The Fear in These Times

By Kate Mahony

My seat on the bus faces the back. A man with red and green facial tattoos, wearing a black singlet and no mask stands up. He speaks loudly as if in conversation with someone on a non-existent phone. He bends down behind a young woman in the seat in front of him. Ear buds in, she’s unaware.

He coughs over her shoulder — deliberately, dramatically — into his sleeve, near his elbow. Then he does it again, phlegm rattling. He stands up and begins to move towards the front door. No one speaks. People look away. All is quiet on the bus.

“I write to make sense of life and sometimes my own reaction to life.” – the writer


By Paula Jay

Before COVID
Before your mom’s dementia
Before I was fired from my job
Before your mom died
Before I became enmeshed in paperwork
Before you were overcome by grief
Before I misplaced my libido
Before you stopped saying nice things
Before we both got old
We had a life
That was before
Now we only have after

“I write the things I could never say out loud.” – the poet

The Spinner Toy

By Jim Bates

The old man opened the box. It was a spinner toy sent from his grandson. The old man loved it and spun it all day long while his wife tried to ignore him. But it was into another year of the pandemic, and their apartment seemed to shrink every day. Finally, she’d had it. She grabbed the toy from him and gave it a spin. Around and around it went while they watched, mesmerized, waiting until it stopped. It was the most fun they’d had together months. “My turn next,” he said. “Then mine,” she immediately responded. They both laughed.

“I write to try and bring a bit of happiness to people.” – the writer

Rage Won

By Cherie Flintoff

It’s tempting to say the pandemic was responsible. That it raged through the population, destroying everything in its path.

But the pandemic was more like a solid bureaucrat. A vicious bureaucrat, dishing out illness and death, but doing so without malice. Doing its job effectively, perhaps with a wry smile about those who thought it wasn’t real.

The real rage, the rage that destroyed the city?

That rage came from the people, fuelled by fear and a new tribalism. Vaxxed vs unvaxxed. Each “side” so dogged in self-righteousness they lost sight of compassion and empathy.

Rage won. Everybody else lost.

“I write to tell stories, to help me think and hopefully spark thought in others.” – the writer


By Martin Dupuis

My loneliness intensifies each week. How long has it been now? Looking out the window, all I can see is the blinding snow. All I can hear is the beat of the clock. Oh, but to listen to another heartbeat instead. All I can feel is the moisture on my cheek, yet another tear. How to hold up? Hold to hold on? There are a thousand questions to ask, but the first one is, “How can I feel lonely living in a city among three-million other souls?”

“Some things you just need to put to paper.” – the writer

Hand Sanitizer

By Ethan Cunningham

crystalline droplets
squirt into my hands
blanching the dirt
but seizing upon red cracks
and invisible sores
searing the nerves like
sadistic gnomes prying
them open with crowbars
and crystal salt

my brain shrieks with agony
dissolving my hands
with purifying strength
more upon more
into a silent scream

surviving only because
“this too
shall pass”

and then …

more quickly than it came …

it fades away
to nothing
as if
it never
at all

Ethan Cunningham writes “because if he doesn’t he will explode and die.”

Modern Accessories

By Archibald Hobbs

Standing in front of her mirror, Katie critically assessed her appearance. Would Marcus like what he saw?
She pursed her lips and shook her head. Returning to her bedroom, Katie rummaged through her chest of drawers before plucking the item for which she searched.

“Yes, that’s better,” Katie purred as she inspected the image in the mirror. Her pink mask was just right. Small enough to reveal her endearing dimples. Tight enough to outline the promise of her plump, kissable lips. “Okay,” Katie said whilst opening her wardrobe. “Now, which jacket matches?”

“Archie writes primarily to impress his wife, but would not object a wider audience.” – the writer

Treading Water

By Bruce Levine

Treading water
In a time of pandemic
Holding hopes and dreams
In a bottle of formaldehyde
Waiting in line
In a duality of action
Focusing on a future
Of the unknown
And uncertain
While paving sidewalks
With quicksand
The new turf of the new normal
Embedded with the hyperbole
Of the ideologues
And the believers
As the landscape of tomorrow
Reveals a golden past
Treading water

“I wrote this because I had to!” – the writer

On Bees and Jabs

By Marina Talmacci

Deep breath, sharp sting, the throbbing ache,
An instant to inject
And poison swirls, a writhing snake
Delivered to protect.

Inscrutable, the fate of bees,
What are we, cursed or blessed?
Inoculated, well at ease,
Existence laid to rest.

Yet water buckets need to fill
Through brambles, tears and scabs
Our thirsty blooms need tending still
By arms stung numb with jabs.

With venomed veins and bloody knees
We persevere for springtime bees.

“My friends call me ‘la poetessa obscura,’ as my words have been directed towards myself or specific people, rather than towards a broader audience. I write in two languages, English and Russian, and let the words come and settle as they are, volatile or tame, vers libre or form.” – the writer