Pandemic Poems - APRIL 2020
Bio Note: I am a native New Yorker, self-isolating in the epicenter's epicenter, Queens. I am an elementary school librarian who plays and sings folk, early, and classical music as well as writing fiction and verse, primarily speculative. My poetry collections Eurydice Sings and The Bone-Joiner are available on Amazon or through my web site, www.sandileibowitz.com.
Our worlds have been reduced to screens, especially those whose quarantine means solitary confinement— connections to lives other than our own. TVs. Laptops. Tablets. Phones. And windows. My living-room looks onto bare branched trees, the stubbornest in the neighborhood, refusing to give into spring when I so long for life and green. One bastard maple denies a single bud. Past it the flagpole’s stem upholds always a single sad bloom: the flag at half-mast. Beyond that, at the curb a red bicycle’s been chained to a no-parking sign for more than a month. Who is its owner? Are they OK? Will they ever ride again? The bike is tethered as we’re tethered, the invisible we, a world in community as we’ve never known it before, all these invisible people, the ones whose homes share walls with mine, unseen delivery men at the other side of my door. Past the street, a sky beyond, the Empire State Building waits for evening when it beams red thanks to those who fight what feels like war, the enemy invisible too though it may take on the face of strangers or of those we trust. And so our screens are not just views but also barriers. Trump promised his followers a wall. Now we’re all behind walls, the fortresses of homes and apartments. Our masks. One day I allow myself a walk outside. I sit on a bench to drink in the sight of daffodils, unabashedly bare faced while I’m barricaded behind my cloth protection, imprisoned by the fog that steams my glasses with each exhalation. A masked stranger passes, waves, says “Have a good day.” I almost cry. I’ll never see that face, never unmask that paunchy Zorro, that Lone Ranger. I too am a Lone Ranger, though I don’t range far. Somehow from behind our barriers, we all reach out. We Zoom poetry readings and yoga classes. We say “Keep safe.” We tape rainbows to our windows. We clap. From our Queens apartments each night at seven, my invisible neighbors bang pots and cheer. I chime my Tibetan prayer bells. By 7:05 the streets grow quiet except for the sirens. We close our windows, retreat behind our barriers, return to our screens.
There were days when the women cast their nets from the cliffs and caught nothing but wasps. There were days when the birds thrashed broken on the ground, their songs full of rust. There were nights when three moons came, or none, and the little brothers sharpened their teeth on the big brothers’ bones. There were dawns when the stones grew mouths, their complaints unceasing, and we feared to leave our houses, for their contempt stole our will. For three months, the sun refused to rise, it hated us so. But less than we hated ourselves. Our city was a red city, our land a dusty land, our hearts thirsty hearts. We had birthed it, this monster world, and we hated it but it was all the world we had. So we rose and we cast our nets and we closed our ears to the stones’ grievances and the birds’ screams. We drank from the bloody rivers. And we sowed the dust with dead seeds and promises.(Originally appeared in Kaleidotrope, Autumn 2018)
©2020 Sandi Leibowitz
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