“Pandemic: Six Months In” by Johnson Cheu

William Hicks

— after Adrienne Rich’s An Atlas of the Difficult World, “Dedications XIII”

I know you are reading this poem, late, after tucking in the children, 
refrigerating leftovers, responding to emails. 
I know you are reading this poem, early, on your phone, while at a Starbucks 
drive-thru, in preparation for the day’s Zoom meetings.
I know you are reading this poem on public transit amid masked strangers.
I know you are reading this poem before shift change. 
I know you are reading this poem distanced from an infected loved one. 
I know you are reading this poem bereaved, as distraction.
I know you are reading this poem as reporters report the President is infected,
and talk-show guests debate about the Vice President’s possible pink eye. 
I know you are reading this poem unsettled by hurricanes and the Gulf Coast.
I know you are reading this poem dreaming of fireflies. 
I know you are reading this poem alone in a coffee shop operating on reduced hours. 
I know you are reading this poem while eating with plastic utensils.
I know you are reading this poem because words are their own form of sustenance. 
I know you are reading this poem envisioning the Great Plains, Antarctica,
oceans, rainforests remembering the world is beautiful, vast.
I know you are reading this poem taking stock of your life.
I know you are reading this poem thinking about family, close, and distant
while the suitcase remains stowed in the closet.
I know you are reading this poem grappling with displacement, with the place 
of foreigners/foreign borders, but also now your own potentially shifting path.
I know you are reading this poem concerned for the young and unemployed,
counting themselves out before being counted in.
I know you are reading this poem waiting for the absentee ballot.
I know you are reading this poem incredulous that the F.B.I. uncovered a plot
by militia to kidnap Michigan’s governor, try her for treason.
I know you are reading this poem searching for truths already felt.
I know you are reading this poem watchful of the darting eyes of strangers.
I know you are reading this poem thinking about people’s hearts, about love and hate.
I know you are reading this poem praying to be kept safe from bullets.
I know you are reading this poem through tears.
I know you are reading this poem pondering what it means to be free.
I know you are reading this poem wistful for love, old or new.
I know you are reading this poem holding onto the doorframe of your home, your life
  with both hands, bracing.
I know you are reading this poem there as you are
about to open the door.

September, 2020

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Johnson Cheu’s work has most recently appeared in Rattle and Verse Daily. He is also the editor of three scholarly film anthologies: Diversity in Disney Films, and collections on the films of Tim Burton and Robin Williams.

William D. Hicks is a writer who lives in Chicago by himself (any offers?) Contrary to popular belief, he is not related to the famous comedian Bill Hicks (though he’s just as funny in his own right). Hicks will someday publish his memoirs, but most likely they will be about Bill Hicks’ life. His poetry has appeared in Horizon Magazine, Breadcrumb Sins, Inwood Indiana Literary Magazine, The Short Humour Site (UK), The Four Cornered Universe, Save the Last Stall for Me and Mosaic. His cover art will appear on Anti-Poetry and Sketch.