Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Pandemic: A poem by UNE Social Work staff, Robert Chance

Featured photo by Marjan Blan | @marjanblan on Unsplash

Robert Steven Chance is one of our treasured staff here at UNE School of Social Work.  He

10 year old Fenway visiting the UNE SSW Offices in Portland.

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

Are one.

All men and all women and the virus

Are one.


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

For viruses.


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.

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