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2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Prose

Meeting Outside

Written by Kathryn Cardin

I know that girl sitting in the window, warmly backlit by low-watt bulbs. She is dark, she is a shadow. A slow drag of a cigarette, a raised bottle to the mouth. She knows I’m watching but I’m too far below for her to see me.

More bodies move in the back near the light source. They laugh a guttural laugh and break what sounds like a plate against the floor. They laugh harder and more. Her feet edge up the windowpane, the toe of one worn-out sneaker in front of the other. She flicks her cigarette the same way I do except mine is always loud and makes a snap and hers is silent. Does she mind that her friends, or whomever is up there, just broke one of her dishes? Maybe she has dishes for breaking. 

I grab my own throat. It’s a tic, like a nervous tic when I don’t know what else to do with my hands. I don’t choke myself, just place my hand so my windpipe becomes conscious. It’s funny, I hate when some people touch my neck, or even their own necks. Like doctors, feeling for a node. Or when people in movies slit throats (their own, their enemy’s). In real life, it would make me sick, too. I’ve just only seen it on screen. If you kill me someday please just don’t go for the neck. Anywhere else is fine. 

But while fucking I do like to be choked. I always seem to cough right before my brain winks out. I have a strained relationship with throats. It’s either harder, harder, or pure repulsion. Intubating? How even—

She’s gone from the window and it’s been lowered to a crack. Remnants of her sit on the fire escape: an empty can for ash, a dried-up plant I’m sure she’s never watered. Maybe over watered. I don’t think she’s ever watered it. 

I look at my own window. Past it, into the conjoined living room and kitchen. There is no difference between where I am now and inside. In there the air still has a tinge of something bad. Old smoke. Dog. Out here it’s rotten wood. Dog. I think about who lives there. Me, of course. But someone else, too. I think about how differently we live in the exact same space. How we use the same shower and shampoo but we smell nothing alike. 

I tap my grown-out and unpainted nails on the tabletop. I haven’t bartended in three months, so my nails are unusually long and have been throwing off my balance. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been returning anyone’s texts: the clicking on the glass screen all uneven and acute. Or maybe it’s because isolation breeds more isolation when it comes to me

I don’t think I’m alone in this isolation, though. Ha. There are tons of girls in tons of windows and tons of people sitting in shadows looking up at them. Maybe she will be my friend. We are neighbors, after all. 

I glance up and the window has opened again but her and her shadow are gone. The voices are gone, too. Now it’s just the hiss of summer air and my nails tapping against grime and tempered glass. As if the tapping is Morse Code she appears, summoned to look out at the window a final time. “Hey,” I speak. I am shocked at myself. Being social at a time like this? She responds, “hey,” and tosses a hard seltzer out the window and over the fire escape barrier bars like it’s something I asked to borrow. “Want to come up?” she asks. 

I do. 


Kathryn Cardin lives in Brooklyn, NY with her dog, cat, and boyfriend. She is a freelance writer/editor and co-publisher of Tart magazine. Follow her on Instagram @slimkatyyy.

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Poetry

Dancing Around Corners: Poems written during a pandemic

Written by Anne Pia

My Mother’s Rosary

my nightmares play on repeat
sequence follows sequence
colour-bled animations
stain these fresh walls
a silent wilderness freezes on white geometry.
I leak secrets in sweat
am grateful for steady breath,
sound landmarks towards north…journeying still,
and in my palm finally
I clench a greening crucifix, mould and metal;
yellowed beads drop one by one through frail fingers,
each and every one defiant at
this craving to catch my mother’s smell.

Another siren splits clagging air.
Another missile.


Love Letters in Lockdown

In the last days of a world we thought was solid
massing of dark cloud, warrior winds summoning strength,
Corona settled, we cowered, made ourselves invisible,
and in the void
there was only the nearness of our own breath
of reality collapsed to window frames
the stillness of trees, as we all waited.

Somewhere along the rim of consciousness
there was the thought of ending,
the day I would delete you my old friend, from my phone
you no longer walking those sands I promised to visit,
or those wild flowered fields down by the river,
or like the well-loved notes of a much played tune,
finding myself speaking your words, spoken in a distant memory,
singing your song, as I speed along a motorway.

