Thursday, March 19, 2020

Poetry In A Time Of Pandemic

  Crites Intellectual Monkey 22" Table Lamp

I had been on a roll since the new year began. I’ve been revising a collection of poems written in 2015, one for each month, to see if they might work as a chapbook. I just ordered a biography of Fanny Brice, one of the few Ziegfeld-related books I don’t have. Diving back into that sequence of poems is always on the list of projects. Other poems always come out in between.

As of yesterday, my employer was able to set my department up to work at home. The plan now is for two weeks, but since technology now allows us to take calls as home as well, that plan is all the more flexible. The season, which normally begins in May, has been pushed back to June. Even that is just an estimate at this point. A seasonal facility requires time to prepare the grounds, as well as hire and train the much-expanded staff. For now, my job still exists. My Beloved is still employed as well, but since his is a much more isolated situation, as long as the building’s open, he’ll be on site as usual.

I’m feeling grief, sorrow, fear. They come and go, rational and otherwise. I have my teary moments, especially alone, but thank goodness for social media, the perfect medium for social distancing in the friendliest way. Amazon might be out of powdered milk, but here at Casa Diva, there’s a Mabel Normand Film Festival on the schedule tonight, courtesy of Cladrite Radio (check them out!). I am a tireless stocker of basement shelves, so even if an actual food shortage arises, we will be good for a while.

Poetry has been the last thing on my mind in the last two weeks. Guy Reed and I had an interview scheduled for St. Patrick’s Day with Sharon Israel on WIOX in Roxbury, NY that I asked to be postponed, and all live readings are off, for the time being. I had no words to speak about what at the time seemed so minor, at times like these a vanity of sorts. A poem popped out first thing yesterday morning, though. Not a great poem, but a safe observational piece:


            Lights, lights all around
            until the sun rises up to do its duty,
            including the lamp beside the bed
            I’ve had since college,
            one on the dresser, crystal base,
            kept after a lover went South,
            back East, and I remained
            on the left side of the river.
            A wall sconce illuminates the stairs,
            and the freight train a few blocks off
            is the only traffic moving.

            The birds begin their Spring song of sex and hope,
            eggs for the season glad for the extra space
            tho their brains cannot compute why.
            The air is quieter, dearer,
            busses garaged, cars silent.
            Did the leap day give us twenty-four more hours
            to pretend, until the bulb in our heads went off?

            The light on my desk is on now.
            The computer revs its modest engine,
            eager for the day ahead of
            uncertain emails, calls from frightened customers
            whose yearly nirvana’s been postponed.
            Coffee won’t change things.
            Change isn’t in my power now,
            just awe at Creation pushing me towards
            another life, another reluctant sun.