Poetry In The Time Of Pandemic

Poetry in the Time of PandemicPart II

In the second 2-hour Zoom poetry workshop with facilitator Cathey Capers on May 30th, participants were invited to step away for 20 minutes to write before reconvening to share what they expressed.

Some of the participants generously offered to share their poems with you.

We invite you to experience them the way they were offered during the workshop: 1) be fully present to what you’re reading or voicing out loud; 2) read or speak each poem twice; and 3) listen for the words or phrases that move you.

Note: Participants were offered a few writing prompts to consider after pondering two poems. That’s why you’ll see some similar titles or words used in the poems. As you’ll discover, this in no way takes away from the beauty of the creative expression of each participant. Enjoy!

A scrap of sorrow…

A shred of humanity.
A path to an open heart.
A call to action.
A shard of glass to open the flow.
100,000 people. Is that enough? But each person. The papa with roses.

Julie Wickert
Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

A Scrap of Sorrow

There is always
A scrap of sorrow
For things lost
Freedom to be fearless
Driving in blizzards
Or falling hopelessly in love
With the wrong person

The conviction that things
Really were getting better
When a president sang
Amazing Grace
But now I know
The killing and the hate
Never stopped

And then the life
I had in December
Thoughtless Christmas celebrations
And festivals all gone
That life is over now
I carry memories
As TV says maybe 2021
Will see a vaccine

No ocean
No Thanksgiving
No Christmas
No shared festivals
The future completely unknown
As it always has been
But now I know
Really
That day by day
Is all I have

Marilyn Zwicker
Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

Fragmentation

Cloistered and cohesive, we crouched in the numbing cloud of obedient disbelief.

“We’re all in this together!” assured media banners and sidewalk chalk art.

Parisian ballet dancers and Italian grandmothers lifted our collective spirits.

The world was unified against a common minuscule enemy.

Then we became
Restless.
Resistant.
Rebellious.

Armed protesters proclaiming their freedom to infect others.

Cops and vigilantes murdering black men in the streets.

Wife beatings and child abuse skyrocketing.

The dark diseases of our society resurfacing, familiar and deadly.

We are splitting into fragments, cohesiveness lost.

But we can not merely point at those shameful others.

We must look into our own hearts and minds for our own fragments of
Restlessness.
Resistance.
Rebellion.

And consciously choose
Renewal.
Resiliency.
Respect.

We must carry healing forward into our fragmented world.

And hope.

 

Julie Bowman

Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

Free Fall

I’m falling into despair.
The world seems to be coming unhinged.

Free Fall

Where will I land?
How will I land?

I pause and close my eyes.
Breathing into my heart
I hear the cries of despair,
the silence of closed hearts
turned away from suffering,
the steady beat of my heart.

I feel the ground beneath my feet.

I, I, I.

I am here.
I am strong.
I have landed in love.
How may I help?

Dianna Amorde
Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

I carry this….

What do I carry?
Am I a carrier of light? Of strength? Of this virus? Of privilege? Of compassion?
I carry my beating heart.
My headful of this ever-flowing river of thoughts, ought-to’s, warmings and coolings, horror and indifference.
Delight.
I carry this structure of tendons and skeleton – soft sacks of gratitude and wonder sloshing about.
Love to spare. Immaturity. Longing. Ennui.

Julie Wickert
Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

I didn’t know I loved…

A little girl shyly sticking a leaf behind my ear
Blue jays
Waking up grateful my heart’s not broken
Telephone conversations

Julie Wickert
Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

SORROW

A scrap of sorrow clings to
the wasp nest under eaves.
Blows free.
Lands on the blood-red canna
by the fence.

Everything today reminds me
how far away you are.
I want—like a child who has
been told, “NO!” to tantrum
on the floor of the market,
screaming my protest between
the cabbages and rutabagas.
I want to drive/fly/swim to
your doorstep. Wrap arms
around you twenty times
or more.

Sorrow says, “No. Again,
no.” The clear and very
patient parent. “This is
not the time for hurry/
scurry/travel and flight.
Let the scrap of sorrow
befriend you. Hold your
tears. Help you find
grace in things you did
not know you loved…the
wasp nest, for instance,
with its papery walls.
Blue jay spiky all over
when he finishes his
watery ablution. The
moon passing in and out
of clouds dangling Venus
from an invisible
pendant.”

Beverly Voss
Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

April 2020

These days
there is a vulnerability that falls
like a shadow, a shroud across our globe.
Yet today
it feels to me like:

the crack that the light pours through,
the fissures through which fountains flow,
the crevices of the wailing wall, into which people push their prayers,
the veil torn between the realms.

It’s possibilities, so piercingly precious
it hurts.

 

Cathey Capers

Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

The Broken-Hearted World

They come from everywhere
in all directions.
Gasping, walking, or crawling on their knees
begging for help
not knowing if the help they need is possible.

Alone, silent only for the gasping of breath,
they cry to see loved ones, to talk to them again, to carefully touch their faces.
Medical teams try to take a moment to pat a shoulder, hold a hand
Before rushing back to the dangerous fray of a shadowy new life.

The news drones on and on, spouting
numbers, facts, lies, statistics, and
more and more often,
speaking about the greatest fear now:
What will happen if the virus wends its way into the care homes for the elderly?
The frail ones,
alone, with no visitors, trapped in rooms with masks on,
attempts to keep them safe from the unseen pandemic.

But their safety comes at a price.
None of their beloved can visit, see them if they get sick, or stand by their bedside
in the hospital.
They could become the broken-hearted, with pats on their backs and a brief hand-holding before the over-worked medical staff moves on.

“Please,” I say, “please let me hug her one time; please let us talk from 6 ft. away…”
No, no…the answer is No.

Then turn off the TV
I already hear the crying world
and our small part in it.
Jen Reese

Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

Endemic in a Pandemic

Explain to me —

How the one who gives can be the thief who steals it away.

How the yearning to speak lets quiet silence find us.

Why the need for light brings shadow.

Much is seen, so much not,
Much unclean, much distraught.

And yet …

The bitter, savory, and sweet all
Blend together.  The recipe for
Such a subtle stew of the heart
Is a mystery indeed.

 

Richard A. Zansitis

Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

Essential Services

Not grocery stores, though we must be fed.
Not banks, though we must pay our bills.
Not gas stations, though we still have places to go.

 

But that which serves our essence.

 

Discovering our own natural rhythms
during unnatural times.
Inviting in fear and gratitude to sit side by side
at the hearth of our being.
Reaching out to offer solace to others
even as we feel anxiety reaching out to us.

Remembering that Love sustains us
even as our hearts break for the suffering in the world.

Let soul-care be our most essential service.

 

Julie Bowman

Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

From Bloom to Root

For several weeks
I felt immobilized.
Fear stole my brain
and my sleep.
Waking at 4am,
my mind rapid as
a squirrel’s heartbeat
Turning the acorns of worry
over and over
in my busy paws.

How far will the world devolve?
How will I keep myself well?
How will I get food?
What will happen to the world financially?
What will the poor do,
the paycheck-to-paycheck workers,
who can’t afford the luxury
of sheltering in place?
I can’t take care of them all.
Who can I help?
Can I help myself?

Now the world has settled –
some.
Shaken, like silt in a pond,
stirred, clouded, cleared
and stirred again,
over and over.
Each day a new normal.
Each day new processes and procedures:
Stand six feet apart.
Wear your mask.
Wash your hands.

An endless round of
Happy Birthday to Who
until my friend Betsy, a nurse,
suggested
“Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream.”
as being more apropos
to the times.

(While others of us suffer,
others of us die,
others of us serve
in the direst of
circumstances.)

And then there are
the unintended consequences,
the unexpected blessings.

I used to spend so much time
in my car, in traffic,
driving, driving, stressed.
No longer.

I cook at home.
I always did,
but now, more.
Healthy meals, being careful
to simmer every carrot peel
in stock for soup.
So grateful for the bounty
in which I live.
I want to respect the world
by wasting nothing.

And I am grateful
for the spring,
blossoms and new leaves,
the first ripe tomato,
the passing beauty of the
glorious, deep purple Dutch Irises,
now a membranous
brown memory
as life sinks down,
from bloom to roots
as it one day will
for each of us.

 

Elota Patton

Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

I am here

Peering out my back window
I am here
Self quarantined
Vulnerable
As if that’s offered as a choice
Humbled by the universe
I do get to spend more time enjoying the cardinals and squirrels.
The squirrels doing their acrobatics to get to the bird feeder.
The cardinals patiently waiting.
I am here
Slowing my thought and pace.
Alone only to human contact.
Yet, this
This is essential
Getting to watch the birds and the squirrels and the seed turn to thick lustrous grass.
I am still here
Witnessing this life just outside my backyard window.
This is essential
And, I’m still here.
By Lucinda Corley

Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

I have a fantasy

 

I have a fantasy
That I can put things in order
Line them up in neat rows
Arrange them in pleasant displays
Where they will then gather dust
And lose their meaning in time

I have a fantasy
That the words that come from my heart
Can somehow find a way to yours
Dragging their true meaning
Behind them
They will burrow in
Picking up stray meanings
Along the way
Changing even as they go

I have a fantasy
That what appears to be real and solid
Really is real and sold
Eternal
Reliable
Until my hand passes through it
And it dissolves into dust

I have a fantasy
That I can know
How the world works
How to banish pain
How to touch, see, smell
Everything

Only to discover that
All
Is Fantasy
By Ellen Sullivan

Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

Safety

Where is safety?
Or is that an illusion too?
Like control
Like power
Like certainty

 

May we make peace with where we are
In our glorious ambiguity
Our wondrous vulnerability
Our magnificent unknowing.

 

Julie Bowman

Poetry in the Time of Pandemic

Sprung Up

Sprung up, from broken hearts,
their roots, dangling, dirt left on,
the light shifts. It’s another day.

 

Sprung up are the pomegranate
blossoms, blazing & falling to the
ground – so many, short-lived,
smears, underfoot.

 

Sprung up are faces masked, spoken
words muted, mashed-up against fabric
layered, to limit dis-ease.

