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Pandemic Poems 2

from 4-21-2020...

                     Lock-Down Supply


Some say pack away rice and beans—and cumin,

if you can….and would a bag of onions be too much

to ask? Some say a flute and sheet music, all the magic

spells of Bach—and maybe a little wine? Some say seeds 

for the garden of my dreams, and wild birds glimmering 

against the sun. Some say guns and ammo—and DVDs 

for my long nights of fear. Some want books—epics, trilogies, 

finally War & Peace, and even Moby Dick. Some get by 

on a screen and wi-fi, going down the rabbit hole for days 

and nights and days. Some say money under the mattress,

so much it’s bumpy when I sleep. Some say a phone

with a good charge, all my friends at my fingertips.

Some say I need final forgiveness, a call from my brother—

all I ever wanted. Some say love, love, love—a few words, 

a look to live by. Some say all I need is health, the illusion

of long life. Give me, some say, silence and a meditation mat…

an existential question to worry in my mind…only to be 

left alone…dusk without a clock…the night sky.


All these needs, wishes, yearnings, plans—and just think—

we’re all one world, one people, sheltering in place.




                    Symphony in a Minor Key


In the pandemic, it all comes at you with a roar—

the strings inflicting see-saw statistics of infection

and demise, crescendo building like a wave, while the winds 

drive a descending economic scale, fretted with shrill alarms 

on piccolo. Someone hammers the tympani for hunger, fear, 

and fury, while the xylophone speaks news notes like bells—

and one brazen political trumpet blares from a throng 

of muted brass bleating in cacophony. This is the scherzo, 

the brazen rush some Beethoven left unfinished, raw 

and random, longing for adagio.


From the promontory of your little life, you face this storm 

of discord, your hair blown back, tears streaming from your eyes,

turning your head to seek inside this thunder, somewhere in there, 

surely, a throbbing double-bass—oh beating heart, sustain us.


         What You Always Wanted


Know how you never had the time? Intentions

abounded, then days passed, then months, years.

But now the pandemic has a wicked way to grant 

your wishes. You wanted to sleep in—but the alarm 

called your name. Just once, no rush hour?—but there 

you would be, again, fuming, inching along at a crawl. 

You wanted  a garden—but the season passed you by. 

You always wanted to play guitar—but the radio was 

best you could do. You wanted to walk before dawn, 

meditate, write letters to friends growing older far away—

but where were those stamps? You wanted to know birds—

but they sang from hiding, their wing bars a flash 

of mystery. You wanted a world-class nap—

but at your cubicle, no way. You even wanted 

to try poetry, of all things—and here you are, 

making a list, as all around you the world 

hungers for visions.



      Hidden in Our Hardship


In the Great Depression, when hunger 

            filled the land,

Woody Guthrie’s ballads held out 

            a helping hand.

For all the screaming headlines, 

and all the silent breadlines,

it was songs that helped that generation stand.


Now corona virus fills the news

and lock-down or contagion is what 

            we have to choose.

We don’t need no mystics 

to understand statistics

telling us it’s time to sing the blues.



Hidden in our hardship there’s a song—

if only we can find it there’s a tune 

            to keep us strong.

Deep inside our sorrow 

there’s a seed to grow tomorrow,

for hidden in our hardship there’s a song.


                         Do You Miss It?

                A Catechism for Lock-Down


Texting: “I’ll be a few minutes late.” Calling: “I’ve hit 

some traffic.” Thinking: “Does this meeting matter?” 

Wondering: Is this how it has to be?


East side errand, appointment on the west, bridges 

totally stalled. Idling in rush hour, blue smoke swirling, 

talk radio percussive, circling the block for a parking spot.


Telling the boss, “That’s my birthday,  but, okay, I’ll be there.” 

Telling a child, “Maybe on the weekend…or summer.” 

Telling yourself, “When I retire…maybe.” 


Impulse buys online because—hey, the  money’s rolling in. 

Wondering what an eight-hour luxury sleep might be like. 

Old friend encounter: How’s it going…Good, busy…


Great to see you. Gotta go. Telling your friend, over

your shoulderas you stride away, “Sometime, let’s talk…

I’ll call you…we’ll figure it out.”



           Inmate Calls Home


Mom, I been all night worried—

this virus thing, they say it gets everywhere.

So don’t go out, okay? Get food, sit tight.

Read. Just read. You like that. Make calls. 

Not great, I know. You love those friends. 

Nights, I hear you tell them things.


Mom, I been worried—cabin fever. Yeah, 

on the inside we’re used to that. Lots of practice.

Time just turns like a silly dancer, you watch it.

But Mom, what you gonna do with all that time? 

No visits, no go where you want, no bench

in that park you like. 


Nights, Mom, no worry. No worry,

okay? Me, I’m good. I’m so good.



             In Virus Hardship Now

           I Remember How My Father

                     Pulled the Plow


That summer deep in the dirty thirties—dust bowl, 

no job, bread line, lean time—my father and his 

high school friend found an island in the Ninnescah

unclaimed under the fiery Kansas sun, drew straws to see 

who would guide—or drag—the plow, and to my father

fell the horse’s chance, climbed into harness, bent low, 

and pulled. From face to dust, sweat dripped as furrows 

opened for their few seeds of corn and beans, pearling 

buckets of Ninnescah slathering the  rows, my father 

growing strong enough for war. 


Dew in the morning when he wore leather and brass 

to drag old iron through earth, scant willow shade

at noon, whippoorwill at dusk, and then, over lazy 

waters of the Ninnescah, the moon.


                 Pandemic Clock


Remember back in the day? There were weeks—

weekdays, and weekends, Sundays off, lots of

zigzag driving (how long to get across town?)…

and when spring turned the trees crazy we could

surrender and throng, mingle, pack a restaurant 

or concert hall, a school or church, pump hands, 

bump shoulders, laugh in each other’s faces.


Now, in lockdown, who knows what day it is

in the Sunday morning silence of the afternoon?

But we notice phases of the moon, know when 

to call a daughter, when to write the friend 

who lost her son. Now time grows long—

pandemic time, the mystic stretch before 

a remedy, vaccine, any means of safety.


Is it twelve months, Dr. Fauci? Eighteen?

That time horizon keeps receding, fugitive

beyond our power to plan. “How soon?

Don’t hold your breath.”



                         Rationing Truth


Deep in the labyrinth of the Information Waterworks

a busy man hunches over his pipes and valves, easing 

one open, another shut, so a trickle of truth may feed thirst 

in one quadrant of the country, but starve another—or 

he opens the  silt valve to muddy the waters everywhere:


The virus has peaked…Miami can be saved…

money brings happiness…the poor deserve it…

free enterprise will solve it all…wars work…

wolves are the problem…super storms are natural…

men are just that way…out of sight, out of  mind….


Problem is, that busy man is us, afraid of facts that hurt, 

guarding positions instead of seeking convergence,

preferring comfort now over our children’s future,

ready to crank the spigot tight, but deep down

hungry for a long steady rush of clean rain.

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