Tuesday, May 19, 2020


                                                      THE PANDEMIC SEQUENCE


Now we feel history
now we know the very brunt of history
epoch after epoch
of plague
millions lost,
then easily forgotten.
          We learn to fear
          we learn to lock into indifference
          or we learn to pray.
We leave our elaborate padded cells
to walk in the glorious springtime,
but does contagion hang in trees
are those blobs of bobbing light
perched on that post & rail fence
friend or fiend.


Last night rain tumbled
and ticked down metal drain pipes
making us restive in our beds
glancing the clock numberless times
not certain when we slept.
Today is glaringly
clear, yet, it feels like
the virus continues
to pound on the door.
Meanwhile, nature pushes up
its pinks, purples, golds
and infant whitenesses
as if all was well.


for the loner
the texter
the germaphobe.
No more gentlemen’s handshake
no more relatives’ hug
not now a kiss
in a motel tryst.
We draw oblique lines
on sidewalks, streets, lots,
at most we wave
as if going away
but let’s hope not for very long.


The sunlight in the school
across the street is
the only thing alive.

As the day rotates
the light moves up and down
the stairway forming students
from glare and shadow.

In a classroom it highlights
assignments on the board
now many months old.

Emergency lights
remain on at night

Maintenance wanders the rooms
pushing vacuums at dust
inevitable but
no longer made by children.


How can we talk about this
when we’re allowed just
          a distant nod.

How can we write about it,
a mere listing of
          the mounting dead.

A painter can only scrawl
whorls of blackness on
          the canvas.

Composer a concert hall
full of dissonant chords—
a triumphant trumpet.


Humans are condemned
to remain in their homes.
Highways and turnpikes
lie empty, serene—
we walk on them with
uncertain footing.
          the air is purified
          the oceans are clean.
          Iron dog in the garden
          continues to beg,
          a dove perched on an eave
          continues to coo
          its song of peace.


We sit in a stern little family group
holding hands for grace
staring at each other
trying to absorb every feature
we might have overlooked
might have never noticed before.
Each bite of our meal
we savor though humble.
          This might be the time for lasts.
Let music we love ring through
our brains like fond echoes.
The book we are reading
we have reread but want
to cherish each word
like never before.


In the backyard the kids
discovered bird bones,
strange pebbles, even a hole
under the fence they
didn’t know was there.

Mothers found the back
of the hall closet
never revealed before
and cobwebs at sundown
shimmering decorations.

While fathers after reviewing
their lives, finding naps boring,
began to sense what they
could do beyond Smartphones
did not fit onto spread sheets.


Sometimes we scratch at
the window screen like
a bladder-filled dog
lured by the golden day;
other times we dust off
a long delayed tome
the longer and denser
the better from Grandma’s hope chest
and curl up in Grandpa’s chair;
but as the interned
in Pharaoh’s Egypt
we hope the Angel’s sword
of Death will not mistake us.


We stumble out of our burrows
sniff the fresh spring air
squint at the unreal light,
the beginning of a new week
to slide down
not steep stairs to trudge up
in perpetual grayness;
we have missed the colors
affixed to flowers and trees,
the season nearly ripped away
by the sinister pestilence
swooping on bat wings—
but we have survived!

--Ray Greenblatt

Ray Greenblatt is an editor on the Schuylkill Valley Journal.

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