Madison Poet Laureate shares new occasional poem to commemorate COVID-19 losses
Angela Trudell Vasquez reads “Dispatches from Radar Hill” at March 2, 2021 Common Council meeting
Like most United States citizens, Angie Trudell Vasquez’s family knows someone who has had COVID-19 and they have lost someone precious to them like so many others in our country. Perhaps that is why when Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway requested that Madison’s Poet Laureate craft an occasional poem to help commemorate March 1 as a Day of Remembrance and Recovery the Poet Laureate put great thought and care into the request. “I put a lot of my heart into this.” The Poet Laureate explained.
Ms. Trudell Vasquez who has taught poetry and runs community poetry writing workshops, always emphasizes that in poetry every word, every space, every mark of punctuation means something. In the poem “Dispatches from Radar Hill” she uses repetition of the anaphora to reflect the many dead, em dashes and caesuras to reflect loss and absence, and long lines to indicate the seriousness of the subject. When asked if the Madison Arts Commission could share it, she agreed immediately. “This poem is for the people,” she offered.
By Angela Trudell Vasquez
For the bus driver on his shift who left and never came back.
For the nurse who beat breast cancer but not Covid.
For her colleagues who remember that every time a Billy Joel song came on
she’d pump her fist in the air and scream ‘Billy” with joy and pure fan fury,
for the receptionist who carries on with the fist pumping and shouts in her name.
For her co-worker who told the story to us at her virtual funeral.
For our elders in nursing homes who gave and gave to their friends and family, their community buying all the Girl Scout cookies on the block, saving money for their grandkids’ birthdays – who will miss their own in 2021.
For the teachers who taught until they could not, for their students who struggled
to learn with them online.
For the parents who remain after, after so hard without your best friend, ally, accomplice there with you by your side an island snoring each night.
For those who lost their best friend and never got to say goodbye,
or goodbye was a 2x4 inch screen, this the last time you saw them alive.
For the widows who take poetry workshops three days after their love dies.
For those who remain carry the name, the people who remember their words,
wit, wisdom, how they were scratch cooks, made chicken curry and rice,
fry bread and pinto beans, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler,
took turns driving the kids to practice, stomped puddles in rain…
Remember, remember, light a candle, say a prayer, a blessing
some funny thing they said when alive when you laughed so hard you cried,
but you didn’t, that was a road trip a family vacation when the back seat
smelled less than fresh after a drive through the desert without air conditioning.
These are the days of our lives and to those who loved and lost. This poem is for you,
Let us mourn all those we loved who no longer breathe this spring air, or get to see their first Robin this season. The world is a lovely place when you care and have skin in the game, and harbor a secret love in your heart for all things full of color, sound and feathers, soft sheets, chocolate ice cream, puppy breath, baby chuckles, your face in the morning, in the mirror smiling back so alive.
Trudell Vasquez will read “Dispatches from Radar Hill” at the start of the March 2, 2021 Common Council meeting, and hopes to share the work beyond the Common Council meeting as well, as one of her gifts to the community. “Poetry has a place in the healing we have to do.”
If you are interested in participating in a workshop or to reach the Poet Laureate about this occassional poem or any other matter, please contact MadisonArts@CityofMadison.com
Bus Lines - Call for Poets: If you have short works that inspire optimism about a post-COVID reality that you wish to share with the community, you are welcome to submit them to the Bus Lines Poetry Competition. The theme this year is “Looking forward. How we will celebrate when we can be together again in community.” The Deadline for that call for poems is March 15, 2021.