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Covid Stories

In mid November, I left for Athens, Greece, to study abroad in the neighborhood of Pangrati until May. due to Covid-19, I was sent home in late March. I decided to depict my relationship and goodbye to the city through this series of poems.  

 

Maybe I Will Realize I Am Unknowable in This City 

 

This city was more than I had inside of me. 

At first, I thought it was just a giant womb turned

inside out, the product of plasma,

but it was so much more. 

 

It was only a few short weeks before

I told myself I knew the hills, 

those slipping pink sunsets 

or the sweet carrots from the morning 

market that we would eat,

whole, in the calm clamoring 

of Friday mornings. 

 

Maybe I even told myself

I knew the man who slept

in the doorways and steps

of our street. Sometimes at night

as I stood on the balcony

I could see the orange and white cats

circling around him in the dark, 

and only then knew it was impossible.

 

Baudelaire said the city swarms

With innocent monsters. Sometimes

I would look down at my hand 

on the leather seat 

as the taxi sped through the boundless city,

and I swore it looked so foreign

I sometimes thought it was not 

my own. 

 

What the City Said It Was

 

Sometimes, the city was just the man

who sold blood oranges on the corner, 

his Έχεις όμορφα μάτια! exists like quicksilver,

but then flickers and is gone. 

In the early mornings, it was an old priest

waving through the net of vines 

on the yellow church windows. 

Here, it smells like salt and potatoes,

sweet pipe smoke and cats. 

 

It takes me awhile to love Syntagma Square 

and its quick ignition like the start of a star

in the same way I loved the pink sea

dissolving into sequins at sunset, 

or the quiet turns of the big garden,

but in the end everything gives me

some strange ache. 

 

At night, green birds chanted in the holes

of the sour orange trees.

I would grab the hand of whoever was beside me-

it never seemed to matter there- and say

I’m staying forever with my eyes

refracting the purple hills

as they melted into gold. 

 

February 8, 2020

 

The first call came through on the balcony

outside our apartment. Here it was a day of blues,

the dark mountains lying quietly 

under the indigo sky that I knew would melt 

into navy and stay that way until

sunrise. In China, the 63rd person died

since morning. I’m glad you are happy there, Mom said 

through the phone, while my fingers flicked on my thigh,

I am I am I am! There was something new in her

beautiful phone voice. 

 

We wanted to sunbathe but 

were told it was too American

so we sat in our clothes, 

revelling in the tick tick of dripping

sweat. Are you being safe I asked,

Are people beginning to worry?

Church bells began somewhere in the city below,

then stopped and echoed into the loud 

silence of the streets, the bells 

last murmur chanting with her,

I am I am I am. 

 

A Week Before 

 

The heat wave began before I left for Venice, 

but it was there too. I felt it

curled up in the alleyways, 

hanging low in the canals. I saw a cruise ship 

pull up to the docks from the top of Saint Marks, 

harsh and white and huge in the flush of dusk. 

 

When I got back

I was sick with fever, but 

the oily hit of pigeon wings as they slapped

together, the thick stench of urine and marijuana,

the sticky musk of the city cats didn’t help. 

 

A doctor was sent to my room. There was suddenly

a hundred of him in the mirrored walls of the elevator,

two hundred small eyes staring

above the blue mask. I lay on my bed, the springs 

digging into my back as he fingered 

each rib, Your last name sounds German. Are you

German? and my flatline response.

He says you don’t have it but 

washes his hands, anyways, until

they are raw.

 

As the elevator doors shut on a hundred grinning

doctors, I was alone in the dark. 

The shadows from the AC vent split my skin 

into lines. Through it I could hear the couple 

that began fighting at 9 pm each night

starting early, the men on the bottom floor catcalling 

the refugee girls from their balcony, a baby crying 

into an empty room below. 

 

Last Night

 

My fever sputtered, then petered out

on the day the government said 

we wouldn’t go to class again. 

The dark streets called us out, 

pulsing, and we let them take us 

into the salty midnight. I know you 

as a reckless city, a fuck-me city, 

a caring city, a big golden puddle city. 

 

The Polish woman that owned the bar

knew this was the last night for a while. 

The old man who was a famous artist

sat under the awning, watching us 

like we were flames. I guess it was

obvious that we thought we were invincible.

