Artists and writers share work made during the coronavirus pandemic.
Everyone on Earth is currently sharing an unprecedented collective experience, the COVID-19 pandemic. Shelter-In-Place and Safer-At-Home orders have rendered us separate, albeit connected by technology, struggling with the challenges of compromised health, economic precarity, lack of childcare, heightened awareness of poorly maintained infrastructure, loneliness, and fear––to name just a few.
We asked writers and artists from the 7x7LA community to share a record of one day in their lives in this strange time, rendered in words or images, as an act of present solidarity, connection, and storytelling, as well as a document of what “right here, right now” feels like.
“The Covid-19 related mandatory confinement in Paris was issued on March 16. With permission to leave our home for only one hour per day, we all spend most of our time indoors. To keep my sanity inside my very tiny studio in the 18th district, I decided to document my reclusive life and the strangely growing importance of monotonous tasks, with one drawing a day. I started this series in thoughts of the neighboring residences that all have the same type of housing. Presented as a light humorous journal, I am hoping these drawings can gather us in our isolation.”
Made in quarantine in Paris, France.
“Corvid on Covid,” made in quarantine in Napa, California.
“Quarantine Nabe,” made in quarantine in San Francisco, California.
Made in quarantine in Concord, California.
a hard day’s night
all things must pass, all together now, all you need is love, back together, come together, crying, waiting, hoping, don’t let me down, eight days a week, every little thing, fool on the hill, get back, help!, here, there and everywhere, hold me tight, i don’t want to spoil, the party, i feel fine, i just don’t understand, i me mine, i need you, i should have known better, i want to hold your hand, i’m down, i’m happy just to dance with you, i’m only sleeping, i’m so tired, i’ve got a feeling, if i needed someone, in spite of all the danger, it won’t be long, it’s all too much, keep your hands off my baby, let it be, lonesome tears in my eyes, long and winding road, mailman, bring me no more tears, misery, now and then, please mister postman, rain, revolution, run for your life, the saints, sea of time, sgt pepper’s lonely hearts club band, she came in, through the bathroom window, shout, slow down, taxman, that’s all right (mama), the end, things, we said today, think for yourself, tomorrow never knows, too much monkey business, two of us, wait, we can work it out, while my guitar gently weeps, why, with a little help from my friends, yesterday
March 22, 2020
“This ‘found’ poem was generated during stay-at-home orders in Los Angeles, where spring is upon us, with the heat of summer not far behind. After having been in quarantine for nearly a week, various Beatles songs kept running through my head, resonating in new ways. I looked up the entire catalog, pulling every song title that speaks to this moment. I’ve since done the same with Prince.”
Made in quarantine in Los Angeles, California.
Made in quarantine in Laramie, Wyoming.
Made in quarantine in Tlalpan, Mexico City, Mexico.
Evening Walk in Riverside
Today the people below looked as small
as they always have. Paired or tossing
balls in packs while I strolled down a long
hill screened by brush. Big band music
trumpeted in my ears, I was
emboldened by my privacy & by my general
boldness to skip & to tapdance or something
a tapdance might look like, if I knew how. I wanted
to throw my limbs to the ground in a gleaming
Charleston. A mood travels up the body. It
surges, & it is my life’s great mystery
how a few hours ago I felt feverish with fear
& desired to cry & then I was silly with affection & now
despite everything, despite the numbers turning
countries red, the numbers taking the markets
down (unprecedented, unprecedented) despite
the alerts sliding onto my phone’s screen every hour
–no gatherings of 250, no gatherings of 50, no gatherings
of 10–I felt just now so free, limbs loose as a child’s happy
limbs, inhaling the bright cold feeling of the air.
March 17, 2020
While I was lying in bed feeling sorry–body like a body
after long night not sleeping, body like a body after marathon,
body like my body the time I labored then lost
two liters of my own blood which unless i’m wrong is nearly
half my blood so that my gums went pallid, the red well of my eye
pallid, pale pink like the half-moon of my own thumb
which then was white as the actual moon
but before that there had been the rush in a room still dimly lit for the sake
of my sphincter’s opening (a sphincter won’t open in full light, a woman won’t
give), the rush of people whose faces slapped masks over their panic, because even
I could feel my life slipping away with the placenta and all the blood–
my body was like that while I lay in bed feeling sorry. (Undernourished,
cold, so that I could say to a friend, then, I know that I’m fat right now but what
I feel like is too skinny.) Well, the daughter who slipped out of my body before all
that blood, and who I held in that dim room to my bare chest, trembling
she, as I lay there, just now, feeling sorry, walked through the halls
of the house facetiming with Makayla, who said over the speaker I’m drawing
a killer whale to cheer up my mom. I heard Juliet skipping in her socks. Juliet, like
a grown woman, saying, you are?
