When social distancing, how far:
the mirage of others, ombre of their vanishing points
like—and only like—a hem stained dark,
dementing the spectrum with evanescent egg wash, cockleburs.
Born into mistrust, each breath’s a crisis of proportionate air.
Love’s poles shift as the bar goes dark. By the bins, rabbits feed,
hop neat through the mobile greensward.
There’s iron at the planet’s heart to magnetize more than mineral—
the over-under of six feet.
I must speak with you. I can’t until the air unmasks.
Windows shine their blued elsewhere.
Image: “E la luna busso…” by Alessandro Giangiulio, licensed under CC 2.0.
“Social Distancing” belongs inevitably to the early stages of Covid-19 in the United States. Written before many of us fell sick, when the virus flourished “elsewhere,” it’s still abstract, provisional: an aura, or maybe a glimpse of nightmare. The writing is best able to grapple with the threat by distancing the self from it. I played with what physical separation from others is like, using figurative language throughout, juggling similes and metaphors the way the mind does in a period of indecision and ambiguity. The rabbits, with their ordinary hunger, helped me to ground the poem. I’m grateful to them. Yet, the urgency of yearning for contact is only allowed to surface at the end when figures of speech no longer feel entirely adequate to the emotion of loneliness. I hope this poem has a life beyond the immediate crisis, that it speaks to human relationships, so elusive and magnetic.