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Coronavirus Poems to the Editor: ‘Death Too Wears a Mask’ Coronavirus Poems to the Editor: ‘Death Too Wears a Mask’
(about 4 hours later)
In the Time of PlagueIn the Time of Plague
We keep indoors.When we dare to venture outWe are cautious. Our neighborsSmile, but in their eyes there isReserve and suspicion.They keep their distance,As we do ours, in mute accord.Much of our fear is unspoken,For there is at last the weight of custom,The tender of rote consolation.We endure thoughts of demiseAnd measure the distance of death.Death too wears a mask.But consider, there may well be goodIn our misfortune if we can find it. It isHidden in the darkness of our fear.But discover it and see that it is hopeAnd more; it is the gift of opportunity.We have the rare chance to prevail,To pose a resolution for world renewal.We can be better than we have ever been.We can improve the human condition.We can imagine, then strive to realize,Our potential for goodness and morality.We can overcome pestilence, war and poverty.We can preserve our sacred purpose. We canDetermine who we are in our essential natureAnd who we can be. We are committed to this endFor our own sake and for the sake of thoseWho will come after us. There is a better future,And we can secure it. Let us take up the task, andLet us be worthy of our best destiny.N. SCOTT MOMADAYSanta Fe, N.M.The writer is a novelist as well as a poet and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1969 for “House Made of Dawn.”We keep indoors.When we dare to venture outWe are cautious. Our neighborsSmile, but in their eyes there isReserve and suspicion.They keep their distance,As we do ours, in mute accord.Much of our fear is unspoken,For there is at last the weight of custom,The tender of rote consolation.We endure thoughts of demiseAnd measure the distance of death.Death too wears a mask.But consider, there may well be goodIn our misfortune if we can find it. It isHidden in the darkness of our fear.But discover it and see that it is hopeAnd more; it is the gift of opportunity.We have the rare chance to prevail,To pose a resolution for world renewal.We can be better than we have ever been.We can improve the human condition.We can imagine, then strive to realize,Our potential for goodness and morality.We can overcome pestilence, war and poverty.We can preserve our sacred purpose. We canDetermine who we are in our essential natureAnd who we can be. We are committed to this endFor our own sake and for the sake of thoseWho will come after us. There is a better future,And we can secure it. Let us take up the task, andLet us be worthy of our best destiny.N. SCOTT MOMADAYSanta Fe, N.M.The writer is a novelist as well as a poet and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1969 for “House Made of Dawn.”
Working From HomeWorking From Home
I remember the days when I’d speculateThat working from home would simply be great.No need for the car, the tie and the suit,No need, ever again, for that daily commute.I could work in my jammies, or wear nothing at allAnd never once worry ’bout the boss down the hall.I’d only dress up when I’d be meeting on ZoomThen I’d just have to clean a little part of the room.And how great it would be with no one to watchAs I took a nip, now and then, from my bottle of Scotch.But now that it’s happened, my dream hasn’t come true’Cuz working from home is like life at the zoo.A big cage of monkeys couldn’t be any worse.The noise and congestion drive me to curse.With everyone here there’s no peace and quiet.It’s not at all what I thought when I wanted to try it.Alas, working from home, I get nothing done.And what’s even worse — it’s not that much fun.Now I yearn for the days when I went off to work.Working from home, it turns out, was the dream of a jerk.MICHAEL R. WHITNEYAustin, TexasI remember the days when I’d speculateThat working from home would simply be great.No need for the car, the tie and the suit,No need, ever again, for that daily commute.I could work in my jammies, or wear nothing at allAnd never once worry ’bout the boss down the hall.I’d only dress up when I’d be meeting on ZoomThen I’d just have to clean a little part of the room.And how great it would be with no one to watchAs I took a nip, now and then, from my bottle of Scotch.But now that it’s happened, my dream hasn’t come true’Cuz working from home is like life at the zoo.A big cage of monkeys couldn’t be any worse.The noise and congestion drive me to curse.With everyone here there’s no peace and quiet.It’s not at all what I thought when I wanted to try it.Alas, working from home, I get nothing done.And what’s even worse — it’s not that much fun.Now I yearn for the days when I went off to work.Working from home, it turns out, was the dream of a jerk.MICHAEL R. WHITNEYAustin, Texas
The Soul Selects Her Social DistanceThe Soul Selects Her Social Distance
The pandemic has prompted me to consider how Emily Dickinson might feel about social distancing.The pandemic has prompted me to consider how Emily Dickinson might feel about social distancing.