 

Sprung up are many questions –
why are humans wearing muzzles?
will there be an election to make
the needed change?

 

Will I be among those counted?

 

Martha Koock Ward

Poetry in the Time of the Pandemic

These Days

These days I am adrift in uncertainty.
The invisible threat
has erased
my carefully visioned life
as swiftly as it has spread across the Earth.

 

These days I steady myself in the daily flow.
Simple joys of waking up.
Work. Work. Work.
Practices developed for years
now laughing that I never really wanted to be tested.

 

Deborah Franke

Poetry in the Time of the Pandemic

These Days

These days there is a tender place in me,
too close to my tears, too close to despair.
I can’t turn away from the news.
I can’t let go of the desperate people.
I can stay busy – fix the deck, knit the doll, what’s for dinner –
while heartbreak waits in the shadow for the unguarded moment.
Why does it feel so personal?
Death has always been near.
Uncertainty is always in the next footfall.
Did God or Mother Earth want to expose the veneer?

 

Kathleen Littlepage

Poetry in the Time of the Pandemic

These Days

These days there is a place in me
That is deeply vulnerable- so deep
That it’s as if
God whispered his heart to me

A whisper I have to lean in to hear
I want to hear but it’s so quiet
I’m not muted but I find it hard to ask his spirit to speak louder
So I can voice his words

Am I frightened that what he asks will
Be the steps in unlocking doors that
I’ve long shut
Or maybe never knew could open

There is a vulnerability in me that is
Too quiet
I don’t know how to loosen these lips
To share more of me

Who would listen
Who would hear and feel my heart strings
Dangling in mid-air
Looking for someone’s tenderness

To let my words softly land
In the the palm of their hands
And hold them there
For awhile

Let my vulnerability be unearthed

 

Kristin Thompson
Poetry In The Time Of Pandemic Workshop

These Days

I am filled with fear
And peace
The pandemic
Does not feel real
Until I see
Groups of protesters
Grouped closely screaming
At the capitol

Empty streets
Politicians pontificating
About a science
Completely unknown
To any of them

All I know is
Thousands are dying
Throughout
The United States of America
I can only shelter in place
Hide
Until this is over

Meanwhile
My iris bloom
Purple yellow white
Mint invades everything

In the park
A still white egret
After the rain
Black eyed squirrels run
Up and down tree limbs
On the way home
I pass a bamboo forest
Full of music

As I open the door
Sleepy cats
Open their eyes
Having nothing to fear
They reenter the silence
Of my house

 

Marilyn Zwicker

Poetry in the Time of the Pandemic

These Days

I want to leave my imagined safety
I’ve stayed so busy
Pretending I’m safe

That I have clung to work
That I have shut myself out
With drink
With sugar
Less with TV
Less with books
More with “news”
That tells me how
terrible it really is
So that I know that I am safe
So that I know others have it worse
So that I know I am fortunate
So that I remain focused on the outside
So that I stay away from my inside
Which wants to cry
Which is afraid for the world
Which is afraid for the world that will be left
Which is afraid for my future
Which is afraid to feel
Which is afraid to take my eyes off the unfolding horror
Lest it get me.

These are strange times
And they are nowhere near over
They change day to day
And week to week
The focus and the feeling and the sense of what might be possible
and when
Three weeks three months three years from now
Changes daily.

Deep uncertainty that I’ve dealt with by
Living one day at a time as though
What I do or what I don’t do today
Doesn’t matter.
As though these are separate choices with no consequence for
What my life – the larger whole of my life in this time – might be.
As though what I do with my life in this time has no consequence for
What my life – my future life in that uncertain future time – might be.

With the structure of going to work
And coming home from work
And doing something else after that
Gone.
It’s just all become mush.

 

Anonymous

Poetry in the Time of the Pandemic

Today

Raw from angry words
I want distance
that cannot be;
And peace
that only comes
as a gift
Betsy Aylin

Poetry in the Time of the Pandemic

Who or What Removed All the Locks?

And when was it
I put those locks in place?
Now they are rusting & corroding &
dissolving.
Those metals cannot endure these times.

Time wore them down or was it

the experiences of a lifetime
that eroded me?

No matter.
Let me move now into a spacious threshold.

No,

this matters. That’s not it
anymore.

Will I, can I

stand,
withstand the spaciousness of this
threshold and allow
the outer and inner to mingle?

 

M Antonya Riley

Poetry in the Time of the Pandemic

This poem was written at the beginning of April by one of the women who helped Cathey facilitate our workshop. She has given us permission to share it as well.

Pandemic

We walk away from
one another—‘distancing’
they call it now.  All of
us, shy gardens of small
violets—no one green
enough, boisterous
enough, foolish enough
to wrap arms about us,
give us a whirl in the dark
under the street light that
sometimes looks like the
moon.  Waking, I never
know if the day with
birdsong and no traffic
will bring an understory
of joy, comfort, anger or
grief. I…we…all wake to
a strangeness that has
always been but never
so loudly.  Never calling
us so strongly to some
kind of peace.

 

Beverly Voss
Written in a Poetry for Wellness meeting

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