Love in the Time of COVID

A Chronicle of a Pandemic

Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, Video

Poetic nonfiction: Diane Brown, Vaughan Rapatahana, Charlotte Hamrick, Sophia Wilson & Iona Winter

Existential panicking by Diane Brown 

I could fill a book with things
to panic over, legitimate
most of them, with the world
heating up or drowning,
with the children’s bones
discovered in a suitcase
this week. With my son
who hasn’t been heard from
since he went to Tibet
but no doubt he knows he is safe.
Time to breathe, look
no further than the hills
on the peninsula, still there,
bathed in winter sun
unmoved in the main,
if I don’t count the rocks
falling, blocking the road.


mga baha by Vaughan Rapatahana

palagi bumabaha dito

always floods here

the rain never whispers,

only roars,

coaxing its cousins

to flash and growl

a  c  r  o  s  s    t  h  e   s  k  i  e  s.


there is no escape.

the torrents

that laugh their way

around, throughout, inside

the house

the road

the drains that never grow.


palagi bumabaha dito

at basa muli,

a deluge fornicating itself,

doubling every day

for a week.

an alluvion

swelling and swilling

around us

like aswang.


Tagalog to English

mga baha – flood
palagi bumabaha dito – always floods here
at basa muli – and wet again
aswang – shape-shifting and rather evil beings in Filipino folklore


How Red Velvet Cake & Potatoes Took Me to the 70s & Back by Charlotte Hamrick 

During the pandemic we became obsessed with red velvet cake. It all started when a neighbor gave us one for Christmas, which we sprayed with hydrogen peroxide (the box), waited ten minutes, then stowed in the deep freezer. We declared to each other that we had forgotten how delicious red velvet cake was and how our mammas baked them when we were kids. I went online and bought a bundt pan from Amazon, ten cake mixes from Walmart, cream cheese and powdered sugar via Instacart, and a Kitchenaid mixer. I made cakes and cakes and cakes. For about four or five months we ate cake every day, the creamy icing melting in our mouths like the memories of pre-COVID life. The binge ended, finally, when we couldn’t stand the thought of another cake and I couldn’t zip my jeans.


I miss jeans from the 70s. They were all cotton denim (no stretch!), flared, and I wore a thick belt with a peace sign for a buckle. I only had one pair of jeans that fit like I wanted so at night after undressing I would rub a warm washcloth over the legs, front and back, to clean off dust and grime. I’d wear them again the next day and so on until I decided they needed a good washing in the machine. I’d sewn patches on the knees and butt because that’s what we did. My favorite patch was a red dachshund dog on the knee. I have a picture in those jeans, the red dachshund on my knee smiling a bigger smile than me.


I was 12 the first time I shaved my legs. My cousin from New Mexico was visiting that summer. She was older, maybe 16, and she giggled at my bare hairy legs, said I needed to shave them, that they were gross. I was  mortified because she was beautiful and worldly so, of course, I shaved them while she directed me in technique. When my mom finally noticed she said I was too young to shave my legs and that the hair would grow back thick and black. I spent the rest of the summer watching for hair on my legs, obsessively shaving so that wouldn’t happen.


My family always had a vegetable garden in the summer. Daddy tilled and planted, I picked and shelled, and mamma put up the cleaned vegetables after working all day at her outside job. New baby potatoes were “stored” under the old black walnut tree. One day I was sent out to get some for supper and when I reached down there was a nest of baby snakes wiggling around all over each other amongst the potatoes. I wasn’t afraid, I was fascinated. They reminded me of my brain wriggling when I had to keep my mouth shut which was often. Confession: I did grab those potatoes fast and run back in the house, though.


When the pandemic began we started ordering our food online. We bought canned vegetables and boxed food from Sam’s and Walmart because they shipped. We ordered all kinds of boxed potatoes: mashed, hash browns, scalloped. At first, they tasted fine but soon I began dreaming about real crunchy french fries, fluffy clouds of mashed laced with garlic, cheese-laden au gratin. I missed the earthy taste of fresh potatoes. I watched Monty Don plant and harvest them in grow bags on TV and wondered if I could do it. About a year later we started using Instacart and bought fresh potatoes. They were better than sex which is always available, even during a pandemic.



Amygdaloid knots by Sophia Wilson


Two poems by Iona Winter


There is a cadence to grief,

a shush that extends
from each membrane of yourself.

Inwards. Out.

A thud that breaks down
everything you believed was a truth.

Before. This.


To cleave the elements

I will cleave the water
I will cleave the moon
I will cleave the earth
I will cleave the fire
and remain steadfast where you could not.



Diane Brown is a novelist, memoirist and poet who runs her own creative writing school, Creative Writing Dunedin. Her publications include two collections of poetry – Before The Divorce We Go To Disneyland, and Learning to Lie Together; a novel, If The Tongue Fits, and verse novel, Eight Stages of Grace, a travel memoir, Liars and Lovers, a prose/poetic memoir, Here Comes Another Vital Moment and a poetic family memoir, Taking My Mother To The Opera. Her latest book is a long poetic narrative, Every Now and Then I Have Another Child, Otago University Press, 2020. In 2013 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to writing and education. She lives in Dunedin with her husband, author Philip Temple. 

Charlotte Hamrick has been published in a number of journals, recently including HobartNew World Writing, Atticus Review, and Still:The Journal. Her Flash Fiction was selected for inclusion in the Best Small Fictions 2022 anthology. She is an editor for The Citron Review and Reckon Review and recently co-founded a new litmag, SugarSugarSalt. She lives in New Orleans with her husband and a menagerie of rescued pets.


Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Ātiawa) commutes between homes in Hong Kong, Philippines and Aotearoa New Zealand. He is widely published across several genre in both his main languages, te reo Māori and English, and his work has been translated into Bahasa Malaysia, Italian, French, Mandarin, Romanian and Spanish His eighth and ninth poetry collections have been published during the last six months, the ninth being mō taku tama (Kilmog Press, Ōtepoti, Aotearoa New Zealand, link as here.


Sophia Wilson is the recipient of several awards for poetry including the 2022 Flying Islands Prize for her manuscript En Cas D’Urgence. Her poetry collection Sea Skins is forthcoming in 2023.  She is based near Ōtepoti Dunedin.


Iona Winter is the author of three collections: Gaps in the Light (2021), Te Hau Kāika (2019), then the wind came (2018), and has recently completed her fourth. Widely published and anthologised internationally, her poetry and hybrid fiction have been performed solo and in collaboration with other multimedia artists. Iona is the 2022 recipient of the CLNZ/NZSA Writers’ Award.







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