There’s no virtue in virtual goodbyes,
in glimpses of faces on glass
and voices raised over a ventilator’s hum.
An exhausted nurse bearing witness is nothing new,
except for the unrelenting regularity,
the number of the lost, lost count of in the head but not the heart.
Numbing numbers, the daily counts
of lives lost and those on the threshold
of following in their footsteps.
A greeting through glass the only connection permitted
for families separated for safety’s sake
the physical distance between hearts minimal, but the ache immeasurable.
Distance learning doesn’t address
the distance created in friendships once formed face-to-face
or the distance from safety, and stability.
Weeks go by without hugging or holding
without touch or tenderness
an abundance of pet purchases proves both their importance and their absence.
Month upon month of grief without gatherings,
weddings without witnesses,
holidays and holy days without circles or ceremony.
The threats of viruses and violence
met with masks and marches,
both revealing whose rights matter and whose very matter means nothing to some.
The previously invisible now deemed essential
finally forced to value the overlooked
and the taken for granted.
In all of us this, an unlooked-for pandemic of opportunities
to finally fix upon the essence of what is essential –
hearts and hugs, caring and compassion, love and loss shared, seeing and being seen, community and connection, equality and equanimity, food, family, and friendship, civil society and safety nets.
What promises to tomorrow will we pledge
using 2020 hindsight to re-imagine reality
with eyes for what is indeed essential,
for what we can’t live without
in honor of those we now have no choice
but to live without?