We took a deep breath under dark skies.
Standing six feet apart, we began to calculate the loss.
Some spat, others cursed, my sister prayed.
What was gone was gone.
Mourning would come later,
when children were washed clean of ash.
Fires burned wild the west,
emptied closets and cupboards of their wears/wares.
Some stood in soot, traced their address in dust,
and wondered, what was left to lose.
It left in gasps for some. Others, one long, aching good-bye.
We froze in place,
covered our eyes with fingers at the scary parts
so not to notice the thinning of the herd, the empty chairs at tables.
(How do we prepare the fields for so much death?)
And when there is more to steal?
More to reveal?
More spit for the eye?
Hurricanes blow angry winds south in these times,
blow out windows, blow down fences, pour out grievances into night air
and return with a Greek name to break more glass.
It comes and goes.
Daylight brings more dying to some.
When a man stands on the neck of another, he stands merciless,
and the breath and the words stolen, forever a haunting.
So, we said—enough! To the dying.
Robbed of excuses, we see through our own veils now.
Still, some go easy into the night,
cloaked in fear,they inhale and pray for safety.
For another breath.
It’s harder to catch a virus, to breathe in masks. But it’s easier to avoid ventilators.
For now, we mold in seclusion, hunger
for food, ordinary days, the smiles of strangers.
Rooms empty of politics.
A bar room fight.
No more victims, I say.
We know loss.
Can we instead raise a toast to hope?
Clap and sing, bang pots at 7 p.m., in cheer again?
Can we end with a new beginning?
ghost our despair, tie up our dogma?
Can we sow a new spring, and play in the clover?
Can we listen to the pause, the sounds of silence shuffling our fate,
the hum of tomorrow making known its beat?
Can we pray, like my sister,
for all that was lost,
and for the breath left, to create from the ashes?
–Dec. 2020 copyright