Isolation, Things Strange & Unforeseen.

The Loop: Hungry for it’s former hustle

Red-wing blackbirds in legions rarely seen, except at dusk, are now making their mating announcement in mid-day sun. Their beautiful cacophony can be heard throughout the valley wetland trails of south suburban Denver. The Los Angeles skyline has been the subject of photographs, like those I took from rugged Damon Runyon Park when visiting a year ago. Unlike mine, these now show the lowest level of smog encircling the city since the 1980’s.

Chicago’s Loop has been featured in numerous flyovers from drone cameras: a lonely Michigan Avenue; tourist watercraft docked on the the Chicago river and its tributaries. The river’s surroundings, I imagine from these scenes, are free of the air horns which once cheered arrivals in the channels.

The contrast of a welcome fullness of birdsong and bustle on the trails is pitted against the apperance of suddenly unhurried urban centers seemingly hungry for their former hustle. These are the landscapes we surveyed throughout April. Without judgement of whether we should or shouldn’t be present in these regions now, and unfussed by our perception that these places are either satiated or starved, nature does what it will when humans are largely absent. Wildlife in the inter-regions flourishes when our predatious presence retreats.

I have recently submitted poems on these themes and experiences to an online journal, TEJASCOVIDO, edited by Dr. Laurence Musgrove, a poet who also currently teaches at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas. The journal shares “with readers how COVID-19 is affecting health, mental well-being, income, family, friendships, work, the moral imagination, as well as local, regional, national, and international relationships.”

Here are two of my poems recently published to the journal, adjacent to this post’s theme: Isolation, Things Strange & Unforeseen.

Three Signs of Memory Loss or the Great Sickness

Shizukana utsukushi-sa (Quiet Beauty)


A Prayer On Your Wires March 2020

It is the first day of spring. The gods have delivered inches of snow. A thin line of crocus stalks are teeming at the edge of a flagstone. Life is holding to a stationary orbit but struggling. A minister posted she would pray each morning and asked: How can I pray for you? This is a human prayer.

A Prayer on Your Wires
copyright 2020, Vincent Hostak

From the end of a copper wire
then the air
a minister’s voice signals
“For Whom Should I Pray, Today?
Leave Your Comment. 
I Will Speak Them.”
For those I will not visit
for their safety
not a casual breath will pass.
For the cashier, who’s fingernails
are each a different glossy hue
clutching the currency passed
and bagging the beans and milk.
For the letter carrier, we forgot, still
distributes our gratitude,
our well wishes
quiet from a large world,
to dull colored mail drops.
For the peace officer by the phone,
the cook and expediter
whose holy eyes scan
curls of braising cabbage,
whose hands wrap parchment,
box a gift to nourish.
A teacher reworking
what was already troubled once
to make it small enough
to travel cables,
arrive total and rich
to a still new mind.
The doctor, nurse
upon the sixteenth hour,
i hope not to see you,
but to hear your breath
singing  of sweet sleep
from miles away.
Even from this isolation,
your every movements
stir air around us
in ways we can’t ignore
it whistles with your hope
whirrs with your industry
is scripted with your courage
and encoded with your devotion.
we have chosen to see only shortages
and you have shown us abundance.

Residence in the Common Stream in a Time of Love and Affliction (2 minute read)

Meet Me in the Common Stream

In a time of Affliction, or fear of Affliction, imprinted with the apocalyptic-sounding COVID-19, there is a rising tide of compassion. Look away from the LCD cool fire for a moment and be in residence in the Common Stream.

I know full well that invoking the term “faith” will make many bristle. But faith and science are connected openly in conversation at this moment. The seperation of the two has been exaggerated by the real presence of organizations in our communities fueled by fundamentalist principles that devalue the self-evident, long proven models of our reality. But those are not the streams within most of us wade. Faith and science are both empowered to explore the mysteries, like the presence of conciousness and awakening of biological life. One challenges the other to work harder to abstract a model for our understanding. In an enlightened age we can no longer afford to envision these two as combatants, but rather working together to lift our hearts and our knowledge of the natural world or whatever may be beyond the layers of our understanding.

Which brings me to this, in our time of Love and Affliction: there is tremendous energy radiating to educate, care and simply befriend from across many faith communities right now. People asking the questions: How can we connect and hold the appropriate distance recommended by the CDC or NIH? What do our neighbors and elders need from us? How do we keep the isolation from getting the best of us?

The social spaces are being utilized to organize and educate to scientifically sound behaviors by contemporary faith leaders. They have been recruited by our Govenors to help direct life-saving education. From my vantage point they had already started.

I am seeing a time in the future when we will look back and say: our faiths became what they were always meant to be, our liturgies came from a shared place such that we could see no differences in their structure nor content. We looked at our elders as we did our young and saw ourselves. We called everyone our dearest. We were serving love and humanity…we found our salvation in this life.