Poems by Karen George and Karen Novak for Postcards from the Pandemic: A Cincinnati Poetry Month Project

The ever-present awareness of death: one poem mourns a specific and tender loss, the other a universal one.

The Onset

Mom, I hate how the hospital made us wear
gowns, gloves, masks while we visited you,

barriers between us, penalty for a virus
and infection you didn’t choose.

Unable to touch your hand or face
without the bleak chalk blue,

omen of the final rift
that came nine days later.

The night of the day you died,
more separation—the call for social distancing.

Mom, the day after, St. Patrick’s Day—
your mother’s birthday—I wore your shamrock pin

and earrings handed down from her.
All day I looked at photos of you through the years,

paced rooms, made necessary calls,
waited at windows and the sliding glass door,

devoured the rousing green.

Karen George, Florence, KY, is author of five chapbooks and two poetry collections, “Swim Your Way Back” and “A Map and One Year,” has a website at: https://karenlgeorge.blogspot.com/.

 

A Postcard of The Angel Passing Over

Lamb’s blood, the essence of sacrifice, smeared upon the lintel,
spared the inhabitants grief
as Death passed from threshold to threshold
in search of those who could not believe
in angels.
The now unbelieving scoff at attempts
to dispel the messenger as it passes
touch to touch, breath to breath,
in search of what we still hold holy—
our connection to one another.
We smear our small sacrifices,
the blood of our isolation,
upon our lintels
not to spare our own lives
—we may not be spared, we know—
but maybe to spare our sisters,
brothers,
passing strangers,
the innocents,
angels beyond number,
who roam among us
hoping for better days
from a too frail humanity.
Perhaps, at last, we ourselves have been
made Death,
the all-embracing angel set to wreck havoc
on our own lives,
not to teach us grief,
for grief we know too well,
but to teach us
the mercy
we’ve hoped
all along
we deserved.

Karen Novak of Mason is a prose artist who finds the coincidence of calendar and catastrophe to be more than prose can endure. Some things only poetry can begin to capture.

Author: Pauletta Hansel

Pauletta Hansel is a poet, memoirist, teacher and editor. She was Cincinnati's first Poet Laureate from April 2016-March 2018. Pauletta Hansel’s seven poetry collections include Coal Town Photograph and Palindrome, winner of the 2017 Weatherford Award for Appalachian Poetry. Her writing has been featured in Rattle, Still: The Journal, The New Verse News, The Writer’s Almanac, American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily and Poetry Daily, among others. Pauletta leads community poetry workshops and retreats in the Greater Cincinnati area and beyond, and has served as Writer-in Residence at Thomas More College in her native Kentucky. She is managing editor of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary publication of Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative. Pauletta received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte.

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