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.

Advertisement

The Handwashing Clinic                                                       by Robert Stewart

     If a snake had hands, he’d swear
            his hands were clean.
                —Wislawa Szymborska
 
 
To wash our hands is now the saving
of the race, and don’t forget the thumbs,
says Dr. Gupta on the news,
no trace of Pilate’s thumbs
 
down to the silent king, disciples 
pleading to wash their own hands 
of the problem, until they’re bleeding.
He’s Herod’s race.
 
Put your fingers through the Lava 
lather of fingers on the other hand,
back and front, so yes, check both
            sides of a thing
 
if you can bear it 20 seconds
in the measure of a day, which is
to say maybe the unwashed could 
use a hand
 
not sanitizers, and who has a right 
to Softsoap, now, from the big refill 
bottles would be all of us apostles, 
brothers, unseen sisters, 
 
as in my sewer-worker days we’d 
forgo the elbow-high rubber gloves 
and dip hands into the open
ditch’s flow of feces
 
bumping against our rubber boots 
with rubbers, spittle, corn, all things
a sewer worker could straddle 
in a ditch to open
 
sanitary lines.  We’d unglove it
among the close-up pieces of our own
humanity.  We’d wash hands in it 
but not of it. 

Robert Stewart’s latest book of poems is Working Class (2018, Stephen F. Austin State Univ.); his latest collection of essays is The Narrow Gate: Writing, Art & Values (2014, Serving House).  For many years, he edited New Letters quarterly, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Guest editor, Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-09, is winner of a Red Mountain Press’s Editor’s Choice Award for Shadow Light. A new book of poetry from Red Mountain is Wing. Other recent books are The Turtle’s Beating Heart: One Family’s Story of Lenape Survival (a memoir, U. of Nebraska Press); Casino Bestiary (Spartan Press); and Jackalope, fiction (Red Mountain). She founded the Creative Writing Program at Haskell Indian Nations University, where she taught and was an administrator. Low is past board president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She has won 3 Kansas Notable Book Awards and recognition from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Sequoyah National Research Center, Poetry Society of America, The Circle -Best Native American Books, Roberts Foundation, Lichtor Awards, and the Kansas Arts Commission. Low has an MFA from Wichita St. U. and Ph.D. from Kansas U. Her website is http://www.deniselow.net, and her literary blog is http://deniselow.blogspot.com .

Pandemic Travel                                                                      by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg 

Mask in my right hand, sanitizer in my left,  
I venture through the Kwik Shop doors  
somewhere in rural Missouri where no one believes  
in pandemics, only conspiracies.  
  
Breath to breath, so many scenarios spark danger  
and damaged lungs, fear too late at a a gas station  
gaslighting me or am I gaslighting it?  
I strap on my cloth mask with sliver moons  
parading across where my lips would be.  
  
In the bathroom awash in antiseptic, one small  
ant near the ceiling vanishes into the vanishing  
point. I count slowly to eighteen as I wash,  
elbow-open the door, and quick-deer it back  
to the safe cosmos of the car’s front seat.  
  
The raindrops change from long scribbles  
to large empty eyes the windshield wipers  
can’t keep up with, just like me, trying to clear  
the weather by angling toward the blank space.  
  
Where have I been traveling all these years,  
my hands on the wheel want to know.  




This poem was previously published in  How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Everyday Magic: A Field Guide to the Mundane and Miraculous, and Following the Curve, poetry. Her previous work includes The Divorce Girl, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet, a bioregional memoir on cancer and community; and six poetry collections, including the award-winning Chasing Weather with photographer Stephen Locke. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely.

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals asTheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.  

Little Free Library, April 2020                                              by Melissa Fite Johnson

We don’t linger long enough to read spines,   
but we always peek: Skinny red, like   
hymnals I held as a kid, a believer.   
Crumpled cover of a child’s paperback.   
Cotton candy colors: a series in pastels.   
  
Inside the repurposed birdhouse today:   
two jars of peanut butter. We’d been railing—  
President’s tweets, online teaching, the guy   
moments ago who passed us dead center down   
the sidewalk even as we spilled onto grass.   
  
Now we stop. The dogs sniff a moment,   
then tug. They don’t know why   
we’ve been home a month, why I sobbed   
over last night’s soapy broken glass. We nod,   
keep going. We don’t say anything for a while.  

Melissa Fite Johnson’s first collection, While the Kettle’s On (Little Balkans Press, 2015), won the Nelson Poetry Book Award and is a Kansas Notable Book. She is also the author of A Crooked Door Cut into the Sky, winner of the 2017 Vella Chapbook Award (Paper Nautilus Press, 2018). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Pleiades, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Broadsided Press, Sidereal, Stirring, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Melissa teaches English and lives with her husband and dogs in Lawrence, Kansas.   

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals asTheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.  

I Don’t Know How to Love the Broken Day                     by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg 

after Theodore Roethke  

I don’t how how to love the broken day.  
Pandemic losses bloom, die, and return.  
What I thought was stone begins to sway  
  
like trees that bend until wind has its way  
in storms that clean the world before it turns  
into what helps me love the broken day.  
  
The blue air shakes and shows me how to stay  
while black-eyed susans thirst for light and learn  
that everything, like stone, begins to sway.  
  
No wonder when I’m scared, I’m prone to pray  
for ground I thought my thinking heart could earn.  
I don’t how how to love the broken day  
  
or storied night that has so much to say  
of bats and blossoms, stars and birds airborne  
in time, like stone, that slowly learns to sway.  
  
The daylight filters through us, ray by ray.  
Like all that blooms and dies while the world burns,  
I don’t how how to love the broken day.  
What I thought was stone begins to sway.  



This poem was previously published in  How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems  

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Everyday Magic: A Field Guide to the Mundane and Miraculous, and Following the Curve, poetry. Her previous work includes The Divorce Girl, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet, a bioregional memoir on cancer and community; and six poetry collections, including the award-winning Chasing Weather with photographer Stephen Locke. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely.

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals asTheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.  

New Year’s Eve 2020                                                              by Amy Sage Webb-Baza 

I remember how   
in the jittery early   
stages of grief   
I panicked   
about how   
to pass time.   
I would give myself a goal   
to read to the end of the   
sentence. I landed on each   
task like a beach. Washing   
the coffee pot would take   
a few minutes if I dried it  
too. My hands knew   
what to do. I learned   
I could burn an hour   
walking four miles, and   
I came to know how long   
each route and road around   
the house would buy me, time   
when I had no reason to think   
of anything but putting one   
foot in front of the other.  
Now on the final night   
of a year from which   
it seems impossible   
to find a way forward  
I remind myself   
of this, how we must   
continually wake to mourning   
and spend the small change   
of panic in the tasks we find,   
how they add up over time.   
To everyone I love I say   
Meet me there in the space   
where we are not broken, only   
paused, snagged on the cold   
wire of terror. Recovery is   
a motion we know, a path   
we make by walking.  

Amy Sage Webb-Baza is Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Emporia State University, where she was named Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor and directs the Donald Reichardt Center for Publishing and Literary Arts. She is managing editor for Bluestem Press and Flint Hills Review. She publishes fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, and is author of Your Own Life: Kansas Stories (Woodley Press, 2012).  

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals asTheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.  

I See COVID-19 Everywhere                                                  by Lori Baker Martin

Everyone I meet—maskless  
jogger, plumber, dog groomer,   
coughing man in the dairy aisle—  
I suspect them all.  
  
My blue and white wallpaper,  
round shapes, strangely   
barbed. I’m thinking   
of tearing it down.  
  
Even the New Year’s Ball—  
crystal triangles lit—spiky,   
sparkling, falling  
into empty Times Square.  

