May 28

OUR CHANGES: Writing

MEMORIES
By NiñaEstrella


I guess I never thought
The world would collapse while
The moon looked on and laughed.

Memories wash back to me
Like shells reappearing on the sand –
Walking to classes with frenemies like me,
Running around screaming like maniacs 
And kicking slush at each other
While the French teacher utterly ignored us
And told us to feel how beautiful the sun was,
Shared earbuds and
Accompanying one of you to the school store to buy
A Pop-Tart,
Advisory lunches every Friday
And getting 100s in math,
Secret memories stashed away in a box,
For when someone asks me about what it was like
Then.
I'll tell them it creeped up on us
Like a rainstorm that unexpectedly hails,
Then shut the box away
Because I don't want to think about
The masks that smothered our lives.

The moon laughs as we struggle and slip under the tidal waves of
Torrential fear
But the stars blink in a comforting way at night,
Telling me to remember.
 

DO THE STARS KNOW?
By TreePupWriter


Do the stars know
that on a planet
millions, billions, trillions of
miles away,
our lives are defined by the
distance of 6 feet?

Do the stars know –
the stars we
see as tiny, yet they're
huger than we ever could imagine –
that on this faraway planet, a
miniscule crown-shaped virus has
become the enormous concept that now has
taken over the lives of
every single one of us?
Do they know of
the lockdowns
the tests,
the worry,
the stress,
the lives at risk and
the ones already taken?
How our "normal" has
been torn into pieces and
no one knows exactly
what our future holds?

Do the stars know, with
their wisdom of years, years, years, of
shining down on us,
what we're
supposed to do?
Because, stars, none of us really do know, and
maybe we're only a speck or
maybe we're invisible to you but
maybe, stars,
maybe
you'd know.
 

I USED TO BE A HAPPY POET
By fire girl

I used to write every day.
Now I write every day
all day.
I don't write about birds anymore,
I don't write about trees and spring.
I used to write about sicknesses devastating other countries,
sicknesses I could never really understand.
Now I write about the sickness devastating my country.
The sickness devastating our world.

I used to be a haiku,
becoming one spare line after the other.
I used to be a sonnet,
weaving in and out like knitting needles.
I used to be an acrostic,
falling down and across the page.
I used to be an ode,
applauding nature and all her wonder.
I used to be couplets,
hand in hand with one another, together.
My mouth can't form the words to say
any ballads and limericks,
instead only elegies pour from my unspoken lips.
I used to be a poet everyone could understand.
I used to be a happy poet.

Line after line,
lyric spilling over lyric,
verse stepping over verse,
metaphor besting metaphor
of regret.
Making my eyes rising oceans.
 

BACK TO NORMAL
By IsabelleRose


I thought that I was starting to get somewhere.
Things were finally coming together. 
I was still sad sometimes, but not nearly as often.
We practiced the play down in the basement.
The lights were off and people were laughing.
I laughed even harder watching the dances at lunch.
Something good was starting to happen,
spring was coming at last.

But then, on a Wednesday,
we were warned we might not be coming back to school the next day.
We told jokes and tried to facetime each other.
But we were worried.
What are the chances?
I asked that afternoon.
I don't know, I honestly have no idea, I was told.
As we were leaving school,
everyone stood together, hugging each other.
People said goodbye, and I love you.
We still joked, to make light of the situation.
We did not come to school the next day.

Now everything that I had is locked inside a dark box.
The box has a glowing screen.
That is my only connection to everyone.
We video chat, but that's not the same.
There is no physical contact, no ones really there,
I worry that any progress I had made will be erased.
I miss school, work, being with people.
I know I don't have a choice or a say in the matter.
But all I want is for things to go back to normal.
 

COUNTDOWN
By QueenofDawn


    Ten.

     Somewhere, somehow, it has already begun. But there will be a pause before it all really goes to hell, a breath before the plunge. Grocery store shelves are fully stocked with sanitizer, toilet paper, chocolate chips. The subway is full; people bumping, jostling, sticky fingers touching the same ATM screens, hands gripping the same train car poles. The hospitals, the schools, the galleries are unlocked, the restaurants and theaters full of life. The airport is not yet filled with fear.

     Undetected, it has already begun to spread.

      Nine.

