Pandemic Poem #8

Pandemic poem #8 came from the combination of a news report detailing Covid-19 symptoms and an online yoga session where the Instructor kept urging the audience to “breathe, breathe.” Awareness gurus tell us to be aware of our own breath to bring ourselves into the moment, but I find all too often that the only time I am aware of my breathing is when someone reminds me to notice it, or when I have congestion and can’t do it properly. This poem is about remembering that we forget to breathe, and being grateful that we can, that our bodies instinctively know this small but vital thing we must do to live, and what it might mean if we could tap into that instinct to live on a bigger-picture scale.


Startled out of the Stifling

An illness that suffocates from within
Filling the lungs and weighing them down
Until breathing can no longer sustain life
Seems like a reverse metaphor,
Life imitating art
For so many stifled spirits trapped
In the mundane, overworked, overwhelmed
And not even cognizant of how suppressed
They have become one shallow breath at a time.
Covid-19 seems designed to warn
Those of us who survive it:
This is how it really is, this is how you really are
Break free of the constraints and breathe, live
As deeply as you can.

(Originally written 3/27/2020)


I invite those who are also writing creatively in response to the pandemic to share their words in the comments below. I am sharing the “poem-a-day” on Instagram and Twitter, as well; follow me @mridleyelmes !


About Melissa Ridley Elmes

Professor and writer; Unrepentant nerd; chaotic good. Author of Arthurian Things: A Collection of Poems. PhD, MFA. She/hers. Views my own.
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