"Love in a Time of Covid-19" by Craig Santos Perez

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May 4, 2022 

Love in a Time of Covid-19

Craig Santos Perez
a variant of Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet XVII

I don’t love you as if you were penicillin, 
insulin, or chemotherapy drugs that treat cancer,
I love you as one loves the sickest patient:
terminally, between the diagnosis and the death. 

I love you as one loves new vaccines frozen 
within the lab, poised to stimulate our antibodies,
and thanks to your love, the immunity that protects 
me from disease will respond strongly in my cells.

I love you without knowing how or when this pandemic 
will end. I love you carefully, with double masking. 
I love you like this because we can’t quarantine 

forever in the shelter of social distancing, 
so close that your viral load is mine,
so close that your curve rises with my cough.

Copyright © 2022 by Craig Santos Perez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“This poem is a variant of Pablo Neruda’s famous love sonnet XVII, in which he uses the natural world as a metaphor to describe love. In my poem, this metaphor mutates into things that we would associate with the pandemic, such as medicine, vaccines, and masks, in order to explore how to write about love in a time of Covid-19.”
Craig Santos Perez

Craig Santos Perez is an Indigenous Pacific Islander poet and the author of Habitat Threshold (Omnidawn, 2020), among other titles. The recipient of prizes and fellowships from the Poetry Society of America, the Before Columbus Foundation, and the Lannan Foundation, he is a professor in the English department at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Habitat Threshold
(Omnidawn, 2020) 

“One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII (I don’t love you as if you were a rose)” by Pablo Neruda
read more

“Because we love each other” by Rickey Laurentiis
read more

Thanks to Brandy Nālani McDougall, author of The Salt-Wind: Ka Makani Pa‘Akai (Kuleana ‘Oiwi Press, 2008), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Listen to a Q&A about McDougall’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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