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.

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