Online Open Mic – May

With the COVID-19 situation, our Open Mic Night meetings were temporarily derailed. However, we kept our poetry community engaged through Online Open Mic venue.

We had such a wonderful response, we’ve decided to keep the Online Open Mic poems online and available for viewing. So if you missed any, you can re-visit the poems that were submitted during the Summer of 2020.

We hope you enjoy our poets and their thoughts in these trying times…

Return to Online Open Mic

Cheryl Hahn

Hours, days, weeks, months
Melt into the slurry of Covid time….
And what time is it anyway?

My calendar is empty
Open days are plenty and unspoken for—
The challenge of freedom found
in solitary time.

Staring out the window
I hear my breathing;
feeling the sun on my face
while digging—
the garden still becoming.

An eerie calmness creeping….
anxious rhythm beating….
hours unmeasured, yet limiting.
Benevolent, but unkind,
this dichotomy of Covid time.

Elaine Smith
    The Lock-Down Walk with Killdeer

The boulder at the right of the path,
sun-warmed sandy brown, too heavy to lift,
reminds me we’re held fast by gravity.

I step past, upright,
but, technically, I’m upside down
whizzing though space at terrific speed,
every hair in place.

Round the corner left, razor wire on chain link
seems to chirp, guarding trailers and buses,
until I see a plover ahead of me.
This lovely little bird should be on sand
dipping in and out of the tide.

Dark double bibs across breast and neck, long thin legs,
quick oval head ending in a sharp beak,
sandy brown, white and black, showing warmer cocoa brown
under a stretched wing, nestling into gravel,
drawing me away from a nest,
shedding parasites, or calling a mate.

A second one chirps, high-stepping the path.
No water, only asphalt pathway, wire fence,
and the untended strip of scrub trees,
bushes and grasses, down slope from the road.

Together now on gravel,
they whistle their high-pitched chirps,
so bright, so defined, so vulnerable.

Kathleen Smith

When you know somebody dead, you know it’s real.
That first ghost moves in and soon all the ghosts
of the last plague come by to join him. Now the house
is full of ghosts, so talk with them and about them.
They are real company, and some old friends.

Don’t get too cozy, though. Anchor yourself in body
with lots of sun, lots of sex, and lots of good home cooking.
There are ghosts aplenty .Celebrate your breathing.
Practice wild joy. Party a little. You do not know
how much party time remains. Waste it extravagantly.

Add to your guest list by season. For Passover, mark your
doorpost. For Easter, read the rebel Irish poets and Luke’s
lurid stories of disciples stoned, jailed, and shipwrecked.
For Ramadan, follow the Sufi way of Rumi and his dervishes.
They all sang their way through death and feel at home now.

You are one of many, not first or last.
Sing well and all the ghosts will dance.

jared munoz

Clean slate,
What will the world bring today?
Head in the clouds where there aren’t any frowns,
I tend to stay away from crowds,
But as of late,
it appears that everyone Is doing the same.
“Don’t go, Don’t leave I want you right here!”
Money is needed,
Gears in a machine nearly depleted,
Another $1200,
A “gift” from the state.
Funeral pains,
Reality is warped and changed,
What do you do in the face of a massive wave?
Anxiety influenced decisions.
Reflective pools of,
Uneducated fools,
I sincerely don’t know what to do.
“Break the cycle,
Rearrange the chains,
Grab ahold and don’t let go,
You aren’t going anywhere before getting old.”
This slate is getting heavy but I’m making headway,
Slow and steady.

Rod Nelson

The yellow arrowleaf, the blue lupine
were late to the hills this Spring
the buds late to the big yard oaks
the bare branches stabbing a perpetually overcast sky
while the species thinning
viral realignment
reminded us
that modernity
does not inoculate
against the whims of nature
the mysterious ways of God.

And we mere mortals
the fools of a mid-Spring dream
live our lives
as if.

Richard Burr
Senator Burr
under oath to defend the Constitution
charged with promoting the people’s welfare
calms his constituency
while liquidating his stocks
realigning his own portfolio.
Recalls a time when
regurgitating fleas left their black mark,
the rich moved to their country estates,
and no one regarded
but their own cruel gains.

Bearded men
emasculated by job loss
parade with rifles
and tough talk of a deep state hoax
hiding behind their flags,
while our aging Mothers die intubated and alone.

Others cloister at home
rearranging the kitchen cupboards
the drawers
realigning the spoons
the forks
carefully folding the dish towels
realigning their marriages
their lives.

