Alumnae Work

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Poetry inspired by the pandemic and submitted by Mills graduates. If you wish to contribute, email

Shelter in Place

Perhaps today is the day the creatures of the earth take it back
I miss touching you in the late afternoon, but by nightfall I am
grateful for solitude
A day to be empty to watch time without time crawl along the wall
as sunlight
We make shadow puppets by the fire, animating the void,
filling with mimicry
what life once was now bound up in the home, purely, ventures out
among the throngs

My cup runneth over
Spilling out little ways to perform aliveness and rainwater as a
form of contact
It’s a haphazard way of cleaning
I mop up the spillage with my hair while singing an ancient song
Repetition protects what is tender, makes it forget
Like a brace against the dissipating reality

Your stability lends itself to certain righteous indignation over
people walking outside
Masks on or off, it makes no difference
The “true self” has always been a lie
A self could form around aspiration
The body extends into a sphere of mist
Or maybe it’s smoke from a wildfire

Stay away to come near
Find messages in the heat of the pavement
Think back to licking to make clean, to soften

In a way we’ve been preparing for this
Our whole lives, a niggling feeling in the back
Of the mind, or your throat
Reminding you you don’t know what’s coming
Your anxiety a search for meaning in the unknown

But here is a picnic blanket laid out in the sun
The abrupt transition from spring to summer temperatures
Drawing us out of our hunkering
Shouting “I LOVE YOU” from the sidewalk to your open window
–Kate Robinson Beckwith, MFA ’13; Madison Davis, MFA ’13;
Ivy Johnson, MFA ’13; Leslie Martin, MA ’13
At Mills We Walk, Unless We March

We walked,
Through the Civil War
As Young Ladies,
We walked
Through the centuries’ page turning
19th to 20th
Then 20th to 21st,
We walked through
The flu pandemic
Of 1918–1920
We walked
Through the first world war
And the second, too
We walked and marched through
Each ’60s assassination,
Through civil unrest
The strike of 1990
And all the rest.

For one hundred and thirty one years,
Mills Women have walked
Across the meadow
For our degrees.
And now,
We walk . . . in place.

The world
Still turns
But we—
Stand still . . .
Freeze frame,
Holding our
Collective breath
We can
Again . . .
And walk,
We will.
–D. Lynise (Debra Conick ’85)
Like some apocalyptic fashion show the lines wrap around the
block are you ready for your close up

Our bodies like haunted sacs ventilating on their own while
a woman dies in New York and another woman lies quiet
behind a pulled curtain, the stark bird call of machinery
works alone, steadily, without interference, without touch and
we too work steadily without touch

The strain of a smile behind a mask is too much and we resort
to waving or a nod, no less human but no less machine, our
bodies funneling nutrients and expanding the lungs, heedless
to the space they now occupy, a wide girth between us now,

Six enforceable feet

We have laid the evidence at the feet of our minds, and they
have succumbed, suppressing desire, arresting the impulse to
reach out for that stranger’s drooping basket, to retrieve the
oranges that have rolled away, over the curb

To reach out for our brother and nestle between his fleshy
arms, to touch the hands of the sick and the dying, to grip the
fingers and slide yours inside, one hand, one living, one world,
one dying, and we are somewhere in between.
–Ashley Stewart ’09