Desire in the Time of Pandemic by Carole Greenfield

Desire in the Time of Pandemic

Something that I never did and now do every day
Count the hours that forever keep our lives apart
Tick them off my fingers one by one, each time I say
The only way that this will end is with a broken heart.

Count the hours that forever keep our lives apart
While our energy connection yet spells us and enchants
The only way that this will end is with a broken heart
Still we edge ever closer to the possibility of chance.

While our energy connection yet spells us and enchants
Our longing yearns across the continents and oceans
Still we edge ever closer to the possibility of chance
Reason is submerged beneath the storms of our emotions.

Our longing yearns across the continents and oceans
Before desire’s rising tide, my defenses crumble
Reason is submerged beneath the storms of our emotions
All I want to do is take you into bed and tumble.

Before desire’s rising tide, my defenses crumble
On soul and body level, we both know what we are missing
All I want to do is take you into bed and tumble
We shall spend those endless counted hours kissing.

On soul and body level, we both know what we are missing
Tick them off my fingers one by one, each time I say
We shall spend those endless counted hours kissing
Something that I never did and now do every day.

by Carole Greenfield

Editor’s Note: This lovely pantoum’s repetitive form perfectly captures the tension of love, desire, and distance.

As Spring Greens the Walk by Devon Balwit

As Spring Greens the Walk

Spring greens the walk,
dogwood, rhododendron, cherry.
Crows sip at the clogged gutters.
Our pink youth returns as in an x-ray.

Dogwood and cherry
spread like odalisques on a couch,
pink beckoning.
One presses one’s nose in, shamelessly,

as if into an odalisque, spread on a couch.
Love! Love! Awaken from sleep!
I press my nose in, shamelessly,
wet everywhere—the rain, of course.

Love! love! I awaken from sleep,
vowing not to disappoint such beauty,
wet everywhere—the rain, of course.
No more cowardice, a knight errant,

I dedicate myself to beauty,
no longer voiceless, a dawn robin.
No more evasion, this knight errant
announces her territory—Here! here!

Voice of the voiceless, the dawn robin
drowns out the crows at the gutters,
celebrating its small territory—mine! mine!—
as spring greens the walk.

by Devon Balwit

Editor’s Note: This pantoum’s delightful repetition is never tedious and always interesting, much as Spring tends to surprise us every year, despite the repeating refrain of blossoms and birds.

Cycling Across t’Bridge by Ieuan ap Hywel

Cycling Across t’Bridge

Wending my way agin wind and wet weather
wearing oilproofs and yellow sou’wester.
Astonished to see Nona waiting for me,
straddling the bar of her dad’s rusty bike.

Oilproofs flapping I look up to see
wind whipping water up from the weir.
Her dress draping over her boneshaker bike,
spray splashing onto her long chestnut hair.

The wind whipping water up from the weir.
Proud, standing tall, red-knitted cardigan.
Fizzing white foam spraying onto her hair.
Standing sedate, top button undone.

Proud, standing tall, tight-fitting cardigan.
Weaving my way agin wind and wet weather.
Statuesque, standing tall, top button undone.
Non at the bridge, wistful, waiting for me.

by Ieuan ap Hywel

Editor’s Note: This pantoum sounds so beautiful in the mouth that it’s quite easy to miss the wistful emotional thread that winds through the stanzas.

Poet’s Note: First Place Winner I.B.P.C. November 2021 (The Writer’s Block), Judged by Terence Culleton

A key to the sureness with which this poem realizes the musical structure of the pantoum form is the fact that there is only one main verb in the entire piece. The poet cycles a single remembered image through carefully crafted quatrains in such a way that, with each return of any given detail of the scene, there is not just a recognition, but a re-realization. The language is always fresh and musical, filled with assonantal and consonantal textures, and it’s often surprisingly inventive, as in the second quatrain’s reference to “her boneshaker bike.” Every quatrain of this poem resonates with both loss and recovery. The charged moment is fixed in the past but brought back into the present again through the offices of the poetic imagination. The merging of past and present, memory and desire, loss and recoupment is the exact remit of the lyric mode and the key to its hypnotic power. I could read this one again and again—and will. —Terence Culleton

Palimpsest by Natasha Sajé

Palimpsest

Her last time in Rome, it was warm and damp
and crowded. My favorite city, a palimpsest,
that’s what she likes to say. The first time she’s
twenty and studies all the churches—interiors

uncrowded. Her favorite city, a palimpsest.
Some exteriors: Santa Maria della Pace.
More than twenty churches—inside or out
in seven days. She stays at the Pensione Terminus

two miles outside Pietro da Cortona’s portico,
run by a courtly proprietor and his German wife,
for seven days. She stays at the Pensione Terminus,
the rooms enormous, high ceilinged, the silver shining.

The courtly proprietor and his younger German wife
offer white rolls, butter, marmalade and jam.
Enormous rooms, high ceilinged, the silver scratched.
The fourth time she is married, the owner has a cane,

offers white rolls, butter, marmalade, and jam.
At La Buca di Ripetta, the waiters do not change.
The fifth time she is married. The maitre d’ shuffles a bit.
The antipasto table seems wondrous—squid she’s never had.

The Buca di Ripetta waiters finally change.
At Archimedes she and Catherine lunch with workers.
The antipasto table’s gone—she orders squid.
She dreams of campaniles and baldachinos. The last time,

Archimedes, where she and Cathy lunched with workers,
is closed, and she sees tourists, decaffeinato everywhere.
Bernini’s heavy campaniles had to be torn down.
The Terminus is gone, replaced by four-star glitz.

Eyes closed, she hears tourists, frothed milk everywhere.
Here lies ashes, dust and nothing, A. Barberini’s epitaph.
The sky replete with stars she cannot see.
Her time is short, nostalgia’s a mistake.

A Barberini’s epitaph: Hic jacet pulvis, cinis et nihil.
The first time in Rome she buys an ivory bracelet.
Her time is short; she wants a souvenir.
Here lies one whose name is writ in water.

The first time in Rome she bought an ivory bracelet
she’s now ashamed to wear. Dolce vita. Vita brevis.
Here lies one whose name is writ in water.
Rome was warm and damp and not the same, she says.

by Natasha Sajé

Twitter: @NatashaLSaje

Editor’s Note: The intricate repetition of this pantoum beautifully reflects the narrative. As the title suggests, everything is erased and rewritten—cities, workers, and of course, oneself. This is not always a comfortable transformation.