Embraces, a pandemic poem

 Lana Hechtman Ayers
             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 

A gratitude poem: Praise in a Viral Time

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

smoothly unfolding

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,

crippling winter.


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.


being humane



Breathless Vigil by Lana Hechtman Ayers

Breathless Vigil


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.

sunset Cape Meares Oregon 1016