May 8, 2020
In March and April, we asked patrons in our communities to submit original works they wrote related to thoughts, feelings and experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. We received submissions from four people, and we are very happy to share three of them – two poems and one piece of short fiction - with the public. (The fourth submission is not included because it didn’t match up with the intent of the community writing project.)
Thank you to those who submitted their work, and we hope the rest of you enjoy what they came up with!
by Atia Kampstra (Age 7)
The sun has gone down
and the curtains have closed
I sit in a graveyard sobbing so much
I might not be able to cry again forever
I sit waiting to be rescued but nobody comes
I look everywhere but I'm lost with nowhere to stay
I feel like I'm being attacked by a bear
I look and look, but nobody's there
“A Lesson from Galileo”
By Anna H.
Neighbor kids squeal
as they drive tiny cars across
a lawn that's just waking up.
Their tricolor beagle
bounds in my direction.
The dad is out; whistles,
Galileo flies back.
the cool fresh air.
How energizing to be
first time this year.
Then: Who is that other
man, that little boy?
They don’t live there.
I turn my back, cringe.
Two ER visits last month,
major heart problems
caused by the flu--
In Covid-19 times,
I feel as vulnerable
as a baby robin.
And: a nurse lives there.
What about her patients?
So many delights ahead:
writing, teaching, nature walks,
silky beach sand caressing
my toes as I race
toward the ocean.
I'll guffaw like a child,
Won't someone whistle
this stranger away?
Tell him to care about
me, himself, his child.
I do it silently:
Learn from Galileo.
Go home. Stay.
By Esther Musembi
My head felt like mathogothanio. And something was making so much noise. Damn it! Who could be calling at this hour? I was not picking up if it was Tom. This drinking thing was going to kill us if corona didn't do it first. And working from home was so hard. Really, some things are just not meant for us.
Again, I was not my boss's favorite employee at the time. I accidentally tripped and fell right under Rita's skirt when she was refilling her lemon-laced water bottle for the millionth time. Long story short, Rita didn't like it, and my boss disliked it more. I just liked tripping now and then under women's skirts when I was bored. So here I was, in the doghouse, my house still, but with virtually no story to work on.
"Hello," What was wrong with my voice? It's like I had swallowed a dirty grater.
"You don't sound so good. This is Corona calling."
Did Tom lace my drink? What was happening?
I cleared my throat. "Umm, like the now-now virus?"
"Are you always like this? Dumb? Yes, it's me, the 'now-now virus.' Can we meet?"
"Meet?" For some reason I had pulled my blanket tighter.
"Look, I am truly trying to do a good deed here before I go on to continue affecting people. And your writing is dead. Do you see where I am going with this?"
"Me? Why? And where? How did you get my number?"
The line was filled with a strange cacophony of sounds. Like someone was trying to chew sand and spitting it out.
"Ah! Don't make me laugh. You got jokes, you terrible human. Do I smell alcohol?"
"You know Roasters? In an hour. If you don't show up, I am touching people."
The line went dead.
I really don't know what I was looking for. How do viruses look, much less talk? It was then that I saw someone wave from the darkest corner. The lighting in this place was crap. Okay, here goes nincompoop-syness.
I hurried to the table and dumped the last of my pride. Huh, she had a body. And I mean a bod, for the sake of millennials. If Tom were here, he'd be thumping me on the back and shouting 'eei!' continuously like an unschooled person.
"Glad you could clear your busy schedule," she said as she gently pushed the sanitizer towards me.
I was on autopilot praying I'd stop hearing and seeing her.
"I had to." This was not sanitizer. Just a lot of alcohol mixed with some glycerin, I thought as I furiously rubbed my hands with it.
"What will you take?" Her dark lined lips lifted in amusement. She was enjoying this.
"You are not how I expected." I was suddenly sweating.
The laughter again. This time louder and irritating to my ears.
"Stop it!" I was shouting but no one was looking at me. It stopped just as suddenly as it had began.
"Sorry. You are so damn sensitive for such a tall, dark man." She rolled her eyes. Rolled. Her. Eyes.
I was trembling. "Did you infect me? And why did you want to see ME?"
"An interview of course. I don't like the panic I'm causing-"
I scoffed. This was nuts.
"Can you just dial it down a notch? You are starting to piss me off. How many people, soon-to-be-sick people, do you think are here? "
"Fine. Please, go on." My eyes were heavy. Tom promised this new brand didn't have such a bad hangover. A coffee appeared before me.
"Thank you," she smiled sweetly at the waiter who nearly tripped on his way back.
"Back to business. I want you to interview me. You know, tell people I'm not that monster they think I am. Like a PR thing. You get?"
Now I was laughing. She did not seem amused. Her orange nails seemed to be changing in the semi-darkness.
"You are taking this seriously, aren't you?" Her eyes had lost all playfulness and there was a funny smell in the air. I was starting to choke.
