The theme for this special issue emerged from multiple sources of inspiration and observation that came together in a way that just made sense. I’d observed that poetry was our most popular submission category, that April was National Poetry Month, and that sometimes, a few words, used carefully, can say more than 1,000. I’ve worn masks all my life, and I’ve seen how they’re used to protect, to hide, and to survive. A year into a global pandemic, I was curious to see how our narrative had evolved from last year’s special issue, “In the Time of Corona” and where our figurative masks fit within that narrative.
We asked for stories and artwork that embraced the theme of masks and masking. And the community delivered.
I can’t accurately convey how impressed, moved, and proud I am of the unprecedented response to this call for submissions. Last year, we received 35 submissions and accepted 11 for our Covid-themed special issue. This year, we received 183 and accepted 44 pieces representing diverse voices from around the world. This collection represents not only the evolving narrative of life within the pandemic but also what it means to wear a mask, to suffer loss, to make the best of what we have, and most of all, to be human.
My sincerest thanks to everyone who contributed to this collection, to the amazing team who helped me curate and edit it, and to all of you reading it.
— Brianna Paris, Editor in Chief
by Laura Glenn
Usually hers is a winsome nature—
pelting headfirst into my palm
on hind legs then repeating the greeting,
so pleased is she to see
someone so pleased to see her.
On this visit, finding me effaced,
she won’t even look into my eyes.
I pick up a twig for her to nuzzle, stoop
to stroke her with it.
She walks away ~ tail swaying.
Next time I stop by, masked in blue—
a color cats can see—
I sweet-talk her, as is my bent.
Do I sound muffled? She seems baffled.
When I offer heart-shaped catnip
to win her over,
again I am snubbed. Leaving
the serrated leaf on the concrete,
she pads across the grass,
seeking refuge under umbrage.
Another day I visit her anew; she sniffs at
the vinyl glove I slip on as if I were a vet.
I can’t feel her peach-gray fur,
but at least I can play with her.
Will it ever be the same, Francesca?
We used to meet on the weathered steps
of the abandoned house next door to hers,
where she’d climb all over me, then settle
on my lap—mine for the interim.
Days, weeks, months pass…
More people mask,
including those she lives with.
I stroll, by and by,
now she’s used to it. She slinks
into the palm of my gloved hand.
We make eye contact again.
When no one’s in view,
I briefly lift my mask—
her yellow-green eyes smile back.
A Mining Archer
by Dmitry Borshch
Ink on paper, 50 x 20 inches.
by Cadence Summers
The days slide by
avoiding cold truths
and peripheral examinations.
But the weeks pound past
like an elevated heart rate.
like smiles behind a mask,
a series of Tues
Whole years pass and
it’s still only today.
I Used to Be You
by Kitty Dasinger
Digital painting of a woman wearing a spiked mask, keeping the viewer away.
We’ve All Done It Before
by Gratia Serpento
Cowboys in the west
Pull up a handkerchief,
Protecting themselves from sand and sun.
It’s a common practice to get dressed.
Graffiti artists wear them
So they can be spraying without praying.
Those paint particles burn the nostrils,
So in peace, they paint a Canadian plum.
Ridding the world of pests,
They wear one, too,
With no bawling and squalling.
So why can’t you,
With the threat a death against
Every single member of your family,
Wear one too?
Our country has been doing it for years,
So why can’t you do it
Every time you go and get food?
It’s not the work of engineers.
It’s wearing a simple piece of fabric
To save everyone.
You are as dumb a brick.
Our country has done it for years,
So why can’t you?
We’ve all done it before.
by Laura Glenn
My only new apparel in eleven months,
I measure my days in masks that rotate:
Monday’s mask is fair of face.
Wednesday’s mask is cloaking maskne.
We all need masks
of our faces.
I’ve a mask with sky-blue flowers and another with indigo stars,
a rosy mask with Florentine curlicues, one with ochre-and-blue Dreamtime dots…
There’s a mask flaunting a rainbow of cats and one with books in a colorful row;
there’s also a delicious mask that dangles tropical fruits over my mouth.
What’s more, someone sews me a mask like reflections in Monet’s pond.
Though I never see people, I’m also given one with a fan of plum blossoms.
I receive a mask I wish were fragrant: green pine needles.
I could save all of them in case there’s a next time,
or at the end, swatch together a crazy quilt.
I resist spending the day in bed, comforter pulled over my head,
radio blathering news about the surrealistic Pillow Man.
Despite dismal moments, I still cherish life,
and when I can, try to live fully.
I mask up for a walk with my spouse,
but my ties come undone when I talk, talk, talk,
due to the muscular strength of my jaw.
Seeking something that hugs my face, I try laces, straps, ear loops with toggles.
With pretraumatic stress before braving
the defunct Sears for my first vaccine dose,
I double up a houndstooth mask
over a Chinese N95 knockoff.
In quest of protection, I’m endangered—the room
holds more people than I’ve seen in eleven months,
and though masked, even heroic health workers get too close.
No one blinks at my getup: coat, hat, vinyl gloves,
chin-high scarf overlapping two masks: nothing
showing of me but my eyes behind glasses: scoping
the setup from a line that’s staggered.
Finally, my first dose
burns my arm—in a good way—like a shot
of whiskey down the throat.
