“Quarantine Day 35” by Jaime R. Wood

Jaime R. Wood


The online coronavirus survey asks
if you’ve experienced hair loss
and you laugh because just yesterday
you took brand new clippers to your scalp
and sheared off enough hair to help someone
with cancer feel human again.
Your friend told you over Zoom happy hour
to hug yourself to trick your body
into feeling less lonely, so you wrap your arms,
right to left and left to right,
across your chest until your hands reach
your shoulder blades and you can feel
your heart beating inside you
as if it belongs to someone else,
but you know that hasn’t been true for a long time.
You stay up all night watching hospital dramas
because you want to know who will live
and who will die.
And one morning you wake to find out via email
that one of your students died in her sleep.
All day you tell people again and again,
“She had kids. She had kids.” Plural.
But it turns out she only had one
five-year-old daughter. Singular.
But what does it matter?
Every child is a universe.
And one morning one small girl in Portland, Oregon
woke up without her one very important mother.
Sometimes my hands shake with all they cannot hold,
and I don’t know how to measure what it means
for time to pass. Which simile will do?
Like a heartbeat?
Like a million fine hairs falling from a head?
Like a mother who slept through the night
and then stopped, her universe carrying the weight
of her through all the days of her life?

from Poets Respond
April 28, 2020


Jaime R. Wood: “The ongoing event that we’re all experiencing right now is social isolation in an attempt to protect ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19, and some people, like me, live alone, and so the isolation is profound. Last week, I learned that one of my students died in her sleep, and of all the things I knew about her, the thing I kept thinking about was the fact that she was a single mother and that her kids were young. I knew that, but I couldn’t remember how many kids she had until someone told me that she only had one, and at that point, it didn’t really matter to me. The loss is great, no matter how you calculate it. The loss of this one woman, and my feelings about it, can be multiplied many times over and applied to each of us. We wake up and fall asleep to loss, and there aren’t adequate words to measure it all.” (web)

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