The soul selects her own society,Then shuts the door.She keeps her social distance ofSix feet or more.Unmoved, she notes the careless crowdOutside her gate;Unmoved, she notes the feckless folkStill tempting fate.I’ve known her from those foolish peopleChoose noneThen turn her mind to friends she’s meetingBy phone.FELICIA NIMUE ACKERMANProvidence, R.I.The soul selects her own society,Then shuts the door.She keeps her social distance ofSix feet or more.Unmoved, she notes the careless crowdOutside her gate;Unmoved, she notes the feckless folkStill tempting fate.I’ve known her from those foolish peopleChoose noneThen turn her mind to friends she’s meetingBy phone.FELICIA NIMUE ACKERMANProvidence, R.I.
The Before TimesThe Before Times
Before we were living in a pandemic, we went to lunch withour friends in restaurants & slurped soup with crackerswe crushed with our bare fingers, our ordinary fingersthat did not ignite terror, that were not vectors of disease.Before we were living in a pandemic, we went to lunch withour friends in restaurants & slurped soup with crackerswe crushed with our bare fingers, our ordinary fingersthat did not ignite terror, that were not vectors of disease.
Before the days of self-isolation, shopping was just another chore,sometimes a pleasure, a stroll through Costco samplingfrom little paper cups protein bars & chocolate candies &popcorn & potato chips, strolling & sampling & buyingbig bags of broccoli & spinach & Asian cashew salad& giant containers of gourmet cheese & yes, toilet paper.Before the days of self-isolation, shopping was just another chore,sometimes a pleasure, a stroll through Costco samplingfrom little paper cups protein bars & chocolate candies &popcorn & potato chips, strolling & sampling & buyingbig bags of broccoli & spinach & Asian cashew salad& giant containers of gourmet cheese & yes, toilet paper.
The Before Times have receded deep into memory as ifall of that happened ten, no, twenty years agowhen we lived in another land of freedom & movement& laughter & hugging & sitting in each other'sliving rooms, living, alive, chatting for hours withoutmeasuring the social distance, without wearing N95surgical masks or nitrile gloves, without anxious fear.The Before Times have receded deep into memory as ifall of that happened ten, no, twenty years agowhen we lived in another land of freedom & movement& laughter & hugging & sitting in each other'sliving rooms, living, alive, chatting for hours withoutmeasuring the social distance, without wearing N95surgical masks or nitrile gloves, without anxious fear.
Now we are living in another land, frightened & confused,our minds always tasked with remembering to wash our hands,not touch our faces, not touch packages or mail withoutgloves & Clorox wipes & yes, remembering to worry,as if anxious worry could create a high wall surrounded by a moatof reeking & fuming disinfectant to keep us safe in this new landof contamination & fever & suffocation & death.Now we are living in another land, frightened & confused,our minds always tasked with remembering to wash our hands,not touch our faces, not touch packages or mail withoutgloves & Clorox wipes & yes, remembering to worry,as if anxious worry could create a high wall surrounded by a moatof reeking & fuming disinfectant to keep us safe in this new landof contamination & fever & suffocation & death.
We must not forget the Before Times, when we could touchdoorknobs, doorbells, the mail, U.P.S. packages, restaurant tabletops,colleagues’ keyboards, other people’s hands, our own faces.We must not forget dinner parties, book groups, political rallies,concerts, movies, worship services, protests, weddings, funerals.In the Before Times we shared our joys & sorrows together.We must not forget the Before Times, when we could touchdoorknobs, doorbells, the mail, U.P.S. packages, restaurant tabletops,colleagues’ keyboards, other people’s hands, our own faces.We must not forget dinner parties, book groups, political rallies,concerts, movies, worship services, protests, weddings, funerals.In the Before Times we shared our joys & sorrows together.
