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.
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.