At My Age
by Charlene Moskal
The Wild West was never so complicated.
If you were a bad guy you wore a mask
Good guys didn’t—simple.
Now there are perforated lines separating the pieces—
Safe……. unsafe. Believers……..non-believers.
Those who grieve for what was left unsaid.
I am told that at my age, I am vulnerable.
At all ages, I have always been vulnerable—
There is nothing new here behind my small cloak.
I have always been the occupier of mystery faces
Able to change at will from black to pretty patterns.
I have worn masks in front of my lips since childhood.
Now ubiquitous, made manifest by silent assassins.
There could be a romance to all this—not for me,
But for them, heroes who never planned to act
In woman warrior stories and savior dreams.
The masks are tattered—unable to appeal to sanity.
We shelter under the assumption of a saving grace
Yet no one can find lamb’s blood for the lintels.
Spirit of the Prairie
by Lavinia Roberts
Photo by Lavinia Roberts.
by David Capps
The most difficult one
the caves at Lascaux, for instance,
whose inner chambers
glow with handprints
along lapidated walls,
show with conviction
that cheating, or taking a break, or napping
on the job,
(and not to forget disjunctions)
are something less
than the touchingness
even if we were all believing in it
Moving forward, there is a doctor—
draped in wax coat,
whose stick is stained by pustules
of this bumpkin who knew no better
than to pop them with a hen feather
time and time again
along his journey
in the English countryside;
he is one of hundreds
of devoted monks
by myrrh-filled death suits,
outwardly foolish and terrifying
but to themselves
when they carry their own masks
who call upon those husbands, wives, children
whose loving looks have become the unremarkable landscaping
of centuries of dead earth
whose longing looks are the eternal marriage
of devotion and order.
by Emma Johnson-Rivard
My quarantine hobby was painting masks
and watching the dogs run.
I don’t sleep much. I think about dying.
Question: if a name is holy,
can the body follow suit?
We are not glorious. We will die in the quiet.
This is the fear, my
By my words, by the dog, by my
stardust masks, please know:
I will kill my ghosts. Do not let me go gently.
by Michael Thompson
Photoshop collage of two Roy Lichtenstein paintings.
by Anna Leah Eisner
Privacy now has
a different meaning than before.
You keep on retreating further and
further back into yourself and
spaces so that suddenly
your face is not your face,
but something you use to cover the thing
you’re trying to preserve within yourself.
but no one acknowledges it.
A lot of my nightmares since I was young
are about things that are not what they seem.
Seemingly fine or normal things that hide
You know you aren’t supposed to be there,
but it is vibrant, colorful, pleasant even.
Just the sense
the mask has become
To be human is to not be able to fully
communicate with other humans—
a mask is between every interaction—but I’m going too far now—
Grace Under Fire
by K. Johnson Bowles
While this body of work is not about a particular religious belief or canon, the series title takes its name from the St. Veronica legend. It is said Veronica wiped Christ’s face with her veil during his journey carrying the cross. The image of his face miraculously left an impression on the cloth. The series Veronica’s Cloths explores the residual nature of physical and emotional trauma.
This work is an assemblage sewn on a vintage handkerchief in a manner purposefully pointing to that which is “grandmotherly,” wise, and reflective. The unexpected juxtapositions of familiar materials, emotionally charged images, and menacing objects are designed to attract and repel the viewer—an uncanny valley.
The works represent flashes in the mind’s eye and suggest an untold drama of violation, loss, anger, grief, pain, and shame. The images are photographs of details from objects in public collections and museums (art, natural history, cemeteries, arboreta, et al.). These details, taken out of context, suggest clues to a more complex narrative drama and beg the question, “What happened?” They represent the hauntings of experience and call for justice.
new year, new me
by Amanda Williams
Sometimes I feel like the woman who lived
at the edge of the world
shouting into the void
I can feel a brighter version of myself
white as a wraith
through my fingers
like sand cascading hopelessly
through a sieve
and I miss her
Looking back at the women who came before me
and wondering if they, too
ever felt themselves slip away
like water through river rocks
with quiet ferocity
the ache of not knowing the future
too stuck in the past
wondering if all her best days are behind her
a longing for presence
did they feel the sunshine brush their skin
fleeting moments of renewal before
they feel their essences shatter across multitudes
This year has been dark clouds
the ache of what once was
and uncertainty of what will be
with empty platitudes
and broken promises
ready to dispel
at a moment’s notice
Daughter of Invasion
by Denise Alden
after Jericho Brown and Stephen Jenkinson
I am a daughter of invasion
And the mother of nothing.
You can’t win a war and keep it with peace:
Our masks cover the pain and trauma.
The rotten apple of your eye
Blinds you to the rotten basket.
Our broken land, our broken gods:
The sword and plowshare are as one
And we, a mongrel monolith,
Are in the unintended wake
Of dwindling, damaged resources.
Turns out that a civilized
Daughter of invasion cannot
Possibly mother anything at all.
by Michael Thompson
It was the anonymity and disruption that I loathed.
by Paul Van Sickle
replaces an empty
“How are you?”
“How long did that take to grow?”
as if genetics were a choice.
I grew my moustache
because I hate my spoon nose.