Then through the small, careful steps of day after day,
of small discoveries,
of dancing with strangers around corners,
the unaccustomed smile of a neighbour
that brought tears,
opening a front door wide to the unknown,
dismantling a home delivery,
like a forgotten war bomb,
on small screens, you became larger,
in unfamiliar alphabets
we evolved a new language;
and we learned to walk new leylines
learned a new geography of human,
of friendship and worth.

We laid foundations afresh.


Lessons in Coffee

my prosaic kitchen is the set stage of a Glass opera
replacing green-tiled, brutal style coffee shops
entombed now in plywood , drawbridge well shut
its lean anatomy is rearranged;
crumbs of love in coffee beans,
shallow breathing from a sleek Moka machine,
and out of sober, white bags,
sought after treasures from a Portobello bakery,
small miracles…
the slow rise of sweet scones,
dimpled dough basking in spring sunshine,
fattening on my windowsill,
earth scents of confettied rosemary,
whirlpools of olive oil,
rich crackle of crusting in an ample oven.

Amid the starkness of masks somewhere on the outside
beyond the trees and unused road,
with yeast, godlike particles,
I plough fresh tracks in flour,
pour out warmth in water.
I live a new innocence.


Notes

Don’t ask me for words
words won’t suffice,
can’t speak for me…
give no comfort
ask too much.
Wordless
I wrap myself in a blanket
working strings and bow…
seeking only small solutions.

In the late morning from sturdy sound structures,
I drift to the unknown …
in Higdon and Auerbach…
massaging grief
in the mythic fantasies of a Hebridean fiddle.

My rough-laid shelf,
is made of splinters..smoked salmon in a Tesco bag,
a first latte after lockdown, Wednesday tunes, zoom with friends,
or by a lake cooking sausages together, amidst Bay-leaved willows,
a neat stove, three laughing swimmers and the chatter of rain,
soft needles on a crater of glass.

My cold computer screen
contains me,
reminds me I cannot reach my daughters’ warmth,
I review photographs of that other time,
the wood strains against the force, fails,
no match for tears
or the fucking rage.


Game Over

Bring back the masquerades and the make-up
I am a self I do not recognise
where have I gone?


Anne Pia is based in Edinburgh, and is a language graduate with a Doctorate in Education. Her interests include language, dialogue, and identity.

Her memoir Language of My Choosing was  shortlisted for the Saltire First Book of the Year 2017 and won the Premio Flaiano Linguistica 2018.

Transitory, her first poetry collection, was published in April, 2018.

Anne’s writing has appeared in Northwards Now, Poetry Scotland, New Voices Press, Southbank Poetry London, The Blue Nib.

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Prose

Abandoned

Written by Gail Aldwin

How can I possibly be responsible for the spread? I’m made of pure gold and the simplicity of my design means I’m just a circular band that fits neatly on Sophie’s finger. It’s absolutely ridiculous to suggest that my presence makes her susceptible. I certainly don’t irritate skin and the only things I attract are admiring glances. My sole purpose is to symbolise love and marriage. I didn’t even realise Sophie could remove me. It took a large quantity of soap to ease me off her finger and I noted with a little pride, that I left an indentation on her skin after my years of loyal service. I can’t believe I’ve been dumped and left to associate with adornments in the jewellery box. 

I hate being in enclosed spaces but at least I’m in the cushioned section and not shoved into a pocket like Bling. Feelings of grandeur can’t save her and anyway we all know she’s made from paste. And it’s so noisy in here. The usual residents are complaining of overcrowding. Grandma’s Brooch doesn’t like to share her compartment with Beaded Bangle. She says Bangle is a contender for germs because she hangs around wrists. I should sympathise, Grandma’s Brooch is an older piece and belongs to a vulnerable group. As for Choker, she’s long escaped. From what I understand, she’s having a fine time doing acrobatics on the jewellery tree when she’s not languishing around Sophie’s neck. I can’t blame her for making the most of her freedom. She’s a lucky one and as for Stud and Hoop they’ve never been so grateful to be associated with ears. Getting out and about was something I really enjoyed. Day and night I was on Sophie’s finger but now look at me, abandoned. 

