William Vlach


Archive for the category “Pandemic Poetry”

The Sagacity of the Nose: Book Launch!

From the Foreword

The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.

– Antonio Gramsci

These prose poems emerged from the pandemic lock down that began in San Francisco on March 16, 2020.  My early morning ritual of bicycling to a coffee shop and writing abruptly ended.  I switched to brewing my own coffee and writing in the kitchen.  The initial  writing came from my training and work as a clinical psychologist.  The result was a blog called ‘The Psychology of Difficult Times.”  https://drwilliamvlach182489337.com/. This work was aimed at what Antonio Gramsci defined as “morbid symptoms.”  These were small essays and advice on ways to cope with ‘symptoms.’

Soon I found the psychological approach was correct, but insufficient.   Other things– images, flailing thoughts, and god forbid, an absurd humor– arose.   I began a daily writing regimen.  The writing developed into a series of prose poems.   I soon found that they made the rest  of my day a bit lighter.  Other readers told me the same.  

We are in a transitional state, “liminal” as the anthropologists call it.  It seems we are being attacked by both the  morbid and absurd simultaneously.  I won’t list the obvious causes.  The ancient dual masks of theater, tragedy and comedy, are apt symbols of our lives now.  We live in the extremes of human emotion.  Our species  historically has   grappled with the incredible tensions of tragedy and absurdity with the potent power of of poetry.  Tragedy allows us to deeply feel.  The way to deal with the absurd I’ll leave to Mark Twain– “The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”


PS.   The author takes no responsibility for deleterious side effects if these are ingested more than one or two a time.

William Vlach

   March 2021

Sagacity of the Nose

Because of this virus I began to pay close attention to my nose.  I was wrong of course.  It’s not about the nose.  It’s about the cough, fever, etc.  But in times like these, no one is truly rational.  So I was paying close attention to my nose breathing.  That kind of attention is like a microscope.  After a while I could experience every individual nose hair— each wavering in the inhale and exhale.  Once when I was birding, a large biologist in front of me farted.  I thought he’d be embarrassed.  Instead, he just smiled and said, “Good air in, bad air out.”  Words to live by.  But right now it seems like all we’re trying to do is to avoid the reverse.  So the more I paid attention to my nose hairs and their movements, I noticed that they were making interesting sounds, like wheat stalks in the wind.  Like palm trees in a storm.  Then it shifted to a long sad note like from a Japanese flute.  I sneezed and there was Bird blowing bebop.  Now I spend most days nose breathing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.  

The Second Wave

None of us wanted it, some denied it would happen, a few knew it would and prepared.     It came in a rage.  The last second wave that hit took out my grandfather when my father was in utero and I don’t think he, my father, ever recovered though recovery means you have had something before.  That’s why I was afraid of this second wave.  Things were quiet through the summer.  Some went back to the nearby pub, others had dinner parties; restaurants slowly opened.  Folks went to work.  I didn’t.  I knew.  I stayed in, washed my hands and wore a mask while I watched old noirs on the telly, occasionally switching over to the news, then quickly back to submerging myself into the flickering black and white light.  I’ll admit it.  I had become paralyzed with fear.  That first sign was a slight cough, then a fever, then no smell, then fatigue, massive fatigue.  I resigned myself to the end.  It was not going to be pretty.  But, as they say— serenity to accept what I cannot change… As I lay dying on the couch, TV off,  waiting, hypervigilent for the next symptom, I noticed the big toe on my right foot began twitching.  It wouldn’t stop.  I hadn’t read of this symptom.  I checked mayo.com and nothing like that was listed under Covid 19.  The twitching began on my left big toe.  Then both little toes.  I quickly contacted my doctor for a telehealth appointment.  By the time she got on line, all my toes were twitching and moving like Vlaidimir Horowitz fingers playing Rimsky Korsakov’s Fight of the Bumblebee.  I started to explain my symptoms, but my laptop flew off my lap as my knees began shake.  She ended up in corner in a clump.  My thighs slammed together, my butt jerked back and forth so hard I thought it best to stand up.  My chest heaved in a great breath, my arms spread and swung around in the air.  “Covid 19’s got me,” I yelled as my legs began to jump up and down.  My body twisted and turned.  My ears  rang and I began singing.  I quickly looked down and saw I was tap dancing.  My body was swinging and swaying.  I danced to the front window to look for help, looked out and saw the street full of gyrating, tap dancing, sashaying up and down the street proud bodies.  I joined them.

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