By Jessica Cohn
It was the spring when dry goods
held our fascination. We bottled gold
hand-pumped mucus. Toilet paper
became currency. The cut of ethyl
alcohol sharpened elbows. We took
our contact in fluid ounces, returned
to fire escapes, back steps, the opposite
side of the street. The public square
emptied, and the crosswalk followed.
Masters of airports called the airplanes
home. The cars stopped moving from
their spaces along side streets. Certain
mornings, a bird might appear, its soft
tweeting out of place. A day would pass,
its tally of losses. People died. First, in
abstraction and then a name we knew.
And the geography of the world came
into focus. There was a fat man in charge,
or so they said, and he named the virus
China. But the tankers and the cargo
ships and the thin layer of hyperclean
water under every screen called it home.
Some of us bought bullets. Some of us
bought stock, trading on the corpses
and their deep pockets. But there
were many more who saw beauty in far-
sighted blue sea hemming in our patchwork
boundaries. It was the spring when hope was
a shell game. And there were winners even then.
Jessica Cohn works as a reporter, a nonfiction writer, and an editor—and writes poetry almost compulsively. Her most recent poems can be found at Rattle, at Split Rock Review, at phren-Z, and in California Fire & Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology.