Quarantine Dreams. A poem by Eric Thomas Norris

Arashiyama, Japan

My favorite spot in the entire world.
Dirt path, two fences, dry brown reeds, thick stalks
Of tall bamboo on either side. Higher,
Clouds of luminous silver leaves

Filter the morning mist, blue creeping through.
I pause about ten minutes, listening,
Suspended in a silent ecstasy,
Between heartbeats I do not hear. I am

An insect trapped in emerald amber—
A stone so beautiful and rare only
One specimen exists. You take it. Here:
An ancient mineral, universal

As loneliness, and love, even if
We may never enjoy these things together.


Cruel country. Mists. Miasmas. Tarns
Scattered like blind eyes about the land,
Staring at infinity day and night,
Blank, unblinking, lidless as the sky.

It is a place peopled by megaliths:
Lichen-blasted, toppled by tremor, worn
Down cruelly by those innumerable
Grains of whirling sand and freezing rain,

So all the faces are obscure. Human
Features owe everything time and chance:
Your limestone profile, the curve of my coastline,
The rivers where our tributaries meet,

In secret concord, the deserted seas
Visible on the Moon. Pure tranquility.

Essential Services

The ventilators sigh.
Rain is all I see.
At least we have Wi-Fi.
Thank God for IT.

I walk the 26th
Floor. Last man alive,
I water someone’s fern
Unlikely to survive.

My morning break finished,
I go back to my cube,
Select from Spotify—
A nice Chopin étude.

After some seconds,
A finger strikes a key.
Then the e-mail arrives.
I am essential. Me?

The Things I Live For

That scent of jasmine overwhelming me,
Russian versts and Persian parasangs,
Bright black earth clinging to a cold carrot,
Hairy paramecia, moth dust,

My Gilbert microscope, a telescope
Inside a bowling alley vending machine,
Lifeguards, licking nine-volt batteries,
Ḫattušili III, a Hittite king,

Martian canals, Phlogiston Theory, Love
And Strife, Empedocles, Democritus
Laughing, a chance chestnut that hit my head
And bounced off harmlessly into the night,

The scent of jasmine once again, and you,
One who knows exactly what I mean.


Eric works in accounting, in Portland, Oregon.

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