Look Away, Child.  

By Dan Mulinge

 

I’m in line at the hospital,

Seated, not standing

With an awkward distance from her,

Her two little incisors proudly present her smiles

Her scattered hairs, a sombre yet fun reminder

That we are all born bald, and delicate.

She’s playfully dancing on her mother’s lap,

As if it were a ball room and she, the ballerina

I make faces every time she looks this way

I wink, and she blinks twice,

I smile under my mask, she smiles back openly

Her little fingers clutch her mother’s skirt, she ascends

She’s stands, then walks, supported by the bench.

She looks up at me, wanting to be held.

I cannot touch her. I should not touch her. Or hold her. Or tickle her

So long are the days of abujubujubujuu!

So long, child, are the days we’d hold you and play along.

Corona is watching, I better not be her victim.

And neither should you.

So I let her walk around,

I have stopped making faces, she won’t be tempted to be held

By anyone but the mother.

 

BREAKING FREE

   By Agatha Malunda.

 

The slavery of free men has began.

A ruthless Queen has risen from the east and 

She, unlike the sun, is harmful to man.

Each day she exhorts the power of death,

many are struggling to survive;

 all living under the fear of losing their lives.

The world is under attack

And lockdown has become Noah’s ark

to protect us from this fiery flood.

We cover our nose and mouth with a mask

and  we’ve become accustomed to this task.

Large gatherings are restricted

our feeling of togetherness is afflicted.

Handshakes have become illegal 

They say hugs and kisses

contribute to the further spread of the illness.

 

The sun shines but we admire its beauty

through our curtain windows.

We can no longer feel its rays on our skin. 

We spend all day listening to news

hearing how the masters of science

are struggling to find an antidote.

But this pain won’t last forever

we will fight it together.

The reign of Corona will be gone

a new era will be born.

in the meantime let us practice safety

by washing our hands regularly and staying indoors as part of the remedy.

In so doing will defeat this enemy

and convict it for its felony.

Life is sweet and we will not let Corona

still the honey in our bodies.

Masks

By Mniko Chacha.

 

“Wear the masks,” the prominent governor announced,

Soon after Covid-19 emerged,

Despite the increase in price everyone demanded masks at any price,

So, I bought two masks to cover my face,

 

At home, the wise passerby uttered,

“Wear masks everywhere you go, otherwise, you will cease to exist.”

I resisted it for a while and tried to disbelieve my mind,

Then, I recalled what the Television broadcasted. “Those who will wear masks will defeat this pandemic beast.”

 

I thought a little bit and took the face mask,

And covered my face,

I looked on the mirror and saw that my face was becoming the dusk,

The confusion disturbed my eyes, so, I broke the mirror with my fist,

 

Afterwards, I moved towards the sitting room where my wife drank a beer,

“Woo the ghost is coming to kill me right here.”

She shouted and struck me with the whisk broom,

And fled from my sight like a ripe plum,

 

I threw down the mask thinking that it brought the pandemic ghost in my home,

“Take care, nowadays, the face masks are rare to find,

Like the dust of gold.”

The fading mouth roared to me,

 

Later, I shook my head to grasp the reality,

And restore into me the sincerity,

To the best of my own ability,

I wore another mask and got back to my sanity,

GRAVITY UNGRATEFUL

By Mark Blickley.

 

Yes, I am dressed in mourning

Dark clothes for a dark time

Yet I yearn to escape

Pandemic imprisonment

With the germ of an idea

That will allow me to soar

Above my confinement

In an airborne threat

Against complacency and boredom

As I reach up to a blue heaven

That promises social distancing

On a cosmic scale,

But that old bitch gravity

Bears down on me,

Slapping me down

Like a petulant child

Crying out

For what she cannot have,

Slammed back

To a blanketed earth

Of red white and blue.

 

Poet Bio:

Mark Blickley is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. His latest book is “Dream Streams”, is a text-based art collaboration with Amy Bassin.

Prisoners Of Hope.

By Modest Dhlakama.

 

We had the freedom and privilege,

To go anywhere and at anytime.

Now we need a pass for the essentials.

Streets are no longer congested or polluted ,there’s

More traffic in kitchens and lavatories.

