What I Think of During the Pandemic                                       by Tyler Robert Sheldon

What exhausts me most is trying to figure out which
of my students is speaking when their mouths are covered
by masks. This is irritating surely too for those same students
who wait and wait for a reply during which I’m looking
the right way. I’m working on it, I really am.
 
The ice caps are a joke, and few degrees’ difference seems
so small, but all of us will be fighting each other in under
a hundred years for what you can grab at the dollar store
in an afternoon on the way home from work. We have
no one to blame for this one but corporations who aren’t
listening, and don’t even get me started on those.
 
Didn’t you have to submit proof of vaccination for M and M
and R, and Tetanus, and other wacked-out ills, to go to school?
Does “immunization” sound so different from “vaccine”?
Please explain why in an MLA-formatted essay. Wikipedia
doesn’t count as a source, but you can follow their citations.

What I’ve missed could now surely fill a book. How many
people reading this poem have lost a piece of time that can never
be retrieved, stretched down through the quicksand of absence
or distance into the lonely silt below? What can we do
to fix this? How many phone calls does it take
to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, which is in this case

nothing but a metaphor for life before so much separateness?
Isn’t that the punchline? Are we there yet, will we get there soon?
Yes, go ahead, do you have an answer? What do mean
you weren’t speaking? I’m so sorry, it must be the masks.
Please put yours back on. Try your best to raise your hands.

Tyler Robert Sheldon is the Editor-in-Chief of MockingHeart Review and the author of six poetry collections including When to Ask for Rain (Spartan, 2021), a Birdy Poetry Prize Finalist. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles ReviewPleiadesDialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Pop Culture and Pedagogy, and other places. He earned his MFA at McNeese State University and is a PhD student at LSU.

Guest Editor, Joan Kwon Glass (she/her) is the biracial, Korean American author of NIGHT SWIM, winner of the 2021 Diode Editions Book Contest, & is author of three chapbooks. Joan is the Editor in Chief of Harbor Review, a Brooklyn Poets mentor, poet laureate of Milford, CT, a Connecticut Office of the Arts Artists Respond grantee & poetry co-editor of West Trestle Review. A proud Smith College graduate, she has been a public school educator for 20 years. Her poems have appeared in Diode, Rattle, South Florida Poetry Journal, & many others. She grew up in Michigan & South Korea & lives in Connecticut with her family.

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