Recoding Grief a poem by Diana Manole

Kids and grandkids line up in in front of the nursing homes’ windows

one at a time

masked, but open-hearted

hoarding on affection more than on food and cleaning supplies.

Light travels in slow-motion through safety glasses and glass—

the kindness of waves 

extending medically timed glances at kings and queens of the pandemic Limbo

majestically waving from their wheelchair thrones.

Smiles freeze—

strings of digital still frames curve down under their own weight between 

three-feet apart endings,

cell phone networks overload amidst quarantined crowds

like they did last summer during jazz festivals and football games.

The paradox of breathing—

outside breaths splash love on frosted windowpanes,

indoor mist mixed with COVID-19 kills it.

“Should we apply CPR when each exhalation
spreads around more death, more viruses viable for two more hours?”
a run-down ER doctor wonders on the news

“Oh God, do something! I can’t lose a second parent today!”

“Mom died today on her 60th-wedding anniversary. Dad died the week before.”

Frail final screams covered by ambulance sirens 

abruptly diverted to the morgues—

the fondest, most moving, most melodious of hollering:

wooooh <split second pause> wooooh <split second pause> wooooh

Parents and grandparents dying alone, buried alone—

no embalmers, no mortuary makeup artists, no open caskets, no viewing.  

The loved ones take turns in front of screens

to say their goodbyes—

gravediggers and priests as the ultimate frontline workers 

trying to ease survivor guilt, 

live streaming the service,

hasty glimpses at the hastily punctured earth—

ground-glass opacity in the lungs and memories.

Amidst socially distanced wailings, a Bull’s Eye Squall

makes the final handful of soil leap up 

onto the cemetery worker’s touchscreen 

digital icons flinch—

randomly risen apps learning how to empathize, 

recode themselves into prayers. 

About the contributor

Diana Manole is a Romanian-Canadian scholar, writer, and literary translator. The winner of the 2020 Very Small Verse Contest of the League of Canadian Poets and of second prize in the 2017/18 John Dryden Translation Competition, Diana’s seventh collection of poems, Praying to a Landed-Immigrant God, is forthcoming from Grey Borders Books. 

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