Plague Poems #20
May 17, 2020
‒Day 78. Hat tip to Allyson Beatrice for her brutal honesty and a line too well-phrased to pass up.
How are you? No, really—
How are you?
A throwaway greeting, a social nicety,
grease in the community wheel.
I’m hanging in there.
I’m not so great.
I’m weeping uncontrollably at odd times
for no immediate reason except that
I’m in a fucking preventable pandemic,
living in a science fiction movie and
life is more uncertain than ever before
and I cannot wrap my head around its strangeness
despite all those years of exposure to the accurate fictions
and to the hyperreal warnings and
I don’t know when this will end
or how it will end and endings are always the hardest part
to get right.
I’m freaked out that there are so many people
doing stupid things that endanger us all,
so many people who think their
greed at the expense of people
they don’t think of as people is just fine,
so many who think a mask
somehow strangles their balls or makes them puppets,
so many who think their right to eat out
and get their nails done and go to the gym
is more important than others’ rights
to breathe and walk in the sun and just live,
and leaders who are just in it for their own ego,
not an altruistic, empathetic, responsible centimeter of bone
in their ravaged old bodies.
And because of them, I’m afraid I’ll lose or have already lost
everything I know, or someone I love.
I’m overwhelmed by sadness due to being just fine:
working from home in a pleasant, safe space,
ordering in and cooking, meeting the delivery people with massive tips
—from a safe distance!—
assuaging my guilt by trying to help others
with minuscule donations like putting my finger in the leaking dyke
of bankruptcies and mortgage defaults and homelessness and hunger
when the government that should be supporting us all has
merely taken our taxes and run, and the companies
they worked for rewarded their loyalty by absorbing,
amoeba-like, the cost of their salaries and benefits
to redistribute to their stockholders, not seeing or not caring
that deluge that’s coming when the dam of misery
will sweep them away too
when the bodies wash up to their locked compounds
and batter down the gates.
And I miss being in the presence of my family and friends
in the holy communion of sharing of food and words and air
and that ineffable, unnamable thing that’s there
when we are together in the same room, around the same table
in the everyday ceremony of breaking bread together.
I miss that moment of recognition and joy
when we are meeting somewhere and
they hove into view through the crowd,
the familiar, beloved face in the sea of strangers.
I miss the embrace of arms around my shoulders,
the comfort of the full-body hug,
the peck of lips, the brush of cheeks against my own
I miss the glow of their bodies next to mine
in summer sun, in restaurants, at my own table.
I miss even knowing
I can get on a plane, in a car, on a train or a bus
and go see them in their varied loving flesh
any goddamned time I want.
I’ve watched the spread of death across the world
and it has fucked me up something fierce.
That’s how I am.
‒May 17, 2020, Brooklyn
©Lee Kottner 2020
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