Barbara Nickel

Illustrations by Gillian Newland (http://gilliannewland.com/)

Corona: Sonnets in Situ

A reading by Barbara of the corona sequence in various locations–from the tracks above Yarrow to the stage of a beautiful hall–will be broadcast on October 23 & 24 as part of Gallery 7 Theatre’s virtual Abby Theatre Fest: Stage to Screen Edition. Check that website for box office and scheduling details.

Corona #13 (Smoke)

When I started this corona project in March, I had no idea that it would end where it has. But I couldn’t ignore the reports of the over five million acres burned in California, Oregon and Washington, some of the largest fires ever recorded. I couldn’t ignore the smoke.

Here below I’ve posted the last sonnet, followed by the newly revised and completed crown.

A circle journey doesn’t end. “Corona,” the whole crown, will be published this spring in my new poetry collection, and a video reading of twelve of the sonnets in various locations will be broadcast this month as part of the virtual Abby Theatre Fest: Stage to Screen Edition. For more information, check the feature above.

I hope it’s not the last time I invite you in.

Corona #13 (Smoke)

It was evening all afternoon.
-Wallace Stevens

I wish. We can’t. Too dangerous
to go out there. Hardly war yet
we’re wary, weary: beware creosote,
crowds, particles, something monstrous
in a bar, lung. Is this spread from far for real,
the sun a slip of manna, orange-tinged,
that ridge of trees as if in snow? If a hinge
could creak us back—but no. Real

snow once stung my wrists under wet wool
mitts. In this mist (it isn’t mist) beginnings end where ends
begin so when (despite warnings) you run the river loop, minding
the obstacles, roots, you almost miss the owl

from the cottonwood, soft call, seer of what it doesn’t own.
And so begins its reign (google to see its crown).

Yarrow, B.C.
September 25, 2020


Corona #1 (And so)

And so begins its reign (google to see its crown
under a microscope). Infected prince.
Infected star. And so begins your cancelled
life (infected wife). And over there half-mast is flown
(they load the coffins into trucks). And so
begins shopping with gloves (your mother over
there and when you’ll get to her is never
maybe); talking through screens, and so and so—

And I lie awake with itchy hands.
And tenderize the meat with hammered blows.
And when we’ll meet and touch nobody knows.
And so we live by stats and rules and ands.

That rooster down the tracks
pecking, oblivious.

(March 30, 2020)

Corona #2 (Safeway)

Pecking, oblivious,
the Safeway crows construct in blooming trees
what’s theirs. What’s ours? Try not to seize
the toilet paper please. One each. Whereas
this homeless guy and the queen (immaculate
in green) get less and more and more and less.
But take a look at Boris, the virus
doesn’t discriminate (it does).

And how much Easter chocolate should I get?
And should I fill my cart until it’s filled?
Southeast of here a potter’s field is filled
and let me out of here, I want to get
into my car, in safety watch this blessed
family working, twining twigs into a nest.

(April 11, 2020)

Corona #3 (Spring)

Family working, twining twigs into a nest;
cherry, trillium, corona bloom
while a buffoon condemns the WHO; in Zoom,
inside, outside, in danger zones, the rest
battle the king of everywhere
who won’t allow a service for the dead
and sneaks noiseless into the lungs, is dread
on surfaces but strangely isn’t tearing

us apart; we will receive their surplus
masks, we are arriving at the ends
of paragraphs and meals; that wending
of the river the evening he surprised us—
dark swath, a log until it gleamed—
a beaver dived into the running stream.

(April 18, 2020)

Corona #4 (News)

A beaver dived into the running stream
that became river, estuary, strait, a sea
that made a fog that hid a strain that came to be
the news—old news. It replicates, like rhyme,
with slight changes: a home is hit, old people
die. Then him. Almost a century,
from Hamilton by way of Sicily
and then it’s him. A nurse’s phone took people

to his side. FaceTime: maybe my uncle
heard my violin. Alone he was
and wasn’t. It was him. Amid the chaos
of the news I heard the news that he
died. Turned on the news. Care home, virus.
That body on the gurney could be his.

(April 25, 2020)

Corona #5 (Until)

That body on the gurney could be his,
his body’s journey to an urn the sun
will warm until—until. Not soon
the service. Gather not, until. Selfish,
you wish a crowded ship, haircuts, a trip
across the border or those boring golden days
you’d have a person over. This is a phase
you tell yourself, beating the overripe
bananas into bread, shaping a poem
into the closet where you write, the lines
contained by laundry, a slight desk, aligned
by rules of close and far; windowless home,
we collide, overlap. Where is the unveil,
a way we can be us again until—

(May 2, 2020)

Corona #6 (Doctor)

A way we can be us again until
we can be us again depends on a curve
she worried early into flattening (her
pause; the track on her cheek for the frail,
the numbers weighing, unsleeping her,
delivered without fail, in measured tones
what can’t be measured; for even one,
how evenly she suffers).

Sales suffering too. I watch the antics
of a southern foil (unlikely foil
but still) and, equally, the circles
under her eyes, wonder if as a girl she ever picked
a dandelion globe and almost blew it to the wind—
stopped herself, sheltered with her hand.

(May 11, 2020)

Corona #7 (Lack)

Stopped herself. Sheltered with her hand.
I mean from crying out. I mean she hid
her finger black from work. I made
that up with facts from the report but our ground
beef she picked for bones is true. And that she died
from you know what a day after officials said
her plant was safe. Condolences not said
until the news revealed the lack and the lie.

The sky above the Taj Mahal is blue.
The Louvre emptier for all the life it’s held.
Great halls are vast with music never heard.
And vast the time I haven’t spent with you.

Her husband works there too, when asked
said he felt numb (translated, speaking through a mask).

(May 17, 2020)

Corona #8 (Cover)

Said he felt numb. Translated, speaking through a mask,
her husband said he’d caught it too, and, speaking
through a mask, my husband in the parking lot pokes
a swab into a patient’s nose, and, fumbling with his mask,
his father plants the beans,
his hair white with silver, his mask handsewn, patterned with yellow chicks and pale
green fish, he stoops to sow the kale,
adjusts his mask, kneeling, leaning.

Kids on bikes but mostly quiet on our street.
Our grass, our hair is clipped, the rose climbs
almost in ordinary time,
it pricks my thumb for blooms, it’s sweet

before: ho-hum, we’re getting on a plane,
on our way to…(nothing will be the same).

(May 26, 2020)

Corona #9 (Ghost)

On our way to nothing will be the same:
Detroit, July of ’67, on the list
of the deceased, the four-year-old hit
by the National Guard after a sniper in her home.
The same as this, we watched a city burn.
She’d be about my age. We’re on a plane
(with masks, two seats between) above the same
tumult: It was my life. You didn’t learn.

On our way to nothing will be the same
is the procession of the dead. In motels, on the gallows,
crossroads they come and go, vow
they’re dead and can’t breathe; let nothing be the same.

The airport quiet as a crypt.
She walks ahead. We don’t touch yet.

(June 15, 2020)

Corona #10 (Essential)

She walks ahead. We don’t touch yet
except this place within—my phone, her scroll
and fingerboard not skin but living, set
under her chin for life. She plays although
her audience has scattered into screens.
She plays alone. It’s night. She offers
us her home—the fire escape a ladder leans
against in chips of light—herself
at work beside the bed. I said she walks,
walks in music, climbs each step practised
since she was three. Listen to breath, talk,
meal, the wine, the world, the window, listen
to the rise of each solitary rafter. Outside: off-kilter
boards on a frame, a hose and pail in shadow.

(June 27, 2020)

Corona #11 (Travel)

Boards on a frame, a hose and pail in shadow,
summer day like all the others, hot
without a cloud. For a picnic why not
pretend on Zoom. Each day the dew,
weeding, watering. A barbecue.
No one comes inside. The dill
looks fried. Rotting prawns, the maggots killed,
practice your instrument for what. Blue
day after day after the panic. Still
numbers. Our dying
fridge. TikTok. Netflix. The news is trying
to be new and the marigold, ruffled
sentry, kneel for its spice
to let you find another place and shadow.

(August 8, 2020)

Corona #12  (Door)

To let you find another place and shadow,
hollow in my old backyard, before
the summer’s gone, let’s set out before dawn
to get the sun and mist past Hope. I know
the route. You whistle, off and on. Hours
allow us the braided streams and blackbird, ditch garbage, wet faces
of rock, paintbrush, wild vetch and, after a day, a glacial
snout too far away, discharging milky water. Rock flour
I say as if I still know more than you.
Doritos on the floor. Even at night the wheat
is here near where your grandpa hated
picking rocks from the soil and now he’s moving
toward the door to us—
I wish. We can’t. Too dangerous.

(September 10, 2020)

Corona #13 (Smoke)

It was evening all afternoon.
-Wallace Stevens

I wish. We can’t. Too dangerous
to go out there. Hardly war yet
we’re wary, weary: beware creosote,
crowds, particles, something monstrous
in a bar, lung. Is this spread from far for real,
the sun a slip of manna, orange-tinged,
that ridge of trees as if in snow? If a hinge
could creak us back—but no. Real

snow once stung my wrists under wet wool
mitts. In this mist (it isn’t mist) beginnings end where ends
begin so when (despite warnings) you run the river loop, minding
the obstacles, roots, you almost miss the owl

from the cottonwood, soft call, seer of what it doesn’t own.
And so begins its reign (google to see its crown).

Yarrow, B.C.
September 25, 2020

Corona #12 (Door)

I’ve altered the last line of #11 from the last post—I realized that sentries won’t take you to a place, but they might let you in. Sonnet #12 begins with the altered line. You’ll find it first below, followed by the entire crown-in-process.

Perhaps the next one will be the last? Stay tuned–the whole crown will appear in my new poetry collection to be released this spring, and I’ll be reading them as a video project to be broadcast at a virtual theatre festival in October. Details to follow!

In the meantime, I invite you in.

Corona #12  (Door)

To let you find another place—shadow,
hollow in my old backyard—before
the summer’s gone, let’s set out before dawn
to get the sun and mist past Hope. I know
the route. You whistle, off and on. Hours
allow us the braided streams and blackbird, ditch garbage, wet faces
of rock, paintbrush, wild vetch and, after a day, a glacial
snout too far away, discharging milky water. Rock flour
I say as if I still know more than you.
Doritos on the floor. Even at night the wheat
is here near where your grandpa hated
picking rocks from the soil and now he’s moving
toward the door to us—
I wish. We can’t. Too dangerous.


Corona #1 (And so)

And so begins its rule (google to see its crown
under a microscope). Infected prince.
Infected star. And so begins your cancelled
life (infected wife). And over there half-mast is flown
(they load the coffins into trucks). And so
begins shopping with gloves (your mother over
there and when you’ll get to her is never
maybe); talking in screens, and so and so—

And I lie awake with itchy hands.
And tenderize the meat with hammered blows.
And when we’ll meet and touch nobody knows.
And so we live by stats and rules and ands.

That rooster down the tracks
pecking, oblivious.

(March 30, 2020)

Corona #2 (Safeway)

Pecking, oblivious,
the Safeway crows construct in blooming trees
what’s theirs. What’s ours? Try not to seize
the toilet paper please. One each. Whereas
this homeless guy and the queen (immaculate
in green) get less and more and more and less.
But take a look at Boris, the virus
doesn’t discriminate (it does it does).

And how much Easter chocolate should I get?
And should I fill my cart until it’s filled?
Southeast of here a potter’s field is filled
and let me out of here, I want to get
into my car, in safety watch this blessed
family conferring, twining twigs into a nest.

(April 11, 2020)

Corona #3 (Spring)

Family conferring, twining twigs into a nest;
cherry, trillium, corona bloom
while a buffoon condemns the WHO; in Zoom,
inside, outside, in danger zones, the rest
battle the king of everywhere
who won’t allow a service for the dead
and sneaks noiseless into the lungs, is dread
on surfaces but strangely isn’t tearing

us apart; we will receive their surplus
masks, we are arriving at the ends
of paragraphs and meals; that wending
of the river the evening he surprised us—
dark swath, a log until it gleamed;
a beaver dived into the running stream.

(April 18, 2020)

Corona #4 (News)

A beaver dived into the running stream
that became river, estuary, strait, a sea
that made a mist that hid a strain that came to be
the news—old news. It replicates, like rhyme,
with slight changes: a home is hit, old people
die. And then it’s him. Almost a century,
from Hamilton by way of Sicily
and then it’s him. A nurse’s phone took people

to his side. FaceTime: maybe my uncle
heard my violin. Alone he was
and wasn’t. It was him. Amid the chaos
of the news I heard the news that he
died. Turned on the news. Care home, virus.
That body on the gurney could be his.

(April 25, 2020)

Corona #5 (Until)

That body on the gurney could be his,
his body’s journey to an urn the sun
will warm until—until. Not soon
the service. Gather not, until. Selfish,
you wish a crowded ship, haircuts, a trip
across the border or those olden days
you’d have a person over. This is a phase
you tell yourself, beating the overripe
bananas into bread, shaping a poem
into the closet where you write, the lines
contained by laundry, a slight desk, aligned
by rules of close and far; windowless home.
Most are at home. Where is the unveil,
a way we can be us again until—

(May 2, 2020)

Corona #6 (Doctor)

A way we can be us again until
we can be us again depends on a curve
she worried early into flattening (her
pause; the track on her cheek for the frail,
the numbers weighing, unsleeping her,
delivered without fail, in measured tones
what can’t be measured; for even one,
in even tones, how evenly she suffers).

Suffering sales. I watch the antics
of her southern foil (unlikely foil
but still) and, equally, the circles
under her eyes, wonder if as a girl she ever picked
a dandelion globe and surged to blow it to the wind—
stopped herself, cupped it with her hand.

(May 11, 2020)

Corona #7 (Lack)

Stopped herself. Cupped it with her hand.
I mean from crying out. I mean she hid
her finger black from work. I made
that up with facts from the report but our ground
beef she picked for bones is true. And that she died
from you know what a day after officials said
her plant was safe. Condolences not said
until the news revealed the lack and the lie.

The sky above the Taj Mahal is blue.
The Louvre emptier for all the life it’s held.
Great halls are vast with music never heard.
And vast the time I haven’t spent with you.

Her husband works there too, when asked
said he felt numb (translated, speaking through a mask).

(May 17, 2020)

Corona #8 (Cover)

Said he felt numb. Translated, speaking through a mask,
her husband said he’d caught it too, and, speaking
through a mask, my husband in the parking lot pokes
a swab into a patient’s nose, and, fumbling with his mask,
his father plants the beans,
his hair white with silver, his mask handsewn, patterned with yellow chicks and pale
green fish, he stoops to sow the kale,
adjusts his mask, kneeling, leaning.

Kids on bikes but mostly quiet on our street.
Our grass, our hair is clipped, the rose climbs
almost in ordinary time,
it pricks my thumb for blooms, it’s sweet

before: ho-hum, we’re getting on a plane,
on our way to—(nothing will be the same).

(May 26, 2020)

Corona #9 (Ghost)

On our way to nothing will be the same:
Detroit, July of ’67, on the list
of the deceased, the four-year-old hit
by the National Guard after a sniper in her home.
The same as this, we watched a city burn.
She’d be about my age, we’re on a plane
(with masks, two seats between) above the same
tumult: It was my life. You didn’t learn.

On our way to nothing will be the same
is the procession of the dead. In mist
and flame they come and go, insist
they’re dead and can’t breathe; let nothing be the same.

The airport quiet as a crypt.
She walks ahead of me; we don’t touch yet.

(June 15, 2020)

Corona #10 (Essential)

She walks ahead of me. We don’t touch yet
except this place within—my phone, her scroll
and fingerboard not skin but living, set
under her chin for life. She plays although
her audience has scattered into screens.
She plays alone. It’s night. She offers
us her home—the fire escape a ladder leans
against in chips of light—her
beside the bed. I said she walks,
walks in music, climbs each step practised
since she was three. Listen to breath, talk,
meal, the wine, the world, the window, listen
to sweat and sleep. Outside: off-kilter
boards on a frame, a hose and pail in shadow.

(June 27, 2020)

Corona #11 (Travel)

Boards on a frame, a hose and pail in shadow,
summer day like all the others, hot
without a cloud. For a picnic why not
pretend on Zoom. Each day the dew,
weeding, watering. A barbecue.
No one comes inside. The dill
looks fried. Rotting prawns, the maggots killed,
practice your instrument for what. Blue
day after day after the panic. Still
numbers. Our dying
fridge. TikTok. Netflix. The news is trying
to be new and the marigold, ruffled
sentry, kneel for its spice
to let you find another place, shadow.

(August 8, 2020)

Corona #12  (Door)

To let you find another place—shadow,
hollow in my old backyard—before
the summer’s gone, let’s set out before dawn
to get the sun and mist past Hope. I know
the route. You whistle, off and on. Hours
allow us the braided streams and blackbird, ditch garbage, wet faces
of rock, paintbrush, wild vetch and, after a day, a glacial
snout too far away, discharging milky water. Rock flour
I say as if I still know more than you.
Doritos on the floor. Even at night the wheat
is here near where your grandpa hated
picking rocks from the soil and now he’s moving
toward the door to us—
I wish. We can’t. Too dangerous.

Corona #11 (Travel)

Six weeks since the last sonnet and I’m wondering how this corona will end.

Friends have assured me that it will just happen, and that it’s okay if it doesn’t end in the traditional form, with the first line of the first sonnet identical to the last line of the last, sealing a perfect circle. At the start I said it would end with the pandemic but now I’m pretty sure its time will come sooner.

In the meantime, here’s the new sonnet first, followed by the crown-in-process.

I invite you in.  

Corona #11 (Travel)

Boards on a frame, a hose and pail in shadow,
summer day like all the others, hot
without a cloud. For a picnic why not
pretend on Zoom. Each day the dew,
weeding, watering. A barbecue.
No one comes inside. The dill
looks fried. Rotting prawns, the maggots killed,
practice your instrument for what. Blue
day after day after the panic. Still
numbers. Our dying
fridge. TikTok. Netflix. The news is trying
to be new and the marigold, ruffled
sentry, kneel for its spice
to let you find another place, shadow.


Corona #1 (And so)

And so begins its rule (google to see its crown
under a microscope). Infected prince.
Infected star. And so begins your cancelled
life (infected wife). And over there half-mast is flown
(they load the coffins into trucks). And so
begins shopping with gloves (your mother over
there and when you’ll get to her is never
maybe); talking in screens, and so and so—

And I lie awake with itchy hands.
And tenderize the meat with hammered blows.
And when we’ll meet and touch nobody knows.
And so we live by stats and rules and ands.

That rooster down the tracks
pecking, oblivious.

(March 30, 2020)

Corona #2 (Safeway)

Pecking, oblivious,
the Safeway crows construct in blooming trees
what’s theirs. What’s ours? Try not to seize
the toilet paper please. One each. Whereas
this homeless guy and the queen (immaculate
in green) get less and more and more and less.
But take a look at Boris, the virus
doesn’t discriminate (it does it does).

And how much Easter chocolate should I get?
And should I fill my cart until it’s filled?
Southeast of here a potter’s field is filled
and let me out of here, I want to get
into my car, in safety watch this blessed
family conferring, twining twigs into a nest.

(April 11, 2020)

Corona #3 (Spring)

Family conferring, twining twigs into a nest;
cherry, trillium, corona bloom
while a buffoon condemns the WHO; in Zoom,
inside, outside, in danger zones, the rest
battle the king of everywhere
who won’t allow a service for the dead
and sneaks noiseless into the lungs, is dread
on surfaces but strangely isn’t tearing

us apart; we will receive their surplus
masks, we are arriving at the ends
of paragraphs and meals; that wending
of the river the evening he surprised us—
dark swath, a log until it gleamed;
a beaver dived into the running stream.

(April 18, 2020)

Corona #4 (News)

A beaver dived into the running stream
that became river, estuary, strait, a sea
that made a mist that hid a strain that came to be
the news—old news. It replicates, like rhyme,
with slight changes: a home is hit, old people
die. And then it’s him. Almost a century,
from Hamilton by way of Sicily
and then it’s him. A nurse’s phone took people

to his side. FaceTime: maybe my uncle
heard my violin. Alone he was
and wasn’t. It was him. Amid the chaos
of the news I heard the news that he
died. Turned on the news. Care home, virus.
That body on the gurney could be his.

(April 25, 2020)

Corona #5 (Until)

That body on the gurney could be his,
his body’s journey to an urn the sun
will warm until—until. Not soon
the service. Gather not, until. Selfish,
you wish a crowded ship, haircuts, a trip
across the border or those olden days
you’d have a person over. This is a phase
you tell yourself, beating the overripe
bananas into bread, shaping a poem
into the closet where you write, the lines
contained by laundry, a slight desk, aligned
by rules of close and far; windowless home.
Most are at home. Where is the unveil,
a way we can be us again until—

(May 2, 2020)

Corona #6 (Doctor)

A way we can be us again until
we can be us again depends on a curve
she worried early into flattening (her
pause; the track on her cheek for the frail,
the numbers weighing, unsleeping her,
delivered without fail, in measured tones
what can’t be measured; for even one,
in even tones, how evenly she suffers).

