I hope you all are staying home and staying safe. Originally, I was going to publish this newsletter once every two weeks, but in our current state, I felt like we could all do with so much more poetry. In times of chaos, poetry is indispensable. I am seeing people turn to art and poetry everywhere. From the NYT Cooking section to my favorite Podcaster’s new pop-up podcast to cope with being separated from loved ones during this time.
For this mailing, I want to share a poem I’ve written, an offering of love, if you will. This poem was an exercise in challenging the narrative and reframing the anxiety or grief we are all feeling around this uncertainty. Earlier this week, I came across this article in the New York Times, which documented photos of cities emptying. While at first glance they looked eerie, I found myself inspired to look again, wanting to challenge the narrative of empty cities as one of despair or disconnect. I found myself thinking of these lines I recently read by Camille T. Dungy “Where there appears to be only dirt, there may be the root system of some kind of insistent thriving”
I’ve also recorded the poem below on video which you can listen to & watch alongside if you’re so inclined.
The Great Empty
by Sana Rao, after Jamaal May
There are flowers here,
so many flowers here
Is what I was trying to say
when they said, there was no one left.
Everyone had returned home,
the city was wasted. No.
There are flowers here
speaking their colours into the afternoon.
The girl and her neighbors’ look outside their windows
to consume this sudden offering of love. No,
I don’t mean the flowers are blooming for them only,
I said an offering of love and no,
not the kind of love, that erupts
desperately from confined spaces.
I mean the kind of love
that blooms insistently, rooted in silence.
Every stem delivers and no one
keeps a score. And no
her neighborhood isn’t empty at all.
I am trying to say
Is as quiet and deserted
as any place else,
Is as bereft of shuffling feet
as the bedrock underneath,
but they won’t stop saying
how lovely the quiet
How quiet the love
for living must be in that lonely city.
While we are indoors the natural world continues as it does, blooming. I see Camellias, Magnolias and Cherry blossoms outside my window blooming insistently. “No, there are flowers here” is a chant for faith, I can get behind. Being able to create and read poetry from the safety of our homes is a privilege, I know, but poetry can belong to anyone looking for meaning. Hopefully, this offering, helped you see things a little bit differently, and if that might be too much of an ask, I hope it may give you just a little bit of pause.