Browsing Category

2020

2021 Margaret Price Pandemic Prose

When did I first see you?

Written by Margaret Price

There was a time when I walked around this city flayed. Synesthesia of breath and pain.  An overstatement? Maybe but it was bad enough to deserve a little overstating.

Anyway, everything was impossible and every day I had to walk by your gallery and see my abraded face reflected in the glass. A gut-punch of tears.  I don’t remember seeing you then though. You came later.

Next were the numb months. No more twisting up of sensations, just no sensations at all.  But then Prince died and D’Angelo sang Snow in April on TV and I cried for 3 hours in the grey chair. After that, I could listen to music again.

So was it then I first saw you? No I don’t think so. Not that spring. That was the spring I was falling in love with the old friend. Although perhaps it wasn’t love. More like the inflatable mattress acrobats use when they are learning to vault. The inflatable infatuation.  Regardless, I was preoccupied fantasising a bright new future with him.

I wonder why now but, as I said: infatuation. Also, I have the depth of imagination necessary to imbue a person with qualities he has completely failed to demonstrate in the last 2 decades for no other reason than a combination of proximity and gratitude. Luckily he has no imagination at all so we were saved, despite my best efforts. I do remember thinking I should buy that black and white photograph you had in the window at the time  that might have been a sand dune or might have been a human shoulder but in either event was definitely in keeping with our imagined minimalist couple-aesthetic.

After my emotions deflated I started running again. Early northern european mornings before the solstice. Light so clean you see the pollen rising as the dew dries on the grass. I ran the streets past the 4am girls who were all eyeliner and unlined skin. Sometimes they would wave. Often they were crying. Always, they were with each other.  I ran the parks, one to another, like a string of green beads through the city. In the end, I ran the river all the way to Ouderkerk and got lost in the polder.  Sunrise with the cows and a confusion of boats that looked like strange sproutings amongst the tulips.  A time of germination. 

20km instead of the planned 10 meant running back home in the morning rush hour, in the wrong direction. Bike dodging, pedestrian swerving, creative swearing , 60  minutes late.  Someone was opening the gallery door. I remember because I nearly ran into it. I also remember this was the first time I realized people worked in the gallery.  Before that, it had really only been the window.

Anyway, I kept running. I ran every day. I ran every direction. I gathered my runs like a child gathers stones, hiding them in pockets of time between one thing and another.  In time,  I was sure I could outrun anything.  Anything, that is, except the anger. 

You know how in all the movies the protagonist in emotional crises heads out for a run, usually in particularly hideous weather? He or she runs faster and faster,  the tears blend with the rain, the hill gets steeper, the music crescendos and eventually he or she trips over a log or slips or simply collapses in a sobbing, yet attractive heap and screams his or her rage to the unforgiving sky before finally surrendering and walking home drained yet somehow more at peace and ready to [fill in next step in character arc here]. Yeah, not so much for me.

Running brought the rage. The rage at unfairness. The rage at stupidity.  The rage at the limits of my abilities and the brain I could not trust.  I wasn’t running with the devil on my heels; the devil was in my legs.  It was my moving spirit. Every foot strike, every push off, every contraction and flexion, the impetus was anger.

To be fair it was an angry year for the whole world; but those early mornings when the sun burned up from the water and blinded me as I ran past, reflecting from your window, I felt like the rage was mine alone.

What was the outcome of all this running and all this rage? Well I ran a marathon but that was just something I did on a Sunday morning in October. More important were the books.

The rage needed to be fed if it wasn’t going to consume me between runs; and so I began to read again. And the books, well the books eventually brought back poetry and poetry found me reading Carver’s “Late Fragment” in a bar in the afternoon and that led to drinking with the American.

I can’t remember how we started talking but he used the word “ineffable” and talked about building stories, bone to skin. He was small, and all his lines were clean. He said that poetry was a physical act. That the sound you make when you read it aloud – and you always do read it aloud – resonates in your body’s echo chambers and takes shape in your breath. Every word you’ve ever said is still speaking inside you. The effanineffable. He was leaving the next day.

Walking home that evening, the light was on in the gallery. There was a golden portrait in the window and you were looking through a ring binder. That was when I first saw you and I thought you were beautiful.

