I Name You Fear . . and other poetic responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt
“Kleitos, a likeable young man,
about twenty-three years old
with a first-class education, a rare knowledge of Greek
is seriously ill. He caught the fever
that reaped a harvest this year in Alexandria.”
Kleitos’ Illness, Constantine P. Cavafy
Of special note:
- Please don’t miss Iron Wind, Zimbabwean poet in exile Mbizo Chirasha’s response to the current prompt. An explanation for its solitary publication is included in the post.
- Wisconsin poet, DeWitt Clinton, wrote, “I’ve visited many hospital rooms over the years, and occasionally, I was a patient. I’m always drawn to Sylvia Plath’s poem about her stay in a hospital following a surgical procedure.” I didn’t have enough time to get Harper Collins’ permission to publish Tulips today. You can read it in its entirety HERE.
- Irene Emmanuel and Diana Lundell, if you have sites or Amazon pages to which you’d like me to link, email the links to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Today I am pleased to present the responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, At the Beginning of the Pandemic, March 11, in which Michael Dickel asked poets to ponder: “How to bring illness (personal or pandemic) of the ailing body, pain, and language to point to culture, philosophy, and consciousness in poetry that also points ‘…to what is still to be learned about our fragility, our mortality, and how to live a meaningful life’? Especially at this cultural-historical moment of an emerging pandemic?” The result is a journey through a spectrum of experiences and perspectives.
The poets who contributed to this collection are: Paul Brookes, Jamie Dedes, Irene Emanual, Joe Hesch, Diana Lundell, Sonja Benskin Mesher, Nancy Ndeke, Bozhidar Pangelov (bogpan), Corina Ravenscraft, RedCat, and Clarissa Simmens. Joe Hesch, Diana Lundell, and RedCat are new to Wednesday Writing Prompt and warmly welcome.
Please do come out to play tomorrow for the next Wednesday Writing Prompt, All are welcome: beginning, emerging, and pro.
Stay safe and healthy,
As I write this, my daughter is watching a YouTube live stream lesson. The Ministry of Education streams a lesson to all first graders from 9–9:30 each school morning. My son is working on tasks and following links posted on this class web page. At 11 am the fourth graders, his class, will have their half-hour live-streamed lesson. I have a moment to write while they work, before I leave for an “essential” appointment, which will likely be my last meeting this week. Later, I will go to the grocery store to pick up three or four things we are running low on. I’ll probably notice a couple of other things to get, just in case. The people I see and I will try to maintain a distance of two meters. Yesterday I went for a walk, just to get out of the house. The sun was warm, so I sat on a bench with my iPad and answered some emails. Those of us out kept our distance, but more than usual we made eye-contact, greeted each other, wished each other good health.
Welcome to COVID-19 time. I think that it is important to make eye contact, to acknowledge each other, especially as we make wide arcs around each other. I think it is important too keep our connections, even across distance. And this is something poetry does. Here, we offer the week’s responses to my prompt on writing poems about illness (personal to global) and pandemic, creating a literature that points to culture and meaning in the time of COVID-19.
We have amazing and strong responses. They range from cancer to COVID-19 pandemic panic syndrome, from personal to observational. The language is strong. The poems succeed in doing what Ann Jurecic, (Illness as Narrative: Composition, Literacy, and Culture, p. 131) “…all point to what is still to be learned about our fragility, our mortality, and how to live a meaningful life.…”
In this COVID-19 time, please do your best to stay healthy. Support your community as you can, especially in helping to prevent spread, but also by catching a distant eye, nodding, smiling, saying “Shalom, manishma?” (Peace, how are you?) And wish them, “Libryut” “to (your) health.” Social distance need not be without connections.
Shalom, how are you? To (y)our health!
—Michael (Meta/ Poor(e) /Play)
On my till
An old lady flinches when I touch
Her handing her change.
Boss is stockpiling anti-bac wipes.
Wash your hands as often as you can
As money is the dirtiest of things.
Anti-bac wipe your touch screen,
And where folk lift up the fridge doors,
And the price strips.
Toilet rolls are disappearing.
