folding warm clothes from the dryer,
wiping down counters
with disinfectant (if you can find it),
meditating, repeating the word heal,
listening to the call and refrain of mourning doves,
the eve’s crescendo of crows closing curtains on day,
kneeling on the Mother’s altar in the garden
offering Impatiens impatient for late spring
as I am for the ending of this self-isolation,
for social distancing, confined to the prisons
of our homes, quiet, comforting, frightening.
2. I am lucky to see parents in their front yards
the joyful cries of their children,
musicians serenading on porches,
lucky to have wide streets in our neighborhood
a park nearby where we stroll together with our dogs,
cheerful in their ignorance and play, though the CDC
recommends we ban them from sick rooms
to keep them safe from us.
3. I am grateful to wake this morning
symptom free from the virus;
grateful I am a semi-introvert, with work to do,
words to construct worlds to step into for safety
that others might enter. Grateful that others work
in a time of danger continue a semblance of normalcy
aware of the privilege that I did not understand before.
I pray again like I did as a girl without judgement,
if not a true believer holding out the possibility…
“Please God keep us safe, deliver ventilators, PPD’s
to essential workers, so they stay healthy.
Please, God hear my prayers.”
4. I like our Governor he speaks in sentences,
makes sense, doesn’t scream at reporters,
is losing his voice from trying to reassure us,
believes in science, practices social distancing,
wears a mask.
5. I am afraid of getting too near store clerks,
miss my monthly pedicure, my hair stylist.
Two small luxuries.
I’ve given up on my toenails.
Arthritis has won out.
My hair tumbles down my back as in puberty.
Each month for twenty years she’s styled my hair.
I need to pay her for the services I won’t receive.
6. In N.Y. City refrigerator trucks rumble
down Broadway, carry the dead away.
In my neighborhood church bells toll
with the symphony of sparrows,
bright notes marking the hour of plague
counterpoint to the helicopter blades,
muting life flights of the sick to the med center.
7. I wish to sit in someone’s lap curl up like a cat
(grandmother’s comes to mind)
long ago in a terrible flood…
Too big for her lap, she made room for me.
Grandmother, survivor of the Spanish flu, the polio epidemic scorn of skull bones plastered to her parents’ front door.
8. I am afraid to be old,
to be the patient recommended
to die, because the richest country
in the world has a shortage of masks
and I am dispensable, not rich nor famous
worked forty years and still at what I love.
My daughter says she’d advocate for me.
Did the trip to the grocer write a death sentence?
I wake in the night heart a racehorse’s racing
husband snoring next to me,
the dog wedged between us
the cat a ball of warmth at my feet
dust settles, heart slows.
Jennifer O'Neill Pickering is a literary and visual artist living in California, a Pushcart Prize nominee for poetry and a finalist in the New Women’s Voices Chapbook Competition, Finishing Line Press. Her Chapbook, Fruit Box Castles: Poems from a Peach Rancher's Daughter is slated for publication by Finishing Line Press in the fall of 2020.