Four odes in prose

I wrote four odes this week, after promising to write one a week, so technically I’m off the hook for the rest of the month. But don’t be surprised if you hear from me again before March is over.

To the public health officials

Did you imagine this challenge when you signed up for this, thirty years ago in med school? Did you think about what you would say, in the bulletin posted on the county website, to calm citizens’ jitters?

Unlike docs who treat individuals, you protect the larger body that is the community. But, like individual doctors, you can heal only if you can diagnose accurately and prescribe properly. And here you face a bigger challenge. The body you treat is composed of millions of sentient agents, each with its own idea of what’s wrong and how to fix it. Think how hard it would be for your primary care counterparts to treat patients if they had to convince each individual cell in a patient’s body of the best course of action.

Do you feel risen to the challenge? Do you feel appreciated? You should, because you are.

To the artists

Your venues are closing. Your fans are told to stay home. Your tickets are unsold or refunded. Your paintings hang in empty galleries. Among you, writers may be the lucky ones. We share our art one-to-one, in media we can still access. Although the adjunct gatherings, like book readings and signings, have fallen by the wayside. Two venerable Bay Area gathering spots for readers and writers, Book Passage and Kepler’s, have postponed most of their upcoming events. The SF Peninsula Branch of the California Writers Club is holding its March meeting virtually.

You’ll have to go back into the archives this spring for your movie fun. And if you were planning to get your rock on at Coachella or get your classical fix at the Met, you’ll have to content yourself with recordings. Digital reality reveals its brighter side. We can still view art (thank you, museums), hear concerts (thank you, YouTube), and of course, read books (thank you, ebook vendors).

To those struggling

It breaks my heart to know you’ll struggle more. More than before, and more than others. Without a job, or with a job that provides nothing beyond its promised hours, you are at risk. When the holes widen in our social fabric, you fall through first. I promise not to forget you and to amplify your stories for those who need to hear.

To the politicians

Not all politicians are leaders. Not all leaders are politicians. Once, we trusted politicians to lead us through a crisis. Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela.

In this moment, we are in desperate need of leaders. Not dictators or despots. Not milquetoasts or poll-chasers. We need compassionate, committed, honest, competent, straight-talking people as our beacons and our guides. We need people who can make all the parts work together. Who can shore us up when we’re down, tell it like it is (not like they want it to be), soothe us, comfort us, and get shit done.

Hello? Hello? Anybody out there?


How is this public health crisis affecting you? Are there any heroic leaders where you are? I’d love to hear about them below in the comments.

8 thoughts on “Four odes in prose

Add yours

  1. Yes, so many of us are out here, and in need of your wise, feisty odes! Keep’em coming my dear friend!

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