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Trolley Poetry Friday: "A Pandemic Irony"

"But in that space -- in that expanse -- there was something. There was time..."

On our Poetry Friday, as we await our Snowy Saturday, here is a poem by Julene Waffle -- first published in the new edition of Trolley journal -- followed by a short Q&A with the poet.

A Pandemic Irony

Julene Waffle

Sea turtles spend most of their lives alone swimming oceans, searching for food. They live 50 years in solitary submersion. Alone, by choice, they see the world through waves. What was not natural was being 96, swimming in loneliness, waving to grown children through nursing home windows, living in fear. Children staring at computer screens learning to navigate the ocean of their futures without sails, without rudders, without hands on oars. Governors closing businesses, farmers dumping tanks of milk in gutters, people losing jobs, being labeled non-essential. five million lives lost. But the sun still rose and set; the tides still rolled. The earth still wound her way around the sun. Crops still embraced the sky while our lives crawled cautiously to standstill. No soccer games. No drama club. No choir. No travel. No birthday parties. No sleepovers. No eating out. Those seemed small prices to pay. And so loneliness dragged from summer into long and empty winter. But in that space -- in that expanse -- there was something. There was time: Time to focus on children, play board games, play outside. Time to talk to trees and listen for their responses. Time for phone calls, zoom calls, calls to write letters. Time to craft, to bird watch, to ride bikes, to read for pleasure, to take long baths. Time to declutter and find lost things. Time to self-educate, self-evaluate. Time to exercise. Time to think. And now what was normal before looks something like old normal again. Baseball games are scheduled. Brides confirm wedding guests. Children are sitting in classrooms. Fitness centers and diners have reopened, Vaccines settle into our immune systems, invisible shields. And we are happy for the return to something familiar, for feeling safer. But I can't help the undercurrent running under the loss and waste of it all. No matter how much I want to return to familiar shores, a part of me longs for the quiet and time just to be. Also published in American Writers Review: Pandemic Collection. San Fedele Press (2021).


Julene Waffle is a Secondary English Teacher in the Morris Central School District, Otsego County, who occasionally adjuncts at SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College in the education departments. She is also an entrepreneur, a wife, a mother of three busy boys, and a writer.

Julene Waffle

Her work has appeared in La Presa and The English Journal, among other journals, and in the anthologies Civilization in Crisis and Seeing Things, and a chapbook So I Will Remember. She has found solace in writing, nature, and her family during the pandemic.

In October 2019, Julene brought a dozen students to the University at Albany for a NYS Writers Institute event with Sharon Olds. Since then, we've published her poem "Italians Singing from Balconies."

What inspired you to write this poem?

"When the shut down began, I was sad like everyone else, about the loss and the inability to do all the things we used to do. I missed watching my boys play sports and instruments. I missed going to work. I missed family and friends. I missed my students.

While waiting, I found time to do things I hadn't in a long time. I wrote letters, the good old-fashioned envelope and stamp kind. I wrote poetry, exercised, hung out in the woods with my dogs, played with my kids, read, took on-line workshops, and so much more. And to boot, it was a beautiful summer and vivid fall where I lived.

There were just as many things to be thankful for as there were to be sad for, so when what was 'normal' started returning, I found I missed the quiet and the rest and the refocus on my family and myself that the shutdown offered.

The guilt I felt weighed heavy on my heart. That is where my poem came from. I wanted to publish it because I thought it important to admit it especially if others felt the same."

What are you working on now?

"I have been working on several projects. Ekphrastic poems have taken my fancy. Art inspiring art is a fun challenge. I mostly use the art as a diving board into my own themes. I've been using painting, all genres and time periods, photographs, and songs.

My sister-in-law, an artist, and I are working together on an exhibit/collection, allowing our respective art to inspire and speak to each other. It's exciting work.

I still enjoy writing nature poetry. Always.

Finally, I'm working on a book-length manuscript."

Goals for 2022?

"I'd like to finish my book and find a publisher. I'd like to be published in a few of my bucket list literary publications as well. I won't name my list though, so I don't jinx myself. Haha."

You can learn more about Julene at


The new issue of the NYS Writers Institute’s Trolley journal is filled with essays, poems and flash fiction from more than 70 contributors. Check it out at Trolley: Life During COVID, Year Two.


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