to keep away the plague, herbs stuffed
into pockets. How much have we changed,
anxious, watching the bodies pile up?
Superstition vs. science: which gives
more comfort now? The numbers seem
unmeasurable, a magic trick. No cure,
not even any tests. In the Middle Ages,
it was bird masks, now it’s N95, but same idea:
this will keep us safe. But we know
no one is safe. We hide in our houses,
building fires and stacks of things that might protect us:
bleach, gloves, tissues, cough medicine, vitamins.
We cannot see our loved ones, shut into hospitals
like mysterious shrines, taken out alive or dead.
They close our eyes. We have no say in whether
we breathe or not. Our lives matter little
to most. It’s easy to forget our flesh, our light
is mortal. We say, “I love you.” We forget
to shut out the bright moon. The flowers
have already started growing over our graves.
Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second poet laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Field Guide to the End of the World (Moon City).