birds by Cassandra Barnett

a bird
the right bird in the right place
is an exclamation point
a precolonial christmas present
better than a new book

yesterday we received one bird gift
today, three

tīrairaka started it
instant applause
for us having made it
two weeks into lockdown
to our stream

the dart & flutter
tender tang of her butterfly kisses
so insistent
that i turned my broom sideways:
a perch. of course
she spurned it

smitten, we returned at dawn
more whirring circus tricks
i would’ve stayed
but seven year olds aren’t wired
for long courtships

lunchtime up the back bank
monty surprise apple tree
a sinuous youth
growing his first outsize fruit
lithe teen struts
red cannonballs

till two tūī land
to chat on his branch
cast shade
white & petrol-black
on his st nick red-&-green

down the stream
late afternoon
my everyman’s library of nature
starts to get its hands real dirty

not just a visual whisper
coquette, trapezer
santa, soldier
but tangible rearrangings of leaf litter
sticks & stones

it’s serious:
more even than the tuna
poohsticks need a clear run:

up the troll bridge
drop & dash downstream
peer over
boy jiggles – his stick
jerks into view

adrift i’m wondering
have i washed
all his memories white?
if i call it rākau teko
will that help?

when out beneath our noses
zooms a cream & turquoise flash
beaky flatcap, zorro mask
wingspan snappy
flightpath damn well not european

soaring treeward
round the bend
i complete the jigsaw late –
kingfisher! kōtare!

my call won’t bring her back
but the work is done
zipline opened
a rent too swift
for words to foul

on our mash-up settlement
the fog parts
the bird unbinds me
all my leaves sliced through
from without

The Orange Tree Survives Coronavirus by Ellaraine Lockie

‘Coronavirus stress has produced a pressure cooker
inside homes, hurting even strong partnerships,
experts say, likely breaking others.’

Wall Street Journal

I’d like to be as smart as the orange tree
I walk by every morning
that feeds our neighborhood oranges all winter
How it knows when too much is too much

After bees over-pollenated the flowers
And when too many oranges grew on the branches
the tree aborts a bunch
Green orbs the size of dimes
dropping to the ground like hail

The tree didn’t wait for branches
to bend more and more each day
To become heavier and heavier
until that final ounce snaps a branch
The oranges on it doomed
The branch fatally wounded

I ask the tree how to know how many more
isolation arguments with my husband
will break the branch
It drops one more baby orange

As if predation were not enough by Tom Weston

This earth, our earth. Its soggy platform and clumsy foundation. Seemingly. Determined to un-earth itself, to disconnect. As if devouring one’s young were now required. For the making of new things, spreading pestilence across territory. Sweeping spores into trees. So that elms die, the kauri deserts its roots, chestnuts wilt. So that the earth shakes free of the duties it has placed on itself. This earth in desperation, pure in this seeking. Trafficked in war and, then, in peace. Spilling infection, tracking from boat to boat. Returned soldiers sickening and some buried in ice so that the germs of their dying freeze with them. 1918. Extreme sickening in the sickness of the earth. As if mud and barbed wire had not been enough purging. The earth inventing new rules. The made-up game of life. As if tectonic plates should not build our mountains, earthquakes shower rocks into valleys. Damming streams, drowning the earth’s other work. Delivering the rocks so slowly piled. Cast down. It is exhausting this need to be made anew. Exhausting to strip the branch of its leaves. Exhausting. This earth. Our promised now. Our peace in place of constant weariness. Explanations so inadequate. Foolish. Quite foolish.


Entirely so.

