Claudia Monpere


You should check the news before it is cultured.
Maintain a six-foot radius of personal space between switchblade and memory
lest the air ignite.


On surfaces
like doorknobs, light switches, and tv remotes

a couple dances.
Smaller than a grain of salt

they are prism
and lacey wings.


Shelter in place
is a treehouse far from the father’s smoky rage
is a last cigarette smoked after dinner, last of the chicken and stuffing
is a gun safe stuffed with geodes
is a geode split open, crystals of pink rhodochrosite.


Tornado, active shooter, contagion. Speech. You must consider the threat.
Go to an interior room with few windows. Let the walls sing to you.


is crystal smoked under the boardwalk
is a boarded-up house with sleeping bags and camp stove
is a shelter kit with bags of rice and beans
is a kit fox in its den while the bobcat prowls outside
is a barn owl at night, its foghorn hoot, nudging strangers to open their doors.


What will they build with the bones of commerce?
Where does the zone
of devotion end?


Avoid cross contamination by


Shelter in place
is baby Mara banging her rattle against the pot.
Ah dada ah dada ah dada she sings.

0-18CLAUDIA MONPERE’s poems and fiction appear in such journals as New Ohio Review, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Bellevue Review, Psaltery and Lyre, and in many anthologies, including California Fire and Water: a Climate Crisis Anthology. She recently completed a Hedgebrook residency in poetry, and teaches writing at Santa Clara University.

Author’s note: “‘Everything is a Petri Dish’ comes from a place in me of intense anxiety and too much COVID-19 news—something we’re likely all experiencing—which is at war with my tendency to try to find hope and joy when times are dark. Baby Mara, my granddaughter, insisted on an appearance in this poem. I’ve also been thinking a lot about what it’s like now for vulnerable people: addicts, people with abusive families, low income people.”

Other work
The Time You Are Required to Shelter

Link to Table of Contents.