• 2020-12-02 12:38:07
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    dentist office
    Dismantling a Mouth
    by Betsy Mars

    First, survey the surrounding areas:
    forehead temperature, check;
    hands, sanitized;
    oxygen saturation adequate;
    no contact with suspicious persons.
    No recent travels to foreign lands.
    Remove the mask. Swish
    with hydrogen peroxide for a minute,
    spit into a vacuum which sucks
    any danger away. Now for x-rays.
    The room is prepared, purified air.
    The technician hovers, shielded
    and gloved, protected from poisons
    which might leach from the soil
    of your mouth. Another cone covers
    the air immediately above your face,
    sealing the area from any contaminants
    escaping your mouth, as she scrapes,
    picks, excavates. Finally satisfied,
    she polishes, making teeth shine —
    a bright clean smile
    rarely seen these days
    as you replace your mask.

    PHOTO: Dr. Carolyn Doherty and dental hygienist Stephanie.

    NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I recently went for a dental cleaning and checkup, though I had been wary about going. They assured me on the phone that they had all kinds of procedures in place and I was really impressed with all that they had done to assure that it was as safe as possible. Despite all that, I was thinking about the dedication and courage it takes to get up close and personal with someone’s mouth (outside of household mouths) these days, and the thought occurred to me that it was like diffusing a bomb or walking through a minefield, though I mean no disrespect to people who do those jobs, and I certainly don’t really feel it’s comparable. Still, there is an element of risk now in such intimate work, and I feel very appreciative of their willingness to do it. My gums and teeth are very grateful for the overdue attention.

    MarsMaskPhoto

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR Betsy Mars is a poet, photographer, and an occasional publisher. She founded Kingly Street Press and published her first anthology Unsheathed: 24 Contemporary Poets Take Up the Knife in October 2019. Her work has recently appeared in The Blue NibLive Encounters, and The New Verse News. Her chapbook Alinea was released in January 2019. In the Muddle of the Night, her collection written with Alan Walowitz, is coming soon from Arroyo Seco Press. Visit her at marmyst.wordpress.com, and find her on Facebook and on Twitter.

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    castaldostudio licensed

    stephen text

    Photo by Castaldo Studio, used by permission. 

    NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I have advanced kidney disease, which also causes anemia. I have to monitor my hemoglobin on a regular basis. Last year, an internal bleed sent me to the hospital for almost two months. When I learned two weeks ago that my hemoglobin had dropped very low again, I immediately thought “Here we go again!” But the idea of going anywhere near a hospital right now was frightening too. Usually, they want a referral at the hospital, but this time, thanks to the wonderful nurse who took my urgent call, I was taken right away.  I spent about eight hours there altogether, but it would have been much longer in normal times. The wait is not usually five minutes; it is usually several hours. I cannot thank the staff at the hospital enough for their care, their professionalism, and for the way they put themselves on the line every day. At no time did I ever feel at risk, other than from my own body!

    carol-a.-stephenenhanced-copy

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carol A. Stephen’s poetry appears in Poetry Is Dead, June 2017, and numerous print publications, including Wintergreen Studios chapbooks, Sound Me When I’m Done and Teasing the Tongue. Online poems appear at Silver Birch Press, Topology Magazine, The Light Ekphrastic, and With Painted Words.  She won third prize in the CAA National Capital Writing Contest, and was featured in Tree’s Hot Ottawa Voices.  She served on the board for Canadian Authors Association-NCR and co-directed Ottawa’s Tree Reading Series. She has five chapbooks, two released in 2018 — Unhook, catkin press, Carleton Place, and Lost Silence of the Small, Local Gems Press, Long Island, NY.  In 2019, Winning the Lottery, Surviving Clostridium Difficile was published by Crowe Creations.ca. Visit her blog at quillfyre.wordpress.com.

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    woraphon banchobdi licensed

    The Caregiver
    by Alarie Tennille

    I’m wearing a mask
    like I’m part of the medical team.

    For the second time
    in three days,
    I’m sitting on a gurney,
    watching my blood pressure creep up, up, up
    on a monitor
    as I’m prepped
    for surgery. Try taking
    deep breaths.
    No help.

