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.
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.