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Sometimes It Takes a Pandemic

11 April, 2021: Sometimes It Takes a Pandemic

Read a Poem

Sometimes It Takes a Pandemic

By Emily M. Troia

to realize your mother was right
to bring your father home
from a place where he was safe
until he wasn’t.
I have yet to thank her
for saving my life
from guilt and other
useless obsessions.

It took a while
for her to realize I was right
about the masks
and the distancing
and the staying away
from everything and everyone
she loves. Except my father.
He is home with her.

It was once my home.
Now, I call here home
and now I call here
trapped in fear
and I don’t call her
nearly enough.
He is with her at home
trapped in his chair
and his body
and his mind.
Air gets trapped outside
my chest and presses in.
Air wraps around
my apartment building—tentacles
of suspicion, constricting
my halls.
A neighbor
leaves a trail
of disapproving eyes
when he passes through
to check his mail.
I pass through
my parents’ home
carefully. I wear a mask.
I am a masked vigilante
protecting people
who do not notice
I am here.
I pass for a daughter
trying to keep everyone safe
by keeping away.
What kind of daughter does that?
I imagine my mother
asking only herself.
She is alone
except for my father
who has left us alone,
left nothing behind
except for his body
and lessening air.
“Sometimes It Takes a Pandemic” by Emily M. Troia. Copyright Emily M. Troia 2020. Used by permission of the author.
Emily M. Troia studied Physics and Philosophy at Wesleyan University and received her B.A. in Studio Art from Ursuline College. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the Northeast Ohio MFA Program. Her work has appeared on Literary Cleveland’s website, as part of Heights Arts’ “Ekphrastacy: Artists Talk + Poets Respond,” and in Gordon Square Review. Currently, she is the Manager of Partner Engagement and Communications for the nonprofit Social Venture Partners Cleveland. For more than forty years, she has called the Shaker Square area of Cleveland her home.

 Write a Poem

 Choose a family photo and write about it, noticing something now that you haven’t noticed before and locate a meaning for it.
Michelle Sokol
this poem was phenomenal
4/16/2021 10:27:59 AM

Laurie K
@Tovli, I enjoyed the poem at JWOW.
4/12/2021 5:00:45 PM

Frisbee for Five
Riding home, from vacation,
stopping for a break, at a rest area,
stretching cramped legs and backs,
out came the frisbee,
and the four formed,
not a square, or diamond,
but what would have been a pentagon,
had there been a fifth player,
or rather leaving a place for a fifth member.
And they laughed and joked
when a toss landed on the ground,
as if it had been missed,
when it had, in fact,
landed unattended,
by the open spot.
Then there was a tear in the eye of the mother.
For surely she was a mother, to three,
And a wife to one of the players,
for love grows and the heart is not split up
among more, no matter how many.
One knew she was missing the catcher,
not the catch.
And she knew how he surely would have enjoyed,
the week in Kissimee,
and then even the joke of a missed catch.
Many of the riding carts they had ridden in the Park,
seemed built
to fit a family of four,
but they always calculated that it could
have fit one more,
or, if not, three and two, or two and three,
or four and a heroic one,
would have found room.
At the park,
a pink donut,
the size of the plate it perched on and more,
so well described
by friends who had been at the Park before them.
as to be, if anything, under-estimated,
not given its due,
in proportion to what you would expect a donut to be.
They had cut the donut into four,
half and half again.
It would have been large and delicious enough to cut,
and stuff and be breakfast
for four mouths and one more.
Then, there had been tears,
not just in the mother’s eye.
4/11/2021 6:30:15 PM

Cathy Barber
Love the progression in the 4th and 5th stanzas-the traps and the air.
4/11/2021 6:02:34 PM

So moving. A warm light on a dark and difficult time. Thank you, Emily
4/11/2021 3:26:40 PM

Bill Ritz
Old Photo Thoughts

There’s a picture of Dad,
And he’s looking so sad.
I never noticed this before.
He’s wearing his ring
And holding that thing
That he brought home from the great war.

Mom was young and so pretty
It seems like a pity
That they never quite got along.
But together they tried
Their indifferences to hide
To mom it was Dad who was wrong.

He always wanted better
And would never forget her
As he pursued their dreams and goals.
The family stood proud and strong
And the kids tried to do no wrong
But in the end we’re all lost souls.
4/11/2021 3:24:01 PM

Leon Michaud
The Baton

A casual observer
Might see a cherished family photo,
Each member elegantly posed with musical instruments,

Seven happy grimaces.

The daughter in her flourish of colors,
A mother in her matching bouquet of style,
A father, three boys, all in their Sunday best,
(All, but my youngest brother,
who is decked out in a full Santa suit,)
Under the cautious eye of our father.

This was the early sixties,
Long before the annual Christmas photo
Became a common occurrence,
Not the era for a trophy childhood,
Rather, a time where every parent's dream,
Never allowed to experience atrophy,
Was destined for reality.

One detail deftly missing
From the photo is
My mom's baton.

The conductor's cudgel can wield great beauty,
Even when propelled by dark ambitions,
Leaving unseen emotional scars.

It takes a lifetime of efforts
To build up a child's trust,
Which can be
Quickly extinguished in small moments
Of uncapped, impetuous candor.

However focused or illuminated,
No camera can capture
A snapshot of time in any cultural context.
We remember, we grieve, we hope to cope.
And the decades cannot mask the many memories,
While, time does little to clarify
The integrity of the past
Through the lens of today's morality.

Yet we adjust and endure,
No one need atone,
Let alone the holder of the baton.
4/11/2021 3:01:14 PM

Sierra Polsinelli
Thank you Tovli! I used to write poems when I was a young woman. I have been wanting to rekindle my poet's heart, this has provided me with the spark I needed!
4/11/2021 1:23:47 PM

I hope no one is offended, but I just learned two poems were appearing in an online magazine (JWOW) and one fit the Family Photo prompt. Here is a link: to celebrate Poetry Month with Cuyahoga Library!
4/11/2021 11:51:13 AM

I like your poems, Sierra. Thank you for posing them.
4/11/2021 11:42:22 AM

RE: "Sometimes It Takes a Pandemic":

Mother and daughter...father on the horizon! So nicely painted. A pleasure to read and enjoy this morning.
4/11/2021 11:40:45 AM

Sierra Polsinelli
Family Photos

I don’t have many photos
of my family
not many.
My photos are my memories.

I don’t want memories
of my childhood family.

For every smile
there were too many moments of fear.

For every bright
beautiful day
there were too many
dark days.

When I had my family
I was too busy enjoying them
to grab a camera.

When I see a picture of
my sons playing,
a thousand memories surface.

These boys and my husband
ARE my memories
my family.

They filled the darkness
with smiles, laughter
and light.

That other life?
preferably forgotten.

I have good photos
in my mind
available any time
any place

Thank you boys.
4/11/2021 11:36:52 AM

Mary M Chadbourne
Emily, a moving piece, reminding we must be satisfied, even if doing right feels punitive.
4/11/2021 11:14:30 AM

Richards, Tim J.
Well expressed, Emily; haunting and sad. Thank you for sharing your life through poetry.
4/11/2021 10:16:36 AM

READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.