Our Quarantine Story

after Dorothea Grossman

During the pandemic, after he was laid off, it was his idea
to forage for edible weeds around Queens when our food grew scarce.

From the stoop, I would watch him crouched on one knee,
his bare hands between telephone poles,

pulling up green stars from the control joints
under our mailbox full of clover mites & commercial flyers.

I almost forgot how sprawl could be so quiet.

When he returned inside, he rinsed off the stalks,
placed a rolled lot on his tongue and then on mine.

He mentioned how “sticky” foods could be a delicacy
in other cultures, as I turned my back and coughed them out.

And later in the evening, he read to me about how
indigenous women prevented pregnancy by drinking

cleaver tea, as he handed me a tall cup of it swirling with honey.


Copyright © 2022 by Michelle Whittaker. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 31, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I was reading Aimee Nezukumatathil’s collection Oceanic, which references an enchanting love poem by Dorothea Grossman. Her distinct form encouraged me to record a place and time during the pandemic lockdown when my partner and I were concerned about our resources or lack thereof. At the surface level, the poem is an anecdote inspired by the observations of a beloved forager looking for edible plant life around New York City. However, my underlying concern is whether or not such a landscape can truly provide a perpetual sanctuary of natural resources. And, if not, how might this affect us and future generations?”
Michelle Whittaker