The Saturday rite is now a drive-by:
we’re all laid back in our masks
awaiting our turn. The line
stretches far down the street;
no one expects to be served right away.
The greater loss is mingling among
tomatoes, daisies, candles and corn,
closeness encouraged, isolation shunned.
Sellers greet me, sitting in my car,
space between us bridged by the will
to share this goodness together.
I’m not even mad to find
all the spinach gone. Instead,
I buy Romaine and golden potatoes,
as if it’s the last food on Earth—
or at least the last fresh I’ll get for a while.
My mate woke last night and sat straight up.
“I’ve got covid, I know it, I’m dead,” she said,
then lapsed back into dream. Serious
shit for sure but we actually laughed
later in April morning light, the world
outside as green as that spinach I didn’t get.
Image: “Greens at Peachtree Farmer’s Market” by Jeff Webster, licensed under CC 2.0.
The laid-back hippie village of Yellow Springs, Ohio, where I’ve lived the past forty years is the setting for this poem of paradoxical juxtaposition. Our wonderful farmer’s market, formerly held at the heart of the village, had to move to the high school parking lot at the edge of town after the pandemic struck. At first it seemed unimaginable that such a colorful up-close-and-personal social-commercial event would take place in the impersonal space of a car. However, despite masks and social distancing, the event still provided an amazingly satisfying emotional experience. I was greeted by name and cheerfully directed where I needed to go. As for the poem that resulted, my favorite details are “Romaine and golden potatoes,” which arose organically and became, to me, the poem’s best sounds and images, earthy and comforting with round vowels: solid antidotes to nightmare. The world stays green, the sun rises and we can laugh about the terror. The time described, early April, seems a little innocent now, following surges, thousands of infections, deaths and further lockdowns after re-openings. Still, I remain hopeful that one day we can bring our produce home and not have to sanitize it before putting it in the fridge. Meanwhile, as others keep pandemic journals, I document this strange era through poetry.