Because I dread a weak chin,
I grew a beard. To hide the beauty
mark on my cheek,
I first sharpened my tongue
so every time words felt blunt,
my moustache became a point
of discussion. Armor
against the silence.
But when I see the cat eye frames
wax my moustache,
contour beard to bone,
realize how loud
my face has become,
I start to wish people meant it less
when they say, “Nice moustache”
and more when they say, “How are you?”
The Flight from Bangkok
by Frank William Finney
I had no urge to watch a movie. Even the music held no appeal.
The nurse in my head said: drink, man, drink—
but nevertheless, beware the loo …
When the mask came off to face the food, I couldn’t find
my appetite. When the hostie came back to pick up the tray,
I tried my best to smile back with my eyes.
by Laura Glenn
It’s not the small outdoor
rendezvous I expected,
not my own little bubble:
awash in people, I’m the only one
Guests eye me charily,
as if I’ve shown up for a costume party by mistake.
“Don’t worry,” someone smirks,
“I’m wearing the Emperor’s New Mask.”
Someone else charitably
waves a loopy wand my way:
galactic-size bubbles flow through the air
like liquid glass.
What an iridescent moment:
blue, violet, transparent.
Through the giant lens,
I eyeball other bubbles
as they glom onto each other—
then pop open.
Inside my crystallized bubble,
I begin to wobble,
so I balance my arms and legs
like the Vitruvian Woman
and the wind cartwheels me
to the dead of winter.
As if unshaken,
I watch snow fall outside
my snow globe.
Soon bullets of hail
rattle my cage…
How long must I remain
in this transparent orb,
watching the world fall apart?
From the ground up, rime rises—a sublime
leafy tracery, pale reminder of spring.
by Samantha Steiner
In the seventeenth century, plague doctors wore masks that had long beaks filled with lavender. While the plague doctors’ masks covered the eyes and forehead, today’s surgical masks live on the lower portion of the face. In this oil pastel drawing, I reflect on the dualities embodied by both masks, as they represent safety and danger, health and illness, life and death.
From the Extinction Manual
by Noel Sloboda
Act as if you own more than you can
count: every single blade of grass
and each drop of water in the sea
as well as particles of air, invisible
yet vital to all animal life—
yours to sell. Call dibs
on naming rights for sunrise.
Package sponsorships for sunset.
Believe in safe houses and bulletproof
glass, bunkers and panic
rooms lined with lead, cameras everywhere
along with detectors for radon
and lies. Beef up security details
one more time. Forget
about that button the color of a cardinal
right under your fingertip
bearing the label “Self-Destruct.”
Or just keep on wearing
a disguise that looks like anyone
other than a “Self”
and you can carry on today.
Lockdown Letter to the Muse
by Julian Matthews
When I write you a socially distanced poem, I know the meters between us won’t matter. My mask will be down, and I won’t hide the words reaching out to try to bridge this aching divide. It will be one less measured rhyme between your tearing eyes and these cheerless times. And there will be no pressure on you then to divine the deeper meaning between the blank spaces and the line
This forced isolation is like being inside our own guilty, gilded cages. We are like hermits hermetically sealed in our hermitages. We are pixelated presences in password-protected Zooms. We sit on our asses behind glass screens as if in a prison’s visitor room. And we hold back from opening our mouths in mock silent screams.
Oh, the emptiness of it all. I feel voided in this dance of avoidance between us. I revile this vile vicariousness! This vacuum of virtuality! This vulgar vagary of vacillation! I grow weak, as the months turn into a whole wasted year without your embrace, my love. And my ear yearns to hear your warm whispers, to touch your soft resistance, to lie in your grace.
The virus is now the boss, dictating this formless Great Pause. All my consonance colludes to elude me. My rhythm has lost its reason to be. My poems are metastasizing into a prosaic sea.
But I continue crafting them for you. Anyway.
Even when the stanzas are all in disarray. I cannot let this covidious curse break our covert code, our constancy of purpose, our precious covenant to stay true to The Verse.
So stay strong, and no more silent for long, my muse, my mistress and master.
Forever, I remain your forlorn, fallen, and failing poetic servant.
by Michael Thompson
I just couldn’t cover up enough when the world was ordered to isolate.
What Lies Beneath
by Alex Phuong
Transitions to maturity
The natural form
A work of art
An example of humility
For all people are
And pure honesty
Provides a portal
To show what lies beneath
Sunburnt on Sunnyside Avenue
by Marquis Paradis
The Grim Reaper gorged himself on the stolen souls
harvested by slicing apart families with his scythe.
His hellhounds ran rabid and foaming, unleashed
and latching onto the vulnerable with fleshy jowls,
spreading disease in every metropolis and mountainside.
I learned how to love amid pandemic hysteria.
Basking in the beauty of Chicago’s architecture,
tracing the arched trees that shaded Sunnyside Avenue,
walking with the always-watching blood-orange-eyed pigeons.
I never spoke; I just observed.
My oak bookcase cracked at capacity.
Poetry and prose filled every page
inside my leather-bound journals in purple ink.
I let my hair down and the trivial problems
of yesteryear fell by its side.
While I turned pages beneath magnolia blossoms
and drank lemon iced tea underneath the June sun,
whispers in the haunting silence reminded me
that my eyes weren’t wet, my cheeks weren’t stained,
and I hadn’t had a share of the misery.
