like sparks flung from fire: poetry in a time of coronavirus

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S. and every April I write a special poem. I tried extra hard to make a special poem this year, as if these historic times demanded it.

But much like 2020, it didn’t go as planned. I couldn’t conjure anything that worked. And since I am in isolation, I cannot even use busyness as an excuse.

I think I was trying to compress the magnitude of this pandemic into a few verses bold enough to carry it. This effort may have been too much, too soon.

On Wednesday April 22 my local library posted this social media prompt.

If you look closely at the image, you will see the revealed words leave behind this poem:

love conquers all

all one in body

in spirit

don’t count the days



the best medicine

is a dose of laughter

pause daily

to reflect

and hope

I laid aside my unfinished poems and pulled up The New York Times front page for Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

Here is my blackout poetry attempt and process:

The New York Times Late Edition | VOL. CLXIX . . . No. 58,671 | New York, 4-22-2020

I chose a news article called “Mapping Path of Virus From First U.S. Foothold” by Mike Baker and Sheri Fink.

It’s the story about the first person in the United States to test positive for COVID-19 and the path of the outbreak which followed.

Here is the article blacked out:

Here is a closeup. The poem is revealed below:

like sparks flung from fire

some thousand miles away,

one popped up, two came down

thanks to a little luck.

a man grabbed his book.

the next day, he went to sea.

to everyone’s relief,

the story ended there.

A thank you to Handley Library for the inspiration. I look forward to doors opening again when the time is right.

A second thank you to The American Academy of Poets for its #ShelterinPoems initiative through the COVID-19 crisis. They are doing a lot to spread poetry on social media which is needed.

I would like to say hello to a poet and friend, Joseph Jablonski, who was featured in a local newspaper article for his poetry project in response to the corona-virus.

He relayed this quote to all poets out there:

“You are the historians of how it feels.”

Stay well and keep up the good work.

W. D. H.