Beds complaining of overuse,

Even the rats have  no playground anymore

The Author of Life ,has done it!

We are all convicted and sentenced

To lock-down.

But we hope on…

Here we are the prisoners of hope

Trading with faith for His mercies ,for ,

Somewhere, outside  the gates Corona is waiting.

 

Poet Bio: 

Modest Dhlakama is a Zimbabwean writer and nutritionist. She is  a freelance writer who enjoys writing poetry, songs and short  stories. Some of her poems are published in Poetry Potion 10, The Mc Gregor Anthology 2016 and others.

 

Corona-Shaped

By Babitha Marina Justin

This is the first pandemic since
my birth. Believe me, I know
chickenpox, madness and
herpes — I was afflicted with
typhoid twice – all had vaccines.

This virus has taken the city down
people don’t walk on the streets
without masks, I am terrified if my
father would spit on the roads as
a force of habit and gets arrested.

Meanwhile, the tailoring shops
are shut tight, parlours shuttered,
they have opened community kitchens
in schools, I am almost tempted to
go and work with some strange faces
and socialise at the time of
social distancing.
My days and nights stretch-out
in an endless sleep on the bed-spread
with the Corona print, it blooms like
a lotus in my dreams,
cascades its terror on me,
swims like a jellyfish
on its super slow batwings,

it mushrooms like a cloud
before it goes, Kaboom,
the Big Bang that has buried our love
in your house and mine.

Our glistening love is
lotus-eyed, in a half-open
trance, buried in a corona-shaped
casket called waiting.

 

 

Poet’s Bio:

Babitha Marina Justin is an academic, poet and artist from Kerala, South India. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, 2018 wose poems have been published in over 20 forums including Chaleur Magazine, Kritya and Journal of Post-Colonial Literature.

Her first poetry collection, “Of Fireflies, Guns and the Hills” was published in 2015 by the Writers Workshop in 2015 and the second, “I Cook my Own Feast” was published in 2019.

 

We Won the War.

By Dan Mulinge – Kenya

 

We went to war, son.

Everyone, including your mother.

No one left home, yet to war we went,

For the war was within.

 

Son, the enemy was brutal!

No one ever saw him, except with a cough

No one could touch him, except with masks,

With soap and water, we fought.

 

Many lost their lives, son.

Fear killed us before its hands could.

Restrictions killed us before the war murdered,

It was hard fighting what you couldn’t see.

 

Mothers never saw the graves of their sons,

Husbands too, couldn’t bury their wives!

Death was slow, and painful.

It was death without blood. Cunning!

 

Nations staged a world war, son.

States began fighting together,for the first time,

Never has an enemy been ruthless.

In an emotional world,it was a cold rage.

 

So the rich pleaded with the poor to cough less

The poor begged the rich to travel less

The young begged the old to forget sunbaths

The old urged the young to never hold hands

 

Governments needed the people

The people needed governments,

Tyrants stayed home at last

Terrorists too were awed

 

We fought,son,with all we got.

All we got was discipline,water, soap.

All we got was division,

The far we were the more we won.

 

We fought with masked faces and gloved hands.

Bullets of running waters and grenades of soap

An enemy was this easy to kill.

Were it not for our love of our faces.

 

We won, son.

With clean hands and foaming buckets

We won with division, and unity

Yes,we won.

That’s why I hug you like a trophy.

That’s the prize of winning the war.

 

 

Rain Falls without Mercy.

By Notty Bumbo.

I vacillate of late between rage and amusement. They drag me to and from a this ironic life.  And John Prine is dying, and our leaders are in the crapper stealing our lunch, and I don’t know anymore about star-ships and the World of Tomorrow. I haven’t a clue about our continuance, even the slightest evolution that might finally stop the bombs from falling would be a welcome sight!

I love someone. I love so many. I want to see them all celebrate 100 birthdays and leave a lasting smile behind.  I want the birds to return, I am bereft because John Prine is dying. Poets always matter, songs are the first medicine for despair. I sing with the warblers at midday and with the ravens at dusk. I cannot understand our fascination with fear. The world is too small now.

When will the Summer return? There are hyacinths just opening their leaves, tomato plants finally sprouting. I hear a dog bark somewhere to the West, demanding answers, desiring solace, I wonder how the bears will fair this summer. I hold a touch of hope that one day, there will be justice, when we learn how to be surprised again. Because John Prine has died and I cannot feel the rain.

