Keeping Poetry Alive in Oregon!

Oregon Poetry Association (OPA) recently released /pãn| dé| mïk/ 2020: An Anthology of Pandemic Poems, a timely anthology edited and designed by OPA Board Member Dale Champlin. This attractive volume, sponsored by the Executive Board of Oregon Poetry Association, features 230 pages of poems by OPA members. OPA has served the community well by encouraging Oregon poets to put their musings about the pandemic into poetry, compiling and publishing their work, and providing an opportunity for poets to share their poems on virtual Zoom readings. Kudos to OPA for keeping poetry alive and well in our great state.

I will be participating in a Zoom reading on April 19, 2021 at 7:00. Please check the OPA website for the Zoom link. Two of my poems—“Summer in My Autumn Years” and “The Peace of the Land”—can be found on pages 205 and 206 of the anthology.

Summer in My Autumn Years

Laughter of neighborhood children
punctuates the evening, bringing me back
to barefoot summers when I played
hopscotch, kick ball, red light/green light,
and sprinted carefree into an uncertain future.

I’m nostalgic for a simpler gentler time,
which may have seemed so only because we—
with roses along the white picket fence,
pansies around the flagpole,
and robins nesting above the door—
were unaware of the underbelly of things.

The adults in the room turned a blind eye
to injustice and corruption as they basked
in post-war prosperity, tossing back Manhattans,
secure in the belief they were living
the American Dream.

In the time of COVID, with cases skyrocketing,
we social distance from friends, family and strangers
for fear we’ll become infected.
Racism and sexism cast long shadows across
the social landscape and leaders offer no solace
or call to unity, no succor
to assuage hopelessness and despair.
Our once-upon-a-time American Dream
is now the all-too-real American Nightmare.

The Peace of the Land

In February, the moon rose above the hill,
head askew gazing down with sunken eyes.
Silver-grey clouds amassed—a cloak’s somber swirl.
Half a world away on our shrinking planet,
Lunar New Year was eclipsed by news.
People in China looked to heaven
as they were bolted into their own homes,
rounded up by police for mass containment
or, sick and starving, left to fend for themselves.
The corona virus—a small sun illuminated
with the points of a crown, had invaded their eyes,
ears, noses, mouths and lungs—possessing them
like a tyrant raging across the land.
On the other side of the planet, we basked in sunshine,
seeming peace and calm. We hardly had time to think,
least of all about China’s suffering.
In the stark brilliance of the March supermoon,
a worm moon signaling spring, the virus invaded us.
Still blind to the impending assault on our people,
we were sure it would never happen here.
In April, in a world beset by suffering, if only we had
gazed up at the moon, prayed for the healing of our planet,
prayed for people everywhere.

For inquiries and permissions, please email me.

Leah Stenson