Woke with a smile, feeling great, and
within two hours had a fever. The fever
climbed hourly until it was 102. No
other symptoms. Finally, in the evening,
it started to drop. Exhausting, before
knowing the exhaustion ahead. Tuesday
March 3: The Corona virus
is spreading across the world, and anxiety about it grows. Friends are concerned about me, my having
already had pneumonia twice. I am
surprised. Wednesday March 4: How much worry to have? I start wearing a silver cross my son brought
back for me from Ireland, and a St. Dymphna medal I’ve had for years. Just in case. Wednesday March 11: Concerned
about traveling, I cancel a trip to Portland later in March, and cancel a trip
to New Orleans in April. Saturday
March 14: The San
Francisco St. Patrick’s Day parade is canceled for fear of a viral spread, and
with that, my traditional family plans. Monday March 16: Six counties of the Bay Area are ordered
to shelter in place. Thursday
March 19: Governor
Newsom orders the whole state of California to do the same. I have had face-to-face interaction with only
one person for days, or is it already weeks?
I trust Dr. Anthony Fauci, “If you think you’re overreacting then you’re
doing the right thing.” And now one of
my stepdaughters is sick with the virus, and has to stay at home alone, suffer
alone. I text her several times a
day. We are both scared. Friday March 27: After ten days, my stepdaughter begins to
recover, but still is not well. I am needing some external stimulus, I need the
wider world. I miss people. Two friends drop
by my house with a latte for me, place it on my front porch, then step back to
the sidewalk. We wave and talk across the distance. Monday March 30: Yesterday was my half-birthday (which I
celebrate, privately). Life, not just my age, has changed in ways I never
imagined. I’ve spent the last two weeks
in a state of fear, and too often a kind of numbness. The death rate, in the US and worldwide,
increases daily. The latest grim
estimate is if everything is done correctly, with public health and medical
efforts, then 100,00 to 200,000 will die.
Here. My first thought is that I
am not ready to die. My second thought is
that I’m not ready for anyone to die from this. I am having trouble
concentrating. Thursday April 3: Still coming out of a state of shock and
dismay. A historic and heartbreaking and
confusing time. I have slowed down,
tasks that used to take an hour now take four hours. As I go for shortened
walks around the neighborhood, I regard other humans as possible threats. My fear is not of violence but of contagion. I feel vulnerable about my vulnerability. Saturday
April 4: Last evening I was
terribly sad as I watched the news of the number infected with Covid-19 and the
number who have died. This in face of
the federal government’s cruel response, or non-response. Wednesday April 8: Today is the 24th anniversary
of my sister’s death. The loss has been integrated
into who I am. Now, for more than a
month, the virus is integrated into my life.
Physical isolation, masks, gloves, the anxiety of being in a public
place, crossing the street when I see someone walking my way, thinking of other
humans as viruses, missing my friends, my family, watching news obsessively.
There will come a day when life will be closer to what it once was, though
maybe always with this new awareness. US Death toll 13,007. Thursday April 9: US Death toll 14,831. Friday April 10, Good Friday: Yesterday Trump signed an executive order
for the mining of minerals on the moon. Now?
Saturday April 11:
20,283 dead. Woke up this morning feeling more like myself
than I have for almost a month. It has
been weeks of having little or no control over almost anything in this
pandemic. I can simply order my life
within the limitations that have been set.
Doing laundry becomes satisfying. Later, I think about it being Holy
Saturday. And about crucifixion, the
torture of it. Then I ask the ancient Romans,
“What is wrong with you?” How could
anyone invent such a thing? Then I think
of other torture, the Middle Ages, WWII, the brutality of drug cartels. What is wrong with you? And I think of a fight I had with my son when
he was a teenager, and the fury I felt, and that I grabbed him. What is wrong with me? My self does not want that memory. I vaguely recall
something the Dalai Lama said about compassion. I want to be compassionate with
myself. But I can’t. Sunday
April 12, Easter: 21,686
dead. 2,405 in one day. Monday
April 13: The sun is
shining. I feel good physically. This is another anniversary, the date of my
sister’s funeral. I am torn, feeling
good and noting the grief. Still, I am okay, I’m not sick, all my family is now
well, I have food, shelter, some money.
How grateful I am for that, and how I hope I can continue to have such
good fortune. It is the fifth week of the stay at home order. According to one model, today might be the
peak for daily deaths in the US. Tuesday
April 14: 32,186 dead.
