A COVID-19 POEM

Inspired by Juliana Spahr's work

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STUCK, INDEFINITELY

Inspired by Juliana Spahr's work

I asked my mother how she was doing today. I asked her this for the third, consecutive day in a row. Usually, I ask her once every two or three weeks, but she has developed a scratchy throat and fatigue. Statistics vary—an online calculator says she would be in the 6% mortality rate group, considering her age (61), and her medical history (MS, high blood pressure, a heart murmur, high cholesterol). My mother also says that she has never been through something like this; it is comparable to war times, but not quite. During the war, they put women to work in factories while a population of geese seemed to be rapidly procreating in Southern Montana. This was due to the lack of human outings in parks. The geese felt comfortable claiming the parks back as their own without little humans running around, interrupting their lazy afternoons and throwing breadcrumbs at them when they did not care for any. Geese don’t even like breadcrumbs, ever. But this is the fantasy we must tell ourselves to justify our bread-crumb-throwing. Besides, what if the breadcrumbs were not sanitized in order to be maximally excited and, in turn, the geese contracted it, and in turn, Lacy Schroomer’s dog contracted it which, in turn, caused Lacy Schroomer and her elderly grandfather to contract it. They say there is a lack of ventilation and ventilators. Some people will have to become disposable. Now, they are developing a fool-proof plan to decide the ethics of what qualifies a disposable person? If you have less time to live—like my mother, you are more disposable, than the small child throwing breadcrumbs. If you do not make it, the last time you will see loved ones will be behind a wall of glass where they may speak to you via cellphone, uninfected. The official statement from the home country says “If you do plan to return, you should do so immediately. Otherwise, plan to stay in your current location for an indefinite amount of time.” Day five, my mother’s cough has stopped. Back in 2009 people had the swine flu, or “H1N1.” My father worked for an oil company that had global health insurance for all immediate family members. Aunt Sue had the flu, but she couldn’t go to the doctor for fear of medical expenses. Consumerism has never served to fill a lost sense of control like it is now, except everything is done online. I buy patterned dresses with green tulips and yellow sunflowers along the hem; cotton blouses that tie at the front, pajamas made of satin that say they were made in China. I wonder if they had been sanitized before they reached my hands. I buy cans of pureed pumpkin to make pies out of. I buy blow-up badminton nets and adult coloring books and jars of spices. I try to buy flour, but the only flour available will charge an extra £23.50 for packing and shipping fees. I decide against the flour. The only beans left are butter beans. When I reach for them in the aisles of the grocery store, an elderly woman sidles up beside me, eyeing the beans, too. I drop my hand to the side and step out of the way. Six feet away. If no control can be had, at least I can control some sense of being a moral person. Or can I? The woman appears to be blind, and she, unknowingly, takes the can of beans in her right hand without a second thought, hobbling away with the support of her cane to the cash register. That’s all she wanted: beans. It is the sixth day and my mother has a small, dry cough today.

 
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