For the first time, I saw my reflection in the city
that I adored but was too self-seeking to see before:
a forgotten soul, resurrected with doe eyes
and a soft pink sunburn, longing to understand
the fruits of privilege that were taken for granted.
Walking down deserted sidewalks and streets
littered with mud-soaked face masks and ripped latex gloves,
rainclouds followed me around, dripping drops
of reflection, washing away layers of dirt,
exposing the raw flesh of humble gratitude.
by Eric Machan Howd
Monsters push from behind,
reach in front of us with arms
tattooed with winged skulls,
and vein-colored steampunk gears.
They grab the last milk
and final cartons of eggs.
They pay somber cashiers gold coins
with stars etched into both sides
and leave without anyone seeing.
We turn aisles—tense
and smile unseen behind masks
sewn by a neighbor, a nurse skilled
in the ways of making fine chocolates
for the neighborhood, dark ones
with spices from Mexico
left in small round tins,
touchless on our front porch steps.
by Renée Cohen
What lies beneath our figurative masks.
Butterfly McQueen, as Puck, Addresses the Audience in the Closing Monologue of Seldes and Charell’s Swingin’ The Dream.
by Benjamin Goluboff
Gentles, do not reprehend
if I decline your hand as friends.
The theater nurtures acts of faith
decidedly not to my taste.
You good white patrons in your seats,
promiscuous in your belief,
Believe that Flute became our Thisbe,
believe that I became Miss Prissy.
Believe that Topsy simply grew,
but I do not believe in you.
by Lavinia Roberts
Photo by Lavinia Roberts.
A Tragedy of Mouthless Actors
by Tufik Shayeb
the world filled like a theater
with a few stragglers at a time
until the auditorium swelled
with people wearing masks
this was the year that mouths
became an endangered species
with their disembodied voices
trailing off from distant eyes
squinting, wide open, closed,
eyebrows arched and relaxed
as we learned drama basics
like emoting with your gaze
and projecting across the room
like being aware of your space
and learning where to stand
we emerged from the year
better actors than we went in
while we rehearsed each line
for our cameos in the next act
Ode to a Mask
by Cici Liu
when I was nine you were a gold-tinged
red-dyed likeness of a general who
fought at the battle of the red cliff who
swung a snowstorm of strikes with his dao who
saved his enemy
because of mercy who
terrified me with your exaggerated features
when I was eleven you were a disguise
over the boyish face of my friend at
a masquerade inspired by a fantasy
romance we were obsessed with
the escape it offered
from the mundane you were
the silk that hooded her eyes
but not her smile
recognizable from dimples
and crooked teeth
when I was fifteen you were a shield
on the controlled danger of fencing
strips with the faceless opponent’s sword in
my face and mine in hers looking for
an opening that would kill
on the battlefield and when I lifted you off
my face and she lifted you off her face
we were sweaty teenagers again
when I am nineteen you are the necessity
that marks the common sensible man yet
faceless syndrome haunts the street
corners and supermarkets and torment
artists and poets alike what is life if
I can’t see the mirth and dimples of my friend
you are the reason we learned to smile with our eyes
by Tara Troiano
When exploring the winding streets of Venice, there are countless faces to see. Young couples ride gondolas, tourists snap pictures of architecture, students congregate in bars, and vendors show off their wares. But perhaps the most alluring array of faces is found in the many mask shops throughout the floating city. Featuring carnival disguises of every shape and size, these shops are filled with new identities for sale.
This photograph, taken in one of these countless Venetian shops, shows one real face among thousands. The artist behind the masks awaits eager buyers, happy to outfit them with a new identity.
Find Your Face Beneath
by Grant Young
We talk in a panic as if we’re
frantic just trying to reach
each other, but
our words live in a house of mirrors,
all warped and cracked.
Distortions chatter back and forth,
back and forth.
What I wrench free and shove to my outside—
you bury it so far in,
under 7 layers
of thick sticky skin.
Try to find your face beneath
the words: acrylic, undertone chrome, purple
Peer hard into the face
‘til you fall into the mirror,
and swim around
in that deep end.
It’s time to take your glitter off.
With the click of a camera, you are
image-bound, a memory
inside a prison
or just a frame.
In the gallery, you said to me,
Every single painting
is a portrait of us.
Together, we can take our glitter off.
Parts farther south, in art class,
they study death with arts
and crafts; they say it’s important
to glitter the coffin just so.
They say doomsday draws
near. They heard grumbles
from our atmosphere:
hardened yet frayed,
as if we’re trapped
beneath a ceiling
bound to collapse.
But you, staring
into the mouth of the gale,
you put your hand
in my pocket.
It’s You and Me upon
the precipice—You and Me,
You and Me.
What’s beyond is now forthcoming.
For us time plays
an ironic abstraction—
the present revealed only
after passing—but I’ve
never trusted memory.
So when everything floods
in purple light, and the whispers
enter either ear,
we’ll throw a brick
into the sky,
watch as it shatters
If we went into the capsule together,
me with my metal and you
with your leather,
we could find the skylight.
My faith in doorways will never
falter. When we emerge
into the otherness:
by Megan Prendergast
“Mask Glass” began as an angry reaction to the pandemic. The first incarnation was a crude sharpie drawing that included expletives inviting Covid to “love” itself. In the first week of quarantine, I broke my foot. Depressed and unable to move or leave, I turned to art.
