Fri | Sep 18, 2020

Poems in the Time of COVID-19

Published:Sunday | July 26, 2020 | 12:07 AM
Celia Sorhaindo picking mangoes from her mom’s tree in Dominica.
Celia Sorhaindo picking mangoes from her mom’s tree in Dominica.

The poems below are Part 3 of the Meeting Ground: Poems in the Time of COVID-19 series. – Ann-Margaret Lim

L for Locked Out

Some things are beyond the cutting edge of poems.

Like this true story (BBC report with photographs)

of this widow in a far-off land, in lockdown: no

income, six children and no food. She puts water in

the cooking pot, adds stones and tells them to wait for

soup. They know she is lying; their crying alerts a

neighbour who arranges assistance. Thus that old

Stone Soup tale is re-enacted.

But this is not meant to be an allegory of craftiness

or kindness.

You can read it simply as a reflection

on how an invisible virus can make visible

that other pandemic: the collateral damage

to half the world without the means of protection.

Olive Senior (Jamaican in Canada)



I am stranded in a house

with people I don’t know.

I sit in a place of judgement,

looking at the door,

running backward on the inside.

I do not anguish about the world.

As words fly around me,

I sink into self-absorption,

falling deeper into the rabbit hole,

and start to dissolve.

They said, “Wear your crown proud”

no matter where you are,

but the hole is deep,

and ego a heavy rock.

Yet if you drop to the bottom

you’ll see there is no end,

you can feel yourself getting taller

In the upside-down place.

“Off with their heads!”

Your fears arise – you cannot run,

no place to hide, just a million

thoughts fighting to survive.

If there ever was a chance

to wake up and soar – thy kingdom come.

Mina Gligorio (Serbia)


My Sister & I Are Picking Mangoes

again in Mum’s debris garden. Our tropical life has been

entropically re-coloured since the hurricane passed. She

came to help us & the hourglass days, turning over & over,

are often sublimely beautiful & surreal; brown pleasuring

to green/yellow/red; starred silver indigo, far too visible.

This beloved mango tree is recovery; she has us in awe

with her constant, almost embarrassing, fruit full giving.

I hold my husband’s green fishing net: I know what it’s

like to fall, bruise, split skin & expose flesh all the way

down to bone-white seed, so I pull down & catch; save

some mangoes from this fate. I imagine though the fruit

innately sense my nonsense; knowing there is no sin in

falling—grow, fall, feed ground/gut, grow again, repeat

infinitely. Brown hands pick up any spoilt grounded fruit,

throw them in the grown green gutter. Our aim? Deter flies

from hovering around; seeding worms into ripening fruit.

Celia Sorhaindo (Dominica)

From her book Guabancex (Papillote Press: Feb 2020)



-for Ann-Margaret Lim

“To the saints who are in Ephesus..” (Ephesians 1:1)

Gossiping yellow-breasts among avocado blossoms,

butterflies cavorting around the Rose of Sharon

clean white flower in the morning

tinged at noon with its pink changings,

hummingbirds probing under grapefruit,

hens and chicks foraging among the brown fallen leaves,

children on this Sabbath singing hymns on their verandah,

palm tree like a winged angel under the blue and sparse-cloud sky —

who would think

that pestilence is ravaging our world?

No safe zone on continent or island,

familiar routines locked-down,

family, friends, lovers masked and distanced,

networks obsessed with flattening curves and death statistics,

churches and mosques closed, except for fanatics,

beaches, bars, brothels shut, except for the skeptics

or those who want normal here and now,

and there are us who must crowd long lines outside shops —

who wrote the script

who configured this incredible dystopia?

Skies are clearing over megalopolitans everywhere

Himalayas are in view after decades

I hear that canals in Venice and Amsterdam are clean these days;

in neighborhoods under curfew,

wood-doves and various warblers clock the quick-passing hours

crickets and soughing breezes through leaves are the only night sounds,

no backfiring bikes or late night DJ’s. Judgement is dropping abroad

from our mouths and hands —

what unbelievable drama is rolling out behind the scenes

Who is moving, Ephesians, to centre-stage of this cosmic scenario?

John Robert Lee (Saint Lucia)