Feast and Fear in the Time of Coronavirus

Lana Hechtman Ayers

Feast and Fear in the Time of Coronavirus
  
 My weekly trip to the grocery store
 equally may provide sustenance and death.
  
 I go knowing that along with 
 the apples and eggs, I may be carting
 home coronavirus to you, my love,
 whose immune system is on lockdown
 for trying to assassinate 
 your body’s entire vascular system. 
  
 How is it we have come to this,
 humankind so at odds with nature,
 even our very own?
  
 Scientists say the teeny virus isn’t alive, 
 exactly, just a bit of protein that possesses 
 our same uncanny drive to reproduce, 
 replace, and colonize everything
 not itself with acres of its progeny.
  
 O, the irony of being done in 
 by a beast with our selfsame gluttony.
  
 But love, for this moment now,
 let us set aside these fears and feast 
 on eggs and apples, allow me 
 to nourish you with all the love I can, 
 every sacred mouthful. 

Embraces, a pandemic poem

 
 
 
 Lana Hechtman Ayers
  
 Embraces
             a pandemic poem
  
 A few nights ago, in the car
 on our way to our sheltering place,
 I was contemplating how all over 
 the virtual world
 there is fear and poetry,
 people reporting sadness
 and success at isolation.
  
 All I could think was dark thoughts,
 how in two weeks or so
 many of us will be ill,
 and some gone forever.
  
 “Six degrees of separation,”
 my husband said, as our car careened
 through ghost town streets,
 “guarantees we will know someone
 whose life the virus claims.
 “And yet,” he continues, “Statistically,
 only a couple of percent of 
 the billions of people on earth
 will die, so, it’s truly unlikely
 that it will be you or me.”
  
 I was a Mathematics major 
 in college many decades ago,
 so my rational mind should 
 have believed him.
 But the only place my thoughts 
 could traverse was
 we haven’t written our wills.
  
 Our two dogs asleep in the back seat
 dreamt with bated breaths, 
 perhaps chasing prey,
 unknowing of the prey
 all we humans had become.
  
 At home, where we’ll remain
 for untold months to come,
 we may hurt for healthy groceries,
 supplements, cleaning supplies, 
 but reading material 
 and entertainment channels flourish.
 However, no amount of binge
 watching British police dramas
 quells my prospering fears.
  
 The only way I manage even
 a few hours of restless sleep
 is to keep inventing a movie 
 inside my head I hope someday
 some director will actually film—
  
 unreeling across my closed eyelids
 I watch strangers hugging 
 in restaurants, strangers hugging
 in offices, in the middle of crowded
 streets, hugging in grocery stores 
 and at gas stations—
  
 this and only this allows me 
 to let go of the day’s dread, 
 this envisioning of humans
 reaching out for one another,
 with open arms and hearts,
 these embraces after pandemic 

A gratitude poem: Praise in a Viral Time

Lana Hechtman Ayers

 

Praise in a Viral Time

            for Jane & everyone

 

Praise to the grocery store worker

who greeted me cheerfully

on the phone when I let her know

I’d arrived to pick up

the order I’d placed online.

Praise to her eyes blue as today’s sky

that smiled apologetically

when she said she couldn’t fill

half my order, there being

simply not much in stock.

I told her she was a hero for being here

in a time of virus to help feed us,

and she said, “We’ll all get through

this crazy time together.”

 

Praise to the pharmacy clerk,

arriving at the drive-thru window

her hands gloved, smile

bright as her cherry-red hair.

I told her she was a hero for helping

us be as healthy as possible

with so many spreading illness.

She said, “I have lung issues

and both my children are

immunocompromised.

Let’s all be careful.”

 

Praise to all those who go to work

every day, side by side with a death

virus at work, invisible as breath.

 

Praise to the delivery drivers,

the warehouse and factory workers,

and the farm workers laboring

tirelessly for the good of all.

 

Praise to the firemen and lawmen,

to the pharmacists, the EMTs,

the nurses, the doctors always

selflessly on the front lines.

 

Praise to the tech folks

who keep our virtual worlds

smoothly unfolding

so we can be together

in this ether of electrons.

Praise to all those online

posting messages of humor

and survival and hope.

 

Praise to the postal workers

even if it’s mostly bills, praise to

all the utility employees,

everyone who keeps the power on,

the water flowing cleanly, freely.

 

Praise to the garbage men,

praise to the cleaners and janitors

perhaps most of all, blessings

and endless praise for making

every surface safe once again.

 

Praise to the homeless man

who looked at my privileged self

with pity on his weather-beaten face

and said, “You can get through this,

honey. I’ve done it for years.”

 

Praise to human kindness

that blossoms in times of crisis,

like spring after a relentless,

crippling winter.

 

Praise to every human on earth,

even those who have not yet

discovered in their hearts

a way to be generous,

a way to reach out to others

in these uncharted times.

 

Praise to being human because

we all have the capacity

for growth and change,

and at the very least,

all can be civil,

as my counselor Jane told me

on the phone this very morning,

Most of us stop for the red light.

 

being humane

 

3-19-20

Breathless Vigil by Lana Hechtman Ayers

Breathless Vigil

 

by Lana Hechtman Ayers

 

We stand vigil together,

each alone in our own homes.

Some of us stay tuned

to the virtual world,

screen filled with frightening

body counts and new cases.

Some anxiously refreshing

so as not to miss a single update.

