Read these "Essential Voices from the Pandemic" entries Below

Katie: written by her mother, Angela Tomanio, who wrote about her daughter, Katie, an ER Nurse)

Putting on her mask she 
Readies herself for battle
Adjusting the pads over her cheeks and pinching the metal to the contours of her nose 
Once her weapons might have been foundation, mascara and blush like any young woman 
Applied as adornment 
Her choice made long ago 
Was something far different
Less alluring but more powerful 
Her shield is made of cotton fibers and elastic
And when she is wearing it the very air around her is stilled and obedient
Made to protect her from something so sinister it cannot be seen
Her strong,  beautiful face,  lit from within eyes keen and knowing
all hidden. 
A light has been dimmed
For a time,  
Her power has not
She wields it with all her strength
Using her hands and experience to save those lucky enough to find their way to her
And she will do this all night
Never stopping 
Never complaining
Never appearing to tire
Until finally the dawn comes
And Other hands, other masks take over
And she can step away
Out of the shadows of the night which had been filled with despair and death and not enough miracles 
To daylight
To sleep,
Blessed oblivion
Until it is time to put the mask on once more 

"Public Service Announcement" by James 

 I work in a city where it is bad to be good, but it is good to be considered bad. I am a bus driver, for some an essential worker. I do my part by helping steer people in our communities towards some sort of normalcy one turn at a time. But for others the fall guy! A scapegoat, a human pin cushion. Here only to serve the public, and for them to project their issues upon. But I resolve it through conflict resolution, equipped with years of “Embassador training.” With 15 years of service dealing with detours, service delays, blizzards, and confronted with a constant reminder of customers reminding you that they are dissatisfied with service that day. I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

There’s a reason why they call us operators, the system is like an artery. Each line keeps the people moving from point a to point b. Making every stop at each station, platform, or sidewalk is like the pulse of each town; ensuring that the heart of the city beats on. 

Let's have a moment of silence in remembrance for all the transit workers who lost their lives due to this Covid-19 pandemic while on the job, R.I.P, and for those who tested positive get well soon, I salute you! My condolences goes out to your valued loved ones who graciously shared you with the public during your tenure. I may not run a community service organization, but I run a outreach program. Everyday I adorn this uniform and board and alight passengers on my bus. Even with or without greetings or salutations, the irregularities the lock down and social distance caused, seems regular to me. 

So, “Stand clear of the closing doors please!” I have a schedule to keep. 

By: James Dale Just-another-hopefull-fool-love 

THE PANDEMIC OF 2020, by Martin A. Clayman 

This poem is dedicated to Dr. Lana Tolen Glantz (pictured above), his granddaughter who works as an anesthesiology resident at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. who is treating many Covid-19 patients daily

The enemy arrived in force from a foreign shore;
It came silently, stealthily, carried by people and more. Transported by travelers who landed by air and sea, These germs were even present indigenously. 

Our country was ill prepared for this sudden onslaught. Our leaders, they barely gave it a second thought.
The pathogens were unseen, no sounds could be heard. No cyber warfare, phishing or hacking occurred. 

Not one shot was fired; no bombs and no blaze,
Yet it invaded our country in a matter of days.
No ready tests, no drugs, no special vaccines either; The 2020 pandemic simply would not give us a breather. 

The sick and the dying were placed in the ICU.
Whether they got off easy or not, this sickness they would rue. Our only defensive weapons of any use
Were the doctors and nurses who could treat and defuse. 

These angels from heaven manned the front lines.
They worked and they toiled in spite of so many land mines. Like soldiers, and sailors, marines and special forces,
These men and women in gear were our only resources. 

While social distancing and masks have their place,
We cannot always leave six feet of space.
So, we have to change our lives like never before.
If we cannot change our ways, who knows what will be in store? 

Covid-19 is the scourge of the ages!
If only we were blessed with a few more sages,
The millions of infected would have been many fewer. These words I have written could not be any truer.

Insights in a Pandemic, by Stefanie Z. (photo taken by Stefanie Z.)

Frozen with fear, deer in headlights. This can’t be happening… 
Retreat inward for safety. I don’t want to know… 
Remembering what’s like to be connected with self. This will be ok…. 
Permission to let go of too much external busyness. This is actually very freeing…. 
Awareness of what matters, truly matters. I can make different choices… 
Life shifts toward the good and simpler existence. My new normal…. 

Perhaps: a reflection

Maybe,

if you were closer to the middle

if I were closer to the beginning

we could arrive at grinning

somewhere in the butt of this riddle

,Maybe


                                          -Trasloof

"Being that it reads both top to bottom as well as bottom to top,it’s  my take on two individuals being “almost” right for one another due to circumstances getting in the way. "


"Same Old      ~Michelle

Self-care stayed the same during quarantine— kept up the skin-care & exercise routines. 