Lori Baker Martin, assistant professor of English at Pittsburg State University has had both poetry and fiction published in magazines like Prick of the Spindle, The MacGuffin, (parenthetical), The Little Balkans Review, Room Magazine, Grass Limb, The Knicknackery, and The Maine Review. She is a graduate of Iowa Writer’s Workshop and is poetry editor for The Midwest Quarterly.  

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals asTheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.  

Letter to Kansas                                                                      by Dennis Etzel, Jr. 

Dear You, today was another rain-filled day   
in the pandemic like all rain-filled days   
but as my family said good luck—two words   
   
you sealed inside the talk of self-determined    
folks, worriers, and well-wishers—that message   
was overshadowed by darkening clouds.    
   
Did you hear what those men without masks    
shouted at me throughout Home Depot   
as I did my best to navigate six feet away    
   
with ten-foot two-by-fours? Maybe I should have    
done my best John Wayne response, pilgrim,    
with my mask of cat prints and rainbows    
   
muffling me? Is this another test of patience   
to save lives and you? I am still, here,    
for supplies to build an improvement, a better   
   
home on the range on a land never ceded   
but stolen, even names like yours. Know that  
even I can be moved to grip my circular saw’s thunder.  

Dennis Etzel Jr. lives with Carrie and the boys in Topeka, Kansas where he teaches English at Washburn University. He has two chapbooks, The Sum of Two Mothers (ELJ Publications) and My Graphic Novel (Kattywompus Press), a poetic memoir My Secret Wars of 1984 (BlazeVOX ), and Fast-Food Sonnets (Coal City Review Press). His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others. Please feel free to connect with him at dennisetzeljr.com.  

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals asTheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.  

Observatory                                                                           by Amy Sage Webb-Baza

The same day China lands   
a probe on the moon   
the Arecibo Observatory   
crashes in on itself.   
The parallel and opposite   
pulls of aspiration and collapse   
seem exactly apt for this year   
that began with so much   
hope, optimism in everyone   
I knew, a view that a new page   
was turning, a renewed energy   
and purpose suddenly   
shattered and shuttered   
in isolation and uncertainty.   
I should leave it at that, another   
metaphor for a year that is   
already a meme, but I keep   
thinking of Arecibo listening   
long decades, awaiting   
contact, warning us   
of cosmic dangers   
veering close.   
I think of its shattered   
shell, the deaf ear,   
the silence   
from which one wakes   
too late to a storm.  

Amy Sage Webb-Bazais Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Emporia State University, where she was named Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor and directs the Donald Reichardt Center for Publishing and Literary Arts. She is managing editor for Bluestem Press and Flint Hills Review. She publishes fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, and is author of Your Own Life: Kansas Stories (Woodley Press, 2012).  

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals asTheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.  

Symbolon—Poetry Class in Quarantine                             by Morgan O.H. McCune 

We were always in pieces, but had been  
keeping up the illusion a classroom   
can invent, boxing us sharply together.  
In Greece, people would take a share  
of the whole on their journeys so   
they would know one another again,  
pieces newly joined. I see my classmates   
on a screen and in my mind, I offer   
each a gift, so we might know one another  
at another time, at some other time.  
  
Choose your own portion.  Here  
is a ribbon, green for healing, growth.  
Here is a bright, white-handled knife,   
cutting away the unwanted. Here a dog,   
softly whining and faithful, tender   
as a fawn. One of you sound the skin   
of this bold drum. One of you reach   
for wild violet in the spring grass.  
  
I am circling with light steps  
on this field, so these pieces may join.  
I am circling the squares on the computer   
screen with my fingers as you speak.  
I am circling to help join   
us, whole and unbound.  

Morgan O.H. McCune currently works at Pittsburg State University in southeast Kansas. She is a native Kansan, and holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from Washington University in St. Louis (1991) and an M.L.S. from Emporia State University (2002). Her poems have been published previously in River Styx.  

Editor-in-Chief Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, and the author of This Good Warm Place: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize).  Her poetry has appeared in such journals asTheNewVerse.News, Carolina Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review.  Harbor Review’s microchap prize is named in her honor.