Quarantine Tales Week 7

Viral Spike by Clif Mason

            She was just about to leave the building 

                                                                        for the day 

when a giant viral fan came on 

                                                & sucked all the gladness 

                        right out the vents. 

            The lights became dim 

& her temperature rose

                                                hard & fast. 


            Maintaining social distancing, 

everyone sat down 

                        because it was simply too difficult 

                                                            to stay on their  feet. 

            They felt as if moving 

even a little 

                        required more breath 

                                                than they’d ever have again

            Above their masks, 

their eyes became unfocused 

                                                            & the lights dimmed.


            She thought at first of loved ones 

                                                                        & friends, 

but the gaps between thoughts

                                                             became longer. 

            She was certain she would perish.


            But the next shift arrived 

                                                            & shut off the fan. 


            Most came back to themselves, 

                        enough to wash their hands and go home.


                                    three people killed themselves

as soon as they were cleared to leave. 

            One slit his wrists with a staple remover. 

            One, wearing her mask, 

hanged herself 

                                    from the drop ceiling 

                                                                        in her office. 

            & one fed 

                                                his right hand & arm

into an industrial-strength paper shredder. 

            Dozens were taken to a hospital.

            Of those, ten died on ventilators  

                                                & twenty were transferred,

                        after two weeks,

to the state mental hospital, 

                        where they remained catatonic. 


            Six months later, 

she was still having trouble sleeping. 

            Same with her friend in the next cube, 

                        who said she & her partner had separated 

& friends called less frequently. 

            Almost half the people 

                                                who’d worked in the building 

                        had left

& gone their unmasked ways. 

            The rest sat, masked, at their desks, 

unable to stop their knees 

                                                            from trembling. 

            Why did they stay?  

            The economy’s bad. 

            The job market’s hopeless. 

            We have a good health plan. 

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“Stay Home” by Jason Montgomery

“Stay Home” by Jason Montgomery

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She Now Came Back by Tom Squitieri

The calendar cackles

As if charting a day

A week, months

Can substitute

For a dearth of 



She went away

Faint becomes dim

Creativity gets


Dreams dither


With her

Spring would come


Each Sunday

To light the burn of



When she would

say yes

Being a magic 

And powerful fusion

Scientists only dream about


There are no 

Complicated formulas

To rack

She is the unending



Today, dawn

Cracked a smile


Look how the sun

Is shining today


Today, when you

Sleep alone far away

You rolled on

Your side and looked

My way

As only you can


The fresh rain



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Shadow Woman by Traci Coppola

The child isn’t speaking. The napkin-shredder girl. What the hell. 

I do my best, just like my biology teacher told me I should when I swore off horseback riding and tried to steal one of the microscopes under my blouse, all to save myself some time and cram in as much knowledge about cells and bacteria. You can spend some time with the horses and you can spend some time with your studies. You don’t have to do it all. Just do the best you can. Do the best you can. She’d say this and it was a weight off, a chamomile tea, a soft nest after a wartime cot. I’d listen and stare at her long, dark braid with envy and a little distraction. I wondered if she braided it alone each morning or if she had help and either way what was that like. I pictured an antique standing mirror and a room with a low slant, wallpaper with images of multiple woodland creatures dancing. But in the end, I think I just wanted to hear it. I nearly failed biology because I was hardly there and I went back to the horses—Atticus, Dauphine, Johnny Boy, Sam, Dixie, Anton. Grooming, stall cleaning, watering, feeding, swatting flies away from their big, expressive eyes. Watching with daggered suspicion the group of Troubled Kids get off the bus each Saturday for their mandatory hour of equine therapy. 

Some girls called me Horseshit. I had no idea I smelled like horse manure. When I told them I should be so lucky– horse shit is some of the strongest, most durable stuff on earth and you can put it straight in the garden—they’d stare at me and walk away. They didn’t want the conversation.   

I’d love to spend more time in gardens in any fashion anytime. I think about that when I short-cut through alleys in the city on my way to the Wash & Dry. I tell it to the naked Kewpie dolls, the piles of dog hair, stained mattresses and distressed boxes. We can’t afford it.

