In the Social Distance

A poem for Willa, on her ninth-and-a-half birthday

Raymond Meeks

Walking. Away. Lost,
In thought—
That engine of deceit,
Eater of distance.

Still, new green reassures, even
In the breath-stealing planetary smog.
Cardinals shock. Really? Red?
Now? Optimistic,

As are pale pink magnolias,
Naked on their branches,
Making a brave show,
In April’s cruel cold.

Peepers screech and exult,
Some hibernations over.
Taunting squirrels make dog-defying
Dashes. They are never caught.

Woodpeckers, in every precinct,
Telegraph their unknown code,
De-constructing near now abandoned
Construction sites.

Mostly pick-ups pass,
Disembodied, but not half-hearted, waves
Through tinted glass.
Neighbors rake leaves in the wind.

Walkers pass, tight-lipped, eyes averted.
Only dogs, tugging on leashes,
Want to collapse
The space between us.

I have always been alone,
Infrequently attuned to breath.
But now more so, both ways,
In and out, expectations suspended.

We have always been alone,
My Angel,
From “the stink of the didie
To the stench of the shroud,” as Willie Stark says.

Walking, back now. Lost,
In thoughts. Those
Malevolent proxies of nonexistent time

Returning. Woodpeckers still unceasing,
Their percussive chorus alive,
Leaving dead trees, with hollow eyes,
Capable of seeing the lifespan of Mayflies.

Walking. Almost home. Ahead, your tiny form rushes to meet me.
Now we, hand in hand, walk,
As Dickinson’s “far theatricals of day”
Give sweet repair to us,
Making bigger, what was small.