March 27, 2020
Ways To Be More Like Jesse Ball
Today, on my walk, my headphones died. I thought, here’s my chance to finally be more like Jesse Ball. I’ll walk, long and meandering, without purse or purpose, until the ideas come poking out of their cocoons. Along the path a rabbit–and my loud footsteps on the graveled dirt–above me a hawk with its papery drift.
I thought, I should really use this quarantine to become more like Jesse Ball, and I knew when I told Adam this later he would laugh at me. He’d never been as jealous of anything as of my admiration for Jesse Ball, which is unromantic! which is not sexual!
I wandered toward the people, though any of them might be infected, any might be a vector, shedding virus. Each person on the sidewalk had a gravitational suck. This is human stuff. And there: one was in a muumuu talking about her lawn and one was talking about the price of gas. What year was this?
I thought: Jesse Ball would never have his phone on, a podcast playing, would he? Jesse Ball would listen to poetry for three hours straight. He would succumb to poetry. It’s time for me to succumb to something. And then to write one book a year, to decide one day to write it and seven days later to find that it was done.
March 28, 2020
Made in quarantine in Riverside, California.
Made in quarantine in Los Angeles, California.
“These are tracings of four and a half weeks from my daily planner. Drawing lines through canceled appointments, engagements and plans as I swept the slate clean.”
Made in quarantine in San Francisco, California.
“Under the tree I watched
the webs sway
and the floods fly
And when they asked me
why I was on the ground
I told them ‘it’s beautiful here'”
Made in quarantine in Paden City, West Virginia.
Friday Night, May 1, and Saturday Morning, May 2
A feeling of lead in the bowels, recalling my ex-husband, the way he ruined Cheez-Its for me by saying, “They turn into spackle in your intestines.” Exhaustion felt in a constant gnawing hunger for sugar, oil, gluten, alcohol, marijuana, but those things, consumed, do not make it better.
A turning-over of suicide in my head, considering it like a tarot card—not to want to do it, but to evaluate its appeal. Neutral.
Editing and editing, burrowing in the brain for the words, until exhaustion is total, until I lay on the couch, under the blanket, and time passes, twilit.
I rise again and it is almost eight, sirens outside, evening cool. Voices on the television saying sad things, disappointing me. So much starch.
Under the covers in the dark, sweat and heat, wrinkled sheets, the feeling of not sleeping, needing to stretch and not being able to. The panic of the twinkling light on the faraway hill.
In the morning I put on lipstick, forgetting, and then my mask.
A long walk up into the hills. Pocket views tucking into our eyes. The lantana flower, which is many small flowers.
My body less latex glove, more auric. My scalp burns in the sun.
On the way home, an open ice cream shop. It’s Danish, like my ex, which makes me smile. My lover buys me two scoops, and I eat them walking home along Santa Monica Boulevard, our masks tucked in the kangaroo pocket of my hoodie. In and under the green shadows of the tall trees, then sun. It is so good.
Made in quarantine in West Hollywood, California.
Made in quarantine in Los Angeles, California.
“Stairwell Mandalas: I used to meditate at the top of the stair case at my parents’ home. The light that poured in from the tiny window moved so subtly. I created a series of mandalas to filter the light and provide a transitional experience of walking our staircase. In some respect they are mandalas, in another they are papeles piccados.”
Made in quarantine in South Pasadena, California.