Yeah, I could write all this. Or maybe it’s better to start simple.

“Hi. Thanks for the match. How’s your day going?”


Margaret Price is a mother, lawyer, and occasional scribbler.

2020 Contributing Creators Creative Pieces Music Pandemic Poetry

No Mask No Music

Music, Art, & Text by Karl Meyer

The pandemic of 2020 brought forth a wide array of unanticipated emotions for me, my friends, and my family. In April and May, as the reality set in that this was going to be a long haul, I wrote a batch of songs to capture some of the fears and frustrations precipitated by this new normal, but with some humor. 

My go-to genre for this project is punk because this artform allows for gross exaggeration — I can push each theme to its extreme. 

“I Don’t Wanna Be Quarantined” confronts being shut-in with your loved ones more than you can stand. 

“Under The Mask” is a humorous take on personal protection — concealing your ugliness as a secondary benefit to covering your face. 

“Safe Distance” leverages the pandemic as another good excuse to avoid an ex-lover. (lyrics below)

And “Already Home” makes light of the only good thing about being forced to work from home — no more commuting to work.

Safe Distance

Way back when you really broke my heart
You had that technique down to an art
So now for the sake of my mental health
I plan to remain completely in stealth

Here in these pandemic times
There’s another reason to draw the line
If you get too close to me
I’m gonna call the governor, can’t you see

So now there’s reasons one and two
For me to stay away from you
And it’s as simple as it can be
Just keep a safe distance from me

Don’t know why you’re coming around again
Since you ran off with my best friend
You really put me in my place
Now I want you out of my personal space

My therapist said “don’t analyze her
Just use a stronger sanitizer,
Gloves and bleach are not enough,
You really gonna need some toxic stuff”

So now there’s reasons one and two
For me to stay away from you
And it’s as simple as it can be
Just keep a safe distance from me

If you cross my border
I’ll get a restraining order

I could list many reasons more
But I don’t want to be a bore
6 feet away is the minimum
Cuz you belong in the sanitarium

So now there’s reasons one and two
For me to stay away from you
And it’s as simple as it can be
Just keep a safe distance from me


Karl Meyer is a musician and songwriter based in Chicago. Karl has pioneered the “Punk for Adults” genre. For more information on Karl check him out on Bandcamp.

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Prose

Fogland

Written by Keith ‘Doc’ Raymond

The day after the fog settled on the world, it seemed it had never been any other way. The sun became a memory, diffused in haze. The fog hugged the earth, or floated high above, out of reach, but always there. Jets could not fly above it, and we did not have the will to leave the atmosphere.

Satellites returned images of the blanket over the globe. ‘Gray soup’ one talking head declared it. Colorless, odorless, and tasteless, the fog cast a pall over everything bright and cheerful. Folks didn’t have the energy to be depressed about it after a while. It defied explanation and wouldn’t lift. Neither science nor religion could shift it. That was years ago.

Explanations abounded, but answers remained absent. ‘A post-pandemic deliverance from light,’ whispered in hushed tones we heard everywhere people gathered seeking an explanation. 

***

Deidre headed south from Ireland and Gerald headed north from South Africa both seeking the sun. They converged in Marseilles, elbowing each other, attempting to see a witless speaker at the port. It ended abruptly, when a woman used her broom to shove the man into the bay. Those gathered didn’t laugh, nor even react.

As people dispersed, Deirdre offered the hungry looking black man she elbowed a coffee and croissant. 

“I’d love a bouillabaisse,” he answered.

“So would I, but it’s a bit early in the day for that, mate,” she responded.

“How can you tell?”

Deirdre watched the woman that had brushed the guy off his soap box . She returned to sweeping the floor at her cafe. She was muttering curses to herself, Deirdre suspected, as she popped her ‘P’s. “I go by looking at the restaurants around here. C’mon, there’s a boulangerie up the street.”

He followed her like a lost puppy, and in a way he was. He was just off the boat from Africa. “Your English is good,” Gerald noted, sparking up the conversation as they walked in silence.

Deirdre smiled, “I’m not French. I came from Ireland.”

