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Monday, March 30, 2020


by Jen Schneider

A single tear drops and pools on uneven hardwood planks.
Startled white mice scamper. Droppings where gravel
and cement once filled buckling wood crevices cushion
wool socked soles. A burgundy chest, adorned with two
brown leather straps and a single metal lock, rests
in the far-right corner. Blanketed in warm layers of dust
and tattered cloth, the family heirloom boasts of guarded memories.

Blurred photos, sweat-stained frocks, penned letters—
Normal times and ordinary folk

To its right, a cardboard box, coated in a film of powder
and particles unknown, houses a machine long silenced
yet now pulsing with hope. Its thick black electrical cord,
wrapped in a tight coil, springs loose as lungs near
and far struggle to contract, then release.

Ready. Set. Go. Breathe.

Soon settled at the square kitchen table, pots
of needles, spools of speckled thread—shocks
of light lavender, crimson red, pistachio green -
and piles of fabric—gingham, plaid, tartan—
emerge with potential born anew.

Unordinary times. Normal folk seek purpose.

Coffee brews, then turns cold. Time presses
on as dry, chafed hands, fingers arched
from years of fieldwork, pull threads, needles,
and long discarded garments from bedroom
chests and kitchen drawers. Bodies work
with an urgency—a race against no ordinary clock—
long stifled and now eager to breathe.

Hours later, the machine continues to whirl
as needles pulse and earlier anxious feet pump
in a calming pattern—One, Two, Three, Breathe.
One, Two, Three, Breathe—generating new life
in old shifts to aid the beat of chests worn down
by a silent beast that silences the beat of a nation.

Moments of silence turn lengthy. Prayers for a world on pause.

Scattered thoughts focus on spools of twisted and spun
threads that bind with supple cloth. Patterned sketches
of protective gear for front line heroes convert
to tangible realities.

Ordinary days in extraordinary times.

In unity we find strength. And hope blooms anew.

Jen Schneider is an educator, attorney, and writer. She lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Philadelphia. Recent work appears in The Popular Culture Studies Journal, Bat City Review, Zingara Poetry Review, Streetlight Magazine, Chaleur Magazine, LSE Review of Books, and other literary and scholarly journals.