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Quarantine Thoughts: Poetry in a Pandemic

In Mary Lynn Ellis’ 11th grade AP Literature class, students have been working on an in-depth study of contemporary American poets. Students were asked to choose a line or more from any poem by any poet that resonated with them in a new way during the present pandemic.

They used that line or any number of lines as a title, first line or last line of their poem or wove it into their poetry in some way. The human range of emotion that one might be feeling from day to day or minute to minute are reflected in the resulting poetry which expresses gratitude, fear, loss, hope and joy. Please enjoy a selection of the pieces from the class.

Why Must We Practice This Surrender?

after Ada Limón 

“Why must we practice this surrender?” When we wake up
each day time begins its tireless effort to stand still. A new routine
will not prevent the days where we sit upside down on the couch,
our legs, empty and upright; our heads, dangling towards the floor
and filling with blood. As we sit the world spins.

Who can say how we long we’ve been here, but each can say the day
they didn’t realize they were saying goodbye.
It’s easy to see how little we knew, that day.

Today, our mind runs the same as the last. A cup of coffee,
a walk, watch the kids bike down the block and then
do it all again.

Each day the earth grows a little bit brighter, and we stay static.

– Sophie Peterson ’21


From the Body Rot, Soil 

after Mary Oliver

Today is warm, like yesterday. Sometimes it is sunny, and sometimes rainy, and sometimes I hear birdsong through the early morning or late at night over the hum of the news. Spring is the month of rebirth, but I don’t understand how the soil is expected to grow anything right now.

It’s April and I know this because my mom’s birthday is tomorrow. My birthday was in March, last month; I remember this because it was a week before they closed school. Our president said he felt like the crisis was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic; I remember this because it was the day before my birthday. Apparently, a virus, “by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” But in theory, it’s April right now. And today is warm, and it hasn’t gone away—and also, It doesn’t really seem like spring. Time acts weird inside. And outside, there are masks everywhere. Looks like an apocalypse.

I don’t believe in god, never have, and sometimes I wonder If It’s because I don’t need to. Plus, all the churches are closed. But right now, everything goes out to the person who is working, struggling, or less fortunate than I am. All I can hope is that they feel even just a bit of warmth today. And I will be still, and stay inside my house, and thank whoever that I am privileged enough to stay home. Lucky enough to hear the birdsong and feel the warm air through my window for another day.

– Sophia Mele ’21


The laundry on the line

after Laura Kasischke

“the laundry on the line,

how like our lives!”


flapping freer than before

yet tethered down

out of fear


we cannot be worn

we cannot leave

until we dry


we hang together

but we cannot see each other


we do not get to decide

when to take back

the part of ourselves

we left behind



so we stay here,

unknowing, flapping

where the wind decides.

– Charly Avril ’21


Caring in quarantine

                        after Ada Limon and Rigoberto Gonzalez

It hasn’t struck you yet, but it will.

i’ve never really been a

“rip the bandaid off” type of girl

i’d rather let it


sink in first,

soak and saturate


The day misspent, the love misplaced.

oh great, my screen time report is out again

songs playing on repeat…

“I care for myself the way I used to care about you”

i take notes.


Why must we practice this surrender?

though i guess it wasn’t necessary

just another choice that i have no control over

that the rest of us have to live—rather, die—with

or at least bite our nails about

No more than a part of the darkness


biting nails and stress balls never really did it for me though

i like to sprint.

the wind in my ears,

deafening the noise of my own thoughts

– Anna Sperger ’21


Another word for father is worry.

after Li-Young Lee 

For me, life in the quarantine has been somewhat normal. I wake up, I go to “the nest” as I call my spot on the couch in the den where I study on weekdays and lounge on weekends, and then I sit there until it’s bedtime. Obviously there are some small breaks, but anyone in my house would attest to the fact that I probably spend 90% of my life here.

My father lives a very different life right now, and “worried” barley begins to describe it. God, I have so much respect for what he does, even if I don’t respect the things he tells me to do. He carries the weight of the whole pandemic on his shoulders. He was the one who put his foot down and made us stay home. He made himself and my mother shower every day in our basement, and leave their clothes in the basement contamination area before padding upstairs in a tower. He even went as far as barring us from using the communal bathroom downstairs, restricting everyone to only use the toilet in their room. But he does it all out of love and worry. He has not hugged me for about a month, and it’s usually the first thing he does when he gets home from work every day. I am healthy and young, and I am at such low risk, but this man Worries So Much.

And he won’t sit back and just make our house safe either. He wants to save the world. The first week of lockdown he sat silently at dinner, as the cogs and gears of his brain turned. This man personally made a plan to maneuver patients in hospital settings to provide care for Cvid patients. He then emailed at least half a dozen contacts who have clout in the medical government, to tell them how he believes they could help to avert this crisis, and when I asked him if he would be on the news he said “I hope I’m not.” He did this because he Worries and he cares.

And he still goes to work most days, saving more lives. And he still takes his online business school course that he takes for no other reason that he wants to more effectively run the practice he is already in charge of

And he still helped me proofread my summer program applications.

And he still participates in family games and movies.

And he still cut me up a pear and delivered it to the nest, where I sit and play “Animal Crossing.”

– Max Newman ’21

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