“Dispatch from a Pandemic: Springville, Utah” by Marianne Hales Harding

Mary’s plate, bptakoma

corona samEvery night I went to bed thinking things could not get worse and by morning I was always proven wrong. Every day I ranged from incredible relief to grief and fear in the space of a single press conference.

A couple of months prior, in a fit of carpe diem, I had taken my wedding china out of the boxes it had sat in for twenty years in six cities. We started a tradition of formal Sunday brunch (formal plates, anyhow; we were still in pajamas) and displayed dinner plates, salad plates, bowls, teacups, and an elegant coffee pot on the top glass shelf of the cabinet.

The earthquake woke us on the sixth day of the pandemic. We were far enough south of the epicenter that all of the china was safe but we felt even more fragile. If we were pushed out of our home would we rush straight into the virus? I contemplated packing the china up again. It would be a largely symbolic gesture. Utah doesn’t get many earthquakes and any aftershocks wouldn’t be stronger than the actual quake. More than the china, I wanted to be wrapped in foam sheets and tucked in a double-wall dish pack for the duration. I wanted the shaking of the ground beneath my home, my country, and the world to not be able to break me.

Dishes break in boxes too, though, and bad news doesn’t stop coming when I spend the day in bed. I opened the computer to teach my class and left the china on the shelf.



Marianne Hales Harding is a poet, essayist, and playwright. She has been published in DialogueSegullahThe Hong Kong ReviewHelicon West, and Rocky Mountain Runners. Her plays have been produced across the US and adapted for film. She is honored to influence writers at Brigham Young University and Western Governors University. She co-founded Provo Poetry, a non-profit dedicated to bringing poetry into the community at large in unusual ways, and Speak For Yourself, a creative writing open mic. She is also the head curator for the Plein Air Word Gallery.