Postcard from the pandemic

April 20, 2020

To write just because the poet wants to write is natural, but to learn to see is a blessing.

– Linda Gregg, The Art of Finding 

They say old white men can get away with anything,

so why am I surprised, middle of the morning,

to see a saggy-jowled man in a red jacket

pissing behind a shiny black BMW right there

on Reading not too far from Tennessee, his hands

invisible but fidgeting with something—

you can tell by how his elbows

flap up above the trunk of the car.

I am walking fast, a little faster after that.

I see things I never would have back

when I would steal away a sunny afternoon, 

drive someplace pretty to walk. 

It doesn’t matter anymore what the sky is doing; 

me and my corona mask, we get out of the house.

Under the train trestle, where Tennessee turns into

Ross, still the same purple bra, new green weeds

pushing up through its straps, 

and splayed against the concrete wall,

a peacock feather Mardi Gras mask 

iridescent as that puddle of grease and pee.

Pauletta Hansel left Kentucky in 1979, but she didn’t get very far, and her poetry still lives there. Her seven poetry collections include Coal Town Photograph and Palindrome, winner of the 2017 Weatherford Award for Appalachian poetry. Her writing has been featured in Rattle, Still: The Journal, The Writer’s Almanac, American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily and Poetry Daily. Pauletta was Cincinnati’s first Poet Laureate (2016- 2018).

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