Dispatch #052

4 Covid-19 Poems

By: Marianne Peele

Chicago, IL * Sent in on 8-30-2020. (some poems written in Florida)

We Have Grown Soft During This Pandemic

August 30, 2020

Belly soft.
Hands soft between us.
I touch your knee in between the silences,
checking in. 

You are the first person I touch every morning

We settle into old episodes of Jeopardy  
I bow to your expertise on British kings and queens
You are familiar with the hierarchy of royalty
You know where heads were lopped off in England.

You point to a red-winged blackbird on the balcony
She has landed in a bucket of lavender
We watch her wing her way through the rails.

Your hair has grown longer and longer.
I wrap the curls at the base of your neck
around my fingers.
I could get lost here,
kneading your locks
You are good yeast between my fingers 
I refuse to domesticate your wildness
I feed you teaspoons of molasses,
remnants of the ginger cookies
heavy with cinnamon and ginger.  
We replicate cells to a critical mass, 
knowing the sugar evens everything out.

Last night when you were sleeping
I gathered your hair in my hands,
Played Cat’s Cradle, solitary style.
I wove a witches broom into your hair, 
a cup and saucer, even cat’s whiskers.
I crafted a Jacob’s ladder, a star of David
I fashioned a whole pagan temple, wind cavorting between columns
I howled at the strawberry moon, breathed from deep places, dantian belly breaths.

I whisper songs without words into your shoulders,
breathe slow and long into your sleeping places.
My soft belly pressed against your back, you moan and sigh. 
Rising like yeast, you are the last flesh of the day.    

Do Not Be Afraid

to Open Your Windows and Sing

MARCH 14, 2020

Tonight I listened
to the quarantined people of Sienna, Italy
sing out their windows
into the dark of the night,
trusting that the sound of their sole voice
would connect
to someone who needed that melody
And the old woman hanging her towels 
on the balcony
caught that tune
let if float down onto her scrubbed 
and sanitized hands
and instead of balling her fingers into a fist
she opened her palms
placed them on the balcony ledge
added a harmony line
just two intervals below the melody
and floated it into the vibrating Italian air.

The pregnant woman
watering the bougainvillea on her balcony
caressed the roundness of her belly,
felt that determined beating heart
and then opened her lips,
adding a soprano obligato 
above he notes coalescing
on this street overflowing
with open windows,
with hearts that long for connection

We shine our best
in the darkness.


MARCH 26, 2020

It is almost midnight
and I am eating fig jam
on rosemary crackers.
I will have glazed pecans
for dessert
and my fingers 
will stick of this Turkish jam
well past the hour.

I watched three dolphins
emerge and submerge
whimsical characters
circle playing
right off the balcony
early this morning,
creamed coffee in my Monet mug
warming my whole hand.

The local pelican
has taken to roosting on a post
marking the boat lane on Banana River.

If I listen
ear to the east
I can hear the waves,
hear the Forester Tern
holding up her hollow body
on agile legs
attempting to escape the tide.

We Have More Than Enough

March 30, 2020

On a good morning
there are dolphins
arching in and out 
of the Banana River waters.

I am reading an historical novel
Germany pre-World War II
where an orphanage is managed
by a Protestant nun 
who sings lullabies to babies.
For older ones,
she makes fry cakes 
from mustard powder and milk.
Between songs and meals,
to pass the time, the children trudge 
down to the open coal mine
where their father was buried.

I have shrimp and pork loin,
even imitation crab in the freezer.
The cilantro is wilting.
We still have a jar of Ajvar red pepper sauce
from Turkey, waiting
for a loaf of hard crust bread.

I make Brazilian Stew
Moqueca de Camaroes
as we watch the death count
rise on CNN.

Tonight I will douse
Japanese Seven Spice onto chicken,
smother with an egg, 
and serve it with brown rice and chopsticks.
I can pick up a peanut in broth
with these chopsticks.

I want for nothing,
save your company.

We have taken to listening
to the Blues at sunset.
We sway to “Bloodshot Eyes” 
in our balcony chairs,
as my partner sips Kentucky bourbon
over rocks of rounded ice.

We touch fingers
across the divide,
latticing our hands together,
and the Blues play on.

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