"Our Quarantine Story" by Michelle Whittaker

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August 31, 2022 

Our Quarantine Story

Michelle Whittaker
after Dorothea Grossman

During the pandemic, after he was laid off, it was his idea
to forage for edible weeds around Queens when our food grew scarce.

From the stoop, I would watch him crouched on one knee,
his bare hands between telephone poles,

pulling up green stars from the control joints
under our mailbox full of clover mites & commercial flyers.

I almost forgot how sprawl could be so quiet.

When he returned inside, he rinsed off the stalks,
placed a rolled lot on his tongue and then on mine.

He mentioned how “sticky” foods could be a delicacy
in other cultures, as I turned my back and coughed them out.

And later in the evening, he read to me about how
indigenous women prevented pregnancy by drinking

cleaver tea, as he handed me a tall cup of it swirling with honey.

Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Whittaker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 31, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“I was reading Aimee Nezukumatathil’s collection Oceanic, which references an enchanting love poem by Dorothea Grossman. Her distinct form encouraged me to record a place and time during the pandemic lockdown when my partner and I were concerned about our resources or lack thereof. At the surface level, the poem is an anecdote inspired by the observations of a beloved forager looking for edible plant life around New York City. However, my underlying concern is whether or not such a landscape can truly provide a perpetual sanctuary of natural resources. And, if not, how might this affect us and future generations?”
Michelle Whittaker

Michelle Whittaker is a first-generation West Indian American and poet. The author of Surge (great weather for MEDIA, 2017), her work has been supported by Cave Canem and the New York State Council on the Arts / New York Foundation for the Arts. She serves as an assistant professor of creative and expository writing at Stony Brook University and lives on Long Island.
Surge
(great weather for MEDIA, 2017)


“Fingernails” by Ken Chen
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Thanks to Donika Kelly, author of The Renunciations (Graywolf Press, 2021), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Read or listen to a Q&A about Kelly’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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