Each day the world grows smaller & larger

as we retreat to our homes (those lucky to have them),

stock up on what we think we’ll need—toilet paper,

hand sanitizer, flour, beans—begin to understand

what it means to hunker down. In public, try out

social distancing: smile, nod, nervous, wonder

is this six feet? when what we want is to embrace

every service person we meet: the efficient,

masked bagger at QFC, the weary pharmacist,

the stoic neighbor hobbling up the street.

The world now in our living room

and we watch in disbelief as bodies stack up

on nightly news, as doctors in Italy must choose

whose life to save. Meanwhile our phones beep

the rising Covid-19 count for our county,

new guidelines for gathering, from 250 to 50

to 10 in a week. Then tonight, on the news,

watch those exiled on ancient iron balconies,

the last common space, join their voices, reach across

what little divides—to fill the death-drenched air

with song: rock, arias, and last, their national anthem.

And from our living room, an ocean and a continent

away, we hear a voice, our own stubborn belief

in the human species, despite all the ways

we’ve bungled it, rise above the fear,

the uncertainty, the despair—join in.

 

—March 18, 2020

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Holly J. Hughes

Holly J. Hughes is the author of Hold Fast, Sailing by Ravens, coauthor of The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World, and editor of the award-winning anthology, Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease. Her fine art chapbook Passings received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation in 2017. Her poems and essays have been nominated for Pushcart prizes and have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Poetry of Presence and Dancing with Joy. She’s a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University’s low-residency MFA program, where she served on the staff for 13 years. She also spent over thirty summers working on the water in Alaska commercial fishing for salmon, skippering a 65-foot schooner and working as a naturalist on ships. She currently leads writing and mindfulness workshops in Alaska and the northwest and consults as a writing coach.

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