Reflections on Quarantine

Grant County writers speak from isolation


In the 17th century, ships would sail into Venice from far-off lands, bringing exotic goods and exotic diseases. The Venetian authorities enforced forty days (quaranta giorni) of isolation, keeping the sailors in the ship off the coast so that no plagues could spread to the mainland. From quaranta we get quarantine, a word much in use these days.  

Fourteen authors affiliated with Silver City’s Southwest Festival of the Written Word wrote reflections on life under quarantine. Each piece is exactly forty words, in a nod to quarantine’s etymology. Poets, novelists, essayists, and nature writers here capture these strange times in the way we know best.

JJ Amaworo Wilson

Quarantine is about waiting, a heightened state of alertness for a change in the status quo – a letter in the mailbox; a beloved author talking on the radio; a good rain to relieve the anxiety of watching the grass die.

  • Christine Eber

I am quartered in a beautiful place. Every morning: singing birds and gray foxes. Nothing amiss there. I’m quartered by gratitude, sorrow, ennui. And the fourth? Shame. No, desire. Every time I read the news. I, too, hear America singing.

  • Sharman Apt Russell

We have seen the future: hoarders of toilet paper and dried pasta. Governments in denial. Bodies piling up in the streets. The new divide: masked versus mask-less. And, locked in, we hear pristine silence – the world doing fine without us.

  • JJ Amaworo Wilson

From a British pub sign: If you want to know what it feels like to be in the hospitality business during this pandemic, remember when the Titanic was sinking and the band continued to play? Well, we are the band.

  • Ted Presler


Pandemic, lockdown, social distancing, face masks.

Can’t go to work, to church, or to the galleries.

Can’t have company or visit friends.

Walmart’s open, so’s the liquor store.

Now what do we do?

Xeriscape both yards.

Electric mower for sale.

  • Bruce Wilson

Fear, dread, insomnia. Repeat. Composing poems about collective anxiety, about my own. Resolve towards solace through creative expressions that uplift. Still, the unexpected gifts of this introverted life, not worth the loss of face-to-face time (not FaceTime). I miss you!

  • Eve West Bessier


So much recently taken
for granted
gone suddenly
no chance to say goodbye
the one place I still dance
unmasked is alone
on top of a mountain
and look
how morning still dances
with the east
to celebrate what remains

  • Beate Sigriddaughter

In the early days of quarantine, I was Zooming (of course) with a friend who commented “It’s like Mother Nature has sent us to our rooms.” An opportunity, then, to reevaluate – and remember that in the end, she always wins.

  • Kat Sherrell

It was one thing when “quarantine” was primarily an important though innocuous-sounding noun. Now it is primarily a verb. Mandatory imposition. There is a figurative wall around our country. We have incarcerated ourselves. I open my world atlas and sigh.

  • John Fayhee

A hundred days since     

young Sophia died.

More than the forty

of “La Quarentina” endured

Italian sailors

during the plague.

Quarantine, mourning, reflection,

an endless slideshow of faces

I have known,

a cat playing,

a pond that sings for today.  

  • Bonnie Buckley Maldonado

Pervasive quarantine loneliness; missing my children and grandchildren to such a degree I indulge my yearning with memories, precious time spent together, languishing in each other’s aura, a bounty of hugs, kisses, snuggling at story time. My solitary heart groans. 

  • Lynne Zotalis

The new normal: isolation, virus anxiety, death watch, fear of people who regard those with masks as the enemy. But with a writer’s imagination, you can go anywhere, with anyone; closeness and safety again. Normal is overrated. Imagination rules now.

  • Kris Neri

“Bring out your dead!” The plague carried horrible suffering. Levantine trade (1500s) mandated sea shipments isolate, be purified by smoking, lye-scrubbed, and quarantined crewmembers. Modern isolation from the real suffering of those now desperately ill makes us foolishly less fearful.

  • Peter Riva

I will mask my face

but not my heart

glove my hands

but not my touch

cover my mouth

but not my kiss

stay my body

but not my soul

open my heart

leave it raw

feel everything

from afar

  • Melanie Zipin