Pandemic Time


The dog goes out. The cat comes in.
Daffodils! So early, and a day later,
sleet clinging to their surprised ruffles.
The ceiling fan spins. Redbuds vivid as
the fire green of the undergrowth dissolve
the prevernal into anticipation and rain.

I sit up in my safe bed, unable to remember
what I dreamt or why my girlhood chest trembles
in its 60-year-old skin. Tomorrow, my skin and I
will walk and bend low to where lily-of-the-valley
finally matches time,

which is not time as I knew or embellished
but its own flock of red-winged blackbirds
flashing fire over the wetlands where I arrive,

again every few days, weary of my own mind’s
compost pile, to wander at least six feet away from
children not going to school, parents not going to work
and dogs not going to sleep on the couch, all of us
casting our wishes on the power of water and flight


All over the world, it’s pandemic time,
singing at the speed of urgency down
one corridor or in a hut on the edge
of the village silenced to the weight of those
who cannot gather around the grave
that cannot yet be dug in the place
we never expected
for him, for her, for them.


The female cardinal, faded orange,
all alarm, strikes her parade of notes,
all dressed alike and looking for their match
somewhere in the field.

A flame the size of a finger tip
on the one candle still burning
at Shabbat service, then,
“Oseh Shalom, Oseh Shalom,
Shalom alechim vachlem yisrael,”
Jack and Susan singing while
we three sing with them,
one square out of 18 on Zoom,
striking the match of our song
somewhere in the forest.


It’s 2:13 a.m.
somewhere. Wait,
that’s here
or is it? Who
cooks for you,
calls the barred owl,
Who cooks for you now?

No one, I speak aloud
No one at all, answers
the dark blue sheen
and smudged starlight
landing, after thousands
of years, here.

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About the Author

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 24 books, including How Time Moves: New & Selected Poems; Miriam's Well, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community, and Coming Home to the Body. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, she leads writing workshops widely, coaches people on writing and right livelihood, and consults on creativity.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
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