Image accompanying Escape

April Ryan

You can’t be too safe. Caution is important.
These are strange times. I do go to the grocery,
only 15 to 30 minutes. Not a problem.
I know exactly where pie, and ice cream are—
surprised new items can be chosen quickly.
A stomach-rumble rule—don’t shop hungry.
I loyally mask-up, using hand sanitizer,
sticking to a hopeful germ-free distance.

Follow the arrows showing directions.
New carts should fasten turn-signals,
plus a rearview mirror—to help steer aisles.
It is lovely getting out for careful moments.
Of course, a luxury is delicious take-out—
I am happily wearing elastic waistbands,
eating comfort food, dreaming the pandemic
and protests inspire positive future changes.

At home, time melts like gooey grilled cheese
cooked at a proper Goldilocks temperature.
Another evening trying to escape new reality,
designing stay-in-place solitary isolation events.
Send “Hello” notes. Knit potholders—oh, never!
Entertainment, gaze at tv— Discovery Channel,
Animal Planet and Wonders of Nature.
Programs stir hope our world will survive.

But, is humanity walking a deadly path?
Now is the time to stop, look, and listen.


Elaine Smith

It’s six in the evening. I’ve brushed
my teeth and taken the bath
I’ve been thinking about for three days;
put off vacuuming again and sorting
and straightening papers and books
When Simon says “they” have run
into supply line limits for making vials,
a demanding and time-consuming process,
vials which must be glass for viable storage
of vaccine, “the vaccine” being
the Corona virus vaccine, of course,
But there are so many of us now
so many that need the vaccine
that the timely delivery of the earth’s store
of sand for making glass becomes now
a significant, perhaps fatal, snag
in our mission to save us all,

The all, that is, the too many we are now
pushing other species to extinction
whether bee or coral or pangolin
the too many of us being
why we are in this botch
together, unable to curtail
our own species reproduction
even to survive on earth
our only and last home.

Image accompanying Home
Homage to the Winter Moon

Douglas Rawlings

Apple trees stripped
of their summer fruit
squat like ancient mothers
fingering the intricate lacework
of their own moon shadows

and we
slipping into their solemn world
feel the evening’s strident headlines
grow silent
as the peace of this place
of this moment
sifts down into us
drifts into its own elaborate design
weaves deep within us
its own magical pattern

to carry us through
the days ahead


Jacque Larrainzar

Oakland, CA

Where would you go
If nothing could bind you?
A flicker whispers in my ear.
I listen to the rain
It takes me to where I want to be
outside these four walls.
I become a tree.
Standing still in place
Branches up, reaching out
Trunk, and leaves growing
Touching the clouds
Standing in place, not moving.
And yet,
Sheltering all kinds of life in body
Hugging the earth with my roots
In this confinement,
I find the path;
I am alive
A witness to these trying times
and all is good

Image accompanying Stalled/Plans

Sarah Bardeen

Berkeley, CA

In the first week
I was full of plans:
Language, songs to learn
bread to bake
murals to paint.
Long-neglected house projects,
suddenly front and center,
standing tall. Proud to be
of service.

I would use our collective
solitude, too,
to rethink the balance of
the world
and my place in it.

Now, eight weeks in,
I stand transfixed:
watching a hummingbird
hover and strike in the air
devouring insects
a flash of ruby red
at her throat.

at times
has left me unable to rise
from my chair.
But the dog comes and shoves
her muzzle into
my curled fingers.

My children sleep and grow, sleep
and grow
and the sky is bluer
than it has ever been.

first published in the San Francisco Chronicle, 05/09/2020