Dispatch #057

Night and Day. Covid, October 21

by Penelope Blair

Late in the evening I read an email from my poetry friend
It sounds reluctant, and casual despite the potential for panic
She’s been in the company of a person testing positive this time;
He’s testing every week (being a coach of a soccer team) as if it makes a difference.
One minute you are not harboring this deadly and horrible infection, 
the next you are or might be.

I slept fitfully and dreamed I was at a desk insisting I needed my own test.
I am wearing a lampshade over my head and face, like a dog’s cone to stop it scratching at the itch.
They are not taking me seriously and when I wake a test doesn’t seem so important
Then I notify my daughter an hour later, I can’t settle, I need one, I am not wearing a lampshade
And know that I won’t settle if I don’t do it.

We do it, she enjoys the process and becomes best friends with the single mother in Florida who helps us locate it for today.  
In return she, in Florida, is supported to vote and where.
I am speeded up and do my zoom assignment:
A portrait of a woman ironing in a pink shirt.
It’s not difficult to stage as I am already a woman ironing in a pink shirt.
My daughter takes the proofs and I send along the most authentic, 
though really what I want it take on is the look with the palette of Degas’ impression 
by using Vaseline over my phone lens.
I realize that wrecking my phone isn’t necessary to get the authentic notice of my friends.

Degas painted many “woman Ironing” 
and I wonder if they are: many women; 
or one woman ironing all the time, 
which is what I seem to do once I get a start on that chore, 
decidedly not an American chore, but distinctly European, 
French impressions come to mind, women doing chores, while men, like Degas, painting them, but actually wishing they were in tutus and bending their knees in second position, or at the Barr….

I move on with my day, panic subsided and culture dealt with and enjoyed.
Some humor with my daughter as my apron is grey, as required, but actually an inside-out,  old cashmere cardigan dyed tightly around my non-existent and buxom waist. 
I can’t stop thinking that I might have liked living then, there was so much to do around the place,
And if you wanted to be somebody as a woman, you dressed in a tutu and on your toes went to ballet school.  
Degas painted women endlessly and beautifully, probably making love to them that way too.

Now I will do my other Covid chore, walking.  My ten thousand steps.
I decide to walk the neighborhood, and see if I can see it as endless and beautiful too.
I restore my room to order and put on my shoes and walk out to Heron’s Head Park exactly 5,000 steps there and back across the hills and faraway.
It’s hot and I shall sweat, Degas would not want to paint me today.
And our streets are litter-strewn with homeless encampments
More or less.

Sent to us: Nov. 6, 2020

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