Support for those isolating with COVID - poetry edition November 18, 2021 5:57 AM   Subscribe

Hello all! I wanted to make a post where people who are isolating from their families because of COVID can support one another and receive support from the community. All support is welcome but because I am a lover of poetry, I am specifically requesting poems that help you be brave, feel gratitude, take heart, and/or continue on.

I am isolating from my partner and young child after becoming ill 2 days ago and testing positive today. This means I’m going to miss thanksgiving with my family and parents. It’s also going to be my dad’s 70th birthday. We will try to celebrate, but being ill and isolated during this time period is hard. I thought other people might be in the same boat and that we could send each other support and love.

We can use our own words or borrow words from poets. To me, poetry is amazing in its ability to reach across the page and connect people. While I/we are isolated, I think great poems would be so helpful.
posted by CMcG to MetaFilter-Related at 5:57 AM (21 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

So sorry for what you are going through. I hope you are able to find ways to celebrate and connect despite the isolation.

Ross Gay's "Catalog Of Unabashed Gratitude" immediately came to mind (I posted a video version to the front page a bit back). I read the whole goshdern thing to a friend a few months ago and I can attest to its power. Fingers crossed it provides some small succor to you.
posted by youarenothere at 6:23 AM on November 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Naomi Shihab Nye

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world's most sensitive cargo
but he's not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy's dream
deep inside him.

We're not going to be able
to live in this world
if we're not willing to do what he's doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.
posted by gauche at 8:11 AM on November 18, 2021 [16 favorites]

by William Dickey

I sent you this bluebird of the name of Joe
with "Happiness" tattooed onto his left bicep.
(For a bluebird, he was a damn good size.)
And all you can say is you think your cat got him?

I tell you the messages aren't getting through.
The Golden Gate Bridge is up past its ass in traffic;
tankers colliding, singing telegrams on strike.
The machineries of the world are raised in anger.

So I am sending this snail of the name of Fred
in a small tricolor sash, so the cat will know him.
He will scrawl out "Happiness" in his own slow way.
I won't ever stop until the word gets to you.
posted by gauche at 8:12 AM on November 18, 2021 [15 favorites]

I'm so sorry for what you're dealing with. A friend shared yesterday's poem of the day ( with me, and I thought it was one of the most comforting things I had read in a long time. It's called Self-Compassion, and it's by James Crews.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 8:14 AM on November 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

Sending hugs, good luck with it all.
Hope by Victoria Safford
Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris (scroll to second poem)
posted by ellieBOA at 9:51 AM on November 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

By Galway Kinnell

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become interesting.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again;
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. The desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little and listen:
music of hair,
music of pain,
music of looms weaving our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 10:23 AM on November 18, 2021 [5 favorites]


need nothing more, except the spelling out of
these for those inattentive or too busily lost

in the daily elaborations to prize the essential:
(1) don’t complain—ills are sufficiently

clear without reiterated description: (2) count
your blessings, spelling them over and over into

sharp contemplation: (3) do what you can—
take action: (4) move on, keep the mind

allied with the figurations of ongoing: when
I was a kid I always, it seemed, had a point

I couldn’t say or that no one could accept—
I always sounded unconvincing; I lost the

arguments: people became impatient and stuck
to their own beliefs; my explanations struck

them as strange, unlikely: when I learned
about poetry, I must have recognized a means

to command silence in them, the means so to
combine thinking and feeling, imagination and

movement as to spell them out of speech:
people would buy the enchantment and get the

point reason couldn’t, the point delivered below
the level of argument, straight into the fat

of feeling: so I’m asking you to help me now:
yield to the possibility: I’m going to try to

say everything all over again: I’ve discovered
at sixty-three that the other things I wished of

poetry, that it prevent death, has kept me a
little strange, that I have not got my feet out

of the embranglements of misapplication and out
into a clear space to go; that I have to start

again from a realization of failure: in fact,
heaving learned about commanding silence and

having, mostly by accident, commanded it a few
times, I’ve become afraid of convincingness,

what harm it can do if there is too much of
it along with whatever good, so I am now a

little uncertain on purpose: I recognize cases
in other words from time to time that I’d rather

see go through than my own: they seem wiser
cases: they come from people who seem better

wrapped around their spines: then their mouths
are open, their vertebrae form a sounding

foundation for their words: I have never,
frankly, grown up, not if growing up means I

wouldn’t trade in what I have today for something
I might get tomorrow: I am a trader: I’m still

looking for the buy to go all the way with:

-A.R. Ammons. from, Garbage
posted by clavdivs at 10:50 AM on November 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Thanks for this thread. Whenever I need a bit of courage I think of The Jumblies by Edward Lear
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 11:30 AM on November 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

I love this poem so much
posted by Ideal Impulse at 1:13 PM on November 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Well, there is...