    Then she arrives
    with her I’m here for you smile
    and reassuring hand on my arm.
    “Would you like a warm blanket?”

    Nothing short of waving a magic wand
    could be better. Why must operating
    rooms be icy? She tucks me in.

    In my mind, she’s the same nurse
    who went through the same steps
    48 hours ago, but I know she isn’t.
    Slowly and clearly she explains
    what will happen next. Asks,
    “Any questions?”

    She sees me –
    an intelligent human being,
    a rational adult who minutes ago
    felt like a weepy five-year-old,
    but who now wants to show
    this mom surrogate
    how brave I can be.

    Photo by Woraphon Banchobdi, used by permission. 

    Tennille Poet of the High Seas copy

    NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As my poem indicates, the wonderfully efficient and calming nurse represented her type. The nurse I had two days earlier also performed her job like I was the only person needing her complete attention in that moment. I’m sure they told me their names, but I wasn’t in any shape to remember those. If either one happens to see this, I hope they’ll feel the gratitude. You can tell from my recent photo what part of me required surgeries, though I’ve been having fun telling people I’ve joined a pirate’s crew. For those curious to know the real story, let’s just say I knew it wasn’t going to be a routine cataract removal. The nearly two-hour operation resulted in complications requiring a second, longer, emergency surgery and a much longer recovery period. It’s been several months now, and I’m just starting to feel human again, but wear the patch to spare you.

    tennille-copy1

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alarie Tennille graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place. Her latest poetry collection is Waking on the MoonHer first collection, Running Counter Clockwise, was first runner-up for the Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence (both books available on Amazon). She was recently honored to receive a 2020 Fantastic Ekphrastic Award from The Ekphrastic Review. Please visit her at alariepoet.com to check out her blog and learn more about her writing.

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    Sittner_2

    At the Hospital
    by Leslie Sittner

    The ambulance pulls into a dedicated emergency bay, and I’m carefully and quietly unloaded and wheeled into the small receiving area—no waiting room! The EMTs give my information to a masked person who wheels me into an adjacent private room. Everywhere it is quiet. Lights dim. Barely audible footfalls. No frantic, frenzied, dramatic emergencies. Everyone covered in fresh-looking PPE. I realize that I’ve done the right thing. I relax a bit. Soon the various nurses and eventually the physician attend to my three broken nasal blood vessels with calm reassuring descriptions of the next procedural steps. Three super-sanitary hours later, I am released with protocols to follow-up with an ENT for a TeleHealth visit.

    This frightening emergency event was treated with the most personal and caring attention and best professional efforts that anyone could hope to experience.

    AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Unloaded at one dedicated ambulance ER bay.

    Sittner_1

    NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Not only do we honor our first responders for their bravery and service but all family, friends, and neighbors deserve our gratitude for their generosity, care, and concern. My neighbor retrieved me from the hospital and brought me safely home; her husband calmed the dog, let her out, and fed her after cleaning and disinfecting the bathroom and putting the bloody towels in the washer to soak.

    AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Hospital lawn sign acknowledging all within.

    Sittner_3

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner’s print works are available in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press (2016 -17-18-19-21), Adirondack Life Magazine, BraVa anthology, and read on NPR. Online poems and prose reside at unearthed, Silver Birch Press, 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, 50 Word Stories, Epic Protest Poems, and Adirondack Center for Writing. A collection of essays about European travels with her ex-husband in the late 1960s awaits publishing. She is currently editing the memoir written by her ancient dog while compiling her own book of haiku with photographs.

