Waterfall with glowing light

Letter to America by Jon Davis

One Poem

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Ode to the Coronavirus

Teach me how to love the cough, the test,
the social distance, canceled prom, empty gym,

the steady slide into impoverishment.
My ears, at this late age, make of silence

a steady hiss, so I’m never alone, except
with my failures. Failure to forget myself

completely for just a moment. Even as
my granddaughter swings her tiny foot—golpe,

golpe, golpe—I’m thinking my granddaughter, as if
the reckless joy she brings to the dance

is part mine. But nothing is mine. And that’s
the lesson you came to teach. Everything

crumbling. Everything suspended a moment
like pollen on the water at the top of a waterfall.

Or like a stray dog in traffic, lunging & turning.
Or a bat in the bedroom flapping raggedly

toward one wall & the next. If just for one
moment I could still the hiss in my ears,

the shuddering in my chest, or call it
something else—a shimmering—then would I be

like the humming stones at the waterfall’s foot
that welcome the weight of water & pollen:

golpe fuerte, golpe de suerte, golpe mortal.




Jon DavisJon Davis is the author of five chapbooks and six full-length poetry collections, including, most recently, An Amiable Reception for the Acrobat (Grid Books, 2019). Davis also co-translated Iraqi poet Naseer Hassan’s Dayplaces (Tebot Bach, 2017). He has received a Lannan Literary Award, the Lavan Prize, the Off the Grid Poetry Prize, and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. He taught for 23 years at the Institute of American Indian Arts before founding, in 2013, the IAIA low-residency MFA in Creative Writing, which he directed until his retirement in 2018. 
Read other Letters to America in Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy, published by Terrain.org and Trinity University Press.

Read poetry by Jon Davis previously appearing in Terrain.org: Letter to America and three poems.

Header photo by Fahroni, courtesy Shutterstock.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.