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Poetry in Lockdown: Part VIII

Inbetween Days

I run down empty streets each morning through a campus evacuated
of students and faculty, past vacant
classrooms, offices, cafeterias,

dorms, studios, galleries, performance halls, the library, tennis courts, baseball, lacrosse and soccer fields, the basketball arena and the football stadium’s 

fifty thousand vacant seats. I run past
shuttered stores, empty houses of worship, useless parking lots, shut-down malls, silent restaurants, lifeless bars and coffee shops.

Back home I face a six-foot-wide window at my five-foot-wide Scandinavian
desk observing the yard and street between Zoom meetings, online teaching, replying

to email, reading students’ poetry,
essays and fiction, cancelling travel
plans, bugging airlines and hotels for refunds. Blue Jays perch each morning on the black iron

railing and mail box outside my window. Robins, Cardinals, Bluebirds and crows sing, glide and feed in cleaner air. Lizards bask on pedestrian-free sidewalks. Squirrels

scamper across empty lawns. The neighbors on the corner paint their house white. Audis, Volvos, Jeeps and Suburbans sit idle,
gather coats of dust and pollen. Walkers,

runners and cyclists emerge from lockdown, strain themselves on traffic-less streets. Muscle cars grind, scrape mufflers on the speed-bump hit at speed, drivers braking seconds too late.

A masked elderly couple stroll past each afternoon, holding frail hands. A stranded international student wearing red
gym shorts and a purple polo shirt rides

his scooter up and down the boulevard like a leopard pacing an enclosure.
Former students stroll past my house wearing running shoes, baggy sorority t

shirts and hidden shorts, earbuds inserted, immersed in video-chats, unaware
of my presence behind the glass. A white porcelain toilet sits beside the curb

collecting pollen, waiting for bulk trash pick-up day. City workers cut excess
boughs from the Live Oaks shading the street, drag limbs to the wood-chipper, grind the life out

of branches and leaves. Pick-up trucks cruise past, drivers’ elbows protruding from windows, searching for salvageable furniture,
copper and appliances. We create

a new routine, check infection rates
and death tolls each morning, study curves and graphs, practice social distancing,
keep six-feet apart, cough into elbows,

work remotely, inspect expectorant,
obsess over the impossibility
of testing, decry government negligence and incompetence. We mourn the absence

of our previous lives, cancelled travel,
visits to parents. We endure the loss
of the newly forbidden. Restaurants,
bars, gyms and theatres are closed. Festivals

and readings are cancelled. St. Patrick’s Day is cancelled. Weddings, marathons, concerts, birthday parties and family reunions
are all cancelled while we wait for the cure.

Our future cancelled, we meekly retreat into well-known corners, remodel
bathrooms, paint the walls sky blue, install

new light fixtures in the dining room
and kitchen, trim the hedges, set up
a backyard pool, clean out the garage,

saw off overhanging branches
from the neighbor’s magnolia,
plant tomatoes, strawberries, kale,

rosemary, oregano and basil,
dine al fresco in the backyard, build a custom skateboard, resurrect old tricks.

-Nathanael O'Reilly

Submitted August 24, 2020

Years hence a young boy asks an old man about the Pandemic

Did the birds notice?

great flocks of birds were seen leaving cities in China
& elsewhere, there were no more crumbs from the cafes,
there were no more gleanings from the marketplace.

Did the air change as well?

the air was never as pure in all my life before,
we could see further and clearer than ever -
the lungs of the world healed as ours grew sick.

Did the wild animals notice?

goats came down from the hills in Wales,
kangaroos wandered streets in Australia,
dolphins swam free in the canals of Venice.

Did everything sound the same?

there was silence & there was noise -
planes, cars, trucks were never heard so seldom,
birdsong was never heard so loud, never so sweet.

Did the people forget when it was over?

no, my child, in saddened hearts it never went away.

 

-Kevin Connelly
Submitted August 28, 2020

Titles

I know not who I am, 
Where I am, where I am going. 
Winding paths of unmapped roads. 
Titles given; titles lost 


Wife. Mother. 


Great plans of conquered lands become dust. 
I watch, complacent, as my will's army lies sleeping, 
And I not knowledgeable as to when it may awaken again. 


The world lies in a soft slumber, fever fuelled rest stopping everything in its tracks. All armies of will forced to lay down their weapons. 


Paused. Stagnant. 


And with their retreat, the battle has been lost. 
And with their retreat, 
There will be no acquiring of titles.

-Emma Foley
Submitted August 31, 2020