Last night, I dreamed I finally cried
About everything that’s happened.
Truthfully, I dreamed that we
Were in a morgue, and I saw you
Gasp, recognize a woman’s face,
Glazed and pale, mouth agape and
A crust of pulmonary blood
Staining her bony chin and then
I recognized her, too, and wept.
Up to this point in the crisis
I’ve managed to hold things inside.
Truthfully, I’ve not been at all
Sure what to feel, or how, or when—
I’m still not used to pandemics—
And so all my feelings jumble
And fail to register outside,
Making my face a mirror of
A confused and exhausted soul.
There have been both joys and sorrows
Watching the world change day by day.
Truthfully, I want it to stop
So I can sit still, take a breath,
And let things ooze out on paper
And begin to see what I think
About all this, or anything.
I want to rest, to plead, to rage
And I want to learn how to cry.
But I have been writing what I can,
Breadcrumbs for my future feelings.
Truthfully, I follow a rite—
Approaching life’s holy places
With tender phrases to hold close
Things which defy analysis
Or would be profaned by bare speech—
Pull on the ephod, take the blood
And incense into the presence.
Stay at home, and please,
Whatever you do,
Don’t let your house go
With or without you.
Shelter in place,
Even if that place
Happens to be a
Bathtub or closet
Or a nearby ditch.
Keep working from home—
And the Internet
Or a place to sit
To help your neighbors
In their hour of need,
Please don’t employ your
Chainsaw, tarps, and tools,
But stay far away.
Don’t let the germs have
A chance to run through
The erstwhile forest
To sow disaster
And reap the whirlwind.
Image: Tornado Damage, Hamilton county, Tennessee, April 2020.
Saint Patrick prayed, “Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,” finding
Jesus behind him, Jesus within him,
Beneath, above, right, left, before, with, by,
And I wonder why this bit of truth is
Buried in context of shamrocks, green beer,
Cabbage, corned beef, Guinness, and potatoes.
But torrid mid-March is also longing,
The throes of Lent, writhing in Christless dark,
Silent, waiting for a break in routine
Between ashes and tombs and quarantine.
Is it only the dead, voiceless prophets
Who now behold wonders and rest from fear?
Image: Wakerobins, Hamilton County, Tenn., March 2020.
Your maxims are proverbs of ashes.
Not the cleansing of bull’s ashes,
But the trampling of wisdom
Under unholy feet.
Sackcloth and ashes
Are your reward;
You earned it,
Ashes and dust.
Dust you are and to dust
You will return, so be kind to
Woe to him who despises ashes;
Roses need potassium chloride to bloom.
If dust’s maker made himself dust,
Then dust in glory is noble and just.
Surely resurrection and life
Presuppose death and strife.