By Caitlin Thomson
That winter, the cold
kept me company under
five down comforters,
the wind felt even in
my dreams. All I wanted,
more than hot chocolate,
or a roaring fire, most days
was sun warmed fruit.
My biggest longing a ripe peach
from the tree, but I would settle
for a red delicious, on a window ledge.
March 30th, 2020
Out the window I see a man walking his dog.
In his hand there’s a pastry bag, a to-go
cup with a famous mermaid on the side,
I’m a witness to another lifetime.
Two doors down our neighbors have a secret
cocktail party in their backyard, and I imagine
the virus floating among them like the fae,
invisible and malicious, rings everywhere.
When my daughter was born, her bilirubin levels
were so high, she spent a week in what closely resembled
a terrarium. She came out only to eat my milk,
her diaper changed and weighed as quickly as possible.
No longer a patient myself, I had to stay with her,
watching the emergency helicopter behind the hospital
come and go. When I entered it was the sweltering
heat of August, but I exited in Autumn,
as if the fast forward button had been pushed
on the world without me being in it.
We are Becoming New
People post pictures on social
media of their kids poking through
the sunroofs of cars and chatting with
others that way, the white lines of a parking
spot between them. When I buy my children
Easter presents I do it over the phone,
picking up the books from a red box outside
a store I spent hours in as a child,
the purple and blue striped awnings taunt me.
We show the movers what they need to
pack and what they need to leave in
our apartment over facetime. They record
the video to review. When we pass
a grocery store the kids count
the people in line, six feet apart,
staring at their phones.
My cousin drives three hours
to sit outside her mother’s nursing house
window. They can see each other through
the glass, but can’t talk.
Over Zoom I tell a friend I feel trapped in an
audition for the words strangest
sitcom and I keep waiting to hear
from the people in charge if I
got the part or not. My friend
laughs and I wonder what it will be
like to hug her when it’s all over –
Will it feel like a reward
or just one more risk?
The Luxury of Staying Put
In my sleep I return to the marsh. It’s summer lush
and weedy, my feet are bare in the mud, steps cautious.
The ice separating the island and marsh from us have broken,
but we are staying in the city, the outside is our backyard
or sometimes a park as seen through a car window,
driving a reminder of the world large around us.
Glass means safety these days. Only my husband
enters the grocery store, gloved and masked,
a partition between him and the cashier. I wonder
if our four-year-old will remember these times.
Tonight as I tucked her washed body into bed she
asked, Wasn’t this the best day ever? And I am grateful
again for the powers of face paint, and junk food,
the luxury of being able to stay in.
Love in the Time of the Coronovirus
Back away, my child shouts to a stranger, her hand out
palm flat as a stop sign, six feet apart.
She has no idea how far six feet is, or how close.
Her grandparents are family she sees across a fence
or up in a balcony. Repunzal, Repunzal, let down your long hair,
she asks and they lower toys in a basket.
Why can I hug you, but not them? she will ask
in the evening dim of her bedroom, her body
on top of mine like a cat but twenty pounds heavier.
They’re family too, she says and they are of course.
My father kissed my cheek when he walked me down
the aisle. He did not hold my hand, he did not want to
give me away, because I wasn’t his, and I wasn’t my husbands,
But their roof hasn’t been mine for over a decade now.
They’re family I say, and that’s why we keep them safe.
My own body is as confused by this as my daughter’s.
I’ve been writing a lot about the pandemic, in part because my husband’s high risk, and while places are opening up and friends are asking for our children to have playdates, we are staying home and still absurdly wiping all our groceries down with bleach. I think in the UK we’d be called Sheilders, but here we’re just called extreme.