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JERSEY CITY

COMMUNITY POEM Quarantine 2020


JERSEY CITY COMMUNITY POEM In April 2020, Art House Productions embarked on the Jersey City Community Poem Project, seeking submissions from New Jersey-based poets of lines about the theme, “Life in the Pandemic and Beyond: Quarantine, Devastation, and Hope for the Future.” After receiving submissions from 42 talented poets, Jersey City Poet Laureate, Rashad Wright, curated the original, crowdsourced poem titled “Just Breathe” using lines and excerpts from each submission. Upon completion of the poem, Art House asked for video submissions of community members performing the original work. In response, 57 performers, including Jersey City officials, local artists, and many of the credited poets, filmed themselves orating different stanzas. The clips were compiled in a video performance, which premiered at Art House’s Virtual Access JC Fridays on June 5th. To view the performance, visit: www.youtu.be/DQVX_0C3WjM This book features "Just Breathe," along with all of the poetry submissions in full. This project was generated and produced by Art House Productions and sponsored by the City of Jersey City and Office of Cultural Affairs. Art House Productions is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to the development and presentation of the performing and visual arts in Jersey City, NJ. Art House Productions presents theater, performing and visual arts festivals, arts events, visual art exhibitions, and adult and youth art classes.


JUST BREATHE Day 1 and it started like a dream with people high fiving and everything We should be grateful Day 2 When we were told to shelter in place, A shiver ran down my spine and my mouth shut. suddenly home is the center of everything Day 3 Its something we can’t see Day 4 The floor is swept. The table is set. The dishes are washed and clean. Plenty of time, to dream. Still Day 4 How much tea is too much tea? Day 6 mommy can you can you – mommy MOMMY! where's my... mommy, I'm hungry


Day 7 And a perfect stranger stopped at the crosswalk to tell me to observe the moon which would be full in two days She knew I wanted her to become visible now Seven pm cowbells ringing in the distance A nod to bravery during unknown times Day 8 This unyielding wall of isolation divides us for safety me from you, you from me. Two separate terrors experienced alone, alone. Day 9 Staying in the house, We have to wait for the time to pass We have to flatten the curve, I hope you are too. Stay Safe, Stay Healthy Day 10 Walking outside has become a health risk Lysol spray has become perfume Supermarket runs are life and death missions The initial shock of seeing bare shelves Then accepting it and moving stealthily through the store The greedy have decimated the stock


Day 11 this reality plaguing us like a night with its black teeth slowly seeping as a black hole in our lives cooped in the isolated corners of our little home on my cushioned couch as we feverishly look for the safe haven trying to find solace as poetry holds the light. Day 12 “Can you stay six feet away?� Day 13 People donating to charities to feed the needy Not having a dollar to spare, but sparing it anyway Day 14 Homeschooling is not as simple as other mamas make it seem! Day 14 Next Door I awake to another quarantine day To virtual homework and zoom meetings Won't go to school this May The feeling's fleeting Day 14 Across Town my eyes follow the cat I can see her heavy and pregnant from my bedroom window Day 14 On Every Channel people coughing and screaming streets were empty and missing Engulfed by words that wrapped their way around my skin. The paint splashed upon my open heart.


Day 15 Everyone Says When will quarantine end? Day 16 the wind still blows, The leaves still fall And the flowers bloom. Outside my window. Tree lovely as me, Green leaf branch sway in the breeze, So soon Autumn leaves us. Still Day 16 From window, I watch them. Perhaps the geese miss me Also Day 16 My neighbor, a kindly woman is shouting at passersby “wear a mask, don’t be an asshole.” Day 18 Are the warbles moving north through Garret Mountain? They fly across our mountain, Manhattan their backdrop. And then they are gone, and we are back in urban Paterson, yearning for them. Did you see them this year? Day 20 My rescue dog hopes the pandemic is never over. He has never had me home all day Still, he thinks his life during this pandemic is dog Nirvana and hopes the pandemic never ends.


