Tag Archives: covid-19

Now That It Has Stopped Mattering I Have Begun To Care

I command my mind
to dream me into a country
where I can love
and be loved
less casually than people
typically do in America,
land of the quick in and out;

a place of no backstories needed,
a place where I could walk barefoot
in good soil or even mud and anyone
who finds the tracks will know
who has passed by.

In daylight my reputation’s
like a story tied to my heels,
trailing in the dirt behind me
to change my actual tracks
to indistinct traces, leaves
all passers-by asking 
if I’ve been here or not. 

You know I have a tale for them 
if it comes up, a tale for everything 
that might come up.

If someone could love me
as I want to be loved,
I wouldn’t need all these fables…
now that it has 
stopped mattering, though,
strangely I’ve begun to care
about the difference between
dreaming and not dreaming, 
or about my stories 
versus my truths;

I command myself to weld them
together, now that all has stopped;
to give me a dream and a life beyond 
the American one, the quick in and out,
the get it and be on your way — after all,

there’s nowhere to go.


The Sitcom

It’s like the whole country 
is at a sitcom
eighth grade dance. 

We’ve reached the moment
when the music goes
from fast to slow

and we have to try to adapt
to less of what
we’ve been used to,

except instead 
of sudden, awkward proximity
and clumsy touch,

we have to twirl 
independently of 
one another,

seeking intimacy
while praying
like mad that

music, lights,
and screen itself
do not fade into the credits.


One More White Riot

All I have to do is look at pictures of them
standing with wide mouths and flags and guns
while cameras take it all in

and I can smell them as clearly as if
I’d found them playing greasy cards in a sod house
on the old prairie; a little body stench, a little dirt;

on their clothing the stink of blood — maybe
pig, maybe chicken, maybe human; over all a fetid reek
of flesh burning upwind of here in a village overrun

with pioneer spirit. All I have to do is see their faces
and there is at once no need to learn their names:
all of them no doubt answer to some variant 

of Custer, Columbus, Jefferson Davis,
or Nathan Bedford Forrest; and damn glad of it, too,
even if they can’t tell you much

of who those people were. I can
smell them from here through the screen,

through all my multi-purpose masks,

through the swelling odor of my own anger
and fear. They smell like the land I live on
without living in it, like an age old paleface shivaree.

It’s time to hide my face, I think,
to shield my breathing from them, yes;
but also to give myself a certain license 

to move toward them
if they dare to claim
their right to deal us out.


Song For Bad April

Straight dagger-stroke of a month
leaving a double-cut in time
that won’t heal soon,

get yourself gone.
I’m a sorrow now
because of you,
because of you.

Like a melody
etched into a dinged-up blade,
lyrics by a monster;

get yourself gone,
get yourself gone.
I’m a breaking point,
broken point because of you,
because of you.

No one here to sing to,
no one left uncut;
some don’t care and some don’t move,

so get yourself gone and soon,
get yourself gone.
I’m blood,
letting itself out because of you,
because of you.


After This

I’d start
with leaving the old flag
in the hands of those
who masturbate with it.

I want a smaller country
with fewer thieves,
fewer predators;
a country where we share disgust

over the same predations
and thefts. I want a deeper morality
that holds more water
than just good and evil

sloshing back and forth —
one that rotates like a bowl
of tides and if something 
goes over the side,

we know what to do
for whoever gets flooded.
I want a hole to put
all the holy books in

and see what grows 
from where they decompose.
If we let one god in
we let all gods in

and let them do
what they can for us, 
not the other way around — 
I want shackles on any gods

we choose to entertain.
I want to sit on a cliff’s edge
and enjoy the still-clear air.
I want to drink clean water,

sit safely by the side of any stream.
In that country, let love be unrestricted
and hate be reserved. Let joy be a currency
and anger be reserved. Let care

be a duty and neglect
be reserved — in fact
let all that we’ve lived on
and through

be reserved for reference only
after this is done, 
after this is over,
after this has finished happening,

or even now.


In Isolation

Write, paint, they say;
also, stay away.

Do what you haven’t done;
do it alone.

