The Monster/Jailer Speaks,
and from the Prison of Our Sorrows, I Respond
1. The Virus Speaks:
I am everything you needed but hate.
Your unmet needs were sore
before we met
yet now you need forgiveness
asked by me for wrongs
and crimes against humanity;
but these pardons, that like the guilty I request
you may withhold when knowing my bequest.
Forgive me for the deaths
but they were fated
one way or another in the end.
Forgive me for the suffering
but did it not make
the sweet release of death more welcome?
Ah, what of those who suffered yet did not die?
Yes, forgive me them as well; but
think of all the character so built!
Forgive me for the isolation I have caused
but you have learned to live
so much more independently
as death makes all independent at last.
You need not forgive me
for the suffering children —no stanza break—
because I mostly spared them, did I not?
Ask forgiveness for their loneliness?
Their loss of education?
Ha! I taught them all
to long for what they have whined to be free of
through the ages! They have learned
more from me
than you have taught them in a thousand years.
For what else then can I apologize?
The loss of time at your jobs?
Your home is now your work and work your home.
I have integrated your lives!
The loss of all your mindless social glibbery?
I have digitalized, universalized and doubled-up
your lists of so-called friends.
The world is better for its fight
through my pandemonium.
You are stronger now.
Forgive my pride in having made you so.
Forgive me then for not being sorry.
I am but biology, mere essence
of life itself. You made me. Now we live
and die together
as live and die we all must ever on.
This is nothing new. It is you must need
forgiveness from forebearers for believing
your time and your precious selves so special. —stanza break—
2. I Respond:
Ashamed of my cowardice in your face
now that I am inoculated
against your snide pride
your bellowing, bloated biology of wheezing death
I can both be grateful
and say begone!
I am grateful for the solitude
you gave me
I want to seriously, frivolously socialize.
I am grateful for the time
you have forced me to take
I want the night to end!
I don’t want to need my Ambien.
I am grateful to have noticed
what I may otherwise have overlooked
I need sometimes unfocused gaze
to feel warm nothing in a familiar room.
I am grateful for new friends
and the e-connect that makes them possible
I want to rub sweaty bodies with strangers in a mosh pit. —stanza break—
I am grateful for exquisite new music
your long, slow meter has allowed
I want to hear the off-key notes of sincere amateurs
over a bad sound system in a cheesy dive.
I am grateful for the newfound
love of nature all around me
I want to see the seedy cities of the world again.
This damndemic shutdown
has opened up my time;
seconds become minutes
become hours, days to weeks and months
all sometimes in a single night.
This pandemnation sheltering
where I stored the disparate
parts of me
that were in fact the same.
I see them more as one now:
singing, playing, writing
work and art,
love and loneliness together
things with thoughts and feelings
people with heart.
Without shame or blame
we may know the heart —no stanza break—
is strengthened by its scars
when torn and broken, but we cannot
wish others pain to make us strong
by proxy, we cannot
dismiss these losses as lessons learned.
We cannot pass our heart-scars on
like original sin, like carnal
knowledge to spotless youth;
we need to let them live to earn their own
and in so doing save them from the cold.
So, no thank-yous or forgiveness, viral scourge!
Our unmet needs be-damned!
Your lessons we could just as well
have met out to ourselves
without the lonely dose of pain and loss.