#FlattenTheCurve: Two Poems by Marge Piercy

blood-on-the-doorpost

How the plague came

We who every day poison
our water, our air, our bodies
thrust nuclear waste in her
veins, frak into earthquakes

drown the ocean and all life
with plastic and waste,
now wonder that earth herself
is angry. Consequences:

the oceans will roll up
our streets, whole streets
where houses are leveled
Tornadoes come in herds.

Our young need heroin
to endure the world
we’ve bequeathed them.
They vanish into phones.

But nothing sufficed
to stop us, so she called
on her tiniest children.
They rose to the task.

What we do now

I look at my schedule
for the month and it’s blank:
no readings, no travels,
and therefore, no money.

I have erased lunches,
dinners with friends, now
we just email or talk
awkwardly via phone.

No books from the library:
It’s shut. No buying any
thing not absolutely vital.
Stores are closed anyhow.

My hair grows shaggy. No
work on my back. I cook,
I clean, I mend what must
last, reread old books,

garden, play with cats
in the year of the plague.

blood-on-the-doorpost copy

 

Published with permission of Marge Piercy

#FlattenTheCurve: Rebirth by Indran Amirthanayagam

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You know I said I wasn’t going to write about this, Jeez–Susana H. Case

Really? The train left some weeks ago but nobody noticed at first.
It moved first through an animal market in Wuhan, then the province
and beyond, throughout China, then to the semi-autonomous district
of Hong Kong, and to Korea; jumped aboard a plane to Italy, now
I don’t know where it is not, so no harm done that you too have
written again about the virus. It is the biggest story since stories
were invented unless you lived on the planet during the Spanish Flu.
But there are very few left who remember that pandemic now.
The human family prospered afterwards, fighting a huge world war,
and many smaller national wars, and made love with abandon,
and we are now six billion strong, so Malthusians among us say,
this is a necessary culling even if we flatten all the curves. There
will be dead until the vaccine is spread over the planet. Meanwhile
the train is arriving at all stations and often at the same time,
a perfect storm. We have the phrases, if not yet the vaccine. Write
my friend. Capture memories before they molder in the casket
or get burnt to cinders. The poems will survive. We all read
Wilfred Owen now, his Anthem for Doomed Youth. We are writing
our own anthems and some of us will be around still to read them
aloud at a hundred thousand memorial services. I am sorry for
the gloom. I am aware of precious blood, the need to test, to record,
to get all the ya yas out, including within the family, to make
the necessary overtures, make peace, prepare the plot,
the Collected Poems, the idea of rebirth, survival in song.

 

 

Indran Amirthanayagam (www.indranmx.com) writes in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. He has published seventeen poetry collections thus far, including  The Migrant States (www.hangingloose.com), Coconuts on Mars (www.paperwall.in), En busca de posada (Editorial Apogeo, Lima, 2019) and Paolo 9 (Manofalsa, Lima, 2019). The Elephants of Reckoning (Hanging Loose Press) won the Paterson Prize. Uncivil War (Tsar/Mawenzi House) tells the history of the Sri Lankan Civil War. The Splintered Face: Tsunami Poems (Hanging Loose Press) was written in the wake of the Asian Tsunami of 2004. Other books include Il n’est de solitude que l’île lointaine (Legs Editions), and Ventana Azul (El Tapiz del Unicornio). He directs Poetry at the Port in Silver Spring. He is on the Board of Directors of DC-ALT, an association of literary translators. He writes for the newspaper Haiti en Marche. Amirthanayagam has received fellowships from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, The US/Mexico Fund for Culture and the Macdowell Colony.

 

Art by Jenn Zed. 

#FlattenTheCurve: Sheltering by Susana H. Case

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My weekly Italian tutor asks if I feel safe
about his coming to teach me.
He calls himself a potential viral vector.

Certo, I assure him, knowing he needs
the work. There are two men parked
in my bathroom, carefully installing tile.

Mornings, we bump elbows in greeting,
because we don’t share a language
and none of us are the type that prays.

