Poems of COVID-19: Stuck In Lockdown: The First Three Months

Reviewed by Flavia Potenza
Jane Marla RobbinsBy Jane Marla Robbins      November 27, 2020

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Poems of COVID-19: Stuck In Lockdown: The First Three Months
Everyone should have a collection of poetry books to randomly pick up and intend to read for 15 minutes that becomes an afternoon. If you have to face the prospect of COVID-19, I suggest you pick up Jane Marla Robbins’ fifth book of poetry that won’t take an afternoon to read (65 pages) but, once read, will give you many afternoons of COVID-19 relief. When the virus strikes in March, Robbins finds a child’s rainbow drawing dispels gray, or darker thoughts. “My Friend, Nicolette,” in New York who “has the virus,” brings shared memories, laughs, and hope for life to continue like the grand jetes of their youth. April continues its reputation as “the cruelest month” when “I can’t go to Paris,” but is mollified by the “Metal Frog in My Garden.” In May comes, justifiably, “TANTRUM, TANTRUM!” Death from COVID-19 of a beloved lifelong friend (say his name), Alan Goorwitz/Garfield, which brings him back to life in five stanzas with the last one sounding like the church bells of Notre Dame, when “I imagine he talks to me….” Simple words make big footsteps. We can follow and find our own meaning in them. Robbins, with her playful wit, wisdom, and heartbreak, may, fortunately for us, have a few more volumes to write. In the meantime, or if the vaccine rescues us before she does, this is one way to fend off the COVID-19 Blues.
MARCH

MY FRIEND, NICOLETTE
She has the virus. I just heard.
How’d she get it?
Living in New York?
I know her since Sixth Grade, we took
dance classes together at the Martha Graham
School of Contemporary Dance,
and every year, at the end of our recitals
(parents welcome), we all did running leaps
across the floor, our legs spread wide in the air

One year my father said, “Why can’t you
do a split in the air like Nicolette/’
I couldn’t.

Half a century later, neither Nicolette nor I
are dancers. She married, had children, worked
for the Red Cross. I became an actress and a writer,
moved to California. I went back to New York last year
for my sister’s Memorial. Nicky was there.
The few times we talk, we laugh,
and laughing will save her,
it’s a talent, seeing life askew.

She will laugh, and I will, with her,
and just see if her warrior T-cells don’t
Inexplicably leap, legs open in a split,
like no cells anyone has ever seen, magnificent,
breathtaking, like her leaps when she was ten.
and she will heal.


APRIL

“APRIL IS THE CRUELEST MONTH”
Eighty thousand dead
In the US
And still not enough
testing

METAL FROG IN MY GARDEN
The frog doesn’t talk much
he mainly reads his book
and drinks his tea,
so it can get lonely here,
in Isolation,

but when I get smart (I can get smart)
I marvel at the sudden yellow iris
shot up in the middle of my waterfall,
sit in awe to see the brilliance of its raucous petals,
cupped up, arched down, and I remember
that sunlight kills the virus.


MAY


TANTRUM, TANTRUM!
I do not want to wear a mask!
I will not eat my leafy greens!
I do not want to wash my hands
AND ALL I WANT TO DO IS SCREAM!


I do not want to keep my distance!
It feels lonely! It feels mean!
I miss my restaurants and theaters
AND ALL I WANT TO DO IS SCREAM!

I do not want to spray the doorknob
Or the plate or fork or knife!


OK, I’ll do what people tell me,
Maybe it will save my life.


SHUT DOWN, SHUTTERED IN
I suddenly notice the eighteen-inch square,
beige and brown, checked,
and woven cotton pillow on my couch,
mostly hidden because the dog thinks it’s
his daybed


and I read the words in fancy script (in French,no less!)
“Pour que l’evenement le plue banal devienne une aventure
(To turn the most ordinary event into an adventure),
Il faut et il suffit qu’on se mette a le raconteur
(all you have to do is share it with somebody else).”

So I pick up the phone and call Megan.
Jane Marla Robbins
      November 27, 2020

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