Quarantine poem #19 solid advice bro
in the purple cup
help find it
in that you see
I tell you believe
2 weeks since the
it will show
will have run
Quarantine poem #20 the compulsion of the count
441,187 confirmed 19,784 deaths 111,933 recovered 55,568 (US) (still 3rd place) 3/25/20 it
surges through like bags of burnt air
eats the lung chews it to original mash
closes the whistle of breath in slow parts
is nothing then everything is 471,407 now 8 hours later
21,287 (deaths) up ~3k ask the structure why it
produces its own devouring flaw ask how the day is going to
her silver car and still new faces in the vacation
rentals still vacuums running in the quiet
behind white and tan shingles
ask the german the german will say germany is a place of death
lot of questions poking at the low-beat sky
we work kind of well
all revenge the revenge of form against itself
in the tall wet green grass that cleans the legs
is a river of honey springing
from a red nose
Quarantine poem #25 “not like smallpox rate but definitely as or more disruptive yes”
A bag of mandarins the cardboard
finger darkened from sanitizer glob clutched
at in the car heat with mail
mostly trash in the
dust filled light.
On a bench head turning he’s young
like a gull and on his feet on Laurel and sleeps
in the shore pine the green
coil of its love
Her blue mask flies through the bishop
trunks slashes off the pollen + covid then free
curls itself in rictus death in the fish-
destroying wall the
Where is the country where is the tall
mouth that sings its shape ? no shape the coil
of a worm its baked pulp ready
for the spring the mouth the
lip: 3/27 591,802
Made in quarantine in Fort Bragg, California.
“I am intrigued by the desire to make something out of what I have. It’s fascinating how things come together in relation to the times.”
Self Contained, 2020
Steel, Cast Iron (salvaged transmission axles from American automobiles of the 1930’s and 40’s in South Central Los Angeles),
36 x 36 x 36 inches.
Made in quarantine in Los Angeles, California.
Day 18, Unit A, Back Patio
A river of Painted Ladies bobs flotsam across the rented rooftops that litter my porch stoop view. Why? To be warmer, I think. To find a mate, maybe. Sounds nice. To be warm and mate.
I try to count them over coffee, emergent in the small numbers that mark a coming spring; not quite yet. The dog shits on the patio. I break for pick up duty.
I navigate on migratory instinct, too, an unpainted lady in movement from kitchen to living room to bathroom to kitchen, sometimes in tandem with my ex, in discussion or in drunkenness to pass the time. Sometimes in fighting.
When the nine-year egg began to rattle, we had our circles to Zoom about it. Sorry, I mean, talk about it. I confuse the two, now. When the egg cracked, we had friends. When the yolk spilled, we had therapists. When the pandemic hit, we had a half-fulfilled apartment lease and government regulated self-isolation: together.
For now, I sleep in the office on my old college twin. I like that I can see the bowing grapefruit tree through these windows, weighted low with a final bearing of winter fruit and new budding blossoms, working double-time for next year. While I struggle to justify pants for the day.
I again debate bringing groceries to my 71-year-old parents. I don’t want to risk anything. I call to ask if they are still shipping their food, and if they are staying home. Mom says they are fine, asks about my university. “Yes,” I say, “I moved my courses online. Yes, students were crying.”
Mom offers to let me stay with them, eat from their garden, sleep in the spare, to allow space away from the leaking egg. I wonder, if the virus does live on surfaces, if they order deliveries, will they get it, too? I can’t afford to have groceries delivered, I don’t have a senior discount or shopping hour. I roam the outer world for necessity. Could I transfer it to them? Don’t risk it, don’t risk it.
At noon I measure ounces of leftover chicken, cooking everything at home as I scroll. I regulate what meals we have to lessen grocery store exposure. My friend posts that her husband got it, living in a Manhattan shoebox. Which means she will most likely get it. A student emails that she will miss our conference, she is an essential at a medial center working another late shift. I thank her. I get a city alert warning that cases in my immediate area have tripled in the span of 24 hours. I worry.
The apartment is littered with instruments. He was a music teacher before it hit, I was gigging at local pubs and coffee shops, since on lockdown. I plead not permanently. We play together, apart, practice scales (the “eat your vegetables” of music), make new songs, remember old ones. Now I know how Paganini got so big, how Yo-Yo Ma is the cellist of our time. I play for hours and hours and hours. I hope, when this is over, to be the Itzhak Perlman of traditional folk fiddle. I hope, when this is over, my neighbors will not have killed me.