This version was completed months into our masked world, during which time I healed and began to feel hopeful again. Many people are still filled with anger and fear, but quarantine pushed me to explore my creativity. I miss my bare face, but behind a mask, I’ve become a better artist.
When I worked this digitally, I tried to emulate stained glass windows.
This Careful Heart
by Morgan Rondinelli
Shield your heart under your sleeve.
Wrap it in thick layers of muslin.
Wind the fabrics around your soul,
And weave the textiles in layers
To protect yourself from harm
Or to stop the bleeding.
The Only Part of You That Wasn’t Colonized
by Ramon Jimenez
In the neighborhood of San Telmo, Buenos Aires,
Sundays are festive with the rhythms of the crowd.
Streets of commerce,
all matters of life in exchange.
Good wine, olives, and sundried tomatoes.
A pipe and a dime bag of dried Paraguayan ganja
from a guy named Ceniza.
I recall Buenos Aires;
I taste the pizza slices with caramelized onion.
Dream of well postured dancers,
moving gracefully to the sound of the bandoneon.
But when we ended up in the Afro cultural center,
away from all the stereotypes of steak, choripán and yerba mate,
I was reminded of Argentina’s erased African past
as the men played drums in a circle.
Mostly the women danced,
but the pressure got to me
and I too joined,
attempting to catch
the quick slapping rhythm of the drummers.
The music stopped and the lead singer told me,
“You see those moves?
The hips that swing and the two quick feet that follow.
Those are the only parts of you that weren’t colonized.”
‘Til this day, he was right.
I can only think of what I’ve lost.
Scriptures, stories, dialect, knowledge, and context.
All parts of me that remain in me, but I cannot unlock them.
What did I preserve from the Pre-Colombian times?
I look in the mirror:
my long face and thick brow.
My graying hair and the red beard on my chin.
My skin, tan in the arms during the summer,
but my legs are pale every time I roll up my pants.
When I speak up,
only words from European languages come out of my mouth.
I’m still searching to find the part of me that wasn’t colonized.
Melanin Masked White
by Andrew Geoffrey Kwabena Moss
Avatars of illusion
Lightening the dark from within
Black souls constructed by white folk
Doubly conscious, born with the caul of second sight
Colonially manufactured neuroses
In a laboratory lined by test tubes, tied in delirium
Incoherent, de-negrification serums
Disguising appearances, de-blackening histories
Skin bleaching agents causing irritation
Ochronosis, blue-black discoloration and disease
Mercurial poisoning of pores
No pause for thought
Squeeze the pipette of pigmentocracy
With one drop of hypocrisy
Into the Petri dish of dreams
Create pigments of the imagination
Commercial cosmetics of whitewashing
Noxious concoctions to conceal blemishes
Color privileges, avatar of Western prejudice
Avatars of illusion
Darkening the light
by Sofiya Levina
Wabi sabi perspective, New York City.
by Emel Karakozak
From the photo series, “Budding,” by Emel Karakozak.
Day in a life… of an overthinker
by Mia Castro
I have long known and acknowledged
That a new year will never bring anything new to your life.
Same Uncertainty. Same Excitement.
Same Fear and Worry.
What ifs and whatnots.
All while braving every day with your same normal upbeat persona.
Getting out of bed in the morning is a struggle.
The same hardship that is falling asleep.
Funny thing is how you can laugh all day—
About everything and anything and still
Feel sad at the end of the day.
Not sad per se,
Exhausted and battle tired,
Like you need to recoup,
To rest and be alone with your thoughts.
But being alone with your thoughts
Has its downsides too.
As regret and worry are there to pester you.
Regrets of your past choices.
Worry for the future.
Both you have no control over.
Something you already know,
But try as you might to convince yourself,
You ended up stressing over it
Over and over and over
Until you cried yourself to sleep.
And even in sleep, there’s no guarantee
How kind your dreams will be.
Waking up the next morning dreading the same cycle,
Hoping to break this kind of routine you end up with.
Maybe today is the day.
Or maybe not.
At least you are still alive.
If you could only start living, you might like that.
by Catherine Bloomer
Red glass bulb—I shatter in his hand.
He’s the worst.
Green sea glass sky—
rough edge bloody waters.
Field of turf under fluorescents and a steel roof.
I don’t know when playing became a sport—
maybe when Bellerophon last came for my hot breath.
My cough returns—
have I kicked this virus yet?
have you laughed at my monstrous form?
I’ve only got a silver bell for a head—
I had a dream a pop star wrote me an email—
it was lovely what he said just not in the words or not in an order I knew.
I knew he had only days left before the disorder overthrew his thinking—
maybe it was all the drinking.
Dirt on the floor always makes me sneeze—
leaves me with dry mouth in search of potable water.
I never know until I drink—
are you Lethe or lethal?
What would it mean to write when the words lost are my past?
What would it mean to read when I’ve got eyes that just won’t last?
What does it mean to speak when I can’t see behind your mask?
All I am is a golden mane with slithery tale—
waiting for my other side to kick in,
waiting for my other life to forget these words from a song.
Do you think it was the place or the love or the loss that came first?
Or were they the words my mother whispered in my ear before she knew I could not hear—
words of love that held no significance?
I had to find them later in a book—
twisting turning on the dark air. I wish I could forget them.
What a joy oblivion beckons—
I am not afraid of missing words.
But I am steeped up in Cocytus at the thought of losing you—
It doesn’t seem possible—
but that’s what the underworld is there for.
The rivers that are made of screams—
the streams that have words that do not signify.
The bodies that cannot remember the ones they have loved.
So few have admitted the possibility—
even the damned can love.
But still there’s love.
I know the worst loss will come should your eyes close before mine.
I’ll still love—
you’ll have gone.
We cling to bodies—
Let my atoms join yours.
This is why so many create life—
a sense of permanence on Earth.
just matter too.
What will Earth cling to?
Who will read my words when I have forgotten them?
These words are just for me—
was just for us.
I’ve never gotten over my sense that I am alone in my mind—
a Deaf robot dreaming in a garbage heap.
the funny feeling that I could not imagine such brutality.
That’s as far as I get when I try to imagine the decisions of gods—
being a woman has always meant inhabiting the body of a monster.
Show me your perversion of flesh—
what arrives on the eye?
it’s not what lies beneath the mask.
by Jed Myers
A hillside, rooftops like blank
slates in the first light, there—
if you’re looking my way, you’ll see
that. And the branches, bare
in the cold, still reaching, without
embarrassment. I can’t name
those small birds foraging
in the rot of leaves, but aren’t they
encouraging, their quick hops
and pecks so much like the quirks
of a living face? A loose fence slat
taps at a rail in the icy breeze.
Can you hear that? A soft scratching
as well. Rabbit under the hedge?
Or the squirrel that’s just dashed
up the trunk of the Japanese maple.
All this gauze of the world I wear,
one ply moving over another,
sound like radio static, fingers
and thumb on a page…a way for us
to speak. Let this be the fabric
I keep, as eye and brow disappear.
Let this be how I look, the rooftops
silvery in the hill’s bristle of trees,
the houses like unopened books,
like memorial stones. And the crows
on their morning rounds, surveying
from wire, rain gutter, bough,
world-shine in their eyes. I almost
can make you out through the mesh
while you lean in to read these dark
markings. Like when little I hid
my head under a hand-knit blanket
and discovered I could still see
my grandfather, blurred-edged. He
searched, pretending to be perplexed.
Let all the lost and disappeared be
seen in the weave of dust, close
as they are to us, just behind
the crisscross of the cloth of things.
I breathe with you now, in synch
while you move your lips. And yes,
that’s my breath on your cheek.
Though I may be in the earth.
by Connor Doyle
A person’s surroundings, especially what litters their surroundings, reflect the very nature of the times. This photo captures the health crisis during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, expressing a melancholic reminder of where we are, how far we’ve come, and how much further we still need to go.
much that can’t be said
by Janet Jiahui Wu
wearing a songbird for the lost leaf hid behind some cover
you never asked for a dance with my hands tied behind my back
before you enter the room decorated with pigs tails and clovers
you bring hooves and paper cranes into the silent hospital room
nothing you and I say could ever bring back the dead with their eyes closed
the pigeons hop from roof to roof paying no attention to the funeral
Jed Myers is author of Watching the Perseids (Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award), The Marriage of Space and Time (MoonPath Press), and four chapbooks, including Dark’s Channels (Iron Horse Literary Review Chapbook Award) and Love’s Test (winner, Grayson Books Chapbook Contest). Recognitions include Southern Indiana Review’s Editors’ Award, the Prime Number Magazine Award, The Southeast Review’s Gearhart Prize, and The Tishman Review’s Millay Prize. Poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Poetry Northwest, The American Journal of Poetry, Southern Poetry Review, The Greensboro Review, and elsewhere. Myers lives in Seattle and is Poetry Editor for Bracken.
Catherine Bloomer holds an MFA in Fiction from The New School. She is a PhD candidate in Italian and comparative literature at Columbia University, where she is writing a dissertation on disability in the medieval period, specifically in Dante Alighieri’s works. She also is the Associate Director for WriteOn NYC, which trains MFA candidates as instructors and provides creative writing classes to underserved school children. She has published with The Gateway Review, (Mac)ro(Mic), and Menacing Hedge.
Janet Jiahui Wu is a Hong-Kongese-Chinese-Australian visual artist and writer of poetry and fiction. She has published in various literary magazines such as Voiceworks, Cordite Poetry Review, Mascara Literary Review, Rabbit Poetry, Plumwood Mountain Poetry, foam:e, Tipton Poetry Journal, Eunoia Review, Yes!, Gone Lawn, SCUM, Poetry & Covid, South Florida Poetry Journal, and others. She currently lives in South Australia.
Dmitry Borshch was born in Dnipropetrovsk, studied in Moscow, and currently lives in New York, Dnipro, and Ramat Gan. His works have been exhibited at the Russian-American Cultural Center (New York), HIAS (New York), Consulate General of the Russian Federation (New York), Lydia Schukina Institute of Psychology (Moscow), Contemporary Art Centers (Voronezh, Almaty), and Museums of Contemporary Art (Poltava, Lviv).
Cici Liu studies English and history at the University of Virginia. She lives with in Charlottesville with three roommates (one of whom is a bird).
