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Cover art by Guadalupe Hernandez





Editor's Note

James R. Adair

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in,” says Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III. That may be how many of us feel as we live our lives, somewhat free of the COVID plague of the past two-plus years, but knowing at any moment the outbreak of a new variant could pull us back in—to what? Another lockdown? That seems unlikely, particularly in light of growing protests in China over President Xi’s zero-COVID policies, coupled with a general feeling among many in the West that COVID is here to stay, and we have to figure out a way to live with it. As you can see, even my head shot at the top of this editor’s note has lost the mask.

The theme of this issue is Pandemic, Two Years In, and we include many poetry and prose pieces that reflect on the pain we’ve been through together, mourning those we’ve lost and celebrating the victories we’ve achieved (vaccines!), both big and small. Our featured poet, Philip C. Kolin, contributes poems that deal with life during the pandemic. In fact, he wrote an entire book of poetry called Americorona: Poems about the Pandemic—which we review later in this issue—and the poems we include in our featured poet section are poems he wrote in addition to those present in his book. I would also like to mention another book of poems about the pandemic, Yellow Flag Poems, which includes contributions from many different poets; it is edited by our prose editor, Jasmina Wellinghoff.

Our featured interview is with Sheila Black, a gifted poet and leader in the literary community. A former executive director of Gemini Ink here in San Antonio, she moved on to work with the Association of Writers & Writing Programs for several years, and now she’s back in San Antonio contributing her talents. To find out what she’s up to now, read the interview!

We have a full slate of poems in this issue devoted to the pandemic, and we have poems dealing with other themes as well. In keeping with the practice we began in our previous issue, we devote more pages to original visual arts pieces, in addition to our Artist Spotlight. In this issue, our Spotlight Artist is Amy Hillenbrand, an oil painter who has been focusing recently on creative floral pieces. All the images included in our Art section are stunning and are a welcome complement to our literary offerings.

We also include four short stories in a variety of genres. In the first, “Interim,” Claude Clayton Smith offers a look at a university student’s life during the pandemic. “The ACB Agency” by Maxamina Muro describes an absurdist utopia/dystopia that combines the high pressure world of sales with the ultimate commodity: babies. Next, Cameron Thomson considers the future of long-distance relationships and romance in the sci-fi story “To Hold Something Like You.” Finally, “Cape Cod Holiday” by Amy Arutt recounts a family vacation at the beach. They’re all worth a read.

As we prepare to move into the new year with a planetary population now eight billion strong, according to those institutions that track such things, may we all stay safe and healthy, avoid being gaslit (the Merriam-Webster word of the year), and make the time to do the things we like with those we love.


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Themes for future issues
February 2023: Writing Love
May 2023: Writing Pride

Current Voices


COVID Finally Gets Uncle Jeremy

Philip C. Kolin

We thought you would have died from a comfortable disease such as old age, happily going to sleep. You had so many dates on your calendar keeping you here—a 34th anniversary, children’s birthdays, a dental appointment. You had been such an able swimmer powering through the first and second COVID waves without drowning. You never missed the 10:15 am Mass ushering down the aisle, always with quick, fervent steps. But someone must have shook your hand slimed with COVID or coughed two or three feet away and like a sniper COVID got you, California’s latest victim. At first you had only a cough, not too loud, then you sounded like a car backfiring, shaking your face pale blue and you felt as if someone dropped a thousandweight on your chest. We couldn’t visit you at the hospital and when we called your room no one answered. Your obituary said you died quietly in your sleep, a lie families tell each other.





Tracy Whiteside





Laurence Musgrove

for SK

On this long, long highway, It is written between the lanes, Inked deeply into the pavement, And from shoulder to shoulder The mistakes people like me Make when screeching to a stop, Not paying attention to what’s Brake-lighted right in front of us. See the sweeping curves of dodging The unexpected, the peeling out Of cutting in line of oncoming Traffic, the foot slammed down On the brake, the grip on the wheel, The dizzying slide into the ditch, That no matter how many times You’ve driven this route, there’s Always another place where we’ve Failed to keep our eyes on the road: The inevitable guardrail damage, The cancer, the broken hip, divorce, The unexpected collisions we’ve Lived through already, and so many More to come, so slow it down, stop And get some more coffee to go.




Full Bloom

Amy Hillenbrand




The Long Hauler

Juliet Hinton

dedicated to longsuffering COVID victims, Nisa Rucha, Dr. Mary Fowkes, and Dr. Dana McCarthy

At first a headache, a few miles of a dull knocking on her eyes and then down her jaw; afterwards her muscles screamed as if they were on a journey into longer pain even though it seemed they were packed in cement in her body for the trip but she felt her heart say afib, afib, afib, afib, and then she had a blowout. She had always dreamed of being a runner, an applauded marathoner, garlands full of of medals and photographs. But when she went to the doctor and asked him if she would ever be able to run again, he said yes when they move the finishing line to heaven.




Pandemic in the Park

Jennifer Frederick