In the Valley of April
Oh you pity the dead, the unintended lucky dead, who lay in their makeshift morgues, quiet now outside their cottoned ears. Gone the insect whirr, the thrumming ventilators breathing in the unclenched April. Oh the dead, the unqualified unsuspecting anonymous dead, partnered in their bodybag shrouds the mandate for distance having outlived its loud purpose. Stilled hands across the antiseptic air, would there be among them some unspoken unrehearsed sympathy? Frozen lips buttoned to mute. Theirs. Mine. After hours of unending statistics that pour like poison into the sleeping ears. The ears exposed during a garden nap, an April afternoon when all you’d want is a flyover by the young spring birds, or the contrails of unseen jets overhead. No specific skywritten message, no squalor of news that is never good. If you practice hope, you will seem hopeless, risking glances in the rearview mirror, hoping to see the all of it retreat toward the backwards horizon, hoping this was just bad fiction, a cheap paperback on a rusted rack. Or just a weird night’s thrashing in tangled sheets. Just hope to wake to a different spring morning with Easter eggs carefully hidden, the ungloved undamaged hands of children carefully reaching behind the tall grasses. The times call for simple language. No obfuscated obscurities married to obsessions, no private penance trapped in the margins. I am sorry I couldn’t be simpler. I am sorry I couldn’t withhold news of the 10,000 dead. (Those lucky dead who’ll miss the news and its recap tonight.) I am sorry these words couldn’t be virtual, the online minutes of an adjourned meeting, or a scrolled-past post on social media. I am sorry I couldn’t spring ahead, and edit this imperfect present for you, rewriting the living hours of those lucky dead who’ll dream of their children’s baskets in pastel colors only appropriate on certain days in April when the air is clean and well in its casual innocence.
Cherie was runner-up and won a prize of $150. She is featured in our first official book publication, In the Quarantined Room: Reflections on the COVID-19 Experience in Indian River County, FL 2020. To find out more about the book and to purchase a copy, click here.