Ominous Weather Everywhere

A strange upshot of the pandemic is that it
has interfered with my novel-reading. It holds
so much of my attention, via constant updates, that nothing
else seems to have priority. My constant wish for more
time is ridiculous. What can be more fruitless than
asking more of what life can give? Better wish for an
effective and inexpensive vaccine. What expanse
of fictionless evenings can be damaging? Months of
only reading reviews, not actual novels is a desolate
prospect. Are novels teaching me another life lesson via their absence?

(This is a Golden Shovel. The final words in each line read as the last sentence of Strange Weather in Tokyo, a novel by Hiromi Kawakami.)

(a tanka)

the law proclaims
that corporations
are people—
maybe they’ll die or
evolve higher consciousness

(a tanka)

via video chat
born during a plague year
she hides her face
by snuggling into her mother


What strange lethargy
overcomes me in Zoom

The strain of looking
attentive and presentable
in the long stretches
of listening, not talking.

How odd that water bottles
are not much in evidence.
Everyone must be uptight
in those Zoom-scapes.
At least we don’t need
to wear a mask!

Inspired, perhaps, by my
virtual bucolic background, my
mind drifts after an imagined
firefly to a rustic cottage
above treeline, where once
I relished my hot porridge,
sitting on a tree stump,
eating outside with my aunt.

Baa, baa, baa

Point if you will,
but my ram is fine and dandy,
destined to go to Heaven.
Our family was threatened
by a home wrecker . . . but
the schemer was vanquished.
Like a cool drink of water,
the upright ram reappeared,
bringing coals to Newcastle,
that upstanding sheep.

(An emoji translation that turned into another homage to Niedecker, who wrote collections of new Mother Goose poems.)

Season of No Traction

Yes, Yeats summed it up
and we didn’t listen.
We seem never to listen.

You know: no convictions, the good
up against the passionate intensity
of the ignorant, etc.

How each hourly travesty is
quickly eclipsed by the next
so memory doesn’t function

as we need it to. Where to begin
to reckon the awful toll greed
and heartlessness

have already accrued? Nothing
sticks. The thefts from the masses
to give to the few, the infants

in cages, the medical equipment
hoarded in a time of plague?
Time to screw our courage and

our memories to a sticking-place.
The murders. The mud slung so far
just runs down our walls.

Pay attention to one day.
Call out the outrageous
with true outrage. No

traction, no action, no
satisfaction. About face.

A Close Call?

I left New York City on March 5 to fly home to Washington State. I’d spent 3 weeks with my new granddaughter and her parents.The COVID-19 pandemic was a known entity, but the US was still counting on its exceptionalism and other stupid beliefs to discount the threat’s reality. I’d stayed in my usual midtown hotel. Although it was far from fancy, it still was popular and had a crossroads-of-the-world feeling. I’d hoped to treat myself to a ticket to Carnegie Hall on my last night, to see an all-star trio play Beethoven. My husband asked me not to go. Cautious by nature, he is a retired physician living with cancer and was highly-attuned to the news and possibilities of the virus. Since I was pretty exhausted, I capitulated without any disagreement.

What if I’d gone? Who knows? When I arrived at the deserted JFK Airport, I realized the denial phase was ending for New York. I read a piece in the New Yorker recently which mentioned an Icelander who’d been in NYC at the same time as I had. Just before he left, he attended a party with finger foods. He got sick soon after he got back home.

The trio (Yo-yo Ma! Emanuel Ax! Kavakos!) played, no doubt beautifully, packed up their instruments, and hunkered down at home. The virus continues its travels and depredations. People demonstrate their range of horrific and soul-stirring behaviors. Beloved things, like her mother’s face, disappear and reappear in our granddaughter’s world, to her enormous delight. Peek-a-boo!

Babies Meet Trees

baby grand-
daughters staring
   at the sky
   boughs so high
above their round heads.
the first in Oz
snug in Dad’s arms
   her rapt stare
   her newborn hair
ruffling in the breeze.
the second
in CORVID Gotham
   a stolen hour
   a leafy bower
leaves whisper in her dreams.

(Lorine Niedecker invented this 5-line form, inspired by haiku.)

Dear B–

your galaxies
of friends
   still mourn
   your corn-
y brilliant humor.

(note: This is based on a form by Lorine Niedecker.)

A Pandemic Bop

Other people
are finding
too much time
on their idle hands.
I can’t relate, I seem to be
running on a hamster wheel.

(Where are the hamsters, anyway?)
My husband does the cooking now.
I stay up late. I haven’t read a book
for months. Instead, emails, the torrents
of bad news, one unthinkable reality
after another. I end each day wanting
hours more. Is my old life elsewhere,
running on a hamster wheel?

1000-piece jigsaw puzzles fill
my friends’ excess hours. Long
distance grandkids call. What about
grandparents? The virologists field
the questions. How much longer
running on a hamster wheel?

1 2 3 6