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Saturday, June 06, 2020


by Bob Bradshaw

I noticed a condemned property
posting on his door

when I rang his doorbell
but my old friend's appearance

jolted me more.
What's wrong?  I demanded.

"I can't sleep, I'm as restless
as a storm’s waves.”

He grabbed his chest.
A tightness was gripping him

like a vine's hold
on a rotten wall.

“Heart failure—
from that damn virus.”

His doctors had dismissed his worries.
There is no virus, I assured him.

It vanished in the spring.    
May even have been a hoax.  

He was manic.  He was sweating.
“It’s the coronavirus.”  His breathing

was heavy, choppy like surf.
“It’s gotten inside.”

Relax, I told him.  The plague
has vanished.  Gone.

You can leave your house now.
“Still, I can't help worrying:

at times my heart's
a wild flapping

like an osprey tangled
in fishing line.  The more I fight it,
the tighter my chest

Is your house safe?  
I noticed a crack splitting

the front wall. "This house,"
he sighed, "teeters on a sea cliff

that's crumbling.
Erosion causes the cracks."

Why don't you leave?
He shuddered. "I can't.

Outside isn’t safe.” Nonsense.
Sure, tests once showed

people were sick. But praise be
there are no more tests.

So, no more sick people!
It’s common sense.     

You’re just behind the times.
Time to go back to work, my friend.

But you should get a handyman
to fix up this house.

“No kidding,” Rodney says.
“At night the joists crack,

and my sense of balance
falters as the house leans.

I slip like a man on wet pavers,
my heart a bird thrashing

its wings against its cage." I nodded.
Clearly he couldn’t face

the “new normal,” a world
safe again.

He was hopeless.  
What could I do but go home?

I had business to attend to.
I could no more persuade him

to leave his sanctuary
than I could have convinced

a starfish to loosen its grip
on a rotten pier.

His last letters show
a man crazed, damned

by inexplicable fears,
slipping over the edge

like his mansion
which broke apart tumbling

into the Pacific—
nothing in the end

for my friend to hang onto,
even the sea washing
its hands of him.

Bob Bradshaw is a retired programmer living in California.  He is looking for the perfect hammock for his retirement.  Recent work of his can be found at Dodging the Rain, Eclectica, and Ekphrastic Review.