Letter from New York

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My dear Jane, here the morgues are full.
Our dead have become a logistical nightmare.
Churches closed their doors. Priests offer
Virtual prayers to those who can access the ether.

This morning I am thinking about virtual prayers.
You say there in London you relive your childhood,
World War Two: shortages, community gathering in,
Exchanging words of encouragement.

But here in New York the sick line up along
The avenues, coughing, waiting for the hospitals
Where doctors without protective gear
Must tend to them, no matter what.

One spent 17,000 US dollars on masks
Bought from the black market, the price
Marked up 800 times. In one day he sees
Almost as many patients as there are days in a year.

The thieves hoard lifesaving equipment for profit.
Our president has a little price tag for our parents:
He says the economy must be open by Easter,
He says he imagines the churches full of people!

I am reliving the house arrest years, the Cold War,
Then the enemy outside the front door
Had keys to let itself into the house.
Now the enemy is invisible and I can’t hear the keys.

Our Governor went on television to demand
Help for the hospitals: “Where are the respirators?”
He said we need 30,000, we have 400.
Our loved ones have become a string of numbers.


It’s not all dark, Jane. The robin hops by the front door.
The grass turned green almost overnight,
Our first blue hyacinth bloomed at the back of the house
And the yew stirs with red cardinals and blue jays.

I am going to spend the day contemplating
The meaning of virtual prayer, and thinking about virtue.
But I will also cook, clean, and walk with my children,
To feel the real, to protect myself against the imagined.

March 26, 2020