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A poem for today "... to breathe again..."

COVID-19 ER pencil drawing by Gary Maggio
"COVID-19 ER" Pencil drawing by Gary Maggio

Starting in January, poet, actor, and teacher Gary Maggio began meeting with a group of local poets in the Albany Public Library’s Delaware Avenue branch. At those meetings held every two weeks, Gary was facilitating the Community Writers Workshop, a longstanding NYS Writers Institute program offered at no charge to the community and UAlbany campus, part of our role "to encourage the development of writing skills at all levels of education throughout the state," according to legislation signed into law by Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1984.

While the COVID-19 pandemic changed just about everything, Gary and his workshop poets are still meeting virtually. They're committed for the long haul. They persist in creating poems that'll serve as artifacts for future generations. Two-time Writers Institute guest Salman Rushdie speaks to the essence of poetry:

"A poet’s work … to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep."

Gary's poem "Corona" is one of more than 70 poems, essays, and short fiction that will be published in the upcoming edition of the NYS Writers Institute's Trolley literary journal.


by Gary Maggio

My street, modest as it is,

this night is like Paris, or Hamburg, or Istanbul,

the moonlit streetlights warm, casting

yellow glints on car hoods that one day will be relics

and charming, and casting long shadows too

of old red hydrants across the road

and on the manes of small blond dogs

whose walkers wear black cloaks

and domed hats of black felt.

There are no tall buildings here

in this my city. The cobblestones,

were they still here, would glow

of lamplight and rain. And from the glow too

of Mars in the west sky which in olden days

was referred to as the North Star,

red and warm and lone.

It’s an old night here, reminiscent

of worried carefree cities

where sweet families walked the streets

late at night,

refused to sleep, grateful to be awake,

to be silent and alive.

My street, reminiscent, calm,

the light of Mars timeless, enduring,

and the world really is instead not dying,

the city and all cities waiting

to breathe again and believe in northern starlight.

About Gary Maggio

Poet, actor, and teacher Gary Maggio began writing poems when he was accepted into John Montague’s poetry workshop at the NYS Writers Institute in 1999. In the early 2000s, he created the Capital Region Poets Workshop, which met twice a month for over eight years.

He has also worked as an actor in the Albany area for the last decade, performing at Cap Rep, Curtain Call Theatre, Theatre Voices, Homemade Theater and Albany Civic Theatre. He works part-time as a “standardized patient” at Albany Medical College, acting for and teaching communications to medical students and residents.

You can read more of Gary's poems and see his artwork at


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