Day 17

Day 17 – Total confirmed cases in US: 189,633

The nightmare we wake up to this April Fool’s Day is no joke. If it were, the joke would be on us.

An ordinary imbecile is at least aware of his own stupidity, but our president is no ordinary imbecile. As he does on every subject, Donald Trump believes he knows more about the Covid-19 than the doctors.

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no ordinary imbecile

It is coming into clearer focus each day that a reality TV host with no government experience should never have been elected president of the United States. As the death count rises, he crows about the ratings of his press conferences. As doctors and nurses plead for more masks and equipment, he accuses the people putting their lives on the line for us of stealing, hoarding, or doing “something worse” with their personal protective equipment. As thousands of lives are lost due to the incompetent handling of the crisis, Mitch McConnell blames Democrats for fulfilling their Constitutional duties by impeaching Trump. While insisting the the impeachment “diverted the attention” of the president from fulfilling his duty to protect American lives, McConnell did not say how the diverted dimwit found time for eight of his Nuremberg rallies (and even more rounds of golf) during the trial, nor why it took 37 days after his acquittal for a national emergency to be declared.

When Richard Nixon committed and covered up the crimes that drove him from office, his vice-president pardoned him. When Ronald Reagan violated his oath of office by illegally selling arms to Ayatollah Khomeini and then funneling the proceeds to Central American terrorists, his vice-president pardoned the fourteen administration officials who had been indicted. When the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Powell group exploited the tragedy of September 11 to lie our country into a war with Iraq, his successor decided to “look forward, not backwards” in an attempt to bring the country together. In each case, the Republican Party was only emboldened to betray this country further. When our current national nightmare ends, we cannot afford to make that mistake again. If Donald Trump does not die of the virus – an end that would be the epitome of poetic justice – he should die in jail.

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a fitting end

Day 16

Day 16 – Total confirmed cases in US: 164,719

I know I’m not the only one who finds it hard to read a book these days. It’s hard to concentrate on literature, even though the distraction of getting lost in an imaginary world sounds incredibly sweet right now.

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Someone I know suggested reading poetry as an alternative and I have found it easier to get lost in poetry than prose. I have been intermittently transfixed for more than a year by The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse. This chronicle of the evolution of Japanese poetry from the 1st Century to the 20th is breathtaking. Although I have enjoyed it all, now that I am getting to the end I find that the postwar poetry resonates deepest for me.

Noriko Ibaragi was a poet, a playwright, a writer of children’s books, and founder of the poetry journal Oars. This tender and thoughtful piece of hers is titled The Fruit:

On a high branch
A big green fruit
A local lad slid up
Stretched his hand and fell back
What looked like fruit
Was a moss-covered skull

Mindanao
Twenty-six years on
On a baby jungle tree branch
Caught by chance
The skull of a Japanese soldier killed in battle
Eye socket nostril
In the sturdy young tree
Grown vigorously.

In his lifetime
This face
Irreplaceable cherished
Surely some woman must have cared for it.

The fontanelles of the tiny temples
Who was the mother who had doted on them
Twining her fingers in his hair?
Who was the woman who had drawn him tenderly to her?
If it had been me…

I broke off a year has passed
I took out the draft again
Unable to find a final line
More years have gone by.

If it had been me
In the end unable to produce a line to follow

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Noriko Ibaraki

Day 15

Day 15 – Total confirmed cases in US: 143,055

Heading into the third week of sequestered existence in NYC and the situation gets worse every day. I’m lucky. I don’t have to see the devastation the way nurses, doctors, and EMTs do. I’m safe. I haven’t left my building in 2 weeks, so the chances of me contracting the virus is low. Still, there is a sickness in my heart from knowing the horseman of the pestilence is on the move.

I try not to pay too much attention to the news but it’s tough to ignore what is happening to our city, our country, and our world. In an attempt to distract myself I have been learning a new finger-picking technique on guitar. It’s called Travis picking, after Merle Travis.

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Merle Travis

I wrote this song on Thursday while fiddling around with some of Merle’s technique, and recorded it over the weekend. It’s called I Belong With You. Welcome to Mike’s Musical Monday in the age of pestilence.

Like a man on the run
knows when his time is done
And a key in a lock
knows it doesn’t have to talk
And a crowd on their feet
knows that victory is sweet

That’s the way
I know I belong with you

Like the day knows the night
will make everything alright

And the night knows the day
will put everything back in place
And the years keep your score
until there are no more

That’s the way
I know I belong with you

I belong, I belong, I belong with you

Like a poorly-chosen word
cannot be unheard
And a lover in a dream
cannot be unseen
And my love for just one
cannot be undone

That’s the way
I know I belong with you

I belong, I belong, I belong with you

Day 14

Day 14 – Total confirmed cases in the US: 124,686

The street that I live on ends in a T. When you reach the end, you can turn left or right but you cannot continue in the direction you were traveling.

It is a fact of life that the paths we take end, often without warning. When they do, we sometimes learn that we had been moving through inertia, using momentum generated in another time, when that direction seemed best.

One night I heard a tremendous crash and looked out the window to see a car that had every intention of going straight, up to the moment it learned there was no street there. It scraped away from the scene of its disgrace, sparks flying from the spot where its bumper scraped the road, pieces trailing in its wake.

The feeling I had in the pit of my stomach watching that car is almost the same as the one I have now watching our country scrape through this tragedy, trying to continue on a path that doesn’t exist anymore by electing an unqualified and unfit leader, just to placate the insecurities of white people who are terrified that our changing demographics will challenge their privileged status.

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The end of the road

Day 13

Day 13 – Total confirmed cases in US: 104,865
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Like Jay-Z, I woke up at 4:44 the other night to ghosts that didn’t have the decency to die. You might think that’s the only thing me and Jay-Z have in common, but it’s not. We’re both American men, born in the 1960s, who write songs and married beautiful women.

About those women, those dreams, and that writing: here is what I found in my book the next morning, when the sun provided enough light for me to see the words I wrote in the dark:

Even if we had that kind of love
I might still fall into the other holes in my life,
those great yawning gaps where trees were pulled up by the roots,
bridges that collapsed under their own weight,
emptiness where the bombs exploded,
silence in the wake of laughter and tears,
darkness in the middle of a sunny day,
teardrops that come from nowhere,
unspoken words,
unwritten songs,
and the weight of dreams undreamed

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the weight of dreams undreamed