Pandemic Poems - APRIL 2020
Bio Note: I spent most of my working life as a criminal investigator. I am the author of Spear of Stars (2018) and Soulless Heavens (2019) published by The Red Salon. My poem "Samsara" was nominated for the 2019 Rhysling Award.
Passing in the stairwell, no eye contact nor situational awareness. Am I not a potential threat; so evidently housebroken & tame? In her billowy wake: aroma of air freshner, dryer sheets, fresh kitty litter & abstinence. Run home little miss, to sugar-free evenings of screen time & clean sheets. Spate of ill fortune! we’d all retreat inside ourselves. Casting protective circles Twelve feet in diameter with Lysol & panic attacks. Swearing, we had not, ourselves summoned the invisible principality nibbling at our mortality. Into individual serving caves, watching shadows flicker on our Samsungs, uncertain if we’ll ever emerge. Fearful of what expects us in the broken future. Enter into a futile passion, hiding our faces from humiliation & spitting, veiling our images: tattooed skin, boot chipped teeth, smoker’s cough & fatty liver. Brittle matter of which we are formed. Mere shadow of our true spirit. One hopes. In ethanol we trust. Lemony fresh disinfectant wipes & germy squirt. Slay the unseen adversary lurking on every surface & even on final notices slipped under our door. How unlike the acrid smells we loved so well, of blithe nights long past. Stink of hot knives in Tompkins Square. Shoplifted French perfume haunting art school corridors lined with bad student drawings. Clove cigarette smoke permeates each indelicate memory. Mouthfeel of too many espressos & puffs from hastily rolled joints. Joints rolled on subway seats. Ladies in peril of their own design. Cut their own bangs, & messed it up every time. First dates in graveyards & last dates ending in fistfights with her old boyfriend. Purine beer from cloudy taps in bars not carding girls who can’t be fifteen, bouncing in laps of skinheads with raw knuckles & angel dust stares. Rent party, nobody knows who lives in this loft. Sweating under painted leather. Dancing in her bra stuffed with street money. Unwashed hands dip cups into punch spiked with Absolut & ecstasy. Tiny kitchen, failed attempt at Vietnamese cooking, her fish sauce breath upon you. Split lips kissing after vomiting vodka drinks. Nobody held her hair in the vandalized bathroom. Manic Panic head stains pillowcase blue. Using your toothbrush spitting out hippy toothpaste not approved by the American Dental Association. Nights sullied, magnificent dying with you & me limping into the awful eternity of tomorrow.
©2020 Jason O'Toole
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