In May, we invited the writing community to contribute to this special issue addressing the chaos, isolation, and uncertainty the world has been coping with throughout the ongoning COVID-19 pandemic.
We asked for (very) small stories or poems about isolation, quarantine, cabin fever, and the discoveries we make about ourselves, our families, and the world at large in times of crisis.
With the utmost gratitude for everyone who submitted, the Poor Yorick team is proud to present our special themed issue, In the Time of Corona.Editoral Team, Poor Yorick: a Journal of Rediscovered Objects
Bernie Sanders is on My Daughter’s Flight to NYC
by Elizabeth Cohen
she is headed for Israel,
he is on his way to the first presidential debate
in Miami. she is wearing leggings and an oversized
sweater, he has on a rumpled suit
they both have seats in economy
sunshine makes a grid on the terminal carpet
igniting big plate glass windows that face the runway
which I face as I sit on one of those rocking chairs
in the Burlington Airport to answer her text
Yes, I saw him. Yes. Yes. He looks good.
it is true. Bernie Sanders is on the same plane
as my daughter. he has lost some weight.
we remark upon his general well-being
and his ordinariness. he is just a man
running for president, after all
in about thirty minutes they will both be served
drinks and little packages of sweet biscuits and
peanuts. later, each will roll their carry-ons
to their next destinations, and the future
will roll back toward them as well
towing its brute baggage of horrors
the ramping up of respirator manufacture
and a run on surgical masks, in which somewhere
in Italy a nurse will look over a dozen beds
and make a decision every hour
but all this has not yet happened.
the plane fits so nicely in the blue sky
winks in the early sun, then soars with silvery grace
like the great blue heron we saw on Grand Island
on the drive to the airport
the firmament parting for it, the gentle rise beyond
the tree line. the plate glass trembles slightly
and I notice my hand is trembling, too
and I feel it – the force of the future
bearing down. sometimes you can
sixth sense that, and on this day it is leaden,
full of the possibility of all things rushing forward
beautiful and raw, and all the cemeteries
with their slack maws, and bulldozers
waiting for the living to become the dead
Elizabeth Cohen is an associate professor of English at SUNY Plattsburgh and author of the poetry collections The Economist’s Daughter, Bird Light, and The Patron Saint of Cauliflower, as well as the memoir The House on Beartown Road and the fiction collection The Hypothetical Girl. She lives in Plattsburgh, New York with her daughter Ava, their dog Layla, and several elderly cats.
It Only Takes a Pandemic
by Anthony Colombero
It only takes a pandemic
to realize that the world as we know it sits on eggshells;
an invisible beast creating cracks that cripple our communities.
Fear and anxiety play a chess game in which we are the pawns,
confined in homey cages, wondering what the next move will be.
It only takes a pandemic to understand that no matter
how loaded the bank account or empty the fridge,
the god we pray to or the color of our skin,
the invisible beast reminds us that after all,
we’re just humans.
It only takes a pandemic to reshape our thinking;
we’ve been worshipping the wrong idols all along:
They’re not on movie sets or sports fields,
they actually wear scrubs or aprons,
they’re angels who traded their wings for trucks,
delivering the goods that permit our survival.
It only takes a pandemic to bring families back together,
to care for each other and say some loving words
they may never have dared speak.
Homeschooled children instruct their parents
about how underappreciated and difficult teaching is.
It only takes a pandemic to comprehend that time is our sworn enemy:
We cursed it when we didn’t have enough of it,
and now complain that we have too much.
While the invisible beast placed our planet on pause
it breathes again; the air is purer, the waters cleaner.
It only takes a pandemic to realize our past flaws
and to make sure we fix them.
Anthony Colombero is a Frenchman and Professional Writing major at Western Connecticut State University with a concentration in Creative Writing. He loves writing in all genres including fiction, poetry, nonfiction, plays, and essays.
Pandemonium: of the mind
by Lauren Conrad
Stroll the halls of my home at two, three, four in the morning. Caress walls I’ve never touched. Is this hell? The men in the paintings gawk. It feels like noon.
Lift burdensome eyelids at two, three, four in the afternoon. Trace the trees from the safety of my bed. They bend and weep; I do the same. It feels like noon.
Lauren Conrad is a recent graduate of Western Connecticut State University and soon-to-be anthropologist. When she isn’t reading about ancient cultures, she’s writing poetry on napkins. In 2018 she traveled to Kolkata, India where she taught impoverished children, then to Vratsa, Bulgaria where she aided orphans. She spent the fall of 2019 interning at the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants.
By Danielle Hector
Cheated child, the world is aflame,
burning through hearts and minds,
a palm full of sky fire setting you ablaze
in static numbness like a forgotten foot
beneath the most ungrateful ass.
Affrighted child, beloved child,
let your eyes run dry. It is okay
The sun will shine, one
You will come home to grandma’s house,
will race your bike down your street,
but first, we must hide:
A teensy traducer,
underwhelmingly exalted and
threatens to make our lungs
bleed without our first running.
