covered with red spots of leprosy
leaning on his hardwood stick
with a mongrel licking at his wounds
Look out! Lazarus comes back from the grave!
Look out! itís Babalķ-Ayť!
Will he bring the plague on you
or save you from the plague?
I miss those beefy yelps
wafting through my window
from the daily nearby judo class.
The view from that same window
at another time of day
offered languid elegance of yoga limbs.
That treat, too, has gone;
I taste the bleakness of the blank studio.
O pandemic, O austere one,
you have spread a glacier,
have rocketed away abundance.
Keep your subway cars with reduced ridership;
their novel cleanliness unnerves me.
Nowadays, department stores display
desert expanses; cinemasí blank screens
show a pandemicís true essence.
These I take as your global lessons.
Except, thereís a chance you hope weíve learned
no dangers reside in reports
from the noiseless land within.
The hazard is to neglect the splendor of the self
for the heaping brouhaha of news, noise and sights
we knuckleheads have taught ourselves
to mourn and miss.
We sat on granite benches
sporting metal concave hand-rests.
From our spots we watched
the sign-carrying people
as they chanted and bellowed.
We beamed grins at the marchers,
like meteors with extra sparks
available to throw around,
as summer-clad people protested.
Whether they suffered ecoanxiety
or rallied against corruption
or cared about a windpipe crushed by a knee,
the crowd crowded certain avenues,
plastered plazas with their presence.
Intergenerational, they treaded asphalt,
cobblestones, tar streets that took their scuffs,
concrete cooking in July heat.
They were a mosaic--rainbowed, unclassifiable.
They held their credos in their arms.
And we who were spectators
craved credit for being there.
We, enthroned on the sidelines,
were intimate with the marching--
as the eighth planet is
in relation to the sun.
Finally, Iíve figured myself out.
I am a germaphobe.
Iím letting all of you friends and enemies
in on what was once my secret.
Each minute microbe bugs me.
As I tread through filthlandia,
where, oh where is my shield?
The notion of germs entering my mouth
gives me a headache
above my right eye.
The idea of various viruses
infiltrating under my fingernails
launches me into a heart attack.
The thought of bacteria
snuggling in the moist rooms
of my nostrilsí darkness
propels me into a stroke
more powerful than any earthquake.
Iíll maneuver to outwit dirtiness.
Iíll throw a party to cleanliness.
I will outdo Mrs. Dalloway
in my attentive planning
of a festive celebration.
Everything, everything will be covered
in see-through plastic
to keep everything, everything clean.
I will, you will, we will rejoice,
thrilled that weíll all be safe
from warts, parasites, HPV,
jockstrap rash agents,
illnesses, raw contamination.
Like an astronaut in a spacesuit
we will protect ourselves
from all we need protection from:
the infiltration of the dangerous.
Being hygienic will be our life mission.
I will, you will, we will purify the air--
until the oxygen disappears.
Austin Alexis is the author of the full-length
poetry collection Privacy Issues
(2014) and two previously published chapbooks. His
chapbook Lovers and Drag Queens was a ďPick of
the MonthĒ of Small Press Review. He has been
nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Poets Wear Prada. He
received a Poem of the Week citation from Indolent
Books and a Flash Fiction of the Month Award from
Great Weather for Media Press.