Still over here worried bout the same old things: love, money, housing, & groceries. 

Still over here daydreaming to slow jams. 

Still making mountains. 

Still counting my chickens. 

Still biting off more. 

Still a square peg. 

Still lonely & high-strung— except with mask on. 

Right now it doesn't seem like we have a voice. It sounds like I am screaming at the walls and no one is listening. The little cat in the room turned her back and walked away Who am I to judge the people riding with me? But if you're riding with me all day back and forth from one stop to the very next stop. How can you be working? Not to mention the fact that even as long or as short as I've been driving. I have never seen you riding when the fare box was collecting. The only essential worker I see daily is the one looking back at me in the mirror. Am I still supposed to smile when you are putting me at risk? By not having the decency to stay home during this health crisis. If I had my choice we would have stop running for the months of February and April. Instead of being an instrument for the spread of the virus. Instead I am considered essential like I mentioned. But no one even mentions public transportation. Our own company could not care less whether we are unable to provide for ourselves or loved ones. Essential yet we do not matter.

By Bob, bus driver


"My mother and I  never used to talk so much on the phone. We talk about things now that we didn't use to. Simple things but the phone calls are longer. We have more time."

"I asked my neuro- oncologist, 'Is it safe to get a tattoo? My mental health is in tact.' 

He said, "yes, yes, go ahead."

"I didn't realize how many of my relationships were circumstantial. This virus has changed some of my friendships."

"I miss touch"

Evensong in a Time of Plague, by Rennie McQuilkin

On the thick, square-topped cedar posts

of a fence separating Pestilence from

a singing, trilling, wind-woven meadow,

walkers untouched by the plague have placed

umber, white, gray, red, black and ivory stones, 

some shaped like birds, some set with eyes,

some with the profiles of humankind . . .

In the gloaming, as the chapel carillon chimes,

the stones, in memory of those who have fallen,

seem faces of a world-wide choir, their robes

the posts below.  They lift voices with those

in the meadow, promising perfect health.

Super Soft, Super Comfortable Friend, poem and photo collage by Mary Panke

found poem from 30 text messages about favorite article of clothing during COVID-19

our parents allowed us to wear jeans
no words needed

pockets, socks neither soft nor pretty
make me look cool, like royalty, like safety

like recycled plastic, uneasy
vaguely ridiculous, yet somehow fashionable

On rainy days, brightly colored balls
keep my spirits high, feel like home, remind me
of my place, of being with my tribe
why I am working so hard

I like the surprise of the various blues
whenever I go, comes with me, versatile

all-purpose, always starts a conversation
walked me many places, served me well

durable, wore them all summer long
because life is just easier in flip flops

We were together when I bought it
you found it for me, my mom

gave it to me, us grandkids each got to pick one
after he passed, my grandfather’s sweatshirt

funky and soft as soft, brings back
memories, a warm hug from my little girl,

fits me perfectly, fits beautifully
I feel beautiful in it, any size or shape

always get compliments from strangers
worn always by my heart,

first thing I put on when I get home
something I turn to nightly, with upraised arms

Gabby says, “It’s my favorite clothing because--- because---
because it has beautiful colors, and it's soft, and I like it.”

 Covid-19, by Sage, 9yrs.

Wishing Corona would end

I want to be back with my friends

Winter, spring, summer, fall 

we've been on lockdown for two out of all

Corona and homeschool 

are just like a whirlpool

You got to stay safe and can’t be slow

cause whirlpools make tornados 

If I was a fish with no gills, I’d probably get pneumonia 

And for the people, don’t cough or sneeze, cause now it’s Corona. 


Missing school

I’ve been on my chromebook all day,

now it's starting to get in my way.

I just want to be back at school 

with the rest of them. 

I’m tired of the screens,

I don’t want that much technology. 

I just want to go back to the way things were 

and not take anything for granted. 

Before this happened, we were scared of people wearing masks 

now we’re scared of people that aren't wearing them. 

I don't want to Facetime, 

I  just want to be face to face. 

First it was six feet, now it’s thirteen

and we won't even dare to go sixteen. 

I’m just really missing school 

because it was so great.         

