Love in the time of coronavirus

Love in the time of coronavirus

Do not travel. Do not go to community events.
Buy a lot of food at once, and go to the store less frequently.
Sleep as much as you can, sleep when darkness comes.
Nourish yourself with water and three good meals
and don’t ask more of your body than it is willing to give.
Take your herbs, wash your hands, drink water,
wash your hands, call your grandmother to see how she is doing.
Discuss the state of the world with your neighbors
at the post office, and with strangers
at the cafe. Speak honestly with them about your fears
because this will diminish them and bind you to each other.
Stay at home during the day,
and clean it in between work projects.
Buy stamps for letters you may write later.
Check on your supplies of soaps: for your hands,
for your body, for your laundry, for your floors.
As your town government tough questions, like:
Are you prepared for this?
As yourself tough questions, like
Am I prepared for this? Are my friends, my family?
Call your parents. Call your friends with babies.
When the house feels small, make something new
for it, or fix something old.

If possible, eat the greens that grow outside your door,
drink the remedies that grow outside your door.
Read poems. Read novels. Watch old films, or new ones.
Watch that well-produced Netflix show about cheerleaders,
read interviews with people you admire,
read writers who are long dead — they too lived
through disease, panic, extinctions.
Rebel against the idea that this is how things are now
and there is nothing we can do about it.
Consider all the ways that life is long
even as it feels taut, even as your breath gets caught
in your throat, your chest, even as you worry
each time you sneeze, or have a tickle in your throat.

Do something good for yourself that you’re not used to doing—
like saying no to plans with people who diminish you,
like brushing your hair for a long time after the shower
just for the pleasure of bristles on your scalp.
Cook yourself something very intricate
using the spices in your home that rarely get used.
Cook something in the oven that takes all day
and come out soft, and yielding, and rich.
Clip your toenails, pumice your heels, soak your feet.
Label and sort the pile of papers that you side-eye daily.
Run up a hill and roll back down it like you used to
when you were a kid. Did your pants get wet? All the better.

Change your pants, make a pile of old pants to donate.
Make a pile of old towels, old hats, old forks to donate.
Roll up the rug and sweep underneath it.
Sharpen all your pencils, throw out all the pens that don’t work.
Watch an old-school exercise video and do your very best
to execute all the moves correctly.
Take a bath in water as hot as you can stand it
while rereading a novel you loved as a teenager
which will sound nothing like how you remember it.
Peel an apple slowly while looking out the window
at the birds who know nothing of our pandemic.
Find out where in the moon cycle we are
and watch for the moon as night descends.
Open the door, smell the air, close the door, smell your home.
Name your house and draw the name on wood, on paper.
Burn herbs on a ceramic plate.
Watch a tutorial about how to braid hair
the way your childhood idol always braided hers.
Buy more eggs than you usually do
and make pasta. Make sauce. Eat
with whomever is in your home, or bring the meal
to someone who is at risk of getting sick.

When you go out, nod to each person you see,
as each of them is also undergoing this crisis.
Think of America as your people,
think of all countries as your people,
look around your house and see all the people
in all the countries who made all your things
with their time, their bodies.
Sing like a child, laugh like a child,
accept the childlike outbursts
that may come from your mouth.
Listen to the news, but do not watch it.
Or: read the news but do not listen to it.
One form of the news is enough.

Make a list of the things that have happened in your life
that made you laugh so hard that food or fluids
catapulted from your face. Call your friend
to help you remember the details of one of them.
Find the family heirlooms in your home and look at them,
really look. Think about how they were made,
from what materials. Consider your own body’s materials,
and how to mend and care for them.
Consider this crisis a climate crisis;
consider this planet a place where you actually live,
not just a theory, not just a globe in space,
a photograph you have seen a million times.
Even as all the hard questions come at once,
remember also: spring is on its way. And summer.
Remember that your body is your house, your home,
your haven, your hideaway. Breathe air into your nose
and out your mouth. Whether or not you are a parent,
you are a parent to your own entire being.

Watching old tv shows can be medicine. Doing stretches
can be medicine. Baking bread can be medicine.
Cutting a loved one’s hair can be medicine.
Wine can be medicine, pop music can be medicine,
watching a chipmunk catapult off a rock can be medicine.
Organizing the photos on your phone can be medicine.
Detailing your own car can be medicine.
Using a stick to divert the direction of flowing water
in the road can be medicine. Your children
are your medicine, and you are medicine
to your parents. You can be medicine to others
in ways you never expected, just by calling,
just by video calling, just by writing an email,
just by sending something in the mail,
just by sitting at home and making friendship bracelets
like you did at summer camp when a summer
was a lifetime you’d live through with delight.