“Looking for the sun?” he asked. It was a common question.

“Thought I might find it nearer  the equator, maybe in the Sahara where it’s hot.”

“Sorry to disappoint. I just came from there. More gray soup. Save your time and money.”

Her look of despair was plain. The grass was no longer greener, only a uniform brown everywhere, or gray rather. Even colors were bleaching as people entered monochrome. Fishing around for something to say, she offered, “I’m Deirdre, you?”

“Gerald, just Gerald, no Gerry.”

“Right then, Gerald. Here we are. How do you take it?”

“How do I take what? The weather? This fog?”

“Nay, your coffee, ya dosser.”

“Black like me.”

“You’re a cheeky bugger!”

Gerald smiled; his first time in Europe. He rethought her command of the language with all her slang. They were two folks cast adrift. Both seeking the sun, both disappointed. Meeting at the edge between two continents. As they sat with their coffee and croissants, they both wondered which way to go next.

“It’s a zombie apocalypse,” Gerald said, glancing around at all the blank faces slurping and munching. Even those in conversation seemed to murmur conspiratorially and shift their gaze when the foreigners looked back at them.

“Effects of the after party.”

He looked at her funny.

“The pandemic, the dumbing down. You know, this fog has seeped inside us. It swamped us. A brain fog inside and out.”

He nodded. “Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“Deirdre,” she answered, flipping her hair like she used to when she was a teen. She didn’t mean to flirt, maybe it was an act of despair. “So where to?”

“Find a hotel, check-in…”

“No, I mean, long term,” she said blushing, thinking he had ulterior motives.

“What do you say? We go East? Maybe out to the islands?”

“Together?”

“We are looking for the same thing. Sunshine. Why not?”

Her mind was going several places at once. He watched the play of thoughts roving over her face. “I dunno. I’m a loner.”

“Me too. Loners together alone.” His white teeth gleamed as he smiled. “Maybe save some cash. Two alone is cheaper than one.”

Deirdre looked out the window, thinking. A ray of sunlight burst through the fog. She pointed, and soon everyone else pointed at it. They pushed and shoved, getting out the door to track it across the sky. People raced after it, their faces staring upward, hoping to catch some on their faces.

Gerald and Deirdre ran down to the port. People were shouting and pointing. It wasn’t much. A strip of sunlight drifting west to east. Cars crashed into each other, trying to catch up to it as it moved across the field of fog. A cacophony of horns and raised voices. Old folks grabbed their chests, gasping, falling to their knees. Kids danced joyously. Then it was gone.

The pall of fog fell back across the city. Cars stopped, people froze. They willed the rays of sunlight back. Prayed for it. It was a tease, a broken promise. All the while, a news bulletin blared out into the street from TVs talking about the freak incident. The sunlight started in France, crossed the border into Italy, then vanished. 

“The sun moved the wrong way,” a mother uttered in French.

“No, no, always west to east.” 

This led to arguments and yelling while Deirdre and Gerald watched, amused. Their hearts sank, feeling the loss of the sun once more. Not willing to fight over it like the others.

Gerald turned to Deirdre, “It’s a sign. We go East.”

“East might be okay. The sun rises there, right? It may rise for us.”

“I like the ‘us’ part.”

“I do too,” Deirdre answered, and flipped her hair, feeling girlish.

END 


Dr. Raymond is an Emergency Physician. He practiced in eight countries in four languages. When not writing, he is scuba diving. In 2008, he discovered the wreck of a Bulgarian freighter in the Black Sea.

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Poetry

Still

Written by Amy Steingart

In this moment I am bone-weary
I can go on, but I can’t.
In this moment my foolish hopes spiral up –
and spiral down.
In this moment I try to
hold my daughter up,
keep her head above water;
to keep her afloat to
keep us both from living on the ground,
bone-weary.
In this moment I avoid headlines, reality.
In this moment I want to be smart, speak knowledgeably
when my friends say how does it feel?
I need to say something.
How does it feel to be in the epicenter?
they say – how terrifying!
and
how are you able to function? and
can you get toilet paper? and
do you wear a mask?


