San Mateo County poet laureate crafts community poem for COVID-19 frontline workers

in A&E/Featured/Headline

The San Mateo County community’s support for each other during the COVID-19 crisis has become poetic.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto recited the poem, “Love in the Time of COVID-19, A Community Poem for Healthcare Workers and Other Frontliners.” Cassinetto summoned online submissions of lines for the poem, and for every line submitted she donated $1 to the San Mateo County Health Foundation’s COVID-19 fund to support hospitals and clinics. As of April 10, 125 lines of poetry were contributed, including one by Supervisor Carole Groom.

You can read the poem in full below.

Cassinetto began her term of the Poet Laureate of San Mateo County on Jan. 1, 2019. Since then, she has visited 14 communities in the county, given over 50 readings within the Bay Area, and helped to raise awareness on women’s rights, environmental protection, animal cruelty, rehabilitation of prisoners through poetry, and mental health issues.

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“Love in the Time of COVID-19, A Community Poem for Healthcare Workers and Other Frontliners”

Our loved ones have proven their immense bravery, at times volunteering to care for those sick and putting their own lives at risk.

This poem is for all the people who work so we can be safe at home. We love you to the moon and back.

 

Your voice holds me

when your arms cannot.

 

You spoke calming words to me

as I slipped into sleep

 

And yours were the first eyes I saw

as I came out from under the fog

 

Wingless angels dressed in scrubs,

footfall on our steps,

 

a tap on the window,

a neighbor’s wave,

 

a newly-sewn mask tossed

(in a plastic bag), to the front

 

of the door: “run it through the washer

first,” she calls, waves, and departs.

 

(Fifteen years ago, at fifteen,

just arrived from El Salvador,

 

she walked into my Jefferson High

ESL class. Today, she is a hero,

 

daily risking her life for her patients,

while her own children wait

 

in their fog-shrouded home.)

Earth angels, haloes shining bright,

 

working with this virus in the air!

We will not despair

 

You support us

You surround us

 

Because of you, the world

will get brighter,

 

socially un-distancing.

Bless the arms that hold you today.

 

We’re all joining hands,

guests on this planet,

 

across many lands.

We are forever grateful

 

to the warriors who save lives.

Time to recognize the real heroes,

 

brilliant shadows, as we’ve never

seen before. God calls us

 

to opportunity, it is for each

of us to claim. Our neighbor

 

is our brother, is our sister,

is our keeper, is our healer.

 

As soldiers, you stand tall,

ready for the next patient who calls.

 

Your love and care exemplify

heroism without compare.

 

Without you, our country would be

facing an even larger catastrophe.

 

Doctors and nurses and other

frontliners, with help to give.

 

Some deliver goods,

some clean and scrub,

 

stock the shelves,

and work so hard

 

so we can stay in our space.

You can do it, you can make it,

 

single mom working two shifts,

exhausted nursing home staff

 

fighting against depression

and confusion. Dementia.

 

Dressing up in silly costumes,

dancing down the halls,

 

Holding ipads high

so loved ones can see,

 

their elderly parent

who are unable to communicate,

 

reassuring them

that everything will be okay.

 

Smiling faces,

heads pounding,

 

tirelessly ensuring

the outside world

 

stays ‘outside’

and residents stay safe.

 

For the inner strength,

courage and compassion

 

with which you serve,

our eternal devotion, you so deserve.

 

For all your efforts,

may you be blessed

 

a thousand fold. Where we are,

the tired ghosts of fearful uncertainty

 

welcome the laughter

that champions the heart,

 

for the speed of love turns out

to be the speed of light.

 

A gentle reminder:

Be safe. Be well.

 

Be kind. Which is to say,

shelter in safety and love.

 

Everybody’s home

and nobody’s alone.

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Photo credit: Aileen Cassinetto reading her poem “Still, like air” for Well-RED at Works/San José, art and performance center, Jan. 14, 2020 (YouTube).

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