Tag Archives: pandemic

Recrudescence

I think I have some kind of chronic disease
or condition or ailment or pestilence because I am
productive only one day out of three.

I don’t mean relatively speaking. I mean
one good day & then I pretty much collapse.
I think I have some kind of chronic disease:

congestion, aches, low-grade fever, fatigue.
Nothing awful, but bad enough I can
be productive only one day out of three.

There’s a name for it: post-exertional malaise.
One cat in particular loves that I’m taking more naps.
I think I have some kind of chronic disease

which might be the virus getting all the publicity,
or maybe I’m depressed. Anxious. A hypochondriac?
Whatever—I’m productive only one day out of three.

Maybe I’m a secret Puritan if I think
less work equals illness, that perhaps
I have some kind of chronic disease
if I’m productive only one day out of three.

____

(I’m exaggerating a little for the rhyme. But I do have some kind of recurring crud.)

_____

This is Tuuli, who loves to crawl under the covers when I nap but would not, for this picture. Weird little cat.

A Fundamentally Backward Metaphor Since Young People Are Less at Risk from COVID-19 but Anyway, a Parasite is a Parasite: Thoughts on Being an Essential (Teacher) Worker During a Pandemic

Please sacrifice your young, the cowbirds say,
depositing their eggs in someone else’s nest.
You know, it didn’t have to be this way—

all the precious hobbitses are safe.
Other countries made a safety net.
But. Sacrifice your young, our cowbirds say,

and we bob our stupid avian heads and let them take
the food we worked for. Our own babies are just waste.
But no, it didn’t have to be this way—

“Many parasitized species routinely recognize and reject cowbird eggs…
destroying the egg, rebuilding the nest to cover the egg, or abandoning the nest.”
Please sacrifice your young, the cowbirds say.

Restart the economy. Open your campus. #vacay.
Do we always, always, always have to say yes?
Maybe it doesn’t have to be this way—

maybe we don’t have to curtsy every single day.
Billionaires don’t always know what’s best.
What if we don’t do what the cowbirds say?
What if it doesn’t have to be this way?

_____

Quotes on cowbirds from: https://web.stanford.edu/group/stanfordbirds/text/essays/Cowbirds.html

No cowbirds here. None in our yard. We’d holler at ’em. Scare ’em away. Throw rocks.

______

Of course I’m lucky to have a job. Lucky I’ve been working from home since late March.  Lucky in that there’s a chance I’ll get to teach my courses the way I want to this fall–all online, but lots of group work for students to interact with, and lots of one-on-one conferences with me (possibly in person, depending).

 

But universities are opening for all kinds of reasons other than “this is healthy and safe and best for the public good.”

______

Answering America (pandemic poem #9)

We are an unserious country. We are a joke.
We say “thank you for your service” to police lined up before
we scream in their faces. This has to be funny. This can’t be real
because if it’s real, Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
is, like, the mildest imprecation possible. And maybe we already did.
Some weapons-grade sperm implanted strong, healthy, blond eggs,
implanted in the rivers lining the Midwest, somewhere between
the Mississippi and the Missouri, we were so pregnant we waddled
and gave birth so many times to nuclear idiots, venal and mean, and so white.
So many of them. So loud. So sure. So heavily armed. So angry. So white.

I don’t feel good don’t bother me. It’s not corona virus. I don’t think.
But how would I know? There are tests everywhere. Everyone who wants one gets one.
But not me. So I don’t know. It might be some other dread disease.
I have symptoms. But I veer so whiplashingly from hyper aware to oblivious
about my body, I don’t even know when I’m hungry. Everything hurts. Then nothing does.

I don’t need more books but I’m buying them. And buying them.
Support a local business, I tell myself. I don’t drink beer anymore. I don’t miss bars.
I miss someone else making my coffee. I miss someone else making me cookies.
I miss browsing the shelves. America why are your libraries full of tears?
The books miss being handled. They miss the browsing. Even curbside service
leaves them lonely. When you order the very book you want and someone pulls it
for you, there’s another book just three books down, a bright red spine
you’ll never see, a font that catches your eye, an author photograph you develop
an instant, serious, intense crush on, but not now, not when we’re quarantined,
not when we’re not sure where we can go or how to go when we go where we have to go.

When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
You and me both, buddy. When? Here’s the thing—when can I go shopping
and not think about washing every single thing I’ve bought? You and your
mid-century modern concerns. No wasted space on those worries. No flourishes.
You had no idea how lucky you had it. You stewed over the atom bomb
but one never went boom by you. That’s not why your hair fell out.

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
We need a haircut. We need a massage. We need to go bowling. For the love of God,
we need to park in a row of SUVs and wear our Sunday best business casual khaki
soul suits and raise holy hands together, repeating structurally plain refrains,
daydreaming under architecture designed by industrial archangels bent on compliance
and ease. There is nothing sublime where all of us on stage wear a mic
designed to blend with our faces, making our projected voices seem miraculous.

America its them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.

