This is my comfort, then.
The tattered red robe never worn so much.
The tea grown tepid in my constant distraction.
The dogs’ deep existential sigh,
Her head lolling in my lap.
She eyes the rabbits who roam so free out the window.
Envious, yet too lazy to rise and bark fruitlessly at the window,
Knows we will not walk today.
The mail that somehow still arrives.
The vague sound of my husband puttering in the kitchen.
Chicken broth in a cracked mug that says, “Writer.”
This is my resolve, then:
The candle lit in the middle of the night,
Warming the toes of Mary in the plaque on my table.
The flame flickers: hope; despair; hope again. Fear.
The mumbling incantations while I pass a feverish night.
(God let’s make a deal. Make a deal. Make a deal. Not yet. Oka,y maybe I go, but no-one else. If I go, not one other goddam person in this family. Do you hear me? They stay. They’re safe. Right? Okay. Well, wait. Not yet. How about this..?)
Visitors are in the closet when I reach for my robe. Or am I dreaming again? How fucking sick am I? Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damn’d?
I won’t be afraid.
I’ve decided that much. As if one can decide such things.
When I open my eyes, I’m curled on my bathroom floor, my dog sitting on her haunches, watching.
I’ve slipped down the shower wall, my face resting on the hard tile.
Steam opens lungs. Open lungs are breath. Breath Is life.
But I’ve fallen.
The dog’s dark head tips, curious.
This night. God, please. End this night.
She moves to gently lick the water from shoulder, then my cheek.
My hand flies up to protect her.
(No/Don’t/Can I give this to a dog?/not you too/fuck)
She renews her quest, because now there are tears involved, and tears taste delicious to this strange creature.
“Are you even real?”
Again, I think of Shakespeare. Madly washing my hands. Nothing portends well.
(Do not go gently into that dark night. Dylan? His last name escapes me.)
My mother’s favorite poet. She was always so morbid. I crawl from the shower and force myself up, as if she’s waiting for me, a Gimlet in hand, pointing to the bed. The covers look like I’ve wrestled with an army. Sticky juice on the floor as I pad back, a cough drop sticks to my heel.
Dylan Thomas. The poet. I know that.
(Do fevers render you stupid. Does IQ come back? Does sense of smell? Or life?)
The dog collapses back in bed, relieved. Annoyed.
My gaze returns to the closet.
Are you still in there?
This is my morning, then:
The scent of peace in the trailing echo of a dream. Angel’s whispers. Sun splits the curtains open. Hope in the form of a bird perches just outside, the branch swaying beneath this robin’s heft, his song so bold it perks the pup’s ears.
(Dickinson. A feathered thing. (Right? Why can’t I remember things?)
This is my sorrow, then:
The numbers are thrown out casually by stone faced reporters. Death tolls are like waves. Their swell builds, unseen, long before they break and careen towards our shores. Now we are drenched.
Calls, late at night from a friend, alone. Her voice defies the platitudes she offers. I think of quakes. Internal and otherwise.
The tents rise in Central Park, as if this pandemic is a world’s fair, the hurried sense of expectation, the preparation for the crowds coming. Tents? Something inside me breaks.
Tentsto contain the virus, the loss, the suffering. Weak and flimsy defenses against a tiny but mighty replicating cell. Against a pandemic, you assholes. A pandemic. New York, you’re breaking my heart right now.
We said goodbye at Newark airport.
(Bring me your tired, your hungry, your poor and sick. Wait, does she say sick?)
(My oxygen is low again.)
But tents? I bite the last of a cuticle, the blood rising up around it.
Step right up folks. Step inside.
Trucks to Hart Island. Too many dead to bury. God are you seeing this?
Night again, then:
I awake with a shake, my father’s breath by my cheek. Old spice, Tums, Vicks. I know you.
I remember the days before he died. He woke up one morning and insisted I call the wife an old friend of his, a woman I’d not spoken to in years. An odd request. I found the number and called across the world to New Jersey. She was concerned of course. Who calls you from their death bed? My father grabbed the phone, eagerly.
“I saw Frank last night,” My father said to her. “He looks good.”
My heart sank. He was confused, delusional apparently.
My sanest relative, suddenly not.
“Well, I know.” His voice had the pitch that comes before a joke. I wait. “I mean it can’t be a good sign, right? He’s been gone what? Twenty years?” I heard him laugh. I laughed. She laughed.
Fuck Death, he seemed to be saying. But then again, here it is.
“Dad?” I ask out loud again.
Nothing. The dog moans, tired of my shit.
This my chance, then.
To open the veil and see who’s hovering on the other side. To open my mind to the spirits who have gathered for years now, waiting. My spirit team is expectant, perhaps even mildly frustrated.
“Are you finally awake then?”
“Can you hear us, dear?”
Damn. I guess?
This is now, then.
The infection wanes, as if it too is tired of fighting so hard.
Appetite gone, but lungs open.
Head hurts, but bones don’t.
Spirit tired, but not broken.
Love wins. Life wins. Although the final score is unclear.
My human team circles, plotting and praying. We shoot love missiles across the divide. We throw our hearts out to the interspace between faces and screens. We lift each other up with memes, poetry and prayers. We seek solace in poetry. We fall in love with the power of our collective imagination, again. We commune in dreams. We compare tests. Positive, but I feel fine. Negative, but I’m dying. Tested? How? We turn off the news, wipe away tears and send cat photos.
This is the Journey, then:
The sun pours down in the morning, like spring didn’t get the memo.
The birds sing so hard it’s a children’s choral concert, without rehearsal. Off tune and interruptive, but so joyful the adults smile.
Seated on my pillow, I light a meditation candle, close my eyes and listen.
I open up to the shadowy place between night and day.
Between Life and Afterlife.
My tired hand lifts and pulls the veil aside.
I’m eager for the comfort of my angels again,
Broken wide open.