Statistics

In 2020, death rates for the
lonely climbed. Research showed
there Is not a mask for loneliness.
No one wants to watch
the hands of a clock
stop. In Japan,
the lonely
can rent a family for hire.
Pick the day and time
and a family
will arrive,
someone to set the table
for, get out the fine
china, light the candles,
arrange the spoons and knives,
someone to tell you
how the tree smells
like Pine.

Red Wave

They came in droves
hiding pointed hats
and white cloaks,
unrecognized like a moon
hovering in the afternoon,
standing in long lines
with clinched fists,
some wearing masks
some with masks pushed down
to their throats.
They filled parking lots with flags,
the red, white and blue stripes,
the Confederate X
shimmering in blue pride,
whipping in the wind
sounding like the “whisk” the whip
made, as it slashed the bare skin of slaves,
through parking lots filled with Mercedes Benz’s
chanting “Make America Great Again”
then driving down streets joined
by perfectly manicured lawns and iron gates,
singing louder than ever,
“Amazing Grace. “

Her Instinct

Leash clinched in hand —
we were midway down
the stairs when we
saw it, a mother bird
guarding a baby chick
struggling to walk across the
dew covered cement, hovering in front
of the barking dog who
eagerly wanted to examine
the slow-moving black speck, Mother
bird squeaking loudly when she saw us, fluttering
wings flying in front of our heads.
I stopped and we waited —
like so many others pausing
that third week in April,
indoors, schools dismissed, washing hands,
laundering beds, teaching children to put on masks,
to zig zag through crowded streets,
washing canned foods and packages
left in grocery bags by the door,
sanitizing the door knobs and
the mail that was washed clean
and placed on top of the refrigerator
to dry.

The News read 7,233 infected
With COVID-19 in the bay where we live
with 269 deaths, leaving mothers
to sing their children to sleep at night,
watching numbers and pacing
all day behind sealed doors,
placing hands on tepid foreheads, touching cheek on cheek
to gauge the warning
in a child’s face, on guard
like a woman sleeping in a double wide
in Nebraska, who understands
the hurried time between
the siren and a
funnel cloud’s proximity, awaken
from a dead sleep, her
feet pushing on a cold floor
without hesitation, mothers now weakened
by a Monster that cannot be seen,
lurking like a serial killer hiding in the streets,
prompting her to lock the windows
and latch the screen, camouflaged
except in diagnosed positives and probable cases,
a mother who whispers to a God
before she sleeps asking:
What is this?
How bad will it get?
What should I do next?

Homicide

I see your body
lying there in the
same spot,
where the detectives
arranged orange cones and yellow
tape. I saw the puddle
of sudsy water which
remained, after
forensics came
with masks and gloves
to clean up
the blood stain, when
the police and reporters
had gone home.

Cars park there now, couples
step on the exact spot
where you drew your
last breath, walking innocently
with a dog leash tightly
gripped in their palms, stepping
on the spot
where you conceded.

Each day, I allow myself
to step closer and closer.

I think I heard your scream
that night, out walking my dog
after dark, on what I believed was
just a typical Thursday evening
before 9 pm, as you bleed out
on the blacktop facedown, I imagine.

Some evenings, when it is quiet,
I conjure the sounds
you must have heard,
as you laid there, hours or
minutes maybe, depending
on how quickly your blood
poured out, knowing they didn’t
find you until after 3 am, not even a football
field’s length from my house.

I see you lying there
as you waited alone in the dark
near the pond with a
fountain spraying water in
and out, hoping the trickling
might have soothed you, like a lullaby
your mama might have sung?
Did you hear every door knob
click, or car engines shutting down?
Were you unable to speak, or
shout for help— only fifty-eight years old,
in the middle of a quite
neighborhood, in the dark,
where he took your life?

Democracy

Election Day 2020, white-haired ladies
tailgating the parking lot, wearing
red hates blaring,
Make America Great Again,
minding tables
with red, white and blue flags waving,
at only 7:30 am.
One hundred voters lined up,
circling around
the church corridor,
shuffling their feet,
standing on a marked red X
6 feet apart,
breathless,
behind masks. Waiting.

Half an hour later, stepping through
a narrow hall, entering
a larger room, with a loop
circle rotation — four curves,
zip zagging around chairs,
following the shoes of the one in front of you,
and keeping your feet moving.
Then 2 lines in opposite directions,
maybe 3 feet apart, down a long narrow hall
during the worst week
of the coronavirus infections,
standing shoulder to shoulder
near a beautiful couple
with masks pulled down around their necks,
ignoring
the ninety-year-old man
standing behind them,
a grandfather maybe,
or an uncle with an old
Mercedes, swaying,
wobbling
each time he shifts
to the opposite leg, or the couple
pushing a 1-year-old
in a stroller, pointing
to the Shriek movie
broadcasted on a big screen,
with Eddie Murphy’s voice
blaring through the intercom, as a few
chuckles filter through the room.

Two hours later — sweating
through layers
of sweaters and boots
as a poll worker with a microphone
moves through the line,
shouting for those with a last name
beginning with “S” or “T”— it is
a lucky day— because for them–
there would be no waiting.
So without coyness or second thinking,
nudging through those I stood behind,
ignoring their tired sighs,
and wide eyes,
I moved myself to the front of the line.

Katharine Studer divides her time living in her home state of Ohio and the city she loves, San Francisco. She teaches at San Francisco State University, Ashland University and Columbus State Community College.

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