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from THE VOICES  
Michael Gottlieb

‘The mourning dove and the ambulance siren wail in and out of one another all day.’

  • K.D.




Mr. Petrocelli walked nearly every morning to 7:30 Mass. He walked everywhere, in fact, holding his rosary beads of green Connemara marble — that is, when he wasn’t nurturing his garden’s fruits and vegetables, which he would often give away. Sometimes he gave away the entire plant.


He began to feel uncharacteristically fatigued in mid-March, declined over the next two weeks, and died at Staten Island Hospital’s south campus. In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Petrocelli is survived by two granddaughters.

A week after his death, his wife was continuing to receive messages from the many people her husband had touched.

I have his strawberry plants, they say. I have his fig trees.



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When you put something on, it’s called donning, and taking it off is called doffing, and there’s a way to do that to not contaminate your body parts…



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For many New Yorkers, it's officially springtime in NYC when magnolia trees in Central Park are in bloom. This year, star magnolias first bloomed in Central Park during the second week of March. Saucer magnolias were in full bloom by early April.



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hellacious proportions 



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household sex partner (HSP), 



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Passerines start coming through in March with the first push of hardy birds like American Robins, Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds –



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Ear Loop Procedural Mask RS-700



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“This is the great unwinding,”



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‘I always say there’s no hierarchy of pain… pain is not a contest’



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We’re all afraid. I have single mothers working for me, mothers whose husbands are about to be deported, men who are their family’s only support, men who worked during the day in restaurants, and now their only check comes from cleaning. I find my women crying. They’re tired from another job, but they have to keep working. It doesn’t matter how, or whether they’re given gloves or not. I have older people in their 60s who are cleaning bathrooms. Everyone is afraid of getting infected. But even more than being infected — it makes me so sad to say it — they’re afraid of being without work. So they put themselves in the hands of God and hope that he will have pity and that they will not get Covid-19. The thing is to get food on the table.



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All trauma is preverbal,”



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I’m the “float” nurse. 


…It moves me to see her wallet, her planner, her toiletries. Only a week ago she was a person with a future, with plans, with cherry-flavored lip balm



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Dr. Rosenberg welcomed a podiatrist and two of her resident trainees, a neurosurgery physician assistant, surgery residents and a nurse anesthetist. “All people who are good with knives and big needles,” Dr. Rosenberg quipped.



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They were down to eating plain noodles until he visited a food bank and got a bag of potatoes and some carrots.


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I had a little bird,

Its name was Enza.

I opened the window,

And in flew Enza.



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There are now so many people dying in private homes that soldiers and members of the National Guard have started to haul the bodies out in rented vans.



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Those currently buried on Hart Island include people who haven't been identified, unclaimed bodies and people whose families could not afford burial costs. 

In the past, the island has been used as a burial ground for victims of the 1919 Spanish Flu pandemic and the thousands of people who died of AIDS in the 1980s. 

The first AIDS victims were buried away from other graves on the island in 1985 over fears they would infect the other bodies.



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Tulip season peaks around late April to early May, adding pops of colors along our walkways as spring turns into summer weather. The tulips were early this year -- we spotted them in bloom at Hunter’s Point South Park in mid-April.


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You know, as a pastor, I live with death. What I struggle with is not that people are going to die. I struggle with the history, in this country, of deaths not counting equally. Of saying it doesn’t really count the same if indigenous people die off. Or poor people. Or black people.


…but if this suffering continues, and people have to see things like they’ve never seen and feel things like they’ve never felt, it may actually push us to the point of recognizing that everybody has a right to live — that if they don’t live, we don’t live.



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Every hospital has ghostly places, rooms where the dead kids gather to sing from empty beds.



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sometimes, I can’t remember if the gloves on my hands are clean or dirty.



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A typical late spring migrant is the Mourning Warbler, found after many of the other species have mostly passed through.  



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...the search has been fruitless. Many freelancers like her are competing for the same jobs. She said she has savings to pay for two months of rent, groceries and other bills. After that, she does not know what she would do, she said: “That would basically be me going through every dollar I have.”

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Last Friday, the department said that between March 16 and May 5, officers had issued at least 374 summonses for violating the emergency measures and for acts likely to spread the virus. Of those, 300 summonses went to black and Hispanic people.


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Worst practices. Worst case scenario. Worst-in-class 



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the very definition of a “stranded asset” 

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Where do you live? “Bayside, Queens.”


Where do you work? “U.P.S., 26 years.”


Are you nervous doing your job now? “I don’t scare easy. I was working on 9/11 when the two planes flew over my head. But this is different. We’re on the front lines now 



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Everybody is scared. You can see it in people’s eyes. The customers are scared of us delivery boys.

When I wake up every day, I tell God, “God, please take care of me.”

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these are ruin problems



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This falls under the General Duty Clause 



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The last day Gary Washington reported to work at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in northern Manhattan was March 29. His body was aching, and a colleague saw him lying down in the cafeteria.

Rosalyn Washington, his wife, thought he was growing too old to keep working as a housekeeping employee there. He cleaned the rooms of virus patients after they were discharged, and his brother thought he should stop going to work, she said.


So many housekeepers called out sick that the hospital began bringing in temporary workers, one of his colleagues said. But Mr. Washington was the family’s primary breadwinner.


