Saturday, April 11, 2020

Poem During the Plague: Poem 7

Poet Tom Driscoll

Recently, my poetry has appeared in two anthologies, “Yearning to Breathe Free: Poetry from the Immigrant Community”(Moonstone Arts Center, 2019), edited by the Moonstone Arts editorial committee, and “Art on the Trails: Marking Territory” (Route 7, 2019), with poems selected edited by Zachary Bos, the publisher of Pen & Anvil Press, and the editor of the New England Review of Books. The Decadent Review carried my poem “Concerto in D Major” in February 2020. Indolent Books’ online series, What Rough Beast carried my poem “Border Music” in October 2019. “Duty Leave Home” was awarded the Wheeler Memorial Library Robert P Collen Prize in 2017

April weather

Fragment catches spare light to
flash beatify brokenness itself—

glass shard or rain-wet pavement;
the water bead on a camera lens

becomes the comment on witness,
prayer to vacancy, communion

asked of the absent, lost, lowered
of expectation, demeaned and holy.

Call anyone you like an angel, silence
seems the more articulate... let its voice.

Poem During the Plague: Poem Six


Under the starry net cast above
is the full-blown gladness of a Beethoven symphony
on a midsummer’s night.
Here all is spoken in images at the juncture
of the lucid and the luminous where
transcendence pulls one into infinity,
where logic and pattern and ethereal
matters duel under impermanent stars
on slow-burn,
where the bioluminescent glow of fireflies
catch and hold the imagination along
with quiet majesty of cedar and poplar trees,
beach rose, mounds of moss –
where Nature is in her glory even through
the surreal fog of afternoon.
We are all made of star-stuff. (Let us not deceive
ourselves: At least ten percent of all stars have
at least one habitable planet,) dollops of rock
in perpetual time-slide,
and we strive to content ourselves
in the silky silence of our third planet from the Sun,
and amid Nature in her glory,
We inhale, we exhale.

                                       ~ Stephen Anderson

(Previously appeared in The Dream Angel Plays The Cello)

*   Stephen Anderson is a Milwaukee poet whose work has appeared in numerous print and online journals including Southwest ReviewTipton Poetry Journal, New Purlieu ReviewFree Verse, Verse Wisconsin, Foundling Review and Twist In Time. Many of Anderson’s poems have been featured on the Milwaukee NPR-affiliate WUWM Lake Effect Program. He is the author of Montezuma Resurrected And Other Poems (2001) and The Silent Tango of Dreams (2006 chapbook), and several of his poems appeared in the poetry collection, Portals And Piers (2012).  In the summer of 2013, six of his poems formed the text for a chamber music composition entitled The Privileged Secrets of the Arch performed by some musicians including two members of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and an opera singer. Because of a particular set of life experiences, Anderson considers himself a poet with a global perspective rather than a regional poet. His poetry collection, Navigating in the Sun, was published by Finishing Line Press in July, 2015. A first full-length poetry collection entitled In the Garden of Angels and Demons was published by Aldrich Press/Kelsay Books (2017.) His latest poetry collection, The Dream Angel Plays The Cello, was published also by Aldrich Press/ Kelsay Books in early 2019. 

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Poem During the Plague: Poem 5

Maureen McElroy has an MFA from Emerson College. Her chapbook CAR POEMS was just released through Finishing Line Press. Her poems have appeared in Mothers Always Write, Io Literary Journal, Bohemian Pupil Press, Trampset, Literary Hatchet, Fickle Muses, and others.  She owns Jamaica Hill Realty in Boston and lives in Milton, MA.

Who Knew

Who knew that the condom supply chain came from Kuala Lumpur,
that a pangolin could infect a human,
that a country could shut down in days,
that anyone over 60 was expendable,
that humans would hoard even when their cups overflowed,
that anything but debt could be canceled,
that the least valued labor was the most necessary,
that the canals of Venice could run clean,
that love could be shown with distance,
that there could be a chasm between two people on the same couch,
that bodies create antibodies,
that necessity is the mother of philanthropy,
that silence can be bought with $1,200.00,
that there are helpers and money-makers in every war,
that a bra cup could be a face mask,
that gloves are necessary in Spring,
that birdsong could be so loud,
that poetry could become mainstream,
that we could each come up with something to contribute
if you just give us a minute to think, to breathe,
breath most precious, in and out.
Count it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Poem During the Plague: Poem 4

Lynne Viti is a lecturer emerita in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. She is the author of two  previous poetry collections,  Baltimore Girls and The Glamorganshire Bible, and the recently published Going Too Fast: Stories. Her website is  

In Praise of Pasta alla Norma in the time of Covid-19

Infused with minced anchovies and eggplant,
married to tomatoes and good olive oil
the rust-colored sauce reminds us of Sicily,
our walks up the mountains and hills from

Enna to Cefal├╣, on ancient drove roads in the heat
through villages where only the old have stayed,
where the locals offered to sell us empty houses for a pittance
if we’d only pay the back taxes and fix the place up.

