If you wonder why this poem is so long and strange, read the prompt at the very bottom and you’ll understand. Not my fault!!
Life in the Time of Corona
It is nothing
but an April morning.
The leg cramp awakened me before the roosters.
A hot shower dissolved the cramp and blasted me awake,
sputtering at first
with air from the unused pipes,
like a voice unused too long.
Isolation “friending” me, along with the dogs,
who were delighted with my longer attention.
Tap tap on the keys into a black morning.
The lonely staccato of dogs in the distance.
Descant of bird voices
and the percussion of the fighting cocks across the road,
the left stage bray of a donkey.
This far up the hill,
their voices rise like heat,
precursors to the church bells that seem to be in a different time zone this morning.
6:59 and still they haven’t tried to recruit me.
They’ve been trying for 19 years.
The old woman at the christening, shocked when I say I’m not Catholic, moving away an inch or two,
side-eyeing me when I miss a beat at rising and sitting,
sit in the pew as she kneels on the kneeling bar.
Arms sore from this flat-back typing,
I consider rising.
In bed since the cramp-induced hot shower,
hands like sandpaper from this
Coronavirus obsessive washing,
My life washed free
except for trips down the hill to pick up masks,
leave off notes for the illustrations of the book that might get finished thanks to this enforced “Go to your room!” by Mother Nature.
She levels her guns at us, hoping we will listen and fall into line.
Only man creating his own rules.
The world dependent
on the right people making the rules.
There have not been enough right people,
the cuckoo taking over for the owls
and the rowdy mockingbirds taking up his call.
He sticks his head from his house too often,
repeating the first thing in his head,
stammering like a Swiss clock that needs maintenance.
Bird language fills the very early dark morning air.
So I want to move to the hammock—
bare butt as I am.
and the early morning awakening of my neighbors.
welt marks from the knitted fabric of the hammock,
scratch marks from Morrie leaping into the hammock after me.
No. The time for nude swinging is twenty years past
and not probable even then.
So a long robe fills my imagination,
but I do not go.
My fingers beat tattoos on the keyboard,
searching for names for the bird dialogues I am hearing.
The trilling runs of a piccolo, bassoon of the downhill donkeys, discord of a dog’s three short barks and howl, running down the scale. My house is still asleep.
Water not yet gushing from the pipes into the pool,
hot and steaming in the cool morning air.
“Go back to sleep,” that part of my lazy brain directs.
“Do the assignment,” my dutiful persona contradicts.
It is rare that the dogs do not detect my thoughts and call for kibble
within seconds of my awakening and thinking of them.
They do not stir.
Traffic noise of trucks on the carretera a mile below.
I hang on this mountain,
depending on gravity
and my house’s firm foundations.
The hard rock that resists that sliding
down the mountainside where eight years ago
it came tumbling down on either side of my house,
leaving me safe.
Since then the penance has been
cracks in the wall by the stairs
leading down from my upstairs casita.
Twenty minutes already?
My story still untold, unlocated, even.
The dark being permeated by light.
Scarlet ribbons start to flow.
The sky as I open the drapes
flooding in to me
on early morning colors.
The pale puce of the morning sky to the north.
The whistle of the whistle bird. Chirp of the chirper,
Mexico crow of the rooster..
ER ere r er without the cockle and the doo.
Where is my family?
My animal alarm clocks?
The cats stay silent in their bed in the garage,
not demanding entrance.
The dogs, mere feet away, curled in the room I built for them.
How do I feel about this forced isolation?
A relief as sorts.
Permission to do what I’ve been adding to the list for the past year:
The mural painted around the front door?
After 11 years, Jesus called asking to do the job,
all of his other commissions cancelled
as gringos flooded back to the states
like rats deserting a sinking ship,
Yet, ironically, it
seems to be America that is sinking.
Mexico bobs along on the internet and phone calls of friends asking what I need.
Yolanda, breaking into the house to clean after a month,
bans me to the studio while she does so.
Appears the next day to clean the studio,
telling me to stay in the house,
even though I have paid her for two months
and told her to stay home.
Said I would pay as long as
anyone but the president of the USA directs.
Using his words as a rapids to avoid
during this whole rush of directives,
The world is being deflected off its course
by a fool supported by bigger fools,
because they have to be smarter than him and yet let their pockets replace their brains and hearts.
The big dog awakens and strolls nonchalantly past my open drapes.
A higher-pitched donkey bray.
Birds quieting into a caesura.
Where are my woodpeckers,
my early morning alarm clocks?
Every day, they awaken me,
except for when a stiffening and locking
somewhere in some limb awakens me first.
Both alarm clocks
from different sorts of limbs.
Fix the dishwasher
Make the peanut butter cookies you bought ingredients for a week ago
Finish typing up and formatting the storybook and get the illustration corrections to Isidro
Finish the Africa book
Finish the NaPoWriMo poem
Finish the prompt poem
Publish the flower prompt photo
Abandon my bed in search of hand lotion
Feed the animals
Half hour timer
Other pills and smoothie.
The time ran out five minutes ago,
yet still I go on trying to meet all the directives.
That night on main street
in a small neighboring town in South Dakota.
Two cars pulled up driver’s window to driver’s window.
The moving to one car.
The first kiss, ever, in this world.
The whole world changing.
That one rebellious action
leading to a moving out into the world that never stopped.
Leading eventually to Mexico
and this morning following directions
into this avalanche of words.
Stones of unsorted sizes.
One layer covering the layer before it.
Instructions lost at the bottom of the pile.
Yellow. Orange. Fuchsia.
My day reasserts itself.
I go back in search of it.
The weather outside is the ordinary perfect April weather.
The weather inside is a hurricane of sneezes.
The plumeria is blooming.
My desk chair, my hammock and my pool
call out to me in that order.
Below is the NaPoWriMo Day 25 prompt today that led to this poem, so don’t blame me. Phew:
A writing prompt toward the present tense, a meditation in everyday language, that makes room for small noticing and our most spacious perceptions.
For writing: please see the following suggestions and have them ready for a free write, selecting and using those that further your present tense engagement. Write for at least twenty minutes. You can return to this prompt and write through it numerous more times, to infinity.
- Bring your perspective and verbs back to the present tense, even when addressing memory
- Seek the “unforced flow of words”
- Introduce all of the things that you might ordinarily deem incidental or too small for consideration
- Include quoted speech (overheard, announced, in dialogue, as song lyrics)
- Build your lines with associative accumulation (parataxis), move with your attentions
- Introduce a swerve or observation that serves as interjection, non-sequitur
- Include at least four colours
- Animate the landscape or nearby object, imbue it with expressiveness of action or address
- Include perceptions of the weather without, perceptions of weather within
- Use a noun as verb that is typically not used that way (anthimeria): “white freaked with red”
- Introduce the occasional 3- and 4-word sentence.
- “Let’s make a list”: include a list of things you love
- Did you remember to ask questions?
- Include a hemistich line: a line made-up of two halves, of equivalent beats, hinged on a silent beat (caesura): “The world is all cut-outs then—and slip or step steadily down”
Keep writing: if you get stuck, begin again by penning a sentence that begins with the word “And…”
Keep writing: if you get stuck, repeat a word or phrase you wrote earlier and build
Keep writing: if you get stuck, perform an instant acrostic—look up and find a short word and use the letters from seeds to generate language (ex.: I performed an instant acrostic on the word “sky” to arrive at the phrase “said ‘Kill yesterday’”; see fragment of the poem drawn from “Mulberry Mess” in Red Juice below.