 

And as the walls of the financial

kingdom come crashing down,

others count their stock of stored goods,

toilet paper rolls overflowing closets.

And still others turn to streaming

entertainment, binge watching

every episode in a day.

 

We are living history,

we are dying history,

moment to moment learning,

perhaps at last,

how every human is entangled

with every other human

all across this blue globe.

 

Each heart’s warm blood

warms the air in our lungs,

air that we breathe through

speakable, kissable mouths

now kept at special distance.

 

We scramble to adjust to new

information that takes more

and more away of the way of life

we knew a few short weeks ago.

We seek some meaningful way

to achieve prescribed circumscribed

embrace with those we care for,

from afar, and from near, but now afar.

 

At last, we truly know

what it means to be connected

to one another by breath,

by wholly life-giving,

death-giving, life-giving breath.

 

We mourn yesterday when

a trip to the store seemed a chore,

and we mourn all our tomorrows’

cancelled events, the celebrations

that must go unmarked,

the fancy restaurant dinner,

or even a cup of coffee with friends.

 

Each of us falls in our own way

and only some of us will rise again.

Still, the sun rises,

and spring blossoms,

the sea stirs and stirs, and still,

we humans dare to hope.

sunset Cape Meares Oregon 1016

3-18-20

 

What I’m reading — December 2019

Or rather, what I am re-reading:

Travellin’ Shoes by V. M. Burns

in preparation for the 2nd book in the RJ Franklin Mystery Series which is available now!

Motherless Child by V.M. Burns

Love the main character, an honorable police detective in a small Indiana town. Also, love Mama B, his surrogate mother who has a giant heart, cooks enough food for the entire neighborhood, and possesses no filter whatsoever. 

 

Great Writing Advice by Bethany Reid

Thirteen Ways to Get Some Writing Done Today

I just read a post about discouragement, over at The Write Practice, and that happens to be a topic I am well versed in. So here’s a sampling from my own little arsenal for writing in the face of discouragement.

  1. Remember Newton’s First Law, or this important piece of it: a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Pick up your pen, open a notebook, and start writing.
  2. Tell yourself you don’t have to write for very long — fifteen minutes, ten minutes, one minute. Just get yourself into motion on the page.
  3. Once you’re there, on that lovely page, if you can’t think of anything else to write, write about your discouragement.
  4. Give your discouragement a name — I mean this literally, a name like “Fred” or “Alice.”
  5. Give your discouragement a place to sit, maybe the couch opposite your chair. Talk to discouragement, sort of the way the Dixie Chicks talk to heartache in their song, “Hello, Mr. Heartache.”
  6. Unpack your discouragement. Write about how, at its core, it contains the word courage. Write about how another word for courage is heart. I recently had an “aha” moment that is relevant here. I realized (finally!) what the self-help gurus mean when they say don’t focus on what you don’t want. “Stop procrastinating,” for instance (one of my long-time admonitions to myself) focuses on “procrastinating,” which is what I don’t want. “Write with energy and vitality and love — right now” is a better way to get what I want. But there’s a little lesson here about discouragement, too. Thinking about it focuses on the courage at its heart (and the courage in your heart).
  7. Rewards are nice, but I kind of favor bribes. If you (like me) are always jonesing for a latte (double-tall, almond milk, please!), take your notebook to a coffee place. Get the damn latte. Write while you sip it.
  8. Looking through old drafts and feeling stuck? Choose one (if you have difficulty choosing, close your eyes and grab). Take it out for a latte.
  9. Read with a pen in your hand. If you find an abstract, non-sensual word like “difficulty” or “arbitrary,” write a list of images, sounds, tastes, textures, smells that you associate with that word.
  10. Write out (by hand!) a poem by your favorite poet, or a paragraph from a favorite novel. (Just doing this will get your hand in motion!)
  11. Ask questions. What do you love about this piece of writing? What are the coolest words in this poem or paragraph? What are the sentences like? How do they vary from one another? What trap-doors are here that drop you through the lines and into your own imagination?
  12. Rewrite the passage as if you are translating it into your own language.
  13. Instead of fussing over what to write, write a list of what you might write — think wedding and write something borrowed, something blue, something old, and something new — write a list of ten things (or thirteen!). James Altucher says when a list of ten feels beyond you, write a list of twenty, which helps you to lower your standards and write the nonsense that will get you where you want to go. Writing.

An Open Letter to Amazon KDP Regarding Paperbacks

An Open Letter to KDP,

Amazon began as a bookseller, first and foremost. A purveyor of books. Then CreateSpace made it possible to publish professional-standard books affordably as an author. I have been a faithful customer since the beginning of Amazon. Both companies packed and shipped books beautifully and cared about the product they delivered.

CreateSpace is no more, and we are being forced to use Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for paperbacks. KDP is shipping paperback books carelessly and thoughtlessly. All of the individual author copies arrive damaged, having been loosely plopped into an envelope and sent through the mail. No pride in product or care for the authors, or the very books that were the company’s humble beginning.

This is a true letdown and downgrade of a product I have always admired, supported, and endorsed on Social Media and to other writers and publishing professionals.

I truly hope KDP will consider a company-wide policy change in the care you take shipping KDP paperback books.

Otherwise, I will have to take my business elsewhere, and heartily endorse that other authors, small presses, and industry professionals do the same.

Regards,

Lana Hechtman Ayers, author and small press publisher