Mere necessity begat new behaviors.–Boccaccio
We could escape this plague in a villa with friends,
spin tales to pass suspended time in quarantine,
our own Decameron. Or we could chronicle
the viral time we’re in, certainly not Florence
in 1348, when some people risked their lives
to help the sick, while others moved into homes
of the dead. Gravediggers demanded ransoms
for burials. Citizens held nosegays to their faces.
These days, citizens wear coffee filters for masks.
My new behavior consists of walks, endless walks
outdoors everywhere. Often, I will see a turtle
sunning itself on a log. There are times I stare
at the redwing blackbird just before it decides
to fly, and when it flies. Days can be like that.
Lines in a Time of Lockdown
Camus said the people lack imagination.
Both wars and plagues are met with disbelief.
Counting humans becomes an abstraction.
Not to count, or be counted. To be overlooked?
We are beset with a world of contradiction,
as if all deaths are just an aberration.
Like a ghost that fails to depart, the plague
bides its time; it is accustomed to waiting in line.
Camus said each of us has the plague within him.
That we are owls blinded by too much light.
When You Are Called
When you are called from sleep with difficulty, revive the thought
that to render social acts is according to your constitution
and to human nature – Marcus Aurelius, Book VIII
Needing a reason to be called from sleep these mornings
after my joyful routines were pulled from under my feet,
I am grateful that yesterday was garbage day; it made me
come alive, bound out of bed with a mission, revived,
to drag plastic bins outside, cracked though they may be,
and fill them with bottles and tins. Those bags of mulch
I bought from the high school booster club call to me;
they were delivered today. The bird-feeder needs a boost.
Daffodils, tired of hiding deep in their bulbs, demand
to be marveled at. Unfurled, they ruffle in the breeze.
Though I sound muffled behind my mask, I show up
at church to assemble meals and stand six feet apart.
This is not what you meant, Aurelius, writing in your tent
so far from home, occupied all day with defending Rome.
But as Cicero wrote to Atticus, “Though I have nothing
to say, I am sending this letter in order not to miss a day.”
Does not your experience…
even yet persuade you to flee from the plague? For corruption of understanding is much more a plague– Marcus Aurelius, Book IX
My sister is confident she had the crown virus
because of her flu-like symptoms although
no fever to speak of; now she feels much better.
OF course she got it from her husband, who
had it worse since he smokes but the doctor
gave him plenty of antibiotics and he took
some of them. I had a friend over for lunch
on my patio out back; though we maintained
our distance while eating lentil carrot soup
I wondered if the neighbors disapproved
of this act. I heard on the radio six feet apart
is like the length of a sofa or of an alligator
if you’re in Florida. The Queen’s speech
was so stirring that I wished she could be
my Queen. The Plague for you, Aurelius,
was a powerful metaphor; the real plague
was devastating to your troops posted near
the Danube, where you lived for years,
defending Rome. The plague metaphor
comes home when I walk too close
to someone wearing a face mask who
is going the other way at Brookside Gardens;
(I am maybe a loveseat’s distance from her).
She glares at me. Ashamed, I shrink away
into the grass and am seized by a corruption
of all I thought I could once understand.
Bonnie Naradzay’s poems have appeared most recently in American Journal of Poetry, New Letters (Pushcart nomination), Kenyon Review Online, RHINO, EPOCH, the Tampa Review, Tar River Poetry, New Verse News, Ekphrastic Review (http://www.ekphrastic.net/), One; and poems are slated to appear later this year in AGNI and others. In 2017 she graduated from St John’s College (the Graduate Institute), in Annapolis, Maryland. For many years she has led poetry workshops at a day shelter for the homeless (Miriam’s Kitchen) and at a retirement center, both in Washington, DC. Her essay on friendship was published earlier this year in the anthology, Deep Beauty.