Writing in a Pandemic

Gabriel Cleveland

Each poem a death poem,
inadequately expressed.
Spring blooms in reverse.

I'm Only Interested in the Special Weather Statements



I can enter the world on my balcony

and tell you if it’s cold or not, and clearly

it won’t be raining anytime soon, so

those metrics mean little to me. 

I want the kind of divination

only a true meteorologist can offer:

“High pressure extending south 

into the mid-Atlantic states is resulting 

in a dry airmass in place. The gusty,

Northwest winds, combined with 

low fuel moisture, will aid fire spread 

should ignition occur.” So, we’re 

all under intense pressure and

at risk of spontaneous combustion?


Actually, I could have told you that, too.

How about this?


As this year’s spring brought out

lower-than-average signs of renewal and

a swell of both localized and regional 

contagion which persisted

through the “healthy” months of summer,

widespread loss of life, aided by 

a slow-moving front of misinformation,

continues to pose a daily threat.

Masks on.

Stay indoors.

Call your loved ones often.

Increases in public gathering and

in-person schooling may cause the plague

to restrengthen through year’s end.

Día de Muertos will be a national holiday

this year; the dead may stick around

to vote. Vote proudly alongside them.

Despite containment efforts,

chance of police gunfire remains elevated

among the Black population.

Prevention strategies proven ineffective,

general caution advised.

As awareness of both crises grows,

more pockets of denial will emerge

from the DC area, along with

outbreaks in unpredictable locales.

Also: smoke from the west coast

presents further uncertainty to forecasts.

If you are not yet on fire, you will be.


(Quoted words from Accuweather, 9.22.2020)


Learning how to live for me (is not an easy thing to do)


My first full year alone passed like a wisp
across the sun, so thin and quick it cast no shadow.
My own shadow has shrunken enough that
I get compliments on my looks and worry
I might disappear completely in a few years’ time.
I recede into work. I live in the office. That’s not hyperbole –
look up my address. I could pack up and leave in an hour.
But I’ve walked the streets of this town
thousands of miles now, I can claim it as my own.
I know it like you know your favorite song, and
it may be the first new piece of me.
The other pieces, I’m still gathering – spices in the kitchen,
recipes tweaked to my liking; little by little, my cautious return
to writing; my homemade computer, my microphone,
my soundboard, my Thursday afternoon time on the air –
just for me, but something I love enough about myself
to share with the world.

Gabriel Cleveland is a poet with an MFA from the Solstice Creative Writing Program and the Managing Editor of CavanKerry Press. Along with Joan Cusack Handler, he co-edited Places We Return To, a 20th Anniversary retrospective on the press’s publishing history. An avid video gamer and music lover, he hosts The Andover Special, a weekly internet radio program on HomeGrownRadioNJ. Gabriel is also a mental health advocate, often working online to raise awareness, visibility, and money for psychological and psychosocial issues. He has spent several years in the field of caregiving for people with increased physical and/or mental needs and wants you to know that you’re not alone.

You can find Gabriel on Facebook!

Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is an initiative sponsored by the Poetic Media Lab and the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis at Stanford University.

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