Among the many calls these days for how the pandemic has affected our writing, has any publication asked about what the pandemic adds to a month of birthdays, estrangement, and miscarriage? Forty-two years are a minute and a lifetime.
I could write about how the protesters at the capitol building are armed, some with Nazi armbands, a naked doll with a noose on the handle of an American flag – how that isn’t my idea of a protest (that serves a greater good) backed by a mistaken view that what they shout, armed with automatic rifles, honking horns, causing traffic jams that block local hospital entrances, is patriotism – because it most certainly is not. Fear moves to anger, followed by frustration, as was the intention of planners’ narcissism — exactly what the noise is about. My search for sanity and at least one good night’s sleep drove me from social media even prior to the protests. So not just the noise. Not just that the person in the White House who promotes this behavior and thrives on chaos. I have long blocked, deleted, unfollowed, unfriended until my Facebook feed was doable; now it produces growing noise from both extremes. Or discussion and opinions given of the same.
While we can return from a pandemic to some eventual routine, we as a country (and I as an adult) will never return to being listeners, learners, and leaders who once embraced hope like armor, with the wish to bridge the abyss. The noise goes on, even among some of the best and right intentions. Each day of the past four years reiterates that for me. Bots do not help. Media coverage of the racists, bigots, and narcissists does not help. A U.S. Senate that will not rule by law and conscience, blocking aid to essential workers does not help – on top of White House threats to withhold emergency funds to Michigan amid broken dams leaving thousands homeless. Like me, many others are past the point of checking the news; we have turned it off. It does not get better. There is always some new nonsense from Washington. And there are followers who are emboldened by a president who has no filter and no love for humanity. So, a retreat from social media (with tiny check-ins on poetry group news and family) continue to be in order. I have silenced the radio; Sweet Baby James still soothes.
I have instead written about my mother, gone since 1997, about my estranged sister, both of whom have birthdays in May, along with what it is like to live with a restless disabled Vietnam veteran in months of lockdown. PTSD sleeps but is easily awakened. “Shelter,” forthcoming in Snapdragon: An Art & Literary Journal, this June describes the dread that accompanies my husband’s need to roam:
“…I long for the lilacs
for large, fragrant bouquets
that last a day
but that he brings me, smiling —
tranquil moments for him…”
My poem, “Distance,” being considered by another publication, gives the reader a glimpse of another birthday distanced from my sister, who suffers from her own private mental health demons.
“… a jay flies in, one eye on me as I sit quietly, make no move, save the scribble of
pencil in my journal to note the faint applause of new leaves… ‘
“Near the Lilies,” for my mother whose birthday, along with Mother’s Day, are later in the month, is stalled in the process of revision.
“…Near the lilies, I seek solace
of birdsong in hemlock boughs
that ties music to thought… ‘
I have not found the words, 40 years later, to express lingering grief following a miscarriage. Perhaps after my husband and I are given the go-ahead to drive north to see our family and healthy grandson, there will be no need.
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Mary Anna Kruch is a career educator and writer. She has published a textbook, Tend Your Garden: Nurturing Motivation in Young Adolescent Writers (Sheffield, UK: Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2012), along with several professional papers. She supervises student teachers for Northern Michigan University and leads a local writing group. Recent poetry appears in Wayne Literary Review, Trinity Review, Ariel Chart, Snapdragon, and three anthologies. Her poetry collection, We Draw Breath from the Same Sky, was published in 2019.
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