Day 22 He has no morals, this is not a war your leaders bother to fight. When you jammed your dignity into the ground like a flag, they only laughed, Not fighting Corona, he’s off building walls Day 24 There once was a girl, afraid of the sun, Who said if she went out, it wouldn't be fun Day 27 When this ends we should find that we are the people We wanted to be We hoped to be And we were called to be Better for each other because of the worst Day 29 I simply sit, and she sits, too, each contemplating having yet another cup of Earl Grey Day 30 You guys go out risking what we fear everyday Health care workers everywhere Thanks for what you do Day 31 The joy of working from home is fading away Work was ripped from me; I would hear of sadness and sickness while in search of light.


Day 32 Light is not absent, only scarce— It is not a darkness, but a dimming. there is an unshakable hope, a healing. A brightness that continues on through unwelcome silence, So here we are. In the midst of a perfect storm. Wondering like Marvin what's goin on? Can we actually awaken from this nightmare we manifested into a dream? Day 33 "I will not let this kill me" / Repeat through the day Day 34 This is not the new normal. Day 35 Once, you could say that a cold is supposed to be your comrade and ally, but much like universal healthcare, our country thinks it the enemy. Day 36 Surrender -when you swallow the words “new normal” like a bitter pill Commit - when you crave a human touch, but resist Stay strong - when your heart beats faster with the sound of a sneeze When you’re turned away by the grocery store bouncer When you’re frantic – praying not to lose your job – your only solace “You got this” Hope - when you hear the cheers from near and far at seven When the flower shop sign says “Take One – Free” and you do When you tune into your friends online - hear their songs, see their words, and somehow know we will get through this


Day 38 nothing calms me more than the loud rhythmic sounds that emit from my phone the slow beats that tell my heart to pump with less pressure Day 40 I feel like I’ve done all I can Day 41 How long is there left Day 47 Itzak in his short shorts was out running for the second time that day We should be grateful Thank you Itzak Just know that you matter Everyday Just breathe. Day 50 We can get through this! A Few Weeks Ago moments meet minutes meet months; time subtly ticks tears and tension turns to tyranny Last week Everyone I know is in the process of losing someone dear to them. I wake up every few hours, my chest beating wondering who’s next? Every cough is not the end, every breath precious.


A few days ago I see life so deeply now as I look up to you in the sky For it will forever be, our spirits holding hands in the sea, just you and I Yesterday We can get through this! This Morning "I will not let this kill me" Not Too Long Ago my mother calls me, says she got her gift An Hour Ago This pandemic, sucks Right Now Just breath


ELIZABETH BARRY They see waves I see you, I see us I see your messages in every thrust No one will ever truly understand what I saw that day
 For I too was hit and watched silently as our breaths began to frey So what’s left now is belief and my gratitude for spiritual signs From the little ebb to the big flow, I realize that it’s “time” I see life so deeply now as I look up to you in the sky For it will forever will be, our spirits holding hands in the sea, just you and I

PAULA BORENSTEIN People are spectacular In case you are in doubt of it Itzak in his short shorts was out running for the second time that day And a perfect stranger stopped at the crosswalk to tell me to observe the moon (which would be full in two days) I passed them both with my arms full of twigs gathered at Hawk field And in the evening my three year old grand daughter pretended to be a clown and lauged when I pretended to fall down and bump my head


LAURA BOSS My Rescue Dog and the Pandemic My rescue dog hopes the pandemic is never over. He has never had me home all day or so many treats— even spoonfuls of my vanilla ice cream —Never had so many walks though he misses neighbors stopping to pet his head. Still, he thinks his life during this pandemic is dog Nirvana and hopes the pandemic never ends.

