Lana Hechtman Ayers Embraces a pandemic poem A few nights ago, in the car on our way to our sheltering place, I was contemplating how all over the virtual world there is fear and poetry, people reporting sadness and success at isolation. All I could think was dark thoughts, how in two weeks or so many of us will be ill, and some gone forever. “Six degrees of separation,” my husband said, as our car careened through ghost town streets, “guarantees we will know someone whose life the virus claims. “And yet,” he continues, “Statistically, only a couple of percent of the billions of people on earth will die, so, it’s truly unlikely that it will be you or me.” I was a Mathematics major in college many decades ago, so my rational mind should have believed him. But the only place my thoughts could traverse was we haven’t written our wills. Our two dogs asleep in the back seat dreamt with bated breaths, perhaps chasing prey, unknowing of the prey all we humans had become. At home, where we’ll remain for untold months to come, we may hurt for healthy groceries, supplements, cleaning supplies, but reading material and entertainment channels flourish. However, no amount of binge watching British police dramas quells my prospering fears. The only way I manage even a few hours of restless sleep is to keep inventing a movie inside my head I hope someday some director will actually film— unreeling across my closed eyelids I watch strangers hugging in restaurants, strangers hugging in offices, in the middle of crowded streets, hugging in grocery stores and at gas stations— this and only this allows me to let go of the day’s dread, this envisioning of humans reaching out for one another, with open arms and hearts, these embraces after pandemic
Lana Hechtman Ayers
Praise in a Viral Time
for Jane & everyone
Praise to the grocery store worker
who greeted me cheerfully
on the phone when I let her know
I’d arrived to pick up
the order I’d placed online.
Praise to her eyes blue as today’s sky
that smiled apologetically
when she said she couldn’t fill
half my order, there being
simply not much in stock.
I told her she was a hero for being here
in a time of virus to help feed us,
and she said, “We’ll all get through
this crazy time together.”
Praise to the pharmacy clerk,
arriving at the drive-thru window
her hands gloved, smile
bright as her cherry-red hair.
I told her she was a hero for helping
us be as healthy as possible
with so many spreading illness.
She said, “I have lung issues
and both my children are
Let’s all be careful.”
Praise to all those who go to work
every day, side by side with a death
virus at work, invisible as breath.
Praise to the delivery drivers,
the warehouse and factory workers,
and the farm workers laboring
tirelessly for the good of all.
Praise to the firemen and lawmen,
to the pharmacists, the EMTs,
the nurses, the doctors always
selflessly on the front lines.
Praise to the tech folks
who keep our virtual worlds
so we can be together
in this ether of electrons.
Praise to all those online
posting messages of humor
and survival and hope.
Praise to the postal workers
even if it’s mostly bills, praise to
all the utility employees,
everyone who keeps the power on,
the water flowing cleanly, freely.
Praise to the garbage men,
praise to the cleaners and janitors
perhaps most of all, blessings
and endless praise for making
every surface safe once again.
Praise to the homeless man
who looked at my privileged self
with pity on his weather-beaten face
and said, “You can get through this,
honey. I’ve done it for years.”
Praise to human kindness
that blossoms in times of crisis,
like spring after a relentless,
Praise to every human on earth,
even those who have not yet
discovered in their hearts
a way to be generous,
a way to reach out to others
in these uncharted times.
Praise to being human because
we all have the capacity
for growth and change,
and at the very least,
all can be civil,
as my counselor Jane told me
on the phone this very morning,
Most of us stop for the red light.
by Lana Hechtman Ayers
We stand vigil together,
each alone in our own homes.
Some of us stay tuned
to the virtual world,
screen filled with frightening
body counts and new cases.
Some anxiously refreshing
so as not to miss a single update.
And as the walls of the financial
kingdom come crashing down,
others count their stock of stored goods,
toilet paper rolls overflowing closets.
And still others turn to streaming
entertainment, binge watching
every episode in a day.
We are living history,
we are dying history,
moment to moment learning,
perhaps at last,
how every human is entangled
with every other human
all across this blue globe.
Each heart’s warm blood
warms the air in our lungs,
air that we breathe through
speakable, kissable mouths
now kept at special distance.
We scramble to adjust to new
information that takes more
and more away of the way of life
we knew a few short weeks ago.
We seek some meaningful way
to achieve prescribed circumscribed
embrace with those we care for,
from afar, and from near, but now afar.
At last, we truly know
what it means to be connected
to one another by breath,
by wholly life-giving,
death-giving, life-giving breath.
We mourn yesterday when
a trip to the store seemed a chore,
and we mourn all our tomorrows’
cancelled events, the celebrations
that must go unmarked,
the fancy restaurant dinner,
or even a cup of coffee with friends.
Each of us falls in our own way
and only some of us will rise again.
Still, the sun rises,
and spring blossoms,
the sea stirs and stirs, and still,
we humans dare to hope.