Pandemic Poems - APRIL 2020
Bio Note: I teach composition and mythology at Chattanooga State Community College. Originally from southeastern Pennsylvania, I have lived in the Chattanooga area since 1972. I also serve as the webmaster for the Meacham Writers’ Workshop, a biannual event featuring readings, discussions, and group conferences by creative writers from around the world who share their experience and expertise with local and regional writers.
The cherry trees still blossom; The bluebird still lays her eggs; Squirrels still frolic beneath the pines; On the lawn, the clover still smiles. The blue sky still swarms with clouds; The rains still drop like kisses; The wind still teases tree limbs opening Their hands to receive the sun. From within our homes, Our windows still May open to the world.
Here, in the land of promise, it began slowly. In a Washington State Life Care Center, Louise Wetherill dies of hypoxia, pneumonia, and complications, her condition recognized too late as the virus and not the flu. Soon there were more, patients, visitors, staff. Nor were the old alone, or the young forgotten. In Illinois, the first infant, 10 months old, dies, bowels blocked, organs failing. Six die in seventy-two hours at East Alabama Medical Center. Kious Kelly, nurse at Manhattan Hospital, texts his sister with the news. “I’m okay. Don’t tell Mom and Dad. They’ll worry,” the last words she or anyone will hear from him before, days later, he dies, helpless to help himself, “I love you. Going back to sleep.” Bassey Offiong, Western Michigan U student, weeks from his chemical engineering degree, dies, “a sweet and humble, ‘gentle giant.’” Steve Kaminski enters an ambulance on New York's Upper East Side, never to see his family again. “Surreal,” his daughter-in-law says, “passing so quickly with no family present.” Rita Fusco-Jackson, 55, tests positive and dies. Brother Carmine, mother Grace, then Vincent, three more critical, 20 family quarantined. All these are the beginning of sorrows. On CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci warns 100,000 to 200,000 may die. I hope that, as the deaths increase, we do not become calloused, even if, to keep our hearts safe, we withdraw from it awhile, escape within the cicada’s hard carapace, burying ourselves deep within the earth’s brown solace, biding our time until we can face the world again, shed the hard shell of pain and suffering and greet the shining world anew.
©2020 Bill Stifler
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