Curve Ball

From the Olympian mound, the pitcher-god threw us a curve,

a ball of pandememic-virus starter ringed with a spiky cornona,

designed to explode and multiply at baseball time,

sending mortals in search of sanitizer, masks, and rolls of paper,

forcing even the most social—those Italians!—to keep their distance,

and granting the wishes of all who ever said “leave me alone.”

 

People used to playing the game, now forced to watch at home alone,

listen to the experts explaining the urgency of flattening the curve,

of washing their hands fifty times a day and maintaining social distance,

while wondering if they too will become infected with corona

and pondering how best to manufacture their own paper–

just a question of material and method, since they have plenty of time.

 

Exactly what are space and time? Such questions arise when there’s time

and space to ponder them because everything’s so quiet, and we are so alone,

sheltering at home and hoarding milk, bread, and toilet paper,

hoping that survival skills are graded on a favorable curve,

thinking that for patience we each deserve a golden corona,

and how contagion travels so quickly such a distance.

 

Not going to work or school seems not so bad, but how to distance

yourself from your family and friends all the time?

So can it be that bad, so much worse than other viruses, this corona?

Because it turns out that hard as adulting is, alone-

ing is that much harder, with an anxious-making learning curve.

Can it really be as deadly as they tell us in the online papers?

 

Teachers and students distracted—must they still write, still mark those papers

in times when the apocalypse seems quite real and not too distant?

Employees and business owners trying to chart how their trajectory will curve,

what good without income is a mandate for taking down time?

Who knows how all this will end? The pitcher-god alone,

watching the ball from atop his mountain’s high corona.

 

So many definitions—aureole, crown, halo, ring—for this corona,

but the thing itself is far more intense than words on paper,

the way it brings people down with sickness, death, facing fear alone.

Caution is clearly required, but can human will alone enforce the distance

between our life and all the threats to its existence? Only time

will tell, one supposes, which way the spinning viral ball will curve.

 

All we can do is try to keep distance between ourselves and this new corona,

and if it comes our time, we won’t be saved by masks or toilet paper;

we dream we grip the bat to swing at the curve, but we wake like we die, alone.

 

Copyright 2020

T. Allen Culpepper

 

 

 

 

Out of Reach

Always just slightly out of reach,

on the edge of the bed, the edge of his seat,

hand on the doorknob, warm spot cooling,

always about to be, maybe already, somewhere else,

but there’s no transporter, no vanishing-cabinet,

no magical disappearance, still here in his way,

and so you reach, you’re always reaching,

arm extended, just inches from a hand to hold,

a foot or two from the full embrace

that you need so badly, and maybe he does too,

if only arms were longer, space less infinite.

 

Copyright 2019

T. Allen Culpepper

At the Music Festival

Everything seems different this year.

Not so much the music, of course; the bands still came.

And watery beer was distributed in aluminum cans.

But the weather was hotter and stickier,

the ticket prices higher, the crowd sparser.

Less shoving and bumping and jostling for position,

but also a lagging spirit, as if the energy had drained;

so many inattentive, not really listening to what

they were hearing, drifting into idol chat

or onto social networks, changing venues

frequently before the sets were done;

and the VIPs secluding themselves

in costly air-conditioning rather

than mingling with the commoners.

An uncertain kind of fog, formed

from humidity, nostalgia, mild

excitement moistened with mile

disappointment, hovers over

the festival district, limiting perception,

augmenting distance, even between

old friends, as if, by some alchemic metonymy,

the center of the universe has become

its isolated periphery.

Copyright 2015

T. Allen Culpepper