Since I started my work with Saint Augustine on December 2, 2019, in the parking lot of Country Meadows Baptist Church where I was teaching a poetry class for four homeschoolers, which I had to discontinue because of stay-at-home orders, I have been writing about the coronavirus and listening for calls for coronavirus poems and sending them out.

All of the uproar and news reports felt distant, yet I wrote. Now that Lili has tested positive (abnormal detected) for the virus and I yesterday went to Truman Lakewood Medical Center for an excruciating parking lot pavilion nasal swab, the distance has closed. It is us now. Funny how I never considered that a real possibility.

Along with our new self-quarantine has come the idea of another final section to the book on Saint Augustine, COVID-19, and my daughter Omidon, though still uncertain. I’ve started seriously writing again for the first time since the move to Independence.


I expect the results of my test my this evening but feel pretty certain I have the virus. I worry about developing pneumonia because I have before from a head cold. Chemotherapy a gift that just keeps on giving.

One of the last calls for coronavirus poems I responded to before the move to Independence (CoronaVerses) came back today with news of two of the three poems I sent in being shortlisted. Not surprising I didn’t win considering the caliber of the poems left unpublished after months upon months of dogged poetry submissions, but I thought I might paste here the three poems, each followed by the kind comments made by the editors:





Sun shorted morning

wind wells in

the dark skirts of cloud


leaf shadows patch

me through

on a secure station.


Through me

Augustine as far

as breath may enter indeed


a channel of

weather I wonder at

a blue splotched horizon


graying away rays

grayed rays.

Grave as COVID


Dad contracted

on Facebook himself

a haunted horizon


a light doctored



“Messenger” (Shortlisted) 

Like many of the best entries, this poem approaches the topic in a gentle and not obvious way by creating a melancholy, almost pastoral, picture which contrasts starkly with the information about his father to create an effective evocation of the loneliness, ennui and sadness of the pandemic. A lovely poem clearly one of the top ranked shortlisted. Some lovely phraseology such as ‘sun shorted’ and ‘dark skirts of cloud’ 

Hottest Sports Cars




Only my boy and I stir here, following the brick-and-mortar contours of the gymnasium into recesses of tinted glass, black screens that display us to ourselves: my shaggy temples, the exploded bird’s nest of Theo’s nap. I try a door handle. Demonstrate the lockdown. He forages

a lost golf ball. Desperation hits when a Montessori classmate’s mother tests positive and what choice for Lili but to work for the living we have and hope for the best? Better to be a lost golf ball than the lanyard clinking this flagless pole. Better to be downhill from the Walker Family

Cemetery—hilltop copse for the dead shelterers of outlaw Jesse James—than interred in it and with my boy than alone, roaming Blue Springs the last summer of my solitude. Sitting side by side, we unfurl our first library book since the start of the pandemic—delivered through the car window by a masked librarian—and enter the pantheon of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche.

“Hottest Sports Cars” 

A less conventional prose structure which tells of a moment of family intimacy in the bleak desolation of a town in lockdown so capturing both the abnormal reality of the pandemic and the will to keep hold of valuable human normalities in the face of overwhelming threat. Contains really effective description in a short outline story which capture the emptiness of lockdown life. Very effective imagery. 

The Benefits of Anger




Saltshaker sleet

the Sunday morning Mom


chooses church

despite COVID-19


Dad admits the virus

he’s already had hit him


pretty hard on Facebook

messenger. I stopped


calling my father

after that morning (his


night) of him screaming

in drunken denial


about my diagnosis.

Dad messages from Yantai.


Mom proceeds to church,

blames it all on porn


addiction, R-rated

movies. Rain or snow,


I look out the same

window, read an article


about the benefits of anger,

the wine glass that burst


in his hand, his enraged

tirade, after I found


the door closed. Him

and Judy. I knew.


Some things are too hard

to talk about over the phone


or in a poem. I am

my father’s son.


Judy was my friend.


I know the difference.

between rain and snow.

“The Benefits of Anger” (Shortlisted) 

A wonderfully effective and poignant story of live with its sorrows and darkness continuing despite overwhelming external circumstances. Some lovely terse use of words such as ‘saltshaker sleet’. Brilliant structure and use of imagery to convey deeper significance – the poem’s opening line is about sleet and the closing two about snow and rain but the reference is about emotion and understanding. The detail of the story is absent but the significance of the father son relationship and its tensions within the pandemic are clear and moving. 



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