National Emergency

Pandemic Poetry

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They’re digging mass graves
in the deserts of Iran,
with too many bodies to bury
and more on the way.

While countries shut their borders
the way they wish
they could reinforce their skin
against an enemy unseen.

It feels like it’s everywhere now,
like a hand shake is hard and pointed
as a needle, like every mouth
is a Trojan horse opening.

These leaders on television
seem uncomfortable in their lies,
their lips quiver, their words slur
and bleed into an empty ambulance.

I think about holes
dug in the sands of Iran.
I think about the doctors
having to decide which lives to save

in Italy, in Spain,
in the Chinese provinces
where the smiles of children
are sweet as pickled beets.

I try to remember
a world before quarantines.
Not this world of co-pays
and gofundme’s, of venmo altruism.

I tell myself it’s not so bad,
that even when the streets are vacant
and the boats of Venice rock and slosh
their hollow hulls against the walls

you can hear the voices
of the lonely and the living
singing from open windows
a song that somehow everyone knows.


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Provocative truth teller, author of 14 poetry collections. Cat dad. Dog dad. Currently working from Portland, Oregon. Learn more at:

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