Monday, April 13, 2020

Johns Hopkins Covid 19 Map

I have become addicted to checking the daily numbers of new cases of covid 19.  I turn to the WHO, the CDC or my state’s CDC, but most often the Johns Hopkins map. The awareness came over me a few days ago that numbers cannot tell me anything about the people who are dying to give the world those figures. They are not just young or old, famous or unknown, rich or poor. They are people who had lives.
After my long dry spell with no writing, this poem has come.

Johns Hopkins Covid 19 Map

What was your name, number ninety-nine thousand, two hundred ten?
Was it Akmed or Mustafa?
Mike or Chunhua? Did your friends
call you Anna Maria or George?
Were you mother-blessed “Emma”
or street-baptized Blade?

Were you scared as you died in the hallway 
alone on a gurney? You lay invisible 
among too many to treat,
too many to save. 

Or on a ventilator did you still pass?
Anxious and drawn, angel faces
hovered in masks, bodies gowned. 
Did they check blood levels,
monitor blipping sounds?
Did you hear the beeping stop?

Did you slip away in your room
at home, your family afraid to touch,
to kiss, to hold your trembling hand?
Could you not catch the butterflies 
Of fleeing breath?

Were you unnamed?
Only a number on admittance, 
was the street your home?
Did you end up with tag on toe,
body bag, unknown, unmourned?

You, number ninety-nine thousand, two hundred ten, 
you’re lost to me here in tallies of countries and states.
You left behind toys or a car, 
unpaid bills. Stories, perhaps, of you in a war.

Most important, dear human, did you know
that you were loved?
Were you loved? Oh, please, 
say that you were you loved
before Corona took your name.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Death of a Salesman

for my father

When that old gold-digger Cancer married him
she was only in it for what she could get.
She took him for everything he had, while I was
on the phone with my American dream--
one ballerina, one soccer player, minivan,
fireplace and wall-to-wall by a lap-edged lake.
My 'coholic husband worshipped at work,
and I bent the ear of the god of
the light blue sanctuary who inhabited
a place where they were nailing
another arm to the building's cross.

I was eating heavily then
but what was eating him was eating him,
gnawing holes until at last he lay: translucent lace.
When I lifted the veil from the bed
there was only a stain of pain and loneliness he
never meant for anyone to see.

We darted in and out from busy lives,
my sister, brothers, I.
"Love" was mentioned often, but it
was the kind that left him to his
nightmares.  In truth, I thought this only just,
for the way he had made my mother's life one
long bad dream before he finally poured
the bottles out for good.

Still, he carried us through childhoods with
stories in the dark, sang the stars for our rewards,
and taught us to whistle to the birds.
He planted apple trees and strawberries
and plotted with the sound of words for
the wonderful tyranny of laughter.

What really carried him those last long months
was morphine and the priest's promise
of a cup of wine in the best of company
some day soon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fatal Kind of Deafness

There were times, mostly winters, in this lovely house when my choices seemed between solitary confinement and solitary confinement.

You do not die of loneliness.
Carrying the weight
of your own soul through
the hallways of the night,
hearing only the whisper of
the dead and living gone--
this is not fatal.  Memory
and fantasy mingle well.

when the stars stop breathing.
when the whispered
prayers of dark trees
no longer echo in your mind,
or ocean's tides exert no
voice in the choices of your life.

When all the music
in the dropping of a pin
ceases to ease the wringing
of your pain-wracked heart,
and you stop believing in
a day after tomorrow,
know that your mortal
illness has set in.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Wheat and the Tares

(Daughters of the King, my friend rebukes me, are never weeds.)

My father was only a king of dreams.
I married Pontius for security and his
mastery of everything, including our bed.

I learned to love the man, packaging
my life with his, even here in this
forsaken and uncivilized post.

We dine with adjuncts, their wives,
and local potentates. Our table boasts
the best this scrubby little tributary

can offer, and as procurator
Pontius imports delicacies from across
the Empire. We live above it all.

Yet, I am fascinated by the young
Teacher. So apolitical.  So radically
unwise and generous with care.

I collect stories of every woman
with whom he speaks. Secretly
I send gold coins with Joanna and

Susannah.  And if, when I finally slip
away to meet him, he calls me
"daughter," it is only to open my heart:

I weep like a silly child.

I tell Pilate to have nothing to do
with this man's death, but see
how he listens to me?

It's bigger than any of us. All my husband's
good works, and it's this one crucifixion
he'll be remembered for.

In dreams most nights I see fields
of grain--the way we Romans plant--
the purple vetch among the weeds.

I don't know why, oh, I don't know why
I should feel this glad in the economy
of a Hebrew God.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Elvis and Godiva

These are my names for them,
because he impersonated "The King" when
first he came to town.
She wends her way with flowing hair,
naked in her difference:
her body curls painfully into itself--
a question mark of a woman beside
an exclamation point of a man.
Winter and summer, I see them confirm,
step by step, the streets of town,
wade silently, slowly through our curiosity,
propel a shopping cart of clothes and plastic bags.

They ask nothing of me,
yet I am disturbed, un-homed
by their dereliction of the material,
by their undefined devotion to each other.

Pajama-panted prophet, tell us:
What is it, really, between two people?
Hand in his, are you lovers?
Or are you a premonition--
setting us a poignant itinerary
through the rubble of
stock market and real estate and
tumbling of the world we
once built of dreams?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Your Door

My friend Barbara's house was cream with blue trim and PINK doors.  That's the kind of lady she was.

I am walking down the street 
between your house
and mine towards the bay.
I am trying to comprehend
the idea--as if 
anyone could--
that suddenly your address
has changed to 
Nowhere on Earth.  I notice
the sky.  After the storm, it is
blue and yellow and yes,
undeniably pink--
pink, pink all over, as if
the heavens have 
painted your new door
just for you,
and it's as big
as your benevolent and entirely
unconventional heart.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Island in Spring

Sun's up early.
Slat-backed chairs lean away from the bay
and wait for straw-hatted visitors
to hunker with books the way
gulls ensconce on rocks by the shore.
Upstairs in the inn
a teenage housekeeper is already at it--
briskly strips beds, vacuums floors,
snickers to her boyfriend on her cell.

Winter gripped this island hard.
In retaliation flowers uprise.
Starry clematis rocket ramparts,
and apple blossoms mass on wind-twisted limbs.
Lupines and buttercups grasp, splash violet and lemon
over steel gray rock and marsh meadow.
Wherever lilacs do not bloom, natives plant.
The morning ferry carried flats of purple petunias.

Later, fog erases the bay.
A suggestion of a house inhabits a yard
like a ghost with pockets full of stark memories.