“Time in the Time of Coronavirus” by Jean L. Kreiling

Jean L. Kreiling


With half our faces covered, and six feet
from most other sources of body heat,
we navigate “new normal” in our own
germ-fearing bubbles, freakishly alone
or feigning human contact via screen,
as months of tragedy make dread routine.
Our past and future both grow vague. The counting
of days confounds us, as the death toll, mounting
obscenely, renders numbers both abstruse
and cruel, and new variants reduce
the quantity of breaths we each might take,
how many years we each might get to make
a life, a home, a work of art, a dent
in our to-do lists. We cannot invent
a kindly clock, and it’s not a surprise
when time turns blurry: it both creeps and flies,
it twists into unmeasured shapes, it flouts
the laws of physics, and threatens redoubts
of certainty and order. Has it been
six months, a year, or two since you were in
a restaurant, a plane, a concert hall?
Since you shook someone’s hand? Can you recall
when you began to forego pedicures?
Like sci-fi movies, this weird life obscures
the clock, the calendar, reality
itself, and though we are apparently
the stars of this film, we’re oblivious—
the ending certainly unknown to us,
the plot a murky, convoluted mess;
the running time is anybody’s guess.

from Poets Respond
December 21, 2021


Jean L. Kreiling: “The surreal quality of pandemic life strains the brain, and recent news of spikes in infections and deaths has exacerbated the stress. While I’m grateful that Covid-19 has not affected me or my loved ones in any dire physical way, I suspect I’m not the only one who feels as if I’m living in some alien universe—some unimaginably difficult world from which I cannot escape, where time (among other things) doesn’t function properly.”

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