I know you know what it feels like, staring
into your phone, bleary-eyed, at 3-or-so’clock
in the morning, trying to fathom the abyss
of what you’re witnessing. Charts and graphs
of delusion and disease, primary colors—
primal ones—flipping themselves over
into something you can’t make sense of, where
red is cold and blue is warm and all you’ve ever
learned till now has been a conjuring. Earlier,
when you witnessed light bearing down through
darkness—really just a break in the clouds
at an opportune time—and you saw the trees
leaning in to the glow, you knew the moment
held meaning. Tonight, opening the abyss
of pale blue light in your hand, you see maps aflame
with surging cases of COVID-19: counties
where new cases peaked during [orange]
the last week and [red] the last month,
counties where deaths had peaked during
[orange] the last week and [red] the last month,
and staring into chart after chart of the entire
United States pixelated [orange] and [red],
you find yourself staring at the tops of your
comfy, red-leather shoes and neatly folded
bright-orange socks, and the white of your legs
so resonate with the pale green and creamy-white
pattern of your grandmother’s kitchen floor.
The cold blue laugh of the boy standing over
you broke into shards and tumbled around
you: Look at her! Look at those shoes and socks!
That’s when you’d dropped your gaze, seeing
the shoes and the orange socks you’d just put on,
yourself, and the pale-green, creamy-white floor
glistening beneath them seemed to suddenly tilt
sideways. You heard your grandmother’s voice
telling the boy her shoes are fine, and you heard
something in her voice you’d never heard before.
You never heard Nana sound tired. You never
heard Nana sound frightened. You looked up
to see your grandmother staring not at you or
your shoes but directly at the boy. They don’t match!
he was yelling again, insistent. Her shoes and socks
don’t match! Look! And then he lunged, pointing.
You’ve never stopped looking, or hearing those
shards of cacophonous laugh. You’ve never forgotten
your Nana’s intent and questioning stare into
his dark and dagger-like eyes. You’ve never forgotten
the cold blue light of the open Frigidaire door
behind them. Fifty years later, staring into charts
tracing the path of calamitous illness and death,
you remember the damage that bullies can do.
They won’t ever say they were sorry; they won’t
ever say they were wrong. Their voices get louder
and louder, and they just keep blaming you.
And in these charts you see the beauty of orange
and red and how they’re working together.
You admit when you first saw the charts you saw
fire, thought they were tracing fire itself—and
in a way, they were—but then you saw the beauty
of clarity blazing. You thought of the trees
you saw earlier, leaning toward the light: Give
me some more, said the trees, Let us drink it all in,
said the trees. And you understood the uncanny,
beautiful way those trees had glowed. The angry
boy grew up, went away, and died. You grew up,
went away, and somehow, keep living.
There’s no sense, really, to the living and dying,
all that anger and hurt. Some of us are born
with eyes wide open. Some of us die refusing to see.
Some of us never stop staring into our phones,
or writing down what we think we remember,
trying to make sense of color and pattern, memory
and meaning, love and fear and light waving
through trees, sometimes shining through, sometimes
………….bursting, sometimes burning everything down.

Comments are closed.