In the late 1800s, it was mysophobia,
thought pathological, the constant
washing of one’s hands. Now we all

scrub prudently, and hesitate to pet dogs.
There’s no such thing as truly safe,
a word which originally meant uninjured;

all of us are injured as, in shops
around the world, people push one another
out of the way over toilet paper and sanitizer,

hoard Chef Boyardee and rice.
In the early 1900s, when TB spread,
men shaved off their long beards, women

wore shortened skirts. When that didn’t stop
disease, they blamed immigrants,
like the ones in my apartment, slowly

building a ceramic wall for a shower stall,
not the kind of wall for keeping out,
a soft grey one, for stepping in.

 

 

Susana H. Case is the author of seven books of poetry. Dead Shark on the N Train is due out in 2020 from Broadstone Books. Drugstore Blue (Five Oaks Press) won an IPPY Award in 2019. She is also the author of five chapbooks, two of which won poetry prizes, and most recently, Body Falling, Sunday Morning, from Milk and Cake Press. Her first collection, The Scottish Café, from Slapering Hol Press, was re-released in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press. Her work has appeared in Calyx, The Cortland Review, Portland Review, Potomac Review, Rattle, RHINO and many other journals. Case is a Professor and Program Coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology in New York City.

#FlattenTheCurve: Lockdown, Day Three by Ace Boggess

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Sun is out after days of clouds
that left their grief as a parting gift.

I step outside, & pollen marshals troops.
It scratches my throat. I cough &

think, Is this it? Have I died &
not yet figured it out? God,

why does my brain corrupt
a peaceful moment in the light?

Even here in my comfortable prison,
the virus that can’t reach me does

until I panic at a bead of sweat,
a little ache, a misspent breath.

It’s a beautiful morning
to write my own obituary.

Somewhere else, it’s raining—
each drop a survivor of the storm.

 

 

Ace Boggess is author of five books of poetry—Misadventure, I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So, Ultra Deep Field, The Prisoners, and The Beautiful Girl Whose Wish Was Not Fulfilled—and the novels States of Mercy and A Song Without a Melody. His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, Mid-American Review, Rattle, River Styx, and other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia. His sixth collection, Escape Envy, is forthcoming 2021.

#FlattenTheCurve: The Shopkeeper’s Daughter by Yuyutsu Sharma

yuyu tree

In the local tea shop,
my regular haunt

to write fresh poems
each morning in Kathmandu,

I pull a page
out of my sheaf of papers

to let her read what I’ve been
working on since morning.

She looks at it for a second,
then almost uninterested

as if she has made a mistake
twitches her nose

twisting her face eerily
lifts it as a blade against her cheeks

turning the page
with my Corona poem

as a protection wall
to sneeze behind and return

the sullied page
as a fitting token of appreciation

from some cranky critic.

 

 

Recipient of fellowships and grants from The Rockefeller Foundation, Ireland Literature Exchange, Trubar Foundation, Slovenia, The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature and The Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature, Yuyutsu Ram Dass Sharma is a world renowned Himalayan poet and translator.

He has published ten poetry collections including, Second Buddha Walk,  Annapurna Poems,  and A Blizzard in my Bones: New York Poems. Widely traveled author, he has read his works at several prestigious places and held workshops in creative writing and translation at  Heidelberg University, Germany, California, Beijing Open University and New York University, New York..

Half the year, he travels and reads all over the world and conducts Creative Writing workshops at various universities in North America and Europe but goes trekking in the Himalayas when back home. Currently, Yuyutsu Sharma is a visiting poet at Columbia University and edits, Pratik: A Quarterly Magazine of Contemporary Writing.

yuyutsurd@gmail.com

#FlattenTheCurve: Pandemic Positions, Tour of TV Stations a Few Weeks In by Laurinda Lind

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It can just, you know, eat
its way through your upper
epithelial layer. We need
thirty thousand of them,
the government has twelve.
That’s officially not a dry cough.
It’s not true about eating
a bunch of garlic. The numbers
are getting so big, I saw
the spirit of heaven descending
like a dove. You’ll be taught
to sit and repeat a sacred word.
You have to call those things
which be not. Think of
the coronavirus as blue paint.
You can go from being chained
to a tank to being free to live
the life you want. The media
has been much nicer, but I
shouldn’t say that. Like
there’s these expectations,
try not to hold any.