Those Beautiful Old Emancipators, by Ryan 

We all search for it, 
I’m convinced - 
the thing that
keeps us alive 
even when we
feel like zombies. 
I read about the 
first computer, this
big beast that man
was learning to tame,
still is really, 
and sure the scientists
felt a thrill, but the writer
transitioned with trepidation,
sluggishly fighting off a
sense of abandonment,
being the one to leave behind
an old friend. 
Perhaps there’s a freedom 
in banging away at circular
black keys, replacing ink,
evading the hackers, and 
I often yearn for such 
simple pleasures; at my 
wedding we set up a table 
with typewriters and paper,
the guests free to smash 
those keys, BANG BANG BANG,
sending their messages and 
laughing and laughing at the thrill,
the fun of it,
and I sometimes think of my 
divorce and the wedding day itself,
and the look of my loved ones
seeming so alive,
perhaps for the first time in years,
as they found a beautiful release
punching away at those
old machines.

Virus Detected 

By T.T., Age 13

This beat hit so hard it smacked the grim reaper

I’m trying to climb, but the path seems to be getting steeper

Corona on the loose; I’m wish’in that it wouldn’t be here

It gonna keep him on his toes like a ballerina

They shutt’in down the schools so they can make’em cleaner

It’s almost spring ‘round here, grass is getting greener

Imma knock this rap out the park- I’m Derek Jeter

People think this is a game

Quick! Someone help them find their lost brain!

AY!

There’s a cross between calm and insane, but that’s a thin rope, 

and it’s already started fraying

People finally start paying attention to the words I be say’in

My raps are heating up, pretty soon imma be flaming

All we really can do is just start pray’in

God’s probably patiently waiting for us to figure out a solution 

and end all this mayhem

And when we finally do, imma say,

Amen

#Stay Home#Stay Safe

"breathe" by cait duffy (ig @lightworder)

silent majority
implies nothing is spoken
minneapolis is screaming
virus sleeps quiet

BREATHE

revenge
the invisible mask
the space we both occupy
we try to escape to

breathe

death carried on whispers
something to be said
for reaching deeper
before reaching out

(BREATHE)

slander is fake news
speaking is bad omen
murder's sluggish strangle
makes it impossible to

breathe

white mirror's task
is to shock us
black mirror can shame
or even shatter us

(breathe)

alice drenched in screen
xan is kicking in
blue light spills sound
all around seems she can't

breathe

she wakes up years later
everything the same
unmasked rabbit sneers
says "welcome to wonderland"

(BREATHE)

suspended in a dream
the world we wanted
exposed or executed
because we forgot to

breathe

 My son tells me he wishes he was born after this happened, the pandemic. I tell him the sun's out, it's a nice day, but he doesn't want to go out. He says there's nowhere to go."

Second Portrait of Self, By Emily de la Rocha
Oil on panel 36 x 36 in.2020

Daughter/Mother Collaboration during Covid-19 

Face Covering

By Kelly de la Rocha (mother of Emily de la Rocha: painter)

Blue paper face masks are a fixture
on the kitchen island now.
I hardly notice them anymore,
but can’t ignore
the plastic sandwich bag that protects them.
It’s just like the ones
I’d put in Emily’s lunch box
back when the world was
ham and cheese sandwiches.

Home from college,
senior year cut coronavirus short,
she wanders downstairs around 11
in paint-spattered sweats
to toast frozen waffles.

When the kitchen island
was all zinnias,
she would muse about whether
she had enough angst
in her life to be an artist.
Now she’s upstairs creating
a self-portrait that’s haunted eyes
and one hand over her mouth
like a mask.

Emily ventures into the world guarded
by a face-covering hand-
sewn from floral fabric
that reminds me of a bonnet
she once adored,
one like Laura Ingalls wore
when the world was running maskless
through sunny fields.

I long to shield my child’s eyes
from our COVID-bright world
but I know it needs her.
So I fill an old egg carton with soil,
teach her to grow zinnias.

“Everything is uncertain, and for me it’s interesting that a lot of current situations have echoes from past events. From unknowing if my position is secure next year, to the ambiguity of feelings. The following is an excerpt from a poem I wrote at the beginning of May, yet an expansion to an earlier poem, “The Letter: True Intention,” that I wrote back in 2003 with similar themes.”

“Quarantine this heart” -D. Aldrete 5/24/20 

Keep me at arm’s length.
[…]
Uncertain times
call for certain measures,
all is obscure
as we read between the lines.
Certain glances
unclear intentions,
symbolism redux,
what do they mean?
the blue jays by the window.
The letters I wrote you
that never got delivered,
only polished words strewn across the page
with metaphors spinning
but still at a blank space
and the pulling of the reins
of what can be said.
Teach me to heed the warnings,
and let me learn how
to slow down
the tempo
of this beating heart,
that has been covertly
spelling your name
in Morse code.