Suffering sales. I watch the antics
of her southern foil (unlikely foil
but still) and, equally, the circles
under her eyes, wonder if as a girl she ever picked
a dandelion globe and surged to blow it to the wind—
stopped herself, cupped it with her hand.

(May 11, 2020)

Corona #7 (Lack)

Stopped herself. Cupped it with her hand.
I mean from crying out. I mean she hid
her finger black from work. I made
that up with facts from the report but our ground
beef she picked for bones is true. And that she died
from you know what a day after officials said
her plant was safe. Condolences not said
until the news revealed the lack and the lie.

The sky above the Taj Mahal is blue.
The Louvre emptier for all the life it’s held.
Great halls are vast with music never heard.
And vast the time I haven’t spent with you.

Her husband works there too, when asked
said he felt numb (translated, speaking through a mask).

(May 17, 2020)

Corona #8 (Cover)

Said he felt numb. Translated, speaking through a mask,
her husband said he’d caught it too, and, speaking
through a mask, my husband in the parking lot pokes
a swab into a patient’s nose, and, fumbling with his mask,
his father plants the beans,
his hair white with silver, his mask handsewn, patterned with yellow chicks and pale
green fish, he stoops to sow the kale,
adjusts his mask, kneeling, leaning.

Kids on bikes but mostly quiet on our street.
Our grass, our hair is clipped, the rose climbs
almost in ordinary time,
it pricks my thumb for blooms, it’s sweet

before: ho-hum, we’re getting on a plane,
on our way to—(nothing will be the same).

(May 26, 2020)

Corona #9 (Ghost)

On our way to nothing will be the same:
Detroit, July of ’67, on the list
of the deceased, the four-year-old hit
by the National Guard after a sniper in her home.
The same as this, we watched a city burn.
She’d be about my age, we’re on a plane
(with masks, two seats between) above the same
tumult: It was my life. You didn’t learn.

On our way to nothing will be the same
is the procession of the dead. In mist
and flame they come and go, insist
they’re dead and can’t breathe; let nothing be the same.

The airport quiet as a crypt.
She walks ahead of me; we don’t touch yet.

(June 15, 2020)

Corona #10 (Essential)

She walks ahead of me. We don’t touch yet
except this place within—my phone, her scroll
and fingerboard not skin but living, set
under her chin for life. She plays although
her audience has scattered into screens.
She plays alone. It’s night. She offers
us her home—the fire escape a ladder leans
against in chips of light—her
beside the bed. I said she walks,
walks in music, climbs each step practised
since she was three. Listen to breath, talk,
meal, the wine, the world, the window, listen
to sweat and sleep. Outside: off-kilter
boards on a frame, a hose and pail in shadow.

(June 27, 2020)

Corona #11 (Travel)

Boards on a frame, a hose and pail in shadow,
summer day like all the others, hot
without a cloud. For a picnic why not
pretend on Zoom. Each day the dew,
weeding, watering. A barbecue.
No one comes inside. The dill
looks fried. Rotting prawns, the maggots killed,
practice your instrument for what. Blue
day after day after the panic. Still
numbers. Our dying
fridge. TikTok. Netflix. The news is trying
to be new and the marigold, ruffled
sentry, kneel for its spice
to let you find another place, shadow.


 

 

Corona #10 (Essential)

 

I owe a debt of gratitude for this week’s poem to Chloe Kim’s Musical Offering on the Early Music Vancouver website, which includes her performance of Nicola Matteis Jr.’s “Alia Fantasia”, the photograph by Alec Jacobson, and Chloe’s eloquent words about her situation.

You’ll find the new sonnet first, followed by the entire corona-in-process.

I invite you in.

Corona #10 (Essential)

She walks ahead of me. We don’t touch yet
except this place within—my phone, her scroll
and fingerboard not skin but living, set
under her chin for life. She plays although
her audience has scattered into screens.
She plays alone. It’s night. She offers
us her home—the fire escape a ladder leans
against in chips of light—her
beside the bed. I said she walks,
walks in music, climbs each step practised
since she was three. Listen to breath, talk,
meal, the wine, the world, the window, listen
to sweat and sleep. Outside: off-kilter
boards on a frame, a hose and pail in shadow.


Corona #1 (And so)

And so begins its rule (google to see its crown
under a microscope). Infected prince.
Infected star. And so begins your cancelled
life (infected wife). And over there half-mast is flown
(they load the coffins into trucks). And so
begins shopping with gloves (your mother over
there and when you’ll get to her is never
maybe); talking in screens, and so and so—

And I lie awake with itchy hands.
And tenderize the meat with hammered blows.
And when we’ll meet and touch nobody knows.
And so we live by stats and rules and ands.

That rooster down the tracks
pecking, oblivious.

(March 30, 2020)

Corona #2 (Safeway)

Pecking, oblivious,
the Safeway crows construct in blooming trees
what’s theirs. What’s ours? Try not to seize
the toilet paper please. One each. Whereas
this homeless guy and the queen (immaculate
in green) get less and more and more and less.
But take a look at Boris, the virus
doesn’t discriminate (it does it does).

And how much Easter chocolate should I get?
And should I fill my cart until it’s filled?
Southeast of here a potter’s field is filled
and let me out of here, I want to get
into my car, in safety watch this blessed
family conferring, twining twigs into a nest.

(April 11, 2020)

Corona #3 (Spring)

Family conferring, twining twigs into a nest;
cherry, trillium, corona bloom
while a buffoon condemns the WHO; in Zoom,
inside, outside, in danger zones, the rest
battle the king of everywhere
who won’t allow a service for the dead
and sneaks noiseless into the lungs, is dread
on surfaces but strangely isn’t tearing

us apart; we will receive their surplus
masks, we are arriving at the ends
of paragraphs and meals; that wending
of the river the evening he surprised us—
dark swath, a log until it gleamed;
a beaver dived into the running stream.

(April 18, 2020)

Corona #4 (News)

A beaver dived into the running stream
that became river, estuary, strait, a sea
that made a mist that hid a strain that came to be
the news—old news. It replicates, like rhyme,
with slight changes: a home is hit, old people
die. And then it’s him. Almost a century,
from Hamilton by way of Sicily
and then it’s him. A nurse’s phone took people

to his side. FaceTime: maybe my uncle
heard my violin. Alone he was
and wasn’t. It was him. Amid the chaos
of the news I heard the news that he
died. Turned on the news. Care home, virus.
That body on the gurney could be his.

(April 25, 2020)

Corona #5 (Until)

That body on the gurney could be his,
his body’s journey to an urn the sun
will warm until—until. Not soon
the service. Gather not, until. Selfish,
you wish a crowded ship, haircuts, a trip
across the border or those olden days
you’d have a person over. This is a phase
you tell yourself, beating the overripe
bananas into bread, shaping a poem
into the closet where you write, the lines
contained by laundry, a slight desk, aligned
by rules of close and far; windowless home.
Most are at home. Where is the unveil,
a way we can be us again until—

(May 2, 2020)

Corona #6 (Doctor)

A way we can be us again until
we can be us again depends on a curve
she worried early into flattening (her
pause; the track on her cheek for the frail,
the numbers weighing, unsleeping her,
delivered without fail, in measured tones
what can’t be measured; for even one,
in even tones, how evenly she suffers).

