Pandemic Poetry: Calming Words in the Midst of Chaos

This page is a consortium of poetry and calming words submitted to us. Please read below and we hope it instills a sense of comfort:


Hasidic Tale

“How can we determine the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?” asked the Teacher.

“When from a distance you can distinguish between a dog and a sheep” suggested one of the students.

“No” was the answer.

“Is it when one can distinguish between a fig tree and a grapevine?” asked a second student

“No” “Please tell us the answer then.”

“It is, then,” said the wise Teacher, “when you can look in the face of a human being and you have enough light to recognize in him/her your brother/sister. Up till then, it is night and darkness is still with us.”


John O’Donohue

The Inner History of a Day

No one knew the name of this day;  
Born quietly from deepest night,
It hid its face in light,
Demanded nothing for itself,
Opened out to offer each of us
A field of brightness that traveled ahead,
Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps
And the light of thought to show the way.

The mind of the day draws no attention;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.

Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.

So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And the wisdom of the soul become one.


Maya Angelou

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


Kristin Flyntz

An Imagined Letter from COVID-19 to Humans:

Stop. Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
We will help you.
We will bring the supersonic, high-speed merry-go-round to a halt
We will stop
the planes
the trains
the schools
the malls
the meetings
the frenetic, hurried rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our
single and shared beating heart,
the way we breathe together, in unison.
Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.
We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions,
to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well.
None of us; all of us are suffering.
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth
did not give you pause.
Nor the typhoons in Africa, China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.
It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives.
But the foundation is giving way,
buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.
We will help you.
We will bring the firestorms to your body
We will bring the fever to your body
We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs
that you might hear:
We are not well.

Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.
We are asking you:
To stop, to be still, to listen;
To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all;
To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?

Many are afraid now.
Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. Instead, let it speak to you—in your stillness,
listen for its wisdom.
What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk, beyond the threats of personal inconvenience and illness?
As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about the quality of your own health, what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky, and all of us who share this planet with you?

Notice if you are resisting.
Notice what you are resisting.
Ask why.

Stop. Just stop.
Be still.
Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing, about what might be required so that all may be well.
We will help you, if you listen.


Kitty O’Meara

In the Time of Pandemic
And the people stayed home.
And they read books, and listened, and rested, and
exercised, and made art, and played games, and
learned new ways of being, and were still.
And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some
prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the
people began to think differently.
And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant,
dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth
began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined
together again, they grieved their losses, and made new
choices, and dreamed new images, and created new
ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been

And One Day

Judy Jenkins

Transcending every sphere of society
Blocking quiet and self-reflection
Making lists only to check the box
An unexamined life emerges

“I’ve been so busy”
Words used to greet friends
Followed by a litany of all that gets packed into hectic schedules
Project to project
Appointment to appointment
Scurrying from one seemingly important commitment to another

And one day
Schools turn virtual
Offices go remote
Restaurants offer curb-side service
Busyness subsides ~ solitude, a friend from long ago, returns

The virus circulates
Masks become the new fashion accessory
Social distancing replaces handshakes and hugs

And one day
An unexamined life emerges

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A prayer

Lord, I’m not praying for miracles and visions,
I’m only asking for power for my days.
Teach me the art of small steps!

Make me clever and witty among the diversity of days
to be able to record important recognitions and experiences!
Help me prioritize to use my time accurately!

Present me with safe senses to be able to judge
whether a thing is first rank or second rank priority!
I pray for power for discipline and moderation, not only to
run through my life, but also to live my days reasonably, and
observe unexpected pleasures and heights!

Save me from the naive belief that everything goes smoothly in life!
Present me with the sober recognition that difficulties,
failures, fiascos, set-backs are additional elements given
by life itself that make us grow and mature.

Send a person to me in the right moment who has enough
courage and love to utter the truth!
We do not say the truth to ourselves, others say that to us.

I know that many problems get solved by themselves without doing anything.
Please help me to be able to wait.

You are the one who knows how much we need courage.
Make me worthy for the nicest, hardest, riskiest
and most fragile gifts of life!

Present me with enough fantasy to be able to mediate a little bit of charity,
in the right place, on the right time,
with or without words!

Spare me from the fear of letting life slip!
Do not give me only things I desire, give me things I need as well!
Teach me the art of small steps!


Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.

Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.

Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live

Haroon Rashid

“We fell asleep in one world, and woke up in another.

Suddenly Disney is out of magic,
Paris is no longer romantic,
New York doesn’t stand up anymore,
the Chinese wall is no longer a fortress, and
Mecca is empty.
Hugs and kisses suddenly become weapons, and
not visiting parents & friends becomes an act
of love.

Suddenly you realize that power, beauty & money are worthless,
and can’t get you the oxygen you are fighting for.
The world continues its life and it is beautiful.
It only puts humans in cages.

I think it’s sending us a message:
“You are not necessary.
The air, earth, water, and sky without you are fine.
When you come back, remember that you are my guests.
Not my masters.”

A poem by Joseph Goldstein:

Sheltered and safe
when others are not,
fed and nourished
when others are not.
How to live
in such a world
alone and connected
at the same time?
Facing forward
stepping back,
do we turn away
or look beyond ourselves
as we choreograph this dance
of fear and love?