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    Sittner_1

    Bleeding
    by Leslie Sittner

    Sitting quietly at the computer writing,
    blood explodes from my nose onto the desk.
    Racing to bathroom sink to rinse off,
    blood pulses, pumps into pools.
    It doesn’t stop. I pinch the nose sweet spot, head back.
    10 minutes, 20 minutes, it doesn’t stop. Stress.
    What do I do? Fearing a hospital visit, knowing I can’t drive myself
    I grab another towel, head tilted back, stumble to the neighbors.
    They call an ambulance, escort me back home.
    The dog is racing around room to room, inside, outside
    confused, afraid from the tumult. Stress.
    Ambulance arrives with two EMTs,
    several more neighbors hover on the lawn.
    Bedlam. Stress.
    Dog must be contained before they enter with the gurney.
    Challenge. Stress.
    Professional, kind, genuine concern, they can see the issue,
    tell me no, no, no, hold head forward and down
    so I don’t swallow or choke on blood.
    You’re doing it the “the old way.” Stress.
    Politely sitting me down, they record my medical history
    take my stratospheric blood pressure. Stress.
    I remember to grab my purse, give dog care information to the neighbor
    before I’m gently strapped atop the gurney, trundled out the front door,
    raised into the waiting ambulance.
    Blood has been flowing for 45 minutes,
    taking my BP several more times, it lowers slightly.
    Nervous, I ask about their runs of the day.
    Smiling, they tell me I’m the first call of their shift,
    they and the transport are newly refreshed, disinfected.
    Do they think I’ll be kept overnight?
    Probably not, they want to get folks out as quick as possible.
    Reassurances. Less stress.
    In transit, laying there, strapped down, my phone rings.
    Managing to access it, my distant daughter and grandsons
    are calling to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day.
    Smiles and ironic laughter all around.

    AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: An ambulance from the corps that transported me to the hospital.

    Sittner_2

    NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Adding to the fear of this scary development was my panic about going to a hospital during this pandemic; recently a friend experienced a minor stroke and was driven to an ER by her husband. After a long interval in the waiting area, she was placed in the COVID ward for 24 hours. I was determined to go by ambulance. My EMTs were the epitome of professional, patient, helpful, and comforting responders; they got me to the hospital safely and calmly. When I contacted the unit to request the names of my EMTs for this gratitude piece and hopefully get their photo, I was told this isn’t possible: They consider all runs to be “just doing their job” and prefer no special recognition, especially photos and names. I honor their brave service and respect their humility. Thank you.

    PHOTO: Lawn sign honoring all first responders.

    Sittner_3

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner’s print works are available in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press (2016 -17-18-19-21), Adirondack Life Magazine, BraVa anthology, and read on NPR. Online poems and prose reside at unearthed, Silver Birch Press, 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, 50 Word Stories, Epic Protest Poems, and Adirondack Center for Writing. A collection of essays about European travels with her ex-husband in the late 1960s awaits publishing. Leslie is currently editing the memoir written by her ancient dog while compiling her own book of haiku with photographs.

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    alina rosanova
    Physical Adjustments
    by Sheila A. Donovan

    Physical therapy put on the back burner.
    Unsafe to utilize large therapy equipment
    from recumbent ellipticals, bicycles,
    gliders, to therapeutic treadmills.

    Dangerous to utilize small equipment,
    medicine balls, ropes, balance boards
    elastic bands or kettle balls.
    Coronavirus demonizes equipment.

    BAD FALL injures arthritic knee.
    Orthopedist prescribes PT.
    “Best to do it now, while coronavirus
    has slowed down.”

    Therapists accepting minimal patients.
    Must wear mask, use hand-sanitizer,
    have temperature taken
    before getting physical therapy.

    Assistants tend to all equipment,
    from elastic bands to ellipticals,
    wiping them down with sanitizers,
    after each-and-every use.

    Miraculous therapists, all equipped with
    masks and rubber gloves,
    treat tender muscles and
    nerve endings of needy patients.

    I am thankful to the PTs for
    risking physical contact with
    pain-ridden patients.
    My heroes!

    PHOTO: Physical therapist works with patient during pandemic. Photo by Alina Rosanova, used by permission.

    NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written to reflect the physical therapy I get two days a week.

    DONOVAN 1

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sheila A. Donovan’s poems have been published in the anthologies Reflections Journal, Poetry Cram, Journal of Modern Poetry, Theatre of the Mind, Dear Mr. President, and Budlong Woods Writers anthology You Don’t Know.  She has three poems in the upcoming Budlong Woods Writers book Love, Death and Everything in between.  She earned the Contemporary American Poetry Prize Honorable Mention for her poem “Universal Failure.” Sheila has been a judge at Louder Than a Bomb, has volunteered with Open Books — teaching kids how to write slam poetry — and for 30 years was a volunteer for Off the Street Club. Her poems and art have been exhibited at Woman Made Gallery. She’s been the featured poet at numerous venues around Chicago, including Beach Poets and the Harold Washington Library.

