Anita Mewherter was a chemist at General Electric; she was a high school chemistry teacher; she married a chemist. At some point, she said, she realized that her heart and soul were full of emotions which needed to be expressed. And so she started writing poetry. Here’s her poem “The Diagnosis” from Passager Issue 64. It wasn’t written about Covid. But it could’ve been.
Words that change your life
should be pronounced in an ancient cathedral
where faint shafts of light
stream through stained-glass windows
a hushed paneled courtroom
where great leather chairs
stand in ponderous attention
in cramped sterile cubicle
furnished in chrome
with a lonely chipped sink
and one red plastic chair
And I . . . I, dressed only in paper
with my heart in a knot
and my feet cold and dangling
. . .
“The Diagnosis” by Anita Mewherter. Back before Passager published this poem, Passager author Wilderness Sarchild incorporated it into her musical “Wrinkles.”
The Covid quarantine limits our lifestyles in many ways. We can’t go on vacation; we can’t go to restaurants. We can’t visit and hug our new grandbabies. But that same quarantine also opens up new spaces. These next two poems are about that.
Pilar Saavedra-Vela said that the quiet that came from nighttime with no traffic, and the awkward distances between friends no longer able to hug each other sometimes triggered memories of her childhood in Colombia. This next poem “On Covid Time III” is one of a series she wrote about those experiences.
My friend Barbara, who just returned
from Mexico, was told to self-quarantine.
She called to propose a trade: my Meyer lemons
for her banana bread. I love anything she bakes.
So I agreed. We’d exchange the goods from afar.
I put a basket outside by the door. A paper bag, too,
so she could haul off the huge lemons.
In turn, she placed a big zip-lock bag full
of banana brownies in my basket
and drove away.
Then I remembered when Grandma
would take us out on errands with her. At the convent
down the block, she said, nuns mended stockings
and embroidered beautiful cloths.
Grandma would place her bag of stockings
in a basket on a shelf
which would then disappear
into the convent wall.
. . .
Pilar Saavedra-Vela’s poem “On Covid Time III.”
Rex Wilder said that from his desk overlooking the Pacific Ocean, he’s seen ships, sailboats, jet skis, surfers, swimmers, dolphins, whales. But one day recently, he saw something he’d never seen before from that view, a sea lion, clearly enjoying itself. Here’s Rex Wilder’s poem “Beach Love.”
A wave curls its palm as if around an invisible chin-up
Bar and — It’s a sea lion! Common enough on the wharves
But I’ve never seen one in these waters.
It’s happening around the world, a shift
So pervasive it’s like backing out of nothing left.
Animals are showing up in Yosemite
That haven’t seen the tourist parts since artists
Started painting them. Love is, too — like a cautious
Beast that steps into the sun (Go, heart, go!),
Lights up, looks around, breaks into a run.
. . .
“Beach Love” by Rex Wilder.
Those last two poems, by the way, were from Passager’s 2020 Poetry Contest Issue. You can purchase that issue, subscribe to Passager, and learn more about the press and its commitment to writers over 50 at passagerbooks.com. You can download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts, and various other podcast apps.
One more thing. This coming Saturday, January 30, Passager author Roy Cheng Tsung will be reading from his new book Ox Horn Bend. The online reading will begin at 4:00 eastern time, 1:00 pacific time.
The cover art is a selection of a painting titled Meditation on Figs by artist Hal Boyd.
Due to the limitations of online publishing, poems may not appear in their original formatting.