Cantos from the Quarantine

Cantos from the Quarantine

1. Hurtin’
The very thought of no vaccine . . .
Well, dontcha agree?
It’s kinda mean.
No playdate. No Gym
What ring of hell did we put ourselves in?

2. Let’s Play Get Away
You think you didn’t get it.
Doesn’t mean you can’t
transmit it.

3. Self Isolation
Shelter In Place.
No makeup on my face.
There’s no end to this.
Each day, hit or miss?

4. Lockdown
Suddenly, the Duration of Uncertainty
Struck her as inescapable
and she was mute
While her heart went dim.

It’s not just a snow day.
It’s a three season winter.
Her brain roams free while
her body twitches.

5. Quarantined Quatrain
She did her part to
flatten the curve
But she harshly judged
those with less nerve.

6. The Neighbor
She’s what’s called sheltering.
Sheltering in Place.
But she’s Helter Skeltering
Damaged. Disgraced.
She’s what’s called losing it.
Lost, but clinging on.
She’s what’s called sweltering
Sweltering in Place.
She’s making the best of it
sweating it out
betting on time.
afraid to shout.
She’s sweltering, sheltering in her place
sounds like hiding
but no one is safe.

7. Social Distancing
Friends without intimacy
a Narcissist’s dream
It took a virus
to create this scheme
I love you by email
by text we chat.
No kissing. No touching.
And that, is that . . . . . . . . .

8. Canto From The Quarantine
Used to think Pandora’s a fox
but not no more
‘cause she opened the box.
Out flew somethin’ we couldn’t see
What to do? We couldn’t agree.

Celebrate the hubris and party on,
or stay inside? Your days are done.

What to watch? What to do?
Turn off the tv? That’s not for you.

Pretty Pandora. What a fox!
We desire her, but not the box.

Trouble shot out when she lifted the lid.
We’re all gonna die. Oh you kid!

Nurses nursed while breathing sucked.
But lots of Evil started to muck.

Markets dove.
Yet truckers drove.

Nix to groups. There’ll be no bride.
Pick up your food; dine curbside.

Oh, Pandora! What have you done?
Our rampant panic has just begun.

We’ve unleashed a viral curse.
Watch out folks, it’s gonna get worse.

9. Day 15
I’m not doing my best.
Each day, less and less.
Stay off the news. Day goes by.
Alone on a cruise, but I don’t mind.
New York. Boston.
What a mess.
I’m okay. I must confess
I’m fine with being all alone
With an online world inside my home.
Day 15 of the quarantine
All along, I’m sight unseen
Stopped seeing news. It’s too mean.
Looks like my sentence is another 15. 

10. Pot Roast
Going to a neighbor’s for dinner tonight
It’s just a pot roast, not a delight.
These days, though, it’s really insane
Dining with another could cause pain.

You can feel fine. Not ever show it.
Still contaminate and not even know it.
Just because you think you didn’t get it,
Doesn’t mean you can’t transmit it.

Some wine, some laughs, and a bite of roast,
Shouldn’t have to turn us all into toast.
Never underestimate the power of the bug.
Stay home. Don’t socialize. Do “self hug.”

11. Shopping
I’m out the door despite what they say.
Don’t kill me, Virus. At least not today.

12. Lull
Total fog. Can hardly see.
A gray window on a world with no activity.
Death toll still rising. Seems there’s no rest.
We’re each of us tired of trying our best.
When can it end? It’s only a guess.

13. A Class Act
Be grateful everyday that they do their jobs to save your ass.
Marry a hedge fund manager. They’re Working Class.

14. Staying Put
Not in need of anything fancy
But daily confinement makes me antsy
If I could fly to the moon, I wouldn’t,
But it really bothers to know I couldn’t
And it really frightens to know I shouldn’t.

15. It’s a Look
Here’s another task:
go and find a mask.
Nothing surgical.
Not Lone Ranger.
Maybe make one.
What’s the danger?

16. Inside the Apartment Building
Late last night they sent the word:
Talked to a neighbor. What have you heard?
Wear a mask upon your face.
Here, inside, is a diagnosed case.

