I decided to write a long poem, a section or so each day, for the duration of Colorado’s shelter in place, which will last at least through April 11. Here’s day one.
If you are reading this,
you are so far a survivor,
not only of the obvious virus
but also of whatever else it is you’ve survived
or are surviving, your own particular list
unique and distinct as your fingerprint.
Heartbreak, abuse, betrayal, deception.
You’ve been overlooked, underappreciated.
You’ve been silenced, made sad, flat-out bored.
The number of times you’ve been misunderstood
is almost as large as the number of times
you’ve misunderstood others. And you’ve survived
your own sins–think of the unspeakable things
you did in middle school. You’ve starved yourself,
sliced your own skin, made yourself sick
with numerous chemicals. Yet here you are in a year
that in our previous millennium was held up
so often as the hard-to-image, sparkling future:
Today the skies where I am are clear because
no one is driving their cars to the city.
The air is filled with the sound of invisible birds.
When we remember too clearly the dystopian novels we’ve read,
we wonder how far our instinct to survive
would endure. How long would I want to live
in a world where I must shoot
my neighbor-turned-intruder to protect
my box of uncooked pasta, my pound of rice?
I might choose to lay down and join my great-grandmother,
the orange cat, my grandmother, the let-go-of balloon.
Let me become a crow. Let me make a nest.
In my dream last night I became my daughter
on her first day of middle school, her-not-her,
trying to find my math class, deciding where to sit.
My locker combination was 22-2-32,
and I turned it a hundred times before I woke,
relieved, confused. Was it my father or yours
who works construction and can’t stay home?
Was it my mother, or yours, whose housekeeping clients
cancel day after day without offering to pay?
Where does toilet paper come from?