A Trifecta of Poetry in Response to COVID-19

I wrote the three poems after walking my dog, going on a run or pretending to go out. The first reflects on an empty Colorado downtown following the stay-at-home order and shuttering of many businesses. The second moves from a snowy morning to playgrounds guarded by yellow caution tape. The third recreates the outside by moving a restaurant, coffee shop and dessert bar into the home, where everything can be pretend.

Pandemic Streets

Streets like an old western film
a few walkers a few dogs a few 
businesses have white pieces of paper
closed will reopen when we don’t know.
Parking spaces mostly empty
a presence bad maybe worse
cross myself, pray, walk
am I safe out here?
Go by the new barbershop
stop at the whirling red and blue
pole, a hum like voices without 
needing words.

Go further art in windows
pretty up the glass
who will look, who will buy,
time is fast like one or two cars
now we Zoom
stuck in our houses waiting.

Can’t find words walking 
the next day, though plenty
crowd in messages about 
it was dark.

Now, colors seep out of the sky
can’t see so focused
same silence
without the presence
walking my dog
am I safe?

MORE: See all of our Write On, Colorado entries and learn how to submit your own here.

Tricycles Stopped

Rain in the morning
turned to ice on windows
became snow as we live inside
wishing for dreams to return,
the end feeling so near.

Big questions
where is happiness
in alizarin skies?

Where are our empires,
words we scaled
to make meaning
only so we can break
nodding our heads
at charts?

The children’s song
London bridges all fall down
cover us in masks
playgrounds in yellow caution tape
voices hushed tricycles stopped
dogs still walk but apart from everyone
we keep our distance
our hearts crying.

Pretend Restaurants

Go outside, 
we draw strings 
around our head
tighten cloth over our mouths,
our voices muffled.

Inside, we turn 
houses into restaurants
chefs we become to cook meals, 
servers to deliver them
pretending there is noise
as we lift our forks
sitting at tables,
put some flowers in a vase
whatever color they might be.

Go out afterward
walking over to the coffee pot
lifting cups sitting by a window
staring out,
maybe we should get a newspaper
pretend to talk about normal things.

How about dessert?
There’s a place
down the street that serves it first;
we open the fridge, take out 
cookies from the bakery we pretended
to operate that morning,
set them on plates
next to our coffee
on saucers,
stirring in the way the sun sets
colors into our imaginations
pretending there is noise
as we take a bite.

Shelley Widhalm is a poet, writer and editor living in Loveland.