Break open your inner star.
We will watch you from afar.

Learn, teach, and entertain — 
this is all that remains.

Stay clean, stay safe, 
and then create — 

as if the dirt and risk of living
were never themselves a source of life.

As if an everyday touch of death
was never as vital to me as breath.

I sit and stew and stare
and think of how far removed I am

from what I need to be myself:
to be again the Work itself.

Still, the danger’s out there
waiting for the unprepared.

Here I am, and there’s the world.
I stay enclosed and safe from all.

They tell us all: create and play.
I don’t know how to do that.

I’m terrible at safety, at risk-free art.
Free fall’s better for me by far —

but somehow, though it all feels more like death
than any danger ever has,

the cloister here is less sanctuary
than prison and I am weary

of such long and sterile days;
I stew. I stare. Nothing for me to say.


In These Challenging Times

In these challenging times
you want to get right with us.

In this moment of crisis
you need to get on board.

In these difficult days
we have what you need.

In this time of crisis we are all seeking
new translations of “open sesame”

for your wallet. For your time.
For your attention, your opinion,

your locks and combinations.
In this time of panic

we need you to stay calm.
In this critical period

we beg you to not look up
and see us and become critical.

In this unprecedented moment
we don’t want you to think of 

precedents or of how
there have in fact been many

and in this moment of teeter-totter
the last thing any of us want

is for you to ask anyone anywhere
who lives on the front line every day

what it means to cower indoors 
from anything and everything. 

In this moment of how it feels
to worry about death everywhere

we don’t want you to worry so much
you decide to empathize with any place

that just lives this way and has for generations. 
In this commerce-fucking moment

please forget the words Gaza, 
Standing Rock, Afghanistan,

Ferguson, Baltimore, Darfur,
Biafra  — and never mind the rest.

In this moment of confusion
we applaud the challenge of feeling,

for once, like we’re in this together
though we really aren’t. Not if we can help it.

In these moments of isolation
the last thing we really need is you

joining hands and saying enough,
enough. Now that we know,

we can never turn back.
In these challenging times

we’d rather you die 
than say that.


Supposedly Holy

In the name  
of everything supposedly holy

I feed the birds, which amounts to
now and then feeding as well

one of the neighborhood’s
outdoor cats.

The birds land, grateful but wary,
on the suet I’ve hung, never staying long;

how they ground themselves to peck 
the fallen seeds, staying for even less time

as the cats across the street lurk,
hoping to snatch the unconcerned.

My every well meant act
carries at least a little death with it.

This is true for all of us.
We don’t usually see it;

no one sees our scythes
as we slice through

existence: rare earth miners
dead for our phones; field workers’

cancers caused by the chemicals
keeping our lettuce crisp;

an unmasked breath passing
its bleak viral load onto another

who passes it onto another;
and somewhere along that chain

a link fails and falls,
and we made it happen.

I will keep feeding the birds.
The neighborhood cats will keep watch

and I’ll knock on the window
to chase them away when I can.

There are those who are saying
this is the time of the Holy Reset

and I acknowledge that something allegedly holy
is happening among us all today

as we pause for a long moment
to try and not be killers today.

Do you really believe it will make us think
about not being killers tomorrow?


How The Capitalist Met The Virus

I am busy wishing everybody well
when someone asks me for a light.
I tell them I do not smoke and also 
that I am not an arsonist but they keep asking.

In order to avoid a confrontation,
I duck into a store. It sells lighters 
and other instruments of peace. I buy two
and toss one out the door into the hands

of my still-insistent questioner, who uses it at once
to burn a stack of dollar bills on the sidewalk. 
How silly of me not to have asked them
what they needed it for. Now I have my own lighter

and a few less dollars to burn myself;
that’s the way the cookie crumbles — 
into a pile of ash. I walk around the city
in a dream of fire, of all the money

in people’s pockets flying into the air
and incinerating itself. This is how I wish 
them well, I tell myself; I shall collect money
and burn it and that will bring joy and light

to the world, to all the world. The people
will enjoy the spectacle and the more money
I burn, the more they will give me to burn.
I am at the end of a great adventure today:

thanks to the idea of lighting money on fire
and the one who gave it to me and the lighter — 
I should have charged them for the lighter I gave them.
Call it an investment, I think. I should find

and thank them with fire. My fire. 
I wish them well, all the burning masses.
I wish them one lighter each and small money
to burn. A little flame makes for a brighter abyss.


