By Leslie Timmins
Leslie Timmins is a reviewer, editor and author of Every Shameless Ray (Inanna Publications, 2018). Her poems have been shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize and published in Canada and the USA. Find out more at http://www.poemsunlimited.com
I live in Vancouver, Canada, just across border from the United States. Throughout 2020, Americans were largely in denial about Covid-19 even as citizens there succumbed to the virus in tragic numbers. It was so worrying – and enraging—that I wrote one of my 7-second pandemic poems “blood on the mighty’s / grasping hands” about the damage done by wealthy, corrupt, incompetent people running governments.
Here at home, the kindness of neighbours buying groceries for people who could not and stepping outside every evening to celebrate health care workers, was occurring at the same time as greater and greater numbers of elderly people were dying from the virus in long-term care homes. The tenderness of my concrete poem “lining” is a response to these events. Similarly, the sight of empty playgrounds and a sidewalk hopscotch, brilliantly designed by locked-in kids, gave rise to “R O A R”.
Through the second and third waves of the pandemic, so many social inequities have been exposed. My daily reading now includes more petitions to advocate for change and my daily writing includes more letters advocating for a just recovery from the pandemic. The haiku “what cost, elusive cure” addresses one such need. My husband’s vulnerability because of lung disease, his coughing in the night like a siren to my worried mind, haunts “night cry startled bird,” a sound and fear to which loved ones of people with Covid-19 and other illnesses may relate.
To revive the healing power of imagination amid the onslaught of pandemic-related data, I recommend reading at least one poem a day. I promise it will put roses in your cheeks and release tears that need to be shed. I hope it will also reassure you in expansive, strange, beautiful ways that you are here. You are vital. You are not alone.