Today you wander towards me through the apocalyptic
newsrooms and by the glow of backlist smart screens.
For you, we have emptied our schools, shuttered
the cafes, prohibited picnics by the sea. Today, I trust
only the unsettled cloudscape,
the fleeting mission of cherry blossoms
lined up here on 47th street. Like everyone,
I overthink the fever burn of skin, the dry brush
at the back of the throat—a whole expressway
of sensations that travel through our bodies.
Dear Wild Unknown, you whom I so often adored,
looked-up to in an extended outlook of bright constellations.
You whom I’ve courted and worked to construct
in the lit room of a stanza or the breath of a line break.
Deep inside the awkwardness of my pen
you seduced with syllables—my friend with benefits.
But not now. Now you’ve emptied the greengrocers of Venice,
the local playgrounds, and my own first date at Vivacé’s—
all indefinitely postponed. Instead I venture out
to the neighborhood pharmacy, the lonely shelves—
no hand sanitizer in the land. Dear, Dear Unknown—
tell me what can we do with our bodies
now that we cannot hold hands?
I stand on the back porch and practice
my cracked aria rising up through the alleyway
as in Verona but unfortunately,
we Americans are not born singers, instead we howl
and bang pots. What can we do but cry out
onto the page? Scratch a code in curved lines and dashes—
imagining the day we will reclaim our own good names.
Seattle poet Susan Rich is the author of four books of poetry, most recently, Cloud Pharmacy (shortlisted for the Julie Suk Prize) and The Alchemist’s Kitchen (finalist for the Washington State Book Award). She has been granted a Fulbright Fellowship, the PEN USA Award for Poetry, the Times (of London) Literary Supplement Award and a 4Culture Grant. Rich’s poems appear in Harvard Review, New England Review, Poetry Ireland, and World Literature Today among many other publications. She has two collections forthcoming: A Gallery of Postcards and Maps: New and Selected Poems (Salmon Press) and Blue Atlas (Red Hen Press).