The Long-Haulerby Marianne Szlyk
She shuffles up the smooth pavement,
the sidewalk she used to stride on.
She staggers as if she were carrying sandbags,
hands and arms empty, without even a cute purse.
She feels muffled, a bedbound summer’s flesh
hiding last winter’s bone and muscle.
The air around her slows. Leaves and
dust drift past as she skirts a puddle,
something she would never have seen before.
Once she ran through the park, winged feet
in running shoes worn only twice before
this virus took her like a woman
in the horror flick she streamed all summer.
To the white women walking past,
she has become one of the young girls scattering
empty potato chip bags in the gutter like the petals
of the overripe flowers that they are,
spilling out of cheap, bright shorts and crop tops,
needing to be trimmed.
Maskless, grasping for air like a cane or railing,
she pauses, praying for far-off next summer
when she can fly through the park again.
* * * * *
Marianne Szlyk's poems have appeared in of/with, bird's thumb, Setu, Verse-Virtual, Solidago, Bourgeon, Muddy River Poetry Review, and the Loch Raven Review as well as a few anthologies. Her books On the Other Side of the Window and Poetry en Plein Air are available from Amazon. She has revived her blog-zine The Song Is... as a summer-only publication: http://thesongis.blogspot.com She has also led workshops where poets write tributes to both survivors of COVID-19 and those whom we have lost.