"Stop whatever it is you are doing!" I grunted albeit laboriously.
"Here is what you are going to do. You will write about me. Calm people down, just kidogo, you get, like how your government lies to you every day and you still buy it. I don't see you writing any of this down." If I listened closely she sounded like that ex of mine who didn't like my checkered shirts. Ushamba, she called them. Jeez, calm down Corona.
"Don't tell me to calm down. Write!" Ookay...
"So how is it I can see you like this?" I asked.
"Because you take too many drugs?" She made crazy person gestures and I almost liked her. I smiled. Just a little.
"Seriously though, I can take any form. As long as it makes you comfortable...or uncomfortable." I knew it! She looked just like Noni, the ex. How could I forget her? She burned all my checkered shirts.
"Oh, that's...nice. If I may, why did you decide to just come up now?"
The laugh. Again.
"Okay, Corona, please just stop laughing. It's not cute and it hurts my ears.
"Fine." Eye roll. "Anyway, it's a long story. Bitter mostly but with love peppered somewhere in there. I loved him, you know, but it was bad. It was like you and Noni-"
"Can you not, please?"
"Why are so sensitive lakini? Grow up. And listen. Kwanza can you guess who it was?" She was smiling with her face real close to mine. I reared my head back real slow. She smelled good but I did not care for the facade.
"Umm, Swine flu.."
"Do I look that bad to date a swine for goodness sake? Unbelievable! It was the Black Plague. I know, I know, Don't give me those eyes and close your mouth. You look like a fool. It was long time ago before, you know, humans defeated him. It was more of a power thing really. You know, a Jay-Z and Bey kinda thing. Conquer and rule the world with pestilence-"
"Wait! You were in love with the Black Plague? How? He was horrible!"
"To you, maybe. To me, he was my tall, dark, really dark, insensitive lover. Ah, we could have done so much together but, of course, he broke up with me like the power maniac he was. His timeline was beyond mine. I wanted him to wait just a little you know. Work on our strategy of destroying the whole world and rule forever. "
"What did he do exactly?"
"He left. Haven't you been listening to me? What is wrong with you? He went backpacking in Europe and stuff, infecting people all over but then he got sloppy. He left all these trails in the blood he infected and well, next thing I knew, they were having all these conferences about how they defeated him. Of course, I grieved, properly. Mutating into all these fun new viruses. Living in different bodies. Let me tell you, I don't get how you people eat cow meat. They are the most terrible hosts. I couldn't survive for a year. So I tried every option until...you people." She sipped at her juice slowly.
"And how long do you plan to stay? Because as you can see, the whole world is panicked. You just infected Elba the other day. Can you get more savage than that?"
"Wait, who is Elba? Should I know him?"
"Never mind. He says he'll be fine anyway. So how long?"
She was tapping her long nails on the table. "Let's see, hmm. Well, until you people learn. I'm actually being nice, by the way. Trying to be better than my foolish ex. So even when I infect you, I am just trying to teach you a few things. Do you have insurance, by the way?"
"Yes, the national one but it's long since I paid for it. Why?"
"See, total unpreparedness. And your relationship, how is it going. Eva, yes?"
"How the hell do you know Eva?"
"I know everything. Don't try to be angry now. You look like a clown."
"Look, are we done here? I have places to go."
"No you don't. Aren't you working from home? Anyway, call Eva up. She misses you. She didn't mean it when she said that you go to hell for forgetting her mom's birthday. Call her. She's not infected, I can promise you that. Ask her to self-quarantine with you."
"Okay," I was getting sulky and was badly hungover.
"Tell people that I'm not really that bad. My aim is for people to actually know what it means to care for each other. I wish Plague was still here sometimes. And for goodness sakes, your government needs to style up. Your preparedness sucks. Are you writing that down? Good. And whatever you do, don't say you talked to me. You will be quarantined forever in a mental institution. Just quote someone, make up a pompous name. You people believe anything."
Alright, one last question. "You seeing someone in your self-realization journey?"
At this she tsked a little. "I have traveled a lot, met interesting viruses and all but not really settled. I had this thing with some virus, I forget his name, coz it was short and all and I killed him. Accidentally, of course. I was too strong. Soo...right now I am trying a few things with HIV, but he's so clingy. Jeez!"
This time I laughed, hard, with my palm covering my mouth. One coffee didn't buy my trust.
"I'd say see you around but I'd be lying so...bye." But there was no one sitting across me. She was gone. Just like that.
My phone rang. I opened my eyes slowly, so much pressure around my skull..
"Hello," I was literally croaking.
"Hey lostie, it's Eva. Can I come over? A chick called, said she's a neighbor. Cori or something? She said you don't feel so well and to bring sanitizers."
I could only say yes and hope for the best.
image credit: Pixabay - free image