Writing in the time of COVID-19: Day Twenty

I’m reading one poem a day. That’s how I read poetry. Otherwise, if I read poems back to back in one sitting, they all run together, and I don’t remember a single one. I wish I could eat my guilty pleasures that way. But with doughnuts, I have no discipline. Potato chips? Same.

Screen Shot 2020-04-09 at 5.37.23 PMSo, I’m still reading Jane Hirshfield’s new collection, LEDGER. Her poems feel so prescient. I interpret so much of current events in them, especially the two Ps. Politics and pandemic. The former may certainly have influenced the writing of her poetry. I know her to be deeply concerned and active in our politics. But the pandemic? The poems in this collection were written well before it broke. Take, “A Folding Screen.” The first stanzas read:

The news keeps coming

with its one crooked


death   death   death   death   death

And one no longer turns at the call of her name,
and another forgets to lift his surprised eyebrow.

How can you not read the pandemic into those lines?

I’m not much of a student of poetry. Maybe “relevancy” is an innate characteristic of the form. Maybe poetry is so welcoming that it embraces all meaning. Is this what can make poetry timeless?

It was another lovely morning, here on Kauai, picture-perfect sky lighting up the mountain and a light pleasant breeze. Lulu is doing her sun-baking thing, in and out. These are the kinds of days I don’t usually write about. They can seem boastful for someone living in Hawaii.

But the new Facebook group to which I belong, “What Do You See Outside Your Window? #stayathome” reminds me there are many many other beautiful places in this world. Romania, Transylvania, Israel, Thailand, Australia, Greece, New Zealand, Scotland, England. And, of course, the many beautiful places in the United States. (Oh, Alaska!) I know the group is meant to illustrate how we’re all in this shelter-at-home ordeal together, but it’s making me want to spread my wings, to travel. And, then, I remember we cannot do that, and I wonder even when we’re allowed to roam this beautiful planet far and wide again, will we feel safe to do so?

I sure hope so.

We’ll likely travel in new and changed ways. Perhaps we’ll don a mask the way we slip into a warm jacket. Maybe it’ll just become the norm the way taking off our shoes at TSA has post-9/11.

But we’ll still travel. Right?

In Financial Times, novelist Arundhati Roy writes “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

“We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

Yes, we’ll still travel. I’ll still travel. Carry-on only.

Now, it’s time for my oatmeal. Yesterday, I added cacao powder and a splash of coconut milk to my morning meal, and it was mind-blowingly good. Today, I spied some leftover butterscotch chips in the refrigerator, and I think I’ll see how they taste in oatmeal.

That’s all I’ve got for today; I didn’t leave the house, not even for a walk with Lulu, so there were no amazing wildlife encounters or reports to share.

Hawaii’s COVID-19 case count only grew by seven to 442. I hope it’s a trend, because another headline in the local news read, “Hawaii public schools to remain closed until state goes four weeks without new COVID-19 cases. On, Kauai, we remain steady at 19 cases.

Be well. Be sane.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Roberta says:

    I like the idea of one poem a day. Thank you, Kim. I’ve been meditating at least once a day for some time now, this will be a good addition. I try to add something new or a different way of doing things every day!
    Turned cloudy or cool this afternoon, but yesterday was glorious all day and I was able to get in the pool.


    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      Hi Roberta, the day did turn cloudy and cool by end of the day. Same thing last night. But I did manage to get out and mow the lawn. Phew! It had gotten long with all the rain from the week before. Glad you’re getting in your pool! Be well.


  2. Anne C. says:

    WE WILL STILL TRAVEL. I’ve been enjoying doing that on FB with my “Where am I?” game, which is taking me back to so many happy memories. I know I want to keep creating more of those–specifically THOSE: travel memories. Yes. We will still travel.


    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      We WILL travel. But I suspect we might travel DIFFERENTLY. But how? Masks?


  3. diane tilley says:

    travel; has always been an important part of my life – hell, we even made travel clothes – I have wonderful memories of journeys by boats both big and small, buses, cars,, trains, planes, oxen, and elephants so I let my mind go there. and I smile.


    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      You’ve had some amazing traveling experiences!


      1. Tommye says:

        I love that FB page too! “The view outside my window.” I spend an obscene amount of time looking at it!


      2. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

        Have you posted to it yet? Do!


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