• Kevin O'Keefe

Phase One or Two

You washed your hands, oh did you wash them.

You became a surgeon of tiny sanities

You scoured the Oracle for signs, for distractions

You peered into tea cups for an ending.

You left your home alone, or with a trusted other, but not too close

You never shook hands, hugged or kissed

You held your breath around strangers, then filled your belly alone

You left sweets on the neighbors porch with your ten-foot pole.

It was always Black Friday, Maundy Thursday,

Ash Wednesday, Monday, Monday or some other

There was nothing to distinguish one from another, except a mask

of grey or yellow or that it was too cold, then too wet.

The papers stopped publishing

new editions, only repeating the old ones.

You bought the papers just the same, in order to have something to do.

The ink slid off the page and onto your mayonnaise-slickened fingers.

You took up new habits—knitting, smoking, or growing a beard

You traded gossip and played online bridge and poker

You tried to understand what made your neighbor raise a flag to death

When you felt adventurous you grocery shopped.

At times you fought with those closest to you, or stewed in silence

Once, you lusted after the mail man

Nearly all of you were scared,

the ones who weren’t were the scariest

You considered new careers

such as wildlife rehabilitator, washer/dryer repair person and delivery driver,

careers for which you had no skill, aptitude or experience.

You denied being shipwrecked.

You gazed into the night, garbage cans, puddles,

and saw no bottom.

You made bonfires of banned books in your backyards,

to appeal to a blind Almighty.

You longed for normal and knew somewhere, not only was it never coming back,

it would just get worse.

In the beginning you thought it couldn’t last, in the middle you were sure it would never end,

in the end it you said was worth it,

but not that much.

When you died you longed for oyster mushrooms to sprout from your eye sockets

And the ink from your permanent record would drip back into its’ blue bottle

to then be buried in the junkyard.

Then the stars form a phalanx and the path between them would finally be made clear

but that was impossible, after all was undone.


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