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Thursday, April 09, 2020


by Gil Hoy

Shoppers appear to be lined up six feet apart outside a Market Basket in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on April 2, 2020, as the grocery store chain implements new social distancing guidelines. —nbc Boston

You don't want to be there, but your family has to eat.
Which is just the two of us now. I'm waiting and walking
in lines made from rope. Like the roped-off lines
we used to see on a busy day at Disney World
with the kids. Today's anticipation is different.
Just hungering for the food you need to survive.

It's my son's birthday today. He's studying to become a doctor.
Sitting in his room in a suddenly faraway State. He's learning
human anatomy on a computer. The half-dissected cadaver
in his school laboratory will simply have to wait. I worry about
him sitting there all alone.

A police officer is cautioning customers to stay at least
six feet apart. I clean my hands with one of those sanitizer
things before going in. I'm proud I've not bought
any toilet paper yet. Can it really be caught
through the air like a plague?

I've never spent so much time alone with my wife.
Is she worried I'm getting bored with her?
I wonder if she's getting bored with me. No one
can be entertaining for this long. Such expectations
are unrealistic. I sense her panic as she watches
the news.  She's still able to connect with other
real estate brokers from her office for an hour a day
on her computer. They talk about the best ways
to sell homes at a distance.

Most everyone inside the supermarket is wearing
a blue or white mask. They look like shabby doctors
and nurses. I pick out some chicken and put it
in my cart with a box of strawberries. A lady
standing too close to me has a distant stare. As if
she's half-dead. I suspect she has no family or friends.

Just a few weeks ago, my street-smart son was serving
us oysters, fish and wine for dinner at a fancy restaurant.
Like he did every Sunday. They won't let him work now
so he and his girlfriend are barely getting by on one-half
of their pay from the government. We ordered dinner
delivered to them the other night and they seemed
appreciative. And happy for a while. My daughter
and her husband are holed up in Palo Alto
doing computer and engineering work. They're
still getting paid and still drive their new Tesla.
She likes to read my poetry these days.

I see there are still live lobsters for sale
in the seafood section. Their number is depleted
from what they once were. They're subdued and sullen.
They're not moving in their tank. I wonder
how long they have to live.

My father won't stop texting me on my cell phone
and messaging me on Facebook. We haven't spoken
in 20 years. Old high school friends want to travel
down memory lane, over and over again. Texting
and messaging me until my eyes are ready
to bug out of my head. Everyone is trying to settle
old scores and pay off their debts. I'm sorry to see
there's no beer left in the cooler for purchase
as I head towards the cashier to pay.

Gil Hoy is a Boston poet and semi-retired trial lawyer who studied poetry at Boston University through its Evergreen program. He previously received a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from Boston University, an M.A. in Government from Georgetown University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. Hoy served as a Brookline, Massachusetts Selectman for four terms. His poetry has appeared, or will be appearing, most recently in Tipton Poetry Journal, Chiron Review, TheNewVerse.News, Right Hand Pointing, MisfitMagazine, Mobius: Journal of Social Change, Ariel Chart and The Penmen Review.