About the Series: These poems are a part of our ongoing series exploring isolation, exile, and “The Everyday Pandemic.” With the arrival of COVID-19 new realities emerged. Isolation became ubiquitous. Everyday movement suddenly came with great risk. The spaces that once brought order and safety became malleable and uncertain. Throughout this series it is our hope to create an alternative conversation to the dominant COVID-19 discourse: one that captures the daily toll of life through the pandemic from the perspective of writers and artists who are familiar with the experience of isolation and exile. With this in mind, we’ve collected stories, poems, nonfiction essays, and digital art from writers and artists from all walks of life and from all around the globe. In the following five poems, Leah Falk explores family, love, and the feelings that unraveled in the early days of the pandemic.
It’s May: no fallen leaves to herd into interrogatives. Still, the wind searches, calling the names of those it’s driven out. The time between gatherings meanders on the year’s grid, a river forced northward, like a graph that shows the country repeating mistakes in two different centuries. Absence takes the page, swims in it like ocean: no direction but float. An oriole skims the pond, his wings’ orange checkmarks confirm something about return. I command my body: run the loop again, skirt the puddle that collects each storm. Park staff send the smell of cut grass across the highway. The long-closed exit is open now. Let the legs scrawl over unmarked graves until they’re plowed and sown. On walks, my daughter reaches out to touch whatever is growing. The year turns over and over beneath her bare hands.
20. Is it a common belief that the appearance and resemblance of children depends on what the mother sees during the time she is leaving the mikve and during her pregnancy? –The Jewish Ethnographic Program, 1912
Leah Falk is the author of To Look After and Use (Finishing Line Press, 2019). Her work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, FIELD, Electric Literature, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, she lives in Philadelphia and directs programming at the Writers House at Rutgers University-Camden.