Wanda Balzano, associate professor of Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, wrote an occasional poem dedicated to Wake Forest University students who finished the spring semester remotely amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The University is honoring graduates with a Virtual Conferring of Degrees today, May 18 and with an on-campus commencement ceremony on October 31, 2020.
“The Quarantine’s Other Heroes”
To my Wake Forest Students
Every day, face to face with a monitor:
Computer, tablet, phone.
Not everyone is the same,
For how many members are in a family,
How many rooms are in a house,
Helping their parents
Make ends meet, perhaps,
Or helping siblings
On their homework.
Kneading voices into sleep, from the East and the West,
Pens and books on their desks, beds, or laps;
Wearing sweaters over pajamas,
Hair combed, or not,
Make-up on their faces, or not,
Or darkened screens to hide it all,
When lessons begin.
Losing connections at times
Every so often they say
Their ritual “good morning” or “good night”
In Winston, in Seattle, or Korea.
In step with programs, counting days,
To put humanity back in the word
For ‘school’—the flesh of an active noun and verb
That smells of fresh chalk or dry eraser on the board
Mixed with take-out choices,
And free-reining hormones.
Days go by, one by one,
Labeling trips untaken
Parties not attended
Who is going to requite
Such emotions of year’s end
To these young scholars?
The night before the exams,
With the anxiety, and relief,
That feeling of shared
Destinies with peers,
Where is that restitution?
A self-crowned microbe
Is cruel and a tyrant, but will not win.
So many of them
Have learned the ways of champions
In a suspended time.
They have a life to journey through,
And they are learning in short order
Not to be presumptive – that
Nothing ought to be for granted.
Rather, some of them
Carrying Anchises on their backs,
Will wait out of danger and go back and run,
And color again the streets,
The schools, and life
On our earth, by and by.
- May 22, 2020
- May 20, 2020
- May 19, 2020