Small Life and other poem by Karol Nielsen

Small Life

My world is small now. I wake up at daybreak and have two iced coffees with my mom and dad. Sometimes we go for a short walk around the neighborhood, a wooded suburb in Connecticut. I left New York City at the beginning of the pandemic and have only been back once, to drop off my nephew in Brooklyn after his golf camp out here.  I work remotely writing specialty occupation visa application reference letters for software developers, computer systems analysts, electrical and electronics engineers, financial analysts, marketing managers. I take a break and go for a long walk along my childhood running route.  When I finish work, I watch the news and streaming TV series and movies with my parents who are retired. I write daily diary entries on my phone and sometimes I come up with a poem. I used to be inspired by random encounters in the city but now I have to find inspiration in my very small life in quarantine.


Spring came as the virus spread and most days I left quarantine at my parents’ house in Connecticut to walk through the neighborhood, delighted by blooming magnolias, apples, forsythia, cherries, dogwoods, azaleas, daffodils, bluebells. I watched buds on maples, elms, oaks turn into lush leaves. I counted the walkers, runners, and bikers, about a handful to two dozen, saying hello as I passed by, and I wondered how long it would be before I got back to New York, to the life I had before the pandemic.

By Karol Nielsen

Karol Nielsen is the author of the memoirs Black Elephants (Bison Books, 2011) and Walking A&P (Mascot Books, 2018) and the chapbooks This Woman I Thought I’d Be (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and Vietnam Made Me Who I Am (Finishing Line Press, 2020). Her first memoir was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing in nonfiction in 2012. Her full poetry collection was a finalist for the Colorado Prize for Poetry in 2007. Her work has appeared in Epiphany, Guernica, Lumina, North Dakota Quarterly, Permafrost, RiverSedge, and elsewhere. She has taught writing at New York University and New York Writers Workshop.

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