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Monday, May 18, 2020


by Ellen Austin-Li

I speak to my son through a wooden door, his bedroom a quarantine zone, Day 12. 

His brilliant smile hides behind a mask. I pine to hold him. I leave his favorite food by the door: Ramen with two eggs, yokes poked open with chopsticks. and a dollop of hot sesame oil, yellow cake with sweetened condensed milk (like NiNi makes), cinnamon tea with honey. One bathroom extends his bunker. I am too afraid to enter to clean. If this is Coronavirus, it’s too late for his brother and so for us all, as he showers there. Sooner or later we’ll all get it—a cavalier cloak covers my husband's fear. He is on the Crisis Airway Team at the hospital. Back in my burn-nurse days, I learned to be strict with gloves, scrubs, gowns, masks. We have broken technique. Don’t you answer the call to work, he said in a naked moment. If I don’t make it, someone has to be alive for the boys. We are broken. Day 12 and my husband finally agrees. We are not a safe house. I text my son about the bag of Cadbury Mini-Eggs I laid on the floor outside his door.

Ellen Austin-Li is an award-winning poet published in Artemis, Writers Tribe Review, The Maine Review, Mothers Always Write, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Masque & Spectacle, Green Briar Review, Panoply, and other places. Her first poetry chapbook Firefly was published by Finishing Line Press in 2019. Ellen is a student at the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.