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Tuesday, July 07, 2020


by Ralph James Savarese

Source: The New York Times archive

An elderly person said, “What is the air?” gasping as much
     with her arms as with her lungs.
How could I answer this woman? I do not know what it is
     any more than she.

I guess it must be a mother feeding her babes little morsels
     of oxygen. A clear, blue bib.

Or I guess it’s the wind taking a nap, the clouds a comforter
     letting dreams rain down.

Or I guess the air is itself an elderly person, death’s new
     confidante. What has it heard?

Or maybe it’s a commuter on the breathing Tube. (The rasping
     sounds like medieval German.)
“Stand away from the doors.”

Stand away from each other! The virus is sprouting in broad
     zones and narrow zones, growing among black folks
     as among white (more among black folks).
“I give them the same, I receive them the same,” a super-
     spreader says.

Perhaps the air is a bathhouse for lungs. All the panting they
     could want!
The Right once denounced promiscuous mingling yet now
     promiscuously mingles itself.

The air, madam, is an unregistered weapon. In America
     everyone carries.

Ralph James Savarese is the author of two books of prose, Reasonable People and See It Feelingly, and one collection of poetry, Republican Fathers, due out in October.