Origin Stories – Annamaria Formichella

Origin Stories for May
    by Annamaria Formichella

    The word “quarantine” comes
    from Italian, quaranta giorni—
    forty days or the length of time
    a ship was held in isolation when
    suspected of carrying the plague.

    First spoken in fourteenth-century
    Venice and revisited six hundred
    plus years later. In 2020 quarantine
    and lent are coterminous, contemp-
    oraneous, collapsing and conflated.

    Sacrifice piles upon sacrifice until
    across the country the bishops break
    with tradition. Go ahead and eat
    meat on Fridays, they proclaim.
    You’ve given up enough already.

Origin Stories – Numerology

On Ash Wednesday in 2020, I decided that—rather than making my usual Lenten sacrifice of giving up sweets—I would write a poem every day for forty days. About three weeks later, in mid-March, the lockdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the world changed irrevocably. I kept writing poetry, partly as a form of escape and partly to make sense of my emotions. Sometime in the midst of that surreal experience, I researched the origin of the word “quarantine” and discovered that it derives from an Italian term signifying “forty days.” The correspondence between lent and quarantine crystalized for me the themes I had been exploring in my poems–sacrifice, death, and rebirth. “Numerology” is my attempt to record a connection that seemed to represent both loss and hope.


A native New Englander, Annamaria Formichella currently teaches in the English department at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. Her creative work has been published in the Knight Literary JournalToe Good PoetryWilderness House Literary Review, Gyroscope Review, and Litbreak Magazine. She loves the texture of words and the shiver of recognition that happens when you encounter language that moves you.

Gyroscope Review Spring 2023 Issue Now Available

Previous Origin Stories

April 1 – Wanda Praisner

April 2 – Howard Lieberman

April 3 – L. Shapley Bassen

April 4 – Sharon Scholl

April 5 – Stellasue Lee

April 6 – Jeanne DeLarm

April 7 – Virginia Smith

April 8 – Patricia Ware

April 9 – Mary Makofske

April 10 – Ann Wallace

April 11 – Jessica Purdy

April 12 – Lakshman Bulusu

April 13 – Kim Malinowski

April 14 – Anita Pulier

April 15 – Martha Bordwell

April 16 – Anastasia Walker

April 17 – Annette Sisson

April 18 – Shaheen Dil

April 19 – Claudia Reder

April 20 – Cathy Thwing

April 21 – Sarah Snyder

April 22 – Susan Barry-Schultz

April 23 – Laurie Kuntz

April 24 – Maryann Hurtt

April 25 – Yvonne Zipter

April 26 – Jess Parker

April 27thKelly Sargent

April 28thRobbi Nester

April 29thLaurie Rosen

April 30thJames Penha

May 1stOisin Breen

May 2ndJennifer Shomburg Kanke

May 3rdKaren Paul Holmes

May 4thJudy Kronenfeld

May 5thJulie Weiss

May 6thNancy Botkin

May 7thJonathan Yungkans

May 8thGloria Parker

May 9thAlfred Fournier

May 10thGloria Heffernan

May 11th Carol Deering

May 12thAlison Stone

Previous NPM celebrations from Gyroscope Review

Let the Poet Speak! 2022

Promopalooza 2021

Poet of the Day 2020

Poets Read 2019

National Poetry Month Interview Series 2018

Book Links Party 2017

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About National Poetry Month

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