The front line, subsistence workers
the untended lilacs of our culture
go about their work
blooming purple once again
as they do
year after year after year.

And those armored with the blood of Jesus
certain of invulnerability
of God’s protection
hug their fellow parishioners
passing on their brotherly love.

The Tarrou’s
the Dr. Rieux’s
understanding that the church bell does indeed toll for thee
seek to help
to comfort
to hold
in this holdless time.

My own son
the scientist
drives empty streets
to a lonely lab
devise a test
a better test
a faster test.

and more.
I dream a feverish viral dream
dressed in a Hazmat suit
in the bed of a commandeered potato truck
pitchforking bodies into a backhoe pit.

Death is always at the door.
But when it appears as abundant as last summer’s dried grass,
as random as a lightning strike,
we panic
protecting ourselves
with hoarded toilet paper
Hydroxychloroquine prescriptions
guns and flags
the blood of Jesus
rearranged cupboards
and a promise to live better next time.

And wait.

We all wait
for God to say enough
for Mother Nature to move to a different playground
for a bluebird
an acid trip blue bluebird
to appear on this black and white page.

Link to You Tube video
Rod Nelson
Rod Nelson

Linda Brown
          reading is also contagious

a red headed blind girl teaches me how to listen
especially to the night when traffic rumbles by
each vehicle distinct, different

twin brothers show me how to care for one another
the worst dangers self-inflicted and we are all brothers

trees remind me we are in this together
inseparable like the bird and the branch
it sits on

the sun rises behind the shack as well as the mansion
the sky envelops all and now birds return
we breathe, we see, we remember

sometimes we run towards not away from
and in the running we find parts of ourselves
we failed to embrace along the way

earth travels around the sun in 365 days
i walk the path around my home much faster

the dog says, i am lying in the garden, i am
lying in the garden, it’s nice

Melissa Herrera

Penny Johnson

Mark Fuzie
   Corona Sunset Spring Sonnet

We stand like Western gulls, our beaks
Up straight, wings folded, two wing lengths
Between us and the droplets of salt
Concentrate dripping from our neighbor’s nares,

Facing into the west wind washing
Through the coastal pines behind
Us whose pollens seek pine pistils
Downwind to begin the great divide.

Unlike other living things discriminately
Seeking the stuff of life, we retreat now,
And watch the horizon each end of day
For the crowning explosion into night.

If this unwitting force threatening our survival passes
In the dark, tomorrow brings more chances.

Joyce Hernandez

When I swim in a river
or that old trickster, the sea
when I embrace
the tree I’m climbing
the load I’m lifting

I want brains in my arms
like the octopus, thinking
my way to balance. But

when I hold you, my dearest
let arms be free
of every thought
quickened only by limbic longings
and the blind
circuitry of joy.

Leon Petty
    After Eden

Sometimes it seems that God has no preference in peoples
but I’m not talking about the precious
Red and Yellow, Black and White
I’m talking about Dog, Cat, Mouse, Sparrow and Me
The chattel world
not so precious

It wasn’t God that mandated this Social Distancing
between man and nature and even one another
God didn’t proselytize the shotgun or the Atom Bomb
God just planted these diverse spirits
all together in this miserable
no win scenario

Everything is supernatural
That’s what is so pitiful about existence
Doddering before the big heedless powers
juggernauting everything in their paths
So I am not so surprised at genocide
wherever it comes from
even with this dying like in H. G. Wells
War of the Worlds

Once I cut myself with a table saw
and it really astounded me
that the saw
made the exact same noise
after it cut me
as it did
before it cut me

This occasion
harlequin to my vulnerability
took my blood to puddle
with everything sacred and bane
and muzzled the child molesting Gods
to never whisper of my divinity again

And with this blackened apple bitten
the new swords turning fiery at the gates
the new dark angels scowling bidden
and every earth bound breathing thing
comes crawling for my nakedness to share

Yea and rapacious the newborn mercy

Yesterday I repeated
like a Mantra
“Atom Bomb, COVID19”
until the words began to hummmm
all meaning the same wonderful thing

W. D. Frank
Sand puzzle

Simple physics pulls sand down the hourglass
a slow trickle initially,
imperceptible, noiseless
until gravity overwhelms the interior
the final bits hurtling to the bottom
all at once.
Puzzling me is this unseen force
altering the acceleration
shattering our fragile glass ampoules
before the grains run their course
leaving shards and granules
for ventilators to sift,
a muddle impossible to piece back
and no chance
to flip the frame back round again.