This is not a time of delight, not a time of light,
though the light is returning to us each day,
the days lasting longer, the birds arriving to build.
So what can we build inside our own homes
that wasn’t already there, and what can we build
between each other that wasn’t already here
so that the next time this happens to us
we will have already built a home for this fear,
we will have constructed the walls out of love
and the doors out of love and we will sing to each other
through the windows out of love and feel held, though untouched.

— Taylor Mardis Katz, March 13, 2020

“I Should Know Better” (poem with candy in it) (mine).

I Should Know Better

I grow my own food
& make my own pickles

I make my own yogurt
I make tomato sauce from scratch

but every time I leave a hardware store
a video store a country store a magazine shop

I want to put a quarter
into that crusty candy dispenser

selling Mike & Ike’s (which I don’t even like)
or peanut peanut M&Ms or Skittles

I know that candy has been in there for years
But I just want that one small handful

of cheap & attainable sweetness
I can’t help it

I want those candies
I want them bad

We Are Older; We Float, We Sink, We Sleep When We Can (poem) (mine).

We Are Older; We Float, We Sink, We Sleep When We Can

I’m nearly thirty and capable of commanding my body
inside a vehicle. The car and I, we go places together.

I drive south and then west, four hours plus one coffee
stop, to see Scott and his brand new baby. We meet

at a French cafe with “vintage gas station” as its theme.
The baby is strapped away against his chest, silent

and unseeable. We drink white wine and eat Frenchly
-titled meals by the window. Scott covers the baby’s head

with a napkin while he eats, which I both notice
and don’t notice. He is exhausted & he is a father

& I’m so proud of him. He looks natural with a baby.
He looks like someone related to me. Maybe this is why

I love him, or maybe it’s his excellent taste
in wall clocks, or the sandy fields & shifting days

we survived together in laughter. His husband is away
that day, working in the city. When he arrives home,

his face is nearly yellow from exhaustion. I want to feed
them both: applesauce, keffir lime leaves, matzoh ball soup.

At Scott’s birthday dinner party the next evening, there is wine,
deeply chocolate cake, and lentil soup with a pad of floating butter

on top like the raft we each contain inside us, each of us
the fat, the proteins, the flavor, the impending melt.

“SHOUT-OUTS” (a minor epic) (mine).


Today I feel like giving shout-outs
to my people around the country (around the world)
doing their thang as hard & best they can.
Shout-out to the poets writing poems
and the poets trying to write more poems.
Shout-out to the hard-workin’ ladiez
in grad school tryna make time for their boyfriends
& do their adult homework & get enough sleep
& not cry every single day cuz it’s a little too much.
Shout-out to the doctor-in-training.
Shout-out to the lawyer-to-be.
Shout-out to those who have moved recently
out of love for their partner
which I find a valid reason
to cross state lines.
Shout-outs to the ladies turning male
and the males transitioning into ladiez,
making a switch so tough I’ll spend my life
just trying to fathom it. Shout-outs to the players
of nighttime piano concertos in the bossman’s
vestibule. Shout-out to the teachers
and the educators and the riot-makers
asking everyone around them to Please
Step Up And Change with Me.
Big-Ass shout-outs to the baristas & baristos
serving medium-hot coffee to the assholes
of the world, myself included.
Shout-out to the musicians sitting in low-ceilinged rooms
making their tall music.
Shout-outs to all the dads & the moms
especially the new dads & moms
figuring their shit out and loving their babies
and trying to devise the best way
not to get pissed on. Shout-out to the pissing babes
spraying their new baby-yellow rooms
and puking right onto their mom’s faces
because that mom is still gonna love you
and I look forward to understanding a love like that.
Shout-out to the horse-owners and the pig-lovers
& the goat-chin-scratchers, pulling cold flakes of hay
from the bales to keep those animals alive
through these cold-ass months. Shout-out
to the gay dads preparing for their baby girl
& conquering the question of breastmilk.
Shout-out to the ones looking to feel better next year
cuz I think we all want that.
Shout-out to the firepeople for saving our lives
and the ambulance drivers for saving our lives
and the snow plow drivers for saving our lives.
Shout-out to the intrepid mailman
driving up the hill to bring me the news
I need. Shout-outs to the chaps & broads
serving lunch & dinner & breakast. Shout-out to anyone
working outside at this very minute. Shouts
to the truck drivers who are Literally Bringing Us
Everything. Shout-out to the pilots of the planes
that carry us to family and vacation.
Shout-outs to the grannies knitting hats for charities
& the grannies knitting hats for grandchildren.
Shout-out to my grandpa who asks good questions
& who I owe a telephone call.
Shouts to the journalists trying to make sense
of the world quickly enough to help us make sense of it.
Shout-out to the witches that still live in Salem.
Shout-out to the volunteers of anything.
Shout-outs to the instigators & the academics
crushin’ it in their university newspapers
& in the streets. Shout-outs to the full-time potters
& the full-on proper ladies serving tea
to the homeless (if you exist).
Shout-outs to Every Single Person working at a job
that is not their dream job.
And shout-outs to even those working
at their dream jobs, because not even dreams
are perfect. Shout-out to the humans in Info Booths
everywhere. Shout-out to the toll collectors & magazine
slingers. Shout-out to the people driving across the border
to get to work. Shout-out to the tractor drivers
& their neck pains. Shouts to the lovers
underneath the sheets & the ones defaming
public restrooms with their bodies (cuz who am I
to judge). Shout-out to the straight-laced ladies
who wanna get whipped in their bedrooms.
Shout-out to the ladies who really don’t.
Shout-out to any man acknowleding his status
of power and using it wisely. Shout-out to the PhDs
& the RIPS along the highway.
Shout-out to all the goddamn good humans
whose presence we no longer get to enjoy,
may they rest their weary heads in a sweeter world.
Shout-out to the writers writing in secret
at their jobs & sleepily at home.
Shout-out to the beekeepers & the bees.
Shout-out to the injured athletes, because pain
knows no salary. Shouts to the loudmouths
& the whisperers and to anyone
with a birth mark on their face
that made their formative years miserable.
Shout-out to the people living with disabilities
that are finding grace where they can.
Shout-out to to everyone I missed,
because I know you’re shouting, too.
Shout-out to everyone who knows
it’s about listening & not being heard.
Shout-out to the haters who are gonna be all
“That girl’s poems are too damn long.” Cuz listen:
I’m short, I’m compensating, I’m just trying
to be a little loud to make a little more goodness grow.
I’m shouting out. Holler back.