It is our charge to safeguard our community,
to defend your baby sister,
your sister’s abuelito.
Despondent child, put away the pills.
Let your mother hold you to her weary breast.
She is worn, she is used, but she is full of love for you.
No malice resides in her heart when
she tells you “no,
you cannot play with your friends,
you cannot go to school,”
darling believe me.
Promised child, look at the sky.
Mother Earth envelops the world with
her own long mantle.
See how the midnight blue glitters,
luminescent orbs burning millions of miles away from us
sharing their light, their hope, their peace.
— the world will not end today.
Danielle Hector is a Professional Writing student at Western Connecticut State University. Her work has previously appeared in Bethel High School’s literary magazine, Mirage. While poetry is her passion, she seeks to pursue a career in scriptwriting for both stage and screen.
by Danielle Nielsen
I have a proprietary right. I’ve a web
of viscous blood flowing with a velocity
that would beat a snail in a race.
I would let the snail win. It has a right
to venture through avenues and traverse
life without having to carry the weight of its home.
I read on Google the funniest thing:
“Do snails feel love? Here’s one answer: snail sex is very complicated.”
I would give the snail my right to free speech,
in hopes it could tell us its side of the story.
I would give away all parts of me
that were museum-grade artifacts.
The Classification of Validation of Aliveness. Like a receipt,
but I wouldn’t accept returns. If I had it my way,
I would close down shop and spend my vacation
digging my own grave.
I could tar and feather your charity into complacency.
I’d make you drink diesel, and we’d huff gas
until we lose track of the volumes
in the encyclopedias of extinct forests.
As I volunteer myself to the earth and cement in the mud,
let my eyes be all that’s left to ask you:
was it worth it?
Danielle Nielsen is an Illustration and Creative Writing major at Western Connecticut State University. She has engaged in the creative arts for over eight years, supporting her community and seeking out unique and alternative experimentation when developing personal achievement and expression. Danielle’s work explores the eccentric depths of human psychology and social interaction, and aims to highlight both sentimental and unconventional topics.
by Leslie Pizzagalli
When I think about a time I was free, I see the royal blue well, the apple tree, and the watering can tipped to feed the growing greens; I still recall memories of teal plastic sleds blazing on frozen panes.
In the front yard where the colors collided and seasons changed, a slew of frozen moments still melted like glaciers through my mind. Cold weather is a comfort that lives on the top shelf.
Memory lane is a spiral staircase settled in my brain.
Now I’m stuck spiraling inside. One of life’s cold curves. The warmth rises, but some days are a dreary descent. Golden hour devoured by tarnished gray skies.
But to me, silver has never been second best.
Sledding from well to tree until the snow stopped shining. Dusk made the ground dazzle like chrome.
Reflection on the pond—at peace staring into frozen sheets.
Although I had to tuck and roll and drag myself to the top once more, there was bliss in beginning again. Something I searched for in my summertime sadness but always failed to find.
Growing up caused a crack on the surface—thawed and imperfect.
The path I had chosen was not quite frozen.
Paper thin ice and skin that thickens once more when winter begins.
Take a shortcut through the icy sea. Slipping. Stuck. Each step is a setback. More edges crack. To avoid sinking required rethinking.
I’ll walk instead. Retrace my steps like I’m dragging that sled up the hill once again.
Leslie Pizzagalli is a Professional Writing/Journalism major and Writing Center Consultant at Western Connecticut State University. She is a general news editor of the student-run newspaper, The Echo and recipient of the KBE Corp Scholarship and the Arnold Brackman Memorial Scholarship. Her writing interests include short stories, poetry, and journalistic articles.
Pandemic’s Cloak and Comet, 25 Years Later
by Kristel Rietesel-Low
Rain curtains the wide bay in darkening gray while
My oldest reads to my middle child in its surrounding cloak
Sewn with flashes of blinding gold angling to
Rays reflecting from tiny churning waves.
When monsters fill dreams, we speak in hushed brown
Like birds on wind, telephone poles, or behind leaves,
Voices that surround the house
So we can only trace their shape,
Metal rasp of scrub jay, rattle of curious crow, water sound
Of finch. Soft stippled flowers of cherry and crabapple
Appear on the antlers of wet branches.
Beatrice and I trace lines on pages that loop the loop under
Blanket fort and press on dough to make our own
Animals and exotic fruits, and long ago, at least to me,
A comet held in the sky, like the perception of pandemic—
A pause, a comma, for so long
Each night, that we traveled to the desert
And back and it was still there, blurred,
Out my bedroom window each night,
The scorching Tucson heat leaving stones
And bodies every night against the yawn of black universe,
My sister and father and I like saguaros on hillsides against the winter of night.