I heard he might close the borders tomorrow morning,

and we’ll be stuck here but we didn’t believe

  1. Then the calls from the US came before 3 am. 

 

The boys down the street were wild

in the denial of leaving, but they 

would be on planes in 2 days. 

As we walked back from the bars, 

the palm trees lining the streets 

caught in their hair. I saw the 

slow shimmer of every sunset they had ever seen

settled in their eyes; a never-leaving sediment.

I wondered if I looked in the mirror

I would see it there, too. 

 

Syntagma Square was empty as we walked home. 

The street dogs were stretched out on the road

sleeping and I went from dog to dog to make sure 

they were breathing. 

 

The stars moved as they always did.

 

The First Time I Cried 

 

The first time I cried was on the hill with the small white church. 

It was covered in cactus. People carved their names

into the thick palms, and I tried but my fingers bled, so

I stopped. I let my legs swing over the hill’s edge 

and watched the low-hung orange moon fall

towards the sea. The white church turned

pink and everyone went quiet, except for 

the rogue voice of a woman on her phone

predicting a lockdown. From here, 

it was obvious how the empty 

purple mountains squeezed 

the city together, and how easily

the city gave in. My fingers throbbed 

as I cried for the first time into the colored 

silence, and I wondered how something

so perfect could make my heart bend

and almost break. 

 

What the City Is 

 

I walked out to greet the 3 am taxi,

oranges catching under the wheels

of my luggage. The drivers voice 

was muffled behind a mask-

I’ve been going back and forth from the airport 

all night, you Americans really are trying 

to get out. As car began to move 

through the black, the panic

stirred low inside me. I tried to catch

one last look at our top floor balcony,

but it was too high. I swore I saw the homeless man 

shining against the marble stairs in the moonlight.

I felt ashamed I never 

looked him in the eyes. 

 

I cried as I watched the empty city flicker by-

the pockets of pine and cypress,

the orange trees below the white city blocks,

some windows thrown open in the early morning. I wanted to

catch the curtains and hold on. I wanted to drive until the sky turned pink. 

We passed the stadium and I cried because it was empty,

I cried because I couldn’t see the mountains in the dark, I

cried because I wanted to say thank you, thank you, 

thank you. 

 

The highway was deserted except for

a single blue car. The driver still managed to

give us the finger while weaving wildly

across lanes- maybe once

I would have been scared but now I clinged

to his recklessness, the last extension of the daring

city. I am not ready to face the whiteness of the airport

after three months in blue,

but my hand sits steady 

on the seat of the taxi.  


About the Author: Lillia Schmidt is a Junior at Trinity College, double majoring in Art History and Urban Studies with a minor in Creative Writing. She currently lives in Wilmington, Delaware.

Copyrighted by Lillie Schmidt. Editorial assistance provided by Ari Basche. This work is part of the “Telling Our Covid Stories” project by the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) at Trinity College.

As the creator of “Poetry in Athens, Greece During Covid,” Iagree that this is my original work, and that I retain the copyright.

Also, I grant permission for this work to be distributed with my full name to the public, including formats such as print and the Internet. Under this agreement, I keep the copyright to my work, but agree to share it under a Creative Commons Attribution—NonCommercial—NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (BY-NC-ND). This allows the public to freely download and share my work, but only if they credit the creator, use it for non-commercial purposes, and do not make any changes. Learn more about Creative Commons licenses at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

 

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Covid Stories

This photo essay is inspired by New York Times’ digital exhibition entitled The Great Empty, which showcases some of the world’s most crowded spaces looking hauntingly abandoned. This photo essay provides a glimpse of what Trinity’s campus looks like in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak and in an age of global isolation. I wanted to capture images of a once-bustling dining hall, academic buildings, library, and other spaces around campus that are representatives of student life–these empty spaces stood in stark contrast to the perfect spring weather. As I walked around campus taking pictures for this article, I was saddened to see so many beautiful flowers blooming all over campus, yet there was no one to appreciate them. I sincerely hope the true Spring will arrive for all of us and that soon we can all return to campus safe and healthy.


Students pick-up prepackaged meals at Mather Dining Hall.

Silence proliferates Mather Dining Hall that was once filled with students’ chatter and laughter.

