And Words Are All I Have

selective focus photo of red rose flower

The Pandemic Through Poetry

1. Clap but don’t “clap.” It interferes with the audio.
2. Grab the wheel on your right at the top of the handle with your thumb erect.
3. Don’t wear black or white or stripes or patterns of any kind or loud colors.
4. Don't acknowledge people you know in the audience until asked.
5. Just be yourself.

Contestants' Rules on Wheel Of Fortune.

As my newsletter title says I do feel words are my most potent tools. Never moreso than during this past year of CoVid when writing about our new if not always brave world offered me a way through the confusion and chaos.

Welcome to the first issue! I’ve long wanted to blog on various topics that tip my fancy and a newsletter via email seemed a good solution. The regular social channels weren’t cutting it for me anymore. Facebook seems too controlling of late, Twitter is for the short and swift, Instagram is the sanctified home of the image, and my other mainstay, my own website, is a place I dedicate to sharing just my poems, old and new.

It has been a year unlike any other. As Noah Paumgarten said in his trenchant piece on the pandemic in this week's New Yorker, "If you were lucky, you were merely bored."

Days and weeks and months bled into one another like rain on a chalked sidewalk, when the only thing that marked the passage of time was the light that came and went in the rooms.

There were wasted pyjama days when I wanted to learn nothing. Do nothing. Be nothing. When comfort, albeit fleeting, was a jar of Kraft Peanut Butter, marathons of King of Queens and the Great Canadian Baking Challenge, interspersed with seemingly endless Netflix series, and the inevitable nodding off on the couch at 3 pm., drooling.

Days when navigating the drive through at my local Tim Horton’s for a double double and a Dutchie took on almost a feeling of daring.

Days when Andrew Cuomo (despite recent events) seemed the only voice of reason and stability amid the unspeakable loss. When the numbers of deaths he reported of the day before became surreal and obscene and the unimaginable losses burgeoned.

There were days of unease and restlessness following nights filled with ghoulish, horrid dreams, then waking to a world that seemed impenetrable and unknowable both.

Days when hearing a father's story about his young daughter who died of CoVid while she was utterly alone sent me back to bed, weeping, inconsolably.

There were days of renewed energy when I wrapped myself in insulated layers, pulled on very serious looking knee-high boots I paid too much for online and ventured out with my dogs, emboldened by my preparedness, going further than normal beyond the concrete barriers marking the end of the closed road and off into the snow packed, endless, blindingly bright fields.

And there were days of small graces, when my nieces arrived on my porch, blowing kisses, leaving behind bags of groceries and special treats. My sister with an armload of pink and orange tulips. Neighbors with homemade jam and hand knitted socks and pots of flowering lavender. And the lovely wee girls next door dropping off their vibrant creative drawings picturing us all. (My hair, it seems, is quite a vivid orange.)

And then other days when I rediscovered poetry, ever my true north, both the writing and the reading of it. Unfailingly it kept me above the waterline, yet again.

Though there have been so many losses and diminishments to our way of life over the last year, one thing the pandemic could not put a stop to is artistic expression, specifically poems. The power of poetry will be a recurring theme here, because I am a believer in what it can do for us, the clarity and comfort it can bestow. I will be telling my stories here in prose but invariably include a poem that I have come across and feel compelled to share with you, either because it moved me, made me laugh, cry, furrow my brow, left me questioning everything I know to be true, or perhaps all of these. Think of it as the Wonderful World of Bonus. And each piece I include will have passed this acid test first, that when I read it I experience these two feelings simultaneously:

1) I love this poem: The writer is simply brilliant.
2) I hate this poem: I wish I had thought of it and written it instead.

This incandescent poem by comedian and singer Catherine Cohen, from her debut poetry collection, God I Feel Modern Tonight, is one of those.

poem I wrote after I asked you if cereal can expire

there’s a pandemic and I think my
arms are fat
I used to worry I had vaginismus
but it turns out I just wasn’t attracted
to my ex
I put the wrong kind of gas
in the car and hate being alone
everything I do is on my computer,
which already feels like a word from
the past
my children will type before they can
when I say children I feel like a painting,
like a Victorian woman
sent to be by the sea with her ailments,
which isn’t not what’s happening
upstate we have near constant sex and
eat string cheese
I tell my therapist the rules
of Love Island and we unearth
that I feel like an islander trapped in
the villa
wondering how things will be different
back on the outside
there is no world now but I still feel like
there must be some fabulous party
going on somewhere
everyone wearing shawls without me
smoking cigarettes with those long
what are those? I miss feeling alive
by which I mean crying about my
perfect life
and boys who don’t know how to dress
who tell me they wish my bathroom
was farther from my bed
so they could look at my ass
for longer when I walk away
I keep asking you if you think we are
dead up here
the sky is brilliant and the playground
is empty
parts of your house are warmer than
and we sleep in the cold spots, holding
each other close

If you missed it, here's my last week's Poetry Reading on You Tube.

See you next Friday. Meanwhile, I simply love having you here with me. I welcome your comments and suggestions as we go forward by email at

This offering, very much like the writer herself, is a work in progress.
pencil drawing red heart
tricia handwritten signature

Recent Post

Alone Together

None of them ever read fiction as far as I can remember. If asked collectively they would no doubt respond it is a waste of time. It’s unlikely any of them read poetry voluntarily, couldn’t name a poet besides Longfellow to save their lives. The men that have come in and out of my life leave me wondering what they …
Sunset at Hug Point, Oregon.

Book Sales

The Music of Leaving, my collection of poetry, is available to order.
Order directly online — for both Canada and U.S. orders — from Amazon, Brunswick and Demeter.
The Music of Leaving - Tricia McCallum

Poetry goes social...

facebook twitter instagram youtube