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It’s getting hard to remember, and that forgetfulness can make us complacent.

Alyssa Cooper's COVID-19 Story

September 15, 2020

Alyssa Cooper shares her pandemic poem.

Alyssa Cooper

In May 2020 Kingston Poet Laureate Jason Heroux invited four other local poets to contribute pandemic-related poetry to the KFPL Poetry Blackboard as part of a project entitled Poetry in the Time of a Pandemic. The first poem posted was Jason's “All People" in mid-May, with Bruce Kauffman's “this morning" going up next on June 1, and Sadiqa de Meijer's “Chronology of the Emergency" on July 2. Eric Folsom's “Skeleton Park" was posted on August 1 and Alyssa Cooper's “Time Traveller” rounded out the project on September 1.

Time Traveller
by Alyssa Cooper

Time has gotten stretched.

March melts into April,
April into May,
into June,
July threatens from the horizon and then it is
bootheel pressed to the back of my skull,
this is not what we wanted of
I move through a sticky mess of months,
time traveller,
hours drag on for days,
days for weeks,
it has been years since all of this began,
I am living in the future like sci-fi.

Hoarding clean water in mason jars,
ears pricked for sirens,
sound moves different in a city so silent,
an oppressive kind of quiet –
an evening of snowfall without the
a suffocating blanket,
like the taste of my lungs inside of
       a mask,
the air has gotten thick,
and we must focus on breathing

Peace is balanced on a tightwire –
do not move too quickly,
do not reach too eagerly,
dance delicate around each other,
pretend not to see the little girl in her
       princess dress,
pressing palms against the window and screaming
for human contact.
Do not speak.
Do not interact.
If this all begins to unravel, we might tear each other

I have seen the future –
a smudge of orange on the horizon,
a campfire,
chewing meat from bone and catching veins between
       my teeth.
I have seen it, and I am ready –
these things take

More time than we want them to.

The first night,
before reality took hold and summer melted to sludge at
       my feet,
we stood in the kitchen,
weighed out portions of quinoa,
enough to last fourteen days,
the optimism of believing that our loss could be measured in
       in weeks,
and I asked him,
       If the world ends,
       what will happen to all the stories I’ve
              never written?
And he promised me,
       You can tell them around the campfire, instead –
       and the tribe will keep you alive, because

that girl tells a hell of a story.

Alyssa’s note about the poem

"When the lockdown started, I did what we all did: I portioned out food. I filled a closet with jarred water. I placed hand sanitizer at the front door, and clean masks in Tupperware. I also started keeping a journal, because I knew that in five years time, ten years time, when all of this was far behind us, it would be hard to remember the unprecedented feeling of it. Even now, as we make our slow crawl back toward normalcy, I have to think hard to remember the fear of those first weeks, the loneliness of the first months, the static energy in the air whenever I made my bi-weekly grocery runs. It’s getting hard to remember, and that forgetfulness can make us complacent. 

When I was writing this poem, I referenced that journal often. I tried to capture the feelings in snapshots, the fear and the anger, the boredom and uncertainty. I wanted to juxtapose the crippling hopelessness I felt with the undying optimism that humanity has always refused to let go of. 

It’s a poem about the end of the world, but not of every world. It’s a poem about transformation.”