Today no one is out, just like yesterday and the day before and the day before. The parking lot is empty. But the Wash & Dry is open. I took this job because most other doors are closed. The manager told me I could stay here all day, clean what needed cleaning, and mind his two small children, a boy named Danger and the girl whose name I have forgotten. I tried to amuse them by showing them some of the unclaimed clothes, the dirty underwear the people who have no shame drop off. Danger cringes and kicks the side of the washing machine, threatens to walk across the street to the abandoned house full of opaque jars and homeless people. The girl lets the pile of napkin shreds fall from her lap, tears falling as she begins to unlace, lace, and unlace her shoes. But she still won’t speak or allow me to console her.  

Some people call this a blessing, say it will bring us closer together in the long run and that we should never forget to tell our friends and family we love them. People drop off their resumes and I throw them under the dryer when the children aren’t looking. 

I do my best to believe in that post-COVID ideal, too. Where we are all safe, happy, and relieved. I do my best.

In my dreams, I cannot remember what has happened. I do not worry about death or broken walls or jobs or stressed children. I am a horse and there is no nation. My hooves navigate moss, old-growth trees, and stretches and stretches of desert. I cross lakes at moonlight, surrounded by the wisdom of ancient grizzly bear caves. I swim in the sea, swallowing the same salt water as the whales. My back is strong and has never felt the whip, the spur, the weight of man. I am free. 

I look up and the children are gone. I run to the door and see them in the parking lot. They’ve discovered a lost Chihuahua and cornered it near the dumpster. Before it darts under, I am able to catch it. It struggles and shakes in my arms. Come on, children, let’s go inside. Let’s bring him inside. He needs a home. This is what I will do today. And maybe he will still be with me tomorrow. 

Mount Parnassus by Ann Huang

Today: you, a cloud, the trees,

a cup of Johnny Walker, the sea

without usual stillness you weep for.

A woman is surrounding you.

You are thrilled. 

Only for her. The sea,

without its usual stillness, 

go to high tide from low tide. 

More than this. The humor

many highlights of silver. You’re 

craving that. Humor is your soul. 

You embrace the high tide. So calm &

blissful with the droplets you endure. 

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“Michael, the essential” by Julia Justo

“Michael, the essential” by Julia Justo

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Coronas surrounded the globe,

Monarch butterflies delayed their

returns, waited in jungle mists

to await news of normalcy.

Later, when it was deemed safer,

the flutter of their wings rumbled

across mountain ranges, echoed

in tide pools, mimicked breathless waves.

They entered skies that had shed smoke

so they passed sights unknown to their

ancestors. Along the way, they met

other gravity-defying

travelers who were shedding fears

of extinction like a second skin.

As they flew, a new sound emerged.

Call it innocence. Call it joy.

Call it wishful thinking. There was

inspiration for new symphonies.

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Butterflying Tears by Tracy Stamper

Finally tears fell 

onto the oasis of her yoga mat

forming a river


It had been a drought of human connection 

for countless days already

with who knows how many more ahead 


Roots grew down into earth

crown reached to skies

as inner eye traveled the river of tears


Bloodstream traveled

for spirit visits

to her kin


Heart beat to and fro 

contract and release 

with love of family


Breath takes in what needs cleansing

like plants filter air

exhaling compassion for all


despite her fears and her angers 

when viewing carelessness 

of her fellow humans


Tears cried in mourning 

for all that once was 

and will never again be 


Tears cried as a fountain of heart

touched by how fellow man helps fellow man 

even in these days without touch 


Will spring 

feel like spring 

from inside?


And then
the flap 

of butterfly wings


Do you know 

how loud they are 

in silence?


Do you know 

the feeling of delight in your chest 

when they lift up into flight?


Remember this.


your butterfly heart.

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The Deep Insides of Tomorrow Remain Unknown by Dave Sims

The Deep Insides of Tomorrow Remain Unknown by Dave Sims

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Six Feet Closer by L. R. Camacho

The tender touch and smells

of being in open spaces—

holding hands and kissing—

I long to be six feet closer to you.

