"I've Got the Covid Blues" by Tony Medina

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September 8, 2022 

I’ve Got the Covid Blues

Tony Medina

I got the Covid blues
Hazmat outfit to read the news
I gots that damn viral blues
Mystifying perspiring invisible shit
Blowing through the wind like

Yesterday’s news blues
I can’t think breathe or snooze
I gots the rumble rumble chest-rattly 
Bubble gut blues 
I’ve been sanitized ostracized hydrogen peroxide

Cleaner than hospital sheet blues
My tears are sterilized 
My fears capsized spilling
Out over my broke bedtime blues
So much so I’m afraid 

To read the news
I got the Covid-19 stockpile
Body bag blues
Them refrigerated truck blues
Them Roto-Rooter blues

Them hack and wheeze double-
Sneeze Vicks VapoRub Robitussin
Preparation H body ache earthquake 
Ha-cha-cha-cha-cha-cha blues
I’ve got them we wear the mask blues

Them hand sanitizer hydroxychloroquine booze blues
Them broke heel hole in the sole blues
Squeaky wheel lungs like shredded wheat blues
I got them lockdown shutdown god awful blues
Them loveless touchless cold sheet blues

I got it real bad, them blues
My head is heavy as a brick
I can’t sleep I’m scared to get sick
I’m so paranoid I can’t stop my eye twitch 
Wake up in a hyperventilating sweat blues

I gots them Hail Mary, full of grace
Garlic string around my neck 
Get thee behind me, Satan blues 
Them TB smallpox blanket diphtheria Typhoid Mary
Love in the time of cholera blues blues

Them Brueghel Triumph of Death
Black lungs matter Black Orpheus
Peach Schnapps Doctor Schnabel von Rom
Beak-nosed bleary-eyed cloak and swagger
Death, with occasional smiling blues

I gots them backwater fever swamp 
Florida Water espíritu santos Tuskegee 
What had happened was anti-vax
Death be not proud snot-nosed 
Sitting shiva novena reincarnation

Take it all back blues

Copyright © 2022 by Tony Medina. Originally published in Poem-a-Day September 8, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“‘I’ve Got the Covid Blues’ began innocently enough: scrolling Facebook, I came across a Kevin Young poem on Langston Hughes. Written in the blues idiom Hughes introduced into American poetry and was famous for, it triggered me to write one on the spot. The pandemic being front and center in my consciousness became my subject, as the lines came quickly. The blues’ flexibility allowed me to create a freestyle collage encapsulating the personal toll of the pandemic, embedded in a global, historical snow globe, the subconscious scaffolding of which livestreams literature, art, current events, and the fears that plague us.”
Tony Medina

Tony Medina is the author of Che Che Colé (Third Man Books, 2021) and Death, With Occasional Smiling (Indolent Books, 2021), among other titles. The recipient of awards including the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, the Langston Hughes Society Award, and the African Voices Literary Award, he is a professor of creative writing at Howard University.

Death, With Occasional Smiling
(Indolent Books, 2021)


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Thanks to Cynthia Hogue, author of In June the Labyrinth (Red Hen Press, 2017), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Read or listen to a Q&A about Hogue’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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