ZOOooMmm by Vivian O’Shaughnessy

…arms around waist

clenching belt

wind singing thru hair strands

hand loosening



“ooooh” he murmurs

damn the USA relief map silver buckle

“please” I mutter

ear on slab of back

breathing in sync

God… where is Mother Earth to coddle us

godliness is glorious

not cleanliness

…bras enveloppant la taille    ceinture de serrage    chant du vent a travers les mèches de cheveux  desserrage de la main caressant   paradis  ooooh il marmonne    damn the USA carte de relief boucle en argent    pas des boutons   sil vous plait je murmur     l’oreille sur le rachis  la respiration du dos en synchronisation    Dieu ou est la Terre Mere pour nous dorloter    la Piete est Glorieuse    pas de propreté

HOMECOMNG? by Gerard Sarnat 

1. The Birthday Party

How am I so old
now, or getting so
bored, or maybe

just real pissed off
squandering last
years isolated

very far from those
dears who’re loved
too much to bear

that time barely
registers, sitting
here wallowing

in a horrible couch
watching daytime
serials + gorging on

Kellogg’s Frosties
while my sad sack
body puffs up bad

whereas best recall
Harold Pinter wrote
about Rice Krispies.

2. Numinous Debt So Far

New meme in us
that has strong
spiritual qualities

a divine presence
as we mid-70
year-olds approach

our inevitable end?

3. Right now bracing

anticipating February
1, our first anniversary
sequestered together

the two of us reflect
on what might have
otherwise gotten lived

or at least in my case
died, if Ger’d been enticed
to attend Stanford basketball

game where serried
seats in stands were all
in theory surrounded by

grad students from Wuhan.

4. Boomers’ Buffalo Springfield Redux You

…There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear.

There’s a man from the Feds over there
Telling me I need not beware.

But President Reagan taught us a lesson:
Nine most terrifying words in

Our English language are, I’m from the
Gov’t and I’m here to help.

Cassandra Barnett (Raukawa, Pākehā) is a writer of nonfiction, fiction and poetry. She lives in Te Whanganui ā Tara with her eight-year-old. In 2020 she published pieces in Tupuranga, Te Whē, Te Manu Huna a Tāne, The Spinoff and Pantograph Punch. She has poems forthcoming in Cordite, Oranui and On the Eve. She is currently working on a book of autofiction and a poetry chapbook.

Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher

Ellaraine Lockie is widely published and awarded as a poet, nonfiction book author and essayist. Her most recent poetry book is the coauthored Trio from Poetrylandia. Her earlier collections have won Poetry Forum’s Chapbook Contest Prize, San Gabriel Valley Poetry Festival Chapbook Competition, Encircle Publications Chapbook Contest, Best Individual Poetry Collection Award from Purple Patch magazine in England, and The Aurorean’s Chapbook Choice Award. Ellaraine also teaches writing workshops and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, LILIPOH.

Vivian O’Shaughnessy is a native Texan. She attended The University of Texas at Austin; Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France; Cell Theatre visual artist. Her written work has been published in Tears in the Fence, US Poetry, Editions Corps Puce collection, Cent papiers, Le monde, les réfugiés et la mer ou: J’ai mal a la Méditerranée, Passport/Passeport/Pasaporte and L’insurrection poétique L’engagement dans le monde d’aujourd’hui des chasseurs-cueilleurs de poèmes – among others. Her drawings have appeared in the Royal Society of Literature – 2020, Modern Poetry in Translation. More at and Instagram @vivianoshaughnessy

Gerard Sarnat MD authored four collections: Homeless Chronicles: from Abraham to Burning Man (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014), Melting The Ice King (2016). His work’s widely published including by Stanford, Harvard, University Chicago, Columbia, Penn, Dartmouth, Brown, Oberlin, New Haven Poetry Institute, Northampton Review, Buddhist Poetry Review, Review Berlin, New Ulster, Gargoyle, American Journal Poetry, Poetry Quarterly, Free State Review, Poetry Circle, MainStreet Rag, New Delta Review, Brooklyn Review, Los Angeles Review, San Francisco Magazine and The New York Times.

Tom Weston’s collection, What is Left Behind (Steele Roberts, 2017), was longlisted for the 2018 Ockham Book Awards.