JESSICA D'ONOFRIO It is not a darkness, but a dimming. Light is not absent, only scarce— Subdued but persistent, still growing. In the telltale crinkle of a smile, however veiled, from a passerby; In the rallying of nameless neighbors, exchanging kindnesses; In the clamoring of love for those who cannot hear or see us there is an unshakable hope, a healing. A brightness that continues on through unwelcome silence, through harrowed gloom— Through it all, together in separation. Light comes.


KAILEAH DANIELS So here we are. In the midst of a perfect storm. Wondering like Marvin and I don't mean the martian, what's goin on? Can we actually awaken from this nightmare we manifested into a dream? Inconsequentially, you ask whatever do I mean? Let's rewind and take it back to the beginning of time. Before B.C. and then A.D. when that man on a cross made the ultimate sacrifice for both you and me. Yet, I digress and re-organize and re-address. There are certainly human frailties that placed us in this mess. You are what you think about. Isn't that how the saying goes? By the way is this really the first time you've worn a mask on the outside, while ignoring your eternal soul? This is not the new normal. This is simply an invitation to your shadow side, however informal. Just breath.

CRYSTAL DAVIS When we were told to shelter in place, A shiver ran down my spine and my mouth shut. I wound myself up in the coils of the inter-webs, And fell asleep amongst the poppies and my eyes shut. Work was ripped from me; losses were intellectual properties. I would hear of sadness and sickness while in search of light. And so, I went running until I tripped, falling, tumbling, A pitfall into a chasm of color. Engulfed by words that wrapped their way around my skin. The paint splashed upon my open heart.


LOULOU DEVALLANCE calm nothing calms me more than the loud rhythmic sounds that emit from my phone the slow beats that tell my heart to pump with less pressure my brain to quit the race my nerves to quiet down it washes over me in a wave of tranquility but it never stays long enough back to reality i go back to my computer screen and phone

ERIN ENRIQUEZ I awake to another quarantine day To virtual homework and zoom meetings Won't go to school this May The feeling's fleeting Websites reloading Now its off Something strange with the coding Feelings pour out, similar to a cough But, it gets better and starts loading


CHRIS GARRAHAN Sitting in my home waiting for the time to pass Stay Safe, Stay Healthy Masks! Mask! Where are they? Can you stay six feet away? We can get through this!

DEIRDRE GARRAHAN Quarantine quarters are kept. The floor is swept. The table is set. The dishes are washed and clean. Plenty of time, to dream.

Outside my window. Tree green with leaf, branch, and stem. From window, I watch them.

Tree lovely as me, Green leaf branch sway in the breeze, So soon Autumn leaves us.


DANUSHA GOSKA Are the warbles moving north through Garret Mountain? After months of monochrome, white, grey, black, stone, snow, mist, are pink and green shooting through twigs with the force of fireworks spreading across July sky? Are there now tangles, twists, green mazes, places you could hide, where before the basalt cliff was naked and cold? Did you see a bobbing tail, busy busy, up and down, up and down, from branch to branch, where a month before nothing moved between you and the clouds unless shook by winter wind? Did you say to yourself, "Gosh, already?" And then suddenly black-and-whites, rose breasted grosbreaks, indigo buntings, goldfinches, yellow bellied sapsuckers, red breasted nuthatches, hermit thrushes and scarlet tanagers scalding your eye. It happens all so fast. They fly across our mountain, Manhattan their backdrop. And then they are gone, and we are back in urban Paterson, yearning for them. Did you see them this year? I did not. When quarantine is over.


GIA GRILLO window frame my eyes follow the cat prowling the neighboring yard I can see her heavy and pregnant from my bedroom window I might as well be a painted girl in a painted window my eyes just a trick catching and following whatever moves past

JOE HERMAN I am stuck inside Not able to see my friends This pandemic, sucks


NICOLAS HORNYAK PANDEMIC DUST BOWL I. You didn’t farm this crisis up from virgin topsoil, but they will still order you back to work for scrip, and no matter your final answer, hostages will be shot. II. The child is with you, a piece of you, and used to feign sickness to reflect and recover from school. Once, you could say that a cold is supposed to be your comrade and ally, but much like universal healthcare, our country thinks it the enemy. III. This is not a war your leaders bother to fight. When you jammed your dignity into the ground like a flag, they only laughed, forgetting that you are bedlam, tornadoes on the horizon, and doom in the voting booth.


