What’s it like to be in China during the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic? I wrote a poem about it, a six-parter that was published on Sunday in Rattle.
The six parts:
I. Coronavirus in the Neighborhood
II. Coronavirus in the Streets
III. Coronavirus in the Bedroom
IV. Coronavirus in the Imperial Garden
V. Coronavirus in the Air
VI. Coronavirus in the Heart
The poem appears under Rattle’s weekly Poets Respond section, which is an attempt to engage current events with poetry. A sample of what I wrote in the notes:
I live in Beijing, where for the last two weeks I have been trying to write about the topic in all the headlines: the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic. In truth, I could be responding to any number of news stories I’ve read in the past month, but the one I’ll highlight is a very recent article from the New York Times: ‘To Tame Coronavirus, Mao-Style Social Control Blankets China.’ I most directly address the article’s themes of distrust and Cultural Revolution-style control in my second part, ‘Coronavirus in the Streets.’ But the New York Times only got it half right: In my experience, the people I’ve encountered—including police, neighborhood volunteers, etc.—have gone out of their way to be nicer than before, more courteous, patient, and respectful.
Also, here’s a video from February 6, when the city was at its emptiest — and, due to an unexpected snowfall, its prettiest: