Some buildings look more at home in their Covid clothes than others. I can’t call this place old friend since it’s been decades since I walked through the doors. It’s more like a friendly spirit that’s lingered at the edges of my entire adult life, grumbling the same thing all along. I’ve got nothing you want, dammit, but I’m still here. (note: Bistro Montage closed their doors for good near the end of June, unable to survive our country’s sad response to the pandemic.
I thought I’d been through the chaos part of this. The mad and crying part. But it is all constant, maddening, tearful chaos. Before and before the before. And now and the always now. Whether I stick in it depends on who’s rioting that day, how long I spend searching the internet for hand sanitizer, how many poppies have moved from full to fading, how long the punk rock neighbors gotta punk rock and if I can breath.
It’s not that I don’t visit the new dahlia shoots, relieved by their survival and encouraged by their promise. It’s not that the dots of orange and blue don’t kiss me every day. But the undoing is the prize. Maybe that’s what graying ladies tell themselves to feel better. And maybe graying ladies are the ones who get to know it’s true.
Can we be angry and soft? What shape would that take? What rhythm would that keep? A field of deep footprints made in a sweet dance.
Sometimes the walls are accidentally mural-ed in myths. But they’re crow myths. And the crows, for a change, aren’t talking.
This tree showed me how everything was multi-layered and multi-limbed. And that’s the easy part. Then they showed me the tumble, the sway, the shake. The motion’s always uncomfortable. That’s just part of the ride.
This crazy tangle. If it weren’t for the fact that we’ve been inside, paused for so long, drowning in virus news, would waking up to the violent insult of a knee on a neck have broke us wide open? If it weren’t for the fact that we have no sports, vacations, bars, traffic, and work to distract us, would we still surge together in protest every night? If our pockets weren’t so empty and the food lines so long, would we still be moving together, night after night, a glorious river of bodies? And if a handful of white people with guns hadn’t just gathered to demand haircuts and baseball games would we still be as angry about all the Black people killed not just by police but by the virus that helped bring us here?
These trees stood like sentinels. And it seemed like they had nothing to say because they stayed quiet. And it looked like they were doing nothing because there was nothing there to watch.
The tall limbs of the Vervain suggest I crouch alongside them and view them from below. They claim their majesty. I claim my humility.
Some days it’s important to plunge into the places that still smell sweet.
At the car wash, the employee, a young Black man in a uniform not yet wrinkled by the day, searches for the strip of rubber the bright machines have pulled off my car. It pulls loose every time I tell him but this time it pulled clear off. He wanders in between the still brushes and brings me a similar strip from a different car before finding the one that fits mine. I thank him and refuse his offer to file a complaint. As he turns to go back to his station, a hearse pulls up. Oh man, he says partly to me and partly to the world, I hate those things.
This tree told me it was in a constant state of shedding its treeskin. It never got to stop and didn’t see why you’d ever want to. Undoing and being were the same thing. A woman and her dog watched us from across the street, a smiling eavesdropper.
I heard 300 people showed up to clean the protest/pandemic detritus from downtown. On TV, I watched masks sag beneath the noses of the mourners crowded into the church. Every night, my dreams are thick and messy.
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