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Daydreaming on a Saturday Afternoon in May During a Global Pandemic by Andrew Posner

It’s Saturday afternoon about two months into social distancing and quarantine and I find it hard to daydream. I can cite the numbers—70,000+ dead, 30 million+ jobs lost—but we have all become statisticians of the macabre. Let’s talk about something else. In the morning there were snow flurries and now an imitation sun is making false promises: 

– those branches are not swaying in cold

– you don’t need a sweater to keep warm

– it is snowing in May and everything is perfectly fine

– the train that rumbled by was full of healthy people doing weekend things

It’s Saturday afternoon. I just read that the virus is mutating, anti-vaxxers are joining other unsavory elements to protest public health measures, the president doesn’t see the need for mass testing but is now getting tested daily—we all know the news isn’t good. Let’s talk about something else. Last night I had a dream. A poet wearing PPE stood in a park crowded with unmasked people; no one heard him over their laughing and their coughing. Elsewhere, nurses stood up to gun-toting, flag-bearing protestors; somehow, no one was shot or got sick. A grandma and grandpa died before they could visit their grandson; the funeral was held by video chat. Okay, let’s talk about what kind of country that boy will grow up in…

Reset by Ryan Norman

It’s day one million or something and I’m tired

of   birdsong.

The sun breaks my sleep and

birds chirp, an alarm I can’t snooze, 

out of reach in the   boughs,

grating at my frayed pattern of

patchwork sleep, pulling threads

of my patience with hard beaks

like bugs from the dirt; soiled sheets

wrapped around my cold-sweat

of last night’s anxiety dreams.

I gulp a breath into my belly

drowning in a relaxation technique,

trying to   reset.

The Shins start to play and they’re 

singing about gold teeth, so I stop

to think what they mean, but the flood

begins, a deluge of thoughts—

I need a bath to relax.

I pour in lavender salt to calm and cleanse

and wash away the new sins

that come with being locked inside

for   so   long. Unoriginal sin. Not taken

away. Immersed in water, I float.

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One Month In by John Robert Grogan

Cracks appear in the street

On a short drive.

Squabbling on the pavements,

Four incidents of close quarters

Breaking loose and spilling

Into public spaces, where they

Can not be still inside their cages.

It is loud voices wrestling mass focus,

But eyes scream

What are you looking at?

Just waiting for the go-light, then I’m gone.

A mother-daughter combo

Where the younger gets a thump,

And carries a look of

Should’ve ordered a whole chicken,

Instead of two halves, impossible to work out,

Why is maths so hard?

An activewear-couple bicker on

A side street; the tone breaches

The side window of my car,

Like a surprise pebble on the windscreen.

He’s paces ahead, any nearer he’d be – deaf.

Two rakishly thin ones,

No lights on their bikes,

Peddle straight toward my

Vehicle in the night,

Expecting to carry on with life;

Two or four weeks inside

Has turned these jokers into clowns.

Argument is rampant,

Sunset switched them home-bound,

Anger is go-faster stripes

Hurry the f*ck up!

Curiosity is calmed by parking.

Strolling in the darkness

Before the outside light has

Softened shadows, another

Spectacle of rage ranges

Through the parade.

I check for a full moon,

But only stars tonight I see;

And they are perfect-imperfection,

A cocoon of sacred light,

Like our gentle wabi-sabi,

Where we love and scream and fight.

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I Can Do Without by Nancy Jorgensen

I don’t miss suburban department stores or clothes-strewn fitting rooms. Overstuffed racks. Overpriced pants. Over-piped music. 

Or movie theaters with sticky armrests. Reclining-chair headrests: sometimes lice nests. A waiting line for Skittles and popcorn.  

Or grocery stores with rain-soaked carts. Lettuce mist dripping on my leg. A deli salad buffet. Domed donut displays. 

But oh, for a beer on tap, outside on a deck, at the lake.

I don’t miss airplanes and airports. Bulging baggage. Moving walkways. Knees on the bathroom door.