It’s here. It’s now. It’s in the house.
Who has it? Where is it? Who’s the louse?
So now, more real than you might think.
We once were bold but now we shrink.

Here, in the building a diagnosed case.
If you do go out, cover your face.
Wash your hands and wash again.
One and done? Can I have an Amen?

Late last night they sent the word.
A diagnosed case among the herd.
What once was, frankly, quite absurd
Is now reality. They sent the word.
Late last night with all our might
We chattered and yakked but still in fright.
They sent the word. What do you say?
“All in together” cuts both ways.

17. Practicing Without a Game
Go ahead. Whatcha got to lose?
Give the drug. That’s what they’d choose.
Doctors say no. It could really be bad.
“Trumpers” say they’re haters, real cads!

Give ‘em the drug, like a Texas nursing home.
Whatcha got to lose? They can’t roam.
They’re seniors. They’re old. No more chances.
No one to see any adverse CONsequences.

Whatcha got to lose? Nothing really.
Just old fashioned notions like human dignity.
Whatcha got to lose? Nothing much.
We all get to die without a human touch.

18. A Month In
Lockdown. No antibody test.
Lockdown. Without real rest.
Stay. Stop. Don’t go out.
It’s only on Facebook where there’s a shout.
Lockdown. Stay down. Shelter in place.
Days go by and by; no one sees your face.

It’s worse in Maine. They had a storm.
They’ve no power but we’re “on” and warm.
This weekend in Texas—tornados are warned.
Shelter—but not together—we’re forlorn.

You tinker. You fritter. You don’t make a sound.
Down on the lock with the lock on the down.
You’re avoiding a meeting with destiny.
A wormy, germy mess to see.
It’s a downer with a lock that has no key.

19. Let the Beast Out
I see aerial pics of Wuhan City
Astounded that it’s extremely pretty.
Futuristic apartments. Amazing highways.
Home of Covid, Ender of Days.

The Beast roams fast and furiously
and creates a restlessness in me.
It makes doctors sigh and nurses cry
and it kills my good friend, Sam.

Came to his house on a giver of care
Symptom free. Unaware.
Sam was sick for days and days
Finally to hospital with healing ways.

But Sam couldn’t make it. He was gone.
The Beast then left him and moved along.
No funeral. No way! Alone to his tomb.
Seder showed family—all via Zoom.
Elijah arrived in gloves and a mask
While wine was sipped, the Beast stayed on task.

We let the Beast out and can’t shove it back.
All its killing is still on track.
Who let the beast out? No one can say.
But it’s inside now. Day after day.
Once before, I’m in quarantine
Different then, not so mean
I could leave home with lipstick on my face. Today, it’s gloves and mask. Amazing Grace.

We’re smart and caring but we got smacked.
Cage the Beast! Get back on track.
Half of us dream of returning to before.
Half of us hope real change is in store.

20. Light at the End of the Tunnel
There is no tunnel.
There is no light.
There is no traveling with an end in sight.
There is only this—
our new way of being,
in a fog, we’re unseeing.
There is no tunnel
The vista is an open flow
Only the graves are
hidden below.
We scamper along the surface
Seeking what? Some fun?
We find it, at last, on Amazon.

21. April is the Cruelest Month
Listen to the news: we’re gonna die.
What’s the cause? DJI.
Good news for your 401K.
Maybe you’ll live to see it one day.
Listen to me: it’s only here.
In Germany there’s no such fear.
They have an Angel who has a brain.
Blood on our hands. Forever a stain.

22. Lessons Learned
Don’t climb in the back seat and let the two-year-old steer.
The opposite of love and hope is ignorance and fear.
I won’t pick the pj days, they will pick me.
Toilet paper, homeward! Olly, olly in free!

23. There’s a Pattern
First come the warnings, then the numbers of sick.
Second, news of heroes and the stupid pricks.
A couple weeks later, the deaths start to spike.
There’s almost nothing about this that you can like.

