While The Earth Stood Still

While the earth stood still
the reports came in, in no particular order:

Penguins waddled the sidewalks of Cape Town like tourists who couldn’t find the bus
Jellyfish swam the Venice canals
and sea turtles hatched in record numbers
(and I thought of you)

Humans mostly stayed inside assigned enclosures
ordering delivery;
emailing and Zooming, netflicking and tiktoking;
and each night they shouted from the balconies
in honor of the frontline workers, the saviors and the heroes

but not for the coroners, the morticians
or those loading bodies into refrigerated trucks, unloading them again,
and digging the graves,
(and I was glad then that you were already tended, you were already buried)

Wolves and bears reclaimed Yosemite;
lions napped in the roadways of Kruger National Park;
and the flamingos landed in Mumbai
(and I missed you)

Scientists debated on primetime TV about:
bats and laboratories,
herd immunity
and the earliest dates for a vaccine
(and I wanted to call you, to see what you thought)

Nurses took to social media to plead for PPE
Boris Johnson left the ICU, the hospital, his house

anonymous people and Tom Hanks donated plasma to dying strangers
the Olympics were postponed
and Easter was cancelled

and I knew what you would say:
but snow still melted; rain fell; my roses bloomed;
the weather and the newsfeed never cease, turn it off, go outside
like any other spring, passionate frogs sang to their mates
and trees awoke the leaves to dance flamenco

maybe, you would say, the earth hadn’t ever stood still



Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler is a historian, photographer, and poet. In the two years leading up to the Covid outbreak, Christina lost five loved ones, one by one. She wrote this poem in safer-at-home Covid quarantine, about monitoring the news, and the grief experience of wanting to call those who aren’t there anymore to talk about it.

2 comment on “While The Earth Stood Still

  • Shelley Evans
    August 16, 2020 | 11:28 pm

    This is a wonderful, heart-revealing poem ~ I’m going to have to read it again, a few times, to thoroughly ingest it’s depth of meaning. Thank you for writing and sharing your thought-provoking words.

    Also, thank you for all the information you provided to Writers of Kern yesterday. I have questions about how nonfiction poetry can be speculative literature.

  • Christina
    May 12, 2021 | 10:58 pm

    Hi Shelley,
    I am so sorry I didn’t see your comment before now. WOK can give you my email, so you can reach me directly. Thank you for finding my poem here!

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