“Dispatch from a Pandemic: Topanga, California” by Millicent Borges Accardi

judith beth cohen collage
Judith Beth Cohen


sam.coronadotsWe’ll Come Down Close Behind

And such and we have
and we need and we want
and we have and if it happens,
we couldn’t leave, and there is not a
never in the universe except now.
And but and and and for and if
Our place to live, it is a song
let it run peacefully into
the coda or the second chorus
where the refrain takes over.
And such and such and the homeless,
and prisons, and why can’t I
leave my home without a mask.
We’d come down close behind
In the middle of a crowd, as if we
mattered and as if things were
normal rather than a new normal,
which is odious. Then, then and then
and could. Once, existence was on
full speed, catching rumors,
and touching faces and going outside.


For those of us who know, knew
know, known, it was a bet that we made,
hoping for a last breaking of luck
before the world ran out.
It was betting and binding and–
I tell you–we were bleeding
as we went out to get cardboard
boxes in the rain and washed
over our souls with Clorox.
It was flinging a flung
while we tried to fly again.
To break bread, crusty and warm.
And, then life was forbidden and
everyone was an enemy.
The air was poison and spit was
evaporating into a daily forecast.
We were television-glued
as news rolled by and the rooms
misled us into doing the nonsense
we knew we shouldn’t:
over-drinking, board games,
chanting curses at each other.
It was raining for three days
as I recall and the boxes delivered
on the porch got wet. I went
out there wrapped in bandanas,
with sanitizer and hope.
It was all there was and all we had
to stockpile with kale and bok choy
just in case. Of what?
The unseen war criminal that spreads
its over-washed hands wide across countries.
We want to leave, lose
lend, lie.  We are shook and shaken
and looking for fever. For signs.
and it is all entirely unmanageable.



Millicent Borges Accardi, a Portuguese-American writer, is the author of two poetry books, most recently Only More So (Salmon Poetry). Her awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Fulbright, CantoMundo, Creative Capacity, the California Arts Council, The Corporation of Yaddo, Fundação Luso-Americana, and Barbara Deming Foundation. She lives in Topanga (canyon).


Judith Beth Cohen’s Dispatch from a Pandemic was published recently in ACM.