salt of the earth, Mykayla Castle

Photo by Louis Maniquet on Unsplash


i look, and i cannot see the mountains.
i drive by an unfamiliar patch of world,
the bridge of a song i know by heart
and cannot find the hawkesbury under it.
the sky is a shrivelling orange rind,
white smoke like mould—

wherefrom comes my help?

Here, it is coming in a distant squall of rain.
it opens old testament pages,
gilt edged edition, a southern gale
to drown out the question.
this pillar of fire now cloud,
the salt of our muddy earth slides out
the flooding, doubtful mouth of an
unseen river—

has my foot slipped?

we see it coming, in a distant swarm
we hope it passes over us,
dip hands in alcohol before doorframes like blood.
mark your door, lock it, go nowhere,
see no one, and have faith
in the staff that divides the sea.

have we done this before?


i fear death on doorknobs,
grow cold if i cough. am i
jumping at shadows, or
what lives in them?
the final enemy delivers me
or just a pizza.

i can’t breathe. this whole year
panic spreading like germs
i can’t breathe, but i hear—
over my own stuttery lungs,
Floyd’s voice— ‘I can’t breathe’.

leave your city, o jericho!
they have their trumpets;
colour film, black and white.
we call for walls to fall,
cry with empty hands,
and cannot breathe as we wait
for news to flood in.
for the toll.


i found the river i was looking for.
i heard singing on a balcony and
followed it along. i traced my finger
down the heartbeat of frontlines
and handmade masks. i made
shapes from undisturbed clouds
and dough one afternoon.
in the quiet, the ocean came back
into the canals in shoals, and i listened
as the glass house we built gave us
a window into a second chance.
i followed the fingerprints,
the scales fell from my eyes—
the river was where i had left it.

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Learning Curve, Judith Mendoza-White

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

2020 rollercoasters
on twos and zeros insolent with power.
It frets in graphs of lives and deaths,
of fear
in curves that must be flattened,
in figments of plans delayed
to a future hollow with maybes,
betrayed by frozen hours
pulsating with religious or pagan zeal
with gods surprised

by sudden altars
by noise of curse or prayers
by faith unearthed
in spears of anguish or of certainties.

Face shields sometimes do not protect
from the smell of desire,
corners of inertia,
collective phantoms,
public or private headlines.
The silence of the streets
broadcasts fake news of learning and resilience.
Sunless shutters disguise Morlock eyes
on the hunt for plagues suffered and defeated,
playing hide-and-seek between the footnotes
of history lessons never learned.
The bible laughs off parables of bread
shared by hands that will not touch,
or embrace.

The fourth commandment guffaws on the sign
demanding 1.5 between the bodies
and the souls,
it snorts on hostile eyes
fighting for the right to live or die a life
chosen or accepted.

Pink hearts hand-stitched on a mask
come to the rescue of fashions (always absurd—today more so)
drowning and proclaiming urges of strobe lights
nostalgia for present moments
fidgeting inside

a tomorrow that lies in wait
in reticent test tubes
in hopeful phoenix ashes
in wishes riding roguish shooting stars.

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