Ille mi par esse deo videtur

               O, it is godlike to sit selfpossessed
when her chin rises and she turns to smile;
but my tongue thickens, my ears ring,
what I see is hazy.

I tremble. Walls sink in night, voices
unmeaning as wind. She only
a clear note, dazzle of light, fills
furlongs and hours

so that my limbs stir without will, lame,
I a ghost, powerless,
treading air, drowning, sucked
back into dark

unless, rafted on light or music,
drawn into her radiance, I dissolve
when her chin rises and she turns to smile.
O, it is godlike!

Which is an imitation by Basil Bunting of Catullus's Ad Lesbiam in imitation of Sappho's poem of jealousy.
posted by y2karl at 10:23 PM on November 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

There is a whole assortment here at The Poetry Foundation. Here's some of their selections that struck me in particular:

Won't You Celebrate With Me

A Center

Try to praise the mutilated world

On The Wall of a KZ Lager

Yellow Glove
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:12 AM on November 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

After an Illness, Walking the Dog
Jane Kenyon

Wet things smell stronger,
and I suppose his main regret is that
he can sniff just one at a time.
In a frenzy of delight
he runs way up the sandy road—
scored by freshets after five days
of rain. Every pebble gleams, every leaf.

When I whistle he halts abruptly
and steps in a circle,
swings his extravagant tail.
Then he rolls and rubs his muzzle
in a particular place, while the drizzle
falls without cease, and Queen Anne’s lace
and goldenrod bend low.

The top of the logging road stands open
and bright. Another day, before
hunting starts, we’ll see how far it goes,
leaving word first at home.
The footing is ambiguous.

Soaked and muddy, the dog drops,
panting, and looks up with what amounts
to a grin. It’s so good to be uphill with him,
nicely winded, and looking down on the pond.

A sound commences in my left ear
like the sound of the sea in a shell;
a downward vertiginous drag comes with it.
Time to head home. I wait
until we’re nearly out to the main road
to put him back on the leash, and he
—the designated optimist—
imagines to the end that he is free.
posted by miles per flower at 11:35 AM on November 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Good Times by Lucille Clifton

Sherman Alexie based his own poem with the same title on Clifton’s, but I can only find it online as a a Facebook post and I’m not sure it’s the whole thing.
posted by FencingGal at 1:52 PM on November 19, 2021

The Empresses selection, ' On the wall of a KZ Lager' is Intense. KZ meaning Konzentrationslager or concentration camp.
Pilinszky' work is genius. Translator’s Note: Three Poems by János Pilinszky
posted by clavdivs at 2:38 PM on November 19, 2021

Thank you all! I’m getting better every day. Still on pins and needles about my family members but these poems have brought me comfort.
posted by CMcG at 2:40 PM on November 20, 2021 [1 favorite]


you've seen a strawberry
    that's had a struggle; yet
    was, where the fragments met,

a hedgehog or a star-
    fish for the multitude
    of seeds. What better food

than apple seeds—the fruit
    within the fruit—locked in
    like counter-curved twin

hazelnuts? Frost that kills
    the little rubber-plant-
    leaves of kok-saghyz-stalks, can't

harm the roots; they still grow
    in frozen ground. Once where
    there was a prickly-pear-

leaf clinging to barbed wire,
    a root shot down to grow
    in earth two feet below;

as carrots form mandrakes
    or a ram's-horn-root some-
    times. Victory won't come

to me unless I go
    to it; a grape tendril
    ties a knot in knots till

knotted thirty times—so
    the bound twig that's under-
    gone and over-gone, can't stir.

The weak overcomes its
    menace, the strong over-
    comes itself. What is there

like fortitude! What sap
    went through that little thread
    to make the cherry red!

