Pandemic Poetry

It seems that this pandemic has inspired some remarkable poetry. These seven poems have crossed my desk in the last two weeks. If you have run across other poems this good, please feel free to post them in the comment section below.  [Note: The word “pan-demic” derives from Greek roots for “all people”.  You can add that to my CO-VID (“seeing together”) post to see more mythic messages in this pandemic’s memes….]

PANDEMIC

By Lynn Ungar
3/11/20

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

= = = = =

LOCKDOWN

from Richard Hendrick (Brother Richard) in Ireland
March 13th 2020

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.

= = = = =

HAIKU (from an email)

By Lyn Dahlstrom

Strange social distance.
Yet solitude cocoons me,
Softly, sweetly wrapped.

= = = = =

SOME PEOPLE

by Jason Kottke Mar 20, 2020

Some people feel helpless & anxious.

Some people are bored.

Some people are self-quarantined alone and are lonely.

Some people are realizing that After will be very different from Before.

Some people are really enjoying this extra time with their kids and will miss it when it’s over.

Some people just got off their 12th double shift in a row at the hospital and can’t hug their family.

Some people visited their favorite restaurant for the last time and didn’t realize it.

Some people have died from COVID-19.

Some people can’t stop reading the news.

Some people cannot afford soap.

Some people are learning how to bake bread.

Some people are working from home while simultaneously trying to homeschool their kids.

Some people are single parents trying to work from home while simultaneously trying to homeschool their kids.

Some people are living paycheck to paycheck and the next one will not arrive.

Some people are unfit to be President.

Some people left the city for their home in the country.

Some people can’t go to the grocery store because they’re at risk.

Some people lost their jobs.

Some people can’t sleep.

Some people are watching free opera online.

Some people have been quarantined for weeks.

Some people can’t work remotely.

Some people have contracted COVID-19 and don’t know it yet.

Some people can’t concentrate on their work because of anxiety.

Some people can’t afford their rent next month.

Some people are still gathering in large groups.

Some people are keeping the rest of us alive at significant personal risk.

Some people didn’t buy enough hand sanitizer.

Some people bought too much hand sanitizer.

Some people are missing their therapist.

Some people can’t go to work but are still being paid by their employers. For now.

Some people are mainly concerned about what to watch next on Netflix.

Some people are volunteering.

Some people are going to lose their business.

Some people are realizing that teachers are amazing.

Some people are ordering takeout from local restaurants.

Some people would really just like a hug.

Some people can’t convince their elderly parents to take this seriously.

Some people are worried about their 401K.

Some people have never had a 401K.

Some people will face increased abuse at home.

Some people are going to get sick or injured and will have a harder time getting medical care.

Some people can’t buy the food they need because the WIC-eligible stuff is sold out.

Some people won’t stop partying.

Some people lost their childcare.

Some people are doing everything they can to remain calm and hopeful and it’s not working.

Some people are watching Outbreak & Contagion and playing Pandemic.

Some people don’t know what they’re going to do.

Some people are overwhelmed with advice on how to work from home.

Some people are drinking or eating too much.

Some people are thinking about after.

Some people are upset because they can’t travel.

Some people are horny.

Some people are planning for a larger garden this year.

Some people won’t see their families for months.

Some people are logging off to stay grounded.

Some people can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Some people will realize they need to split with their partner.

Some people are singing Imagine.

Some people aren’t on this list.

[These are all based on the experiences of real people drawn from news stories, social media, and friends. Take heart: you are not the only person experiencing what you are going through. But be mindful: not everyone is having the same experience you are. Ultimately though, we are all in this together.]

= = = = =

WASH YOUR HANDS

By Dori Midnight

We are humans relearning to wash our hands.
Washing our hands is an act of love
Washing our hands is an act of care
Washing our hands is an act that puts the hypervigilant body at ease
Washing our hands helps us return to ourselves by washing away what does not serve.

wash your hands
like you are washing the only teacup left that your great grandmother carried across the ocean, like you are washing the hair of a beloved who is dying, like you are washing the feet of Grace Lee Boggs, Beyonce, Jesus, your auntie, Audre Lorde, Mary Oliver- you get the picture.
Like this water is poured from a jug your best friend just carried for three miles from the spring they had to climb a mountain to reach.
Like water is a precious resource
made from time and miracle

Wash your hands and cough into your elbow, they say.
Rest more, stay home, drink water, have some soup, they say.
To which I would add: burn some plants your ancestors burned when there was fear in the air,
Boil some aromatic leaves in a pot on your stove until your windows steam up.
Open your windows
Eat a piece of garlic every day. Tie a clove around your neck.
Breathe.

