Jody Bolz

Pandemic Fugue
February 22, 2021 Bolz Jody





These are the skies of my childhood
cloudbanks incandescent against a deepening blue
and the earth strangely still below


still but not silent birds chorusing
at daybreak at dusk so like the cusps
of night in childhood a rasp of rain


stirring in the leaf-haze no whirr of traffic
no planes above the river
only clouds that flare like festival lanterns


against a deepening blue as if this
were an earlier world the unmapped earth
of ice-fields marshlands forests


circling seasons migratory wonder
not a world on fire




Is the world on fire
clouds like funeral lamps
hanging in a fever dream


delirium contagion
gurneys crammed in corridors
sirens chorusing across a thousand cities


while the unharmed stay at home
watching in wonder as their neighborhoods
grow wilder deer scuffling


in the April brush rabbits in the garden
redbud seedlings swaying
by a shuttered shop


alleyways in bitter blossom
sky a color I’d almost forgotten




The sky’s a color I’d almost forgotten
fathomless blue of skies over the mountains
where I walked when I was young


unharmed within a wildness
that I’ve forsworn terrified I’ll vanish
into thinning air why take a risk


when I can lean against my window
fortunate sequestered surveying
the local world at daybreak at dusk


no traffic above us
no traffic on the greening ground
cars parked by the millions


on city streets in fields and barns
deserted rides at the end of the carnival




Deserted rides at the end of a carnival
just before the lines are cut the plugs are pulled
though even now the sky puts on a show


clouds drift like fire balloons past
sickroom windows but who can look out
when monitors are measuring each


movement breath-beat heartbeat
sounding alarms through the floodlit hours
delirium contagion gurneys wheeled


in terror down the crowded corridors
oh where are their families now
the ones who left them here alone


snared in a fever dream feral
as a fox on the streets of the city




Flash of a fox on the streets of the city
and a park becomes a wilderness
time turns back on itself disencumbering hours


complicating lifetimes do you think
we’re growing younger as the built world falters
what was commerce what was city life


we walk beside the river in the burning hour
dusk a shade of red that reels into blue
a shift we call evening


and watch the light blaze violet
along the boughs of sycamores
their dry leaves wide as faces in a dusk


so like the dusks we haunted once
in bright gauze masks




In my bright cloth mask
my mask of gratitude and guilt
my mask of confusion


I step outside in half-light
the color of my age
deer a silvered throng


idling on the autumn lawn
songbirds in leaf-haze
inviolable enchanted free


which I thought myself to be
when I was a child
tearing through the tall grass


at the end of our street
a fire in the edge-land




Fires course through edge-lands
all across the West
turn the air a sour gold


visible from space
while the virus burns its way
around the earth unseen


we shelter in the local world
leaf-strewn blocks tricked out
with skeletons and headstones


bats strung like market goods
from tree to tree how
eerily the phantoms shimmer


in and out of sight underneath
the skies of childhood


Jody Bolz’s most recent books of poetry are The Near and Far and the novella-in-verse Shadow Play, both from Turning Point. She received her BA and MFA from Cornell, where she studied with A.R. Ammons, and taught creative writing for more than 20 years at George Washington University. Her work has appeared widely in literary magazines (The American Scholar, Ploughshares, Poetry East, Prairie Schooner, and Southern Poetry Review among them) and poetry anthologies. From 2002-2019, Bolz edited the journal Poet Lore, founded in 1889.