Weathering Plague-Time and Hurricanes

A collection by Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)

On the First Day of School, the Smell of…Disinfectant

“Attention, comrades! This is disinfectant – use it.”
-Railway official in Doctor Zhivago

Cedar pencils, fresh packs of notebook paper
A new vinyl notebook with a shiny brass zipper
New shoes, new socks, new jeans, new everything
All with the scents of optimism, of hope

But this year all your friends fit into cubes
On the computer screen at your kitchen table
And you hope your stupid brother won’t dance
Across the room in his Captain Marvel underwear

But you can still take comfort in remembering
That Robin Hood remains free in Sherwood Forest

Children in Clear Plastic Cages
“I tell you, schools are a very appetizing opportunity. I just saw a nice piece in The Lancet arguing the opening of schools may only cost us 2 to 3 percent, in terms of total mortality.”
-Dr. Mehmet Oz

A child
Is not a herd immunity parameter
Nor is she a working hypothesis
A flatten-the-curve probability
Or a distribution of antibodies

A child
Is not an appetizing opportunity
Nor is she a 2 to 3% tradeoff
A deceived Darwinian’s variable
Or the it in “It is what it is”

A child
Is the small, still voice of God calling to us

1 Kings 19

After the Hurricane: to Town for the Mail
“That’s bad. All our sympathy. Still, it’s none of our business.”
-Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago, p. 227

I remembered my watch and pocketknife
But I had forgotten my duty mask
And so I scuttled into the post office lobby
Hoping that no one would see me bare of face

Our town is mostly plywood now, and weeds
There wasn’t much here before anyway
And now the plague-time and the hurricane
Have pulled the old brick walls into the streets

Plywood and weeds, blue tarps, MREs and showers
In shiny trailers outside the Baptist church

Dreams / Limit Three Per Customer, Please
For a Supermarket Worker

We passed in the market, next to the frozen foods
Shelves mostly empty; she was checking a list
I asked her how she was doing; she paused
Then wearily sighed, “I’m just living the dream”

We are all evacuation-weary now
Virus-weary, and hurricane-weary
Weary from the heat and damp and rot
Weary from the motions, weary from unpaid bills

Weary from the crises that wrecked many a plan –
And some were weary before all this began

A Waiting Room in a Time of Waiting

Every other chair is a virus chair
Made sacred by a yellow crime scene tape
Reserved for that little man who isn’t there 1
A sad unflattened curve in its drooping shape

The walls are all covered with warning signs
Our positions are marked two meters apart
And we must follow cheerfully painted lines
Any other decision is less than smart

We wisely obey, and live another day
We wish, we wish the Covid would go away!

1 cf. “Antigonish,” William Hughes Means

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