3/19/20: Sources: CSPAN, WPIX, AMVO, NEWSY, WPIX again, BIBLE, EWTN, TBN, OWN, RENEW, WVNA, STDIO

 

 

Laurinda Lind lives in New York’s North Country. Some publications/acceptances are in Blue Earth Review, Midwest Quarterly, New American Writing, Paterson Literary Review, and Spillway; also anthologies Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan (New Rivers Press) and AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss and Grief (Radix Media).

#FlattenTheCurve: The Unboxing by David Weinstock

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I’ve never made one of these before, an unboxing video. For a while, everybody was doing them. YouTube was packed with unboxings, and they were quite entertaining. Here’s how they go. They start with a shot of a box, a box alone on a table. And inside the box, you tell us—we hear your voice, although we never see your face—is something you really really want, something you’re excited about. Maybe you ordered it: a new toy, a game, a gadget. Or it’s a gift, but you know what’s in the box. You’re ready, past ready, you’ve been longing for it, dreaming about it, and now here it is, and you’re going to show it to the world.

The video is about you opening the box, slowly, one layer at a time, getting the thing out of the box, reverently, respectfully, giving this precious thing its full measure of your appreciation. Although nobody sees your face, they do see your hands, holding the box, how slowly and lovingly your hands take the thing out one piece at a time, and lay them on the table, and then slowly start to put them together until the thing is complete. All that time you tell us what we’re seeing and why you love it.

Finally, it’s done. You might put in the batteries, or plug it in, or whatever finishing touch, it’s all about touching, but you don’t actually turn it on to demonstrate; that’s considered a bit crass. The last shot is always a triumphant closeup of the thing, ready to make you happy, and you tell us how happy you are.

When we first heard of coronavirus, it sounded manageable, not too scary, and so far away, in China, then Korea, then Japan, then Italy.  And even there, it wasn’t that bad, I mean, hardly anyone was infected, and only two percent of them were dying, and those were ones already pretty fragile, old, or sick with something else, and coronavirus just finished them off.

But things changed fast, and two percent became three percent, and the next day five, and when it got to ten percent, the authorities stopped revealing any numbers at all, but we could all guess that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, were infected. The hospitals were full, the ambulances had nowhere to take you. The masks were sold out, the test kits were used up, the oxygen tanks were empty.

The authorities very sensibly recommended self care, and even self quarantine. Just stay in your room; that’s the best thing, for yourself, for everyone else. Stay home, don’t spread the virus to the rest of us.

Everything was filling up and breaking down, but thank God, thank Google, the Internet stayed up. For us, alone in our rooms, for me,  alone in my room, that was all we had. We sent each other news, and photos, and advice, all the ways we knew: email, text, Facebook, Twitter.

Then one special friend of mine, who lived far away, got the virus, and he told me everything. Almost hourly, he sent messages, until he could no more. It broke my heart but there was nothing I could do.

And things  kept getting worse. The hospices were full. The authorities started recommending “self hospice,” which at first sounded absurd, but they had thought this through, and told you exactly how to hospice yourself.

Now, here is our video. I will do the unboxing, and you will carry the camera and microphone and record it all – thank you. We are walking on a broad sandy beach toward the water.

You see, the funeral homes were full, the hearses were full, the cemeteries, the crematoria were full. For that, the helpful authorities had no further advice.  But people are creative.

So before long, all over the world, after self care, after self quarantine, after self hospice, there came, you guessed it, self cremation.

When it was all over, I went to my special friend’s house, which had burned down around him. With me I brought this box, and a broom and dustpan, and I filled the box with ashes I found. Were they his ashes? Probably some of them were. When I had enough, I closed the box, and brought it home.

And now today, here so all can see, I open it. I walk out into the surf, and here we go, and remember to focus on my hands, I am scattering the ashes. One handful at a time. Until they are all gone. Until there is nothing left but this box.

Get a good shot of the box.

 

 

David Weinstock lives, writes and teaches in Middlebury, Vermont, and leads the Otter Creek Poets open workshop, currently suspended by the plague. His poems have appeared in Riding the Meridian, Moment, Modern Haiku, Burlington Poetry Journal, Zig Zag Lit Mag, 2River View, and oddly enough, The Journal of the American Medical Association. He has been a copywriter for the  L.L. Bean catalog, copy chief at Boston advertising agencies,  and editor for a local Vermont bi-weekly newspaper. He won a residency for Vermont Artists Week 2020 at the Vermont Studio Center, but expects it to be cancelled because of COVID-19.