 

 

Author Bio:

Notty Bumbo is a writer, artist, and poet living in Fort Bragg, California. He’s been published in over ten writing platforms including journals, magazines and anthologies. He recently got published in in Extreme: An Anthology by Vagabond Press. He has also written and published a novella titled, “Tyrian Dreams” which can be read on Kindle via Amazon Publishing.

3, 2, 1… PANDEMIC!

By Sara Collie

It was the lilacs that undid me. I could smell them long before I saw them, the air was suddenly thick with their distinct aroma. In a flash I was transported elsewhere: France, in my early twenties, in the back seat of my roommate’s car. I was tired and homesick when I piled myself in amongst my bags and books. Not just for our apartment in the city where we were returning after a weekend at her parents’ house in the middle of nowhere, but for something or somewhere else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. At the last minute her mother chopped a small branch of lilacs off the bush in the front garden and handed them to me and I cradled them all the way home, keeping them safe as we bumped and rattled down the country lanes in the late afternoon sun. I was touched by her thoughtful gesture and comforted by the delicate scent which sent me spinning further back in time. To my grandmother’s garden, years and years before, back when I used to put on ballet recitals for my bemused family on Sunday afternoons, twirling in a black leotard and pale pink tights on the old path. There was a big lilac bush there too: it towered over me then in those days. Sometimes I was allowed to pick a posy from the garden with my grandmother and, when that bush was in bloom, I always headed straight to it. The sweet perfume of its puffy cones of pale little flowers was so intense, though it never lasted long in a jar. I would bury my face in the bush for what felt like hours, then. Even now, mid-run I’ve been stood with my nose pushed into the branches that are hanging over a garden fence for a full minute, crying as I inhale the fragrance, remembering what it like to feel comforted by lilacs, recalling how small and safe I once was.

 

Back in the present day, but before the lilacs reached me, another unmistakable scent had hung heavy in the evening air: petrichor, rising from the wet grass and warm, damp tarmac. All week the temperature had been rising at a rate unsuited to the gentle early days of April until it broke suddenly with a rumble of thunder that signaled the start of an intense and unexpected storm. After the rain cleared the air I felt a need to do the same thing with my own head. There is a lot going on these days, mid-pandemic, and the old familiar weight of anxiety has been growing heavier in the middle of my chest. I know from experience that the only thing I can do to diffuse it is move, and so, having persuaded the laces on my old trainers into a bow and cloaked myself in lycra, I set off into the early evening.

 

There’s always a point when I run when my thoughts dissolve and I find myself moving on autopilot. No matter what music I have playing in my headphones, it is a quiet place, characterized by calm. I follow my feet until I’m miles away from anywhere with a headful of nothing but the sound of my own lungs. This trance-like state is a kind of disassociation: a disconnect between body and mind which allows me to process things differently. I seek it out as a way of escaping my tendency to over-think things. Normally when I come round, back into my body, I feel refreshed, soothed and re-energised.

 

But this time, when I come back into the present moment, it is with a huge jolt. Suddenly, coming straight towards me is a person in a mask. Everything seems to slip sideways as I try to make sense of what is going on – not just on the street, but in a wider sense. Somehow, as I was running along, my brain managed to completely forget about the pandemic: the thousands of people dying every day; the awful conditions that doctors and nurses are working in; the pain and suffering; the fear that has crept into the edges of all our lives; the lockdown; the loss of work; the stockpiling, everything. It is as though time briefly stopped without me noticing and is now exploding back into motion, as the last six weeks hit me all at once.

 

It’s funny how quickly we adapt, how swiftly the strangest of gestures becomes ordinary. Before I have quite understood what is happening I am checking the road behind me and, noticing it is clear (because it’s still possible to die in all of the old, ordinary ways), I am veering out beyond the cycle lane, right into the middle of the road, giving the person a berth much wider than the suggested 2 metres. My heart is pounding with the shock of remembering; with the shock that I managed to forget it all, for even a moment. I can’t quite believe I was running along oblivious for however many minutes it lasted.

