One of the fascinating changes the pandemic has brought into my very sequestered life is the introduction of Zoom. I’m no techie, but with a friend patiently guiding me over the phone I managed to download Zoom onto my laptop and voila, I could have a personal visual connection to the world in real time!

I quickly joined a weekly Wednesday Zoom poetry group that I enjoy immensely. After sharing and discussing our poems we decide on the subject to write about for the following week. At our Dec. 30th meeting we picked “new beginnings” as the theme for Jan. 6th, so I composed the following poem for that meeting:

“Oh, thank God, this horrible year

Is finally coming to a close

And we can begin anew!”

How often have I heard those anticipatory words

And, in past years, enthusiastically voiced them too?

Those words sure seem to be the litany

Of many at the end of 2020

Who presume the advent of 2021

Will bring relief to everyone,

All with faces smiling happily

That we survived,

We’re still alive,

And now, by God, we’re gonna thrive!

But wait, hold on, I’m all for positive thinking

And staying calm when the ship seems to be sinking

Because of the damage the pandemic has brought,

But it’s hard to listen to the news without getting overwrought

At the frightful but horrendously likely probability

That overburdened hospitals could still end up triaging me.

I will admit that yes, it’s certainly true

That the future looks brighter for me and you

With vaccines being rolled out, giving hope of some protection

And sane new leadership resulting from our recent wild election

But my fear is that herd immunity will not come one-two-three

In this land of many folks who prize individual liberty

Above consideration for others, a land where masks became politicized

And legitimate scientific concerns were rapidly demonized.

Therefore, I’m very cautiously dipping a toe

Into the waters of 2021, and I’ll continue to go

On sequestering and being super careful, even after I get the shot.

Please allow me to clarify

Because, really, a pessimist I’m not

But I’m also not exactly eager to die

And so, despite the urging of some friends to let go

And loosen up and socialize, other than just through Zoom,

I’m perfectly content to remain in my room,

Fully cognizant of my vulnerability

As I continue to patiently wait and see

Where we are on the road to so-called normalcy.

“Man plans and God laughs” is a Jewish saying I know well.

Life can seem pretty good and then quickly turn to hell

So, based on 2020, let me just say

That my viewpoint on New Year’s Day

Was through the realistic prism

Of extremely cautious optimism,

But I’ll continue to lift a glass to cheer

The coming of a brand new year.

It’s time -- good news is certainly welcome here;

We’ve had a plethora of gloom, doom and fear

So I implore the fates, please listen, please hear

And guide us safely through that long tunnel ahead

Than runs through California, now a COVID hotbed.

Given the horrific year we’ve been through,

There’s no question that we’re overdue

For a happy new beginning, so

Farewell, 2020, I’m glad to see you go

As we welcome this New Year of 2021

That I pray will bring good health to everyone.

We had a great meeting, replete with beautifully written and largely positive poems that had been composed prior to that day’s storming of the U.S. Capitol during the joint session being held to confirm the Biden-Harris November electoral win. Had we met later, our poems might well have had a different focus, so consider this my prose addendum.

I, along with the rest of the country and the world, was mesmerized by what played out on TV that day. The visuals are seared into my brain: MAGA hats, flags, scuffles with police, protesters climbing the west wall, protesters breaking windows and crawling into the building, members of Congress running for cover, and on and on and on.

I just read what I typed, and “protesters” seems much too mild a word. This was a mob of insurgents in support of the president’s failed attempts to overturn the election. As I watched, the feelings I had when I saw the twin towers fall were triggered. My country was under attack. Now 1/6 can join 9/11 and 12/7 in the Days of Infamy club.

Going to bed was out of the question that night, and I stayed up to see – eventually! – the conclusion of the count. I finally dozed off for a little while, and when I woke up I thought, for a moment, that the chaos and craziness had been a dream. Turning on the news quickly disabused me of that notion.

I consider this a major wake-up call, recognizing that democracy is a rare and fragile construct. This siege, act of domestic terrorism, insurrection, violent protest, attempted coup – whatever you want to call it – was more troubling than I have words to express, and by the time this goes to press I imagine millions of words will have appeared regarding the abhorrent events that delayed the constitutionally mandated count of electoral college votes, something I never expected to see in this country.

In 2021 we will have new leadership in Washington plus the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19, two advances I eagerly and hopefully await. Maybe someday there’ll be a vaccine against toxically dishonest, divisive, incendiary rhetoric as well.


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