Petal Light -after Seamus Heaney The cherries igniting in season, Flower in rebirth, a grand hope for not-so-grand people, Not wanting anything from anyone but that they see These blooms spring from living, Having opened each bud against darkness. But every day your breath ebbs in your cave, Shapeless and still, a wraith wrapped intently In its shadow waiting for its kill; So you walk outdoors toward the blossoms And the monster loses its hold in the trees And you stand beneath the pink and crimson, Its scent-feast you pray will cleanse and release As the petals rain down in a shower.
My second poetry chapbook, Lockdown: Scenes from Early in the Pandemic, now exists in the world. I’m grateful to Leah Huete de Maines at Finishing Line Press for once again giving my voice a home. When I wrote the poems in this collection, the coronavirus pandemic had a foothold in the U.S. and the country had gone into lockdown. We were all experiencing fear: personal and communal. So much was unknown about COVID19: the exact mechanism of spread, its rate of infection, how much danger we were in every time we walked out the door. If we were brave enough to venture out to the grocery store, many of us developed elaborate disinfection procedures for our groceries. Schools, restaurants, and entertainment venues shut down. Like so many other parents of college-aged children, I drove fourteen hours to pick up my son when the college dorms closed. Along the way, I stopped in my hometown, but couldn’t stay with my elderly mother for fear of inadvertently infecting her. We knew the elderly with COVID were not surviving and, worse, had to die alone. I stayed in a nearby hotel, wiped down the surfaces with Lysol, and sat on the edge of the bed. Numb. What was this strange new world?
Disconnected from extended family, alone with fear and uncertainty, most of us found our own methods of coping. Writing and daily walks in the blossoming Spring were my salvation. Inside, we watched the news reports from New York City with horror. Saw footage of emergency rooms lined with stretchers and wheelchairs occupied with people struggling to breathe, doctors and nurses wearing ski goggles and welders’ masks as makeshift PPEs, refrigerated trucks as makeshift morgues. But outside, trees and flowers were awakening from their deep sleep.
I don’t need to remark on the particular fear of this time, during what’s become known as the “first wave” of the coronavirus pandemic. I did, though, feel compelled to write about my experience of it. I’ve known fear—we all have—but this fear was its own kind of beast. Personal, yet shared. I wanted to capture its essence in poems—the best vehicle to deliver encapsulated moments. And didn’t we all have “moments?” Too many moments.
“Petal Light” is the final poem in Lockdown: Scenes from Early in the Pandemic, a poem written as a snapshot of resilience. Overwhelming fear does not happen only in a pandemic, of course. But, we all must walk to the other side of fear, no matter the cause. I hope this poem reminds you of your own moments of uplift, your own resilience. And, if you are willing to look back at how far we have collectively come in this ongoing pandemic, check out Lockdown (click on the book image to the right to take you to Finishing Line Press’s bookstore). May this pandemic become history soon.