     Wuhan, China. A student sits on her bed, cocooned in a blanket, watching the news. She hasn’t left the apartment today, didn’t leave it yesterday either. She only goes out when she has to, a short trip to the downstairs cafeteria, and every time she wonders what she will bring back with her.

     Other countries have been bringing their students home, but no one is coming for her, coming for the thousands of others like her. She is trapped here, in a foreign place, while the world cracks apart around her, panic choking out people’s humanity, everything churning like some sort of nightmare. No one has listened to their white-masked protests, to the pleas crying out from homemade signs. They say they do not have the means to get them out, that they are safer where they are.

     Maybe they’re right. Maybe they’re not. It doesn’t matter. Either way, she’s afraid.

     Eight.

    The church feels unsettled. Pews that should be full are now sparse, the people, dressed in crisp ties and neat dresses, sit separated by yawning gaps. When they greet each other, there is no hand shaking, no cheek kissing, only smiles and eyes, sullen eyes that say more than words could. We are still here, they say. Please, God, don’t take this too.

     The church is an island of hope in the middle of a rising ocean. Some of them will find strength in the storm. Others feel their faith slipping as the wind begins to howl. 

     The candle flickers. The hymns waver; there are not enough voices to carry them. The cup is not passed. They listen to words, words that ought to be comforting, but not all of them find comfort. When they say goodbye, they only nod. The nods seem to say until next time. They do not say when next time will be.

     Some of them know that God will show them through.

     Some of them wonder if this is truly God’s will.

     Hollow bells echo behind them as they walk despondently back onto the street.

      Seven.

     A man stares into the mirror, pink nosed and tired eyed, feeling a cough tickle the back of his throat. He runs a hand through his thinning hair. Shit, he shouldn’t have gotten onto that plane, but here he is, with a box full of tissues and a half-empty bottle of meds. 

     Stay home, they say. But he hasn’t missed a day of work since he started, and he’s not about to lose a paycheck. Some people might have that kind of luxury, but not him.

     Go to the doctor, they say. But he hasn’t been to the doctor in years, has never had the money for that kind of thing. By God, who does? He doesn’t need to empty his bank account just to find out he’s got another damn cold.

     Yes, that must be what it is. That’s what you get in the winter, after all. Just another damn cold. Besides, he’s only fifty-five. He’ll just swallow his pills, light another cigarette, maybe take a shower. And then he’ll get on with his life.

      Six.

     People are singing out of their windows, standing on balconies, and there is hope in the air. Spirits are lifting, neighbors are reaching out, and maybe, maybe this music can spread faster and farther than the sickness that has them trapped. Maybe it can envelop the world, bridge borders, scrape the sky.

      Five.

     A young mother, sitting on the kitchen floor, counting cans. Uncounted on the left, counted on the right, paper and pencil in hand, tally columns sorted into soup and tuna, peaches and beans. She stacks them in neat rows, metal edges shining in the flickering yellow light of the bulb above her, their bright wrappers too colorful for her eyes. Everything should be grey, grey, grey, not clementine orange and dish soap blue. She feels like a child in a candy store, counting pennies, building castles out of tin cans. Four. Eleven. Twenty-one. Nine. 

     She doesn’t know when the schools will close, only that they will. She has seen it coming, rolling across the country like a blackout, like a wave. Is it a matter of weeks? A matter of days? She can’t count the time they have left, can’t count the paychecks or even the meals. But she can count cans. Four. Eleven. Twenty-one. Nine. Whispered like a prayer. Like the answer to a prayer.

     It isn’t enough.

     But maybe she missed one. Maybe if she arranges them differently, somehow, there will be more. She just needs to count them one more time.

     She picks up the first can and starts again.

     Four.

     The governor holds his speech in his hands, a speech that was delivered to him with his morning coffee after a short night of no sleep. He will read it in a few moments, and he knows that it will disrupt more than just the usual radio programs, knows that there is nothing perfect in his plan, that it could change in a day. He runs his fingers along his chin, feeling the rough prickle of stubble, before he remembers that he isn’t supposed to touch his face. He hasn’t shaved in a week. It’s easy to forget that sort of thing.

     He knows people will be angry. People are always angry; that’s part of the job, when you’re a politician. He has to do what he thinks is best, has to be a leader, a role model. 

     All he wants is another cup of coffee.

     They are only at the beginning of things. This will only get harder, he knows, and he will have to deal with it. People are standing together now. But will they stand together when it really gets tough? How long until it all falls apart?