On the bright side, it’s only a matter of time before a vaccine is found and I can resume my place on Sophie’s finger. I mean she is still married to Paul, isn’t she?



Gail Aldwin’s publications include a debut novel The String Games (Victorina Press, 2019), a poetry pamphlet adversaries/comrades (Wordsmith_HQ, 2019) and a flash fiction collection Paisley Shirt (Chapeltown Books, 2018). Prior to repatriation due to Covid 19, Gail volunteered at Bidibidi refugee settlement in Uganda. Find Gail @gailaldwin and https://gailaldwin.com.

2020 Contributing Writers Pandemic Poetry

A CARNIVAL WITHOUT SOUND

Written by Niall McDevitt

1
it is strange to see the young so afraid of death
walking badly dressed in emptied-out streets.
at first, they were not supposed to care much
or to be looking for cheap flights and hotels;
but fear foreruns virus and dragnets foil escape.
no one is quite the same anymore, body or mind,
all succumbing to the ghostliness of the hour.
the bottom has fallen out of the usual charade.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

2
laughter, disbelief, and conspiracies are dustbinned.
moods shift, heavy-bellied with unnamed feeling.
hair lengthens to brute, even women look feral
in a funereal atmosphere where nothing is normal.
we process along paths as pilgrims to Mecca (maybe
Islam was onto something with face coverings?)
or like a fancy dress party where everyone shows up
as the invisible man in sunglasses, bandages, hats.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

3
fear is in the equinoctial weather. the primal war
between winter and spring is in its endgame
so that March would have discombobulated anyway.
fear is even in the sun that registers win-win
by flaming through a status quo of negation
to glow so warmly and brilliantly and sanely
polishing the infrastructural surfaces we share.
the sun! it may be the last some of us ever feel.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

4
people have lost their poise, their bravado
as malaise takes hold of their understandings.
the young Indian in the cornershop is terrified
of his customers’ quasi-fatal notes and coins.
his eyes roll and dart about his youthful skull
as if about to shoot out with a sudden pop.
I felt I was murdering him just by perceiving him.
other shopkeepers wobble on the frontline too.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

5
in the midst of no man’s land, outcasts regroup.
it’s a ‘boon time’ for criminals who are yet discernible
– though everyone’s masked, gloved and hooded now –
by their Cain-like gait and cloven hoppings to and fro
from dealers to users and back, stopping momentarily
to look about shiftily, and then gob on the flagstones.
etiquette of the demimonde? territorial markings?
they are staking a claim in the fresh dispensation.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

6
the spectacle is of a land with no grail. Avalon’s
stupefied queues forage for basic provisions,
two metres between wrapped hangdog forms.
on one high street, only Tesco and the undertakers
are trading. pasta, alcohol, soap and toilet rolls
are the commonweal of the atomised-by-law,
some talking into wires like madmen, fiendish,
others vacant, half-afloat on shuttered parades.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

7
ambulances dance via christmas-cake mansions
and brutalist blocks of two-nations architecture
with sirens switching from long wails to short
whoop-whoops along tree-lined, traffic-free lanes.
one house is entered, a ton of chattels piled up
on the grass outside, eerie eviction. another flat
is sellotaped-off. a trio in hazmat safety suits
hovers about the foyer as noiseless as astronauts.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound

8
freezers ordered, freezers delivered, freezers stocked
in a political landscape like a pop-up morgue.
the older and wiser look down toward the ground
who knew death might come soon, but not this soon.
they too have shopping bags and thinned-out newspapers,
standing under a natural white blossom umbrella
grateful to insert a key into their own front doors.
they know the rhythms of spring better than anyone.

a carnival without music, a carnival without sound


Niall McDevitt is the author of three collections of poetry, b/w (Waterloo Press, 2010), Porterloo (International Times, 2013) and Firing Slits, Jerusalem Colportage (New River Press, 2016). In 2012, he performed poetry at Yoko Ono’s Meltdown. In 2016, he performed in Iraq at the Babylon Festival. Irish poet, he lives in London. You can see more of his work at poetopography.wordpress.com.

