Your own protective prison
the air is stale but clean, you hope.
You don’t dwell on things you can’t change.
Check the morning news and choke
droplets filtered but rhetoric unencumbered.
Another day begins
wading into the fire wearing nothing but your robe
armed only with words of encouragement
chalked on the sidewalk in painstaking calligraphy.
You take up the sword
but the blade is dull.
On the frontlines
you stand at attention
hoping to pass for the hero they call you
facing off against today’s enemy:
the row of rooms marked “COVID+”
Each time you enter you wonder,
to save a life
must you wager yours?
At 8 p.m. sharp,
the claps and cheers of thousands
ring out across the city
but you don’t hear them.
They fade beneath your patient’s rattling lungs
drawing each breath as if questioning its worth.
Suddenly you hear only the hiss of your own breath
Finally home, peeling off layers
first sweat and grit
You put on your new skin, the one that watches The Office
and bakes banana bread
and calls your family with a smile on your face.
And only when you have gone to bed
eyes closed, mind ablaze
Image credit: surgical mask (CC BY-NC 2.0) by shooting brooklyn
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