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How to Survive a Pandemic by Allison Heartly-Kong

Photo by Claire Brear

When your friend—a disembodied head

in front of a pixelated background—tells you

her son placed towels underneath the cracks

of the door to prevent the virus from seeping in,

you can’t tell her, “the kids will be alright,”

(even though they are more resilient than we are)

because our belief that we have control over anything

should be reported daily in the governor’s death toll.

Don’t you dare leave your apartment—

the four-year-old around the block will run up

and hug your legs, you will freeze, her father

will scream, and the child will cry. When

the father warns her sternly this is just

like the zombie movies, touch anyone and you

could die, don’t wonder who the zombie is

(the child or you) You already know the answer.

At night, you feel the weight of the world when

you wish you could feel the weight of human arms,

everyone you have ever held and everyone who

ever loved them compounding into a cocoon that lifts

you into oblivion—don’t bargain with God, and

don’t try to sleep. Eventually, the sun will rise on ritual

and shine on your face, that will be the moment

you wake and remember, and do it all again.

From your window, don’t watch the funeral home

next door, after you watch a box truck pulling up

filled with eight plastic-wrapped coffins stacked neatly,

like legos, you will never be the same person

you were six weeks ago. You’ll want to join your friends

who quiver with hope when they talk about “after”

except you really know, they are talking about “before”

and after what you’ve seen, we’re not going back.


The Author

Alli Hartley-Kong is a playwright, poet, and museum educator from northern NJ. She has poems upcoming in Feels Blind literary journal and a play in production at Reno Little Theatre, Nevada. She has previously been published in Hyperallergic, Stylus, and the Human Touch Journal.

Allison Hartley-Kong

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