NOVA FACULTY, STAFF, AND ALUMNI:
The pandemic experience–its isolation, fear, discovery–has inspired remarkable creative works by your colleagues. We are proud to share them with you.
Mike Maggio is an adjunct professor of English at NOVA’s Loudoun campus. Mike has published fiction, poetry, travel and reviews in many local, national and international publications including Potomac Review, The L.A. Weekly, The Washington City Paper, and The Washington Independent Review of Books. His novel, The Wizard and the White House (Little Feather Books), was released in 2014, his novella; The Appointment (Vine Leaves Press), in May 2017; and his collection of short stories, Letters from Inside (Vine Leaves Press), in October 2019. His newest poetry collection, “Let’s Call It Paradise” (San Francisco Bay Press), was released in March 2022. He is a graduate of George Mason University’s MFA program and is the Northern Regional Vice-President of the Poetry Society of Virginia.
About “Innominate”: When COVID struck, I , like many, was trying to find ways to express a reaction — not just mine, perhaps a collective reaction. I wanted to express symptoms: fever, loss of senses. And so you have images like “When I awoke, \ it was to the delusion of dream.” Or the fear of going out and coming in contact with others like “Today, a tulip trembled in the breeze: \ an urgent temptation to bloom.” Perhaps the one most resonating for me and which, as I recall, was the impetus of this poem are these lines: “In a moment of delirium \ I journeyed to my mother’s grave.”
Today, a tulip trembled in the breeze:
an urgent temptation to bloom.
When I awoke,
it was to the delusion of dream.
Outside, a vicious wind.
Outside, the trees. Fearful.
One moment, seclusion.
One moment, a prickly crown of memory.
There’s nothing we can’t touch.
Nothing we can lay a finger on.
Sweet dove, waving from the wilderness,
Wherefore this social distancing?
In a moment of delirium,
I journeyed to my mother’s grave.
Nothing on the horizon.
Not even a ghosting of sun.
200,000,000+sick. 200,000+ dead.
I cannot count to infinity.
One dark night,
I witness my reflection taunting the reaper.
LeeAnn Thomas is professor of English at NOVA’s, Woodbridge Campus, where she has taught English composition and literature since 2009. Her poems have been published in Phoebe, So to Speak, The Washington Review, and The Northern Virginia Review. Her hypertext collaborative poem, “Weepers” is published in Mason’s new media journal, English Matters. She has an MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry from George Mason University and a BA. in Journalism from Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. She is a native of rural New York state.
“On poetic creativity: I believe that writing, like any other artistic endeavor, is both private and public; it is a political act. Writing is difficult and time consuming which runs counter to modern society. Finding the right words that speak your truth requires patience and submission to the creative forces of language play. Each poem is like going for a walk in the woods alone without knowing your final destination but trusting the journey.”
Ode to Finches with Apologies to Mary Oliver and D.H. Lawrence
I prefer the pair of gold finches at my feeder—
the calligraphy of yellow feathers takes my breath away.
My friend prefers the vulture—
grim sentinel keeping us safe from disease.
Mary Oliver says “we all want to be in a happy place in a poem”—
in a pandemic, we all want to be in a safe place.
A pair of vultures patrol my neighborhood from the rooftops—
I walk on the sidewalk under their protection.
Still, the inconsequential finches fix my gaze—
and I would happily freeze to death on a bough so transfixed.
The Voice of Birds
“out of the cradle endlessly rocking”—Walt Whitman, “Sea Drift”
The voice of birds sings to me sings to you also,
so sweetly singing little poets, each one singing her song sings to me, sings to you.
She sings to her mate who answers in song, sweet love sweet love, fading and returning
in morning bliss before the day begins.
Hear the voice of birds singing to me, singing to you also, sweet love sweet love.
Before the siren screams, I step barefoot on the floor like a child leaving her bed of dreams
listening to arias of sweet love, sweet love.
A subtle wind awakens me when the newspaper lands on the lawn wrapped in its thin coat
of blue plastic, chanting pandemic statistics.
The voice of birds still singing to me sing to you also, singing sweet love sweet love lyrics,
each song a soulful elegy of morning.
Hear the voice of birds singing to me, singing to you also, sweet love sweet love.
“Stupidity isn’t funny”—Wislawa Szymborska, “The Century’s Decline”
The sun spells revenge:
choking to death.