Suffering sales. I watch the antics
of her southern foil (unlikely foil
but still) and, equally, the circles
under her eyes, wonder if as a girl she ever picked
a dandelion globe and surged to blow it to the wind—
stopped herself, cupped it with her hand.

(May 11, 2020)

Corona #7 (Lack)

Stopped herself. Cupped it with her hand.
I mean from crying out. I mean she hid
her finger black from work. I made
that up with facts from the report but our ground
beef she picked for bones is true. And that she died
from you know what a day after officials said
her plant was safe. Condolences not said
until the news revealed the lack and the lie.

The sky above the Taj Mahal is blue.
The Louvre emptier for all the life it’s held.
Great halls are vast with music never heard.
And vast the time I haven’t spent with you.

Her husband works there too, when asked
said he felt numb (translated, speaking through a mask).

(May 17, 2020)

Corona #8 (Cover)

Said he felt numb. Translated, speaking through a mask,
her husband said he’d caught it too, and, speaking
through a mask, my husband in the parking lot pokes
a swab into a patient’s nose, and, fumbling with his mask,
his father plants the beans,
his hair white with silver, his mask handsewn, patterned with yellow chicks and pale
green fish, he stoops to sow the kale,
adjusts his mask, kneeling, leaning.

Kids on bikes but mostly quiet on our street.
Our grass, our hair is clipped, the rose climbs
almost in ordinary time,
it pricks my thumb for blooms, it’s sweet

before: ho-hum, we’re getting on a plane,
on our way to—(nothing will be the same).

(May 26, 2020)

Corona #9 (Ghost)

On our way to nothing will be the same:
Detroit, July of ’67, on the list
of the deceased, the four-year-old hit
by the National Guard after a sniper in her home.
The same as this, we watched a city burn.
She’d be about my age, we’re on a plane
(with masks, two seats between) above the same
tumult: It was my life. You didn’t learn.

On our way to nothing will be the same
is the procession of the dead. In mist
and flame they come and go, insist
they’re dead and can’t breathe; let nothing be the same.

The airport quiet as a crypt.
She walks ahead of me; we don’t touch yet.

(June 15, 2020)

Corona #10 (Essential)

She walks ahead of me. We don’t touch yet
except this place within—my phone, her scroll
and fingerboard not skin but living, set
under her chin for life. She plays although
her audience has scattered into screens.
She plays alone. It’s night. She offers
us her home—the fire escape a ladder leans
against in chips of light—her
beside the bed. I said she walks,
walks in music, climbs each step practised
since she was three. Listen to breath, talk,
meal, the wine, the world, the window, listen
to sweat and sleep. Outside: off-kilter
boards on a frame, a hose and pail in shadow.

 

 

Corona #9 (Ghost)

It’s been almost three weeks since the last sonnet. So much hard has happened, I found I needed to look back in order to look forward.

The newest sonnet is first, followed by the entire crown.

I invite you in. 

Corona #9 (Ghost)

On our way to nothing will be the same:
Detroit, July of ’67, on the list
of the deceased, the four-year-old hit
by the National Guard after a sniper in her home.
The same as this, we watched a city burn.
She’d be about my age, we’re on a plane
(with masks, two seats between) above the same
tumult: It was my life. You didn’t learn.

On our way to nothing will be the same
is the procession of the dead. In mist
and flame they come and go, insist
they’re dead and can’t breathe; let nothing be the same.

The airport quiet as a crypt.
She walks ahead of me; we don’t touch yet.


Corona #1 (And so)

And so begins its rule (google to see its crown
under a microscope). Infected prince.
Infected star. And so begins your cancelled
life (infected wife). And over there half-mast is flown
(they load the coffins into trucks). And so
begins shopping with gloves (your mother over
there and when you’ll get to her is never
maybe); talking in screens, and so and so—

And I lie awake with itchy hands.
And tenderize the meat with hammered blows.
And when we’ll meet and touch nobody knows.
And so we live by stats and rules and ands.

That rooster down the tracks
pecking, oblivious.

(March 30, 2020)

Corona #2 (Safeway)

Pecking, oblivious,
the Safeway crows construct in blooming trees
what’s theirs. What’s ours? Try not to seize
the toilet paper please. One each. Whereas
this homeless guy and the queen (immaculate
in green) get less and more and more and less.
But take a look at Boris, the virus
doesn’t discriminate (it does it does).

And how much Easter chocolate should I get?
And should I fill my cart until it’s filled?
Southeast of here a potter’s field is filled
and let me out of here, I want to get
into my car, in safety watch this blessed
family conferring, twining twigs into a nest.

(April 11, 2020)

Corona #3 (Spring)

Family conferring, twining twigs into a nest;
cherry, trillium, corona bloom
while a buffoon condemns the WHO; in Zoom,
inside, outside, in danger zones, the rest
battle the king of everywhere
who won’t allow a service for the dead
and sneaks noiseless into the lungs, is dread
on surfaces but strangely isn’t tearing

us apart; we will receive their surplus
masks, we are arriving at the ends
of paragraphs and meals; that wending
of the river the evening he surprised us—
dark swath, a log until it gleamed;
a beaver dived into the running stream.

(April 18, 2020)

Corona #4 (News)

A beaver dived into the running stream
that became river, estuary, strait, a sea
that made a mist that hid a strain that came to be
the news—old news. It replicates, like rhyme,
with slight changes: a home is hit, old people
die. And then it’s him. Almost a century,
from Hamilton by way of Sicily
and then it’s him. A nurse’s phone took people

to his side. FaceTime: maybe my uncle
heard my violin. Alone he was
and wasn’t. It was him. Amid the chaos
of the news I heard the news that he
died. Turned on the news. Care home, virus.
That body on the gurney could be his.

(April 25, 2020)

Corona #5 (Until)

That body on the gurney could be his,
his body’s journey to an urn the sun
will warm until—until. Not soon
the service. Gather not, until. Selfish,
you wish a crowded ship, haircuts, a trip
across the border or those olden days
you’d have a person over. This is a phase
you tell yourself, beating the overripe
bananas into bread, shaping a poem
into the closet where you write, the lines
contained by laundry, a slight desk, aligned
by rules of close and far; windowless home.
Most are at home. Where is the unveil,
a way we can be us again until—

(May 2, 2020)

Corona #6 (Doctor)

A way we can be us again until
we can be us again depends on a curve
she worried early into flattening (her
pause; the track on her cheek for the frail,
the numbers weighing, unsleeping her,
delivered without fail, in measured tones
what can’t be measured; for even one,
in even tones, how evenly she suffers).

Suffering sales. I watch the antics
of her southern foil (unlikely foil
but still) and, equally, the circles
under her eyes, wonder if as a girl she ever picked
a dandelion globe and surged to blow it to the wind—
stopped herself, cupped it with her hand.

(May 11, 2020)

Corona #7 (Lack)

Stopped herself. Cupped it with her hand.
I mean from crying out. I mean she hid
her finger black from work. I made
that up with facts from the report but our ground
beef she picked for bones is true. And that she died
from you know what a day after officials said
her plant was safe. Condolences not said
until the news revealed the lack and the lie.

The sky above the Taj Mahal is blue.
The Louvre emptier for all the life it’s held.
Great halls are vast with music never heard.
And vast the time I haven’t spent with you.

