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  • Writer's pictureAlice Wyatt

A Covid Assignment

A few months ago, I attended a writing workshop, and one of the assignments was to write an essay about covid, how it affected you. The clock was set for ten minutes, and pens raced across paper. After hearing our pieces, the instructor said, "Ok, now condense those essays into a six-line poem." We all panicked, then rose to the challenge and were amazed by the results. Less is more, they always say, but I liked the two pieces' balance, so I have kept them as a set.

Covid Essay 

"You haven't finished that?!" my oldest daughter, with her blue eyes, bubbling personality, and task-finishing focus, a replica of her father, gestures at the half-completed tile mosaic that covers one side of my solid metal porch steps.

The Covid-19 Pandemic, a time devastating separation for many families, was a year in which I spent more time with my children than I had since they left home. One or two at a time, they migrated south to our compound in New Mexico, looking to get out of the cities, be with family, take a breath of sanity in a gone-crazy world. 

This mosaic was Rachel and Olivia's idea, but the rest of us quickly caught their creative excitement. Vibrant hot air balloons drifting across a New Mexico sky was an idea that sparked all our imaginations. We dug around in the barn for the dusty box of broken tiles and pottery I knew would come in handy one day. The girl's partners, my sons Jordan and Adam, were the muscles wielding tile clipper jaws.

Rachel's balloon perfectly reflects her personality. An intricate grid of bright red and yellow tiles, painstakingly cut into teeny tiny squares, is almost complete, just needing silver wires to connect the basket to the balloon. Olivia asked Adam to snip out an image of Frida Kalo from a decorative Mexican tile. It forms the center of her balloon. She dug a chipped pink plate I had bought in Haiti from my broken pottery box and created bold vertical stripes. I remember thinking Freida would have loved to be swathed in Haitian pink. Unfortunately, the melding of Haiti and Mexico and New Mexico only got halfway done before Olivia and Adam headed back to the Pacific Northwest.

Why haven't I finished this mural? It has been over a year. I certainly had the time. As I stand there pondering Elisabeth's question, the memories come flooding back. Rather than a time of fear or sorrow, our family shared several months of coffee on the porch, hiking, adventures in the wilds, games of horseshoes, making meals together, evenings around the fire pit. How could I sit and finish this mural with only memories of their cheerful voices keeping me company? As I cannot put all this into coherent words, especially without crying, I say, "Don't know, but would you like to finish it with me now?" 

We sit hunched over the pottery box, crossed-legged on the hard concrete, companionably deciding which broken tile goes best where and debating proper grout consistency. When Elisabeth flies back home, I sit on the porch step, feeling a bit snuffly but comforted by a task well done, especially Elisabeth's contribution, a giant blue and purple patchwork balloon just peeking over the horizon. Exactly what was needed. 

Covid brought unexpected beauty into my life. Broken bits put together with love, time, patience, creating something new, something I didn't have the wisdom or courage to do myself. 

Covid Pyramid Poem ( from the essay - one line of one, then two, then three, etc.)


pandemic jaws

create broken bits

snip, snip, snip, snipping

creating new out of old

Covid lives reflected in balloon mosaic

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