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Image by Steinar Engeland

Days of Grace and Silence
A Chronicle of COVID's Long Haul

A Poetry Collection
forthcoming Winter 2024 from Kelsay Books

For the House Finches

I wonder if the house finches know

they own the yard this year— 

the cheery red-headed finches, 

the cardinals, sparrows, mourning doves 

and the large lone pigeon who began visiting 

last week as I fell ill, to peck beneath the feeder.

All of them.

 

They can have the yard this year I think

as I heave myself off the couch,

slip my feet into my empty red boots

pull a shawl around my shoulders

and stumble outside to offer them

some food.

April 1, 2020

Enamel

I held her hand cupped within mine,

her brown fingers curled in permanent rest

as I applied a fresh coat of enamel to her nails.

 

I did not know the frail woman in the casket,

though I wrapped her body in the fine sari 

her family brought, pulled silver bangles 

 

onto her wrists and brushed her hair. And I held 

her cool hands in mine as I painted her nails, 

wondering when her skin had last been touched,

 

in life and without worry. And I thought of the long 

viral months when my skin too was untouchable

and pressed the warmth of my palm into hers.

Winter 2021

Practice

I think I had the whole thing

wrong.

Again, again, again.

I thought it was about me,

 

that I was the end point

of these battles

 

through chemo and vertigo,

that three decades of knowledge

 

were meant to save 

me.

 

Turns out, my dry run

held a different purpose:

 

when first one daughter, 

and then a second,

 

fell sick and sicker,

I should have been ready.

Spring 2023

Praise for Days of Grace & Silence

Ann E. Wallace had to fight for language just as she had to fight for air in her journey with Long Haul COVID, and the poems here are hard won marvels, full of insight and compassion and fiercely nurtured hope. Here, the world becomes poem—the virus is a “mad villanelle”,  each of us a stanza “braided to the other to the other,/with no beginning and no end.” Here, breath is painful and precious, never taken for granted. I could feel my own breath change as I read this necessary collection, this important chronicle of our pandemic era. “..for every/piece of you that has broken,” the poet reminds us, “a new angle/becomes visible.” I’m so grateful for all the new angles Wallace makes visible in these pages, for the narrative she’s woven from and about our ruptured time.

--Gayle Brandeis, author of The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother’s Suicide

In her evocative new collection Days of Grace and Silence, Ann Wallace delves into the profound question of living deliberately in the midst of a pandemic. With poignant insight, she guides us through this time of uncertainty as we coexist yet remain apart. Wallace’s poems serve as a profound documentation of our interior worlds and the lodestar that guide us. These missives are a gentle reminder that poetry is a tool for understanding and empathy, as we craft words as evidence to make sense of our lives. In the dailyness of her poems, Wallace uncovers the extraordinary concealed within the ordinary. This book is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, making meaning and connections through adversity, offering readers a journey through the uncharted territories—the infinity of hope.

--January Gill O’Neil, author of Glitter Road

The dead who wait for interment, while the spring birds sing in the backyard and the poet, stricken, along with the hundreds of thousands, including her daughter, “all gasping for air,” provide the background for this striking collection of poems inspired by the pandemic.  While it is inevitable that many such books will follow, none is likely to match Ann Wallace’s Days of Grace and Silence for its realism and hope—those unlikely partners‚ its sense of invisible forces at work, where “terror/ has grown familiar,” for the patience required to survive the “slow motion weeks,” and the pain of “reemergence.”  That lyricism moves at such an existential level is remarkable for any poem; for an entire collection, it uncovers the contents of a soul that finds itself—a perfect mirror—lodged in a body under siege.

--David Rigsbee, author of This Much I Can Tell You 

Days of Grace and Silence is an earnest, beautiful, and wholehearted account of the author’s journey with the coronavirus. Ann E. Wallace navigates her Covid experience with poetic finesse, and in the process reveals to readers her grace, fortitude, and stunning perseverance. Her collection is divided into four sections, dated and arranged in chronological order. Wallace weaves her words into a powerful meditation of spirit from the early days of her illness and of the pandemic and through the later days with effortless eloquence and arresting authenticity. “Could you ever understand, if you were not / here in this quiet place of fear with me?” Wallace’s renderings of her plight with Covid and of the rigors of the pandemic are steeped with not only hard truths, but of compassion and luminous respites, “Alone in our city, I thought of Thoreau, / of his small pond and his long saunters, / of his dear Emerson who would come sit for a spell in the cabin in the woods, / and leave his friend replenished.” Days of Grace and Silence takes us full circle, like the seasons, and give us pause to reflect upon the fragility of our lives, “. . . to breathe deep and free, / wondering if it were but a nightmare, / as we emerge from our familial dens, into the bleary dawn of golden autumn, / forage the neighborhood / for bits of food, and learn the art / of bare bones living and gratitude / that might carry us through the winter of our reemergence.” Days of Grace and Silence by Ann E. Wallace is a tender, dynamic, and enlightening poetry collection for our times.

--Jeannie Roberts, author of As If Labyrinth – Pandemic Inspired Poems 

About Days of Grace & Silence

Days of Grace and Silence is a collection of poems chronicling, in real time, my severe acute COVID-19 infection in spring 2020 and three years of living through Long Covid alongside my (also sick) teenage daughters, with illness, pain, and healing laid against a national and global backdrop of pandemic deaths, mental health crisis, and social unrest. The collection documents, through poetry, the day in, day out experience of COVID and its aftermath, with pieces dated and arranged much like a diary. 

Readers are brought into the quiet terror and solitude of acute illness, the relief brought by a home oxygen tank five weeks post-infection, an intimate perspective on my partner's traumatic work as a funeral director, the world opening up while I remained sick, the escalation of symptoms months later, through the death of my partner’s mother, and on, for three years. Despite the difficult nature of the topic, the collection is marked by hope, joy, and resilience. Indeed, the final sequence of poems, written in years two and three of the pandemic at the same time my younger daughter became incapacitated by Long COVID, provides a respite from the loss and sickness and looks through a reflective, communal and familial lens on the upheaval of these past few years. 

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