2020 Article Contributing Writers Pandemic

The Birth of Society’s Creativity in the Midst of the COVID-19 Crises

Written by Amanda Alysia Daniels

Creative ideas manifested into action may be deemed a survival mechanism.

In a crisis, creativity and innovation reign supreme. One becomes sparked in accessing a new path of ideas that were not previously considered. Meeting a newly developed demand whether externally or internally, requires being stirred to act. These moments are where creativity’s potential transitions into a solidified existence.

Today’s climate has initiated creativity from all walks of life by way of existing challenges in safety precautions and social isolation, due to an unrelenting virus. According to Erika Alvarez of Fremont, California, “It feels like a third world war. How do you fight against an enemy that you cannot see? It’s hard to combat something you can’t see.” COVID-19 appears to want to dominate the lives of the living while remaining undetected. However, this virus also stimulates minds into seeking a way to endure safely in a less than traditional manner.

When COVID-19 arrived, social isolation came along with it. From school and business closures to cancelled entertainment events and social connections, this virus impacted how we as humans interacted with one another. Society took to getting creative in how social distance was maintained with strangers as well as with those we love. In practicing social regulations, physical contact was strongly discouraged. What was welcomed? Facetiming. Some individuals went so far as to set “Netflix dates” by utilizing Facetime and streaming Netflix together from separate homes to continue social connections and dating life.

To keep physical distance in practice and the virus at bay, students from all grade levels and colleges attended instruction via online platforms. For example, elementary school teachers from New Haven Unified School District located in Union City, California reported to empty morning classes in order to video lectures for their students. Teachers were still teaching and students were still learning. While some classes were held online for older individuals, younger students at home required supervision and creative stimulation, like 4-year-old, Prakash Vindero of Fremont, California. Prakash was in preschool and according to his mother Indira, Prakash needed constant engagement as he grew bored easily. Because Prakash enjoyed plants, Indira created a mini garden in the family’s backyard to facilitate Prakash’s learning while also engaging him in something he loved.

Another challenge encouraging creativity due to COVID-19 was seen within entertainment venues, bars, dining, shopping, concerts, and festivities. According to, San Jose Mercury News, to further prevent the spread of the virus, California had become less restrictive on alcohol. The golden state also lifted a ban on alcohol sold through drive-thru windows. This method allowed for businesses to maintain some form of financial earnings in the wake of COVID-19, while also complying with emergency health order. With that nice alcoholic drink for pick up, arrived an alternative form of musical entertainment to go along with it, some recording artists offered in-home concerts for their fans. Hip Hop Hollywood said that Neo-Soul artist, Erykah Badu would perform a “Corona Concert” from her bedroom and would cost a $1. Another entertainer offered to Facetime interested individuals for $950. However, she was later criticized for attempting to exploit a health emergency situation for financial gain.

Further entertainment resources such as dining out for celebrations also had become impacted. Veronica Tolentino of Hayward, California, and mother of four stated that this specific Mother’s Day was celebrated with a home-cooked breakfast by her children at the family home. Esther Chavez and her family of Stockton, California appealed to creative actions when they celebrated their mother on Mother’s Day as well. Esther and family members fashioned handheld signs with flowers. They then drove by their mother’s home in vehicles and honked. Afterwards, Esther and her family left the memorabilia on their mother’s doorstep to complete the occasion. Josie Jugarap of Hayward, California could not honor the occasion of having been married to her husband of thirty-eight years at their favorite restaurant. Instead, take-out meals were ordered and their celebratory festivity with family members, cancelled.

Crises are inevitable. COVID-19 reminded society of that notion. Resourcefulness followed closely behind when a steadily increasing virus forced entertainment, work, school, store, and non-essential closures. By way of the challenges presented by COVID-19, all people were forced to think outside of their comfort zone, not only in the name of creativity but also for continued existence.


Amanda Alysia is passionate about law, justice, and truth. She is a current student of law and lover of positive vibrations and light, wherein all good things come about for the good of all those involved.