This entry is part 14 of 40 in the series Pandemic Year


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Humid middle of the night. It’s stuffy in the bedroom, hard to sleep. I get up and sit outside, waiting for a storm to clear the air, but nothing—just a flicker on the horizon now and then.

frost-struck oaks
slowly recovering
a rash of stars

I check Twitter on my phone and holy shit, the uprising in response to police violence is spreading across the country. The precinct building for the part of Minneapolis where George Floyd was murdered is in flames. Goddamn. Under the porch I hear a porcupine clacking its teeth to ward off an enemy. Then gnawing, gnawing, gnawing on the foundation beam.

that near shriek
in the last note

Process notes

Written two nights ago. Since this series has the flavor of a diary or vlog, I worry about current events-related pieces getting stale, so I tried to finish the video up last night. But nothing seemed quite right so I held off, and I’m glad I did. The necessary changes weren’t too extreme, and in fact I ended up sticking with the footage I’d initially chosen. Too bad it’s beech and not oak leaves, but otherwise I liked the vibe — especially combined with some public-domain audio of the scratchy silent part of an old vinyl record, which had just the unsettling, obsessive quality the video needed, I thought. After the last three videos playing around with more complex combinations of images, I wanted to get back to the basics here.

As is often the case, the haiku I really struggled with, the first one, isn’t as good as the one that came easily. One alternate to “a rash of stars” that I flirted with was “the glabrous sky,” but I decided that would be entirely too clever and obscure. But I’m sure my fellow botany nerds would’ve enjoyed it.

This feels like a totally inadequate response to the severity and sadness of current events, but in my experience it’s better to be understated in poetry than to try to say everything and end up spinning off into abstraction or didacticism. Besides, I AM a fairly clueless old white guy living in the boonies, there’s no use pretending otherwise. Poets in the streets right now will write the essential poems about this possibly pivotal moment in the decline and fall of the American empire.

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