It dissipates the virus,
While it rests on other surfaces.
Folk avoid public bannisters,
Walk down the middle.
That old woman’s flinch
Stays in my mind.
© 2020, Paul Brookes
All white bird a ghost who stares intently
into my jaundiced eye,
then flies towards sunblaze
where it sweats all my illness
in droplets to the earth.
If the bird looks away
this disease succeeds.
Some healthy hide the bird
under their coat,
refuse to offer it
with the thought
nobody gets owt for free.
Some say the bird is a saviour.
Some put faith in fleeting things.
Originally published in the Blue Mountain Review
© 2020, Paul Brookes
Disease Is A Gift
It was really cool to see who could get
illest first, cos you’d like get all this fuss.
My bestest mate Rhianna, reporters interviewed her, and she’d be on the news.
And folk who felt sorry for her gave
her lots of money so she could go
to Disney in America and have
the most expensive doctors,
and like, get well, but she didn’t,
and they wouldn’t let me see her,
said she was too ill, and then
she died and I cried a lot,
she wasn’t on the news anymore
but to me she was even famouser.
Except from Paul’s collection A World Where (Nixes Mate Press, 2017)
© 2017, Paul Brookes
Paul’s site is The Wombwell Rainbow
Paul’s Amazon Page U.S. HERE
Paul’s Amazon Page U.K. HERE
More poems by Paul at Michael Dickel’s Meta/ Phore(e) /Play
Bronchi and alveoli seeking respiratory droplets
Float on the air, a nightmare of guided munitions
Always a reckoning when such assassins are loosed,
And now the vineyard of joy is dead and gated, the
Elders are on lockdown, prisoners of Corvid-19,
Of a government that moves too slowly and this
Virus that moves with speed, children sent home
From school, the workers forced from their jobs, a
Run on TP, tissues and hand sanitizers, breezes
Caressing the face, now just a memory like love
And blisses, handshakes and bracing bear hugs
Like social networking of the off-line variety
© 2020, Jamie Dedes
Jamie is the curator of The Poet by Day.
Chatter-clips in muffled murmurs
Overt opinions in strained silence
Tactful teacups in stilled saucers
Reverberating reels of sudden shock
Mystified minor in innocent ignorance
Death danced in devilish delight
Years later, I learned about
A TOUCH OF CANCER
Unasked, unwanted, it appeared;
a black dot on the middle of my right cheek.
A spider bite? A probable assumption.
It developed a white head,
I squished it, it spurted and grew a scab.
Then it became an unsightly scabby growth
of potent ugliness, taking over my cheek.
A skin specialist was consulted.
He was fascinated, he concluded that this “spider bite”
needed an investigation.
He cut and sent a sliver to be biopsied.
“Squamous Cell Carcinoma” of the cancerous type.
Immediate removal, non-negotiable.
Twenty-one stitches later, the growth lay vanquished.
As “Frankenstein’s” distant cousin, I faced the World.
Vitamin E oil has finally smoothed the scar
into a faded memory of a major scare.
I am eternally grateful to faith and Dr. J.
© 2020, Irene Emanuel
A sneeze from behind makes people cringe and turn
to see what culprit’s spreading the disease.
They’ve yet to call at night for dead to burn,
but just wait ’til we’ve more fatalities.
We ‘Mericans think we’re super powered
to fend off almost any aggressor.
But lately our record with wee foes has soured,
or haven’t you noticed that, Professor?
Now comes the smallest we’ve faced in a while,
and folks worry about how serious.
Heed your doctors, they won’t jive you with guile;
just don’t listen to pols imperious.
Wash hands, cover coughs, it’s not just the flu.
So prepare, but don’t panic. I care ‘bout you.
© 2020, Joe Hesch
Joe’s site is A Thing for Words
I have a small cold
and a library book to return.
Should I wipe it clean with disinfectant
and return it through the book drop?
Or let it become overdue?
I have a hair appointment
for next week Thursday.
If I feel better by then,
should I keep it?
I have a massage appointment
for the following week
which I really need
because I’m stressed
but they tell me not to come
for two weeks from the onset
of an illness. Do I count from
Monday when I began feeling
run-down or Friday
when I finally I knew why?