Mia Castro is a 25-year-old Filipina with a desk job in a bank and a master’s degree on the way. Reading and writing are her refuge in the real world. Her short story, “The Little Guide”, was recently published by Portland Review.
Andrew Geoffrey Kwabena Moss is a writer and teacher who has lived in the UK, Japan, and currently Australia. Of Anglo-Ghanaian heritage, Moss creates work that seeks to explore and challenge liminal landscapes, complex identities, and the social constructs of race. Moss has been published by Afropean, People in Harmony, Fly on the Wall Press, Fair Acre Press, Golden Walkman, Beliveau Books, GMGA Publishing, The Good Life Review, Red Penguin Books, Scissortail Press, The Minison Project and dyst Literary Journal. His work will be featured in the forthcoming publication, The Best New British and Irish Poets Anthology 2019-2021 (The Black Spring Press Group).
Paul Van Sickle’s work has appeared in Cagibi, New World Writing, and the Showbear Family Circus. He studied fiction at Bennington College and attended Tin House’s 2019 Summer Workshop as a short fiction writer. When not in a pandemic, he is a milliner at the Metropolitan Opera and the editor of Merde, a zine documenting modern dance and performance art.
Samantha Steiner is a writer and visual artist. She has received fellowships from the Fulbright Program and the Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts. Her writing has received accolades including Best Microfiction 2021 and nominations for Best of the Net and Best Small Fiction.
Grant Young is an emerging poet and recent graduate of the University of Washington with a degree in biochemistry and a minor in English writing. He has been published by In Parentheses Literary Magazine, The Decadent Review, and Riza Press. Young is a QA Associate at a pharmaceutical company, a brother of the Zeta Psi fraternity, and he enjoys playing and watching as much soccer as he can.
Cadence Summers (she/ her) is a recent graduate of Dixie State University with a degree in professional and technical writing. She has been published in journals such as The Southern Quill and Juste Milleu, and was the winner of the Salt Lake Community College’s 2020 IronPen competition in the poetry category. She also has one self-published book of poetry. Originally from Salt Lake City, she has traveled through Utah and the other western states extensively with her family. She currently works at Ken Sander’s Rare Books in Salt Lake City and loves doing all she can to get involved with the people, communities, and landscapes that inspire her work.
Megan Prendergast is an emerging artist, writer, and recent graduate of the University of North Florida, with a degree in psychology and a minor in creative writing. She is an avid reader (although, ironically, dyslexic), a lover of animals and eyeshadow, and entirely too whimsical for this world. Recently, her artwork “lady Grey” was featured in Meat For Tea: The Valley Review.
Denise Alden lives and writes in the Twin Cities. Some of her work can be found online at Metafore and Scalawag Magazine, and is forthcoming in The Apeiron Review.
Michael Thompson is a Chicago-based artist who has been working in his home studio on collage, faux postage stamps, found porcelain memory jugs, and kinetic sculptures during this interminable pandemic lockdown.
Anna Leah Eisner graduated with a degree in English and Russian literature from Boston University. She currently works as a medical scribe in an emergency room and has a cat named Manas, which, coincidentally or not, is the name of an airport in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Julian Matthews is a former journalist and trainer finding new ways to express himself in the pandemic through prose and poetry. He was most recently published in PoetryandCovid.com, BorderlessJournal.com, and Unmasked: Reflections on Virus-time (curated by Shamini Flint).
K. Johnson Bowles has been featured in more than 80 exhibitions and more than 60 publications. She received fellowships from the NEA, the Houston Center for Photography, the Visual Studies Workshop, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She received her MFA from Ohio University and BFA from Boston University.
Gratia Serpento has been writing since the day she learned how. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading. She lives in Oregon with her tortoise.
Laura Glenn’s book of poems, I Can’t Say I’m Lost, was published by FootHills, and her chapbook, When the Ice Melts, by Finishing Line Press. Her poems have appeared in journals including The Antioch Review, Boulevard, Cortland Review, Epoch, Green Mountains Review, Hotel Amerika, Massachusetts Review, Pedestal, Poet Lore, Poetry, Smartish Pace, and Rattapallax, as well as in anthologies. She has completed work on another full-length poetry manuscript and is working on a chapbook of pandemic-related poems. Also a visual artist, she lives in Ithaca, NY, where she works as a freelance editor.
Morgan Rondinelli is a graduate student in the MFA in Creative and Professional Writing Program at Western Connecticut State University. Her work has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and OC87 Recovery Diaries.
Renée Cohen is a freelance writer and artist from Canada.
Amanda Williams is a freelance writer with poetry published in Periphery Art & Literary Journal, Rising Issue, Medium, and BuzzFeed Community. She has a degree in creative writing from Drake University and now lives in England with her husband and puppy.
Ramon Jimenez is a writer and educator who resides in Seattle, Washington. He teaches language arts and runs a summer youth poetry program. His poetry focuses on immigration, culture, and travel and has appeared in Rigorous Magazine and the Anti-Languorous Project. He is interested in exploring locations and how they connect to memories.
Emma Johnson-Rivard received her master’s in creative writing from Hamline University. Her work has appeared in Tales to Terrify, Fearsome Critters, and others. Her chapbook, The Witch’s Cat and Her Fateful Murder Ballads, was published by The Esthetic Apostle.