Twice, our hostess says, almost as an apology,
It’s a vegetarian meal tonight.  No need—
the short tubes of pasta enrobed in sarsa,
ricotta salting the dish beyond what we normally permit

smell of earth and sun.
Fresh baked crusty bread, a salad,
and pasta alla Norma. Tonight,
we soften the lines of our self-imposed quarantine,

we’re transported back to Catania that May
when we emerged from the airport terminal
into the warm night, looking to fill our bellies,
our souls with food for a king composed like an aria

from stuff of the ancient Sicilian earth.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Poem During the Plague: Poem 3

HARIS ADHIKARI is a poet, translator, editor and a university teacher from Nepal. He has three books of poetry and translation to his credit. He teaches English language and literature at Kathmandu University, Dhulikhel, Nepal.

From Quarantine

The most difficult thing in the world
is to
not change.

But then, it is even more so
when you feel you are
robbed of your
pure soul, pure connection to yourself.

This purity, this connection,
is what needs to be
from the innumerable viruses.

Or else, springs will come
with no sprouts.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Poem During The Plague: Poem 2

 Jefferson Carter has lived in Tucson since 1953.    His poems have appeared in such journals as Carolina QuarterlyBarrow StreetCream City ReviewRattle, and New Poets of the American West.  I’m a passionate supporter of Sky Island Alliance, a regionally-based environmental organization. 


Up by seven every morning.
Yoga twice a week.  Free weights
for bone loss.  No reading in bed.

How I miss my routines.  Now I’m still 

in bed at 11 a.m., wearing my plague mask,
reading a previously-owned novel, the cat 
beside me, kneading the comforter, then purring
like crazy, his cheek vibrating against mine.

What’s up with that damn cat?


Poem During the Plague Poem 1

William Falcetanois a  prematurely retired professor of philosophy and former colleague of Doug Holder; he is a Bagel Bard in good standing who lives in happy quarantine on Plum Island. 

Poems During the Plague
(at the request of Doug Holder)

My Corona

My Corona is a spikey globuleCovered in fatty lipidsAnd filled with evil proteins.
My Corona loves me but I do not love her back.She sticks her lovely spikes into meAnd pulls out my RNA to replicate herself day by day.She is happy to infect my lungs; They are for her a love song to be sung.
If she has her way, she will stay thereUntil I no longer am here, nor exist.Upon my exit from this world she insists.You could say she loves me to death.I will admit that her love is quite breathless.
If only I could be less attractive to herAnd she would pursue other suitors – that I would prefer.But she is so very clingy, that little thingy with spikes.I would squash her underfoot; I would kill her on sight,If only I could see the tiny bugger, so small is she, hiding in my alveoli. 
And when my immune system moves to evict herShe eludes the pursuer as Jean Valjean escapes Javert.The fat spikey globule then ends up the victorAs I descend into a dungeon of despair.
Who unleashed this plague upon the world? Was it Mother Nature or some other mother? Whoever it was they’ve paid the Devil’s due,Poured forth upon the earth a rancid witches brew.  

Somerville's Alex Kern: A spiritual leader with a calling for poetry

Alexander Levering Kern is a Somerville-based poet, educator, organizer, and Quaker chaplain who directs the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue, and Service at Northeastern University in Boston. He is completing a book manuscript of poems based on twenty years living in Somerville, celebrating the city's extraordinary diversity, strength, history, and character.  Alex's poems and nonfiction have been published widely and he is editor of the anthology, Becoming Fire. He co-edits the new interfaith/intercultural publication, Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality and the Arts, which is currently seeking submissions.

You are a Quaker chaplain.  How would a Quaker chaplain approach things differently from a Catholic or Protestant one?

Excellent question, Doug. Thank you. First off, Quaker chaplaincy has nothing to do with oats! Secondly, I suspect there are as many different approaches to chaplaincy as there are chaplains. I happen to be a Quaker who serves an interfaith community of people from all major religious, spiritual, and humanist worldviews - people of all faiths and none. Quakers tend to approach ministry from a place of "answering that of God in everyone," that is, recognizing and reverencing the divine Light and Life in each person. Quaker chaplaincy emphasizes the value of deep listening and expectant silence as the rich soil from which words spring and wisdom grows.

Quaker chaplaincy also foregrounds the communal and socially-engaged role of faith, drawing upon the historic Quaker testimonies of peace, equality, simplicity, integrity, and community. By developing programs of dialogue and civic engagement, Quaker chaplains strive to promote wellness and wholeness in wider society, what our Jewish friends call tikkun olam, or repairing the world in the direction of shalom, a more just, sustainable, peaceable "kin-dom" of God on earth, or what Dr. King called the Beloved Community, extended to all living things. The field of chaplaincy varies across traditions, but most of us who've been to seminary or completed Clinical Pastoral Education internships in hospitals see the heart of chaplaincy as "spiritual accompaniment" and providing "a non-anxious relational presence," at least in one-on-one pastoral care.

