“Delta” by Rachel Mallalieu

Rachel Mallalieu


You remember what it was like
in the early days—

when restaurants sent food
and churches dropped off

care packages
Everyone said thank you

& sometimes clapped
and even when the waves

of patients crashed
into your emergency room,

you were able to breathe
Now, you’re so weary,

that when it begins again,
you can hardly muster

energy to care as
your vaccine antibodies

engage in combat with
the squadron of medications

you consume in order to control
your autoimmune disease &

you hope the antibodies win
because you’re placing

breathing tubes
into eager airways again &

when your friends
don’t get vaccinated,

you take it personally & you
know this isn’t about you,

but you’re spent, nothing’s
left & you don’t think

you can watch
people die alone again

while you hold their iPhones as
they gasp good bye

You stop kissing your children
for a little while & you also

update your will
But on your days off,

you take long hikes and
walk the ridge

where butterflies flit
among the milkweed blossoms

You kneel beside a monarch
& pray that your vaccine holds

as you rest in the shadow
of its stained glass wings

from Poets Respond
August 8, 2021


Rachel Mallalieu: “I am an emergency physician who’s been on the front lines of the Covid battle for 18 months. I also developed an autoimmune illness this year, which makes every Covid encounter feel even more dangerous. As spring gave way to summer, it felt like we had turned a corner. I went weeks without seeing cases in my ER. My teen children were vaccinated, and my younger kids went to camp. Suddenly, my ER has multiple Covid patients every shift again. They’re younger, sicker, and some are dying. It is exhausting to be in this battle; we finally have the weapon with which to fight, and some refuse that weapon. These days, I just try to do right by my patients and take care of myself and my family when I’m off.”

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