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Sunday, June 07, 2020


by Jan Steckel
“Bug Bell Jar 3” Color Screen Print on 250gsm Stonehenge by Emma Wiesenekker

Ensconced in my 1926 paint-peeling
clapboard-rotting Oaktown bungalow
on the eleventh day of George Floyd
I-Can’t-Breathe marches, three months
into COVID-19 Bay Area lockdown.
Ate the last big-pharm pain pill.
Looters hit our CVS, so I’m texting
photos to GreenRush Cannabis Delivery:
driver’s license, medical marijuana card,
a postmarked envelope to me myself,
so they’ll hand-deliver me CBD balm.
Those dudes are intrepid: not rain
nor snow nor sleet nor tear gas. I could just
handshake-buy shake from the boys
hanging out unmasked in front
of the Korean liquor store all day,
but I’m trying to preserve that fragile
lung tissue, don’t want to aggravate
my alveoli, because I’m high-risk
four different ways. I no longer
venture out of my crib, just click
click click my thumbs while humming
"We Shall Overcome" to the rhythm
of flash bangs and helicopter blades.
Once I marched for Black Lives Matter.
Now I’m a bug in a bell jar launching
bucks through the ether at bail funds.
My hair grows in wavy and gray.
For exercise I prune deadfall,
clear long grass and blackberry vines
from the  backyard fence,
waiting for fire season to spark,
black smoke to roll. Oh Lord when
will we all be able to breathe?

Jan Steckel is a former pediatrician who stopped practicing medicine because of chronic pain. Her latest poetry book Like Flesh Covers Bone (Zeitgeist Press, December 2018) is a finalist for poetry in the Bi Book Awards. Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, TheNewVerse.News, November 3 Club, Assaracus and elsewhere.