Wednesday, March 11, 2020

A Room of My Own: Coronavirus Poetry Diary: Laughing in the Face of Adversity

written on the day of the WHO announcement: Covid-19 outbreak is a pandemic

If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day.  -- Jim Valvano

First Entry:

coronavirus alert
this urge to touch the face
of  my shadow

Second Entry:

rush-hour panic
at the subway station
Chinese Canadians
dressed in hazmat suits
singing stop the spread of racism

Third Entry: written in response to the anti-racist message (" I am not a virus, I am a human being") conveyed in a viral youtube video posted by Massimiliano Martigli Jiang

Bridge of Sighs
Chinese boy and Italian girl

Fourth Entry: for my favorite Italian novelist, Italo Calvino, author of If on a winter's night a traveler

the world smaller
but more distant and colder ...
my gondola glides
through the Grand Canal
in a virus-free dream

Fifth Entry:

It is what it is

"When you believe in God, he will not give you more than you can handle; when infected with doubt during a time of crisis, you should respond by seeking the right answer to your question," the pastor said in a firm, yet affectionate tone as he accompanied me to the parking lot. In the corner of my mind, God's words lingered, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

The following day, in the shadow of this one-hundred-year-old church, I pause to wonder, “Am I as strong in the eyes of God and his mighty power as a true believer?" The path to the church entrance seems long ... and narrow. The pastor starts preaching at this much-anticipated Sunday Service.

spiritual nearing
versus social distancing ...

sitting alone
on a long wooden bench
further away from myself

Sixth Entry:

shelves wiped clean
of hand sanitizers --
I have a footshake
with my new neighbor
behind his mask

Seventh Entry:

Reality Show Host

just like the flu ...
all eyes on the last pack
of toilet paper

social distancing ...
further and further away
from the President

Relax, it all will pass ...
this infectious silence
of the American Dream Mall 

we're doing great ...
in my virus-free dream
the White House locked down

Note: American Dream is a retail and entertainment complex in the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford,New Jersey, United States, that has over 450 stores and 33ooo parking spaces.

Eighth Entry: 

Chinese virus ... 
darkness descends on the White House
raven by raven

PoemHunter, March 19 2020

Ninth Entry: for Rick Grimes who cries out in a storm, "Rest in peace. Now get up. and go to war," The Walking Dead, Season 5.

Chinese virus ...
in my infectious dream
the White House
toppled by the army
of the walking dead

PoemHunter, March 20 2020   

Tenth Entry (Oshawa, ON, Canada):

nursing home silhouette
I air high-five my old friend
at the window

PoemHunter, March 21 2020 

Eleventh Entry (Bergamo,  Lombardy, Italy):

the cathedral
silhouetted against gray sky
an old man
reads through ten full pages
of obituaries 

Twelfth Entry (Venice, Italy):

floods empty alleys ...
one Italian
singing to another
on Juliet balconies

Thirteenth Entry:

shades of gray
seen from my attic window
shelter in place

PoemHunter, March 25 2020

Fourteenth Entry: written in response to "No Canadian" Trending on Twitter

CovidiotInChief: plan to send troops along the US— ——— —— .... Canada border

Fifteenth Entry: a profile of Covidiots with guns

100 more
coronavirus deaths --

the lineup curls
around the parking lot
of a gun megastore

Sixteenth Entry, written in response to this alarming newAsian-Americans are rushing to buy guns as they observe an increased number of Asians being targeted by coronavirus-related attacks

Chinese virus ...
long wait at the iron door
of a gun store
an Asian-looking man sighs,
I just want some peace of mind

PoemHunter, March 31 2020

Seventeenth Entry, April fools' Day, written in response to the March 29 tweet, "President Trump is a ratings hit." posted by CovidiotInChief, Donald Trump

We're doing great ...
goose-stepping Covidiots
OutTrump one another 

PoemHunter, April 1 2020

Eighteenth Entry, written in response to Pandemic could lead to home-cooking revival