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    licensed iago lopez
    Back from the Front
    by Anita Haas

    “They kept coming. Delivery
    vans, mail trucks even.”

    Every 8 p.m. we emerged, blinking,
    from our cozy, book-lined
    bunker, to applaud you
    from our rooftop.

    “It was a trade center turned field hospital.”

    And every night we stared
    at the coiffed, heeled announcer, pointing
    at rising columns on charts
    labeled “Infections” and “Deaths.”

    “And they lay them on the sidewalks, some
    already dead. The families forbidden to say goodbye.”

    But the media already told us;
    No masks for you, garbage bag
    capes. Shortage of
    beds, ambulances, ventilators;
    patient-lined corridors, ice rink morgue.

    “The nearest sink was 800 metres
    away. We couldn’t wash them. The smell …”

    But TV sucks reality out of things. Tricks
    you into believing it’s all just a movie.

    “Many colleagues with families didn’t go home
    at night, afraid of infecting them.”

    But you were real. Telling me,
    blinking down at your coffee, voice
    wavering. After it was all over.
    For now, at least.

    “But I did. After my shift, I’d collapse
    on the couch, hug my dog, and sob.”

    PHOTO: Healthcare workers in Spain dealing with the coronavirus crisis applaud in return as they are cheered outside their hospital on March 26, 2020. Photo by Iago Lopez, used by permission.

    NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Lockdown here in Spain was especially severe during the months of March, April, and May. We were restricted to our homes and only permitted to leave, unaccompanied, for work, food, or medicine, and within a one kilometer radius. At 8 p.m. the streets rang out with applause from balconies. Since we don’t have a balcony, we rediscovered our building’s rooftop, where we could stretch our legs, applaud the healthcare workers, and get some vitamin D.  When we could finally leave and see people, I met up with a nurse friend of mine. Her story inspired this poem.

    Haas

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anita Haas is a differently abled, award-winning Canadian writer and teacher based in Madrid, Spain. She has published books on film, two novelettes, a short story collection, and articles, poems, and fiction in both English and Spanish. Her poetry has been featured in Quantum Leap, River Poets Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Vox Poetica, Verse Virtual, Wink, Songs of Eretz, Parody Magazine, Silver Birch Press, and Founder’s Favourites. She spends her free time watching films and enjoying tapas and flamenco with her writer husband and two cats.

    PHOTO: The author on her rooftop during lockdown.

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    licensed sandor kacso
    Leavings
    by Sarah Russell

    Leavings are untidy. Remembering
    what you want to say as the car pulls away,
    or the cell phone drops into your purse,
    restraint in an embrace, the casual

    see ya, when you ache for more.
    There was that time my mother died—
    a stiff, proud woman who did not touch.
    She lay in bed, while her brothers and I

    hovered. We asked if she needed a blanket,
    if she wanted music, if she were hungry,
    thirsty. At each offering, she jerked her head
    from side to side, tight-lipped, angry.

    Then the young, Hispanic hospice aide reached
    out and took her hand. She knew what leavings
    needed, what my mother couldn’t bring herself
    to ask for, what we didn’t understand to give.

    My mother sighed and held that gentle,
    reassuring hand. The aide leaned in, caressed
    a wisp of hair on her forehead. My mother smiled,
    and took her last breaths.

    Photo by Sandor Kacso, used by permission.

    NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For over 30 years I’ve regretted not knowing what my mother needed at the end of her life, and how grateful I am to the young woman who did. It helped to finally honor both of them in this poem.

    russell

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Russell’s poetry and fiction have been published in Kentucky Review, Poppy Road Review, Misfit Magazine, Rusty Truck, Third Wednesday, and many other journals and anthologies. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She has two poetry collections published by Kelsay Books, I lost summer somewhere  and Today and Other Seasons. She blogs at SarahRussellPoetry.net.