Her husband works there too, when asked
said he felt numb (translated, speaking through a mask).

(May 17, 2020)

Corona #8 (Cover)

Said he felt numb. Translated, speaking through a mask,
her husband said he’d caught it too, and, speaking
through a mask, my husband in the parking lot pokes
a swab into a patient’s nose, and, fumbling with his mask,
his father plants the beans,
his hair white with silver, his mask handsewn, patterned with yellow chicks and pale
green fish, he stoops to sow the kale,
adjusts his mask, kneeling, leaning.

Kids on bikes but mostly quiet on our street.
Our grass, our hair is clipped, the rose climbs
almost in ordinary time,
it pricks my thumb for blooms, it’s sweet

before: ho-hum, we’re getting on a plane,
on our way to—(nothing will be the same).

(May 26, 2020)

Corona #9 (Ghost)

On our way to nothing will be the same:
Detroit, July of ’67, on the list
of the deceased, the four-year-old hit
by the National Guard after a sniper in her home.
The same as this, we watched a city burn.
She’d be about my age, we’re on a plane
(with masks, two seats between) above the same
tumult: It was my life. You didn’t learn.

On our way to nothing will be the same
is the procession of the dead. In mist
and flame they come and go, insist
they’re dead and can’t breathe; let nothing be the same.

The airport quiet as a crypt.
She walks ahead of me; we don’t touch yet.

Corona #8 (Cover)

Since last week’s post marked the end of the traditional seven-sonnet crown, this corona has become mutant.

Here is the latest poem first, to save you from scrolling down through all of the sonnets each week. The whole crown-in-process follows for those who wish to read it.

I invite you in. 

Corona #8 (Cover)

Said he felt numb. Translated, speaking through a mask,
her husband said he’d caught it too, and, speaking
through a mask, my husband in the parking lot pokes
a swab into a patient’s nose, and, fumbling with his mask,
his father plants the beans,
his hair white with silver, his mask handsewn, patterned with yellow chicks and pale
green fish, he stoops to sow the kale,
adjusts his mask, kneeling, leaning.

Kids on bikes but mostly quiet on our street.
Our grass, our hair is clipped, the rose climbs
almost in ordinary time,
it pricks my thumb for blooms, it’s sweet

before: ho-hum, we’re getting on a plane,
on our way to—(nothing will be the same).


Corona #1 (And so)

And so begins its rule (google to see its crown
under a microscope). Infected prince.
Infected star. And so begins your cancelled
life (infected wife). And over there half-mast is flown
(they load the coffins into trucks). And so
begins shopping with gloves (your mother over
there and when you’ll get to her is never
maybe); talking in screens, and so and so—

And I lie awake with itchy hands.
And tenderize the meat with hammered blows.
And when we’ll meet and touch nobody knows.
And so we live by stats and rules and ands.

That rooster down the tracks
pecking, oblivious.

(March 30, 2020)

Corona #2 (Safeway)

Pecking, oblivious,
the Safeway crows construct in blooming trees
what’s theirs. What’s ours? Try not to seize
the toilet paper please. One each. Whereas
this homeless guy and the queen (immaculate
in green) get less and more and more and less.
But take a look at Boris, the virus
doesn’t discriminate (it does it does).

And how much Easter chocolate should I get?
And should I fill my cart until it’s filled?
Southeast of here a potter’s field is filled
and let me out of here, I want to get
into my car, in safety watch this blessed
family conferring, twining twigs into a nest.

(April 11, 2020)

Corona #3 (Spring)

Family conferring, twining twigs into a nest;
cherry, trillium, corona bloom
while a buffoon condemns the WHO; in Zoom,
inside, outside, in danger zones, the rest
battle the king of everywhere
who won’t allow a service for the dead
and sneaks noiseless into the lungs, is dread
on surfaces but strangely isn’t tearing

us apart; we will receive their surplus
masks, we are arriving at the ends
of paragraphs and meals; that wending
of the river the evening he surprised us—
dark swath, a log until it gleamed;
a beaver dived into the running stream.

(April 18, 2020)

Corona #4 (News)

A beaver dived into the running stream
that became river, estuary, strait, a sea
that made a mist that hid a strain that came to be
the news—old news. It replicates, like rhyme,
with slight changes: a home is hit, old people
die. And then it’s him. Almost a century,
from Hamilton by way of Sicily
and then it’s him. A nurse’s phone took people

to his side. FaceTime: maybe my uncle
heard my violin. Alone he was
and wasn’t. It was him. Amid the chaos
of the news I heard the news that he
died. Turned on the news. Care home, virus.
That body on the gurney could be his.

(April 25, 2020)

Corona #5 (Until)

That body on the gurney could be his,
his body’s journey to an urn the sun
will warm until—until. Not soon
the service. Gather not, until. Selfish,
you wish a crowded ship, haircuts, a trip
across the border or those olden days
you’d have a person over. This is a phase
you tell yourself, beating the overripe
bananas into bread, shaping a poem
into the closet where you write, the lines
contained by laundry, a slight desk, aligned
by rules of close and far; windowless home.
Most are at home. Where is the unveil,
a way we can be us again until—

(May 2, 2020)

Corona #6 (Doctor)

A way we can be us again until
we can be us again depends on a curve
she worried early into flattening (her
pause; the track on her cheek for the frail,
the numbers weighing, unsleeping her,
delivered without fail, in measured tones
what can’t be measured; for even one,
in even tones, how evenly she suffers).

Suffering sales. I watch the antics
of her southern foil (unlikely foil
but still) and, equally, the circles
under her eyes, wonder if as a girl she ever picked
a dandelion globe and surged to blow it to the wind—
stopped herself, cupped it with her hand.

(May 11, 2020)

Corona #7 (Lack)

Stopped herself. Cupped it with her hand.
I mean from crying out. I mean she hid
her finger black from work. I made
that up with facts from the report but our ground
beef she picked for bones is true. And that she died
from you know what a day after officials said
her plant was safe. Condolences not said
until the news revealed the lack and the lie.

The sky above the Taj Mahal is blue.
The Louvre emptier for all the life it’s held.
Great halls are vast with music never heard.
And vast the time I haven’t spent with you.

Her husband works there too, when asked
said he felt numb (translated, speaking through a mask).

(May 17, 2020)

Corona #8 (Cover)

Said he felt numb. Translated, speaking through a mask,
her husband said he’d caught it too, and, speaking
through a mask, my husband in the parking lot pokes
a swab into a patient’s nose, and, fumbling with his mask,
his father plants the beans,
his hair white with silver, his mask handsewn, patterned with yellow chicks and pale
green fish, he stoops to sow the kale,
adjusts his mask, kneeling, leaning.

Kids on bikes but mostly quiet on our street.
Our grass, our hair is clipped, the rose climbs
almost in ordinary time,
it pricks my thumb for blooms, it’s sweet

before: ho-hum, we’re getting on a plane,
on our way to—(nothing will be the same).

Corona #7 (Lack)

 

“Literature is news that stays news.” (Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading, 1934)

This week’s poem is written in response to one of those news stories that has stayed news by haunting me.

It’s a long way down by now, at the end of the ever-expanding crown.

I invite you in. 

