Writing the Apocalypse: Phase 4 NYC

The author, during a Phase 2 walk to the river. | Selfie by Puma Perl


“Writing the Apocalypse” is a weekly series featuring the poems, essays, and recollections of Puma Perl, with subject matter influenced by her experiences as a NYC resident during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Phase 4 NYC | By Puma Perl

I don’t know why I’m having trouble answering emails.

And I don’t remember where we left off.

I told you I liked your July 4th poem.

Maybe I sent you a link to my July 4th poem.

Or maybe I

hadn’t written it yet.


I’m having so much trouble answering emails

that I put it on a list of things to do.

The document is titled “New To-Do”

and includes tasks like

“Ride the Subway”

and “Tip the Maintenance Men.”

I’ve checked off 29 of the 101 items.


The list gets longer and longer

because I’m starting to have Appointments.

Phase Four busyness.

Call the Dentist.

Bring the silver boots to the Shoemaker.

Don’t forget the taps.

Answer the damn emails.


In the previous phases,

I entered every activity

in a datebook,

as a reminder

that I’m still alive.

Everything was an Accomplishment.

“Walked Diva to the river.”

“Called Aunt Rhoda.”

“Watched Boardwalk Empire.”


The notes are written

in tiny illegible script,

the calendar boxes

are small, and when I look back,

trying to remember what I did,

I won’t be able to decipher

my own handwriting.


The datebooks were bought

at a 99-cent store in LA.

A guy I know there

sends me three different kinds

every December

and writes his own birthday,

June I, in each one.


Every January

I make a list of Accomplishments.

Things I learned.

Things I did.

How many shows.

The poems published.

Workshops attended.

Like that.


In the depths

of social media addiction

I read about the great lives

of others.

She learned to play bass.

He baked pumpernickel

raisin bread.

They ran 5 miles

each morning.



Last week,

I figured out how

to insert check marks

into my documents,

using the Wing Ding font.

So, I guess that’s something.


And I learned a little bit

about making videos

although I didn’t realize

the last one was in landscape

and included my messy closet.


Out of choice

or necessity

we’ve all become

lighting experts,

set designers,

food hoarders.


Phase Four NYC

looks a lot like

Phase Three,

but with fewer masks

and less money.


I don’t spray

soup cans

with Lysol


and I have a mini


of people whose


I can see.


But still,

I wonder…

if this is Phase Four

will there be

a Phase Five?


Or is that the part

where the world

simply blows up?


© puma perl, 07/29/20

Puma Perl is a poet and writer, with five solo collections in print. The most recent is Birthdays Before and After (Beyond Baroque Books, 2019.) She is the producer/creator of Puma’s Pandemonium, which brings spoken word together with rock and roll, and she performs regularly with her band Puma Perl and Friends. She’s received three New York Press Association awards in recognition of her journalism, and is the recipient of the 2016 Acker Award in the category of writing. Her most recent books can be found by clicking here.

Ready to ride. | Photo by Puma Perl


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