In the University setting, chaplaincy involves not only support for individuals in times of need, struggle, or celebration, but also serving as the "public face" of religion and spirituality on campus - facilitating vigils and memorial services, offering inclusive interfaith prayer at commencements, responding to crises such as the Boston Marathon bombing or the current coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. A Quaker University chaplain educates students about world faiths and the ways they shape culture and current affairs. As educators, Quaker chaplains invite learners to look within to discover the "Inward Teacher," and look beyond the classroom to experiential learning settings as disparate as Boston's homeless shelters, the Arizona-Mexico borderlands, or the streets of Selma and Ferguson, Missouri.  At our best, chaplains build structures of interfaith understanding and cooperation, challenge religious bigotry, encourage vocational discernment and deep ethical reflection, and tend to the soul of the University and the heart of a hurting planet. 

You have lived in Somerville for twenty years--how does Somerville differ from other places that you have lived?  What makes it unique?

Place is extremely important to me as a poet and writer, a neighbor, a citizen of this bioregion/ watershed and of the wider global village. I grew up in Washington, DC, with six generations of family roots there, and other roots in my grandparents’ orchard in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I’ve studied and lived in Poughkeepsie, Atlanta, Greensboro, and Philadelphia, and traveled, studied, and served on five continents. Somerville is distinct from each of these places, with echoes of many of them (we even have hills here, if not necessarily mountains!) What distinguishes Somerville is its extraordinary diversity, with 80,000 people packed into four square miles and many circles that for some reason are called squares! We are a microcosm – quite literally a “little world”- mirroring wider society, coexisting in generally symbiotic ways. While we have a long way to go to address challenges such as affordable housing and climate change, Somerville is a wonderful place to live, to learn, and to write.   

I would think that a sense of spirituality would be essential now during this pandemic.

Absolutely. Early on in the pandemic, I wrote a piece called “Caring for Self and Others in Times of Trouble: Some Spiritual Tools and Tips,” which is widely available online. At a time when our very life and breath is threatened, spirituality reminds us to pause and breathe. Indeed, the word “spirituality” comes from the Latin for breath, wind, or spirit. Anyone who breathes has access to the spirituality. Whether one chooses prayer, mindfulness, yoga, creative writing, congregational worship, walking in the woods, or any range of other spiritual practices, there is a grounding and centering available through spirituality that offers comfort, courage, hope, and healing connection.

Tell us about the online journal you co-edit, Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality and the Arts.

It’s super exciting. I am working with an editorial board of students, sniffing out the finest spiritual writing and art we can find. Already we have submissions from some of the best known spiritual writers in the US, and from exciting voices from around the world. In a time when religion so often is a catalyst of conflict, it is gratifying to discover artistic expression that promotes the best in our shared humanity. The arts are good medicine, especially now.

Tell us a bit about the process you used to develop your manuscript about Somerville?

It’s been an amazing journey, sixteen years in the making. Honestly, I did not begin to feel fully at home in Somerville until our son Elias was born and I began to see the city through his wide-open imaginative eyes: its playgrounds, playgroups, buses, trains, and firetrucks. Writing poems about Somerville has helped me experience the city more deeply – the beautiful, the wild, the surreal, the sacred. The book is a product of contemplation and action, sitting still and taking walks, sheltering in place and sometimes, when needed, marching on Boston. Sitting on my front porch, I’ve found myself listening to the world of Somerville – the language of its streets, the distant highway, the bagpiper who plays at dusk. Taking a walk on any given day, I encounter Irish and Italian-American old timers, Sikh gentlemen chatting in Union Square, new immigrant schoolkids from across the planet, homeless street vendors, artists and creatives of every stripe, and Steampunk young people riding tall bikes in top hats! The book is as much about people as place, and often it is about people standing up for their neighbors in our city and around the world. I can’t wait to share this love song to Somerville, my adopted home, a place of many hills and squares!

You are an accomplished poet--what was the germ of the idea that led you to poetry?

I began writing poetry early on during the second Iraq war, to make sense of the world and my place in it. I was auditing a course at a seminary on the Hebrew prophets and modern poetry. Our professor encouraged us to keep a notebook and to notice our lives – the strange, the awful, the sublime. At the same time, my son Elias was just learning to speak, discovering the power of language. While being with him, I found myself falling in love with poetry, reading and writing it, telling fanciful bedtime stories, developing new ways to speak about war, parenting, the natural world, and this wondrous, fraught business of being alive.

88 Belmont Street

  • after Gerald Stern’s “96 Vandam”

I will cast my nets into Somerville tonight
beside dangling hooks and nautical maps,
then launch my body across three dark seas
and sing along quietly under the bridge 
of my bald neighbor’s whispering dreams. 
I’ll keep my telescope near so I won’t be alone
when I watch for magicians and the accordion man, 
the raccoons and toddlers on the lamb.
I’ll stay close to my compass and mind my lamp
in case a traveler or orphan should pass.
I’ll peer from the crow’s nest of our three story world
leaning into Spring Hill as church bells ring.
I’ll call out to the night, dazed and joyous, waving
my last loaf of bread at the tin can collectors 
in the streets below, and when the wolf moon rises, 
I’ll inhale the lilacs of the lostsoul collector
who sings in the burnt turret above.