By Meiling Cheng
Pandemic Diary, 3/10/2021
Still. Dark. Young.
Early early, birds willing
Remembering or trying
A fragmented dream
My son in his six-year-old body
sleeping on a generic bed
“Give me one more hour before breakfast,” he said.
He jumped up from his comforter
showed me his pillow –
saliva wet, smelly edges, stinky breath
“The bathroom would solve it,” I said.
taking over his pillowcase
making it new and wet.
A tinge of regret redeemed –
Aging ungracefully, cumulative fatigue
Abed before 9PM news
dinner yet digesting
smack in the middle of a half-graded paper.
Back to my computer first thing in
the morning or last thing from last night
pulling with magnetic penitence
the efficiency of a dozing rabbit.
Cruising through Blackboard to find a tacit suicide note
Was it only a performative experiment?
Let me find out’s email out
Pray my query was in time, in need and speed
Pray my query was in vain.
Chakra meditation via Insight Timer
A contrition turned into an Innerwork Gugu:
Avoid instant gratification and
cut bad habit
Sage interrupted –
A blackout to nudge me forward
There is a so-called spiritual addiction!
Exercises in the living room gym
seduced by the blue in between two showers
taking a walk to measure the strength of my knees
the capacity of my lungs under proper attire
a mask covering both my nose and mouth
A crow, a squirrel, a cactus fly.
Once upon a time, there were dinosaurs.
They roamed the Earth as giants. They
ate everything, from vegetations to
dragonflies, from gazelles to tigers, to mineral deposits in
hard rocks, to their own babies. They combated
each other for sports. They wrestled with the
pre-Olympian Titans. They threatened to
dinosaurize the million futures of
One day, a most violent dinosaur captain caught a little
anonymous germ. He ha-chooed and lost his unicorn. He
coughed and lost a hundred pounds of dinosaur blood. He
blinked and went blind. He stumbled and became
The dying dinosaur captain was visited by his lusty
neighbor for a game of monopoly. The neighbor paid a heavy prize for
his easy victory. He lost his precious heart—but not before he had
inflicted his bloody sorrow on his hunting partner, a grand-looking
mustached dinosaur, who spread his plague of lost heart through the
entire dinosaur castle.
Before the sun shone the second day, the Earth was covered with the
decomposing bodies of giant dinosaurs, whose skulls revealed the
most intricate designs of native intelligence and acquired cerebral
No sensible scientist had found the puzzle about the gender of the
anonymous germ worthy of sustained investigation.
Thus the germ survived from a vacuity of scientific interest. They
re-engendered myriad of colorful tiny species over the
Many dots flow on my screen.
I got one here, I hit one there.
I caught another over there.
Daddy calls it “a thousand dots’ little marathon.”
I just call it “my game.”
I know Mommy is holding her head in her fists.
I know Daddy is counting my scores and looking around.
I just want to play my game,
so I can calm down the shadow fists
knocking on my chest.
There are old people all around me.
There are doctors and nurses moving in.
There is a big guy with a giant band-aid on his knee.
There are long white lights buzzing away from the ceiling.
I glue my eyes on my flowing dots
so they won’t fall down from my head.
People in green uniforms come in to take me away.
Mommy is wiping her glasses and Daddy pats me on my back.
They lay my body on a white bed with wheels.
They say I can’t take my game where we are going,
but I can play it again “when the procedures are done.”
They push me into a bright room with more lights,
leaving Mommy and Daddy behind the swinging door.
The people in masks dress me up in a green uniform.
They are nice to me but I miss Mommy and Daddy.
They turn me around and stick something in my bottom.
They turn me back and put a needle in my arm.
I see the dots become bigger and bigger
and then I don’t remember.
When I wake up Mommy is there smiling
and Daddy is there holding a big box of ice cream.
I want to get the ice cream but my throat is burning.
They put a giant band-aid on my neck.
So I turn around and grab my game.
I let Daddy play with my screen and Mommy eat my ice cream.
Dr. Meiling Cheng is Professor and Head of Critical Studies at the USC School of Dramatic Arts, in Los Angeles, California, USA.
The first poem, entitled, “Pandemic Diary, 3/10/2021,” reflects the beginning of a typical day experienced by a college professor who had to conduct online classes and virtual interactions with students during the pandemic. The major event of that day was an ambiguous suicide note embedded within a student’s written assignment. The professor immediately queried the student
as to whether the note was part of an artistic response, or an actual cry for help. Fortunately, it was the former, though the poem ends before this revelation.
The second poem, entitled, “Exit Dinosaurs,” responds to your “Project Abstract” regarding other historical pandemics. From an anthropocentric perspective, the coronavirus has been a major threat, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The “virus,” however, may also be taken metaphorically as any force that challenges the existing
The third poem, entitled, “Ice Cream,” perceives the world from a sick child’s perspective. The child is inside a hospital room, waiting to be moved into an operating theatre. While it is uncertain whether or not the child has the virus, the apprehension and fear related to his/her ensuring procedure mirrors the countless Covid-related episodes that have taken place in hospitals around the world.