Photo/Illutration The online diary website Kuki no Nikki (Diary of the air), on which 23 poets post their works in rotation (Captured from the website)

A poem written back on April 12 brings back the sense of bewilderment and unease felt around the nation six months ago, when a state of emergency was declared.

Penned by Yuki Nagae, it goes to the effect, "As if going to a forbidden rally, I sneak my way to the supermarket, ashamed to even breathe."

Another poem, written on May 6 by Genei Watanabe, reads: "There is filth on my hands that no amount of washing can remove, continuing to flow out of the tap on this day."

On June 6, Noriko Minesawa wrote: "Yin or Yang, white or black, necessary or unnecessary, urgent or non-urgent/ You really cannot say either, even for one flower."

That was a time of unsettling uncertainty when, whatever you did, you were conscious of other people's eyes.

The above poems are from "Kuki no Nikki" (Diary of the air), an online diary website where 23 poets take turns coming up with works.

"The novel coronavirus crisis has brought tremendous changes to our society," noted Tomoharu Matsuda, 56, the originator of this idea. "I created this site as an experiment for us poets to record our daily sentiments in minute detail."

This poetic relay will continue until next spring. A July 19 entry by Harumi Kawaguchi goes: "Stay home. Go to. Feels like we've all become dogs."

Here's another verse by Genei Watanabe on Aug. 6: "I put on my mask. I breathe. The heat makes me dizzy. Somehow, the world is spinning."

Who among us could have imagined that summer?

Mizuki Misumi wrote on Sept. 9: "Handwashing a cloth mask every morning. If I allow myself too easily to acknowledge this as just a daily routine, I'd cease to be myself."

These works are lyrical and epic poems that capture the abnormality of our lives amid the pandemic.

Akehiro Shirai made this observation: "Unless I take the trouble to record things that are actually too trivial to be not worth writing about, I'll forget them all once this crisis is over."

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 25

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.