“I suppose it goes without saying that this will be the cruelest month.” -my friend Robbie Gamble, an excellent poet, and a nurse practitioner for the homeless in Boston.
I barely remembered my blog existed until last week when my email told me to moderate two comments from a reader who didn’t like a few blogs I wrote . . . a year ago? I suppose I’m grateful to this reader for stumbling across my work. Sorry you didn’t like it, gentle reader. The internet contains a wealth of other reading material out there.
This is our third week of extreme social distancing/quarantine life. I have friends in China who are on their 61st day; perspective is helpful. I’ve been to the grocery thrice, Carmax Indy once with a friend, carryout twice, and work three times to get some materials/have a socially distanced meeting with one co-worker. Other than that, we run and walk the dogs every day and stay home. I am trying to find a rhythm to life during this strange time. I’m a natural introvert, and have a lot of enneagram 5 leanings. However, my greatest fear–not being successful (which always feels extremely shallow when I say it out loud) puts me squarely in enneagram 3. The first week was hard; I had a panic attack on St Patrick’s Day and signed up for a five-week creative nonfiction class and deep cleaned the bathroom. I recall as we were heading out the door for a dog walk, I dropped my keys, said something sweary, and started to cry. Usually that only happens when I run out of Citalopram, but quarantine breaks us all in different ways.
Since then, I’ve started to mellow out. De-scheduling has been very, very good for me. Making writing time is still hard.
Food: Have baked bread three times during the quarantine. Last week I went through a smoothie bowl phase. I am currently cooking a lot out of America’s Test Kitchen vegetarian cookbooks, and the Happy Pear cookbooks.
Zoom: I don’t hate anymore. My students seem to like it? And talking to me?
Yoga: Daily, at http://www.speakeasydayton.com/livestream
Pants: trying out corduroys today! Will eventually resort back to leggings.
Cancelled: Ireland travel class, church, probably summer writing seminars, shopping, traveling, restaurants. Is Lent cancelled, or is it just here for eternity?
Postponed: my marathon (was supposed to be April 4, now allegedly June 14)
Not cancelled: some meetings, online grading, writing/editing deadlines, rewriting classes to go all online.
New favorites: Bad Dad Brewing’s pizza carryout. So good. Give them your money if you’re in Grant County.
Enjoying: watching the birds at the bird feeder, yelling at the squirrels, watching for new blooms in the yard.
Thinking of trying: playing the piano again.
Currently reading: $2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America; Voices of the Rainbow: Contemporary Poetry by Native Americans edited by Kenneth Rosen; Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (for my magazine writing class).
Just finished reading and am currently reviewing: Measuring Time and Other Stories by Nathaniel Hansen; Where Goodness Still Grows by Amy Peterson. Full disclosure: both are friends of mine. Both are great writers and I highly recommend both books.
Currently writing: book reviews of the above. I also want to try this microfiction prompt suggested by my friend Shelbi: To Do: Pandemic.
My own book: yikes, TBD, thoughts and prayers.
Finally. Part of what I want to do on my blog over the rest of April is curate some poems that I’m reading daily. Most of them will come from poets.org, poetryfoundation.org, and versedaily.org, with a few from what I’m reading/friend recommendations. Here are today’s picks:
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
Next, from versedaily.org, this lovely, sad poem by Kaveh Bassiri:
Everyone loves me. At the gate, they rush to greet me, want to know what I bring, make sure I
packed correctly, examine to see how I’m doing.
My name is as unique as the other, as useful as the Shah of Shahs, Light of Aryans.
The flag of my country isn’t a white towel. It’s brown and hairy with a big nose.
My family loves divorces. My father divorced twice. I’ve divorced my country more than once.
The light in the caves of my eyes is so precious, they’ve designed software to detect it.
My questions are like electrons, they know where we are, but they don’t know where to take me.
My enemies care a great deal, know me well. My friends ask them about me.
Somewhere in the east, my sentence is being finished for me.
My absence is momentous. When I left Tehran, a revolution swelled in my place. When I left
Berlin, the wall came down. And when I leave tomorrow, the airports will close.
Each morning, in order not to sink, I have to bail the news out of me.
I do ablution with Old Spice.
My failures are enormous, they keep themselves busy talking up their accomplishments.
My only acolytes are surveillance cameras.
Someone’s always graduating from the campus of my dreams, leaving and not coming back.
My memories are forgetful, they don’t remember me.
I don’t know who I am. I only see you watching.
If you open me, you’ll find cypress leaves, the smell of traffic, the misquoted words of Hafez
digesting with Cheerios, dates, and naan.
An inventive poem by Caki Wilkinson that originally appeared in Kenyon Review, March/April
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
1. autonomy 2. elective howl 3. showed teeth
4. used the veto 5. with hello 6. a wet economy
7. clothed 8. two-tone 9. elusive 10. the way home
11. at home 12. coveted 13. until we see how 14. hotly
15. steely hot 16. on leave 17. with too much weed
18. two (loosely) 19. dew theme 20. in vacuo 21. the the
22. tentatively we 23. somehow 24. the loud echo
25. the détente 26. touchily 27. a wholesome vow
28. the old way 29. cue the wolves 30. the emotion
31. semidevoutly 32. how we once 33. at the hotel
34. wholesale 35. too mute 36. in the towed Chevy
37. when woe lets me 38. to the void 39. oh acutely
40. sweetly 41. moved out 42. alone 43. with the echo
Finally, a triumphant piece from the queen, Maya Angelou. I’m reciting this as I pray for a father of two of my students currently in critical care with COVID-19: