My father was eleven years old when the Spanish Flu hit. He said people were dropping like flies. Families would go to sleep and not wake up. A person would get on a street car and by the end of a forty-five minute ride he’d be dead from hypoxia; a lack of oxygen in the system that causes a failure of the organs. That’s how quickly people died. The strange thing was it seemed to kill young, healthy people, people in the prime of life. His mother and father, immigrants from Lithuania, ran a boarding house in Montreal. Everyday they would wash all surfaces that could be touched with carbolic soap. My dad said people would wear small blocks of camphor in a bag tied around their necks to ward off the germs.
There are rainbows chalked on sidewalks; a ghost moon hovers while Venus is in the Pleiades; I’m seeing words and signs in windows; on the TV are exponential curves, numbers of infections and deaths; this is no fairy tale; this is a pocketful-of-posies moment; No talisman or charm will protect us. God is in his heaven and frankly, doesn’t give a shit.
–April 28, 2020
Michael Kleiza is a Guelph, Ontario poet. He has had poems published in Rat’s Ass Review and FrogPond and has poems forthcoming in Anthropology and Humanism out of the University of Minnesota this summer. He is a technical writer by trade and an alumnus of the Wired Writing Program at the Banff School for Arts and Creativity. His first book of poetry is A Poet on the Moon (Vocamus 2015). His new chapbook Bukowski Discusses Icarus’s Fall with Dickinson in a Bar is being mulled over by editors as we speak.