April Fools' Day

flattening the curve
the news host almost yells --
head down, I look
at my pot belly
and take one bite of cake

for another two weeks...
grocery run
for a brand new copy
of Home Cooking for Dummies

Nineteenth Entry, written in response to Donald Trump's ban on N95 masks sent to Canada

the White House
encircled by the Great Wall
of N95 masks --
the face of a tired nurse staring
into the camera ... at Death

Twentieth Entry

refrigerated trucks
outside a hospital
an old man
under the shadowy gaze
of the Empire State Building

PoemHunter, April 6 2020

Twenty-First Entry

balcony workout
a side-glance at the bruises
on my neighbor's neck 

Twenty-Second Entry, written on the 100th day of the first Covid19 case reported to the WHO

after ten years of trying...
the distance
between my wife and me
shrinks to the space between laptops

Twenty-Third Entry, on Wuhan, China’s coronavirus epicentre, ending 76-day lockdown

A "Good Old" Day

touch of sunshine
a mother and her kids stroll
down a Wuhan street

Tsingtao beer gone flat
rainbow flowers blooming

Note: "Tsingtao Brewery Co. Ltd. is China's second largest brewery, with about 15% of domestic market share. It was founded in 1903 by German settlers in Qingdao, Shandong province... The Tsingtao brand is sold in 62 countries and regions around the world, and accounts for more than 50% of China's beer exports."

Twenty-Fourth Entry

Good Friday night
punctuated by sirens --
in my dream
a man on the road to Damascus 
wears the crown of thorns

Twenty-Fifth Entry, written for this Easter long weekend

staycation for the nation
I whisper to my dog 
... and myself

PoemHunter, April 11 2020

Twenty-Sixth Entry, written on Holy and Great Saturday

morning chill
the sound of an empty
St. Peter's Square

Twenty-Seventh Entry, Easter Sunday Service

through stained glass windows ...
will worry about itself
echoing in an empty church

FYI: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

Twenty-Eighth Entry, Easter Monday

the priest recites
Therefore do not worry
about tomorrow...
photos of the congregation
attached to wooden benches

Twenty-Ninth Entry

drive-thru confession
Father I have sinned ...
sinned against myself

PoemHunter, April 13 2020

Thirtieth Entry

wisps of snow
my old dog and I
six feet apart

PoemHunter, April 16 2020

crisis fundraising:
in the breezy sunshine
step by step
a WWII vet walking
100 laps of his garden

Thirty-Second Entry, a sequel to the thirty-first entry, written for Captain Tom Moore who raises £15m for NHS as he completes garden walk

garden walk done
a WWII vet trudges past
rows of honor guards

Thirty-Third Entrywritten in response to CBC News: Trump tweets support for 'responsible' protesters

protesters choke the streets
with their cars 
blocking ambulances 
from reaching the hospital

PoemHunter, April 18 2020

Note: This tanka could be read as a sequel to seventeenth entry, April Fools' Day, written in response to the March 29 tweet, "President Trump is a ratings hit." posted by CovidiotInChief, Donald Trump

We're doing great ...
goose-stepping Covidiots
OutTrump one another 

PoemHunter, April 1 2020

Thirty-Fourth Entrya sequel to the thirty-third entry

Opening Up America Again
the size of this billboard
seen from my attic window

PoemHunter, April 21 2020

Thirty-Fifth Entrywritten for health care workers and Leonard Cohen

in breezy moonlight
Montrealers on balconies
burst into song:
Come over to the window
my little darling

Thirty-Sixth Entry:

just still-time spent
with this attic...

