$100 bill with facemask on Ben Franklin

Letter to America by Marissa Alvarez

Two Poems

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20 Questions Regarding 2020

Were you comfortable?
Were you careful or carefree?
Did you starve? Were you scared?
Did you breathe easily or did you struggle?
Did you find out you were essential or expendable?
Could you afford to stock up or were you forced to make sacrifices?
Did you count squares of toilet paper?
Did you social distance or socialize?
Did you check case counts, death toll, & positive test rates 5 days a week?
Around the country or just your area? 
Did you petition, write letters to your representatives, & protest for equality
or did you really believe racism didn’t exist?
Were you disgusted by the Insurrection or did you dismiss it?
Did the last 2 questions make you angry?
Are you about to point out the Insurrection was in 2021 or call it a tourist visit?
Are you in mourning?
Did you choose blame & body bags over better behavior?
Did your isolation become insulation?
Do you feel lucky to have survived?
Or did you feel entitled to?




20 Footnotes on Shopping in 2020

1) Apples are too expensive now. If I survive, maybe apples next year.

2) Reapers are as busy as grocers this year.

3) 3 packages of chicken left, almost as expensive as bison or boar.

4) 3 of my cousins will be dead by January 2021; all were in better health than me.

5) The only jam without corn or sugar is from Italy. Italian imports left on shelves as Italy is hacked away.

6) We all cancelled our plans.

7) Gluten free pasta is sold out. The kind without tapioca won’t be available till March 2021.

8) Those of us with chronic illness hope all who were frustrated to experience home isolation and financial instability caused by a health crisis remember—some of us won’t get to leave.

9) Remove shampoo from cart, the broth I’m not allergic to is on sale.

10) The subtext when underlying health conditions are discussed is the ableist belief illness is a moral failure; therefore, we are less deserving of survival.

11) To have enough eggs for birthday cake I will skip breakfast for 2 days.

12) A game of musical chairs with a crown no one wants to wear.

13) The only heat pads that work on my spinal pain come from Japan and will not come back in stock here until February 2021, months after I run out.

14) After 598,540 dead, the first person in our community to get COVID (a Diamond Princess Cruise passenger) wonders who to believe.

15) [Shelves] remain empty. Hoarding. [Instead of shelves read hearts.]

16) Mistaking lottery tickets for bonds—they listen to ludicrous demagogues. My pandemic has not been their pandemic.

17) Kids in our open-carry community vow to shoot my kind in the head. At the dinner table they gorge on hate and ignorance, greasy fingers reach for triggers.

18) The cashier says if I get it, I get it. No one says if I pass it on, I pass it on.

19) We still practice human sacrifice here.

20) Uncertain if I’ll see the jacaranda of May, the penstemons of July, the winter, the snow, and the daffodils that come after.


14: See article by Chris Reed in the March 13, 2021, St. George News.
17: See article by Aspen Stoddard in the November 5, 2020, St. George News.




Marissa AlvarezAs an immunocompromised Chicana living in a place that colloquially refers to itself as Dixie and often still refuses to admit a pandemic ever happened, Marissa Alvarez has responded with her poetry to express feelings and questions from a perspective that was ignored or entirely unheard here and in similar swaths of the country. Living in this friction, sometimes forgotten and other times hated, the intensified mindset of judgment and lack of value on people of color or with illness, inspired these poems. She resides on Southern Paiute ancestral land, with her parents (again), shih tzu sister, and three rescued cats. Recently her poems have appeared in The Southern Quill, Rigorous, Capsule Stories, and Anti-Heroin Chic.

Header image by Viacheslav Lopatin, courtesy Shutterstock.

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