#FlattenTheCurve: Five Poems by Richard Widerkehr

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Now The Lion Sun

For a while, I’ve wanted to say the word disquiet.

As we self-quarantine, and the pharmacy techs,
the grocery checkers go to work,
we sip coffee from our royal-blue cups.

Fir branches in shadow at the edge
of our field make a human figure, arms upraised.
Yesterday, I saw this photo of a lion.

In that zoo with no bars, it lifted its head,
as if toward harsh savannas, sun-struck grass.

Since she saw clients exposed to the virus,
Linda has stayed home—no signs of fever,
no weakening armies of breath.

Now the lion sun
on the edges of dark, naked alders—
the moss on our goat shed glows.

 

Another Shooter*

When the pale sky lets in a chink of light over the rim
of the foothills, we can’t help glancing at the sun.
Last night’s news tasted like salt. Still half-asleep,
we wait, as if for a brand-new diaspora,

a city with bread and honey. As the coffee maker
brews our coffee, and the sun gets round,
more golden, we touch each other, almost afraid.
Sun like a wind, scattered from the edge

of a nebula. After two cups of coffee,
I read how police traced our latest murderer
to the Red Roof Inn near Round Rock, Texas.

How strange, to stand as witnesses this morning.
Our phone rings, numbers flash on a screen. Not in use,
says the display. The sun, this blinding gift.

 

Aubade: Standing Under The Eleventh Street Bridge

This bright, pale new grass in the sun.
Gray stanchions almost like pilings
at the bottom of the sea. Last night
you told me, If I die before you do,
scatter my ashes in the woods
beside some trillium. You showed
me three white petals pressed
in your book. Now as cars
cross by, the bridge gathers its weight
and starts to break in waves, as one
by one the large boards rise
and shudder.
What’s the matter?
you ask. Like this face in a rearview
mirror, like a song I cannot hear,
these words silos at dawn
within me. Under this echoing
bridge, these gray stanchions.
This faint haze of green in the air—
yes, our disquiet this April;
almost nothing happens; we wait.
When did I hear silos at dawn?
And no, this is not a prayer.

 

Staring West Out A Rear Window Of The Keystone Ferry*

–In memory of the men and women murdered at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

As we pull away from creosoted pilings,
there’s this cleft in the dark part of twilight,
a wash of pale blue in the west.

I scan well-lit faces in this cabin,
picture Linda safe at home. As we start
to cross the channel,

the ferry veers; I brace both hands
against the hull. No stars, no dock.
Just the glossy charcoal of this water.

 

After Sun-Up Near The Y Road

I’m thinking of this movie from almost fifty years ago.
A woman asked, Do you hear the bells? Someone
replied, Are you sure? As if that were an answer.
Out our living-room window now, low fir branches

almost block the light. There’s the dusty cylinder
of Linda’s bird feeder, this black metal bar bent down—
a gray squirrel hangs from its hind feet. Last night,
at our online seder, the cantor led this prayer,

Eli, Eli, Lord, Lord. Her windowsills, white walls,
high windows. Her small son slipped in and out
of the room. I’ve never seen angels up and down

a ladder, never saw Elijah. On my laptop,
her white walls. How come no shadows?
Now this gray glass cylinder sways in the sun.

I remember nothing else about the movie.

 

 

*The poem, Another Shooter, was previously published on Poetry Super Highway.  Staring West Out a Rear Window of the Keystone Ferry was previously published in Blueline.

 

 

Richard Widerkehr’s work has appeared in Rattle, Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, Arts & Letters, Atlanta Review, and others. He earned his M.A. from Columbia University and won two Hopwood first prizes for poetry at the University of Michigan. His latest book of poems is In The Presence Of Absence (MoonPath Press). He reads poems for Shark Reef Review.

#FlattenTheCurve: Social Distancing by Tricia Knoll

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You must be friends with silence to hear.
~ Joy Harjo, “Singing Everything”

The demands: stand off, stay away,
no closer, do not touch

while our simian hands reach,
grab, ache to hold. Although born

opposable, into separate-ness
we join an audience, a tribe, or my party

of one in my quiet house. Even the spring
sun smears an aura of gray haze. My stockpile

of caution weighs down with beans and soap.
Wipes for a door knob. The steering wheel.

This, they say, keeps me safe. Solitary
confinement: a reward of being old

and vulnerable. Four walls to climb
with spare windows to the woods.

A walk on old ice to the mailbox offers
a song of the first mourning dove of March.

My tai chi-waving hands-like-clouds
stir a communal hum in this silence,

forlorn whisper of boots on gravel.

 

 

Tricia Knoll’s Poetry collections –

  • How I Learned to Be White (available on Amazon) received the 2018 Indie Book Award for Motivational Poetry.
  •  Broadfork Farm – poems about a small organic farm in Trout Lake, Washington, its people and creatures is available on Amazon and from The Poetry Box.
  • Ocean’s Laughter, a book of lyric and eco-poetry about Manzanita, Oregon. Look at  Amazon.com or for Reviews. 
  • Urban Wild, a poetry chapbook available from Finishing Line Press that explores interactions of humans and wildlife in urban habitat.
Website: triciaknoll.com
twitter:@ triciaknollwind

#FlattenTheCurve: COVID 19 Shelter in Place by Connie Post

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Don’t get me wrong
The corona virus is
making its way through the world
with its own fury

at night I lay awake
and shudder about
all the suffering
my daughter keeps coughing
and I don’t settle into sleep until dawn

but there is something else happening
behind the scenes
a friend you haven’t heard from in a while
reaches out and asks if you are okay

people smile at the grocery store
while not touching
Baseball games and concerts are cancelled
but the poets still write

I watch the same movie four times
with my grandson

we stay in more
remember a long-ago vacation
and make popcorn with real butter

we enjoy every morsel of pancakes
and a sandwich with the crust cut off

The virus
how long will it stay with us
how long will we remain
both distant
and isolated
while the earth
shows us the way

 

 

Connie Post served as Poet Laureate of Livermore, California (2005 to 2009). Her work has appeared in Calyx, One, River Styx, Slipstream, Spoon River Poetry Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Slippery Elm, The Pedestal Magazine, and Verse Daily. Her Awards include the 2018 Liakoura Award the 2016 Crab Creek Review Poetry Award and the Caesura award. Her first full length Book, Floodwater,  won the Lyrebird Award. Her second full length book, Prime Meridian,  was released January 3, 2020; both published by Glass Lyre Press.

#FlattenTheCurve: Chi by George Cassidy Payne

Meditating_in_urban_environment

It felt like cupping a shapeless
bubble, fragile as a Robin’s egg
but without a center. Weightless and
resting in nothingness.

My neighbor probably thought I was crazy.
I didn’t care. I had been searching so long.

I should have known
it was always with me.

 

 

George Cassidy Payne is an independent writer, domestic violence social worker, adjunct professor of philosophy at Finger Lakes Community College, and a student of religion. He has degrees in the subject from St. John Fisher College, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and Emory University. He lives and works in Rochester, NY.

#FlattenTheCurve: A Novel Season by Victoria Crawford

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Summer sounds unheard here—
child voices playing together-games
splashing, laughing in the river
empty streets echo hush

Harvest home and autumn leave
trick or treat masks truant
Jack Frost’s dance on windows
barricades seeking eyes

It’s not the clutch of winter
cold in throats
stifling frozen breath
captured in scarves

Spring arrives invisible
daffodils shine distant
unpicked by gloved hands
maples dress up in new green

A novel season trespasses
in the familiar yearly round
masking us
from bare-faced days

 

 

California poet Victoria Crawford lives in Thailand and has been under Stay At Home rules for almost 2 months. Like most people, she is getting lots of rest and has more time to write and cook from scratch. Her poems have appeared in places like Canary, Cargo Lit, Poetry Pacific, and Hektoen International.

#FlattenTheCurve: A Tribe of My True Affections* by David Holper

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across the silence of fear and death, I hear you.
In the news cycle or the headlines or posts and tweets,
I hear your whispered worries, like the exhausted
sigh of breath of a mother or a wife
a son or daughter, asking
why him? Here in our home,
all five of us have gathered in tight,
like the pink bud before it blossoms crimson,
or before someone snaps it off, leaving
the petals cast aside and crushed.
Once a day, I try to get out: a trip
to the grocery store or the bank,
or if the rains hesitates for an afternoon,
a hike out into the redwood forest where the silences
soften me. Where I can almost breathe.
Where as I am returning, a family passes me:
the anxious mother pulling her children off
to the side of the trail, close under her wing, trying
to smile, as if to say, hello, stay back. Today
there are 18,802 dead. There is no way
to unknow that. There is no way to unknow
that in every country of the world
someone this very moment is wailing. Iranian? Spanish?
Italian? No, Death is fluent in every tongue.

* Taken from a line out of Stanley Kunitz’s poem “The Layers”

 

 

Eureka, California Poet Laureate David Holper has done a little bit of everything: taxi driver, fisherman, dishwasher, bus driver, soldier, house painter, bike mechanic, bike courier, and teacher. He has published a number of stories and poems, including two collections of poetry, The Bridge (Sequoia Song Publications) and 64 Questions (March Street Press). His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, and he has recently won several poetry competitions, in spite of his contention that he never wins anything. He teaches English at College of the Redwoods and lives in Eureka, California, far enough from the madness of civilization that he can still see the stars at night and hear the Canada geese calling.

#FlattenTheCurve: Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura by Joe Cottonwood

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The phone rings at dawn in California.
An ER doctor in New York informs us
Janelle has been admitted with Covid-19.
We’re next of kin. Are last wishes known?

Sprinkles fall, rain in a drought year.
Atop a fence post a turkey vulture hunkers down,
red-masked as if for virus protection.
Cathartes aura has an acute sense of smell
for ethyl mercaptan, the gas produced
in early stages of decaying meat.
Can it smell New York?

Cathartes means “purifier”
from the Greek word, same root as catharsis.
And aura is also from Greek
meaning “breeze, breath.”

A brave nurse reaches an iPad into the danger zone
so we can Zoom with Janelle
who lies enclosed in a clear plastic womb,
a Zoom to say goodbye. She’s barely alive,
low blood oxygen, a white mask over mouth
but maybe we see a wan smile. Maybe not.
We end with “Hope to see you soon”
because we mean it.

On the fence post Cathartes aura
spreads wings to dry. Branches sway softly,
a pure puff of air.

 

Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book is Foggy Dog. joecottonwood.com