First comes the compliance and then it sinks in—
this is going to go longer than what we thought to begin.
Second comes the loss of focus and penetrating numbness.
A couple weeks later, you’re outraged by the dumbness.

24. Vigilance 
The opposite of faith isn’t skepticism
Doubt is the essence of Faith.
The opposite of Faith is fear.
If you’re in a panic, you forgot:
You’re not alone.
We’re in this together.

Vigilante zombie ranters are
Rebelling in the streets.
Paid by Betsy and her bro
To destroy, destruct, run amok.
Inflamed by a Malignant Narcissist.
Nothing rhymes anymore.

25. The Protestors 
Won’t stay inside. Won’t mask the face.
Their ignorance is beyond disgrace.
They claim they fight for liberty
But when they infect, it’s stupidity.
They are ignorant and angry and making a scene
While claiming that Jesus is their vaccine.
Go home. Stay inside. Show care for others.
The ones you may kill are really your brothers.

26. Shake Shack
Did you hear about Shake Shack?
They gave the money back.
Ten Million Dollars that they didn’t need
A new perspective on corporate greed.

Meanwhile in Portland my friend’s all kerfuffle
She somehow got lost in a computer shuffle.
She can’t get a loan and she can’t get a check.
She can’t get through. What the heck?

She needs some cash. Groceries to buy.
Fortunately, she’s married to a real swell guy.
He still has a job. He still has work.
If she were alone, she’d go berserk.

27. Origin of the Species
When was it here? Early as last year?
Did it come from a lab? Or was it a bat?
They’re investigatin’ to figure out that.
Will the source help us fight it? Or make a vaccine?
When it comes back in the fall, will it be extra mean?
Keep gloved and masked with wipes at the ready.
New normal; no going back. Be safe; be steady.
Will the movies run out? Will we ever get some sleep?
Some governments we doubt. Faith in science we keep.

28. May Is On Her Way
April was the cruelest month.
It was cold and gray.
When heat and sunshine,
So we’re told, makes the virus go away.

April was the saddest time
As we watched the statistics climb.
Some governors scrambled to fix the mess.
We applauded all who do their best
But best wasn’t good enough.
The virus proved to be too tough.
And as sad April turns into May
We have no remedy and we must stay
Inside everyone masked and gloved,
Keeping safe all those we love.
Will it boomerang again in fall?
Doctors say yes. Heed their call.

29. Day 44
Oh Death, be not proud. We’re six feet away when in a crowd.
This virus can’t take us all to task
When we are hidden behind a mask.

Oh Death, take no pride when we have no guide.
When everyday acts of making do
Are applauded since we have no clue.
When will it start to go away?
When is it finished so we can play?

Oh Death, be not proud. We exist in a cloud.
When we text each other that we care,
We’re simply saying that we’re scared.

30. It’s All Very Trying
Can’t be impulsive:
Tie on the mask.
Can’t be spontaneous:
Take the wipes.
Can’t be very free:
Wear the gloves.
Can’t be careless:
Try to play safe.

31. Day 49 in Lockdown
Can I get my balance?
Find a new goal?
What if in all this nothingness I fall and lose my soul?
Can I get my balance?
Do I know how to try?
What’s the consequence
Of waiting, if it’s only just to die?
Somehow days go by
I don’t miss the hours or try
But when I look back on how long it’s been
I wonder what circle of hell I’m in.

32. Oh Captain, My Captain!
It’s near the end of April
But there’s no celebration.
We’ve passed the million mark
Of illness in the nation.
The spread is astounding
Sets a record for deaths.
The blaming abounding
But not enough tests.

As a percentage of populations
We’re the very worst.
What happened? What’s next?
Can we shake off this curse?

33. It’s Not All Bad News
In just a month it closed itself up.
The ozone hole is gone.
Photos of views on FB bloomed
and no one was alone.
In a couple of weeks there
they were: Himalayas to cheer.
And we Zoomed to lunch
and out to brunch with all our darling dears.
The economy fell but it’s just a spell
Some got crazy but most were wise.
We’ve got a new normal—try it on for size.
Let’s make no place for conning wise guys.