The air is breathless:
this is no time for romance or
fruity drinks with umbrella straws
(it could be the last straw).
Rhetoric rules the day
without a college level vocabulary;
we are speechless and alone
with our technology.
Civil disobedience turns
the social distance
between love and hate conflates.
We wear the mask of Red Death
masquerading our ignorance.
John Kinney is a professor of ESL and Linguistics at NOVA’s Alexandria Campus. His photographs have been featured in Float Magazine, Fraction Magazine, F-Stop Magazine, Don’t Take Pictures, New Landscape Photography, The Northern Virginia Review, The Cimarron Review, Oranbeg Press, and others.
“During the pandemic, I have spent much more time with my family. My children and I have done a lot of art together, and the pieces submitted here were created with my children’s influences. This work most likely would have never been made if not for the pandemic and my children’s’ insistence to do an art project together. So, because of this, although most likely not apparent in the object itself to others, to me, these sculptures connects me to disjointed emotions: the loneliness and dread of a pandemic, and the joy and love when creating with family.”
I think the foam head and sculpture were prompted by me watching old art documentaries, specifically one on Bruce Nauman Sculpture 2020. The Foam Head came about more specifically from a call for art on Anonymity, from the Postcard Collective, which asked me to be a part of that call. It probably took about a month to think of the idea and create it. My family thought I was nuts when I pulled out two foam heads from an eBay package, and they thought I was even more nuts when I started carving the foam away …(Felting scissors work great for such a task by the way.)
With the sculpture, generally, it was something I was just trying to get right. I had to shape the metal in a certain way, and I wanted the sculpture to spin a certain way. I even filmed it in a low-fi way to get the effect of an old art documentary. The sculpture started, however, when I was doing clay crafts with my children. I started to add metal to clay and cut the metal in various ways.
The photograph Aurora Teal was created by my daughter playing with lights in a pool. She would do her light show, and then want to see how it turned out
on the camera’s display. I let her do anything she wanted with the lights, and she appreciated this freedom.
Yeumin He is a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College. she has published book chapters, reviews, essays, short stories, and translations. Her poetry translations appear in Oxford Anthology of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (2nd ed.), Metamorphoses, and Ezra.
These Chinese poems were written early this year when Covid-19 was raging on the other side of the world. They capture the overwhelming power the virus wielded over the human world. The new year failed to usher in joy and happiness, rumors skyrocketed, and symptoms of alienation, despair, and hatred began to sicken the soul. Meanwhile, these heartfelt poems concoct what resembles a poetic potion of “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme”; each contains one element, but together they form a seemingly impossible yet magically loving and healing antidote.
—Thanks to my friend Hong Li for introducing these poems. With these translations, I wish that all of earth’s citizens find the remainder of 2020 hopeful.
Coronavirus and Rumor
By Weiju Ma
Rumor, along with virus, is exploding.
Two different species, yet enjoy similar environment—
Dark, damp, and filthy
The shape and tendrils of the virus, reminders of the stellar–corona.
The brainless put a poetic crown
on this evil phantom.
Each virus disguises itself in a shell.
Rumor is also
poisonous, right at the burst of its shell.
It dawns on me, the insistence on wearing masks
blocks the infectious droplets
as well as rumors
End of Lockdown
By Zhihao Zhang
The danger of repetitive life
is easy memory loss.
I can’t remember what happened yesterday
as if it had never existed.
Today is the end of lockdown,
the last of the 76 days.
Sitting in my home I feel like
being outside the city in the open air.
The glaring sun reflects my tears;
I have to look hard
to make out the shadow of
flickering on the horizon
deformed, unreal and inhuman.
When he gets closer,
I shall rise
to share a teary embrace.
To the Tune of Tiaoxiaoling: Coronavirus
By Fuyong Dong
豚鼠交班捣乱。You wreaked havoc at the turn from the Pig to the Rat year.
Like the pig, we ate and slept through the new year,
如鼠蜗居盼观。Like the rat, we burrowed in house to pray
See the pandemic gone before spring.
2020 New Year Eve
By Feng Hao
On eve of the Lantern Festival,
I gazed at the Yangtze River southward.
The three boroughs were covered in thick fog;
numerous other cities stood saddened in moonlight cold.
The old year passed in desolation,
and families became prisoners of their own abode.
Miles and miles of empty and quiet streets;
chilling light tears in my eyes betrayed.