Day-Who-Is-Counting-Anymore: Pandemic Poems by Miriam Schweiger and Solvej Schou

It is day-who-is-counting-anymore as we all try to stay safe, healthy, masked and sane in what seems to be a year ripped from the pages of the dystopian novel none of us could have imagined. We are only halfway into 2020, and we all hope that the year closes better than it started. In the midst of all this, I come back to Nina Simone: “It is an artist’s duty to reflect the times.” The poets in this issue, through their own original aesthetics, share and remind us that we are still writing, painting, critiquing, thinking, singing, and creating.

Miriam Schweiger chronicles the new apart-but-together way of life, and Solvej Schou’s poems draw from personal and historical events, which parallel today’s. Excerpts from new collections by Brian Sonia-Wallace and David A. Romero reflect where poetry lives now. Simone was absolutely correct. We have a duty, and I am grateful that art continues to provide comfort in the most uncomfortable of times/days/year.—Luivette Resto, AFLW Poetry Editor


Miriam Schweiger

Haibun in the City

i am becoming intimately acquainted with the cracks / in the sidewalk that encircles my childhood home/ i no longer need/ to look down/ to avoid tripping/ as foot meets shoe meets rubber meets concrete/ how quickly we learn/ to step aside to arc/ around our neighbors like similarly charged magnets/ as smiles turn sour/ the park where i was first offered weed/ was closed for so many years/ to bulldoze the fountain/ at its center/ now there stands a bridge/ in its stead and as i pass see/ that it is closed once again/

driving in a city known for its traffic is different/ during the apocalypse/ the five-way intersection governed/ by a single stop sign/ now seems undaunting/ i take the 405 at 5:30/ because that luxury will last only so long/ i have invented a reason to leave the house/ just so i can experience it/ i race the dashed lines that divide the highway/ and for the first time/ i win/ i drop a jar of marmalade on my friend’s doorstep/ but cannot greet her dog/ i take the canyon home/ bracing for impact every time/i change lanes/ out of habit/

friday at 5:30 i go out/ for my government-mandated sanity walk/ each house i pass holds a new olfactory sensation/ as families collectively prepare for their sabbaths/ together alone/ roasted garlic extends a hand/ through the window as i pass/ inviting me inside/ while challah unbraids itself to drag an extra chair/ to the dinner table/ i bless wine in the mega-mansion/ on the corner/ break bread with the family in the bungalow nextdoor/ i’m glad they got to share their shabbat/ even if half the chicken is going into tupperware/ for the next day/

i check my phone and see that if we race/ we’ll be able to catch the sun setting over the ocean/ my mom and i sing joni mitchell/ as we careen through the empty streets/ stopping short because she’s keeping time/ with her right foot/ we squeeze into a spot on the crowded shoulder of the highway/ and look at the empty/ beach. the waves must know/ they pose no danger now that there is no one/ playing in their depths as they swell/ to twice their normal height/ we watch/ the purpling of the clouds/and the water extinguishing the orange planet/ at their center/

we can look straight at
the sun slipping westward in
the apocalypse.

Quarantine Daydreams (A Cento of Songs)

as if someone has spread butter on all of the fine
points of the stars, summer’s begun to slip us
underneath her tongue.

I’m half empty/half full, nineteen and on fire.
after the sun settles to sleep, the moon unscrews
and the night is see-through.
all the streets are used for dancing
and we sing like restless kids,
spinning ceaselessly. days of wandering

bike rides and wayward walks
roll over with the big sky
as we share songs that we all know or make up new ones
as we go. my feet are feet of mud and
i grow tomatoes on the front steps.
the streets are paved with passersby.

the laughter of my friends (there’s nothing
holier) rings out love through the
windows in our stopped car.
the sky is a slab of pink meat
just as it was before.


Miriam Schweiger

Miriam Schweiger is a junior at Smith College who loves crunching through snow, queer literature and cooking with friends. Find her prose at, her poetry at and her favorite medium, tweets, at



Solvej Schou


Our place is a spaceship
Static, stuck
I circle around the periphery
Inside, sometimes slow
Sometimes quick
And kiss my husband in the hallway after three weeks
Of social distancing.
My cough better, untested.

I cross each day off the calendar
In the kitchen
With diagonal strokes.

To shelter at home
Is to shrink the world smaller
As my body gets softer
My anger sharper
At those whose denial of contagion leads to more.
I’ve memorized spider webs
Twisting into high corners
And usually swat them down with a broom
But I want the company now.
Lucky to stay home
Yet stuck at home
While skies shift into clearness
Roads empty in Los Angeles
And workers, wearing masks,
Outside of these light blue walls
Hold up this fractured land, America
As they always have.


The Invisible War

This invisible war
Buried in crevices
Underneath fingernails
In a droplet of spit
Breathed in, breathed out
Tiny, undetectable, swift

I think of my mom, in bed
At home in Hollywood
Shrinking dying when I was 9
The room her bubble
Invisible thread of cancer
From breast to bones
This memory, this familiarity
Of illness
Of isolation
Of death

I think of 9/11
Standing on the rooftop
Of my apartment building
In Brooklyn
Wearing pajamas
Watching the towers fall
Screaming my body
Into shock

I think of my late grandma
Holocaust trauma and loss
Her 6-year-old son, siblings,
cousins murdered
Concentration camp
To displaced persons camp
To America
With her husband
My infant mom
Two suitcases
Their life force
Vibrating survival

This invisible war
Looks like a blue sky
With cream clouds
On a normal day, today,
Home now, like every day,
Looking up
Yet the air is a lie
When a droplet of spit
Can make you choke for oxygen
Can make you sick
Tiny, undetectable, swift


Solvej Schou

Solvej Schou is a Southern California-based writer and musician, and the Jewish grandchild of Holocaust survivors. Her freelance articles have been published by outlets including The Associated Press, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and she’s a former AP staff writer and Entertainment Weekly staff senior writer. She works as ArtCenter College of Design’s staff senior writer. LA Weekly named Solvej’s fuzz-filled political, feminist and rock ‘n’ roll 2019 full-band solo album Quiet For Too Long its album of the week, calling it “sheer poetry.” Three essays Solvej wrote—on Patti Smith, Sharon Jones and PJ Harvey—are in the 2018 anthology book Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyoncé. Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl(Black Dog & Leventhal). Solvej has a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College, Columbia University, and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Southern California. She’s on the steering committee of the L.A. collective Turn It Up!, working toward gender parity in music. To find out more about her, visit her website at, listen to her music on Bandcamp, watch her music videos on YouTube and follow her on InstagramFacebook and Twitter.

Feature image: “Carmageddon” by Paul Lovine