A Calico Cat named Mississippi peaks out of a courtyardbush

Quarantine Poems


A Calico Cat named Mississippi peaks out of a courtyardbush

Poetry by Cate Root





I cry for the quarters my friend lathered with soap and water.

Imagine them set on a napkin. Imagine them drying in the sun. Imagine stacks of fresh laundry. Imagine that we could be clean. Imagine safe.

I can’t come up with another image here. I am using the quarters to block out the panic and dread and fear and frustration and noise of death. I feel a grief that might drown me from inside. I cry for everything, but for now, we’ll just claim the quarters.


Ghazal for Quarantine


Some like to sunbathe. I bask in quiet, relishing all alone.
Watch the cat sleep. Daydream. Spin my own thrall, alone.


I have to invent new habits. Now a poet who works in form.
It’s not a religious experience. It’s verbal sudoku. I scrawl, alone.


My former self’s favorite way to spend a Friday night? TV and texting.
Now all my days are like Friday night. Trust me, I’m having a ball, alone.


These days I think everyone is cheating. Who can be faithful in these
Circumstances? Six feet apart, watch your step around the pitfall, alone.


The poet regrets missed opportunities. So many rhymes that could have been.
Where is the downfall? Drawl, brawl, hardball, alcohol, nightfall, aerosol, Lysol, alone.




Gecko comes in through the window, in the jaws of my beloved.

This again. On my bed. It scurries under a pillow. She finds it. It gets free. It’s between her legs and she can’t see it. Small, fast, dark. I hold her down.

It gets off the bed. I don’t know where. I let her go. She finds it. Under a boot.

This time I’m rougher. I pick her up and toss her on the bathroom floor. Close it fast.

Now, the little one. I try to pick it up on a check — yes, a check I have remote deposited but think of keeping, novel as it is to receive paper payment for my work — but the creature is afraid. It scurries under the other boot. I have an idea. Slide the check under the boot. Yes. No. It slips away. It’s only four feet from the door.

The gecko is by the wall. I slide the check under it. Then I move the check with my foot. The gecko stays on. I slide it closer to the door. I pick it up. The gecko stays. I carry the gecko to the landing of the steps. The gecko stays. I try to place him on a fern. The gecko stays.

Finally, the large banana leaf. I lay the gecko in its spine. I watch its breath. I lock the cat inside.

Hours later, the gecko gone, I let the cat out again. I am grateful that she goes to the flower pot, her napping spot, where I deliberately did not place the gecko. But I don’t know what will happen out there.


Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Cate studied Journalism and Mass Communication at New York University. Cate has called New Orleans home since 2006 and earned her M.F.A. in nonfiction writing from the University of New Orleans’ Creative Writing Workshop. She is a producer of Dogfish, a popular reading series, and has been recently published in Current Affairs, Catapult, and Infection House. Find out more at www.cateroot.online