34. Huggy Bear / Give a Care
There’s a new button on Facebook today
It’s a tad complicated. What’s it say?
We’re all in this together. We care.
We’re in the same boat now. Let’s share.

There’s a new button today and what does it say?
There’s a new dawn today and it’ll be okay.
Not heart. Not thumbs up. Not a tear.
It says we’re together. Let’s not fear.

35. Day 53
It took a lot of frittering
and a dose of denial
But we’ve been at this for over a month
And it’s really not that bad a trial.

I’ve got wifi and the internet and lots of tv
And a very giving neighbor who shops for me.
Power went out this week and I had anxiety
But it came on soon while reassuring me.

Did some laundry. Nuked some food.
Snacked on peanut butter to elevate my mood.
I’m probably half way through full lock down
No choice but going on, heavy sits the crown
I’m the voice of quarantine without a love in sight.
I’m the queen of masks and gloves. I ignore my plight.
I’m the hostess with the mostest on Facebook and on Zoom
I never even notice that my reality is this room.

36. Don’t Forget
When this is over and the whistle blows and we begin to breathe. Remember, don’t forget, the bravest EMTs

Remember, don’t forget, the grocery workers
And all the drivers: bus and train.
And the postals. The delivery guys.
The empty streets and vacant roads
Especially in the rain.

And remember the janitors and the folk who
Kept all places clean
Remember that those with guns who shouted
Were paid to be so mean.
Remember the lost toilet paper manifesting our fear.
While through it all the nurses tended without the proper gear.
Don’t forget the poems the photos and the greetings that gave cheer.
No hedge fund manager saved a life. Keep your focus.
Remember the strife. Our values were good, and right all along,
We just needed a panic to find our true song.

37. On Pause
The remote’s on mute. Life’s on pause.
In the middle of Netflix. Just because.
Standing in the kitchen, remote in hand.
Which snack this time? Take a stand.
The remote’s on a movie but it’s on pause.
I’ve again gone foraging just because
I think I’ll be satisfied with one more snack
But reality is that I want my life back.
Foraging about to find what’s in store
Forgetting, for a second, I can’t take it anymore.

38. Assault Rifle Anthem
Economics Uber Alles
More than Truth
More than Life.
More get sick and more will die
But no, not them.
It’s another’s Life.

Hold your nose;
We can’t stay closed.
If you get Corona
You get Corona
But they’re immune, you see.
They carry the weapons
They’re fully armed
That’s how they be.

They demand that we all open up
While Death runneth over.
And fills the cup.
Spills and spills all over the cup.
How I wish they’d just shut up.

39. The Need For Speed
People still dying at a level unrelenting.
Get back to work. DeVos not repenting.
Going out, greeting pals, frolic on the beach.
Is that more value than health in our reach?
Ka-ching. Ka-ching. The numbers grow.
What’s the number for the Dow?
Why can’t the investment casino
Wait until it’s safer. It’s mean. So,
grin and bear it. Pull up your socks.
We’re all gonna die for a market of stocks.

40. Perhaps the End of the Beginning
Bush gives a message. Very profound.
But it’s met with anger and runs aground
Oh Captain, my Captain the lilacs still bloom
Where have you gone? Is this our doom?
Where is Winston? Up on the roof.
Shooting at Luftwaffe though there’s no proof
That British artillery kept them at bay
while down in the tunnels they jeered Jerry away.
Where’s the virus? Where’s our war?
Apparently, at The Dollar Store.
‘Cause she wore no mask is what he said.
The bullet went in the back of his head.
Calvin, a dad, our security guard, is dead.

41. Memorial Day Weekend
It’s very cold. And it’s dark and gray.
We used to call it Decoration Day
To visit the graves my mother would take us
Sprucing up headstones. Geraniums—no fuss
I cannot abide the smell of geraniums to this day
But I miss living local with graveside bouquets.


These poems, in chronological order, record my thoughts and feelings during the first forty days of quarantine in Pennsylvania.

About the Artist

Andrea Hornett,  Chester County
Published:  July 16, 2020