Published on Academy of American Poets (

Love in a Time of Covid-19

a variant of Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet XVII

I don’t love you as if you were penicillin, 
insulin, or chemotherapy drugs that treat cancer,
I love you as one loves the sickest patient:
terminally, between the diagnosis and the death. 

I love you as one loves new vaccines frozen 
within the lab, poised to stimulate our antibodies,
and thanks to your love, the immunity that protects 
me from disease will respond strongly in my cells.

I love you without knowing how or when this pandemic 
will end. I love you carefully, with double masking. 
I love you like this because we can’t quarantine 

forever in the shelter of social distancing, 
so close that your viral load is mine,
so close that your curve rises with my cough.


Copyright © 2022 by Craig Santos Perez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem is a variant of Pablo Neruda’s famous love sonnet XVII, in which he uses the natural world as a metaphor to describe love. In my poem, this metaphor mutates into things that we would associate with the pandemic, such as medicine, vaccines, and masks, in order to explore how to write about love in a time of Covid-19.”
Craig Santos Perez


Craig Santos Perez

Craig Santos Perez, a native Chamorro from Mongmong, Guam, writes about themes such as Pacific life, immigration, ancestry, colonialism, and diaspora.

Date Published: 2022-05-04

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