Joseph Powell

What melody subverts the listless funk?
What dance seems right without belittling misery?
When sorrow overtakes the daily news, stalks
the grocery aisles, the hardware stores, hospitals,
what sentence is without a perfumey residue?

This should be an artist’s dream—
no excuse to charm us from our inner life.
Yet something chafes the soul when the unknown
has locked the doors, and change like gloomy weather,
deeper than what we’ve ever seen or felt before,
surrounds the house, shakes the window frames.

We could commune with the moths that find
their night-time glow, or spiders webbing
chairs to tabletops almost as fast as they’re cleaned,
spitting white droplets in dressered corners.
Or marvel at the bristley white fuzz
climbing the stems of the tomato starts,
or out-Zen a fly and nimbly catch and release it
like the trout we’re banned from.

Yet intimacy is finding new borders to cross.
Everything we do with each other is magnified.
A tone reverbs. A casual critical word researches a history.
A loaf of steaming bread rejoices, raising
its hosannas like Pentecostal tongues.
How smells colonize their square footage,
each writing its limbic ode.
Children see parents without their armor,
and claim their unsuspecting bodies like conquistadors.
Women barber, discover moles, thin spots, doubts.
Men learn to dab the gray from roots, the fluency of hair,
the many ways that touch redeems,
the facts and flaws and fruits of nakedness,
how I love you takes on newer, deeper meanings.

Ed Stover
May Day 2020

From my dining room,
I gaze out at the flowers
in my yard and remember
another May Day 70 years ago.

There I am, 10 years old,
sneaking up Gloria Stipac’s
front walk with a fistful
of flowers and a card signed Love.

I will leave the card and flowers
on Gloria’s front step and run
because I’m afraid
to present them in person.

Afraid Gloria will laugh
in my face as she eventually will.
And awfully afraid
of her football coach father.

golden curls,
dark eyebrows,
blue eyes clear as water.

Strange what returns,
the details so clear and cruel.
But what of the bouquet?
Its color? Its fragrance?

All I remember are flowers
purloined from my mother’s
garden, how they shook
in my small, hopeful hand.

Betty Van Ryder


Above the clouds
Over the moon
Around the bend
Beneath my feet
Along the garden path
Behind the rose bushes
Within the confines of my home
Before nighttime
Against all odds
During the outbreak
Unlike anything before
In uncharted territory
Upon contemplation
After the crisis
With misgivings
I ponder our fate

Virginia Van Amburg

Thirteen Ways of Enduring Self Isolation

A result of the 2020 pandemic
is staying at home.
Sometimes all alone.

Not going to school.
Not going to work.
Not meeting with groups.

No exercise class.
No book club meetings.
No Mariner games.

No church services
No shopping sprees.
No coffee klatches.

We explore new ways to communicate.
A virtual book club
meeting on Zoom.

We visit old ways to communicate.
Writing letters.
Spending time on the phone.

We find new chores to do.
Cleaning cupboards,
washing walls.

Baking as our mothers did.
Cookies, cakes,
even homemade bread.

Purging our closets
of clothes we don’t need,
shoes we don’t wear.

Connecting with the world
by watching too much TV,
listening to the radio.

By reading the newspaper
and, of course, reading books,
without which I would be lost.

The outdoors still welcomes us.
Hiking, walking, gardening.
Letting us keep our sanity.

All the while wondering
when this will end,
when we will get to
see each other again?

Karen Gookin
May 7, 2020

And then everything changed

Not the sky’s certain blue or green-gold trees,
Not the spring-slant of light and the urge
It brings to grow. But this—my trust

In the air I’ll breathe as it leaves
Your lungs to enter mine. And this—
Minding our hands now. No clasping yours

On a morning walk, no caressing
A grandson’s tanned cheek, or even
My own. And this. No sure promise

Of your arms or the warmth of our daughters’ hold
When the end does come. And this. The night
At its darkest, the dew point hour when silence

Chills and I startle, sending my breath to search
The bottom of my lungs, counting heart beats that lift
Bed sheets every half-second, again, again.

On this island of now, I know a random breath
Or touch a few days back could set my fate, schedule
My passion and death eight days out. Buried, then,

By the end of next week. What reasoning, what prayer
Sustains our hope for one more day without symptoms,
For days ahead like those we remember?