Ugly Ole Sweater poem (mine).

I bought this scruffy poet cardigan
with a big ole stain on the cuff
because it has a professorial pattern
and because it already had a big ole stain
which means it’s safe from spoiling by me,
having already been spoiled by someone else.
Does this sound defeatist? To me it’s relaxing,
the stress of ruination removed by the simple
presence of a big brown smudge. I love you,
big brown smudge! Were you car grease or paint
or pigsweat? Who cares! I’ll eat my stew
with you, I’ll sit at work & cast no sweat
upon this perfect, ugly, poet sweater.

Mourning for Galway Kinnell, poet & Vermont person.

Maybe it’s just because I’m stretched as thin as cheap stockings right now and prone to emotions, but I cried this morning hearing (again) about the passing of Galway Kinnell.

I learned to love his poems in college, by my professor who loves his poems. When I worked for the Dartmouth bookstore years ago, I sold books at a reading he gave at Dartmouth, sitting next to him as he signed new and wellworn copies. The reading he gave was equal parts wonderful and sad; he often lost his place while reading a poem, or seemed to drift away mid-thought. I witnessed the deteriorating mind of a poet whose poems have meant a lot to me.

His epic poem (note: I do not generally use the word epic so you know I mean it) “The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ Into the New World” has so much more of New York in it than Taylor Swift’s new song (that’s not saying a lot), and even more of New York in it than Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ song. He was compared to Walt Whitman after that poem, and I see why: it contains multitudes, big time.

As Daniel Lewis of the New York Times writes, “The poem is a 14-part work about Avenue C in Manhattan, a mother lode of inspiration for someone with Mr. Kinnell’s photographic eye and intuitive sense of other people’s lives. In these verses and on this street, Jews, blacks and Puerto Ricans walked in the spring sunlight, past the avenue’s mainstays at the time — the Downtown Talmud Torah, Blosztein’s Cutrate Bakery, Areceba Panataria Hispano, Nathan Kugler Chicken Store Fresh Killed Daily and others.”

I’ve experienced a renewed love of Kinnell since moving to Vermont, as I read his poems again, many of which are set in this state, such as “Blackberry Eating”:

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths and squinched,
many-lettered, on-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry-eating in late September.

And then there’s this poem, which has always blown my mind. If someone had told me in college that you could write a poem with the word “is” used three times in a row and it would be a stunner, I would not have believe him/her.


Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.


Harriet Richardson, a Student Organizer at Pennsylvania’s Juniata College, Presses a Cloth to the Wounds of Galway Kinnell, Who Was Then Poet-In-Residence at Juiata, Selma, Alabama, 1965.

“The Sun Inside” (yesterday’s poem) (mine).

The Sun Inside

Winter’s over, shake me out, wash me deep

for the first & final time, says the cheap

winter coat I bought for its greenness and for the love

of its fur I could see myself nesting inside

for so many months, my face a cold photograph

in a frame of fuzz, and the goat blood

on the pocket came out as if the whole ordeal

was just a bad dream I could return with free

shipping! That hairdresser was right, you know–

after the initial shock of loss, my hair grew back

faster than ever. And here I am with my cowboy boots

and my cowkid plaid & my broken wristwatch

in the first wet warm days of a Spring I thought

would stand me up like a hot bad date, & the ends

of my hair are light not from dye but from the sun inside.