When the World Shuts Down

A gradual process but no less shocking than a wildfire,
the end seemed so close until it started sprinting,
before it started sprinting. Everyone is sprinting now.
Whether they intend to pass the time or cherish it is unclear,
but they see open fields of time and clutch their fists.
When they open their hands, they see only unbothered air.
They are alone but still trying to hold their breath,
to keep the air around them unbothered,
because these days, an exhale feels a lot like gasoline.

For the first time we are all tied together by distance garnished in fear.
When the world shuts down, we all speak the same language.
Tone and opinion will vary but the words themselves are the same.
When the world shuts down, we are so open with our masks
and suddenly awe-struck by anything beyond four walls.
We glue quarters down each vertebra and refuse to scratch our backs.
Statistics are universal, and now, so are we.
Numbers dance to the clouds through the air as we wince; we wince.

The word temporary has no timeline,
and some will never read the end of the word.
Shortness of breath, acts of violence
outside of human malice scatter body-filled cities,
bodies who will crawl through the park with heads tilted upwards;
They are unaccustomed to the earth’s sound when she’s trampled
and search for the sound’s origin.

Time grasps each of our wrists and drags us forward.
Tomorrow and tomorrow truly does creep in this petty pace from day to day,
as murderous plots are out of sight, out of mind,
yet no one can stop thinking about them.
Every plan we’ve made is canceled;
when the world shuts down, “Nothing” is given a new definition.

When the world shuts down, the new generation makes eye-contact
with boredom for the first time, wondering how to survive superficially.
A feeling reserved for punishment, our minds ask what we’ve done.
Eyes flutter closed as the sun finally crawls to the sky,
they will open upon viewing an email that reads, “These uncertain times…”

Fast forward to our children, who with wide eyes will see
their parents refuse to inhale the glossy words in their textbooks.
On the same page, all of us, but each refusing a unique paragraph
because we only felt boredom in our fingers before our vision went red.

When the world shuts down, we ride on turtles’ backs
until we realize we’re in the middle of the road
and a car approaches from the east.

When the world shuts down, we fear our own bodies
and frantically make sure they still work,

because our hearts might burst when someone finally holds our hands.

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Erin Harrison
Erin Harrison is a senior in high school from North Mississippi who dedicates a significant portion of her time mentoring middle school girls in regards to mental health, self-image,and kindness through her project "I Feel Pretty." Outside of cheer practice and school, she enjoys writing, reading and really being a typical 17-year-old girl. You can find more information on her website. ("I Feel Pretty" is for everyone - not just middle school girls!)

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