Kristel Rietesel-Low received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in Shenandoah, the National Poetry Review, the Maine Review, Portland Review, the Midwest Quarterly, and Crab Orchard Review.
But Who’s Complaining
by John Roche
My best friend died before either of us turned 30. A rare cancer. If only cancer were rare.
I visited Joe whenever my crazy job and the demands of parenting allowed. This night, a few months before he died, I wasn’t going to make it. “We got a new washer and dryer and I have to cut up the boxes since they’re in the way and tomorrow is recycling day, so I can’t get there,” I told Joe by phone. “I have to do this friggin’ cardboard.”
It hung there, and then we both laughed. This was a time that only the closest of friends knew, when you both got the joke at the same moment.
I was complaining to a 26 year old who’d never leave that hospital alive that I had to do the cardboard.
It became a shortcut for us, summing up any time I had one of life’s little tasks to do with the understanding that, even though they paled in comparison to cancer or looming death, life’s mundane tasks still had to get done.
Through this pandemic, I feel like I have no right to complain about my anxiety, my isolation, my feeling so lost. How dare I?
Like so many, I felt a similar way after September 11.
Still, STILL I haven’t learned that so many having it worse does not mean we lose our right to struggle, to feel lost.
Somebody always has it worse. Always. But also, somebody has to do the cardboard.
John Roche has spent over two decades as an award-winning newspaper journalist. He has taught journalism, media studies, English composition and writing at several colleges in the tri-state region, including Western Connecticut State University, and was recognized as Adjunct Faculty Member of the Year in 2008 by Marist College. In addition to journalism and teaching, he writes fiction, including the crime novel, Bronx Bound.
by William Rodrigues
What they don’t tell you about going to the gym is that it becomes an addiction. You start to crave the weights like a good hit of smack, and I’ve been tying off two hours a day, six days a week, for years. Every day, I was chasing the high, desperately trying to be bigger, stronger, and leaner, like the junkie I was.
Then, the coronavirus struck, and the long arm of the law decided it was time to break up the party. They forced us into quarantine and confiscated our stash of barbells. The withdrawal hit almost immediately. It starts in the mirror. Having to look at yourself every day and notice that your biceps are getting just a little smaller and your spare tire has decided to grow out just a bit more. Of course, I try to stave it off, but no amount of push-ups or crunches can scratch the itch that sits under my skin.
I’m forced into rehab with no way to chase the pump. No place to work out my emotions and escape my reality. I can’t do deadlifts to try and cope with a bad day. No more powerlifting to keep the body dysmorphia from slowly creeping in. I’m forced to sit around and watch as years of progress slowly melt away.
All I can think about is how much I can’t wait for my next hit. All I want is to shoot up.
William Rodrigues is a Professional Writing student at Western Connecticut State University and an editor for the student literary journal Black and White. He is also a regular writer for the radio station, 91.7FM WXCI, and has several pieces published under their music writing column.
by Hibah Shabkhez
Stick your head out of the window
And sing, crow feather, crow feather
Will you take a message from me
To the flowering apple tree?
Blooming in the spring so fair,
Tree, in your whisperings,
Do you remember those who
Preferred you to their kin?
Do you swish-creak nice things
About them when you are blue,
Or mock the fools locked in
Mortal combat with the air?
Stick your head out of the window
And sing, crow feather, crow feather
How long do you think it will be
Ere the apple tree answers me?
Hibah Shabkhez is a writer of the half-yo literary tradition, an erratic language-learning enthusiast, a teacher of French as a foreign language, and a happily eccentric blogger from Lahore, Pakistan. Her work has previously appeared in the Rockford Review, Qwerty, The Blue Nib, Ligeia, Cordite Poetry, Headway Quarterly, and several other literary magazines. Studying life, languages, and literature from a comparative perspective across linguistic and cultural boundaries holds a particular fascination for her.
Easter Blizzard, 2020
by Anne Shea
Snow buries the green,
an egg hunt moved indoors,
a virus hidden
like a colored egg,
popping out of pastel grass,
a crack not seen where
it split in the water,
heated to its boiling point,
a fever beginning.
Today snow falls.
Tomorrow the sun melts it,
and we will forget
what day it is (Monday).
My son Harry and I make angels,
our bodies sinking
into cold snow, wings
open but we cannot rise.
Harry calls angels angles.
How do I explain?
Halos around their heads, light
only visible when
we look too closely
for it. They might be angles.
Will they protect us?
Or melt into green grass?
The Easter egg hunt
lasts too long. The snow
disappears to days spent
waiting for warm weather.
In the beginning,
snow smooth as an egg
without cracks, until our bodies
press toward the earth.
Anne Shea received her MA in English from Iowa State University and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She currently teaches English and Reading at Rochester Community and Technical College, where she lives with her husband, Brendan, and son, Harry. Her writing has appeared in Indiana Review, Memoir, and Blue Earth Review, and she was recently awarded first place in Blue Earth Review’s flash nonfiction contest.