Letter from New York

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.

For the time being

We are fine, they say, for the time being.
Enough food in the pantry, the prescriptions filled,
No need to go out of the house,
Except to let the dog run in the yard.

Our road has fallen silent, we can hear the trees
Near the river, it feels like a long Sunday
But without the church. There is plenty of time
To watch the trees bloom. When was the last time?

The elderly are used to sitting the days.
But we are also fine, the younger ones, for the time
Being. We have time to play with our children,
Bake, wash the curtains, and make love again, finally!


In the morning, when I walk outside,
She is waist-deep in tomato vines
Collecting the first batch in a glass bowl;
Cucumbers hang below yellow flowers,
Purple chili shine from a flat bush
Under green bell peppers.

He takes me by the hand to the garage
Where he now has a fridge, a sink, and a grill
In the place where he used to keep tools.
Three of the walls are still large altars
With pictures of us children, each one a wall
And a vase of flowers, an icon, or a cross.

And now, the words

I struggle with the meaning of the word resurrection:
Go do your work, word, I say,
All the way back to your root. Then return to me
To stand by these children fished out of the luminous sea
So that I could see your face
In horrified eyes, not saved, but filled with almost-life.

I used to be resurgere, rise again, the word says
Sounding like rain on my grandparents’ house.
Remember, it says, dragging your refugee self
Out of the rumble of trains at Roma Termini,
And wanting to once again be free:
These children rise out like admonitions.