                            —Marianne Moore
posted by aws17576 at 10:50 PM on November 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I generally prefer to link to official sites for poems, because it feels like it better honors the poet, but this is one that lives in my soul and, it seems, very few other places on the web. Every time I search for it I find it only in little Horcruxes, a wordpress site here, a tumblr blog there. So here is another one. I wish I knew who translated it because that person is part of this poem's magic.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933-2017)

We all live through an hour like this.
when anguish sticks to you like glue
and, in stark nakedness exposed,
all life appears devoid of meaning.

A deadly chill will creep inside
and, to control that stubborn self,
we weakly summon memory
as we might call a nurse in aid.

In us at times there’s such a deep night,
at times in us such utter ruin,
that no memory of either reason
or heart can help us in our plight.

The gleam of life forsakes our eyes.
Movement and speech–these are dead.
But a third memory we have–
the body’s memory is this.

Then vividly let feet recall
the heat of dusty roads that scorched,
and fields of grass that used to chill
our soles when barefoot we tramped about.

And fondly let a cheek remember
the friendly understanding dog
that consoled us, bruised and battered
in a fight, with its good rough tongue.

And feeling guilty, let your brow
remember how a kiss, in blessing,
touched it almost without sound,
a mother’s tenderness expressing.

And let your back voluptuously
remember the drowsy languor biding
in earth’s deep soul, as you lie there
with eyes devouring all the sky.

Let fingers feel the rye and conifers,
the almost impalpable rain,
a sparrow’s shiver, and the quiver
down the nervous withers of a horse.

Let lips remember other lips.
Their ice and fire. Their gloom and glow.
The whole world in them. A world
all redolent of oranges and snow…

Shame will awake when you remember.
You’ll grasp the crime of censuring life.
And body’s memory will then restore
the memory of heart and reason.

And you will say to life: Forgive.
I used to blame you in my blindness.
As from a grevious sin, absolve
me of my raging bluntness.

And if we are obliged to pay
a savage price because this world
is beautiful–all right, I’ll say,
I shall consent to pay the price.

But, life, are all the stringencies
of fate, the losses, sudden blows,
so great a price for me to pay
for all the beauty you contain?!
posted by eirias at 9:05 AM on November 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

"Autumn" by Louise Glück

The part of life
devoted to contemplation
was at odds with the part
committed to action.


Fall was approaching.
But I remember
it was always approaching
once school ended.


Life, my sister said,
is like a torch passed now
from the body to the mind.
Sadly, she went on, the mind is not
there to receive it.

The sun was setting.
Ah, the torch, she said.
It has gone out, I believe.
Our best hope is that it’s flickering,
fort/da, fort/da, like little Ernst
throwing his toy over the side of his crib
and then pulling it back. It’s too bad,
she said, there are no children here.
We could learn from them, as Freud did.


We would sometimes sit
on benches outside the dining room.
The smell of leaves burning.

Old people and fire, she said.
Not a good thing. They burn their houses down.


How heavy my mind is,
filled with the past.
Is there enough room
for the world to penetrate?
It must go somewhere,
it cannot simply sit on the surface—


Stars gleaming over the water.
The leaves piled, waiting to be lit.


Insight, my sister said.
Now it is here.
But hard to see in the darkness.

You must find your footing
before you put your weight on it.
posted by jeremias at 4:41 PM on November 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Well I didn't think I would need anything like this, but I apparently managed to pick up a breakthrough case around the same time I was getting a booster shot, so . . . isolating in the basement. Thanks for the pomes.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:35 PM on November 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

I just found this poem today, and thought of this thread, and I'm glad the thread is still open so I can post this:

An Old Story
By Tracy K. Smith

We were made to understand it would be
Terrible. Every small want, every niggling urge,
Every hate swollen to a kind of epic wind.

Livid, the land, and ravaged, like a rageful
Dream. The worst in us having taken over
And broken the rest utterly down.

' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' ' A long age
Passed. When at last we knew how little
Would survive us—how little we had mended

Or built that was not now lost—something
Large and old awoke. And then our singing
Brought on a different manner of weather.

Then animals long believed gone crept down
From trees. We took new stock of one another.
We wept to be reminded of such color.

Thank you for this post, CMcG. I'm glad to get to read these poems.
posted by kristi at 4:16 PM on December 7, 2021

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