Some Coronavirus Poems to the Editor
New York Times
The Before Times
Before we were living in a pandemic, we went to lunch with
our friends in restaurants & slurped soup with crackers
we crushed with our bare fingers, our ordinary fingers
that did not ignite terror, that were not vectors of disease.
Before the days of self-isolation, shopping was just another chore,
sometimes a pleasure, a stroll through Costco sampling
from little paper cups protein bars & chocolate candies &
popcorn & potato chips, strolling & sampling & buying
big bags of broccoli & spinach & Asian cashew salad
& giant containers of gourmet cheese & yes, toilet paper.
The Before Times have receded deep into memory as if
all of that happened ten, no, twenty years ago
when we lived in another land of freedom & movement
& laughter & hugging & sitting in each other's
living rooms, living, alive, chatting for hours without
measuring the social distance, without wearing N95
surgical masks or nitrile gloves, without anxious fear.
Now we are living in another land, frightened & confused,
our minds always tasked with remembering to wash our hands,
not touch our faces, not touch packages or mail without
gloves & Clorox wipes & yes, remembering to worry,
as if anxious worry could create a high wall surrounded by a moat
of reeking & fuming disinfectant to keep us safe in this new land
of contamination & fever & suffocation & death.
We must not forget the Before Times, when we could touch
doorknobs, doorbells, the mail, U.P.S. packages, restaurant tabletops,
colleagues’ keyboards, other people’s hands, our own faces.
We must not forget dinner parties, book groups, political rallies,
concerts, movies, worship services, protests, weddings, funerals.
In the Before Times we shared our joys & sorrows together.
Will we ever live together again?
Salt Lake City
The weeks go by, the fourth, the fifth,
And normalcy’s become a myth.
I want to hug, I want to hold,
I want this deadly scourge controlled.
I want to walk amidst a crowd.
I want to lift this morbid shroud.
I sit, sequestered in my home,
And yearn to mingle, travel, roam.
My energy is out of whack —
I want my normal problems back.
The following poem – “What If Instead Of Behind These Kids Are Ahead” - was published on a blog by American mother of two Jaime Ragsdale, who has said that she posted it on social media after seeing countless “discouraging” messages concerned that the coronavirus is creating a big learning gap due to missed schooling.
The poem, which has divided opinion, suggests that our children might actually benefit from this time of profound stress and loss; that it might teach them to enjoy simple pleasures, develop greater empathy, and value the “previously invisible essential workers”– like supermarket shelf stackers, truck drivers, teachers and health care workers – who are taking care of us now, and in doing so, putting their own lives at risk.
The poem has, however, divided opinion. In contrast to the above it has been argued by some that the poem’s lessons are the sole preserve of the privileged, who are untouched by financial or mental struggles, leaky roofs, or the stress of guiding children with learning problems, that not all parents can manage to deliver all this beauty in home isolation. It is suggested that parents in those situations don’t benefit from someone else telling them all the other things they haven’t managed to get their kids to do yet.
So what do you think . . .
What If Instead Of Being Behind These Kids Are Ahead?
What if, instead of falling behind, our kids are advanced?
What if they have more empathy, they enjoy family connection, they can be more creative and entertain themselves, they love to read and express themselves in writing?
What if they enjoy the simple things, like their own backyards and balconies, sitting near a window in the quiet?
What if they notice the birds and the dates and different flowers emerge and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower?
What if our kids are the ones to learn to cook, organise their space, do their laundry and help keep a well run home?
What if they learn to stretch a dollar and live with less?
What if they learn to plan shopping trips and make meals at home?
What if they learn the difference between want and need?
What if they learn the value of eating together as a family and finding the good in sharing the small delights of every day?
What if they are the ones who place great value on our teachers and educational professionals, librarians, public servants and the previously invisible essential workers like truck drivers, grocers, cashiers, healthcare workers... just to name a few who are taking care of us right now while we are sheltered in place?
What if among these children a great leader emerges who had the benefit of a slower pace and simpler life to truly learn what really matters in life?
What if they are ahead?
By Jaime Ragsdale