View the website with no animation.

Read more about this website’s accessibility here

Pandemic Poetry

The legacy of Black, Indigenous, women of color

Introduction by Julie Quiroz

In March 2020, the pandemic reached the US state of Michigan, and our women of color poetry collective, Untold Stories of Liberation & Love, was forced to cancel the local gatherings that had meant so much to all of us.

Searching for a way to create connection in our mass isolation, I decided to create prompts and email members of our collective inviting them to share their poetic responses. Every Sunday for three months, I sent a prompt and shared the poems from the prior week with everyone. I did this in the way I’d always done it,  creating writing prompts drawn from poems or quotes from Black, Indigenous, women of color poets. The practice of calling in our poet ancestors and inspirations, and writing and sharing what they nurtured in us, brought us together and helped us find connection, voice, and purpose in a world of  uncertainty and fear.

That spring, as we wrote, 5,500 people in Michigan died of COVID. Our Black poets, many with family and friends in Detroit and Ypsilanti, felt these numbers the hardest, experiencing loss after loss. In April, white supremacist militants stormed the Michigan state capitol. Among them were the 13 white men later charged in the plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitmer for her role in implementing the COVID public health protections and supports our communities desperately needed.

Today, and always, we invite everyone into the practice of writing in the legacy of our Black, Indigenous, women of color ancestors and culture keepers.

Below are examples of poetry written under lockdown by women who took part in the Untold Stories of Liberation and Love project. Featured alongside the poems are the audio recitations by the poets themselves.

a group of 5 women standing by a lectern, smiling and laughing, Julie Quiroz stands at the microphone in the middle

Untold Stories founders.

Julie Quiroz

Julie is the founder and lead strategist of New Moon Collaborations. She identifies an assimilation baby with roots in Ecuador and Dust Bowl Kansas. She is a returned Michigander, after two decades in California’s Bay Area.


You’re Here


The virus brought my daughter home

lugging overstuffed suitcases

to my front porch


Not touching

I step out

letting her pass

as I clean her things

with poison


Inside she walks

a straight line

to the shower

plastic bag in hand

for clothes she wore

on an almost empty plane


That day we still believed

that time moves forward

a subway car racing

from point A to point B


But time melts

into tide pools

when death hovers

in the air


Once upon a time

I held you

in my lap

watching those towers fall

before my eyes


You were born

at the end of a story

we must now untell


Harvest the weeds

my love

we will make tea

photograph of a woman of colour, Julie Quiroz, wearing a purple shawl against a red background

Julie Quiroz

Leseliey Welch



Church bells ring


Scorched earth, grief grounds

To sprout dreams


Inside elders

In ruby red church hats

Hold white handkerchiefs and weeping women

To centuries-wise bosoms and sway

From side to side

By and by

One hand held high to signify

The possible


Church bells ring


Scorched earth, grief grounds

To sprout dreams


The cardinal flies low

Radiant red messiah

I am with you

By and by


Reach deep and reach high

Tomorrow is yours

To grow


The weeping women sway

From side to side

By and by

They lift their hands too

One by one


It is possible

To bloom

Desiraé Simmons

Desiraé Simmons is a co-director with the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, and a community organizer, activist, and advocate serving in multiple grassroots organizations and coalitions. Desiraé is a founding member of Liberate! Don’t Incarcerate, Rising for Economic Democracy in Ypsi, What’s Left Ypsi, Untold Stories of Liberation & Love, Citizens for Racial Equity in Washtenaw (CREW), and Michigan Alliance for Justice in Climate (MAJIC). Desiraé was a member of the Subcommittee on Housing Affordability and Accessibility through the City of Ypsilanti’s Planning Commission and a part of Defend Affordable Ypsi. Currently she serves as the Vice Chair for the Michigan Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus, and is a Sustainability Commissioner for the City of Ypsilanti. She graduated from Simmons College with a BA in Public Relations and Marketing Communications and an MS in Communications Management. Her previous work was in higher education and community and government relations for an educational nonprofit.


Whispers Travel Best Through Silence


I miss waking up with a

quiet mind.

I try to remember

longer than this era in which

we find

a pandemic, for many

started in December.


This pandemic brought me

heightened senses.

Silence that I never knew,

laying in the middle

of the street,

trapped behind fences.

Losing my voice. Shedding tears.

More than a few.


A sense of touch that instantly

connects me

to the fear, the pain, the

confusion, the anger

We have all felt.

Finally others see

the need for a woven web

that protects us from danger.


A sense of vision that awakens

my imagination.

No longer do I feel bound

to the here and now.

Just like coronavirus spread

across all these nations,

I can see further and deeper

to the seeds we need to sow.


A sense of my body.

A sense of myself.

A sense of time. A sense

of love.

I breathe in fresh(er) air in relief.

I hear wisdom whispered from

the clouds above.

While I sleep soundly, I awake

already on the move.


Poet’s Note: During a time when so many around me were slowing down, I was seeing the need for acceleration. I felt the weight, not just of expectations to keep moving forward, but the need to change the injustices that our ancestors (too many taken too soon) have battled too. In the midst of so much uncertainty, what felt so true was the newness that would become my guiding star.

artowork portraying the figure of a woman standing on a small rowing boat, abstract background

Artwork created by Desiraé’s friend Kana Kubota

Erika Murcia

Erika Murcia is a multiracial Mesoamerican writer, curandera, daughter of El Salvador’s diaspora, apprentice of the Abuela Luna and co-author of the recent publication of an anthology of texts Maternidad Creativa. Her ancestral wisdom and traditions are rooted in Indigenous, multiracial Mesoamerican, and global lineages. She was born in Honduras in a refugee camp and was raised in the mountains of Chalatenango, El Salvador. Erika has two decades of experience as a facilitator supporting womxn, storytellers, healers, community organizers of the global south to reclaim their creative intuitive power through decolonizing embodied ancestral practices. Her offerings are available through online small group workshops, and one-on-one sessions. Currently, Erika is a collaborator at Birth Detroit where she supports envisioning storytelling as a tool for centering abundance and sustainability. She holds a Master’s in social work from the University of Michigan.





has taught me to slowdown

I am sitting in stillness


has brought out to the surface

who I am when feeling pain

has unveiled the wounds of emotional loss

it has ripped out the shelter

we’ve built during a decade


has pushed me in a dramatic way

to listen every core emotion as they come

and deepen my understanding of

what is happening within


has allowed me to let the tears crashed like waves at the ocean shores

while reaching out to my collectives

asking for support

giving and receiving are essentials for survival


has been like a muse

who calls me to recognize

what a miraculous being I am


has become an opportunity to unleash my creative power

at the same time that I hold space for a heartbreak

we are impermanent beings

in this spiral of change

it is a beautiful reminder

that self-love is a radical practice

necessary to love others unconditionally even when they are at their lowest


Poet’s Note: This poem speaks to my experience during quarantine dealing with abuse and the disrespect of my spiritual boundaries. In it, I reflect on my journey of reclaiming my spiritual soul-creative-wild voice and moving away from spiritual scarcity. Writing poetry was a pathway toward transforming my relationship with myself in body, mind & spirit.

abstract image