Healing

there are days when healing feels like sleep
its attendant feelings slow me down 
to a point where instead of standing and walking
I seep from place to place like viscous fluid
I cover the floor but do not evaporate

and other days when healing feels like bouncing
from wall to ceiling and back and the windows
from outside are filthy and from inside
they aren’t much better but I can’t stop bouncing
and it would be hilarious if every strike didn’t bruise me

but there are more and more days of healing through skill building
days when instead of bouncing or seeping I am training my hands
to cradle bullets and stop itching while on a trigger 
because to heal is in part to eradicate causes and vectors
and there are people in charge who need to be healed


How Patriarchy Will Meet The Virus

Warning: when the man
finally apprehends
the full weight of all his sins,
he will explode and taint all.

When the extent of his damage
becomes apparent to him,
there will be such a storm of aftermath
that it will redefine the word.

It shall not be driven by guilt
but by the all-encompassing understanding
of how vast it was, how impossible to escape
for anyone, how central he had been

without even knowing his role,
having long contended his weakness
made him secondary even as he primaried
and centered himself. But right now

the burst has not yet happened.
He stands sure of himself
for one last moment before that.
More and more of us

see what’s coming,
but it’s too late; 
there’s no safe place to move.
All we can do is cover up and wait.


How Whiteness Met The Virus

First, it denied all. 

Then, it shook its finger at the ocean
and what was on the other side.

It talked to itself on street corners.
Hung about on beaches. Flocked 
to malls, stormed the bars.

The usual victims had begun to fall
before 
it started to shake for its own sake —
and when that was done? Soon enough,

it, too, started to smell.


Coyotes Came Out

As we disappeared
from the roads and retail plazas,
as the parks were shuttered
and the playgrounds were locked away,

coyotes came out
to run the roads looking for us.

When they did not see us
in our usual numbers, did not find
our fast food remnants, did not see
our deadly cars or hear us chatter and rage
at each other, they did not wait

but came forward, more and more,
to go in daylight where they’d rarely gone 
before dark till now. It became clear
to them and to all others
that at least temporarily,

something had shifted.
The air, the ambient sound,
the ground itself
all seemed less troubled.
Lawns and meadows
grew longer, wilder, wilder,
opened up old blooms; 
after it was over, everyone
noticed the honey 
was richer that season

even as the coyotes melted
back into the dark. 
They’d tasted
a different sweetness;

enough for now.


Abeyance

Put the world in abeyance
as singers are passing and dancers
are passing from among us;
these will be spaces
we cannot fill at once. 

Put this life we’ve known in abeyance.
How far we have yet to go is uncertain,
and with the holes in the map
left by the passage of those
who knitted lives together, our way is unclear.

Put the long view in abeyance;
measure progress now by inches
or less. Creeping forward without song,
blind to the path, each step a martyr’s 
touchstone in the pavement;

there is now, in fact and fiction,
only today. Put tomorrow
in abeyance while waiting for 
a new song, a new dance,
a new map for what’s ahead.


The Foragers

Outside the Dollar Tree
on Providence Road
which is strangely closed
at two-thirty
on a Saturday afternoon —

no sign, no explanation.

Several of us standing 
widely spaced before it,
having heard 
a rumor of a delivery

of needed things —
I’m getting a hunch
I’m afraid to share.

A newish SUV shows up
and a guy leans out 
of the passenger window:

“Is it closed? We heard
it was closed for two weeks —
someone on the staff
tested positive –“

“Shit.” 

“We heard there’s a delivery
at Walmart, they’re staggering
the times they put stuff out.”

We scatter slowly
as civilized people do,

every one of us walking
to our cars as wary of the others
as if we were all
carrying spears.