Pandemic Poem #20

Pandemic poem #20 was written in response to a number of social media discussions that were alarmingly egocentric in tone; the “I don’t care what any one says, I’ll go out wherever and whenever I want” and “Look, we cleaned out the toilet paper aisle, too bad for you” and “Well I don’t care what the government does as long as my family isn’t impacted” sorts of comments. As though surviving a global pandemic is a competition, a reality show, something to “win.” As though we don’t depend on one another whether we know each other or not where it comes to public health. As thought that selfishness could save you or anyone you love from infection. I couldn’t help but wonder what the world would look like if every day was Black Friday, only the worst and most senseless human behavior on display. It looked bleak, y’all. Don’t forget to love each other.

(Reading tip: if you are reading this on your phone screen, turning the screen sideways will result in a correct placement of each line; otherwise, they are broken up in unusual and not especially poetic fashion.)


The Cost of Covid-19

I’m not so much afraid of dying in a global pandemic
as I am of surviving and finding myself
living in a world that’s lost to frenzy,
where we’re all only in it for ourselves
and no one matters who’s not one of mine
is the new rallying cry and life directive,
and no one cares about anything but “winning”
–Oh, what we all have lost should that come to pass–
irrevocably and irretrievably, the empathy
without which we are not truly human, but
simply creatures surviving at the greatest cost of all
–Yes, that’s my true fear, my nightmare
come to life; shall we avoid it, then,
by practicing radical compassion now?


(Originally written 4/9/2020)


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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