RENFREW, ONT. -- Seventeen-year-old Alexa Narezny was like many other high school graduates this past summer: upset those final high school memories were ruined; angry their celebration of hard work was altered; and frustrated she couldn’t get those moments back.

Then, one night, her emotions poured out onto paper in the form of a spoken word poem now called “Dear Virus”. The full poem can be found at the end of this article.

“I needed something to deal with what was going on,” says Narezny, who returned for her fifth year at Renfrew Collegiate Institute, “something to distract me and motivate me, and work on.”

The poem begins the way one would imagine a poem about the pandemic would, lamenting the time wasted.

“I feel like a lot of people wait for their senior years because there’s so much going on,” says Narezny, who herself missed her fair share over the past seven months.

“I was supposed to go on a mission trip to Kenya that got cancelled two days before it was suppose to leave. I was supposed to be doing a musical in Carleton Place. I was supposed to be having my final classes, and final spirit days and dances with all my classmates,” she said.

“There’s a lot of loss across the globe,” says Adam Noack, a teacher at Renfrew Collegiate Institute, who taught Narezny’s for four high school courses, “but thinking of it from teens’ perspectives—missing out on that final semester of high school—that’s tough.”

Rather than crafting a poem of sorrow and regret, Narezny chose to use the piece as an opportunity to find the positives in the pandemic, appreciating the everyday moments taken for granted that have since been lost.

“I wanted to put something more positive out into the universe, and hopefully put some smiles on some faces and make the world a little bit better,” says Narezny.

The 17-year-old debuted the spoken word poem at her school’s virtual open mic night, and soon after created a video for the piece.

The video starred her friend and fellow high school graduate. Narezny says even shooting the video brought up those feelings of regret again. 

“I gave her the cap and grown to put on for those shots. The tears were real; the emotions were real because we never got to see each other in caps and gowns.”

“Graduation for me is one of the best days of the year, and for that class to get robbed of that, it hurts,” says Noack.

Read Narezny's full poem “Dear Virus”:

Dear Virus,

I think we got off on a bad foot

You see, you took a lot away from me this year
Instead of hope you've filled me with fear
Future made so unclear
Friends no longer near
I shed a tear

I was supposed to travel
A whole world out there to unravel
But then a judge hits his gavel
Pushing me down against the gravel

I got sentenced to what feels like a lifetime to my bed
Negative thoughts filled my head
A million books read
People baking bread
Binging internet shows, tv overhead
No ending ahead
Tens of thousands of people are dead.

I was supposed to Graduate
Maybe make a mistake along the way
But celebrate
4 years I had to wait
Concentrate and educate
Just for you virus to suffocate

Suffocate Any chance I had to walk across that stage
Be in the newspaper, front page
It's all been locked in a cage

We just need a key,
The key doesn't exist yet
A vaccine has not been met
Doctors and researchers stress and sweat
Working hours way past sunset

It would be so easy to hate you
And maybe at first that was true
When life felt so askew
But now, with time no longer a statue
I've had time to think

I may never get back what you've taken away
Or celebrate the things that have been on delay
But what i've learned from these endless and repetitive days
It's to appreciate the simple things life has given you
and hope that forever they'll stay.

A midday walk to the park
With friends, smells of a campfire as night grows dark,
Big crowds at concerts, fireworks filling the sky with sparks
Petting a strangers dog as it barks.

All these simple moments of happiness
I want nothing less
Than just going out into the world again
Without the added stress

Wearing a mask
Such a simple task
That changed everything.

No matter what the future may hold
If there's one thing you can be told
Some sort of advice that can be sold from this mess
It's this..

Live in the moment
Make all the time you get here well spent
Life is not a long event
Tell your family you love them, make it frequent
Laugh, smile, create, imagine, invent

Join the clubs and the teams
Build big dreams
Eat lots of ice cream
Dance in the sunbeams

Feel the grass between your toes
Try out lots of new clothes
Pull yourself through the lows

Don't spend large amounts of time in a pout
Take the scenic route
Talk to people you want to know more about

Appreciate what you have while it's here
You never know when it will all disappear

Dear virus,

We just want to be free
Sincerely society
Sincerely the class of 2020
Sincerely me

- Alexa Narezny