Kitty Dasinger is an artist living in California. They love cats and disagreeing with authority figures, the basic stuff. Their preferred reaction to their art is for normal people to be disturbed and for odd people to enjoy it.
Connor Doyle is an emerging photographer and filmmaker based in the Chicagoland area. Graduating from Hampshire College’s film/photo program in 2016, Doyle creates work that focuses on the idiosyncratic details of daily life in Northern Illinois, specifically his native Wheaton. Though often trivial, his subjects capture the formal beauty and potency of these everyday sites, urging his viewers to reflect on the significance of their lived experiences. Doyle’s work has been published in Prairie Light Review, Hole in the Head Review, Burningword Literary Journal, and Sheepshead Review.
Frank William Finney taught literature at Thammasat University in Thailand from 1995 to 2020. His poems have been published in Black Works, Constellations, Millennial Pulp, True Chili, Variant Literature, and Workers Write!. His chapbook, The Folding of the Wings, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. He is currently based in the Boston Area.
Noel Sloboda‘s poetry has appeared in Harpur Palate, Rattle, and Salamander. He is the author of two poetry collections, several chapbooks, and a book about Edith Wharton and Gertrude Stein. He teaches at Penn State York.
Marquis Paradis is a Danish-American writer and emerging poet residing in Chicago, buried under books and notepads. Paradis is developing his passion for poetry alongside completing his two bachelor’s degrees in philosophy of normative ethics and history of art and architecture.
Tara Troiano is a poet, photographer, and junior at the University of Texas at Austin. Her work has appeared in TeenInk Print magazine, Cardinal Sins Journal, Camas Magazine, and Light Journal. Her photography is featured in Sediments Literary-Arts Journal and Edify Fiction as cover art.
David Capps is a philosophy professor at Western Connecticut State University. He is the author of three chapbooks: Poems from the First Voyage (The Nasiona Press, 2019), A Non-Grecian Non-Urn (Yavanika Press, 2019), and Colossi (Kelsay Books, 2020). He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
Tufik Shayeb‘s poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including Potomac Review, Sheepshead Review, The Menteur, Lost Lake Folk Opera, Madcap Review, Heyday Magazine, Blinders Journal, Muzzle Magazine, Restless Anthology, The November 3rd Club, and others. To date, Shayeb has published three chapbooks and one full-length collection titled, I’ll Love You to Smithereens. Shayeb currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona.
Lavinia Roberts is a visual artist and playwright. Her work has been displayed in gallery spaces in New York City such as The Parlor, The Brooklyn Fireproof, Frontrunner Gallery, Agnes Varis Art Center, Arts@Renaissance, Diana Kane Gallery, and others. She has participated in artist residencies at the Arts Students League at Vyt (Sparkill, New York), The Center for Books Arts (New York City), The Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, Kansas), The Midwest Dramatists Center (Kansas City, Kansas), Newnan ArtRez (Newnan, Georgia), onelove NOLA (New Orleans), Paul Artspace (St. Louis), Escape to Create (Seaside, Florida), Salina Art Center (Salina, Kansas), Surel’s Place (Boise, Idaho), Urban Glass (New York City), and Wassaic Project (Wassaic, New York).
Charlene Stegman Moskal is a teaching artist with the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project of Las Vegas, as well as a visual artist, writer, performer, and voice for NPR’s Theme and Variations. She has been published in numerous anthologies, magazines, and websites, most recently Connecticut River Review, Sandstone & Silver: an Anthology of Nevada Poets, and Humana Obscura. Her second chapbook is One Bare Foot (Zeitgeist Press). Moskal is in her seventh decade, laughs often, and likes coffee ice cream hot fudge sundaes.
Benjamin Goluboff teaches at Lake Forest College. He is the author of Ho Chi Minh: A Speculative Life in Verse and Biking Englewood: An Essay on the White Gaze, both from Urban Farmhouse Press.
Eric Machan Howd is a professor of professional and technical writing at Ithaca College. His poems have appeared in Nimrod, River City, The Healing Muse, and Yankee Magazine. Howd earned his MFA in creative writing (poetry) at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. He was a recent guest poet and lecturer at a conference on Slovenian/American poetry in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where he shared an excerpt of his essay, “A Non-Binary Approach to the Arts: the Continuum of Word and Song.”
Emel Karakozak was the first woman in Turkey to receive the acclaimed EFIAP/g title by the Global Photography Union. Her first exhibition, Lotus, opened in 2010 in the Adana Sabancı Fine Arts Gallery, and since then, she has enjoyed great success through multiple solo and group exhibitions. She currently continues her career as a photographer at the Artgalerim Bebek Art Gallery and Lust Auf Kunst Art Gallery, and as a federation delegate for the Turkish Federation of Photographic Art.
Sofiya Levina is a Russian-born mixed media artist working in Los Angeles and New York City. Recently they held an 8-month long live painting residency at Raised in Los Angeles for DTLA Art Walk and has showcased art in stores and galleries in New York City and Los Angeles.
Alex Andy Phuong (he/him) earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University—Los Angeles. Emma Stone inspired Alex to write passionately after watching her Oscar-winning performance in La La Land. He now writes hoping to inspire the ones who dream.
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