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.

Kim Stafford workshops…              






Kim Stafford online generative writing workshops

July 2020 to February 2021




Citizen Poems: Writing Poetry for the Human Project

“The more I write poems,” said Elizabeth Woody, “the less it’s about what the poem is, and more about who the poem serves.” Writing can be a habit that enriches the individual life, and publishing can bring this enrichment to others, and perhaps lead to money and fame. Or—writing and sharing work composed as a gift of advocacy for your heroes, for places, and for communities—this form of creative devotion could be your true vocation. In this workshop, open to writers at all stages of experience, we will explore the notion of “citizen poems,” which are written not abouta subject, but fora person, a place, a cause, a community. We will practice writing little anthems, manifestoes, and blessings.


hosted by Willamette Writers / one-day class / Thursday, July 30, 9:30am-3:30pm

(third workshop listed)




Earth Verse

When trouble comes in the human world, there may be a little story from the wild that can offer consolation. From the Gnomic Versesin Old English, to the Tao te Ching, and the writings of Dorothy Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson, and Mary Oliver, we have cherished lyric remedies speaking the language of earth for human comfort. In this workshop, we will harvest close observations from the Playa landscape and compose an archive of consolations for use as our need comes.


hosted by Playa at Summer Lake / Saturday-Sunday, August 1-2, 9am-3pm

Details here soon:




Pandemic Diary for Earth

In the Corona Virus era, someone said, It's as if Earth has sent us to our rooms to think about what we've done. Out of this time, how might our lives become more measured, local, and sustaining? In this online workshop, we'll write episodes of observation and thought about how this era of shelter in place might temper our frenzy, and turn us toward better ways to live. We'll compose poems, stories, letters, and other forms to offer lament, ways to savor the simpler life, and prophecy about where we might go from here as individuals, and as citizens of Earth.


hosted by Sitka Center for Art & Ecology, Saturday-Sunday / August 8-9, 10am-4pm

Details here soon:



Pandemic Poems for Lament, Solace, & Testimony

This is a one-day generative poetry workshop. Drawing on short readings from writers who have addressed pandemics—Giovanni Boccaccio, Daniel Defoe, Albert Camus, and writers addressing our predicament now—we will write poems to report personal experience, interrogate the public narrative, honor what’s lost, and celebrate what’s been clarified. The pandemic has hit the re-set button on our individual lives, our communities and our nation. Pandemic poems can re-frame what we now know we need, don’t need, and must envision. 


hosted by Richard Hugo House / date TBA (one day workshop)

Details here soon:



Courage to Lead through Writing: We Begin a Better Nation through Writing

Join us for a virtual Courage to Lead retreat designed to offer participants the time and space to reflect on the complex, challenging, and changing dimensions of leadership, rooted in the belief that effective leadership flows from the identity and integrity of the individual. Empower and deepen your leadership during these challenging times by using writing as a tool for learning and leading.


hosted by Lewis & Clark College, Thursday 4pm – Saturday at noon / October 1-3




Daily Writing in the Spirit of William Stafford

In a time when wars don’t stop, when pandemic strikes, jobs end, climate shifts, and life needs constant reinvention, your daily writing practice can be a way to navigate change and sustain the spirit.

     Inspired by the 50-year writing practice of William Stafford, this online workshop will include reading of classic poems and responding to writing prompts designed to deepen your own process for creation.

     We will delve into sources for starting, ways of revising, responding to work in progress, and sending forth our testimony to a world hungry for meaning. Open to all levels of experience.

     The class will utilize the online platform Zoom, with each of the two days designed as a series of conversations, writing prompts, solo writing time, then sharing and discussion.


hosted by Lewis & Clark College, Saturday-Sunday, December  5-6, 9am-5pm




Oregon Writing Project: Poems for a Better Nation

In these days of frenzy and confusion, some bit of news, a scrap of story, a friend’s question, or some other morsel of language from the world may long to become a song, a poem, half a poem—may long to catch something mysterious about this life. A footnote to the inexpressible.

     In this online Oregon Writing Project course, we will celebrate the winsome habit of poetry to turn small discoveries into the half-page where we say much in a few words.

We’ll read lively texts, start many lyric experiments, and talk along the way about how to use this quirky and welcoming writing practice to calm the self, and to explore with students and share with friends.

     No previous experience is necessary for participation in this course, which is open to all teachers and writers. The class will utilize the online platform Zoom, with each of the two days designed to develop a learning community through a series of conversations, writing prompts, solo writing time, then sharing and discussion.


hosted by Lewis & Clark College, Saturday-Sunday, February 20-21, 9am-5pm




Later in 2021              


January or February, week-long Writing Retreat in Guanajuato, Mexico


February 11-14, 2021 (tentative date), Writing Retreat at Santa Sabina, San Rafael, California


April 21-30, 2021, week-long Writing Retreat in Ireland



May 2021,  week-long Writing Retreat in Assisi, Italy