Sun in quarantine, wispy clouds too embarrassed
to rain. The earth has turned gray.

Gray’s safer, they’re saying: older and duller.
Green would shock us. It could spread.
Keep cheer in a gray area, neither here nor there.

Walking’s allowed, but be careful:
gray jacket, gray sneakers, every house painted gray
on a Dead End lane, gray asphalt, gray utility poles,
more gray hair.

I turned a corner today. Pink poked me
in the eye: little bud fists smashed
red-white-&-lavender into knockout pink,
set fragile petals fluttering. (Flirting?)

Is beauty allowed?
Blossoms have burst
from branches on a gray tree.

A gray door creaks open. A gray man
squints at me: grizzled, suspicious.
“I love your tree,” I call from across the street.
“It’s not mine. A neighbor cares for it.”

Shelby Allen
Shelby Allen writes essays for New York Times and Boston Globe, and poetry in Sanctuary, Phoebe and Wild Earth. Her collections of poems are titled "When I'm Mute" and "Crack Willow: Poems of Transformation." Shelby is still nourished by what she learned teaching poetry to adult prisoners and first-graders: Inside, we're the same for what matters. Love is everywhere. Stay open so it can find you.

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