Robert Steven Chance is one of our treasured staff here at UNE School of Social Work. He
received a BA in English Literature from Wesleyan University in Connecticut and an MA in English Literature from the University of Limerick in Ireland. He has been with UNE since 2001. Robert is known for his literary and poetic talent (while he also bears a healthy dose of good wit). Social work staff that work alongside him say it’s a privilege to work with someone who has such an expansive breadth of literary and philosophical knowledge. Their conversations are anything but dull. We consider him one of our very own departmental poet laureates. Robert lives just a few blocks from his office in Portland, Maine, with his very adorable dog, Fenway. It is from there that he drafted this poem about the pandemic. We hope you enjoy.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pandemic
by Robert Steven Chance
Among dozens of developed nations
Progress faltered; the only moving thing
Was the virus of the pandemic.
The world was of three kinds,
developed, developing, and undeveloped
In which there evolved a new invisible virus.
The virus whirled in the winter winds of Wuhan.
It was a small start of the pandemic.
All men and all women
All men and all women and the virus
The world does not know which: fear or hope.
The fear of infection,
With closed doors and shuttered windows,
The virus wheezing,
Or hope for what comes after.
Frozen fear filled the shuttered windows
With anxiety en mass.
The shadow of the virus
Crossed them, to and fro.
The mood of the world
Searched in the shadow
For its indecipherable cause
Old fat white men in Washington,
Why do you continue to support profit over people?
Do you not see how the virus
Creeps about the feet
Of all the people, outside and around you?
I know noble people
And beautiful, greening landscapes;
But I know, too,
That the virus is involved
In what I know.
The virus drips through our fright
Touching the edges of face masks
Of many in my circle, and umpteen other circles.
As the blight of the virus
Dissipates in the light
All the nurses of recovery
Cry out with delight
We drive to stores
Through empty streets.
More than once fear pierces us,
In that we mistake
The shadows of our vehicles
The virus is moving.
The pandemic must be spreading.
Hot spots rise and fall all the long lock down long.
People are dying, and people are going to die.
People are living, and people are going to live.
The pandemic will end and life
Changed as we knew it will begin again.