Losing My Grip

Two weeks in COVID-19 isolation

I looked up from my confined conscription,
past the six-foot neutral zone.
Stuck in safe mode on remote,
one of 7.5 billion firewalled away alone.
In the great reboot of 2020,
where one’s company, two’s a crowd,
and the Trojan, thinner than an angel’s hair,
wields the scythe beneath his crown.
Then our new king lay the law down:

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Photo by Jordan Hopkins on Unsplash

Under quarantine:
The safety of the public space.
The team’s high-five.
The lovers’ embrace.
The friend dropping, IRL, live.
Fingertips that meet in prayer.
The caress of a sweet child’s face.

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Photo by Dark Labs on Unsplash

Was it the luck of the draw,
a rainmaker’s whim
or a kingpin’s gutter-game win,
when 3,400,000,000 nucleotides
hijacked our mortal map
and set 500 million devils dancing on a pin?

Was it the mushroom cloud,
the tattooed wrists,
napalm on a naked girl?
Bloody Sunday’s troubled barricades?
A line of tanks against an unnamed hero?
Vultures at the bones of belly-bloated babes?
The row upon row of macheted skulls?
Or that day the towers melted
and the falling leaped to escape a fiery hell?

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Photo by Gábor Molnár on Unsplash

The jihadist cry?
IED carnage across the market? Stretchers, piled with limbs torn free?
The buzzing drones? The friendly fire?
The Black Hawks downed?
The border walls up?
Or that baby boy, in red and blue, face down in the sand?
The flooding, fetid Superdome?
Sarin in the subway?
Them good ol’ Dixieland boys rolling in and over to settle one last score? The milky eyes, streaming? The angry cries screaming I can’t breathe no more?
Body atop body in a cafeteria crush? The terror-eyes of schoolkids strung along a rope, as their teachers whispered hush?
A bump-stock burst of a thousand rounds? Or the festival cheers turned to funeral sounds?

It hurts now as, burning, I swallow, twitch and ache.
If my strength slips away, far above the fevered fray,
will I hear the voice of creation?
Or voices from the past, passed by,
as they look down and laugh,
“Now, you’re all WMDs, the joke’s on you,
you damned, ungrateful nations.”

I’ve been a poet since I was five. Then after university, I worked at the Toronto Star as a journalist, editor, and public editor. Happier now, I write poetry.

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