EZA IQBAL You guys go out risking what we fear everyday Working as hard as you can More than a thank you is what we should say When this ends we should find that we are the people We wanted to be We hoped to be And we were called to be Better for each other because of the worst It's a time where I want to reach out to anyone But a simple touch won’t do Lysol spray has become perfume Hand sanitizer has become hand lotion And the news has become our ongoing novel Its something we can’t see Which has done the unthinkable Keep on giving it what you got Because of you, we’ll get through this together just not with each other So don’t get to down The world needs you now Just know that you matter Thank you


SHRUJANA IYER There once was a girl, afraid of the sun, Who said if she went out, it wouldn't be fun, She said if she did, she'd just want to run, Back into the house where she came from. Then came a fateful day, where she changed her mind, When her mother said she'll be just fine, Step by step, out of quarantine, She stepped out to absorb the sunshine, five minutes at a time, And I'll tell you, she was just fine.

ABDUL REHMAN KHAN the soft silence stays still till its staleness seeps my skin moments meet minutes meet months; time subtly ticks and my thoughts ruminate on realities realized, wondering where we went wrong when black bodies bleed brown water while tears and tension turns to tyranny for those who never experienced detention fogginess fades between fifteen-hour fasts that has me fiending my faith, AlFatiha first. A reminder that resilience reigns and that brilliance blooms between us and beneath us.


MEL KOZAKIEWICZ can you just Mommy [[:mommy can you can you - mommy MOMMY! where's my... mommy, i'm hungry mommy he hit me mommy can you can i he hit me mommy can you mommy mommy can you:]]

AURELIA LUCIANO A little over 6 weeks, thankfully everyone I know, and love is still healthy. Mental health surely suffering yet here I am, still mothering. Homeschooling is not as simple as other mamas make it seem! Too busy dreaming of the days when we can both hit the beach safely, again. Hoping on a summer of tans and no face masks; wondering if that is a little too silly to ask. What will our new world look like when this is all over? We were never normal, so I am pretty sure there won’t be a way to get back to that. Looking forward to a world full of kindness, real-life peace. Natural healing, a renewed world. A healthier way of life, with love and patience leading humanity.


JOHN MASSETT Sickness spread across the land Enhanced by fear, ignorance, apathy A figure in a mask strolls by A mugger, murderer, or a mother? A criminal or a cardiologist? And some are called away to heaven But we have got to continue the fight People donating to charities to feed the needy Not having a dollar to spare, but sparing it anyway People organizing care packages for the elderly and disabled Until the cure is found and love spreads throughout our planet

SEAN MISTE Supermarket runs are life and death missions Getting down to the bare essentials Until we mask up and deploy The initial shock of seeing bare shelves Then accepting it and moving stealthily through the store The greedy have decimated the stock For the nurses and doctors and EMT’s and truck, bus and train drivers and all essential workers Saying “Thank you!” on the internet is nice. But it’s empty praise. Empty your wallets, politicians and billionaires Give them the combat pay they deserve


LEONORA OBED I climb Everest With fins and oxygen tanks Upside down mantis

PATRICIA OLSEN Staying in the house, We have to flatten the curve, I hope you are too.

We are staying home Health care workers everywhere Thanks for what you do

ALISHA PARK Seven pm cowbells ringing in the distance A nod to bravery during unknown times My body twitches from the sound of sirens every day Who knows what danger lies ahead? The joy of working from home is fading away Weary eyes from hours of staring at the computer screen Brings new excitement to chores and activities so who’s bored? Walking outside has become a health risk My wandering mind seeks fresh air and a break from white walls When will quarantine end?


