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About the Poet

Martin Brown has mentored beginning teachers and was selected a poetry teacher of the year by Poets House. He founded The Moveable Feast, a long-running writers group. His poetry, fiction, essays and film reviews have been published in The New York Times, Partisan Review, Poets&Artists, rivverrun and other periodicals. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Poet's Note: 

‘Um’ gives a speaker a chance to regroup. But what if, no matter what one says, one still feels something is not quite right? The speaker in my piece has been rendered so anxious, due to the coronavirus and the uncertainty surrounding it, that no pause in his speech can help him escape from tidal swells of angst. As I was writing my commentary on how people speak, a coronavirus imperative kept inserting itself into my consciousness; and, so, unable to concentrate on something dispassionate, I chose to delineate, in an idiosyncratic way, the coronavirus' impact on myself and others; I did so with a lot of ums, ers, huhs, uhs, etc., thrown in, and a sense that the unexpected Covid volatility was transforming my tidy thinking into broncos that I could not tame.

Near the Beginning, There Is an ‘Um’

by Martin Brown 

    Words come completely unhinged, um, become completely unglued in deference to

coronations, yikes, in veneration of the omnipresent, supremely powerful coron’virus, which 

beckons, “Come, come, your lungs I’ll fill with burning tar,” er, my words are beacons of many 

snootfuls of distress becoming doors busted open hinges blasted into ginormous smithereens.  I

must confess, I grow more unhinged by the hour, due to actions of that dreadful reagent, ahem

the Regent Coronavirus, my planet’s proxy king.  Hear ye, hear ye, I will not bow, I am free to

meet and mingle, oy, to pluribus polloi in sardine-can cafés.  I’ll eat pâté among coughy

strangers in close quarters, with my tête unbowed, face unshielded.  I’ll rage, rage, against the

dying of my right to freely bar ‘n’ grill assemble in tight-jeans clusters.  I’ll raise my tankard and

toast my own fear-fearlessness in the face of Potentate Virus.  I will not go gentle into that hair

place.  I’ll walk maskless, aye, laddies, but at me side will be me trusty musket, and I’ll keep

gloveless, too, as I stroll into the Valley of Death with the six hundred, all the while croonin’,

“Droplets keep fallin’ on my head…nothin’s worryin’ me,” and I’ll say to Cap’n Death, “Be not

proud, you: this ballyhooed coron’virus of yours, 

it be naught but hooey-hooey spat upon us by your hench, Fak’ry –

it’s a novel coron’virus, and a novel is a work of fiction.”  

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