BECAUSE,  

by Alexandrina Sergio

written after the death of a dear family member

Because 

this is not a time
for gathering
together

Because
this is not a time
for telling old stories
together
(like the one about
how the two of them
ran away from home
when they were
five years old)

Because
this is not a time
for remembering
together
(smiling at
how they sped all the way
to the end of Crown Street
then ran back home again
triumphant)

Because
he has died
in The Season of Quarantine,
this is not a time
for knowing the comfort of
together

Because
he has died
in The Season of Quarantine
this is a time
for knowing the grief of
alone.

American Chrysalis, Abridged, by Frank Cohen

the world is ringed by a corona
as a virus migrates clockwise
China, Iran, Italy, it’s here

new terms grip us
pandemic, flatten the curve
social distancing

every man is an island
germaphobes seem prescient
agoraphobes better adapted
burqa-and-niqab wearers
smartly dressed

yet many young folk act
invulnerable, hook up, party hearty
the elderly and immune compromised
they threaten hunker down
in not so splendid isolation

people shop fearfully, snappishly
disinfectant hangs in the air
like the stench of a skunk
that won’t move on

masks don’t conceal fear
so much as amplify it
is your mask to protect others
yourself, both 

(photo above by Frank Cohen)


are you planning to rob me
a Lyft driver early jokes
in his Lysol-scented car
but maybe, why not
police are keeping their distance
ignoring speeders and light
runners before their noses

streets empty, homeless abandon corners
feral cats are emboldened
tumbleweeds blow through deserted campuses

besides the unimaginable human toll
all sports, the Olympics
perhaps even the election
desperado, why don’t you come to your Census

he who disbanded the pandemic response team
first says we’ll bounce back
with the Easter bunny
king of de Nile
tallies the lives he might be saving
from Chinavirus by finally acting
not the lives he cost fiddling
while America burned

his faithful (sorry, truth must out) 
have a sickness for which 
there’s no known treatment 
symptoms may include shortness 
of empathy, loss of taste, feverish 
inability to perceive reality 

(continued)

we have KNOWN this was coming 
since The Andromeda Strain 
WHY haven’t we stockpiled more 
masks, ventilators, cotton swabs, gowns 
bet the Presidential bunkers have plenty 

will we ever awaken 
from our medically induced coma 

weep as mounting numbers 
die and are buried alone 
mourn the casualties of trash bag 
hospital gowns, reused 
masks, missing ventilators, all victims 
of unpreparedness, misinformation, hubris 

there is no solace 

following the winter we never had 
comes the spring 
we’ll completely miss 

sloughing its casing 
what fragile America 
from its cocoon 
will then emerge— 
dry raspy colorless moth 
or iridescent butterfly 

A Covid Spring, by Lawrence Cyrulik 

April is the cruelest month… T.S. Eliot 

All’s quiet in the Time of the Plague;
At dawn, the roads are void of ripping tires,
The workplaces being closed,
And cancellations smolder like funeral pyres.
Forewarned by Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death,”
They lock down cities and shutter schools,
Then don their masks and gloves, emerge,
And haunt the marketplace like ghouls.
Some take seriously the Flattening of the Curve,
And dutifully shelter in place.
Some skillfully hoard and make profit;
May those who do, disappear without trace.
In the country, apart from this groaning mass,
A Bluebird sits upon a bough,
And Grackles staring with yellow eyes
Forage behind a farmer’s plow.
In some clearing sits a Dove,
And incessantly coos its love.

THE FRONT LINE, By Kathy Nativo

We are all on the front line.
It is our time.
The tie that binds is around our head not in our bed.
No matter what they've said, some are no less dead.
The Mad Hatter has arrived and the Wizard cannot save us from ourselves.
There is no batter up.
No one is on deck.
The dugout is empty but the coffins are full.
The doctors and nurses, the healthcare workers
have become masked singers in a Greek chorus.
At least they are there for us, or are they?
You have to wash your hands to play in the band.
Mitigation, isolation, hospitalization, intubation leading to cremation
until there is stabilization or viable vaccination.
You must wear a mask to pray in this congregation.
All are laid low.
Everybody is furloughed from their own normality.
We are all in this together but some are more in it than others.
Better get shielded, your light saber wielded.
In the I.C.U. they're nice to you but you don't know how you got there.
Laying there bare, your heart barely beating, your lungs not breathing,
you are the hot spot because you have not.
Will we build up a resistance?
I think not.
Immunity, impunity, it's always been too crowded.
The rest will come when we are done.
So much for thoughts and prayers for those who die alone, which we all do.
We cannot rise until we die.
The eagle flies.
The dove cries.
We are all on the front line
at a social distance.

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