     As he steps up to the podium, he can already see his state breaking.

     Three.

     In the hospital, an old man is staring at colors: taped up get-well cards, bright green and yellow, pink and red, zoo animals and bubble letters crayon-drawn by his grandkids, the only color in the stark, white room. The hospital feels empty now, with nothing but the beep of his monitor and the occasional nurse, coming to check on him, to bring him another bland meal. 

     They explained the situation to him three days ago. They explain it again each time he asks. The doors are shut. There is no going in or out, because it is too dangerous. There will be no visitors. He understands why, but he still feels trapped. He expected to hate the beeping monitor, the food, the fussing doctors, but the loneliness is what is getting to him. Next time the nurse comes in, he will ask for another explanation, because an explanation means a conversation, even if it is one he already knows by heart.

     Two.

     People have stopped singing. They have shut their windows, pulled the blinds, too burnt out for any attempt at optimism. The street is a ghost town, witnessed by no one but the scavenging pigeons and the mannequins staring blank-eyed out of store windows, dressed in displays no one wants to buy. 

     Litter skitters across the pavement, advertisements for cancelled events quiver in the breeze, decorating the electricity poles.

     A light rain falls, but no one reaches for an umbrella. 

     The traffic lights change, oblivious to the fact that no one is watching.
 
     One.

     You stand next to the telephone. The apartment is empty. The street is empty. The world feels empty, and yet your chest is full of anticipation. You have played the phone’s ring in your head a hundred times, know its pitch, its volume, its pauses by heart. You are ready for it, but the room is full of silence, and you know that you will jump when the sound comes.

     You aren’t expecting a call. No one has promised you an appointment, a conversation. You have no reason to be standing here, hands ready, running your words through your mind. 

     You aren’t expecting a call, and yet you still feel the pressure building, pressing against the bottom of your cold feet. It has been growing, climbing, and at any moment it will finally reach its peak, burst, come crashing down. This is it. Your heartbeat counts the seconds; you can feel it in your ears. A countdown.

     You aren’t expecting a call, and yet you stand here. Waiting.
 
    
ONE BIZARRE EASTER
By Treblemaker


This year there was no family feast.
The kitchen was deserted.
There was no cleaning in the least.
The house was not converted.
We did not grab the extra chairs
Or find the doily thingies.
No one went the extra mile
with dresses, ties and ribbons.
We didn't drive to church today.
I miss the wooden pews.
We didn't wear uncomfortable
shiny Easter shoes.
Today we didn't hug and kiss
our families, friends and neighbor kids. 
We didn't hunt for Easter eggs
in the park around the bend.
This year our Easter was bizarre,
All traditions ruined.
We Zoomed with family instead.
To church we had to 'tune in.'
And through it all
in yoga pants,
stuck at home awhile,
this Easter celebration was
a bizarre sort of style.
 

A CONVERSATION WITH MYSELF, THREE MONTHS AGO
By TreePupWriter

Hi! (I run to my future self, hug her tight.)
Hi. (I pull away. Doesn't she know about social distancing?)
Good to see you! It's May for you, right? (I'm so tired of winter, being stuck inside unless I want to bundle up in a jacket.)
Yeah. (Right, it's May already. Has quarantine been that long? I'm tired of it, being stuck inside unless I'm sure I won't come within six feet of anyone.)
So, how was break? Did you help with the sets for the school musical?
Um...no. (What sets? What musical? What school? Doesn't she realize that each of those has a red X through them? Doesn't she realize they no longer exist?)
Oh. Well, you saw Grandma, right? How was that?
Oh, right. Um, I texted her. Does that count?
Are you saying you didn't go anywhere on spring break? (What did she do, just stay at home for a whole week? Who would do that?)
Don't you know about the virus? (How can she not know?)
Oh, that thing in China? What's it called again?
Coronavirus.
Oh, yeah. (I'll probably forget it in ten seconds and never remember it for the rest of my life. It's not really a big deal, though. Just a long name. Anyway.) How's school?
Well, it's not too bad. Can get stressful, though. I miss real school, with classmates and teachers and all that.
Real school? (What is she talking about? Why is she acting so weird?)
Never mind.
Okay.
Sorry. It's just weird. It's been so long since I went to school every day. Since I saw my friends. Since I could go out into the world. You know.
(I don't know.) What do you mean?
No, forget it. I'm sorry I brought it up. (Although, coronavirus is all anyone brings up these days. Why am I apologizing?)
Brought what up?
Nothing.
Oh, I have to go. Time for dance class.
Bye. (Wow, getting in a car and driving to a place with other people. I remember that.)
Bye.
(Why is my future self so...different? She's talking about such weird things.)
(Maybe I just heard wrong.)
(Maybe I'm dreaming.)
(Because someone's life can't change that much in three months.)
(Right?)

