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Story Publication logo October 2, 2020

Love in the Year of the Plague

Front of Orpheum theater

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Multiple Authors
Persistence. Image by Rene Sing Brooks. United States, 2020.
Persistence. Image by Rene Sing Brooks. United States, 2020.

love in the year of the plague

for Priscilla

I feel your smile

under your homemade mask,

as we walk our Sunday talk.

And there is the matter of my thinly

worn jests that barely work. You

go along, sort of, with my free entertainment

now that the TV's broken.

The bingo girls

aren't out today on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights, New York.

I wanted to share them with you—

their commitment to numbers and beads.

The kids scoot by to a vanishing point, slicing the air into prisms

and day drops that nourish our dreams: we want this to mean,

to add up to more than a time of fright and loss.

We want to have been here

along with all who chose to witness. We are not big talkers when we walk, and that's fine.

There is so much to see and ways to be seen. Will we be here now?

Will presence be the harvest of so much death? I don't know; we don't know.

I am still tired and weary, like in that other poem

about my dead nephew and being on the train. But I am not

exhausted; there is soul and there are memories in store for days to come.

These are hard times; hope can easily go sour.

We can't give them that;

they can't take away the crystal of our smiles,

hard won against centuries of scourge

and wanton greed. It is the tale of touch

that keeps us moving; the stories of decency

standing firm and hinting at kinder seasons to come.

How could they diminish a hug,

when the world's at stake? I am told I shouldn't

use too many questions in a poem,

but they are not the boss of me.

Just a few blocks more, my love,

my dearest companion,

and we will turn around and walk back home, and maybe

the bingo girls will be at their spot,

giving numbers a softer game.

René Sing-Brooks is the Pulitzer Center LaGuardia Community College 2020 Reporting Fellow.


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