Poetry and the Pandemic

Thank you to Critical Read for publishing this short essay of mine.


For as long as I can remember, I’ve turned to poetry when I’ve needed help with getting through hard times. For example, I’ve turned to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” for inspiration when I’ve had a difficult decision to make, or to Emily Dickinson’s “‘Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers” when I’ve felt hopeless and have sorely needed a boost. During the pandemic, I’ve once again read Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” to seek comfort when so many are suffering in the world and so many have died.

When I encountered Whitman’s poem in high school, and I’m 73 so we’re talking more than half a century ago, I’d felt so alone and separate from others. Yet that turned around for me when reading Whitman’s exuberant claim that we all shared the same atoms, and in his celebration of the idea that we were all connected. I took his words to mean that in some way we were all the same person, we were all linked, all part of one another. I no longer felt so alone, and this was when I first learned the power of poetry.

Now, being stuck inside, daily thinking about those who are suffering and those who have died from the virus, and those grieving those deaths, Song of Myself has again brought me solace. Once again, I’ve found myself lingering over Whitman’s opening lines where he zealously states that we are all part of one another, that we share the same atoms, that we are all basically versions of each other, his spiritual message meaning that the entire world is part of one big family and we are all in this together.

What I’ve Observed This Week…

This past week has been very busy for me, and here’s what I’ve been doing to stay above the tiredness:

I’ve been going to bed as early as possible, around nine. I don’t go to sleep. I just lay there in the dark and it’s soothing and comforting and no one can ask anything from me. It’s nurturing.

I’m not a big meditation person, but I’ve discovered deep breathing and how much energy it gives me. How it takes away anxiety. Who knew?

Going to bed now!!

What I observed yesterday…

My brain is tired. I’ve been subbing for different schools all week. Each school more or less has its own procedures, and adapting to the differences can be mentally tiring. So I’ve been spending a lot of time in bed, doing nothing but sleeping and languishing in the dark.
I haven’t accomplished a whole lot of my own stuff this week, which is OK. What I’m learning is to just take it easy and give my brain a break.

Another thing that’s really good for tired brain syndrome is walking Tiger. I don’t have to think of anything, It’s just my legs moving up the hills with him by my side, sweat collecting, muscles burning. That takes me out of my head.

Last Entry for the Journal

for Women Writing History: A Coronavirus Journaling Project

January 25

This will be my last journal entry for the project. It feels like the right time to close for me, even though the virus is still raging in the US. I do feel that with the vaccine now being distributed, although it is a slow process, that by the summer or fall things will start to get settled and life will slowly return as we know it. Of course with the new variants I could be way off-base, but this is how I feel at present.

Writing this journal has been so good for me. It has offered me a lot of structure at a time when structures have been broken down. Big thanks, big big thanks to the journal!!

What I Observed Today…

So many people seem happy on social media, saying the abusive four years are over.

I feel it in myself, this very deep breath I am now able to take.

People are loving Bernie and his mittens. It’s a wholesome image, and we in the US need wholesome. We crave health. And coziness.

I had soup for dinner and feel nurtured.

Watching Family Feud lifts my mood.

Tomorrow I get to talk to my good friend on Zoom who lives outside of San Francisco.


Career Choice

Happy to find out this morning that my flash fiction story titled Career Choice was published by 200-word story.


In eighth grade, I wore tons of make-up to Catholic school. I was a rebel. Trying to hide my outbreaks, I covered them with a layer of Clearasil beneath my beige foundation and powder. But it wasn’t just about my bad complexion. Oh no. I wanted to look like a movie star, like Elizabeth Taylor or Sophia Loren. I penciled in my eyebrows with black eyebrow pencil, jet-black eyeliner thickly lining my eyes, and I topped it all off with jade green eye-shadow that came in a long tube something like a lipstick. My mouth I left blank. This made my eyes stand out more.

The fact that we weren’t allowed to wear make-up to school created all this excitement in me, and one day when Sister Theonilla was walking down the aisle in her long black robe, her wire-rim glasses perched on her nose and her skin the color of oatmeal, she stopped at my desk, moved in closer and slowly ran her index finger across my eyelid. The tip of her finger came back green.

“I’m not wearing make-up,” I said defiantly. Oh, the thrill of it. This was the beginning of my long career as a liar.