One means keep it,
the other cancel.
I don’t know if I have a fever.
My thermometer’s broken
and there are none in the stores,
but I’m in the target age group who die.
I have health insurance. Should I get tested?
The news says not to just show up
at your doctor’s office,
if you think you have the virus.
But will they then show at mine
making a spectacle, lights a-flaring,
outing me to the neighbors?
Or will it be like China
removing me by force?
My job tells us to stay home if sick
but they don’t provision for those
who don’t have enough sick leave
so I don’t call the doctor and go to work,
pretending to be perfectly well.
© 2020, Diana Lundell
yes, we have been indoors a while now
it has happened before, do you remember
that year the snow came & i had to have a
taxi to get there
how all the guttering & aerials went with
the weight of it
suspension springs snapped
then after everything was repaired
some words we google then change
the letters about to confirm with
that which is deemed correct
granny had special knives too, fish
and butter and some others. on a
rainy day she would let us play with them
i still enjoy cutlery
i am not called that, mine is more
the usual without the d, however
now he texts me i am abbreviated
which is cool
i am enjoying being in so much
yesterday i was already and coated
then saw the snow warnings on the
so made coffee and ate malt loaf
the only other issue being some virus
another reason, should i say excuse
for staying home
with my google assistant
© 2020, Sonja Benskin Mesher
Sonja’s sites are:
- Sonja Benskin Mesher, RCA paintings (This is her Facebook page, so you can connect with her there as well as view photographs of her colorful paintings.)
- Sonja on Twitter
- Sonja’s daily blog (WordPress) is HERE.
I NAME YOU FEAR
Like the wind, your exact birth is shadowy, even murky,
But the flow, and rush, like an old bull, is marked by scores of bruises,
Laughter is now whispered jest,
Camaraderie is thinning like a slippery path,
Ten fingers pointing at one location,
Might we be missing the point?
Like the wind on a sneeze,
Breath carries death so they say,
Goose pimples on a population that now hibernates indoors,
Scrubbing hands behind masks to keep the stray bullets off the air waves,
Palpable is FEAR rippling down the spines of the assumed healthy,
Boarders shrinking before the eyes of a cruise ship afloat a memorable trip,
Statistics roll out with diversity,
Some minimizing, some maximizing,
Along while back, we learnt a sweet investment called individualism,
Fenced diffences against the onslaught of our privacy,
Would the wind honor this paid service or even approve it?
Death is a chief garantor of flesh after a time,
It’s the fate of birth,
But fear is the monster that serves deathness to the living,
As we suffer shortage of basics in the war against a warring virus,
Some have hoarded food supplies for a decade,
Some are stocking distance for their own in remote homes,
Some are breathing through masks In bunkers below the ground,
History has a thing about life,
Mans best intentions are tested by calamity,
And the world has one right now,
The morbid fear of catching a dreaded virus,
That has already taken some down and has no respect for boundaries,
How we die depends on how we live,
If fear governs our senses enough to barricade ourselfs away from those in need,
We shall for sure die,
But before the physical,
Our Soul will have died Twice over from fear,
And thrice over from the meanness of withholding help to the needy, in an effort to preserve ourselves,
So ” I name you fear”, O you colonial hunter of human health,
And banish you to the deserts of dusty horizons,
Where your barren unconcern must remain buried,
To give man a chance at rebirth in the genuine concern of one facing this ultimate test of living,
I ” name you fear” O you coward who escaped your masters rogue shed to shade the color of life a night without the dance of the stars,
I ” name you fear” and tag you loser for records show others came before you and perhaps did worse,
So we know we shall survive you for life is a survivor from the realms of amniotic fluids to the trenches of war,
For life is held by a divine hand that constantly looks onto it wellness,
So though unwelcome you came and may stay a bad season,
Tomorrow is not yours except in records.
And those too, shall remain in archival shelves,
Once more to remind tomorrow that the human soul is a giant ,
And indomitable to any spirit that is not from it’s maker.
We shall suffer pain.
We shall lose some.
