During the Pandemic

The streets are filled with the lifeless husks
of empty cars; the price of gas hits terminal
velocity when there’s nowhere to go.
The symphony that flaunts our progress,
the crescendo that rises with the sun
and falls with an exhausted crawl home
is silenced in an eerie state
of semi-normalcy.


The news is filled with sleepless politicians
who no longer have to try to dredge up
the concern in their eyes when giving constant
updates on the frailty of the latest policies
and the reasons why the success of our species
is our greatest failing. Asked to work
to the brink of nervous breakdown, we comply
and complain to anyone who’ll listen how badly
we need a holiday; asked to sit at home
in our pajamas, and we find ourselves
at a different sort of precipice—leaning over
the ledge to see there is no soft landing
in our quest for immortality.


The kitchen cupboard is filled with rations
for an inert species, weeks of dormant supplies
needed to sustain our inactivity. The undertakings most vital
to our survival were the first to go, our longevity
and will power to fight for scraps


seen as mere recreation, optional uses of free time
for those who like to experience a less evolved
state of being.


The house is filled with disquiet, holding
its breath in wait for some kind
of catastrophe. I find it hard to focus
without restrictions clotting time,
no page numbers to denote progress and
no speed limits to pace ourselves.
There is guilt in forgetting the reasons why
i am locking all the doors and windows,
as there is fear in hearing the startling
and reassuring sound of a car engine catching,
knowing that even at the threshold
of apocalypse, some people need
a place to go.

Questions and Answers

Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?


There was no specific, defining moment when I decided to pursue poetry, but having grown up in a literary family, books and stories were a large part of my upbringing. Since childhood, I have always written, and my poems seemed to be most successful in my early attempts at publication, which motivated me to dedicate more of my focus there.


How/where do you find inspiration today?


I generally draw inspiration from philosophical conversations and debates with my friends. However, given the limited social contact that the pandemic has brought upon us, my inspiration lately has been more introspective in nature.


Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. books, films, art, websites, etc.)?


I have two resources that I utilize most frequently. The first is a cumbersomely large collection of books and magazines. I believe writers need to support writing, and not just their own, to strengthen the community as a whole. The second is my social network. It is difficult to write in a void, so I often find the sentiments of others, even those with no interest in literary pursuits whatsoever, triggers a response.


As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?


The main piece of advice I would have for any aspiring writer is to take rejection as a form of constructive criticism. We all need to develop thick skin to have any staying power in this endeavour, but it’s important to scrutinize both your successes and failures equally to see what defining qualities each may have.


What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?


Not surprisingly, this poem was inspired by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, early on in the lockdown, I went for an early morning walk, and was struck by the vague sense of eeriness many experienced when finding everyone’s cars parked in their driveway and no one going anywhere on a weekday.


What poetic techniques did you use in this poem? How much attention do you pay to form and metre?


This is a list poem, so parallelism is one of its defining features. Otherwise, I tried to create dense stanzas that utilize a lot of enjambment, creating a sense of claustrophobia and paranoia to drive the urgency of the poem.


How did your writing process unfold around this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it?


I wrote this poem fairly quickly, then edited it significantly several weeks later, mostly for the purpose of strengthening some of the metaphors and word choices that I felt were predictable.


What did you find particularly challenging in writing this poem?


One of the largest challenges in developing this poem was simply the fact that I knew everyone would be writing about the same theme. Because of that, it was necessary to be as specific as possible about the emotions being experienced without falling into the trap of employing easy metaphors and clichés such as “social distancing.”




This poem “During the Pandemic” originally appeared in Pandemics Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 245 (2021): 45-46.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.