 

THE ROLLER COASTER OF LIFE
By EpicElle

We all saw the warning sign on the rollercoaster of life:
Not guaranteed to be safe
But we took one look,
and all we saw was happiness, 
so we strapped in.
There were highs,
lows, 
in-betweens, 
and of course,
a big vertical drop
into a bottomless pit.
How did we not notice
the loops, twists, before it
spelled
P A N D E M I C
 

BUT MY SKIN STARTS TO BURN
By serenamae2020

It is 10:09 
a.m. on a Thursday morning 
and I am sitting on my bed. 
I should be in school.
It feels weird to be here.

My dog looks peaceful as
she sleeps on the bedding
I washed yesterday
because I had nothing to do.

I know I should be thankful to be here 
because at least I am here
alive
while others worry for their health.

But my skin starts to burn 
when I listen to the man in the White House
preach information he doesn't even know.
Trust me when I say
I'd give anything 
to be back in the classroom.
 

NEW NORMAL
By happydancer

Is this the new normal?
A hurting heart, limp hope
that you need to drag with 
you?

Is this the new normal?
How do you even talk to
people in-person anymore?
How do you express laughter
without texting?

Is this the new normal?
Saturday feels like Thursday.
Thursday feels like Friday.
Friday feels like Monday. Wake
up, do work, talk with family,
go to bed. 

Is this the new normal?
Creatures of isolation, we
now exist in silence. Learning
to talk to yourself, to your
pets, maybe even to inanimate
objects. 

Is this the new normal?
Everyone will be talking
about only one thing. For 
months. There's nothing
else left to talk about.

Is this the new normal?
That it is scary to go out
in public. That being safe
means sitting inside your
home.

Is this the new normal?
I don't know. Maybe? But
I hope that we someday 
return to the normal we love.
Not this normal. 
 

THOUGHTS OF THE QUARANTINED
By LadyMidnight

Some days I feel
like I'm choking on smoke,
an entity beyond my imagination
that captures my
words
and I have nothing to say.
It's hard though
when all you have is a window,
a screen that flashes
images of faces
that you miss.

The end feels a million miles away.
 

PARANOIA
By Crescent_Moon

What do you do
when the world stands still?
What do you do
when life turns strange?
What do you do 
when you're suddenly trapped
and you can't escape
the times you live in now?

Well something brand new
has caused everything to stop
and everyone is starting to panic.
We wear masks
stay inside
and we all try to hide
from something small
microscopic
invisible to the eye.

The earth came crashing
to a screeching halt
and things started to fall
one by one
like dominoes.

First one show was canceled
then another one 
then school
and then stores
and now time has seemed to stop
or at least to slow down.

I don't know how long it's been
since I was sent home
but it feels like each day is a week
and each week is a month
and each month is a year.

Seriously
how long have we been here?
My hands start to twitch
and my face starts to itch
and I need to distract myself
from this crazy world 
of uncertainties.

No one knows 
how long we'll be here
and for your own good
don't look it up
unless you want to dive into
conspiracy theories
and pessimistic posts
about how the government is trying
to postpone the votes.

Hurry out to the stores
go in one by one
don't look
don't speak
don't breathe on anyone.

Grab the toilet paper
and the hand sanitizer too 
make sure you wear your mask
and hold in your coughs
because if anybody hears that
it'll be like a bomb went off.

I mean
what else are we supposed to do?
We were never trained for this
never expected this
I mean
in the future
it'll be cool to talk about
to a younger generation
whenever they start to pout
about how they hate school
and wish they didn't have to go
then you can lean over and say –
Is that so?
Well, when I was your age
I begged and begged to be allowed to go.
It was all in vain 
because the schools were closed
but how I longed,
yes, I longed,
I longed to go.

But that's in the future
and we're still living this
and it sure isn't fun 
to be living this
but hey 
at least we'll have stories to tell.
I mean,
assuming this all ends well.
 
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