Corona #1 (And so)

And so begins its rule (google to see its crown
under a microscope). Infected prince.
Infected star. And so begins your cancelled
life (infected wife). And over there half-mast is flown
(they load the coffins into trucks). And so
begins shopping with gloves (your mother over
there and when you’ll get to her is never
maybe); talking in screens, and so and so—

And I lie awake with itchy hands.
And tenderize the meat with hammered blows.
And when we’ll meet and touch nobody knows.
And so we live by stats and rules and ands.

That rooster down the tracks
pecking, oblivious.

(March 30, 2020)

Corona #2 (Safeway)

Pecking, oblivious,
the Safeway crows construct in blooming trees
what’s theirs. What’s ours? Try not to seize
the toilet paper please. One each. Whereas
this homeless guy and the queen (immaculate
in green) get less and more and more and less.
But take a look at Boris, the virus
doesn’t discriminate (it does it does).

And how much Easter chocolate should I get?
And should I fill my cart until it’s filled?
Southeast of here a potter’s field is filled
and let me out of here, I want to get
into my car, in safety watch this blessed
family conferring, twining twigs into a nest.

(April 11, 2020)

Corona #3 (Spring)

Family conferring, twining twigs into a nest;
cherry, trillium, corona bloom
while a buffoon condemns the WHO; in Zoom,
inside, outside, in danger zones, the rest
battle the king of everywhere
who won’t allow a service for the dead
and sneaks noiseless into the lungs, is dread
on surfaces but strangely isn’t tearing

us apart; we will receive their surplus
masks, we are arriving at the ends
of paragraphs and meals; that wending
of the river the evening he surprised us—
dark swath, a log until it gleamed;
a beaver dived into the running stream.

(April 18, 2020)

Corona #4 (News)

A beaver dived into the running stream
that became river, estuary, strait, a sea
that made a mist that hid a strain that came to be
the news—old news. It replicates, like rhyme,
with slight changes: a home is hit, old people
die. And then it’s him. Almost a century,
from Hamilton by way of Sicily
and then it’s him. A nurse’s phone took people

to his side. FaceTime: maybe my uncle
heard my violin. Alone he was
and wasn’t. It was him. Amid the chaos
of the news I heard the news that he
died. Turned on the news. Care home, virus.
That body on the gurney could be his.

(April 25, 2020)

Corona #5 (Until)

That body on the gurney could be his,
his body’s journey to an urn the sun
will warm until—until. Not soon
the service. Gather not, until. Selfish,
you wish a crowded ship, haircuts, a trip
across the border or those olden days
you’d have a person over. This is a phase
you tell yourself, beating the overripe
bananas into bread, shaping a poem
into the closet where you write, the lines
contained by laundry, a slight desk, aligned
by rules of close and far; windowless home.
Most are at home. Where is the unveil,
a way we can be us again until—

(May 2, 2020)

Corona #6 (Doctor)

A way we can be us again until
we can be us again depends on a curve
she worried early into flattening (her
pause; the track on her cheek for the frail,
the numbers weighing, unsleeping her,
delivered without fail, in measured tones
what can’t be measured; for even one,
in even tones, how evenly she suffers).

Suffering sales. I watch the antics
of her southern foil (unlikely foil
but still) and, equally, the circles
under her eyes, wonder if as a girl she ever picked
a dandelion globe and surged to blow it to the wind—
stopped herself, cupped it with her hand.

(May 11, 2020)

Corona #7 (Lack)

Stopped herself. Cupped it with her hand.
I mean from crying out. I mean she hid
her finger black from work. I made
that up with facts from the report but our ground
beef she picked for bones is true. And that she died
from you know what a day after officials said
her plant was safe. Condolences not said
until the news revealed the lack and the lie.

The sky above the Taj Mahal is blue.
The Louvre emptier for all the life it’s held.
Great halls are vast with music never heard.
And vast the time I haven’t spent with you.

Her husband works there too, when asked
said he felt numb (translated, speaking through a mask).

Corona #6 (Doctor)

 

This week’s new sonnet, “Corona #6 (Doctor)”, is for Dr. Bonnie Henry.

In the hyperlink, I apologize for the annoying Volvo ad that precedes the video. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a “Skip Ad” option here.

Next week marks the seventh sonnet and the traditional end to a sonnet corona. But as I mentioned at the outset of this project, the end of the pandemic will determine the size of this corona (or chain, depending on how you look at it) so it doesn’t look as if the sonnets will be stopping anytime soon.

You’ll find the new one at the end.

I invite you in.

Corona #1 (And so)

And so begins its rule (google to see its crown
under a microscope). Infected prince.
Infected star. And so begins your cancelled
life (infected wife). And over there half-mast is flown
(they load the coffins into trucks). And so
begins shopping with gloves (your mother over
there and when you’ll get to her is never
maybe); talking in screens, and so and so—

And I lie awake with itchy hands.
And tenderize the meat with hammered blows.
And when we’ll meet and touch nobody knows.
And so we live by stats and rules and ands.

That rooster down the tracks
pecking, oblivious.

(March 30, 2020)

Corona #2 (Safeway)

Pecking, oblivious,
the Safeway crows construct in blooming trees
what’s theirs. What’s ours? Try not to seize
the toilet paper please. One each. Whereas
this homeless guy and the queen (immaculate
in green) get less and more and more and less.
But take a look at Boris, the virus
doesn’t discriminate (it does it does).

And how much Easter chocolate should I get?
And should I fill my cart until it’s filled?
Southeast of here a potter’s field is filled
and let me out of here, I want to get
into my car, in safety watch this blessed
family conferring, twining twigs into a nest.

(April 11, 2020)

Corona #3 (Spring)

Family conferring, twining twigs into a nest;
cherry, trillium, corona bloom
while a buffoon condemns the WHO; in Zoom,
inside, outside, in danger zones, the rest
battle the king of everywhere
who won’t allow a service for the dead
and sneaks noiseless into the lungs, is dread
on surfaces but strangely isn’t tearing

us apart; we will receive their surplus
masks, we are arriving at the ends
of paragraphs and meals; that wending
of the river the evening he surprised us—
dark swath, a log until it gleamed;
a beaver dived into the running stream.

(April 18, 2020)

Corona #4 (News)

A beaver dived into the running stream
that became river, estuary, strait, a sea
that made a mist that hid a strain that came to be
the news—old news. It replicates, like rhyme,
with slight changes: a home is hit, old people
die. And then it’s him. Almost a century,
from Hamilton by way of Sicily
and then it’s him. A nurse’s phone took people

to his side. FaceTime: maybe my uncle
heard my violin. Alone he was
and wasn’t. It was him. Amid the chaos
of the news I heard the news that he
died. Turned on the news. Care home, virus.
That body on the gurney could be his.

(April 25, 2020)

Corona #5 (Until)

That body on the gurney could be his,
his body’s journey to an urn the sun
will warm until—until. Not soon
the service. Gather not, until. Selfish,
you wish a crowded ship, haircuts, a trip
across the border or those olden days
you’d have a person over. This is a phase
you tell yourself, beating the overripe
bananas into bread, shaping a poem
into the closet where you write, the lines
contained by laundry, a slight desk, aligned
by rules of close and far; windowless home.
Most are at home. Where is the unveil,
a way we can be us again until—

(May 2, 2020)

Corona #6 (Doctor)

A way we can be us again until
we can be us again depends on a curve
she worried early into flattening (her
pause; the track on her cheek for the frail,
the numbers weighing, unsleeping her,
delivered without fail, in measured tones
what can’t be measured; for even one,
in even tones, how evenly she suffers).

