Poetry in Remotes Times 

By Amanda K. Pumarejo, 2019 MCNY Alumnus 

Amanda K. Pumarejo is 2019 MCNY alumnus who worked for many years in the MCNY Learning Commons as a student mentor. Amanda was recently accepted into the Sarah Lawrence MFA program for poetry. Last week we were lucky to have her read three of her own poems at the annual April Poetry Slam, two of which she shares with us here, together with a sharp reflection on the power of art and poetry in the time of COVID-19. 

What does poetry mean to me? I guess you could say that I have always been a writer and that writing has always been an outlet for me ever since I was about three years old. I didn’t become a poet until about two years ago, when I met someone extremely special and was simultaneously really hurt by that person. Poetry also helped me on the day that my grandmother passed away on 3.31.2020. The best way that I can describe it is that writing poetry is writing the tears that won’t come out of my eyes anymore. It’s saying the words that I am too scared to say and it’s becoming a different, much stronger person. I am a completely different person when I write than when I stand before you and speak. So I can also say that writing poetry is also more than an outlet , it’s a persona of mine. Like roots for a tree, that’s what poetry is to me.  

I was sitting in a virtual zoom meeting for students accepted into the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence for poetry and one of the faculty members said that she thinks that writers are going to have the most to say about this virus and how it has taken the world by storm. We can hear the silence and how loud it is like no one else can and I believe that. And she also said that we must be careful with writers because although as we grow up we are all prepped to develop a thick skin, writers must have thin skin so that a reader may reach inside of them and feel what they were feeling the moment that they wrote it. I believe this too. As much as we must cherish the doctors and the nurses who are helping us in a time of need, we must also care for the post office workers, the deli workers, the lawyers, the sanitary workers, the social workers, the therapists, the list can go on, but sometimes we forget to cherish the art. The art is what leaves that lasting impression and poetry is art to me and I am so proud to be an artist during such an important time for our country. 

Resources: Some of the poets that inspire me are Rupi KaurAmanda LovelaceBrenna Twohy and Sylvia Plath. I invite you all to read them or listen to them as their words are groundbreaking and for you to then find your own inspiration and write.

Two Poems by Amanda K. Pumarejo

Fishing Trip  

I now understand a caught fishes plight  
Because I look at the holes through my lips where you’re hook used to be  
and I remember how some of the rust was left in my wounds  
And I remember when you told me that you had no idea the hook could hurt anyone 
When I stood before you with my mouth in red tears  
And the sheer look of fear on my face  
The scent of death coats your skin and you have become immune to it 
You place your fishing rod in a lake and you say that its just for show  
And that you’re not a hunter but a lover  
And that the water was always still so you never knew there was life there  
But when I came splashing around I could have sworn through my blurry vision that you jumped  
And there was bait on your hook  
Do you remember that ?  
Or do you not remember the day that you placed it on and made sure that those worms were savory and sweet 
Not knowing that I was digesting a tape worm  
I was digesting disease  
And I don’t know why I thought I was glistening when you pulled me out of the water  
When I was really panicking  
And my skin was drying out  
and my blood was painting the docks  
And when you placed your foot on me and pulled the hook out from between my lips  
All I could taste was metal and the worm  
And you told me that that hook has never hurt anyone  
And that you’ve never caught anything in your whole life  
And that hook wasn’t even yours but your name was carved all over the fishing gear  
And you said the lake was still but I know you saw me splashing 
And I am so done with a life with holes in my lips from being caught 
But they are permanent  
And you told me next time I should be more careful  
And I told you that I cannot learn how to breathe outside of the water 
And I told you that next time you should let me breathe where I am supposed to breathe  
Or don’t bother. 
For Ana 3.31.2020 

And when she says what she has to say to me  
My ear canal feels like a million cotton balls 
None of them are soft  
And when I open my mouth to speak they all fall out 
And they don’t make a sound  
And I am the only one in the room that knows they should make a sound of a thud  
But they don’t and they never will 
I have a stomach ache now that just won’t go away  
And a headache that I know is just going to last for days  
And my eyes are puffy 
And red  
And I am tired of crying but it hasn’t even been 24 hours  
This day has gone sour  
And tomorrow will be no better  
Because tomorrow is the first day that she isn’t in the world anymore  
And the world feels so much smaller even though tomorrow has not come yet 
It’s been so long since I have spoken to god 
But please hear me now  
Here and now  
Take care of her please  
Make sure she knows how much we loved her  
And that the sun won’t rise the same way anymore  
And the moon will never be at its fullest like it was before  
And I hope that the sound of her voice doesn’t leave my head  
Because I keep replaying it like a broken record  
Hoping it will brand itself on my eardrum 
I wish that things were better  
But they’re not and you’re not  
And you died  
And we are speechless