 

As if to compound the shock, an ambulance suddenly veers around the corner, siren screaming, lights ablaze. I glimpse the face of the paramedic in the passenger seat as he passes me. His jaw is set firm, his mouth a grim line. I realize that I need to catch my breath and absorb all the information that is reentering my consciousness so I stop running and pull my headphones out of my ears. I am greeted with absolute silence. Aside from the now distant ambulance, not a car is to be seen on the usually busy road which leads down to the hospital. I realize that the masked person is the first person I have encountered in the whole time I have been out. It is not surprising that it feels strange: such emptiness on a busy road like this would be unthinkable, ordinarily. I start running again, my body instinctively seeking movement, my eyes roaming the street for the next distraction.

 

There is a method for combatting anxiety called the 5,4,3,2,1 technique which involves identifying five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. Focusing on the list causes negative thinking spirals to get interrupted and paying attention to your senses grounds you in your body in the present moment, which helps to alleviate panic. I start to do it as I run. I can see cherry blossom, bluebells popping up in nearby gardens, potholes, the sky glowing orange, cars lined up on driveways. It doesn’t feel like enough to just glimpse things, so I slow down and pull my phone out of my pocket to start cataloguing the flowers, the light, the signs of life and nature that are lining my route. I tell myself it is so I can look through them later when I lie in bed awake, an alternative to doom-scrolling the headlines but it is a habit I often indulge in, even in ordinary times. A deep-seated need to try to preserve fleeting, beautiful things in nature. I notice, as I do every year, how quickly the blossom has already become confetti in the pavement cracks. I am always melancholy at the thought of how brief blossom is, but this year my feelings have been dialed up to a deeper kind of despair that is not just about the ordinary passing of time which rolls round every year to punch me in the gut. This year, death is so much more present in everyday life: a real threat that we are all living with and trying to avoid. For some people it is has come already, so much sooner than they or anybody expected. What to do with that thought?

 

I keep counting, only I can’t do four things I can touch because it isn’t safe to touch anything anymore, so I skip to three things I can hear: more sirens, wailing faintly a few roads away, my breath, fast and gulping. I cannot identify a third sound – this isn’t working as well as it usually does. What to do when the things that normally comfort me get over-ridden by the darkness of the world? Where do I turn then? Quick, what are two things I can smell? There’s the after-rain scent of petrichor, still heavy in the air, and then that’s when the lilacs get me and everything I was trying to hold together inside me comes pouring out in hot, insistent tears. I cross the street to the branches of just-opened purple blooms and sink my face into them. I am grounded in the now-ness of these little flowers and simultaneously transported to the layers of safer, more comforting memories in the past.

 

I tell myself it’s just a brief escape from the world as it is now, a distraction, nothing more. But I know how important it is to indulge in moments of sensory delight – to live them fully as they present themselves. I know that is where life is. That if I focus my attention in the here and now, I will see little glimpses of joy that will come and go in real time but endure somehow, somewhere, in my memories. I wonder if the moments I am living now, in this new world, are getting laid down in my memory bank, filed under lilac, cross-referenced with cherry blossom confetti and bluebell bonnets so that when I stop to sniff these flowers in years to come, I will be back here in a world of deserted streets, masks and sirens. I would rather keep my earlier lilac memories distinct from the world that is unfurling here and now this spring, but what if I can’t? The body remembers what it remembers in whatever way it chooses. I cannot will myself out of this situation and, as I found out a few streets back, slipping out of it involuntarily, even just for a moment is perturbing. Better to stick with the here and now. And right now, that means smelling the lilacs. They won’t last. None of this will.

 

Bio: Sara Collie is a writer based in the USA.

Suffering in Silence

By Wafula p’Khisa

Dr. Makaja’s sexology clinic opened at 6 am. By sunrise, it was a beehive of activity. Clients were everywhere, hardly managing to keep a social distance from one another as per the new regulations from the ministry of health. Most of them had called to come early.

“Good morning!”

“Hello…”

“Bonjour…”

Dr. Makaja shouted greetings at his clients as he reached for the keys to open his tiny office. Their faces lit up as they responded cheerfully. It was clear that his arrival inspired a sense of hope in them. His secretary ushered them in, one by one.

