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. . . on Fridays we . . .
This week, I got a new book for my poetry collection -- Together In a Sudden Strangeness: America's Poets Respond to the Pandemic (edited by Alice Quinn and published by Penguin Random House). The editor of the collection, Alice Quinn, reached out to poets across the country to see what they were writing during the days of quarantine, and this collection is the result. The poems, as you might expect, cover the gamut of emotions during those early days when we were all staying home . . . trying to make sense of a pandemic in our midst. Some of the poems are dark, some are melancholy; there's some humor in there, and sadness.
What strikes me most about these poems, though, is how "far" (I'm not sure that's exactly the word I want to use here, but it will suffice) we've all come in 6 months. Reading these poems -- written, collected, edited, published in a mere 6 months -- was like stepping back in time . . . back to March and April.
Remember that time? Remember how it felt then? We were shocked and anxious and more than a little afraid. We were at home. Inside. Washing our hands and not touching our faces and wiping everything down and hoarding toilet paper and thinking it all might end by . . . summer, surely. We were trying hard to make sense of things back then. To sort out what we could do and not do. Trying not to panic, but kind of panicking.
And the poems in this collection? That's where they are. They come from those early days of the pandemic and the time of staying-at-home.
And reading them now . . . feels kind of dated.
In a mere 6 months.
And that actually gives me . . . hope. I mean, sure. I'm a lot more jaded about everything now. Worn down and weary and sick of this shit. Like everyone else.
But look how much we've learned.
Look how much we've adapted.
Look at us.
We're not happy. But we are resilient.
I can see that. I can feel that.
Despite everything . . . all the crap and all the politics and all the stress and all the just, well, more regular kinds of horrific disasters happening against the backdrop of the pandemic . . . we're still here. Making our way and pulling each other out of the dark spaces and putting the pieces of our lives together as best we can.
And because Friday's are still for poetry, here's one from Together In a Sudden Strangeness for you. Now, this poem apparently went "viral" in those early days, so you may already be familiar with it, but somehow, I missed it completely back then. The first time I read it was this week, in this collection. I only found its history when I Googled the author.
And the People Stayed Home
And the people stayed home.
And they listened, and read books, and rested, and exercised, and made art,
and played games, and learned new way of being, and were still.
And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.
Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, and heartless
ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they
grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and
created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.
Remember, friends. This story isn't over yet, and we don't know how it ends.
We're in the "messy middle" right now.
Let's keep moving.
My best wishes to all of you . . . for a weekend filled with peace and solace, time to rest -- and things that bring you joy. (And maybe some poetry, too.)
Don't forget to look for hope.
Today's poem was published in Together In a Sudden Strangeness: America's Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn, 2020, Borzoi Books/Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House. The poem was first published on the author's blog, The Daily Round and in O, The Oprah Magazine.