
Uma Gowrishankar
Anita Haas
Tina Hacker
Mark Andrew Heathcote
Jennifer Hernandez
Veronica Hosking
Stephen Howarth
Temidayo Jacob
Andrew Jeter
P M F Johnson
Joseph Johnston
James Ross Kelly
Phyllis Klein
Tricia Knoll
Laurie Kolp
Judy Kronenfeld
Jennifer Lagier
Mary Langer Thompson
Barbara Leonhard
Joan Leotta
Laurinda Lind
Rick Lupert
Tamara Madison
Shahé Mankerian
Ruthie Marlenée
Betsy Mars
Lindsey Martin-Bowen
Devika Mathur
Mary McCarthy
Daniel McGinn
Linda McKenney
Alice Morris
Leah Mueller
Priyanka Mukherjee
Robbi Nester
Maria Nestorides
Cristina M.R. Norcross
Carolyn O’Connell
Robert O’Mochain
Erin Parker
Martha Patterson
Apoorva B. Raj
Patrick T. Reardon
Kevin Ridgeway
Belinda Rimmer
Jeannie E. Roberts
Mary Rohrer-Dann
Kerfe Roig
Alexis Rotella
Sarah Russell
Kimberly Sailor
d.r. sanchez
Wilderness Sarchild
Jame Schwartz
Shloka Shankar
Sheikha A
Kashiana Singh
Leslie Sitter
Massimo Soranzio
Carol A. Stephen
Robert Strickland
Lesley Strutt
Jacque Stukowski
MK Sturdevant
JC Sulzenko
Debi Swim
Terrence Sykes
Jo Taylor
Alarie Tennille
Thomas R. Thomas
Wren Valentino
Alan Walowitz
Dylan Ward
Lisa Lerma Weber
Elaine Wesson
Kelley White
Lynn White
Lin Whitehouse
Kim Whysall-Hammond
Jonathan Yungkans
Joanie HF Zosike

Please check out our current call for submissions at the link below:

WEARING A MASK Poetry & Prose Series (May 31, 2020 deadline)

Photo of house in Palm Springs, California, by Don Stouder on Unsplash.

Debs Front Door IMG_0165
What Is on the Other Side of the Door?
by Howard Richard Debs

I do not know what is out there,
since the door is closed—
for now, for life’s sake,
I only open the door
If I must do so, to get
the daily mail, left by a
courageous unknown
postal carrier,
to take the trash to the curb
to be taken away
by a brave unseen
sanitation worker;
what else is on the
other side of the door
which I have opened
a thousand times before
for more than forty years
since raising a family
and together with my spouse,
growing old in this house?
Somewhere out there exhausted
doctors and nurses care for the intubated,
laid-off husbands and wives sit at kitchen tables
pondering fearfully what is due to pay,
empty schools, shut shops, worshipless pews
but too, mothers and fathers wheeling strollers
on the street, keeping distance from those they meet,
masked grocery workers stocking shelves
so we can eat, first responders, police officers serving us all—
the dawn of other ways to live beyond those now
proven unprepared for these our present days.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The poet Alicia Ostriker once wrote, “Writing is what poets do about trauma. We try to come to grips with what threatens to make us crazy, by surrounding it with language.” While we are amidst an unprecedented time of trial and tribulation, I wanted to take a moment through this poem to consider both the sad and the heroic without question, but to try as well to look ahead with hope.

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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. He is co-editor of New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust, forthcoming later in 2020 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.