The Mill, a student-run arts venue, remains empty but students’ creative expressions and artistic collaborations continue as their events move online.

The Williams Memorial Library would normally be packed with students preparing for finals.

Quarantine dinner.

An empty classroom at Seabury Hall.

The empty Long Walk.

The Trinity Film Festival held annually at the Cinestudio will be premiered online on May 2nd.

Vernon in the time of Corona: Empty and silent.

Beautiful spring day at Trinity.

The once-packed Admissions parking lot. Beautiful campus, no visitors.


About the author: Matin Yaqubi ’23 is a first-year international student from Afghanistan pursuing a double-major in International Studies and Sociology with a minor in Arabic.

Copyrighted by Matin Yaqubi. Editorial assistance provided by Carlos Espinosa. This work is part of the “Telling Our Covid Stories” project by the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) at Trinity College. 

As the creator of “Trinity in the time of Corona: a photo essay”, I agree that this is my original work, and that I retain the copyright. Also, I grant permission for this work to be distributed with my full name to the public, including formats such as print and the Internet. Under this agreement, I keep the copyright to my work, but agree to share it under a Creative Commons Attribution—NonCommercial—NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (BY-NC-ND). This allows the public to freely download and share my work, but only if they credit the creator, use it for non-commercial purposes, and do not make any changes. Learn more about Creative Commons licenses at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

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Growing During Covid is a story that combines photos and writing on farming in Hartford during the pandemic. As sales outlets for farmers, like restaurants and farmers’ markets, have closed, many farmers are struggling.
At the same time, farming offers solutions to some of the most pressing problems presented by the pandemic. Local farms provide an alternative to depleted and crowded grocery stores and provide much needed nutrition to struggling families. We intend for this story to show the Trinity and Hartford communities that farmers need their support right now and also that they too can turn to growing for mental and physical healing. Even if we can’t be in community with each other, we can commune with the earth at this time and in doing so we feed ourselves, feed our souls, feed each other, and strengthen our community.

Growing During Covid-19

About the Authors: Gabby Nelson is the program coordinator at the Center for Urban and Global Studies and a graduate student in public policy at Trinity. She grows cut flowers at KNOX’s urban farm in Hartford. Adyanna Odom ’23 is a lifelong urban gardener and will intern in Summer 2020 with the Hartford organization Summer of Solutions, a youth-run, non-profit organization that focuses on urban gardening and youth leadership.

Copyrighted by Gabby Nelson and Adyanna Odom. Editorial assistance provided by Gabby Nelson and Erica Crowley. This work is part of the “Telling Our Covid Stories” project by the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) at Trinity College.

As the co-creators of “Growing During Covid”, we agree that this is our original work, and that we retain the copyright. Also, we grant permission for this work to be distributed with our full names to the public, including formats such as print and the Internet. Under this agreement, we keep the copyright to our work, but agree to share it under a Creative Commons Attribution—NonCommercial—NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (BY-NC-ND). This allows the public to freely download and share our work, but only if they credit the creators, use it for non-commercial purposes, and do not make any changes. Learn more about Creative Commons licenses at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

 

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I have been living in my home in New Haven for about a month during the mandatory quarantine, and my family and I have already suffered from the financial burden I believe other low income families are experiencing at this very moment.

I live with my single mother and brother. My mother works at a middle school as a cook, and when the school  shut down because of the quarantine, she was suddenly out of work. It was stressful because although her job had to close down because of the pandemic it didn’t stop the bills being sent to our house, infuriating my mother and causing her anxiety. My mother’s job told her to file for unemployment during this crisis to get some cash flow into the house, but it has already been three weeks and she still hasn’t gotten any aid. We believe there are two potential reasons for this: either everyone else is filing for unemployment and the process is becoming slower by the minute, or she was denied unemployment. Hopefully not the latter. Luckily for us, my mother’s job recognized our problem and are trying their best to give her some type of compensation. They went as far as to send her four $50 gift cards to Stop N Shop. I remember my mother’s face relieved when her boss from the school she works at wrote to her that they are doing their best to give her some type of compensation during this pandemic. However, she also felt resentful because although it helps with buying food for the house it doesn’t help pay the rent and the bills of the house. 