Will we ever live together again?BONNIE SHAWSalt Lake CityWill we ever live together again?BONNIE SHAWSalt Lake City
WishWish
The weeks go by, the fourth, the fifth,And normalcy’s become a myth.I want to hug, I want to hold,I want this deadly scourge controlled.I want to walk amidst a crowd.I want to lift this morbid shroud.I sit, sequestered in my home,And yearn to mingle, travel, roam.My energy is out of whack —I want my normal problems back.ERIKA FINEBrookline, Mass.The weeks go by, the fourth, the fifth,And normalcy’s become a myth.I want to hug, I want to hold,I want this deadly scourge controlled.I want to walk amidst a crowd.I want to lift this morbid shroud.I sit, sequestered in my home,And yearn to mingle, travel, roam.My energy is out of whack —I want my normal problems back.ERIKA FINEBrookline, Mass.
Virus AngstVirus Angst
Do I have it? Do I not?How do I know what I’ve got?My temperature is 99,A teeny more, but I feel fine.I think I’m fine, that is to say,But am I, maybe, just OK?Is my throat a little dry?Or is it scratchy? If so, why?If I conclude that it is scratchy,Does it mean that I am catchy?My nose is runny, that’s not new,But much more than it used to do.I think. Perhaps it’s just a cold,Or maybe part of getting old.It’s also true that I am tired,But then I also feel I’m wired.Maybe I should take a rest?Or could I, should I, take the test?I’m ready for all outdoor tasks,With Clorox wipes and gloves and masks.But still I’m clueless and cannotBegin to guess just what I’ve got.JANE LANGWashingtonDo I have it? Do I not?How do I know what I’ve got?My temperature is 99,A teeny more, but I feel fine.I think I’m fine, that is to say,But am I, maybe, just OK?Is my throat a little dry?Or is it scratchy? If so, why?If I conclude that it is scratchy,Does it mean that I am catchy?My nose is runny, that’s not new,But much more than it used to do.I think. Perhaps it’s just a cold,Or maybe part of getting old.It’s also true that I am tired,But then I also feel I’m wired.Maybe I should take a rest?Or could I, should I, take the test?I’m ready for all outdoor tasks,With Clorox wipes and gloves and masks.But still I’m clueless and cannotBegin to guess just what I’ve got.JANE LANGWashington
My Own PetMy Own Pet
In deference to the pandemicI have become my own pet.I eat and poop and pee, andonce a day I take myselfout for a walk in the woods.If I see other humanswhen I am out in the worldI keep myself away from them.They say that I don’t bite,but you can’t be too careful.Apparently I am spoiled:I get way too many treats,and at home I just eat and sleepand play with all myelectronic toys and tryto learn some new tricks,even though I am an old dog.And, with some resistance,I occasionally get a bath.JOHN A. BULLARDChelsea, Mich.In deference to the pandemicI have become my own pet.I eat and poop and pee, andonce a day I take myselfout for a walk in the woods.If I see other humanswhen I am out in the worldI keep myself away from them.They say that I don’t bite,but you can’t be too careful.Apparently I am spoiled:I get way too many treats,and at home I just eat and sleepand play with all myelectronic toys and tryto learn some new tricks,even though I am an old dog.And, with some resistance,I occasionally get a bath.JOHN A. BULLARDChelsea, Mich.
A Quiet Spring in a Town Between CitiesA Quiet Spring in a Town Between Cities
the town is all but abandoned as if it had diedyet somehow white and pink flowers have exploded on trees all aroundgreen early buds hang on all the bushesthe sky is a soft blue as clouds go lazily about their waynature is having a celebration while men, women and children hide indoorsor walk short distances in fearful small groupings of those with whom they are isolatedstrangeyet in the long pull of human history not so out of the ordinarywe have known this for thousands of yearspeople running from the ravages of diseasethat would lick their insides like taking a mealand cause their guts to spill outinto graves of freshly dug earthwe have known thisbut we denied blithelyfully ignorant of our mortalitywe thought we were immunethe town is all but silent at timesespecially in the evenings after meal timeeveryone hidesthis is the only timein living memorywhen your neighbor might kill youjust by saying helloDOUG TERRYOlney, Md.the town is all but abandoned as if it had diedyet somehow white and pink flowers have exploded on trees all aroundgreen early buds hang on all the bushesthe sky is a soft blue as clouds go lazily about their waynature is having a celebration while men, women and children hide indoorsor walk short distances in fearful small groupings of those with whom they are isolatedstrangeyet in the long pull of human history not so out of the ordinarywe have known this for thousands of yearspeople running from the ravages of diseasethat would lick their insides like taking a mealand cause their guts to spill outinto graves of freshly dug earthwe have known thisbut we denied blithelyfully ignorant of our mortalitywe thought we were immunethe town is all but silent at timesespecially in the evenings after meal timeeveryone hidesthis is the only timein living memorywhen your neighbor might kill youjust by saying helloDOUG TERRYOlney, Md.
