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poems for a pandemic

poems for a pandemic

a handful of poems – some old favourites and some new – that have taken on new meaning these days…


by Amy Schmidt

It’s impossible to be lonely

when you’re zesting an orange.

Scrape the soft rind once

and the whole room

fills with fruit.

Look around: you have

more than enough.

Always have.

You just didn’t notice

until now.


Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale

by Dan Albergotti (2008) *

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.

Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires

with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.

Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.

Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way

for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review

each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments

of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.

Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound

of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.

Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,

where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all

the things you did and could have done. Remember

treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes

pointing again and again down, down into the black depths.


Imaginary Conversation

by Linda Pastan (2015) *

You tell me to live each day

as if it were my last. This is in the kitchen

where before coffee I complain

of the day ahead—that obstacle race

of minutes and hours,

grocery stores and doctors.

But why the last? I ask. Why not

live each day as if it were the first—

all raw astonishment, Eve rubbing

her eyes awake that first morning,

the sun coming up

like an ingénue in the east?

You grind the coffee

with the small roar of a mind

trying to clear itself. I set

the table, glance out the window

where dew has baptized every

living surface.


from Contemporary Finnish Poetry “Letter”

Pentti Holappa, tr. by Herbert Lomas

I yearn and my days cave in.


Banana bread

by nesima

i baked banana bread

for the second time in a week

this time i got the colour right

didn’t use as many chocolate chips

and the crust came out so soft and chewy

the smell of vanilla and cardamom

now fills my home

hugs the tired and lonely out of me

i don’t care about the calories

i am baking myself to a future i hope to see

there is no point in feeling guilty


* favourites i have saved over the past couple of years, received via Matthew Ogle’s Pome newsletter