We were so desperate to stretch our money that we even resorted to buying groceries on Amazon using gift cards that I won from my horrible singing at a karaoke event in Trinity College. I was planning to save them for something else in case I wanted to buy something on the website. However, my mother was desperate to save money for food so she had me use the gift cards to buy food online, which was the first for me as I tried to navigate how to order the food. I learned that Amazon has a food item limit in order for people to not buy too much of an item that others want. I made sure to always get the max amount of items I could purchase on Amazon in order to get all the food my family needed. This was mostly canned goods and mashed potato packets since these items were more available, unlike the frozen foods that we also wanted to buy. I did feel annoyed that I had to waste these gift cards on food, but I knew I had no right to complain because it was essential items that we needed if we were being quarantined. We do all we can to save money and wonder when this pandemic will end.

One of my mother’s childhood friends heard that we were struggling, and he has been coming to our home early in the morning to drive us to Wal-Mart since we did not own a car of our own and we can’t trust using Uber or the city bus because we are practicing social distancing. Since I was little, he has always helped out my mother, and she has returned the favor by helping out with washing his clothes and giving him a place to sleep from time to time. Our trips to Walmart these days consist of making a list of the food that we need in the house as well as the essential items that we need to stock during times like this. Because of the pandemic, we make sure to wear face masks and gloves to prevent us from getting sick. Our attire for these trips is usually hoodies that we have been wearing for months because the quarantine made us too lazy to switch our clothes. We usually buy canned soups, mostly chicken soup, during times of financial crisis or state emergency because they are cheaper than other items and easier to cook when we don’t feel like preheating frozen food and making meals from scratch. We don’t take excessive amounts of junk food because we want to stay healthy if we were going to be stuck in the house for a while. That is why we shop for salad, turkey meat and canned fruit in order to have a balanced diet. It was difficult and frustrating at times to get the supplies we need while trying to manage our budget at the same time when going to Wal-Mart.

The night after our first Wal-Mart trip, though, we were finally able to escape some of the worry caused by this crisis.  My brother and I huddled in my mother’s room with her and turned on Tiger King on Netflix. Since we can’t go outside, the least we can do is spend quality time with one another by watching the story of Joe Exotic and debate whether he or Carole Baskin was the worst. My mother always seemed to bring back leftover snacks like fruit and crackers when she was still working, which we ate while watching our shows together. It’s heartwarming moments like these that help us get through our financial stress and have us realize that there are some things that money can’t take away. Although money tends to come up during this quarantine, we can always destress our worries through the power of streaming services that is in our hand.


About the Author: I am a Trinity Student that lives in New Haven and is experiencing the changes in life in terms of how it affects the way I live and the new struggles my family is suffering during this pandemic. My intended audience is mostly to students at a low income and are trying to help their family get through this pandemic and try to get by with the limited resources they have.

Copyrighted by Anonymous student. Editorial assistance provided by Megan Brown. This work is part of the “Telling Our Covid Stories” project by the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) at Trinity College.

As the creator of “The Pandemic’s Financial Struggles,” I agree that this is my original work, and that I retain the copyright. 

Also, I grant permission for this work to be distributed with a pseudonym to the public, including formats such as print and the Internet. Under this agreement, I keep the copyright to my work, but agree to share it under a Creative Commons Attribution—NonCommercial—NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (BY-NC-ND). This allows the public to freely download and share my work, but only if they credit the creator, use it for non-commercial purposes, and do not make any changes. Learn more about Creative Commons licenses at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

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Covid Stories


About the Author: Allison Rau is a freshman at Trinity who enjoys bringing a smile to others, even on the hardest of days!

Copyrighted by Allison Rau. Editorial assistance provided by Megan Faver Hartline. This work is part of the “Telling Our Covid Stories” project by the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research (CHER) at Trinity College.

As the creator of “Millie the Succulent Takes on Quarantine,” I agree that this is my original work, and that I retain the copyright. 

Also, I grant permission for this work to be distributed with my full name to the public, including formats such as print and the Internet. Under this agreement, I keep the copyright to my work, but agree to share it under a Creative Commons Attribution—NonCommercial—NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (BY-NC-ND). This allows the public to freely download and share my work, but only if they credit the creator, use it for non-commercial purposes, and do not make any changes. Learn more about Creative Commons licenses at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

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