Coronavirus poem 5: The Year of the Plague: A Letter

Isolation: cold word, with ice in its veins,
not to mention that other sound, “shun,”
at the end. I think of all those rhymed
relatives: nation, duration, desolation,
ovulation, creation—dozens
of cousins, those blood relations
bound to us by skeins of sound.

Alone, cut off from you, loves,
there’s not much to do but study
a patch of jonquils, seven in all,
half-hidden by an upturned wheelbarrow
at the corner of the toolshed,
their white sockets frilled, rain-spotted,
splashed by in-and-out sun.

Why have I, after all these years,
only now noticed them? Who,
before we came on the scene,
planted them in this out-of-the-way spot?
In isolation, there can be solace,
even as the dying die alone,
even as the dead have no place

to rest, exhausted by their tribulation.
Then there are the other dead,
the red-caps crammed in the town square
howling approval when the king
waves his rubbery arms, shrugs and grins,
ripping sense from every ruined sentence,
spitting back nonsense to wild applause.

I’m thankful for a certain kind
of solitary confinement, the kind
where we’re close by being far.
Here, then, are seven jonquils.
Here’s sunlight on their flared skirts.
I give you their stillness, their brief lives.
When they nod, I give you the wind.