The more things change, the more they
change. The more things stay the same.
The more, the more, the more.
Nothing is ever good or bad but America makes it so.
The tiny little campus where I’ve taught for half my life has always had
a lot of international students and I’ve loved them, 93% of them, for sure,
but now we have a sphincter in Arkansas mouthing they can come here to study
Shakespeare or the Federalist papers but not quantum computing. I don’t know but
I’m guessing the mouth-sphincter from Arkansas did not study Shakespeare. Or math.
One time I had a Russian student tell me he missed the Soviet Union.
He missed being in charge of half the world. I guess I should’ve warned someone.

Curvy hips on a girl and six-pack abs on a boy will take us wherever
we want to go if we also have good teeth, good hair, a willingness
to be provocative, to be deeply, deeply offended, to be filmed taking a shit.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
Until the world collapsed, we had no unedited experience, no authentic
way of being in the world, everything styled, just so product placement, curated.
However now our roots are showing. Our nails have fallen off. Perfect lips droop.
The blush is off the rosé colored glasses. The blush was broken capillaries all along.

It’s going to get worse in the city on the hill before it gets better.
We flattened the curve to prove we could and now we’re whipping it
like a cowboy on a tacky tv show because we can. I don’t mean Hee Haw.
That’s where I first learned about re-runs. String Bean died, I knew he did,
but there he was on Channel 12 KFVS Cape Girardeau, as I lived and breathed,
as he did not. Someone explained it to me. Probably my brother who
always loved giving me bad news. Now we say of people who are dead
“at least they don’t have to go through this.” Of people so far gone in Alzheimer’s,
“at least he doesn’t know we’re not there.” This moment nothing seems possible except more
disaster. More terror. More sadness. More cycles of hot takes and outrage and bounce-backs
and war and corruption and always, always, another novel virus waiting in somebird’s wings.
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.

_____

(Italicized lines, if it’s not obvious to everyone, are from Allen Ginsberg’s amazing poem, “America.”)

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And if you’re super-lucky, the bookstore in your town just drops the books you bought right on your front porch.

Dream Song #7, Pandemic Poem #8

O it was a zappy, snappy kind of play,
a gum-chewing-broad kind of play,
little bit of a farce, little shedding of tears,
one of those whodunnit/I-did-it! plays.
And right at the end they did a little two-step,
a shuffle-tap, heel-step, second buffalo,
curtain call. And they were gone.
But as we all stood up to leave,
a guy we’d never seen before
came onstage. What had been pink
and aqua, very 1950s Miami style,
was all gray now. Lighting design
or point of view? Or both?
Everyone saw, everyone knew, all at once,
as he felt his way across the stage,
saying “canopy bed” instead of what it was,
a ratty mattress on the floor, saying
“four course dinner” and not “paper bag,”
that he’d made the whole thing up
in his head, all of it, the repartee, the chemistry,
the happy dance, the stolen kiss,
the mystery, the denouement,
and we stood and looked at each other,
not sure if the play was ended or how
indeed it could end, because
who made this part up? Did he? Did we?
Should we leave? Are we real?

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I’m not the only one having weird dreams lately: even the National Geographic says so.

Bad Habits (Pandemic Poem #5)

“Do you realize the illicit sensuous delight I get from picking my nose? … Or sometimes there will be blood mingled with the mucous: in dry brown scabs, or bright sudden wet red on the finger that scraped too rudely the nasal membranes. God, what sexual satisfaction!”  Sylvia Plath

 

Eternity’s stopping and starting all the time—
my fingers shake. I count to three.  Apparently
I can’t stop touching my face to save my life.

I cover my mouth, two-handed. I don’t know why.
Afraid of my breath? Of what I’ll say? Beats me.
Eternity’s stopping and starting all the time—

if our fair-haired Sylvia hadn’t died from suicide,
her sexy rhinotillexomania would currently be
why she can’t sit on her hands to save her life—

I picture nails with a Betty Draper shine,
a shade of pink called Cool Eternity.
Depression stops and starts all the time

for some of us, a tide that likes to rise
and fall, constant. Irregular. Seriously,
I can’t stop touching my face to save my life.

Knowing myself the way I do, it won’t be a surprise
if I die from fidgeting. I hope it’s not immediately.
I can’t stop touching my face to save my life.
Eternity’s stopping and starting all the time—

______

Pandemic Poem #2: Singing Happy Birthday Alone

Life might get back to normal, but I don’t know when.
I’m trying to work. I’d rather nap. I just wash
my hands and sing happy birthday again and again

and watch my hands dry out. Here’s another concern:
if I don’t strive hard right now, really push,
my life will never, ever be normal again.

Pandemic, panic, politics. Alliteration is not our friend.
While I wait for everything online to crash,
I decide to wash my hands and sing happy birthday again.

I want to be a superspreader. I want people to die. I want
to die. I’m not as shocked as I should be by my awful thoughts.
“Things will get back to normal.” Can you tell me when?

I’m grateful for root vegetables and food in cans.
My hero potatoes: fry, roast, boil, mash.
Will we ever sing happy birthday at a party again?

How soon we have to cook over open fire depends
on how well the grid holds up. Such a specific wish.
Life might get back to normal, but I don’t know when.
I’m singing happy birthday all alone again.