A review of Days of Grace and Silence by Ann E. Wallace

Reviewed by Sarah Stern

Days of Grace and Silence, A Chronicle of COVID’s Long Haul
By Ann E. Wallace
Kelsay Books
ISBN: 9781639805143, March 2024, paperback, $23, 119 pages

Days of Grace And Silence, Ann E. Wallace’s profoundly moving and necessary poetry collection on living through Long Covid, makes us remember the things we may want to forget. And how important it is not to forget, as she writes, I fight to remember the story/ of me. Even though each of our stories are different, Wallace’s poems shed light on our own. Her collection bears witness to this terrible, terrible time, and yet, in these poems she asks us to find the beauty too.

In the last poem of the book, “The Infinity of Hope,” she leaves the reader with this, “So tell me, what small ripples/ will you release into the world/ today on faith that you may not see/ what stuck things they loosen?

“For the House Finches,” one of my favorite poems, makes me remember how during the first months of Covid the natural world was acknowledged and praised  in a global way (that at least  I had not witnessed before). We realized we are not at the center of things after all. It’s about time.

Wallace writes so succinctly and humbly of that moment:

I wonder if the house finches know
they own the yard this year—
the cheery red-headed finches,
the cardinals, sparrows, mourning doves
and the large lone pigeon who began visiting
last week and I fell ill, to peck beneath the feeder.

All of them.

They can have the yard this year I think
as I heave myself off the couch,
slip my feet into my empty red boots
pull a shawl around my shoulders
and stumble outside to offer them
some food.

Wallace doesn’t shy away from those horrific first months of the pandemic. As in “Math Problems,” But the morgues are full,/ and the refrigerated trucks,/ and the cemeteries,/ and funeral directors drive/ vans that never sit idle or cool/ as they remove body after body/ after body.

In the heartbreaking, “Names I Don’t Remember,” the poet brings back the horrifying isolation of the sick. And I don’t/ remember the name/ of the man whose cheeks/ were stained purple/ with pooled blood/ from lying prone,/ a ventilator/ strapped to his face,/ as he lay dying/ and dying and dying.

The poems throughout the collection have dates on them, and work as a remembrance too—that Wallace and her daughters pulled through over these months and years. The act of reading this collection reminds us that we did too, but it could have been different. Wallace is acutely aware of that. And that fragility is braided into these poems. They also remind us that life continued as life does, even in the midst of the Covid rage. Things kept happening and we had to adjust. Like in “Rooting,” It has been four months/and you are still/ learning new ways/ to miss your mother.

As for life continuing, even in the staggering loss, we come to “August Sun.” As spring rains pool and flood/ my backyard patio I remember late/ summer years ago. My water broke right/ there, my body tightening under the August/ sun with the pain of new life coming.

Read Days of Grace And Silence  to remember and to hold on to what we still have now.

About the reviewer: Sarah Stern is the author of We Have Been Lucky in the Midst of Misfortune, But Today Is Different, and Another Word for Love. Recipient of two Pushcart Prize nominations, Stern is also five-time winner of the Bronx Council on the Arts’ BRIO Award for Poetry. More at www.sarahstern.me.