Note: My April blog included a few ironic/amusing moments that arrived with Covid-19. Now we’re near the end of May and the gloves are off, metaphorically speaking. Humor is napping while lost jobs, daily death statistics, incompetence, a dearth of empathy, the inevitable result of stupidity, refusals to stave off disease by staying at home, selfish neediness of I-want-it-now, and the failure to understand how mask-less close-ups lead to more illness and dying have taken the place of humor and inspired this prose poem.
It’s not my grandfather’s lot of unloading food and bullets headed to the muddy mustard gas filled trenches,
while recordings of his grandfather’s back, bent under the weight of tobacco he never owned
played between his ears, reminding him to leave the oyster cannery if given a second chance.
It’s not my grandmother’s frustration, etched in chalk dust that settled
upon children’s shoulders as they learned in their under-supplied, unheated Virginia classroom,
and then followed her to Pennsylvania, where her color nullified her credentials and obliged her to wait tables in a tearoom.
It’s not the yoke my father bore as he earned bed and board while studying trigonometry and German,
before suiting up to intercept enemy messages from Japanese planes destined to collide
with American fire over the red-stained Pacific.
It’s not the self-righteous anger boiling atop the anti-war/poverty/racism placards hoisted
above the heads of my generation as they took to the streets to protest the napalm and knife-sharp bamboo that sliced through bloody feet running in jungles thousands of miles away.
It’s none of those things.
It is the slow torching of our sanity when we hear the senseless ramblings and the truths that disappear like wisps of smoke floating away from visibility.
It is the non-stop pain of our absence when our loved one needs our presence.
It is the fear that keeps us company every time we close our front door and tentatively breathe in the unknown.
It is the silence in our workplace, our school, our site of worship, our familiar streets.
It is the paralyzing weakness of those we counted on to be strong and resist “economy trumps lives.”
It is our head-spinning free fall into the sacrifice of those who are poor, old, or infirm.
It is us.
And we know better.
We know how to be better.
© Renée Bess 2020
Renée Bess is the author of five novels and co-story collector of the 2018 Goldie-winning anthology, OUR HAPPY HOURS, LGBT VOICES FROM THE GAY BARS. A former teacher, she always tried to match her teaching style to her learners’ various abilities. Despite that, she’s becoming impatient with some peoples’ inability to understand the dangers of the current pandemic. Bless their hearts…