Poem in the time of COVID-19
Houses are always in motion, an endless balancing of foundation. Cold seeps in and stirs something like frost heaves to rock bones, or a prickle of sunlight sends shivers – sounds like a crack of ice seeking the quickest line of expression. I used to think my childhood house with everyone inside and sleeping, the dog too, was the most secure place to be. Unbreakable. A sealed container holding family, night, and restful breathing. I see cracks and stirrings more clearly now, hear the spindrift of snow gathering itself against my wall, appreciate more now the many small dances of togetherness.
— Nicole Schafenacker (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
* * *
They Were Supposed to Be Safe
Content Warning: abuse, domestic violence.
When mandatory home quarantine ends, they will be released in hordes,
scars covered in make-up,
plump lips excused as a side effect
of eating too many quarantine snacks,
swollen eyes from days of Netflix on end.
They will speak in metaphors;
hoping some poet somewhere
too much of what
is being covered up.
There will be the invisible
who never needed excuses.
Some scars don’t exist
if they don’t need camouflaging.
The ICUs will still be full
but heaven will be fuller.
Too many died a martyr’s death. Isolation was supposed to keep them safe.
— Ummi Tasfia (Singapore)
* * *
Following My Breath
I sometimes describe myself as a “lapsed Buddhist.” I haven’t sat a retreat or meditated for a couple decades (I’m 74). And even though as a poet and editor I’m used to spending a lot of time alone at home, this time is different. I’ve joined my wife – much less lapsed – in a daily sitting practice: online guided meditations, following my breath, being in my body, attending to sounds, staying in the moment, returning to my breath. Some of which stays with me through the rest of the day, the next day, and the next.
— Murray Reiss (Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada)
* * *
Twenty-five days. It has been twenty-five days since I came home. Twenty-five days ago I came home to my mother, but I cannot hug her. She works in the hospital, the ER in fact. And as long as she is there I cannot touch her. She comes home in tears, exhausted, and fearful that she may infect us… and I cannot console her. I can only hope for the day I can hold her and she will know that it will be alright. Twenty-five more days and I may be able to hug her. But we must stay home.
— Iliana Ramon (Fairmont, Minnesota)
This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.