The Litter of Our Time The thing about running is There are always things You need to dodge On the sidewalk. Like sometimes it's dead squirrels That have been hit in the road, And I worry when I pass by them I'll step where their blood's dried And carry disease with me to my next destinations. Well, the thing is now When I'm running--the things I find myself dodging most are Various types of PPE-- Masks and gloves discarded on the roadway. I'm not sure how they're left behind.
Home for Christmas? You take it for granted, You shouldn't have taken it for granted That you can always go see your mother And have her hug you And give you a kiss on the lips Like she likes to do. You take it for granted, You shouldn't have taken it for granted That the Fall ushers in time with family. Your annual trip to Gatlinburg, Then Thanksgiving and Christmas. Two eight hour rides to Cincinnati To stay with the aunts And then two eight hour rides back. What'll it be like to put up Those Christmas decorations You've been keeping in a box for years Because you're never in Atlanta for Christmas? Good thing you have two trees Since you're used to so many Filling up the aunts' house. The best one is the tiny one in the guest bedroom Whose twinkled colored lights you fall asleep to. Are you surprised? For years, dread has crept into Your holiday season Because you knew life would someday change That you wouldn't always be a kid. That time is flowing not fixed. Not frozen. You haven't lost much. You might lose more. You're afraid of the risk. Afraid you might compound the problem. This year's season of joy Is a time for sacrifice! And safety! Right?! Right?!
For the first six months of the pandemic, I tried not to think much about what would happen around the holidays. but I’ve started to think about it more over the last couple of weeks, and it’s making me sad.
Before Normal I shattered my cell phone screen When I accidentally dropped it square On the ground, solid pavement, at the Farmers Market. Luckily I found a good place to repair it in downtown Decatur. They required masks and had two hand sanitizer stations. The whole process was done in about an hour and a half. In the "before" times, I hate calling them that, I would have gone to a coffee shop or restaurant nearby, But instead I walked to the Decatur cemetery Where I sat on a wall scribbling in a journal. (Remember my cell phone was being repaired.) I was comfortable enough Until a teenager who talked loudly Started coughing in my audible vicinity, And I got scared and left. But then I had to walk around in the hot sun Passing by and walking behind strangers Some masked and others unmasked. There were diners gathered on the patio at Leon’s. There were people standing in line for ice cream. And queued up at the indoor poke bowl place. But I couldn’t or wouldn’t do any of that. So I just walked and waited Until my cell phone was repaired And "normal" life could resume.
The Covid Weight I thought I’d outgrown my size 8 jeans, But it turns out they were size 10. And they still fit over my hips, But I have to breathe in sharply to Bring up the zipper.
The last things I did before the world changed We went to eat Hot Pot on Buford Highway And ran into an acquaintance who said Business was down on that strip Because of the outbreak in China. Then there were the marathon trials I watched with a friend on February 29th in Atlanta. There was an outbreak in Italy then. In the US, it was spreading, But we didn’t know the extent Because of our problems with the tests, And because our president was lying to us, Telling us it would disappear. “Covid-19” my friend said while we stood on the Sidelines of the race, And I remember the way a tremble Rolled down my spine. I should be worried I thought, But we were still nearly two weeks away From that day in March when everything was canceled. We were still being told it wasn’t a problem That travel bans would keep us safe 180,000 deaths later and here we are.
*I drafted this poem on August 29, and I believe my 180,000 statistic is accurate for around that date. Currently, it’s September 16th, and the death count is closer to 195,000.
Livestream Wedding Until today, the closest wedding I'd ever attended was a ten minute Uber drive from my house. (This was before I switched to Lyft.) Today I was set to attend a Wedding in my house--a livestream affair. I dressed four minutes beforehand In a simple gray cotton skirt and a pink shirt Because it didn't feel right to Wear my Corona daytime PJs, Even if I was just watching it over YouTube And not video conferencing on Zoom. We arrived on time to technical difficulties. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. A flurry of comments, "What's going on?" "We're working on it." But the wedding never came through. Instead we watched the YouTube videos with the Most ever views--Despicito, Baby Shark Dance, and Recipe for Disaster, a Russian cartoon With a checkers loving bear and A rambunctious blonde girl who makes too much oatmeal. I worried that maybe the wedding had been called off, But then I saw the bride had changed Her relationship status on Facebook. Phew. The groom later sent us the link to the recording. Everyone looked lovely in their formal wear and masks. The maid of honor's pale blue mask matched her Spaghetti strapped floor length dress. The groom's black mask lent a distinctive air to his suit and tie. The bride's mask was beaded, her dress lace. At the end, they exited the spot where they'd exchanged their vows And were cheered by masked strangers passing by, Unintended guests more present than we were.
Vows When I agreed to love you In good times and bad, I thought the bad times would be Unique to us--internal. Sickness, poverty, infidelity, bickering. I didn't think the bad times would be A global pandemic, The erosion of American democracy, Environmental destruction brought on by global warming. I took the security of our world for granted-- Restaurants, businesses, and shops would always be there. I never thought most of life would be off limits And that we--the two of us-- Would be left alone in our home Safeguarding ourselves from the outside world One Amazon purchase at a time. I'd still say, "I do."
Was the Summer 1967 was the Summer of Love in San Fran. 2020 has been the summer of cucumbers (and coronavirus). So many cucumbers Because we joined a CSA And every week there are at least Four or five in our box--all kinds: English, Common, Kirby. One week they gave us dill too And said, "make pickles!" But we didn't do it--now it's been weeks and weeks, We still haven't done it Even though the cucumber onslaught continues Just like the coronavirus. 2001 was the summer I graduated high school, 2005 college, 2010 PhD. 2011 was the summer I got married. 1997 Bone Thugs-N-Harmony topped the charts with Tha Crossroads And the first boy to ever flirt with me Wrapped his hand around my waist and squeezed So hard his fingertips dented the bubblegum in my pocket. A cucumber wouldn't have been so malleable, But I didn't have too many of those back then.
New Glasses When you wear a mask to Try on glasses, you can see Whether the glasses will Fog up on your face. But you don't really know How they'll look on you without the mask. But you do know you are being safer For the sake of the sales associate Who'll clean all the frames you try on And who says "maybe this will all Be over soon" relaying a hope In him that's died in you.
When You're the Ma'am Guess what? The power's out again. And there's a big roach, The kind that splatters, Crawling up the wall. Ew. And the power won't be on till 12:30pm So we can't open the fridge to make breakfast Even though you just worked out. And the medicine you need right away Will be delivered in 1-2 days Due to miscommunication and a malfunctioning website. "Ma'am you need to calm down." That was me. I was the ma'am. And they gave me twenty minutes on hold To cool off. Later walking the drugstore aisles I chased away my cares with consumerism Like it was the before times Buying toothpaste, toothbrushes, cheap eyeglass chains, And picking up my prescription. I believe you have me filed under "Ma'am."
The Recital They danced to the Taylor Swift song Lover Three girls in moss green gauzy dresses Channeling through their ballet movements The longings of an adult woman in love. I danced like them once In an itchy yellow tulle skirt To the Bright Sunshiny Day song Which is why I'll always remember the movie Cool Runnings. I danced at the Emery Theatre in Cincinnati A venue with two balconies, two thousand seats, A grand stage, and a giant green room Where I sat scratching with my classmates Before and after our turn on stage. These three girls danced in a parking lot In taped off squares they couldn't cross No matter how much the music moved them.