Suffering sales. I watch the antics
of her southern foil (unlikely foil
but still) and, equally, the circles
under her eyes, wonder if as a girl she ever picked
a dandelion globe and surged to blow it to the wind—
stopped herself, cupped it with her hand.

 

Corona #5 (Until)

These days, I’m writing in the upstairs closet because my office has turned into a part-time telemedicine/virtual clinic for my husband and my kids need other spaces for school. I found myself reining in the last lines of this week’s sonnet to make it resemble my writing space, a gesture of isolation that raised some questions—how long before temporary arrangements become permanent? How long will the closet crown be?

You’ll find “Corona #5 (Until)” at the end of the chain—I invite you in.

Corona #1 (And so)

And so begins its rule (google to see its crown
under a microscope). Infected prince.
Infected star. And so begins your cancelled
life (infected wife). And over there half-mast is flown
(they load the coffins into trucks). And so
begins shopping with gloves (your mother over
there and when you’ll get to her is never
maybe); talking in screens, and so and so—

And I lie awake with itchy hands.
And tenderize the meat with hammered blows.
And when we’ll meet and touch nobody knows.
And so we live by stats and rules and ands.

That rooster down the tracks
pecking, oblivious.

(March 30, 2020)

Corona #2 (Safeway)

Pecking, oblivious,
the Safeway crows construct in blooming trees
what’s theirs. What’s ours? Try not to seize
the toilet paper please. One each. Whereas
this homeless guy and the queen (immaculate
in green) get less and more and more and less.
But take a look at Boris, the virus
doesn’t discriminate (it does it does).

And how much Easter chocolate should I get?
And should I fill my cart until it’s filled?
Southeast of here a potter’s field is filled
and let me out of here, I want to get
into my car, in safety watch this blessed
family conferring, twining twigs into a nest.

(April 11, 2020)

Corona #3 (Spring)

Family conferring, twining twigs into a nest;
cherry, trillium, corona bloom
while a buffoon condemns the WHO; in Zoom,
inside, outside, in danger zones, the rest
battle the king of everywhere
who won’t allow a service for the dead
and sneaks noiseless into the lungs, is dread
on surfaces but strangely isn’t tearing

us apart; we will receive their surplus
masks, we are arriving at the ends
of paragraphs and meals; that wending
of the river the evening he surprised us—
dark swath, a log until it gleamed;
a beaver dived into the running stream.

(April 18, 2020)

Corona #4 (News)

A beaver dived into the running stream
that became river, estuary, strait, a sea
that made a mist that hid a strain that came to be
the news—old news. It replicates, like rhyme,
with slight changes: a home is hit, old people
die. And then it’s him. Almost a century,
from Hamilton by way of Sicily
and then it’s him. A nurse’s phone took people

to his side. FaceTime: maybe my uncle
heard my violin. Alone he was
and wasn’t. It was him. Amid the chaos
of the news I heard the news that he
died. Turned on the news. Care home, virus.
That body on the gurney could be his.

(April 25, 2020)

Corona #5 (Until)

That body on the gurney could be his,
his body’s journey to an urn the sun
will warm until—until. Not soon
the service. Gather not, until. Selfish,
you wish a crowded ship, haircuts, a trip
across the border or those olden days
you’d have a person over. This is a phase
you tell yourself, beating the overripe
bananas into bread, shaping a poem
into the closet where you write, the lines
contained by laundry, a slight desk, aligned
by rules of close and far; windowless home.
Most are at home. Where is the unveil,
a way we can be us again until—

Corona #4 (News)

It’s been a hard week in the news.

Today new light. New breath. New weather, music.

A sonnet. You’ll find “Corona #4 (News)” below the first three that I include so you can see how the crown has grown since I launched this project on March 30.

I invite you in.

Corona #1 (And so)

And so begins its rule (google to see its crown
under a microscope). Infected prince.
Infected star. And so begins your cancelled
life (infected wife). And over there half-mast is flown
(they load the coffins into trucks). And so
begins shopping with gloves (your mother over
there and when you’ll get to her is never
maybe); talking in screens, and so and so—

And I lie awake with itchy hands.
And tenderize the meat with hammered blows.
And when we’ll meet and touch nobody knows.
And so we live by stats and rules and ands.

That rooster down the tracks
pecking, oblivious.

(March 30, 2020)

Corona #2 (Safeway)

Pecking, oblivious,
the Safeway crows construct in blooming trees
what’s theirs. What’s ours? Try not to seize
the toilet paper please. One each. Whereas
this homeless guy and the queen (immaculate
in green) get less and more and more and less.
But take a look at Boris, the virus
doesn’t discriminate (it does it does).

And how much Easter chocolate should I get?
And should I fill my cart until it’s filled?
Southeast of here a potter’s field is filled
and let me out of here, I want to get
into my car, in safety watch this blessed
family conferring, twining twigs into a nest.

(April 11, 2020)

Corona #3 (Spring)

Family conferring, twining twigs into a nest;
cherry, trillium, corona bloom
while a buffoon condemns the WHO; in Zoom,
inside, outside, in danger zones, the rest
battle the king of everywhere
who won’t allow a service for the dead
and sneaks noiseless into the lungs, is dread
on surfaces but strangely isn’t tearing

us apart; we will receive their surplus
masks, we are arriving at the ends
of paragraphs and meals; that wending
of the river the evening he surprised us—
dark swath, a log until it gleamed;
a beaver dived into the running stream.

(April 18, 2020)

Corona #4 (News)

A beaver dived into the running stream
that became river, estuary, strait, a sea
that made a mist that hid a strain that came to be
the news—old news. It replicates, like rhyme,
with slight changes: a home is hit, old people
die. And then it’s him. Almost a century,
from Hamilton by way of Sicily
and then it’s him. A nurse’s phone took people

to his side. FaceTime: maybe my uncle
heard my violin. Alone he was
and wasn’t. It was him. Amid the chaos
of the news I heard the news that he
died. Turned on the news. Care home, virus.
That body on the gurney could be his.

News

Barbara’s creative nonfiction piece, “Seven Posts,” has just been shortlisted for The Malahat Review‘s Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize. The winner will be announced this coming Friday, October 16.


Barbara’s third poetry collection, Essential Tremor, is forthcoming with Caitlin Press in Spring, 2021. It will include the corona sequence published on this website during the pandemic.


Barbara’s poem “The Milk River” is published in the Spring 2020 issue of The Fiddlehead.


Barbara’s poem “Essential Tremor” appeared in the March 2020 issue of The Walrus. Read the magazine’s online publication of this poem here.


The Mozart Girl has been selected by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre for the Fall 2019 Edition of Best Books for Kids and Teens.


Barbara’s A Boy Asked the Wind is one of 19 titles for children chosen by Reading Canada in anticipation of Canada’s upcoming Guest of Honour position at the 2020 Frankfurt Book Fair.


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