Four Poems

By Todd Matson

Why Am I So Triggered?

First pandemic in 100 years.

Why am I so triggered?

Is it because so many people have died?

Is it because antivaxxers still believe vaccines cause autism?

Is it because conspiracy theorists believe the vaccine contains a microchip?

Is it because people show up in public without a mask regardless of how many they may kill?

Is it because masks have been politicized?

Is it because many believe you’re making a political statement by wearing a mask?

Is it because this is the 21st century and millions of science deniers walk among us?

Is it because millions have been infected by a cult-like mentality immune to rational corrective feedback?

Is it because millions of evangelicals have forgotten how to love their neighbors as themselves?

Is it because millions of evangelicals subscribe to a false dichotomy between faith and science and believe that if you get the vaccine, you show a lack of faith?

Is it because my precious mother who never complains about anything and never smoked has one and a half lungs, bronchiectasis, COPD, emphysema and asthma and has lived since I was a baby with scars around her chest and back and a daily cough because my beloved grandparents refused to take her to the doctor to get her on antibiotics when she was two because they were convinced God would heal her without medicine?

I just don’t know.

Why am I so triggered?

The Other Virus

The first pandemic in 100 years
has killed over a half million.
It is not done with us.

And there is another virus.

The symptoms are:
1) fear and hate;
2) obsessive consumption of viral
misinformation;
3) paranoid, conspiratorial ideation
with bizarre delusions that…
a) a racist, sexist, homophobic,
xenophobic, fascist sociopath is
the messiah;
b) politicians in high places are
pedophile cannibals sex trafficking
and eating children;
c) the presidential election was stolen
despite 61 rulings in state and federal courts
that it was not;
d) scientists and doctors have punked
millions into getting microchipped
under the guise of a vaccine based
on a hoax;
4) refusal to wear masks during a
deadly pandemic.

Which of the two viruses accounts
for the largest death toll?

I don’t know.

Witness a science denying
conspiracy theorist defiantly insist
to her last dying covid-infested breath,
“This can’t be happening, this is not real!”

Then please. You tell me.

Someone Please

Someone please, tell me
the appropriate response
to seeing a disheveled old man –
someone’s father, grandfather
masked and hobbling
through a grocery store,
talking to his wife on the phone
with a phone in each hand,
one for each ear –
speaking to her from one,
answering, in her voice, from the other,
whispering terms of endearment –
“honey” “sweetie” “sugar”
as he looks for the sugar
he can’t find in the isle.

Somehow gently placing
a 4-pound bag of sugar
sprinkled with teardrops
in his wrinkled hands
amidst masked, de-faced strangers
filling carts with bread and water,
toilet paper and hand sanitizer,
asking him if there is
anything else he needs
seems not quite enough.

So, I stalk him, inconspicuously,
from isle to isle, eavesdropping,
feeling almost guilty, like a child
with an ear to the door
of an intimate conversation
not meant for him.
“Did I get you everything
you asked for, love?”
And in his best imitation of her,
“Yes love, wear your mask
always, hurry home.”

Someone please, paying for
the paltry items in his cart,
placing them in his car
seems not quite enough.

Everything Comes Easy Until It Doesn’t

Tough as nails,
all muscle and drive,
everything comes easy –
marshalling forests,
pleasing the wife,
providing for the family,
managing the children,
shaking off a bad cold,
scoffing at a pandemic.
No need to see a doctor or get tested.
Fevers come and go.
Coughs go with colds.
Body aches go with cutting down trees.
Loss of taste and smell go with
not being hungry.
Starve the fever.
Feed the ego.
Cough it out.
Sweat it out.
It’s just the flu.
Walk it off.
Suck it up.
Everything comes easy
until it doesn’t –
until there isn’t enough air,
can’t catch a satisfying breath.
Time to see the doctor has passed.
Go to the ER.
Hospital may be the Hotel California.
Window of time for an antiviral has closed.
Convalescent plasma should help,
but doesn’t.
Welcome to the ICU.
Inject the steroids.
Don the respirator.
Survival is higher in the prone position.
Sleep in the prone position.
Time for sleep is over.
Too hard to breathe while awake,
every breath a battle.
Sleep will be the sleep of death.
Tough as nails,
all muscle and drive,
everything comes easy
until it doesn’t.
Can love do what medicine can’t?
Can one live on love alone?
It’s been 48 hours with no sleep!
Don’t fall asleep when the world
is waking up!
Don’t die when the world is coming
back to life!
The pandemic is waning!
Cough out covid!
Breathe in love and life!
Just breathe!
Just breathe!
Just breathe!

Todd Matson practices psychotherapy in North Carolina.  His poetry has been published in numerous journals and he has written lyrics for songs recorded by a number of Christian music artists.

The reason I have written these poems is not only because the pandemic is so upsetting to so many, to myself and my loved ones included, but also because I have found these times that we are living in to be simply surreal.  It is hard for me to take in just how many millions of people have bought into the misinformation that the pandemic is either a complete hoax, or that the common flu has simply been hyped.  I have a very hard time understanding how so many millions of people have come to deny science during this pandemic, who have come to see the wearing of masks as a political statement instead of a wise and compassionate health practice.  My mind is simply blown.  I believe that as many of us write about how thoughts, feelings, experiences during this time, we can document what real people are thinking and feeling, which hopefully can break through the harmful misinformation saturating our society.

This pandemic has been so painful and devastating for so many. Covid invades communities and families stealthily from asymptomatic carriers and disproportionately kills the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, and leaves nothing but pain, emptiness, grief, and loneliness in its wake.  If we pay attention, we will see the broken lives it leaves behind. We dare not close our eyes. Denial will only serve as a breeding ground for the virus. We have to open our eyes to see what we are fighting against. Hopefully, as we share what we see, more and more people will choose to be vaccinated and we will reach herd immunity.

Everything Comes Easy Until it Doesn’t: I hope this poem serves as a reminder that this is an illness that nobody should take their chances with, that everyone should take seriously enough even now to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.  Since the covid variants are becoming even more contagious and deadly than the original covid virus, getting vaccinated is an increasingly serious and urgent matter.

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Alison
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Alison
5 months ago

I really liked “The Other Virus” because it so eloquently summed up a lot of my own feelings and thoughts about the pandemic. The symptoms are astutely listed, the questions plead for our society’s answers. Issues we must address if humanity is going to recover from coronavirus.

Gila Ruskin
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Gila Ruskin
5 months ago

Using the format of these open-ended questions appropriately represents this period of time with more questions than answers.

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