At the store, people were fighting before the confirmed numbers had reached 100k (I remember days in case counts now, calendar dates are so pre-pandemic). The isles were barren. A woman tried to sneak a can of beans from my cart. I stared at her, she stared at me; unapologetic. I let her have it. I was already in heaven, the veggies, meat, and dairy were gone, but the beer and Kettle Chip isles were chock-full. Score.
This time, we plan our grocery trip for 6:30 am, stand an hour in line six feet apart. A man rushes by me with two full boxes of hand sanitizer. The line boos him for hoarding. I ask the grocery line attendant about it. He says the man is a postal worker who comes in every week to buy out the sanitizer for his employees. Says they are falling sick in droves. He pays out of pocket, guilt-wracked for keeping them on the clock. He is a saint.
Back home, we fervently wash our hands. Unpack everything. After sanitizing, I take a moment to touch my face with reckless abandon. He retreats to his bedroom. I fancy a stroll to the patio, back to the kitchen, then to the living room. Click on the last episode of Tiger King. I think, It is 11:04 am. When this show ends, it will be 11:45 am. I only need to pass the time for another 10 hours, 15 minutes, and some odd seconds before I can slip away to bed and turn off the world.
“This piece was written in the crux of tough transitions for so many, and I’m honored to be one small piece of this larger narrative. On another lockdown note, I’ve discovered a new capacity to be enraged by the delicate art of origami for beginners.”
Made in quarantine in Monrovia, California.
Made in quarantine in Los Angeles, California.
Made in quarantine in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
Leaving for Work in the Morning During the COVID-19 Epidemic
I rub Bill’s shoulder through the quilt, dime-store
thermometer a-wobble underneath
my tongue: my ride is set to come in four
short minutes, so the rite of taking leave
and that of making sure I have no fever
(and therefore am still fit for healthcare tasks)
must coincide, must share a single brief
blue spherule of space-time, an odd blown-glass
split-second where I slur, reminding Bill
to shrink from crowds if he should go out shopping,
all while my tongue contorts to keep the spry
sardine of a thermometer from popping
out… All at once, a fanfare of three shrill
beeps: ninety-eight point six, it says. Goodbye.
Made in quarantine in New York, New York.
Made in quarantine in New York, New York.
My Fifth Apocalypse, Day 11: Apocalypse Garbage
Yesterday, I woke up, poured a couple mugs of coffee down my throat, and, in a rare bout of self-control, went outside for a jog before I checked my phone or email for news about the world and my dad. My dad’s in a memory care facility in Boston where he is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. Also, there’s a COVID outbreak on his floor — four people have tested positive, and one has died. Because of all this, it’s especially hard not to check my phone every morning when I first wake up, even though I know that’s horrible for you.
I ran out the front of my apartment complex down towards Chinatown, and right before I crossed the bridge over the empty 110 freeway, I took a left down towards Elysian Park. This is my usual route right now, because it’s the least urban, and I figure it’s probably a good idea not to go to highly populated areas like Grand Park or Chinatown or Echo Park. (Though Chinatown, for what it’s worth, seems to have fewer cases than pretty much anywhere else in LA at this point.)
Unfortunately, one of LA’s biggest COVID testing sites is at an old National Guard facility right before the park, so I’ve grown used to running by the half-mile long string of cars full of people in masks waiting to learn if they have this particular plague. I feel like I’m staying safe by running on the other side of the street from them, about thirty feet away. I hope I am. Anyway, I was tired of gawking at this, so I vowed to pay attention to something different this time. I ignored the waiting texts on my phone and hit play on my book about a Londoner wizard cop who is investigating a serial murderer at jazz clubs. It’s perfect for right now — just escapist enough to help me forget where I am but not so stupid I get annoyed and remember I’m escaping — but somehow I was having trouble paying attention because I was noticing how the garbage on the side of the road was different than what I was used to. I’d never consciously thought about the garbage before, but I guess I had at some level, because it was bothering me how much police tape and how many Quest Diagnostic bags I was seeing.
My phone buzzed. I tried not to look. I passed the National Guard facility and hit the Pulmonary Hospital at the entrance to the park. As I write this, I realize I really don’t have a lot of good options when I go on my jogs. There were some makeshift offices set up in the parking lot that looked frighteningly like the makeshift morgues I’ve been seeing all over the news.