“Hi Doc,” Pendo said. They could not shake hands. The ritual had been banned since the Covid-19 hit the world to minimize the possible spreading of the virus.

“Hi too Pendo. Please have a seat,” he said warmly.

“Thank you.” she said, folded the back of her skirt and sat on a bench opposite the doctor and his tiny table.   “Sorry for waking you up…,” she started as she beckoned a man in.

“Oh, never mind. That’s my job.”

She was with her husband. He could read joy written all over their faces. The first time she had visited the clinic, her marriage was on the verge of falling into oblivion. She was in tears, thoroughly beaten by frustration.

“Doctor, save my marriage please,” she had cried.

“I’ve tried to endure the pain for two years now… I’m afraid I can’t hold on any longer… I’m walking out…” she explained. Dr. Makaja was confused. He was torn between consoling her and listening keenly to her problem. He ended up doing both.

“I’ve never enjoyed sex right from our wedding night,” she said t.

He narrowed his eyes and looked at her, wondering what on earth could deny such a beautiful woman the glory of sex. Is she bewitched? Did her man fall with a sack of maize?

“That shouldn’t be the case. What’s the problem?” he asked.

“My husband roughs me up everyday. Every time he erects, he rams into me furiously and falls off once he’s reached heaven. Then, I would be hanging somewhere between Egypt and Canaan…,” she explained tearfully.

Dr. Makaja pitied her. But as a sexologist, he recommended that she brings her husband along for therapy and coaching. They had several sessions afterwards.

“Sex is not a one person’s moment of pleasure, but a detailed process for two people to derive pleasure from one another,” he told Dula, Pendo’s husband. “It’s not all about penetration and you are done. Think about her. Is she ready? Have you prepared her? Is she satisfied…?”

There was gradual progress after every session. Even Pendo banished the thought of divorce from her mind. Today, they came to thank Dr. Makaja for saving their marriage.

Six more clients came and left. Then a middle-aged man came. He looked withdrawn and troubled. After exchanging pleasantries and rushed introduction, Kioo proceeded to explain his predicament.

“I’m married with two kids. I last made love to my wife one year ago. It wasn’t an interesting thing though for my engine weakened and went off before I could reach the promised land. I chewed kumukombero the next day but the results were terribly worse. I decided to avoid sex since then…”

“Oh, that’s very disappointing,” the doc said. “How, then, have you been managing? Is she comfortable staying in a sexless marriage?”

“I arrive home late from work. She would be asleep then. Sometimes after supper, I watch the TV until late for her to be dead asleep before I go to bed,” he explained desperately.

“Well. So what’s the problem?” he asked gently.

There was a little silence. Then, in a subdued voice, Kioo opened his heart.

“You see, daktari, ever since we were instructed to stay at home in an effort to combat the Corona Virus, things went South for me,” he paused and looked at Dr. Makaja.

“Yes, go on please.”

“I’m zero-grazing in the house and my wife is on my neck demanding for sex all the time.”

“Have you been doing it?”

“Not at all doc! I’ve been dodging. I’m afraid I may not rise to the occasion and you know what damage that could cause if she discovers. But what scares me is that this lockdown is taking too long and I have run out of my tricks. She is already suspecting something.”

“I understand,” Dr. Makaja said thoughtfully.

Silence reigned again.

“Have you been suffering from any terminal illness?” the doctor asked.

“None that I can recall.”

“I think you need to undergo some medical tests and see if we can establish your sexual history. It’s only after that that we can tell the source of your problem,” the doctor explained.

A series of lab tests were carried out. It was established that Kioo had, for a long time, been on Viagra– a sex enhancement drug. He had stopped upon his wife’s complaints against his mechanical bedroom performance. But its long term effects started to show when he could not have a full erection. Upon the doctor’s recommendation, Kioo was not to touch Viagra again. Thence he had to undergo sex coaching and skills building. He brought along his wife for the doctor insisted that such an issue was to be handled in the presence of the two.

Three weeks of regular coaching would pass. In the fourth week, Kioo experienced his first full erection, thus restoring the glory in his marriage. But now, the lockdown is almost ending, and he does not want it to.

 

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About Wafula:

Wafula p’Khisa is a poet and writer from Kenya. His work has been widely anthologized and published in various online (and print) literary journals and magazines.