Pandemic Poem #36

(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.)

 

Empty Agenda

Remember when you’d look at your overscheduled life, a
planner packed with wall-to-wall meetings and to-do lists,
and wish for just one deliciously blank day in your agenda?

How long ago that seems, and still so impossible to achieve
as long as you fixate on what you should be doing but aren’t
instead of celebrating the chance to just be here, at last with

No requisite immediate plans or goals or objectives to meet.

 

(Originally written 4/25/2020)

 

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 !

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Pandemic Poem #35

Pandemic Poem #35 came after I overheard several angry neighbors loudly discussing how the government needs to just cut out the nonsense and reopen everything because you can’t hold the economy hostage for a disease. There was a lot of joking about what lives matter sprinkled into that conversation, and I couldn’t help but think: you jerks, the reason you are here to have that conversation right now is because of the very government shutdown you are complaining about.  And that led me to think of all of the brave souls, and the ones desperately trying to keep their jobs, who can’t work from home and so did get up and go to work today–treating patients, monitoring social distancing, delivering things, selling things, trying to find a vaccine, trying to find better treatment, trying to understand the social and economic impacts and prepare for what’s next.

The truth is, I do not know enough about public health, government, or economics to speak with expertise on any of those matters–but I know that the people I respect and admire most in all of those realms are in agreement: Stay home. Flatten the curve. Find a vaccine. We cannot  beat this thing in any other way. There can be no business as usual without a vaccine. People will die needlessly without a vaccine. The economy is going to suffer with or without a vaccine, but without will be far worse. And in my worldview, any government that knows these things and doesn’t make every effort to protect citizens is derelict in its duty to serve and protect. The economy can be paused. Lifestyles can be paused. Life itself cannot.

(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.)

 

Lives, Interrupted 

There are those angrily insisting that the
world shouldn’t stop for the pandemic,
that we can’t hold the economy hostage
over an illness, that the country needs to
reopen: the pandemic is interrupting lives
they bitterly complain, interrupting lives.

You woke up this morning, had breakfast
brushed your teeth, made your ablutions
got dressed, or perhaps did not; went on
to a day’s activity, personalized to your
own circumstances and proclivities, all
while breathing in and out, heart steadily
beating its regular rhythms, brain thinking,
planning, dreaming, fretting, hoping . . .

All proof the pandemic is interrupting lifestyles,
not lives–save those cut short by its unchecked
spread, unable to hold out for a vaccine because
they were deemed essential to the lifestyles of
others. Those lives, yes, were interrupted by this
Disease, laying bare in starkest terms for us all
what matters and what we can truly live without.

 

(Originally written 4/24/2020)

 

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 !

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Pandemic Poem #34

 

(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.)

 

Living Through History

Some folks are saying we’re living through history
in response to this pandemic, that this is historic 
as though history only happens when we say so,
when we’re paying attention to events unfolding,
as though we aren’t all living through history
as soon as we slip through the birth canal
to enter this world, as though every creature ever
born, whether alive for moments or a hundred years
isn’t here in that now, doesn’t matter to someone later.
History is always happening and while we’re here
we’re always living through it, whether we wind up
in a book in a classroom or answers on a test, are
a Final Jeopardy question or quietly slide into the
neverending stream of time to join the silent past.

 

(Originally written 4/23/2020)

 

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 !

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Pandemic Poem #33

20200507_090535

(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.)

 

Lanes

I got into a social media squabble earlier today
(it was bound to happen at some point)
and as a parting shot, the fellow fighting with me
snapped, What do you know? You’re just a professor,
concluding, in ALLCAPS:STAY IN YOUR LANE!

(Which is to say: don’t discuss things I don’t 
think you know anything about based on my 
own perceptions of who you are based on your
120-character bio.)

And honestly, I just snorted, because I am a

wife/mother/sister/daughter/cousin/aunt/niece/in-law;

and a professor/writer/dancer/runner/artist/actor who
plays DnD and loves All Things Nerdy;

and a dance/band/Robotics/Girl Scout/mom to a now-
Tween and Teen who were also once Daisies, Brownies,
Juniors, infants, toddlers, and children I also parented;

and I am a citizen/voter/registered independent; a
woman/feminist/ally/activist/community volunteer;

and I have been a rugby player and a field hockey player
and a distance runner on the track team, l I have competed
in 5Ks and 10Ks and haf-marathons;

and I am a cat owner and used to be a dog owner with dogs
that trained in agility and obedience and won their Canine
Good Citizen Awards;

and I fronted a synth-pop band that recorded and cut a single,
have acted on stage and worked backstage, written grants
for productions, sung in concerts, sold paintings;

and I have taught in K-12 classrooms in rural and urban
spaces, been a waitress and a cashier and a bartender
and a bar-back and a hostess and an intern and a PR office
aide and a Domino’s Pizza phone girl and a Victoria’s Secret
shop girl and a Barnes and Noble cafe worker and a
city Finance Office window clerk and worked at fast-food
restaurants (yes, even the drive-through) and a grocery store,
and babysat, and mucked out horse stalls;

and I have lived in Virginia, Hawaii, Illinois, North Carolina and
Missouri; driven through and visited many more states, traveled
to England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada;

and I was a Military Brat and a first-generation college student
and have earned a BA, MA, MFA and PhD; published my poetry
and stories and research;

for starters, and that’s just scratched the surface of who I am,
all I do and all I know–

So, which lane do you want me to stay in?

 

 

(Originally written 4/22/2020)

 

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 !

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Pandemic Poem #32

Pandemic poem #32 is one of the ones that went dark and twisty immediately–but in the end, just a hint of hope, maybe. Maybe. If enough people want the cure badly enough to fight together for it instead of continuing to ignore our condition and just hope it goes away, or refusing to acknowledge it is everyone’s problem. Herd immunity against hate starts with each one of us insisting all of us deserve the same empathy and care. Can we do it? I’m enough of a dreamer to still like to think so. Time will tell.

(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.)

 

Pre-existing Conditions

What distresses most is the laying bare, the realization
that our exquisite national horror is now cast into sharp focus,
can no longer be masked by illusions of health and prosperity,
or hidden under tangled layers of social and political rhetoric;
that the true disease isn’t Covid-19,
that this pandemic has laid bare to the global gaze
the pre-existing conditions of a society
that has been disintegrating, rotting from within
for so long we stopped paying attention to those symptoms
stopped mentioning them to the doctor, stopped
monitoring them at all, because they’re so much a part of us now–
inequality, inequity, lack of empathy, lack of basic care
selfishness, greed, the undervaluing and erasure of anyone
who doesn’t serve a role or meet a need in someone’s life–
and even the healthiest among us is not recused, cannot escape
our shared social illness, must now acknowledge a grim truth:
we are all patients in the ICU and we are all dying from the inside,
in dire need of a vaccine against inhumanity,
desperate for antibodies and herd immunity from hate.

 

(Originally written 4/21/2020)

 

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 !

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Pandemic Poem #31

What are you dreaming about and loving fiercely today?

(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.)

 

Untitled

Did you hear that sigh?
That was my soul talking to yours,
Saying: I know, right? Here we are,
Another week in quarantine–
What would you like to dream,
To love fiercely today?

 

(Originally written 4/20/2020)

 

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 !

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Pandemic Poem #30

Pandemic poem#30 came along after several significant conversations about why we should care about planning for future events when things are so uncertain now. Fully understanding the feelings behind that sentiment, and fully supporting others’ right to feel pessimistic; yet to me, it seemed even more important to think of “someday” and make plans for that future than it usually is. I am a “dark and twisty with a side of optimism ” gal, and I genuinely believe in the power and importance of hope. We simply need to have it, we humans, to get through our dark times. And I feel it is especially fitting that, though I wrote it originally on April 19, this poem about hope comes out on May the Fourth, since the whole premise of Star Wars is hope for a better future. Dare to hope, y’all. Make plans. Have dreams. Never let go of that; it’s one of our superpowers.

(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.)

 

Tomorrow Is Not Canceled

I know it’s hard to envision it,
to see beyond now to a tomorrow,
a time after this time, when we
are again free to roam the world as we will
without fear of contracting or spreading
a dread and mysterious disease.
But tomorrow is not canceled,
so continuing to shelter-in-place, still
dreams and plans can and must be made
–that is the human way,
and we don’t have to apologize
for our optimism, our faith
that better times are coming–
our hope is what keeps us alive,
and life worth the living.

 

(Originally written 4/19/2020)

 

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 !

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Pandemic Poem #29

Pandemic poem #29. Not everyone finds their person, not everyone has a person, not everyone wants a person, not everyone believes in soulmates. I did, and I do, and I’m grateful.

(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.)

 

Lines for My Life-Partner

I’ve made many mistakes in this lifetime
but one thing I got absolutely right
(and wholly by happy accident, as I’m no
Oracle predicting events to come)
was choosing you as the person to give
my heart to, with whom to be sequestered
and trapped during a global pandemic–
if it weren’t for you, I might go quite mad.

 

(Originally written 4/18/2020)

 

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 !

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Pandemic Poem #28

20200502_074227

Pandemic poem #28 came on a day when I found myself sitting and not-looking, not-staring, not-seeing, just sitting, with my face turned in the direction of the window, for hours, struggling to feel anything but totally alone, even when my family was in the next room, my cat was right there, I had just had a delightful Zoom conversation with a friend. It was unsettling, and I couldn’t help but imagine that this is how depression works, how it tricks you and robs you of your vivacity, leaving only that sense that you are just there-not-there. This poem is for everyone living with depression, both those who have done so for a long time and those who are finding themselves coping with it for the first time in the face of the global crisis we are all dealing with together: you are not alone. This feeling is a lie, and it will pass.

(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.)

 

“Through the Window”

I’ve been tired before
exhausted, worn thin, vulnerably weary
but never so tired I couldn’t sleep,
eat, drink, cry, do anything
besides sit, looking-not-looking
through the window, at a world
I am in-and-not-in.

 

(Originally written 4/17/2020)

 

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 !

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Pandemic Poem #27

This one came after I returned home from a walk and found myself crying because the dogs at the park were so confused and sad that their usual walks weren’t so usual. It reminds me that as hard as sequestering is for humans, how much worse would it be if we didn’t know it’s temporary, hadn’t the reason to understand why?

(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.)

 

Lines for the Very Good Bois on their Walks

In the park today, giving wide berth on the trails
to the handful of others out braving the chill
and rain, I couldn’t help but note the heartbreak
in the eyes of the dogs on their daily walks,
so accustomed to a series of pats and pets,
a litany of aren’t you a sweetie-pie and you’re so
handsome and who’s a good boy? and who’s a 
good girl? from all who pass by; I marked in each
a dawning awareness that things have changed,
the brief hesitation in their form before they
hopefully, wistfully stepped toward me, to be
gently jerked back each time by their owners:
No, no, we have to keep social distance.
Perhaps I am foolish, but I did shed tears for
those very good bois and girls who miss our touch,
the casual contact, usual hugs, wonted affection
of friends and acquaintances as much as we do,
but cannot like us understand why they have halted,
Or that it is temporary and not a permanent loss–
I hope they are getting extra treats and pats at home.

 

(Originally written 4/16/2020)

 

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 !

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