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Allsorts - A Collection of Short Essays, Fiction and Poetry

When We Pull Threads: Pandemic Poetry

I joined a poetry critique group about three months ago. Deep in the pandemic, with numbers falling (on a good-news day) or rising (um, you get it), a few of my fellow writers began to gather every other Tuesday evening to recite, analyze, and otherwise play at poetry. The group is small but mighty. By that I mean there is some incredibly thoughtful, inventive work going on there. It's been, to say the least, exhilarating to discuss poetry in all its forms at this lovely early-in-the-week meetup. Bleary though my eyes may be from endless daytime Teams calls, I find this new endeavor to energize me. 


What is there to write about in a pandemic? Contrary to what you may assume, we tend to pull unexpected, lyrical threads, and as writers, we simply follow them wherever they may lead. I found, knocking around in my subconscious, an evening spent many years ago with my brother at a psychic's house in New Jersey, where she read my palm and named people I'd known and, eerily, would come to know over time. I discovered a small remnant of a story in the back of my mind, taken from the same time period as the novel I'm working on, but about totally different people. I also had the opportunity to connect with an artist friend and write something about a painting she shared with me.


It's all been very interesting, a way to connect, slow down, and savor the syllables.


Some samples of my poetry may be found below. 


Broken - 1942


Ah! Sleep

The measure of me

Rest and find the beyond

Dive into sweet surrender

The old French song

The lights, the girls


Faraway, the guns


Closer in waking

Quiet you say



The empty cartridge rolls to my feet

Mud splatters my

Uniform nothing

But rags like me


The boom - there is no French word!

Boom Boom Boom

Rest now you say

Twenty-five years gone by


I lay my head on your naked


And sleep


We have fireworks

You shake me awake

Something ripping the air


Sky turning over

Get under the blanket she says

Before dying

Rest she says

From beyond


We were never one

No baby

To tie us



I leave her in the bed


She is

No more

The measure of me


Old French song

Singer on the stage


Gone all gone



(c) B.A. Calhoun - 2021






Her front door was mildewed aluminum

In the center, an S in a circle

It banged away in the night wind

We forgot to latch it shut


My brother brought me forward in the oven-warm house

A misaligned hen to his rooster, both of us served up to her


She wore no kerchief

No bracelets clinked together

She looked nothing at all like the

Gypsy he'd promised


A frayed housecoat fell around her too large

Snaps fastened up to her parchment throat

Come here she said not getting up from her kitchen chair

Fingers graze my good palm

Jagged dance, an attempt at a graceful swirl

Unkept nails scratch soft skin


You said goodbye to a man

He broke your heart

And just as I was about to sigh

Of course you would say that

She breathed the name of his mark

An eagle, wings spread


Just below his beltline

No one knew but me

And his thousand other lovers


She named a flower I once kept

Nailed to my bedroom wall

In another city

In another time


My brother smiled

But did you see the stroke I asked

My brother frowned

Her fingers dug into my palm

Of course of course she whispered

I snatched my hand away but she fast-caught the edge of my sleeve

The working side of my mouth curled in disgust


No let's go

You were late she said

You were told to come

The door banged

The stitching on my sleeve opened the tiniest of tears

I told you, my brother said

I told you


(c) B.A. Calhoun - 2021




Allegiance Revisited



Allegiance comes

Lips parted

An altar not unlike



Suggests itself at first 


And then becomes passion



Faith comes


In mountains of guilt


She parts her robes, forgetting her torch and crown


And you rush in


Here in the now of time

I beg you


Stay, stay

The mountain will come to you


But you pull on your hat

Your gloves 


You take up your handmade sign

And it is then that I




I am the one

Who must




As you walk into the night

And make yourself part of Forever


(c) B.A. Calhoun - 2021

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