Another World, a pandemic poem

 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.
   

Welcome to the New World, a pandemic poem

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.  

Beach Walk, a poem for slower times

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.  

Feast and Fear in the Time of Coronavirus

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. 

Embraces, a pandemic poem

 
 
 
 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 

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

immunocompromised.

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

 

3-19-20

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

3-18-20

 

What I’m reading — December 2019

Or rather, what I am re-reading:

Travellin’ Shoes by V. M. Burns

in preparation for the 2nd book in the RJ Franklin Mystery Series which is available now!

Motherless Child by V.M. Burns

Love the main character, an honorable police detective in a small Indiana town. Also, love Mama B, his surrogate mother who has a giant heart, cooks enough food for the entire neighborhood, and possesses no filter whatsoever.