Friday, October 16, 2020

Is It Too Early to Process the Pandemic? One Anthology Says No.

 Melinda Palacio

You may have seen this announcement on Tuesday, when the Gluten-free Chicano gave up his famous fried rice recipe. I'm honored to have a pandemic poem in this collection. When editor Thelma T. Reyna put out a call for pandemic poems on how Covid-19 has impacted our lives, I was skeptical about contributing to an event we were still experiencing as a global society. This was in the summer after just months of lockdown, when we thought we would be back to the same habits by the summer. Unfortunately, fall and winter and, all the wondrous holidays are off the table or on a zoom screen, along with all of our birthdays and weddings and baby showers and every kind of celebration. Pass the butter across your zoom Christmas dinner please. As if knowing the rest of the year is shot, a more sobering idea is that next year will also bring more isolation as the world scrambles to take back their lives and pick up where an unruly virus and global pandemic left off. 

I mentioned to Thelma T. Reyna that when she first asked me if I had a poem to contribute , I was hesitant. I kept thinking that I should mourn the time I had lost or that I should take several months to digest the trauma of the pandemic and to let the experience simmer, but that thought quickly floated away as I remembered my writing and publishing motto, "always say yes." Do you have something to contribute? The answer is always, Yes, whether you have to pull an all nighter to get the piece in on time or whether you just need to dust off a piece of writing that's in a drawer. That's the thing about us writers, we always have something in a drawer or file or notebook or an idea parked in our brain, such as the line I pulled out from a conversation with one of my musician friends who said, "I am not a prayer." I don't remember the context of the conversation, but I do remember the line and when I sat down to write my contribution to the pandemic, I gave the line to my poem that is now housed in the Thelma T. Reyna's anthology on the pandemic, When the Virus Came Calling

Yesterday, Jesus Trevino, interviewed a few of the contributors for segments on Latinopia. Thelma Reyna talked about how she curated the anthology and hand-selected the contributors. A renown business woman and writer, she was quick to realize if she wanted to be amongst the first to document life under a pandemic, she better act quickly. She produced a book that manages to put into words all of the emotions brought out by this pandemic with 120 poems and essays from over 46 contributors.  The book, When the Virus Came Calling, Covid-19 Strikes America, is a 2020 Golden Foothills Press book, available everywhere books are sold. Ask your favorite bookstore to order a copy for you. I will include my poem here for you to read. Stay tuned for information about Latinopia's archival zoom recordings. You'll be able to hear me read, "This Poem is Not a Prayer," on Latinopia. When you get your copy of the book, you'll be able to read Michael Sedano's essay, Richard Blanco's poem as well as the works of the other 43 contributors. 

This Poem Is Not a Prayer

Melinda Palacio

This poem cries on an empty street corner in blind daylight.

This poem doesn’t want a helping hand for fear of contamination. 

This poem loves isolation, but despises the box she’s confined to. 

This poem listens to finches, when they stop singing, she awaits a murder of crows.

This poem doesn’t want wide-eyed strangers to feel sorry for her, to tilt their heads as if they 

cared about what’s between the lines.

This poem wears an N-95 mask over her nose and mouth. The mask stolen from a young buck. 

This poem plays pandemic drinking games. 

This poem is not a prayer.

This poem sits six feet away from you, maybe six miles to be safe. 

This poem wears a tattered dress over bruised knees, her torn white-stockinged feet stuffed 

into scuffed black patent leather shoes.

This poem washes her hands while singing Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday Dear Dirty Hands, Happy Birthday to Me. Estas son las mañanitas.

This brackish green brown poem lives in a muddy pond, deaf to bird calls, she is indifferent to the lily eaten by golden frogs. 

This poem continues to cry alone, laughs when told touching is a thing of the past.

This poem says goodbye too many times and wonders when she may take your blue hand. 

This poem dies with you. 

1 comment:

Thelma T. Reyna said...

I totally enjoyed reading your blog post, Melinda. I'm glad you addressed the hesitancy in "is it too soon?" as other poets also felt when I reached out to them. I like the part in this post about where the inspiration for the fantastic title came from. I posted this on my Facebook page and urged readers to read your amazing poem on this blog. Continued creativity to you!!