Wearing a mask will be needed for months in order to protect from the virus, to
keep it from spreading. Should I tuck some lavender in my new cloth version,
like a medieval Plague Doctor? The shock is fading a bit and I am getting used
to how life will be for some time. I’m
not yet settled with it, but realize I have to reconfigure the hours, learn how
to feel productive under these circumstances. I had a strange burst of pent up
energy last evening, and made circuits around the house to try to burn it off. Friday April 17: 4,591 deaths in 24 hours. A record. Tired of counting. Saturday April 18: I am pleased when I know what day of the week
it is. I watch NY Governor Cuomo’s daily
briefing, a kind of church attendance for me.
Someone giving facts, someone showing compassion. 37,804 dead. Tired.
I keep saying, to myself, and others, that I’m starting to come out of my shock
and adjust to these new conditions, but in fact it is a process, an advance and
retreat. Monday April 20:
Something as simple as going to the grocery store becomes a major
outing that requires planning and outfitting.
I have an urgent sense of needing to catch up, but I am simply taking
tiny, the tiniest, steps. Wednesday April 22: Yesterday I attended another virtual
poetry reading, thanks to electronic technology. To keep in touch with language,
to try, even in this time of isolation, to be in community, and inspired. 45,150
dead. Friday April 24: 50,066
dead. Increasing faster than I can track. Monday April 27: Mornings. When I can remember a dream, I record it in
my dream journal. For the most part, I
read news on my phone or watch on my computer.
I was going to just now write “what am I checking?” but I know
what. I am tracking the deaths, I’m
looking for the latest government outrage, I’m following the economic impact.
Every time I do something physical, baking, weeding, it’s a break from the
overall sense of paralysis I have. Then, so quickly, it’s afternoon. A beautiful, sunny day. I spend a short time in the side garden, then
come inside because I feel the need to write how grateful I am that I can do
that. 55,118 deaths. 26% of those
worldwide. Wednesday April 29: 58,965. Hunger now, and more death. Saturday
May 9: 77,334. And
a few hours after writing one number, I write another. 78,084. And then
another, in one more hour. 78,320. And even then, later the same day 78,618 78,618 78,618 unfinished Friday May 15: 87,204 lost to us. At 3:52 pm, the count becomes 87,247. I have lost a sense of my own
competence. About anything. The Navajo Nation has one of the highest infection
counts per capita in the country, with limited hospital facilities, limited
water. I hear that Doctors Without Borders has gone to help. Saturday May 16: This morning I wash the kitchen floor for the
first time in months. The water in the
bucket turns black. All those footsteps.
87,991, then, when I look again, 88,211, just after
noon. Sunday May 17: 88,898 have died as of this morning’s
count. In 1982 the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial, designed by 21 year old Maya Lin, was dedicated in Washington,
D.C. Inscribed on the black granite were
the names of 57,939 U.S. soldiers who had died or were missing as a result of
the war. Over the following years,
additions brought the total past 58,200. With a close friend, I visited it not
long after it was installed, bracing myself as I anticipated seeing a number of
mourners at the site. Lin’s intention
was to create an opening or a wound in the earth to symbolize the pain caused
by the war. As I neared the monument, it’s vast and awesome grief, I burst into
tears. That war, my opposition to it,
defined much of my early life. Now, I
haven’t bothered to shower for two days.
I’m living in an unknown time.
Another place, a different battle. Later, again, the number of deaths due to this
virus becomes 90,000. Monday May 18: One year ago I was on my way to Maui, a long
awaited trip, one planned for two years. Long before I needed to write the number 90,527.
And on this same day, Chicago,
Cook County, also nears the top number
of cases in the country. Where I was
born, where my people come from. Tuesday May 19: Shelter-in-place
is creating an increase in domestic violence calls, which include child
abuse. What is the safety of shelter
when it becomes the place of danger? Is
there safety anywhere? By afternoon, 92,235 have died. Wednesday May 20: Whose numbers do I believe? The 8 a.m. news
says 92,790, but another source at 11 a.m. says 92,387. The count cannot possibly reverse. Why is
accuracy so import to me? Because the
difference of 403 is huge. Each one
number a life.
Dyckman is the author of two
full-length books of poetry, A Dark Ordinary (Furniture Press Books), and equilibrium’s form (Shearsman Books), as well as the chapbooks, Counterweight, Transiting
Indigo, Source, Hearing Loss, and, in collaboration with
Elizabeth Robinson, Vivian Maier - 11 Photographs in 20 poems. Selections
from her current dream-based project appear in GUEST 11 and parentheses.
She lives and writes in the Bay Area.