Do you ever hear sirens?
Yes. Yes I do. I hear sirens
all day and all night.
they have to be
hushed background noise,
a murmur
so I can stay above water
and not live on the ground,
bone-weary.


Can do you sleep? Do you have nightmares? How does it feel?


How does it feel?
It feels
weary
weary in my bones, in my skin,
my eyes my hair in the tips of my fingernails.
I am so weary.
In this moment the sun is fighting with clouds
outside my window,
it draws my eye.

In this moment, light penetrates my arm,
whispers to my skin
illuminates my bones
vibrates.
For this moment I can breathe.
I am here
I am still here
I am still.


Amy Steingart lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York. She attended Oberlin College studying English, creative writing, and theater. Her first poetry collection, I Am Where You Have Put Your Eggs, was published in June 2019 from Small White Cat Press. She is a co-founder and editor of Writers’ Bloc.

www.amysteingartpoetry.com

2020 Article Contributing Writers Pandemic

The Country of FKK

Written by Bojana Stojcic

At first glance, it’s a regular day at Englischer Garten in central Munich, one of the biggest urban parks in the world—some are playing card games, others are reading, the elderly respecting social distance, Weißwurst and  Helles being passed around friends and family—until you come closer and see butts and torsos sticking out of the high grass like little rock islands.

Don’t let the cool temperature fool you because you’ll be seeing them here all year round, regardless.

Three letters are all you need to know upon landing in Germany to not be surprised like me when I came to live here some nine years ago, three letters allowing all free-spirited people to get naked in designated areas—FKK, which, you may rest assured, has nothing to do with KKK. It stands for “Freikörperkultur” or literally “free body culture,” which is Germany’s nudist culture. 

Where some find this attitude to nudity refreshing, others consider it shocking. Either way, one thing is sure—you will not and cannot be indifferent to it because it’s everywhere you turn.

In another part of the city, on the banks of the Isar, unusually large groups of people peel off their bodysuits to reveal naked skin before dipping their toes into the freezing cold river, with or without a mask on. 

Apparently, nudism is on the rise these days not only in Germany but in lots of countries worldwide, which many link to coronavirus confinement. Now that plenty of people work from home, they seem less burdened by what to wear, or don’t bother with clothes at all. Perhaps a strong desire arises to experience a new sense of freedom after months of lockdown. 

If you’re new around here and happen to have the same attitude toward stripping off, there are several “where to get naked in Germany” websites, with useful information on nude sports clubs, nude beaches, and mixed-gender saunas, including all pandemic updates you need to know to feel safe. 

Before long you’ll realize Germans are born ready and there’s nothing to stop them from feeling good in their skin. Seriously, though, not even deadly viruses, let alone wild boars that occasionally steal naturists’ clothes and laptops in parks.

Communal public stripping came into practice in Germany in the late 19th century when clothing styles became less restrictive, with women tossing aside their corsets and men getting rid of their multi-piece suits. While FKK was banned in the German Reich, it came to life again after World War II, being associated with physical fitness, oneness with nature, and freedom of movement, and flourishing mostly in the East.

And while nudism is a popular pastime for people of all shapes, sizes, and ages in Germany nowadays, it is mainly the middle-aged and elderly who have the guts to strip down to their birthday suit.

Down south, hundreds of miles away in Serbia, where I come from, while it’s not uncommon to see bare breasts on the beach, it is primarily younger women with nice curves who are confident enough to sunbathe topless, which is the furthest they are willing to go. 

The reluctance to go nude there can’t be blamed on bad weather, though, as they do in Scotland, but has everything to do with unwritten norms, dictating appropriate behavior.

Most people back home don’t have a laid-back attitude to nudity in times of a pandemic, or whenever, as Germans do. Not only because they would probably be accused of being pervs but also because most aren’t sworn enemies of convention.

Me, I was textile-free on a deserted beach in Greece once, hiding behind my toddler as stiff as a statue at first. Although I’m not German-born (read: I seem to have a problem stripping down in public), for a couple of hours I felt like a God, or at least an ancient Greek, and it felt damn good.


Bojana Stojcic comes from Serbia and has been living in Germany for quite some time. She agrees with Simone de Beauvoir that nudity begins with the face.