Before we were living in a pandemic, we went to lunch with
our friends in restaurants & slurped soup with crackers
we crushed with our bare fingers, our ordinary fingers
that did not ignite terror, that were not vectors of disease.
Before the days of self-isolation, shopping was just another chore,
sometimes a pleasure, a stroll through Costco sampling
from little paper cups protein bars & chocolate candies &
popcorn & potato chips, strolling & sampling & buying
big bags of broccoli & spinach & Asian cashew salad
& giant containers of gourmet cheese & yes, toilet paper.
The Before Times have receded deep into memory as if
all of that happened ten, no, twenty years ago
when we lived in another land of freedom & movement
& laughter & hugging & sitting in each other’s
living rooms, living, alive, chatting for hours without
measuring the social distance, without wearing N95
surgical masks or nitrile gloves, without anxious fear.
Now we are living in another land, frightened & confused,
our minds always tasked with remembering to wash our hands,
not touch our faces, not touch packages or mail without
gloves & Clorox wipes & yes, remembering to worry,
as if anxious worry could create a high wall surrounded by a moat
of reeking & fuming disinfectant to keep us safe in this new land
of contamination & fever & suffocation & death.
We must not forget the Before Times, when we could touch
doorknobs, doorbells, the mail, U.P.S. packages, restaurant tabletops,
colleagues’ keyboards, other people’s hands, our own faces.
We must not forget dinner parties, book groups, political rallies,
concerts, movies, worship services, protests, weddings, funerals.
In the Before Times we shared our joys & sorrows together.