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    the-shepherdess-1873
    Creature Comforts
    by Shelly Blankman

    Dedicated to Dr. Barbara Feinstein and the staff of the Cat and Dog Hospital of Columbia, Maryland, and to all other animal caregivers who continue to work under difficult conditions to ensure that our pets stay healthy and safe.

    Our calico cat curls in my lap, purrs softly
    in sync with the engine of our car, now the
    waiting room of the veterinarian’s office.

    The glaring sun nearly blocks our windshield view
    of masked vets and techs, their clothing wet with sweat,
    rushing from car to car, lugging cages of sick cats,
    cradling huge dogs, too sick to walk into the office,
    now a barricade from a world too fragile for humanity.

    Pan stirred, her hurt leg stiff. I kissed her soft fur,
    whispered she would be fine, hoping she would be fine,
    praying that in this pandemic world, worried owners
    would not be waiting in their cars for empty cages, empty arms.
    ,
    Doctors were hard to visit now. Receptionists were working
    from home. Patients were seen by computer.
    But veterinarians? They were there, the staff stripped of amenities,
    layered with restrictions, always at the ready. No breaks, no backup.
    They were there to help our Pan, our latest rescue,
    in far worse pain than we’d realized, to diagnose her,
    to be there for her and for so many other animals
    in need of a healing, human touch.

    These are the unsung heroes of the pandemic,
    offering comfort to creatures who could not speak
    the language of pain.

    IMAGE: The Shepherdess by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1873).

    blankman- prime mover Dr. Barbara Feinstein

    NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My creative process differs from poem to poem, but is usually from personal experience. Animals are very close to my heart, and so when Pan was injured, it broke my heart. As often happens, the poem just evolved from my heart. The process from there was just a matter of mechanics.

    PHOTO: Veterinarian Dr. Barbara Feinstein, Cat and Dog Hospital, of Columbia, Maryland.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Blankman and her husband live in Columbia, Maryland, and have two sons, Richard, who lives in New York, and Joshua, who lives in Texas. She is also an at-home mom of three rescue cats—Stripe, Sheldon, and Pan (found during the pandemic), and a foster dog, Mia. Shelly followed a career path of journalism, public relations, and copy editing. Now she has returned to her first love, poetry. Richard and Joshua surprised her with a book of her poetry, Pumpkinhead, available on Amazon.

    AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Pan is doing fine now! She has been  my greatest source of  comfort following a series of deaths during the pandemic. I think animals are incredible and so are the people who go beyond the call of duty to care for them.

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    klimt hygeia
    Pharmacist
    by Joan McNerney

    She thought of herself as a
    modern alchemist. Fluent
    in an arcane language
    about the composition of so
    many minute capsules.

    The rest of the store could
    be in a gas station or bargain
    store. Filled with candies,
    lipsticks, other frivolous items.

    If you simply had a cough, syrup
    could be found on aisle three.
    Her area was sacred to patients,
    those with serious ailments.

    Filling prescriptions navigating
    insurance companies, seeking
    authorizations. Always aware of
    side effects, multiple drug reactions,
    possible allergic problems.

    Austere yet approachable,
    she dispensed heroic potions
    from her prized domain
    as chemical priestess.

    IMAGE: University of Vienna ceiling paintings (Medicine), detail showing Hygeia, goddess of health, by Gustav Klimt (c. 1900-1907).

    NOTE: In Greek as well as Roman mythology, Hygeia was one of the Asclepiadae—the sons and daughters of the god of medicine, Asclepius, and his wife Epione. Hygeia was the goddess/personification of health, cleanliness, and hygiene.

    NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Quite a while ago I decided to write about people at work. Particularly during the pandemic, we should be grateful to these essential workers.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan McNerney’s poetry is found in many literary magazines, such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Poet Warriors, Blueline, and Halcyon Days, as well as in four Bright Hills Press anthologies, several editions of the  Poppy Road Review, and numerous Spectrum Publications. She has four Best of the Net nominations. Her latest title, The Muse In Miniature, is available on Amazon.com and Cyberwit.net.

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