SUZANNE GILI POST Corona King What is born, we only borrow
 Like adoptive parents we should be most careful of our charge The day will come
 We will crouch down again peer into a vernal pond, look into the eye of a lonely crowned newt looking back merciful to one so undeserving
 We should be grateful another chance is granted

ANDREA RAGONE Dry brown head down How long is there left Drop brown head down Will you come back from this theft Dry brown head down I feel like I’ve done all I can Dry brown head down If only you were a man Ode to my houseplants.


DIMITRI REYES And it started like a dream, accept a dream without a scene with people high fiving and everything we were still working and were clean then this scene became a dream of people coughing and screaming streets were empty and missing of different people and parties cuz were sitting home alone streaming these new words we're curating.

HARA ROLA The Pandemic arrived overnight I tried to awake from this nightmare but it has become the new reality suddenly home is the center of everything the heartbeat of my entire life my own heart is keeping pace a patient heart biding time hoping for a mass healing hoping for the world to be whole again there's a nest of baby robins in the shrub


DANNY SHOT Everyone I know is in the process of losing someone dear to them. I wake up every few hours with my chest beating wondering who’s next? Every cough is not the end, every breath precious. A walk outside the house should not be occasion for an argument with Caroline. I’ve caught up on reading back copies of the New Yorker and know as much about Bolivian politics and Fiona Apple’s mental state as I’ll ever need to know in Hoboken. My neighbor, a kindly woman is shouting at passersby “wear a mask, don’t be an asshole.”

MARK SKRZYPCZAK Morning survival "I will not let this kill me" Repeat through the day


MEGHA SOOD We are hunkered down with this reality plaguing us like a night with its black teeth a nightmarish hamster on the wheel routine slowly seeping as a black hole in our lives cooped in the isolated corners of our little home when the dystopian future sits boisterously on my cushioned couch as we feverishly look for the safe haven in the flickering end of the night light trying to find solace as poetry holds the light.

SNEHA SUNDARAM Missing my walk at the waterfront Through the looking glass, I see That the wind still blows, The leaves still fall And the flowers bloom. Perhaps the geese miss me Perhaps next year we will rediscover each other Perhaps next year I will realize I need them, More than they need me.


JOHN T. TRIGONIS TOO MUCH TEA How much tea is too much tea? she asks, and I have no words I might steep in meaning for a plausible answer to this mad equation of quarantined chamomile, the number of feet between us and an Earl Grey or the jasmine-kissed whole leaves of green. So I simply sit, and she sits, too, each contemplating the idea of having yet another cup, neither of us getting up to set the water to boil.


ANN WALLACE Isolation, Apart This unyielding wall of isolation divides us for safety me from you, you from me. My viral load in quarantine. Your essential risk in circulation. Two separate terrors experienced alone, alone.

RISHA WALLACH Four a.m. sky over New York City and the river Billowy edges of clouds illuminated from behind by moon Shadows, shades of white through gray She floats slowly out from behind into her full, magnificent glow Setting, glorious! Waxing full She knew I wanted her to become visible now Just like that


DAVID WILLIAMS National Shame (a triolet) He has no morals, he has no balls He loves the cruelty of the game There’re still so many that he enthralls He has no morals, he has no balls Not fighting Corona, he’s off building walls For most of the dead he is surely to blame He has no morals, he has no balls He loves the cruelty of the game

ALICIA WRIGHT Surrender -when you swallow the words “new normal” like a bitter pill When you crave a human touch, but resist When you drag yourself out of bed to face another day of uncertainty and hard work Stay strong - when your heart beats faster with the sound of a sneeze When you’re turned away by the grocery store bouncer When you’re frantic – praying not to lose your job – your only solace “You got this” Hope - when you hear the cheers from near and far at seven When the flower shop sign says “Take One – Free” and you do When you tune into your friends online - hear their songs, see their words, and somehow know we will get through this


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