Another World a pandemic poem This morning I woke in the former world, the world before the virus, or so I believed. The sun had the same kiss of brass to it as it does in this post Covid 19 morning. The scent of spring was similarly buoyant on the morning breeze, daffodils and the early hyacinths. The same black-mohawked Steller’s Jay perched on the edge of the roof, staring down at the morning coastline below our hillside, sea dark and serene, swells horizonward with white crests like bobbing gulls. They may have been actual seagulls, this morning, or in that former world. A calm, lulled, sort of ordinary morning that brims with coffee aroma and the slow thoughts that come into focus with each sip—the necessary to do list—work, pets, chores. A morning that but for the virus could be any other. I can take my cat into my arms, but not hug my neighbor, just home from his cataract surgery at the hospital. I cannot take the dogs for a morning stroll in the shuttered park, nor meet a friend out for lunch, nor run an errand just to pick up an item or two. Every decision in this world’s morning is about staying far from death’s embrace. About keeping each other safe. About love filtered through masks and screens and the morning light of pandemic.
Lana Hechtman Ayers Welcome to the New World Movement in my peripheral vision’s edge makes me look away from the screen out the window in front of my desk. I’m barely in time to catch the tell-tale white head and serrated wide wings of an eagle—American symbol of freedom— before it soars over the roofline out of view. I’ve been staring at my computer for so long the words of the manuscript I’m editing have become ancient hieroglyphics. The sight of the cumulus-filled sky bordered in blue and the rippled pink-tinged beige sand and aqua green seawater below the hillside is such welcome relief. Concentration has been hard to achieve with the startling grief I’m experiencing during this global pandemic— so many losses. To look out at this bright spring day one could be fooled into believing all is well. Calm. People strolling the weekday beach, throwing frisbees or tossing balls to their dogs. Even the stubborn hydrangea outside my porch gate has come into full leaf, buds at the ready. But my heart will not settle into steady rhythm. My breath is shallow. Later, I must make my weekly excursion into town for food—masked, gloved, hatted, scarfed—looking like a nineteenth century immigrant just off the boat from Poland, wearing all of the clothes she owned at once, frightened of the unknown new territory where communication and comfort appeared impossible. I wonder, is this how my grandmother felt, fifteen and alone, disembarked at Ellis Island into the blinding sunlight after weeks seasick in the dark bowels of the ship? Her family had sent her in 1918, decades ahead of the holocaust, not knowing she’d be the only one of her bloodline to make safe passage. And how did my young grandmother manage her loneliness, knowing no one else, everyone and everything around her strange and possibly dangerous? I never once in all the years I knew her, nor in the years since her passing, stopped to think of her bravery. I never thanked her or celebrated her for being the heroine she was. She made my American life possible. If my grandmother could muster all that courage at the tender age of fifteen for a sea journey of weeks, surely, I can manage as much for a simple half-hour trip to the grocery store and back, in my own car, me a native here in my fifth decade of life.
Thanks to Courtney Cook Williamson for selecting my poem,
“Metrophobia (the Fear of Poetry) in a Time Covid-19”
for The Decameron!
Here’s a link to their inspiring site:
Lana Hechtman Ayers Beach Walk Some people walk the beach as if it’s a job, striding along the shore with military rigor, head unswiveling, straight ahead, toward some finite goal of distance or steps taken. I’d rather stroll the beach slowly, my mind taking the time to spin, look in every direction— skyward, sandward, seaward, sunward, cloudward, birdward, duneward, horizonward. I don’t want to miss a single gull flap, or wave crest, or the grey pebble shaped like an egg. I need to inhale lungfuls of salt air, push my bare feet around, mounding little sand hills for no reason at all. Breezily, or nearly still, I need to see the movie of cumulus clouds sailing off for distant lands, observe the perpetual tide coming in, receding, coming back again. Broken shells are like breadcrumbs left by eons of time, reminding us how brief this beauty. Some days, long whips of seaweed tangle boulders amongst the sea-worn roots of ancient trees where we may rest and listen to the sea’s hallowed voice— singing with soughs and susurrus, the perfect parlance of patience. Tomorrow, I will will myself to go even slower, stay late, as late in the day as possible, even if the beach is only in my own mind, for breathing this deeply is a gift in these sheltered-in-place times.
Lana Hechtman Ayers Feast and Fear in the Time of Coronavirus My weekly trip to the grocery store equally may provide sustenance and death. I go knowing that along with the apples and eggs, I may be carting home coronavirus to you, my love, whose immune system is on lockdown for trying to assassinate your body’s entire vascular system. How is it we have come to this, humankind so at odds with nature, even our very own? Scientists say the teeny virus isn’t alive, exactly, just a bit of protein that possesses our same uncanny drive to reproduce, replace, and colonize everything not itself with acres of its progeny. O, the irony of being done in by a beast with our selfsame gluttony. But love, for this moment now, let us set aside these fears and feast on eggs and apples, allow me to nourish you with all the love I can, every sacred mouthful.