March 1, 2020

Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

AFTER THE POETRY READING, WE GO TO DINNER AND TRY NOT TO TALK ABOUT DEATH,

over dessert, sharing
bites—coronas, ‘crowns’
of sugary-proteins

with near strangers.
All of us
careful

to use share-plates
and dip our spoons in
just the once.

I confess
I’ve just had
the flu, confess

my ear is still clogged
from the flight. I hear
popcorn popping

when I swallow.
The nurse warned
of fluid, warned

it could hurt
to leave
the ground or come

back down. The virus can live
on your clothes
for up to three hours.

How to hug
my children now
when I come home?

Can I exchange
this body
for another

cleaner, less
human mess?
Should I burn

my clothes? Toss them out
or right into the wash
on high or hot or sanitize,

whatever we think kills
what we bring home.
How do we tell

what is enough? Do
enough? I envy the woman
wearing a peach mask

and breathing
only her own, stale carbon.
Four cities. Four airports.

How many hands
have touched
the things I touch?

How many
points of overlap
between us? All

our dirty movements?
Each touch—
unaccountable

risk.
Boarding pass. Baggage
tag. The handle

of my suitcase. Armrests
and tray tables. An elbow.
The half-washed

bar glass, too weak to kill
what it could carry.
How many chance

infections? How
flammable we are.
As easy to move through

as clouds. And just
as transient,
as likely

to spill open.

from Poets Respond
March 1, 2020

__________

Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach: “I can’t stop washing my hands and thinking about the spread of viral infection as I, like so many other writers, prepare to travel to San Antonio for AWP. I am not worried for myself, but for what I could bring home to my family. Wishing everyone safe travels and hoping that the compulsive hand washing is going to be the next pandemic.” (web)

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