Grocery-Store-Lockdown

Grocery Store Lockdown

In this haunting hay(na)ku poem, San Francisco poet Russell Reza-Khaliq Gonzaga uses vivid text fragments to capture the disorienting social, cultural and mythic tensions of the COVID-19 pandemic's early days.

“Coyotes are being seen on the empty streets of San Francisco” 
—SFGATE, March 26, 2020

What 
Is today?
Does it matter?

Waking 
Up coughing
In a panic

Mistaking 
Hay fever 
For this virus 

Breathing 
Into mask
Getting light-headed

Sanitizing 
Hands after 
Touching every doorknob 

Rubbing 
Hand sanitizer 
onto cell phone 

Walking 
Empty streets
To grocery store

Waiting
Long lines
Just to enter

Maintaining 
Space while 
Walking store aisles 

Even
White men
Clear your path

Even 
Karens get 
Caught shop-lifting 

Shopping 
Empty shelves
Hoarding toilet paper

Customers 
Thanking me 
For my service. 

Customers 
angry because 
Of food shortages

But 
Plenty of 
booze in stock.

Recognizing 
My friends
Behind their masks

Trying 
To speak
Six feet distance

Flirting
Doesn’t count
During lockdown

Repeating 
Well-rehearsed 
Sentiments and platitudes

Statistics
Current cases
And current deaths

Asians
becoming weary
Of racist attacks

Black 
friends: “Welcome
To the club” 

Crisis 
Always makes
For conspiracy theories

Working
Overtime again.
Exposed every hour.  

Pulling 
off mask 
after my shift

Inhale 
Air outside
Waiting for ride 

No 
Traffic driving
The night streets 

Coyote 
Grinning as
We cruise past


A note on form:

The Hay(na)ku is a 21st century poetic form invented by Filipina-American poet Eileen R. Tabios. In the Chain Hay(na)ku form, each stanza is a six-word tercet with the first line being one word, the second line being two words, and the third line being three words.

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Russell Reza-Khaliq Gonzaga

Russell Reza-Khaliq Gonzaga

Russell Reza-Khaliq Gonzaga has hosted and organized events and workshops including the Sierra Poetry Festival, the Center Camp Spoken Word Stage at Burning Man, and the weekly ELYSEUM Writers Workshops at Harbin Hot Springs. Russell is Poet Laureate Emeritus of Lake County (2012-2014) and has represented San Francisco for three years at the National Poetry Slam. As an Arts Educator, he has worked with several organizations including YouthSpeaks and WritersCorps. He is also the recipient of the Certificate of Honor from the Board of Supervisors and a Mayor's declaration of Russell Gonzaga Day in San Francisco. Currently, Russell is the new Poetry Editor for The Fabulist and works the deli counter in his neighborhood grocery store.

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