Pandemic Poems - APRIL 2020
W. Roger Carlisle
Bio Note: I am a 74-year-old, semi-retired physician. I currently volunteer and work in a free medical clinic for patients living in poverty. I grew up in Oklahoma and was a history major in college. I have been writing poetry for 10 years and I am currently on a journey of returning home to better understand myself through poetry; I hope I am becoming more humble in the process.
You sense a storm in the distance, the sun moves in and out, the wind picks up, leaves flip backward, telephone wires whine, street lights swing in the wind, black rain consumes the light, you feel the temperature drop. You bring in the lamps and porch cushions, there is foreboding and static electricity in the air, sound is frozen, you are alone. you just want to be home. There is a sudden hurry as you set about your tasks, one last night out to dinner with friends, a wild reckless trip to a movie. City restaurants are half empty, tables moved outside to provide protective spacing. The grocery stores are packed; you look carefully to see what’s missing rubbing alcohol, Purell, face masks, Clorox, cans of beans, a sense of calm. Lines snake back into the aisles and out the door. You wait wondering what will help your immune system? Does orange juice have medicinal value? Which supply chains will be disrupted, what can’t I live without? How long will it take, before we settle into a new normal? No basketball, no concerts, no parties, no movies, but more time outdoors, more time alone with ourselves, more thoughtful freedom, more time for prayer, more time talking on the phone to our relatives and friends. In slowing down, we start to see the details of life; it is in the details that we find meaning, answers, solutions, and the beauty of life. We need to resist the pace of the world around us and embrace the pace of the spirit As children we learn to count the seconds between the lightning flash and the thunder to know how far away the storm is; it’s the lightning that strikes the house but it’s the thunder that scares our soul.
Walking In the Corona Days
I am walking in NYC on a science fiction movie set, empty windswept avenues without cars or people, grey dirty vacant concrete, hundreds of joggers and walkers along the Hudson river, wearing the masks and gloves of an alien species. I see a single old lady, her arms full of groceries, wearing a mask and walking with the urgency of a thief, trying to outrun the thing she cannot see. Skies are bluer than I’ve ever seen. Even the wind is subdued; I smell the fear, expecting a tumbleweed to blow along the pavement any minute. Even the Jamaicans who sell watches and purses on the corner are gone. At every intersection I push a button to cross the street. In every block there is a missing vibrant piece of the city: a food wagon,a newsstand, a shoeshine stand, a dry cleaner, a Starbucks, a delicatessen, a flower shop, a movie theater, a drugstore, a garage, a tearoom, a bar, a restaurant, a liquor store, a shoe-repair shop, all shuttered and closed. We have all put our heroes away while constantly calculating our need to flight or flight this invisible enemy. I smell the wheeze of an empty bus rounding a corner, hear the flutter of pigeons on a fire escape, the constant wail of sirens, the absence of the crowds.
Wrapped in linen, buried in Potter’s Field without a suit, just like Jesus. We weren’t allowed to see him after he was taken in the ambulance. It seems like he was abducted by aliens. No one could visit for the last two weeks of his life on a ventilator. He died alone. Before you know grief you must fail, feel hanged in the court of rivals, fall off your white horse into watery chasms of loss, struggle knowing the climb will never end, be still in your brokenness, bathe in your ashes, drown in a black well of sadness. No funeral, no visitation, no mourners to put dirt on the coffin. We sat in our cars crying in disbelief.
©2020 W. Roger Carlisle
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