VirusVirus
We have a virus of uncertainty and fear.We have a virus of shortages and gun sales.We have a virus of jobs lost and rent unpaid.We have a virus of talking heads and false knowledgeI have a virus of canceled evenings — canceled days.Calendar emptied, free from the inertia of saying yes.Destination home. Thoughts wander.Choices removed. Freedom gained.We kill the virus with questions.We kill the virus with challenged truths.We kill the virus with kindness.We kill the virus with patience.BRIAN L. GRANTSeattleWe have a virus of uncertainty and fear.We have a virus of shortages and gun sales.We have a virus of jobs lost and rent unpaid.We have a virus of talking heads and false knowledgeI have a virus of canceled evenings — canceled days.Calendar emptied, free from the inertia of saying yes.Destination home. Thoughts wander.Choices removed. Freedom gained.We kill the virus with questions.We kill the virus with challenged truths.We kill the virus with kindness.We kill the virus with patience.BRIAN L. GRANTSeattle
HaircutHaircut
Grappling with our physical reality, I give you a haircutOut on the back porch I’m remindedof all the twenty-dollar Super CutsI long ago disparaged.Then a decade of pricey trimsthat kept your balding pate in style.Now it’s me you’re left with.You stand a step below to level usand explain: start at the nape, you say,slowly so it doesn’t yank. Fadeto the top, then bottom up with the 2-blade.I hold the taloned guard, flipthe tiny switch that makes it quiver.Someone in your younger years pulledher fingers through your hair —With no one else to pass this way,we leave the trimmings where they falland go inside for a hand of cards.The birds are wild now, scissoringthrough the April air. No doubtthey’ll find this treasure.MARGOT KAHNSeattle Out on the back porch I’m remindedof all the twenty-dollar Super CutsI long ago disparaged.Then a decade of pricey trimsthat kept your balding pate in style.Now it’s me you’re left with.You stand a step below to level usand explain: start at the nape, you say,slowly so it doesn’t yank. Fadeto the top, then bottom up with the 2-blade.I hold the taloned guard, flipthe tiny switch that makes it quiver.Someone in your younger years pulledher fingers through your hair —With no one else to pass this way,we leave the trimmings where they falland go inside for a hand of cards.The birds are wild now, scissoringthrough the April air. No doubtthey’ll find this treasure.MARGOT KAHNSeattle
The SilenceThe Silence
I am the sound of children crying.I am what makes you tremble and shiver in your bed late at night.I am the blackness you see when you close your eyes.I am the wolf hunting you down in a dark forest.I am the majestic yet treacherous mountains high up with the clouds.I am the rose you want to pluck but can’t because my thorns are sharp like knives.I am the moonlight that shines at night.I am the nightmares you run from.I am the blizzard that will wipe you out.I am the waves pulling you under.I am the North Star shining bright in the dark blue sky above.I am as sweet as sugar with the ones I love.I am bitter like a million lemons with the ones who have hurt me or my loved ones.I am the silence growing louder in your ears.I am me,I am who I am meant to be,I am who I want to be.I am me.DHRUVI VASANIWalnut Creek, Calif.The writer, age 10, is a fourth grader.I am the sound of children crying.I am what makes you tremble and shiver in your bed late at night.I am the blackness you see when you close your eyes.I am the wolf hunting you down in a dark forest.I am the majestic yet treacherous mountains high up with the clouds.I am the rose you want to pluck but can’t because my thorns are sharp like knives.I am the moonlight that shines at night.I am the nightmares you run from.I am the blizzard that will wipe you out.I am the waves pulling you under.I am the North Star shining bright in the dark blue sky above.I am as sweet as sugar with the ones I love.I am bitter like a million lemons with the ones who have hurt me or my loved ones.I am the silence growing louder in your ears.I am me,I am who I am meant to be,I am who I want to be.I am me.DHRUVI VASANIWalnut Creek, Calif.The writer, age 10, is a fourth grader.