But we shall overcome the fear that you sow indifference that kills the living.
© 2020, Nancy Ndeke
Nancy’s Amazon Page is HERE.
because we all
get influenced by all
and all is you
and the air is heavy on the shoulders
let’s sit down all
(the night is a round table)
accept each other and
give ourselves to all
then the song remains
(because is chanted)
after your voice comes mine
© 2020, Bozhidar Pangelov (Bogpan)
Bozhidar’s site is (bogpan – блог за авторска поезия блог за авторска поезия )
~ SK was Right ~
They call it COVID, magic number 19,
One letter off, from birds who pick the bones clean.
Who are the carrion crows of this battle?
Who rake in profits from each, extended death-rattle?
The child king fired all the medic Gunslingers.
Now that he needs help, he only points fingers.
Has “Captain Trips” finally come at long last?
Does the Man in Black wear a plague doctor’s beaked mask?
“KA is a wheel…its one purpose, is to turn.”
Maybe Gaia just got tired of watching the world burn?
Each life snuffed out: a brick in the Dark Tower,
Each one, marking Mankind’s plummet from power?
All the child king’s puppets, and all his “Yes-Men”
Can’t put the world back together again.
If only we had some sort of Pandemic Team!
Or money for tests, instead of golf on the green.
Hindsight in 2020? Remains to be seen.
They call it COVID, magic number 19,
Perhaps it’s KA…and “All things serve the Beam.”
(Stephen King fans are probably likely to enjoy this piece a bit more than other readers. The number 19 is important to him, and figures deeply in many of his works, but none more so than in his Magnum Opus, “The Dark Tower” series.)
© 2020, Corina Ravenscraft
Can a novel virus teach
What climate emergency so far have not?
The interconnectedness of a global world
No country beyond its reach
Collective action the only sensible plot
Work together without accusing insults hurled
Can a novel virus show
What’s closest to our hearts
What we value most of all
Do we dare accept, have courage to know
Faithfully confess what we display in all our art
Happiness only ever lay in following loving soul calls
Can a novel virus reveal
How compassionate living will be
Only way out the materialistic maze
Can we make a New Green Deal
Accept responsibility humbly
Changing our planet wrecking, extreme storm inducing ways?
© 2020, RedCat
RedCat’s site is The World According to RedCat
Moving toward the Megallion Swamp
My mystical swamp with a
Host of ghost characters
Summer sweats pheromones for
Mosquito troops hunting sweet blood
Females, say the science sites
Pregnant females feed on humans
I swat and stomp in ankle combat boots
Water moccasins visible
In the evaporating water
But me, I have a mission
Peopled swamp calling me
Some dressed in white
Hoodoo circle chanting
Others in white Baptismal light
Some in Grays or Blues
Maybe reenactment troops
Some in cheap suits like old
Blues bands shredding their guitars
Ghostly voices drifting over a
Tract of swamp advertised for sale
Of More-Or-Less 4.5 acres
Me, my mission moving toward summer
In the Sunshine State
Candidates spewing hate
Smiles and frowns hid behind
Medical masks while hoarding
Cases of hand sanitizers
The swamp shadows I see
Doctors with beaks
Bubonic Plague masks
“Bring out your dead!”
Time an illusion as
Because surely we’ve
Stepped off the Tardis of Time
Without Dr. Who to rescue me and you
Into a swamp of history
Repeating itself and all the
Impotent in the swarm of germs
What mission can a high-risk
So-called “elderly” woman claim?
What can I do except
Crash through the watery milieu of
Carrying a bag of herbs
Extracted in Winn Dixie vodka
Waiting for the full moon to offer
The untried elixir to swamp denizens
Gathered beyond my back yard
Of a once-sane haven
Beneath Orion’s protection.
And I hear voices
Voices in the swamp
I see miasmic misery
Smell the smoke of
And must see if it is
A vision of expectations
Or the real thing
Healing Reiki bear
Comes bearing herbal gifts
From the Forest of pure rain
Mighty words that
Might as well
Yet even that has worked for some
In the past
I so want to save us all…
© 2020, Clarissa Simmens
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