Pandemic Poems - APRIL 2020
Bio Note: I have worked as a medical microbiologist, psychotherapist, seminar leader, and I am the author of six self-help psychology books, including Dreaming Your Real Self (Penguin/Putnam). My poetry has appeared in Rattle, Crab Orchard Review, Prairie Schooner (forthcoming), and The Nation. I live in rural central Virginia, where I write a poem every day and am working on a memoir.
I’m on a long and unintended Vipassana retreat, following my minds inclination without censure. I’m following my own advice to keep a schedule, dress every day. I wear sneakers, not slippers to support my feet and posture, note my habits and gestures as I talk to myself. I observe how others cope with staying home alone, skills I’ve composed since living in the woods through snow and ice storms. My list of tasks to do grows longer—scattered books to shelve and organize, book reviews, cards and letters to virtual friends to remind them they are real, my cursive words a blessing in their mailbox. Unfinished sewing projects spread out on the glass-topped table, days ahead to conduct them to a conclusion satisfying as a major chord. From the sunny back porch, I watch spring roll in. Wave after wave of flowers around the pond: daffodils, iris, lilacs. They bloom, cluster, shelter in place, but don’t touch their faces.
Period of Confinement
Not for a pregnancy, as my mother phrased it, but for a pandemic with no way to know when we’ll be birthed whole and normal again. On the news, a new vocabulary— flatten the curve, social distancing, self-quarantine, viral load, travel history, state of emergency, closures and cancellations. Advice for hand washing, cleaning, coughing into arms. Stop hugging and shaking hands. Stay home if you can. Don’t touch your face in public space, while apocalypse preppers on the Internet are excited by their stores of canned meats, ammo and rifles, wasp and bear sprays in countries without guns. Long ago, they built hidden pantries to store freeze- dried eggs and beef jerky. They’re bugging in or bugging out with a bag stuffed with a lightweight tarp, rain poncho, snake-proof boots. They know how to forage, and how to start a fire when matches run out. They caution you to never reveal your supplies or their location, but to be ready to barter with whiskey, chocolate, bullets, because they’re sure this virus was engineered by Americans in China, and the shit has already hit the fan. They’re ready with their water filters. They don’t need toilet paper.
Sestina for a Quarantine
The shape of life holds no divine design but the permutation of atoms make a range of life forms we might still discover. Our time on earth is but a few hours to look up with awe and wonder at night skies filled with stars. Immersed in viral worries, who gazes at stars? We hope our version of this virus is benign, and doesn’t knock the entire world asunder. A friend hears from sisters once estranged, another feels abandoned, sours on her relationship with her lover. We keep asking, When will this be over? Too much stress, some kneel to pray at altars, beseech those in power to do something to assign the knowing experts and stop deranged lunatics from offering advice. They’re under the delusion that our leader isn’t plundering the treasury as he babbles to take cover in his ignorance. These times are strange and interesting. We need a rock star level intellect to take the helm, to reign for the duration of this mess. After hours, no one sleeps well. Coronavirus will be our defining moment in this century, under the harsh lens of history. Campaigns for elections will cite this moment, hover with curses on those who said, Hoax! Starry, cult followers of the Orange Man may never wake to reason. What Ange can save us before the world sours? Where is the lodestar to guide us to undo our blunders? Who will show us how to recover, to ignore our surface differences and align? We spend hours hoping for a sign, a star to wish on, wonder about the future when this time is over, when we rise changed.
©2020 Joan Mazza
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell her or him. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is what builds the community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL