A Journal of the Plague Year: #13

Today is April 1 of the year of our pandemic, 2020, but it is also the first day of National Poetry Month, during which, over the past six years, I have celebrated by writing a poem every day for an entire month. This will be year seven in a poetry writing streak. To the best of my recollection, over the last six Aprils I have never missed a day, and if I did, I’d write two poems the next day to make sure I had a poem for every day of the month. I was hard core. Additionally, I started writing and publishing poetry here that was not written in April. I numbered all of the poems, more than anything else, to easily distinguish blog poetry from blog prose. I’ve got 344 poems here. But every once in a while I will have started a series that is also numbered–like this one you are reading right now, #13 of A Journal of the Plague Year.

I actually woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this, among many other things, that I do not want to stop writing A Journal of the Plague Year, that I do not want to skip this year’s National Poetry Writing Month, that I do not want to write two blog entries a day, that I do not want to cause number confusion, and finally, that I’m not sure how I feel about recording video performances of my own shitty rough draft poems, not after reading Rilke and Donne and Oliver and Stafford and Piercy and Wordsworth and Rumi and Dickinson, which has become a kind of tradition in my Plague Year Journal. For readers who were especially fond of that segment, who maybe (I shudder to think) skipped ahead of all the verbiage and went straight to the video–think how disappointed they might be to find me reading, not Berryman or Bishop, but me!

For now, I have reached this truce with myself: I will combine the Plague Journal with the original poetry for April. The poem will be imbedded within or conclude the day’s journal entry. I will continue with the numbering of both pieces. Maybe, they can work nicely in tangent; maybe the poem, in and of itself, can be The Journal. Still unresolved is whether or not to continue with the video recordings. That remains to be seen. Especially now that I am officially (but remotely) back at work. The time I spent “slaving” over those video recordings may just not be available to me anymore.

As I get to the end of this long preamble, feeling surprisingly fatigued from video conference calls and trying to get my brain wrapped around my new teacher reality and writing a longish letter to my IB Literature seniors, I’m having a difficult time writing the damn poetry. Visiting the napowrimo website for some inspiration, I left feeling uninspired. I can’t write a poem today about a bird and I don’t feel like a metaphor self portrait, although I did have some minimal fun with a “synaesthetic metaphor generator” where I found the phrase “the colossal bays of escarpments.” So I started from scratch today with three completely different ideas, all shelter-in-place-for-the-pandemic related, and I landed on this one.

#345: What Our City Looks Like from Above

A photographer took drone pictures
of our city during the pandemic.
Beautiful and haunting, beautifully haunting,
there are no cars, trucks, or busses on the freeways,
there are no cars, trucks, or busses on the bridges,
you can just imagine how
the freeways and bridges no longer
stink of exhaust, which is nice,
but also terrifying, and why I’ve
been sitting at home for two and
a half weeks, only now starting to
reconnect with the life of my school,
remotely, from a safe distance,
sheltering in place,
emanating zero exhaust.

Photo courtesy PORTLANDRONE®



Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

4 thoughts on “A Journal of the Plague Year: #13

  1. I never skip to the video first. I prefer to read what you have to say. If I have time, I watch the video. As much as I like spoken poetry, when I am on the Web I find I do not have much tolerance for sitting and watching a video.

    Why do people make instructional videos that take 5 minutes to watch when I could read the instructions in 30 seconds? If it shows people speaking in French with the appropriate accent for Paris versus Bordeaux, or the proper way to punch down rising bread, it might be helpful. Otherwise, I would rather watch a good movie. Nothing personal against your videos, although I have really enjoyed your readings, and have made myself sit still for them (although I only made it halfway through “Tintern Abbey…”), and was glad I did.

    I do not watch TV, except the PBS News Hour. I do not watch Netflix or other bingeworthy series, except the first season of “The Queen” and a few episodes of “Call the Midwife.” I watched the first episode of “Game of Thrones” and despaired (again) at my culture for being enthralled (not enthroned) by somewhat racist and certainly misogynistic soft-porn. But I do watch movies. In order of preference: Ingmar Bergman, Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Wes Anderson, Michael Jarmer, and Zach Braff.

    Anyway, maybe you don’t need to think about your journal as only being a prose entry and a poem and/or a video. A prose entry, poem, or video: each seems like a plentiful offering on its own. It’s always a bonus to get two modes for one. It’s okay with me if you go grow some lettuce in your free time. You might need it this summer, when the farmer’s market is still shoulder-to-shoulder with other contagious homo sapiens.

    Grind on.

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