I murmur to myself
and empty streets below

Thirty-Seventh Entry, a sequel to the thirty-sixth entry

for weeks in an attic
of shadows ...
I open the window
to morning birdsong

PoemHunter, April 25 2020

Thirty-Eighth Entry, written in response to CTV News on April 24: A National Disgrace: 1475 deaths in long-term care homes and nursing homes are made up of 67% of the total number of coronavirus deaths in Canada

strong wind warning
four more body bags wheeled out
of a nursing home

PoemHunter, April 26 2020 

Note: This haiku is a sequel to the tenth entry: 

nursing home silhouette 
I air high-five my old friend
at the window

PoemHunter, March 21 2020

Thirty-Ninth Entry, a sequel to the thirty-eighth entry

an old woman
in the rain-streaked window --
new death toll

French Translation by Serge Tome

une vieille femme
dans la fenêtre balayée par la pluie --
nouveau décompte des morts

PoemHunter, April 26 2020

Fortieth Entry, written in response to Pawning During A Pandemic

lockdown lifted ...
a lineup stretches
10 blocks
from EZ Pawn
in the morning chill

Note: This tanka is a sequel to the thirty-third entry:

protesters choke the streets
with their cars
blocking ambulances
from reaching the hospital

Forty-First Entry

death toll rising
in California sunshine
thousands flock to beaches

Forty-Second  Entry, written for Bill Withers

balcony concer
my dog and I sing along
to LeanOnMe

PoemHunter, April 29 2020

Forty-Third Entry, written on the day of the US hitting one million confirmed cases and for Dr. Lorna M. Breen, medical director of the emergency department at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, who committed suicide last Sunday

onslaught of patients
wheeled into the ER
in the fray
She tried to do her job
and it killed her...

Forty-Fourth Entry

a tired nurse
opens the bedside window
my friend's voice
flows in with the night breeze
as his mother's eyes close 

Note: This tanka is a sequel to the thirty-ninth entry

an old woman
in the rain-streaked window --
new death toll

Forty-Fifth Entry

this scent
of breezy sunshine ...
Hillary Clinton
wears a black mask
with VOTE in white letters

PoemHunter, May 3 2020

FYI: I’ve got the must-have accessory for spring. I’m wearing a mask (and voting!) for my country, my community, and my grandchildren-- Hillary Clinton, The Hill, May 2

Forty-Sixth Entry

We're all in this together

kill the virus
not our business ...
the city hall
by chairs and tables

flatten the curve --
in breezy sunshine
row upon row
of half-naked bodies
on a sandy beach

end the lockdown ...
alone with my dog
for weeks
now I open the window
to taste the noise

Forty-Seventh Entry

lockdown lifted
still no handshake, no hugno kiss
fading into the dark

Forty-Eighth Entry

brown spots
in the front lawn
spring rain
tapping on the window
and my quarantined mind

Forty-Ninth Entry, for Prince Edward Islanders

at the briefing
the premier yells out
FU Covid ...
the lockdown lifted
under spring sunshine

PoemHunter, May 6 2020

FYI: The P.E.I. premier, who threw his f-bomb at the invisible enemy, Covid19, three days ago, now becomes a folk hero. And these FU Covid T-shorts are the hottest commodities on this tiny island. The premier's "cheap shot" is good for business.

Fiftieth Entry

two lion statues
at a Buddhist temple
bloodily defaced
with a sledgehammer ...
gathering dark in Montreal

PoemHunter, May 8 2020

FYI: Sixty per cent of all Canadian deaths linked to COVID-19 have occurred in Quebec, including more than one-third in Montreal alone.

Fifty-First Entry

Divided States of America

Reopen New York
one Trump fan hugs another
tight ... and tighter

business as usual
giant Stars-and-Stripes flapping
over a salon

FYI: The epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. is in New York, and is particularly concentrated in the New York City region. And these is a continuing series of violations of Covid19 restrictions across the US.

Fifty-Second Entry


for Søren Kierkegaard who called his melancholy “the most faithful mistress I have known."

death toll rising...
in illness and in fear
with my drunken shadow
apart together

quarantined for weeks
with my drunken shadow
in the attic
I tanka-barricade the door
to my mistress's chamber

in dim light
my quarantined mind races
back and forth
between the old and new normal:
this world of masked faces

Fifty-Third Entry

snowflakes swirl
in the mid-May air
a bear hug 
from my eighty-year-old mom 
an ocean away

Fifty-Fourth Entry

May snowfall
in Upstate New York
two golfers
hit one ball after another
harder and farther

FYI: The epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. is in New York, and is particularly concentrated in the New York City region.

Fifty-Fifth Entry

three rows 
of fifth-grade students 
at their grey-haired teacher
behind a sneeze shield

Fifty-Sixth Entry

Back to School
a boy washes his hands
over and over ...

PoemHunter, May 13 2020

Fifty-Seventh Entry

sleeping while Black
an EMT shot dead
by police

PoemHunter, May 14 2020

FYI:  Yahoo! News, May 13: Sleeping while black: Family seeks justice for Breonna Taylor, killed in her bedroom by police

Fifty-Eighth Entry

Talk the Talk

To Justin Trudeau who addressed the House of Commons on saving the elderly from coronavirus on April 11, saying, They fought for us all those years ago. And today we fight for them. We will show ourselves to be worthy of this magnificent country they built.

at the briefing
the photogenic PM's mouth
opens and closes ...
a nursing home silhouetted
against the sunset sky

forty more deaths
slides across the bottom
of the screen ...
a nurse's voice falters,
this elder genocide

FYI: The Globe and Mail April 13 report, "Outbreaks at seniors’ homes linked to almost half of COVID-19 deaths in Canada, Theresa tam says." Toronto Star May 7 report, "82% of Canada’s COVID-19 deaths have been in long-term care, new data reveals." And for more information, see Russell Richer's National Observer May 15 opinion piece, COVID-19: Chronology of the Long-Term Care Tragedy.

Fifty-Ninth Entry

gathering dark
she touches her father's face
behind the glass door

Sixtieth Entry

stay at home 
no pot and smokes sold here...
this small Reserve
encircled by red dots
on the Covid-19 map 

FYI: APTN's National News, April 7, "Influx of non-residents chasing gas, smokes and pot putting First Nation communities at risk," and APTN's National News, May 13 (starting at 4:04).

Sixty-First Entry

punched in the face
and knocked down to the ground
a Haida man
is told to Go back to China
while walking in Vancouver

PoemHunter, May 17 2020

FYI: Haida are a nation and ethnic group native to Haida Gwaii, an archipelago located off the west coast of Canada.

Sixty-Second Entry

business as usual  :-)
in the cafe dressed-up dummies
sit beside me

PoemHunter, May 18 2020

Sixty-Third Entry

the glint
of a butcher knife
lifted high ...
Delhi street kids stare
at pork dripping

Sixty-Fourth Entry

a food bank lineup
curls around the street corner
the silence
of my friend looking at the ground
and me staring at the sky

Sixty-Fifth Entry, for Yo-Yo Ma, renowned and beloved Taiwanese American cellist

Songs of Comfort
echoing against this wall
of ghostly shadows ...
note by note my heart reopens
to this infected world

FYI: For more about Yo-Yo Ma's Songs of Comfort, see PBS's Arts and Culture, "Yo-Yo Ma on encouraging 'Songs of Comfort' amid global crisis."

Sixty-Sixth Entry

a street apart
in the morning chill
a mask-free Trump fan
and a masked Trump foe

air-quote each other
                                                                                                   .... to be continued


  1. Here are my another two "coronavirus poems," one tanka and one tanka prose:

    dark emptiness
    of tree-lined Wuhan streets
    my life and dreams
    shrink to the size
    of a laptop screen

    NeverEnding Story, February 26, 2020

    "Not Again"

    Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, has issued an Extreme Cold Weather Alert today for Toronto in anticipation of colder weather conditions within the next 24 hours or longer.

    behind my back
    a group of teens yell
    coronavirus coming...
    in a world of one color
    the weight of the wind

    NeverEnding Story, February 8, 2020

  2. I've been writing poetry about COVID-19 as well. As in time of stress and sorrow, writing always helps me to cope.

    nature on her timeline
    slowly bringing warmth
    not fast enough
    to overtake the chill
    of sickness and fear


  3. social distancing
    one hand washed
    of the other