Phil Cibicki


there is more than one
virus out there:
and thus we need to
stay away from
another thing
that makes us sick,
by flattening the curve
of panic in order to
prevent our own
infrastructure from
being overwhelmed
with despair so that
hopefully this wave
of mass hysteria
doesn’t infect
everyone at once.
To do this, we should
remove ourselves from
the infection of noise
and seek the vaccine
of pure solitude.
There is some truth
to “ignorance is bliss”.
We must unplug from
the illusions of screens
in front of us and
replug into the
reality of life
all around us.
In doing so,
we can all begin
to practice the art of
media distancing.

Susan Johnson

Along Scatter Creek

The pebble in the brook secretly
thinks itself a precious stone.
Japanese proverb

And aren’t we each a pebble,
stone broken long ago,
one piece of great formation,
purified in mountain melt,
ground by glacier flow,
tumbled, rushed into eddies,
under rapids, shaped, polished,
magnified in water, jewel among
jewels, as light as the weight of god?

David Fonfara

APRIL 2020

They walk amongst us every day,
Provide us help without delay.
They go about their business without fanfare, flaunt, or flourish.
Our lives’ daily needs, they do furnish.
They do their jobs responsibly.
They work long days with easy grace and dignity.
The fruits of their labor bear a bountiful harvest of comfort, health, and service,
The sweat from their brows supports our country’s common purpose.
America’s workforce, in years gone by, labored in obscurity,
Orphans in the shadows of anonymity.
They, amongst us, unrecognized faces,
Sight unseen in crowded places.
Suddenly a spiky headed bug emerges,
And with it, fear, panic, death converges.
The coronavirus – highly contagious,
Life as we know it dramatically changes.
Social isolation – prisoners in our own homes,
Confined in dark spaces like gnarly gnomes,
In solitary deprivation,
Stagnation, damnation, a zombie nation.
Running out of food, in great distress,
No medicine to cure this dreaded viral mess.
Helpless, some without friends or hope. No saints or heroes in sight.
From all over the land come pleas for help against this dystopian fright.
Wait a minute. Help is on the way.
Point of fact, always been there, every day.
Presenting America’s “Everyday Saints & Everyday Heroes.”
Been out there all along you know. Ordinary people – ten fingers – ten toes. They are here to help with determination and grace.
Just let them do their jobs and give them a minimum six feet work- space.
America’s once invisible workforce – Everyday Saints & Everyday Heroes – sacrificing their health and safety for me and you.
A brave and selfless crew, who knew.
Grocery store workers, checkers, clerks, and stockers,
Some among them friends and neighbors.
Farm laborers in fertile fields, orchards, and vineyards,
Forget not those who tend the herds.
Restaurant workers preparing food for the table,
Shippers, truckers, postal carriers, all quite able,
Health care workers and first responders, we offer our thanks and prayer.
You put your lives on the line with your service and care.
These are but a few of America’s Everyday Saints & Everyday Heroes, their secret identities now revealed.
Their fortitude to do what’s right will not yield.
Special thoughts and prayers go out to all of you who courageously risk your lives on the COVID-19 battlefield.

Katrina Strathmann

A Parent’s COVID Haiku

School, work, chores and unease burst
Love binds and spring blooms.

Working from Home During Quarantine
     by LeAnne Ries

Through the office window
during a quarantine
against the COVID19 virus

I can see barely past the trees
Just behind the greenery, one spindly brown pine
I’ve needed to cut down for a long time

My husband has taken to feeding the birds
we never used to buy bird seed

We are inside, working from home
The best part of our days spent talking into our computers
typing onto our phones

laying wire in our brains for new bytes of information
we will be expected to learn

and we will

Some bright green leaves wave on the cottonwood beyond the fence

Over the top of my reading glasses, I flash them a glance
my new co-workers

Link to You Tube video
Working from Home During Quarantine
LeAnne Ries

Dotty Armstrong

Pruning the Roses

When the forsythia blooms
it’s time to give the roses
a serious haircut.
I am dressed for battle:
leather work gloves,
two winter coats,
a thick scarf whirled
around my neck,
a hat the color of my favorite rose,
Golden Masterpiece.

I plunge into
Moonlight Magic,
Double Delight,
slice carefully just above the buds.
Thorns grab my hat,
my sleeves,
the hem of my outer coat.
An unusually large thorn
Scrapes my cheek.
I try to unhook myself
but the thorns
have their way with me.

You would think that plants
With names like Queen Elizabeth,
Mr. Lincoln,
would be kinder to those
who care for them.

Tell me
do you know of a brave warrior
with sharp shears? 

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