Plague Poems #20
Plague Poems #22

Plague Poems #21



I see it through a scrim now
the blue sky, the trees in leaf,
and realize again that seeing
is not simply looking.

When you haven’t been outside
more than twice in 73 days
except to walk to the trash cans,
Outside becomes mythical, mystical,
a radically new place
as unreachable as deep space
and as filled with surprising beauty
amidst its dangers:
birdsong riotous in the sudden quiet;
air fresher than most of us remember,
and the sky so damn blue; Johnny Jump-ups
left to riot across the lawn,
reseeding themselves in a stealth reclamation
as we recede like a long tide.
Weather passing through.

Even the light has changed,
filtered through glass and sheers,
fractured by blinds,
it flashes its constituent colors
like a shy flirt,
and paints itself wantonly everywhere,
now wearing the veil of curtains,
now filling your room like an empty glass,
never the same on each object it touches
and always changing them,
especially your face.

Other beauty emerges along with it
as the business of making money
stutters, grinds, stops.
There is art everywhere suddenly,
emerging from the shadow of commerce
(though it was always there)
out of the clearing smoke of dead factories
and burning banks,
the sublime, the absurd, the sublimely absurd:
empty trash cans, barren park benches, abandoned construction sites
overrun with gigantic flower arrangements in Manhattan,
a tugboat on the Thames blaring
“Always Look On the Bright Side of Life,”
the concert pianist and his instrument on a lone barge
in the empty canals of Venice,
the klezmer clarinetist riffing on his Brooklyn stoop
joined by a shofar,
whole neighborhoods singing,
singing from their balconies and windows,
show tunes and love songs and defiance and solidarity,
singing for our lives with
the Zoom choruses and bands, for
the new murals on hospital walls
thanking the people saving us,
and the photographers roaming the emptied streets
to show us the lonely architecture of our world without us
and the wild originality of our countenances
in our new masks—

and the hidden beauty
we’ll only see when we can open our doors again
to others:
the house filled with painted flowers,
the shawls and quilts and blankets and scarves,
the bread and beer we’ve learned to make,
the masterpieces of still life and portrait,
sculptures and glass and jewelry,
and all the creations that come out of us
when we go inside and close the door
to the world.

And the poems and stories, of course.
Because some of us have only words
to spin and weave and paint with,
to capture light
and hold up the refracting mirror.

Pay attention.

Don’t forget how to see.
Don’t close your eyes again.
Don’t open the door too soon.

‒May 20, 2020, Brooklyn
©Lee Kottner 2020


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