Blanket Sea

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Poetry by Miriam Culy

Listen to Miriam Culy read her poems.


Masked Smiles

Red crosses sit on most of the chairs,
in a waiting room where no one else is
waiting. I sanitise my pre-washed hands,
nervously, before you call me through:
come in / sit down / how can I help you?

I can sense that you are smiling at me:
though I can’t peer through your mask,
I can see it in your friendly blue eyes,
the only facial feature not hidden /
covered / protected by PPE. Open.

I smile back at you, then realise that
you can’t tell / you don’t know /
you can’t see it behind my make-shift mask.
So, I choose something to say, tell you that
I am smiling. I feel reassured by you.

You ask about the pain and then explain
the medication / treatment / things that
I can do. So, I thank you and then I leave.
Outside, I release my scarf and breathe.
Your kindness may seem small but

it helped me to be a little more brave /
confident / less daunted by it all.


Chronic Lockdown

I’ve heard you complain
about lockdown. About
staying inside and staying
at home. About not going
out. About being alone.

Did you hear us complain
about chronic fatigue? About
staying inside and staying
at home. About not going
out. About being alone.

Do you get it now? That
being ill all the time and
staying at home isn’t “fine.”
We didn’t sign up for this.
We’re fed up of not going out

and of being alone.

This extends for us further
than lockdown. This has
lasted for longer than Covid.
The effects will drag on after
you’re back to your norm.

Will you leave us in our
illness’s lockdown? When
we still stay inside and stay
at home? When we don’t go
out will you reach out to us

or will we still be alone?



Miriam Culy is an eighteen-year-old girl who discovered poetry as a creative outlet for the frustration that comes with chronic illness, and a method of explaining her situation to others. She has written a feature for the Young Poets’ Network on pain poetry, and how her writing has helped her to cope with chronic illness. Visit
her Facebook page, Unuttered: poetry & art.

“Quarantine Day 15” by Marianne Peel

Listen to Marianne Peel read “Quarantine Day 15.”


When my mind won’t settle in for the night
we play this game:
Tell me three good things,
I implore my lover.

I took a good shower, he tells me.
And then silence.

I didn’t have a meltdown today, I tell him.

Tomorrow I will make a Spanish stew.
We shall serve it up in miniature bowls
and call it Tapas.

There are still sticky notes
yellow and pink
scattered around the apartment.
His outreach gesture
to help me learn Spanish.
Most have lost their adhesive
and have fallen to the floor.
The label on my toothbrush
has dissolved into the bottom of the glass.
The letters are water-logged.

I am incapable of memorizing anything now.

The words on these Spanish love notes
blurred now
and utterly indecipherable.



After having taught middle and high school English for 32 years, Marianne is now nurturing her own creative spirit.  She has spent three summers in Guizhou Province, teaching best practices to teachers in China. She received Fulbright-Hays Awards to Nepal (2003) and Turkey (2009). Marianne participated in Marge Piercy’s Juried Intensive Poetry Workshop (2016).  Marianne’s poetry appears in Muddy River Poetry Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Jelly Bucket Journal, among others.  She has a collection of poetry forthcoming in 2020 from Shadelandhouse Modern Press.

“her crown in glory” by M.A. Hoak

Listen to M.A. Hoak read “her crown in glory.”


her crown in glory

they had my grandmother’s funeral
on a steamy sunday in august
(she’d died in may
but, given the virus,
they’d all been forced to wait)
i do not know if they wore masks
or if they stood six feet apart
i cannot tell you which hymns were sung—
which flowers they laid on her grave
(i hope they were purple; her favorite color)
what else is there to say?
except, of course, i was not there
i didn’t even know it was happening
(even though my own mother
arranged the service)
no one told or invited me
i can not say which of my flaws
made it easiest to omit me:
my distance, my sickness,
my living in sin or gleeful apostasy.
i only know
one painful truth
(the one i’ve spent
seven years learning):
for the disabled and chronically ill
the ability to grieve
is a luxury


M.A. Hoak is a chronically ill, neurodiverse, domestic violence survivor. She has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her poetry can be found in Brave Voices, The Rumpus, Saw Palm, and Culturework Magazine. Her essays on chronic illness and disability can be found at The Mighty. Her website is Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Patreon.
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