Santa Fe poet laureate Elizabeth Jacobson curates another set of topical poems by local scribes.

BREAD IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

Barbara Rockman

Spelt levain bouche

cracked ark golden yurt

baguette’s bark canoe challah’s fat hips

Unbraid and eat

in a dark kitchen

in bed under cover on the back step at dawn

It’s relentless

craving as if breast as if moss and mountain

as if cool walking pond and dew

Black bread of my ancestors manna that bandages

banned non-essential mold inducer

cause of the doughy midriff

Multi-seed and local equal opportunity

factory-bagged and trucked cross-state

waited-in-line-for neighbor-to-neighbor bread

Fill our rooms with rising

scent of a future eyes closed teeth into

Christ bread Jehovah bread bread of Allah

bread of children bread of refusal

bread of my seclusion

and yours

Oh crust

tough as a belt that holds us together

crisp as ice that shatters into song

Yeast water salt

What Moses survived without

I am ravenous

Loaf of Covid loaf of grief

loaf of what’s offered and

what’s stolen

May there be bread of a new year

challah round as a labyrinth

strewn with cinnamon and raisins

maze of our craving bread

of our saving

Barbara Rockman is the author of Sting and Nest, winner of the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award and to cleave, winner of the National Federation of Press Women Book Prize and a finalist for the International Book Award. She teaches poetry at Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families, Santa Fe Community College, and in community workshops.

THE SIGNS

Jennifer Givhan

It wasn’t the firecyclones or murder hornets

that caught me most unaware, though if they’d

been closer to home, if they’d burned or bored

through the solid parts, the parts I once scoured

every heart of my girlhood then singles bars

and college classrooms for

until I secured one firm enough to trust

just a little with my life, if they’d come

that close, then I’d have lit another candle.

No, it wasn’t the worst of the traumas or the

everyday eeriness either, the coin shortages and lines

outside the grocery stores. Not the ash

gathering at my doorsteps. The sores

at my gums. Not my neighbor who first hoped

this plague would be a street sweep, a solution

to the homelessness and IV drug user problem,

before she and her family, every member

ages seven to fifty, came down with it.

Not that I didn’t call her out for her sickness —

a desire to slaughter tucked behind a cinderblock

fence. It was all of these things and none of them.

But the maskless woman before dawn —

in shorts and high socks, no shoes, approaching

the smoking gas station attendant, who masked

up in seconds, though her cigarette was only half

smoked, surely her break at least five minutes

longer, and kept a coffin’s distance between curb

and sliding doors as she returned too quickly to work.

The maskless woman, whose wandering has stuck

with me. Her face against the flickering light.

Jennifer Givhan is a Mexican American poet who has received NEA and PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellowships and is the author of two novels and four full-length collections of poetry — Rosa’s Einstein from University of Arizona Press, and Trinity Sight and Jubilee from Blackstone Publishing. Her work has appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, Poetry, Salon, and many others. She raises her two children in Albuquerque.

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ABECEDARIAN CONCERNING THE VIRUS

Rebecca Aronson

Another day in quietude, we

banter over chat and phone. I say I miss

crowds, a crush, but no, it’s not

din I miss so much as dinners,

eight bodies around a table,

friends in the yard, wine bottles

glowing in stripes of sunlight,

honey-colored liquor pooling

inside the bottom of a glass,

jewel-like. I miss the aesthetics of friendship,

knowing what a certain look means,

leaning forward to connect eye space.

My life is charmed, yes: I have

no broken bones. The cat sleeps tucked in the

O of my armpit and wakes me before dawn

purring me towards her food bowl.

Quarantine is not quite accurate; I leave my little

realm to troll the neighborhood whose

streets are rife with over-walked dogs, restless packs of

teens, huddled, maskless. I wait

up late in my yard watching moon glow

veneer last year’s sunflower stalks into silver

wicks. I speak my luck to

Xipe Totec, Aztec god responsible for plagues and Spring,

yes, that unlikely mix we’re tangled in just now,

zenith of calamity and sneezes.

Rebecca Aronson is the author of Anchor, forthcoming from Orison Books in 2021; Ghost Child of the Atalanta Bloom, winner of the 2016 Orison Books poetry prize and winner of the 2019 Margaret Randall Book Award from the Albuquerque Museum Foundation; and Creature, Creature, winner of the Main-Traveled Roads Poetry Prize (2007). She has been a recipient of a Prairie Schooner Strousse Award, the Loft’s Speakeasy Poetry Prize, and a Tennessee Williams Scholarship to Sewanee. She is co-founder and host of Bad Mouth, an Albuquerque-based series of words and music.

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