“He was not going to quit his job and not take care of his family,” Mrs. Washington said.


“I had 25 years with this man. I’m so empty. Now I’m getting calls about widows’ benefits,” she said, her voice breaking. “He’s trying to take care of me still.”



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“to grasp the nettle”



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We are the worried unwell 



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Last week, using two vans, Mr. Penepent transported 150. This week they expected to take 300.


As the death toll mounted in March, Mr. Penepent began reaching out to trade organizations and funeral directors, offering to transport the dead to crematories in upstate New York and in neighboring states that were not seeing the same deluge of cases.


Of the 50 crematories across the state, only four are in the city, and they are struggling to keep up with demand. Slots are booked weeks in advance.


At 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, the three had loaded about 30 bodies into one of the vans, which Mr. Halmy, the other student-volunteer, would be driving to Pennsylvania, alone.



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Around noon four days later, Nick texted Kam that he had left the funeral home with her father’s body and was on his way to Ferncliff Cemetery’s crematory in Hartsdale, N.Y., less than half an hour north. Kam asked him to text her again when he arrived. 


She looked up an image of Ferncliff to imagine where her father’s body was headed and prayed that the crematory workers would be gentle with the casket and with him. She had already texted a link to her sisters and her mom: a Sikh meditative prayer that her father loved. 


As Nick drove on the Bronx River Parkway with Kam’s father in the back of his hearse, in an apartment in the Bronx, in a house in New Jersey and in three different homes on Long Island, the six women who most loved Paramjit Singh Purewal prayed for him.


After 20 minutes, Kam got a text: “He’s here,” Nick wrote.


Kam texted her entire family. “It is done.”


Then, sitting alone at her kitchen table, she wept.



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Even after her mother died, Minnoli still texted, trying to stay connected. “I miss u,” she wrote before going to bed that night. When she woke the next morning, Minnoli texted, “Thank you for coming to me last night in my dreams.”


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I finally weaned a young woman off oxygen. She has a loving husband, who, on the phone, sounds like a jolly, sturdy kind of man. Today, he mentioned something about seeing his wife later today. Huh?


Turns out that every day, he walks the 10 blocks from his apartment to the hospital. He knows where his wife’s second floor room is located, so he stands beneath her window day-in and day-out. There, positioned in front of red tulips, he talks and jokes with his wife, prays with her and tells her how much he loves her.



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But what I miss most, with an almost lacerating intensity, are New York City bars.


I miss all the bars where you can feel the subway above or below, the sense of the city chugging along.

In this precarious moment, the bars I find myself missing most are those that transport me to the past, to the New York City of 30 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago or more. Bars that endured three or four wars, Prohibition and the Great Depression, and “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Bars that endured the Spanish flu and thus seem to whisper a promise to me that they’ll endure this too

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I’m just as likely to die from a cop as I am from Covid,” he said.



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“I do not think anybody is going to be observing this curfew,” said George Daratany, 34. “It doesn’t compute for New York City to have a closing time.”


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“I had an experience where I asked a group of officers why they weren’t wearing masks,” Ms. Heckard said. “And they told me it was because they couldn’t breathe. And I thought that was the most ironic thing.”


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Today, the mourning dove holds the distinction of being the only native North American bird to breed in every state, including Hawaii. Their U.S. population is estimated at more than 400 million. Despite their numbers, their lives tend to be short and difficult



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He was old enough to remember when there were ‘No Spitting’ signs in the subways



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Load the sled, check the traces, feed Balto,



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I am one of the lucky ones. I never needed a ventilator. I survived. But 27 days later, I still have lingering pneumonia. I use two inhalers, twice a day. I can’t walk more than a few blocks without stopping.


When I was at my sickest, I could barely talk on the phone. I’d like to say that I caught up on some reading, but I didn’t.  


Instead, I closed my eyes and saw myself running along the New York waterfront, healthy and whole, all 8.5 million of my neighbors by my side. I pictured myself doing the things I haven’t gotten to do yet, like getting married, buying a house, becoming a mother, owning a dog.


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My kids. I miss their touch, their smell, their drool, their runny noses. We will miss Easter, my birthday and, in all likelihood, the baby’s first birthday. I am angry at a force I cannot see, but more than anything, I am sad and aching to squeeze them again, feel their soft skin next to mine. When this nightmare is over, I will hold them so long my arms will ache and the kids will fall to my feet and hug my ankles like they used to before we were all felled by the monster in our midst.



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Hvalat


Mahalo


kop Kuhn


Salamat


Arigato


Gracias


Hey you. We really appreciate you


Thank you


Thanks



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Sounds of children yelling. Applause. Car horns. Rattles. Cacophony. 7:00 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time. Pots banging. Trumpets. Crescendo.



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Michael Gottlieb is a New York poet and the author of twenty-one books, including collections of memoir and essays. His latest, Mostly Clearing was published by Roof Books in 2019. His next, Selected Poems, will be brought out by Chax in the Fall of 2021. His poem about 9/11, 'The Dust,' was staged at the Poetry Project at St. Marks on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. A new adaptation of that poem, produced by The Poetry Project and directed by Genée Coreno, will be staged next year, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It will be presented alongside a dramatization of his poem about Covid and NYC, 'The Voices,' which is excerpted in this issue (he also read this poem in October in the Segue Reading Series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq5o7x-YzBQ )