My friends, it is always true, these things.
It has already been time.
It is always true that we should move with care and intention, asking
Do you want to bump elbows instead? with everyone we meet.
It is always true that people are living with one lung, with immune systems that don’t work so well, or perhaps work too hard, fighting against themselves. It is already true that people are hoarding the things that the most vulnerable need.
It is already time that we might want to fly on airplanes less and not go to work when we are sick.
It is already time that we might want to know who in our neighborhood has cancer, who has a new baby, who is old, with children in another state, who has extra water, who has a root cellar, who is a nurse, who has a garden full of elecampane and nettles.
It is already time that temporarily non-disabled people think about people living with chronic illness and disabled folks, that young people think about old people.
It is already time to stop using synthetic fragrances to not smell like bodies, to pretend like we’re all not dying. It is already time to remember that those scents make so many of us sick.
It is already time to not take it personally when someone doesn’t want to hug you.
It is already time to slow down and feel how scared we are.

We are already afraid, we are already living in the time of fires.

When fear arises,
and it will,
let it wash over your whole body instead of staying curled up tight in your shoulders.
If your heart tightens,
contract
and expand.
science says: compassion strengthens the immune system
We already know that, but capitalism gives us amnesia
and tricks us into thinking it’s the thing that protects us
but it’s the way we hold the thing.
The way we do the thing.

Those of us who have forgotten amuletic traditions,
we turn to hoarding hand sanitizer and masks.
we find someone to blame.
we think that will help.
want to blame something?
Blame capitalism. Blame patriarchy. Blame white supremacy.

It is already time to remember to hang garlic on our doors
to dip our handkerchiefs in thyme tea
to rub salt on our feet
to pray the rosary, kiss the mezuzah, cleanse with an egg.
In the middle of the night,
when you wake up with terror in your belly,
it is time to think about stardust and geological time
redwoods and dance parties and mushrooms remediating toxic soil.
it is time
to care for one another
to pray over water
to wash away fear
every time we wash our hands

= = = = =

THE GIFT
An Imagined Letter from Covid-19 to Humans

by Kristin Flyntz

Stop. Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
We will help you.

We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt
We will stop
the planes
the trains
the schools
the malls
the meetings
the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our
single and shared beating heart,
the way we breathe together, in unison.
Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.

We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions,
to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well.
None of us; all of us are suffering.
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth
did not give you pause.
Nor the typhoons in Africa,China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.
It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives.
But the foundation is giving way,
buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.
We will help you.
We will bring the firestorms to your body
We will bring the fever to your body
We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs
that you might hear:
We are not well.

Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.
We are asking you:
To stop, to be still, to listen;
To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all;
To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?

Many are afraid now.
Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. Instead, let it speak to you—in your stillness,
listen for its wisdom.
What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk, beyond the threats of personal inconvenience and illness?
As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about quality of your own health, what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky, and all of us who share this planet with you?

Stop.
Notice if you are resisting.
Notice what you are resisting.
Ask why.

Stop. Just stop.
Be still.
Listen.
Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing, about what might be required so that all may be well.
We will help you, if you listen.

= = = =

THE SPACE BETWEEN US IS LOVE

by John Abbe

The space between us is love.
Full of care for each other and those not here,
and possibility
with the same life it has when we embrace,

The space between us is love,
because what isn’t?

The space between us is love.
It opens up and we do not know
what next will appear?

The space between us is love.
Let our planet’s gravity protect us from
literal curses we may spew at each other
unwitting
and with immediate or later regret.

The space between us is love.
In that moment between what I thought
and those words I said.
And oh how I wish I could take them back.
Oh how I will hold that space,
next time.

The space between us is love
The space between us is love
The space between us is love

The space

________________________________

Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440

Evoking and engaging the wisdom and resourcefulness of the whole on behalf of the whole

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