13 ways of looking at a pandemic


(after Stevens, closely)

Among twenty locked-down blocks,
the only moving thing
was the patrol car.

I wore the same PPE—mask, gloves and gown—
in a ward
in which there were three-dozen cases.

The infection whirled in the autumn months.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
are one.
A man and a woman in quarantine:
together for 14 days.

I do not know which to prefer,
the beauty of lines on a supermarket floor
or the beauty of your smile from 1.5 metres,
infections declining
or just after.

Charts filled the screens
all their earnest urgings,
the line of infections
crossing to and fro.
The mood
traced in the shadow
an indecipherable mess.

O thin men of Office,
why do you talk of golden days returning?
Do you not see infection
on the streets, beside
the people about you?

I follow your accounts
of potent accessible serums;
but I know, too,
that infection is now involved
in everything I know.

When infections rose out of sight,
it marked the edge
of one of many circles.

At the sight of infections
rising in a green line,
even the boosters of the economy
should cry out sharply.

He rode over continents
in his glass jet.
Once, a fear pierced him,
in that he mistook
a summer sniffle, a sneeze
for infection.

The highway is moving.
The virus must be driving.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
and it was going to snow.
Still the choir sang
from their balconies and from the stairs.

Image: c/- Hamish Irvine on Flickr. My lock-down poem closely following Wallace Stevens’ wonderful poem.

And for your listening pleasure, here’s journalist and translator Roger Pulvers reading 10  Tanka from Dishevelled Hair by Japanese poet Yosano Akiko.

4 thoughts on “13 ways of looking at a pandemic

  1. It was evening all afternoon!!! That’s a “wish I’d thought of it” line! Love this take on Wallace and very tempted to give it a shot myself. Thanks for the inspiration!


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