We washed our hands, oh did we wash them.
We became surgeons of tiny sanity
We scoured the Oracle for signs, for distractions
We peered into the bottom of tea cups for an ending.
We walked and fed our pets, we watched the sky for birds
We took things for granted, we were guilty of much
We watched stock indexes and death tolls rise from the same disease
never sure which deserved applause.
We left our homes alone, or with a trusted other, but not too close
We never shook hands, hugged or kissed
We held our breath around others, then filled our bellies alone
for which we expressed gratitude—mostly for not remembering.
It was always Black Friday, Maundy Tuesday,
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.
There was no news, so the papers stopped publishing
new issues, only repeating the old ones.
We bought the papers just the same, in order to have something to do.
The ink slid off the page and onto our mayonnaise-slickened fingers.
We thought about taking up new habits—knitting, smoking, or shaving our heads
We traded gossip and played online bridge and poker
We tried to understand what made some neighbors raise a flag to death
When we felt adventurous we shopped or tried out a new recipe.
At times we fought with those closest to us, or stewed in silence
Once, we lusted after the mail man
Nearly all of us were scared, the ones who weren’t were the scariest
We left sweets on the neighbors porch with our ten-foot pole.
We considered and applied for new jobs
such as wildlife rehabilitator, washer/dryer repair person and delivery driver,
careers for which we had no skills or aptitudes.
We denied being shipwrecked by a deaf government
We gazed into the night, garbage cans, puddles, and saw no bottom.
We watched long movies or fell asleep with trashy novels on our lap
We made bonfires of banned books in our backyards,
to appeal to a blind Almighty.
We despised the clerk who told us what to wear,
the waitress who spit in our food on the take-out line,
the teacher who lied to our kids
We enjoyed watching a hollow lawyer melt
We longed for normal and knew somewhere, not only was it never coming back,
it would get worse.
In the beginning we didn’t understand, in the middle we waited for it to be over,
in the end it we said was worth it,
but not that much, and at what cost?
When we died we hoped oyster mushrooms would sprout from our eye sockets
We dreamed ink from our permanent record would drip into a blue bottle found buried in the junkyard
We fantasized that the stars would form a phalanx and the path between them clear
but that was impossible, after all we’d forgotten.