Or food courts or Coke machines. Greasy fries. Pizza on plastic trays. Soggy bread around pastrami and cheese.

Or overblown weddings with expensive gifts. Rain-soaked vows. Too much free beer. Wishing I was home.

But oh, for a beer on tap, a microbrew with foam, at a high-top table, outside on a deck at the lake; the scent of seaweed and damp; pontoon boats cruising by.

I do miss the beach and a coverup. A kid with a squirt gun. An iron-black grill. A bite of my husband’s hamburger. 

And bookstores with next-door coffee bars. Bookseller friends. Hushed customers in aisles. Poetry readings at night.

And live concerts with professional musicians. Violins and violas. Dulcimers and harps. A singer with a guitar. 

But oh, for a beer on tap, a microbrew with foam, IPA or red ale, at a high top table with a swivel chair, outside on a deck at the lake; the scent of seaweed, sun and damp; pontoon boats cruising by; muskies jumping to shake off a hook or just breathe the air.

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Currents by Oliya Maicoh

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I Pick Up The Newspaper by Christopher Rubio-Goldsmith

These days slow dance

me there by the table

near the chair that is always 

playing a loud solitude.

How many steps

down the hall?

The bathroom rug 

has finished shrugging

at the yawning dog. 

Jigsaw puzzle funk

radio bump bump and

it’s finally 3 in the tarde.

Casi la house seems big 

enough to contain yesterday.


The novel reads the same 

page over and over. That

way no one gets a paper

cut. The same words

rumble each other

closer and closer to 

a duel meaning.

Can todos agree

some movies just don’t

stand the test lasting a week?

Jokes do get stale

but drama gets revised.


Plots rob liquor stores.


I pick up the newspaper

off the sidewalk with a dishrag.

The neighborhood families

ride bikes right by

me and wave. I try

uncovering my hand quickly.

They have seen the same

New York Knick t-shirt for

five days. 


I just want to help

Superman stop

the earth’s rotation.

Summers with Granny by the Shore by Pastel Schway

Millions of bubbles with frothy foam streamline the dimly lit shore

Mesmerizing even as I had seen it thousands of times before


With constant and perfect rhythm, a lullaby so sweet

The waves never once pause as the water parts and meets.


Clear ripples lap at my ankles, swallowing bare heels then carefully withdraw 

In the shore-light a tiny ghost crab gracefully escapes a swooping bird’s jaw.


The crab scuttles through the wet shoreline, leaving prints

Of soft, riddled secrets in the sand whispering hints. 


Water spurls upward, mark, then sprawls towards me. 

The edge of my dress dampens as I walk further into sea.


Rough granules of sand prick between the crevices of my toes. 

Salt bits cling to my skin as the water plays its vagrant ode.


I walk in the dark to the time you held my tiny hand, leading me by the ocean calm. 

The reflection on the water is soft and soothing like an angel’s quiet, open palm.


When you called and said you’d be here like before

The reds of my swollen shoes just brood, waiting, on the beach shore.


My heavy lids close the monologue with the pale midnight air 

If only I could make it back earlier to this secret lair.


My hand drops into the sea, fingering the cool water’s qualm 

I still my movements, sigh, and watch the glittering calm.


Upon the waves, the stars tumble and topple, riding the points of the full zodiac

As the wind blows the water forward and back, my reflection keeps getting further off track.


Then the meek stars all kneel upon the flickering waters

Like receding tide carrying each born moment to its slaughter.


I stare back at the stained-glass water projecting the moon-glow 

And give a full kiss to the sky above and the deeps below.


To each piece of colored shimmering glass, a memory of the past I see 

I think to myself even though I’ve come so far, will the night let you see me?


Steadily the sun begins to rise and I 

Lament it’s time to bid another goodbye.


The headlights of my Uber approaching, I turn and gaze into the sand one last time 

And steal a burrowing sand dollar from the shore, clenching a moment that’s yours and mine.


Then as the car pulls away, a pair of red heels is left cradled deeply in the sand 

I’m ready to brace the hospital again as the sand dollar molds itself into my hand.

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