The phone buzzed again. My self control finally folded. I paused my jog, pressed all the requisite buttons, and saw that he was fine, but that the facility had sent maybe the most infuriating email I’d ever seen: my stepmom had asked a long list of very good questions about why he was not being tested, and the facility simply answered that they were doing what the city of Boston told them to do, and that they would let us know if there was any change in my dad’s health. My stepmom asked if it was time to start contacting elected officials. I told her that I thought that this was a good idea, and that I had a lead on a place that might be able to get mail order tests.
I pictured my dad in his room. There’s usually a little bit of light coming in through the window, even in the dead of winter, but especially now, in the spring. He has a roommate who changes often, as they pass away, and I don’t even know who’s in there now. My dad has been on his floor for quite awhile. He sits slumped over in his wheelchair. They call it the Alzheimer’s slouch. He can still say “yes” and “stop it,” but his words haven’t had anything to do with what he means for a long time. I saw him a few weeks ago, in one of the last days before they closed the care facilities, not sure if there would be anything left of my father. When I looked him in the eyes, his eyes were still the bright green that mine turn sometimes when I’m in a good mood, and it seemed like there was a little bit of him left in there somewhere.
My dad was a research psychologist who, according to his colleagues, helped transform education for millions of teachers and students and parents around the world. My dad and I were quasi-estranged for many, many years, and I only learned about all the phenomenal work he did at a retirement party Harvard threw for him a few years ago. But the more I learned, the more I wish I had known him better. The more he became a hero of mine.
When I finally hit the park, I was overwhelmed by the way the sun came in through the palm trees and how bright green all the grass and trees were from the recent rain. The air is so clean – I can’t get over how nice it’s been to breathe easily when I’m outside.
On my way back, I saw that not all the garbage was apocalypse garbage. I started to ask myself what I would think of our civilization if I came across this garbage in a hundred years. I like to think that we’ll be remembered for bell hooks and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but after a few hundred years and definitely after a thousand, every civilization in history is remembered mainly for its garbage.
If I came across this as a future archaeologist, I think what I’d think first and foremost is that the people in this place really must’ve had stomachs of steel. Flaming Hot Cheetos. Soda cups from In ‘n Out. Modelo. A Big Gulp. Starbucks. A 5 hour energy drink.
There was also some miscellaneous stuff: some motor oil, a CD somewhat artfully stuck in the ground, and a plastic fork.
It struck me, looking at a discarded parking ticket, that the garbage of our civilization showed us to be rather devoted to the moment, caring little about the long-term. We are obsessed with plastic. We ingest food and drinks that makes us feel good now and feel bad later. We burn oil and use eating implements that you only use once. We park where we shouldn’t because it’s more convenient. We turn our music into plastic that you can’t play if it gets even the tiniest scratch.
When I was back visiting my dad in Boston, I got to talk to one of his colleagues, a man who had a lot more mainstream success than he did. My stepmom was talking to him, concerned about my dad’s legacy. One of my dad’s biggest programs was getting railroaded by Harvard because he was no longer there to defend it. The man told us all that he had rarely met anyone who had ever had a bigger legacy, and then he listed the names, one after another, of the students who my dad had shaped over the years. He listed where they were. He listed the incredible work they were doing. We sat there, listening to him list names for a long time. There were so many names. So many.
I got home and googled my dad. If you go to Google Scholar, he has a trail a mile long. But in regular Google, you get a Wikipedia stub and an article or two that’s hard for untrained people to understand. I started planning to figure out how to build out his Wikipedia. Who could I email? I had that long list of people his colleague had mentioned. Maybe, I thought, it’s time to create a website devoted to his work? But then I stopped myself. Would there even be an Internet in a couple years?
What a weird, weird time to be thinking about my dad.
I don’t know if our civilization, as so many are saying, is on its way out. I do know that my dad, who will soon be entering hospice, will be leaving us soon. But what I’m most sure of, the more I think about it, is we can’t control our legacy. I think we’ll be most remembered, if we’re lucky enough to be remembered, by what we do in our day-to-day lives: the people we mentor, the Flaming Hot Cheetos packages we throw out our car window. And if I do one thing after we live through all this, it’s going to be, I hope, to remember that our legacy is in the way we treat ourselves and the way we treat others, all day, every day.
Made in quarantine in Chinatown, Los Angeles, California, just days before my father passed away.