I went for a walk again today over the hilly street bordering my subdivision went a mile to where the street splits then climbed to where the median strip shelters brittlebush and penstemon in wild bloom and there where the road split I was relieved of commodity and commerce as the street was relieved of our customary speed to get somewhere.
The air was mild the sun sharp desert light intense as is my isolation made requisite by a being or is it a non-being dispersing in the global humanosphere noncellular nonmetabolic unable to grow or replicate without a host crumbled bunch of twine oily membrane protein spikes that Velcro to human lungs the virus needs us and we the numerous comply
or not walking alone noting pleasures in the familiar that we had once found abroad Lyon’s silk looms the Alhambra’s heavenly garden of Islam Delphi’s mystic air now it’s mica flecks in roadside gravel little stars in the firmament of what keeps us grounded when the angst makes us spin.
I don’t know how to speak of grief I feel the floor break open beneath my feet fall into abysms of the unthinkable just imagining my daughter my grandsons… but seeing the semis lined with quick-built wooden shelving stacked with white-wrapped corpses the sheen and contour of the shrouds I force myself to write learning to see each one of them as among my beloveds each word an act of defiance against the unspeakable.
I walked out and returned the phainopepla churring from atop the leafless mesquite fearless in its black satin camo matchtip flames atop ocotillos the yardman loading his trailer with pulled weeds ring of shovel scraping dirt
then heart swelling at scent of orange blossoms neurologic memo to the sense of smell a paean to hope that my body my brain can still equate with spring and all while the neighborhood contracts behind disinfected doors and we winter ourselves keeping the difficult distance.
Alison Hawthorne Deming’s most recent poetry collection is Stairway to Heaven (2016). She is a Regents Professor at the University of Arizona and lives in Tucson and on Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada.