On hearing that healthy 50-year-olds are dying
Leaves: burnt, vibrant/ and the smell of wet bark
and looking down at my tiny/ shoes, my five-year-old
feet sinking into auburn,/ brick, cinnamon. My father’s
bulky torso bobbing just/ ahead of me on the forest path.
I remember he bragged/ “Scotty made it the whole
six miles” to my mother/ and sister when we arrived
back at the Open Road/ motorhome (they had not
wanted to hike).
And I wonder why I am/ recalling this so vividly today—
sitting at a desk taking call/ after call from people with
chest tightness, fever, cough,/ advising them to get tested,
go home, put on a mask.
I realize this is not/ a path I want to be
on, with or without/ angelic light filtering
through thin lungs/ and tamarind maples,
with or without my/ dead father leading me
through a stretch of/ woods I am too young
I gulp and my throat/ burns in its own
phantasms, breath/ catching in the
branches, halfway/ down into the
One of the great sadnesses
of my life was my divorce—
specifically the unfairness of being spurned
by a wife I had helped crawl out of debt.
The other man’s wife called my wife’s cell phone
hoping to dissuade her from seeing him
but I answered her phone that morning
and the two spurned spouses spoke.
The details are unimportant. I told my wife
to take off her ring and be gone by the end of the day.
She spent weeks sleeping on friend’s couches
until she realized her error.
She invited herself over to her former house
a month later, cooked dinner: salmon with asparagus
and roasted potatoes. She asked me what I wanted
to hear (she never asked me this).
I put on Sun Kil Moon and the
song “Last Tide / Floating” played:
Come to me, my love
one more time, come on
because I don’t want to be without
She attempted to rub my feet after some wine
and I recoiled. She never initiated sex.
But I wanted her to stay because she had been with me
for seven years and we were intimate in our friendship,
if nothing else.
I asked her to leave without tears
but as soon as the door shut they flooded out.
She was gone. The injustice burned the sky.
I couldn’t listen to that song for fourteen years.
I listened to it recently, swallowed ash
in steady breaths, allowed the song to be about
yesterday in the july glare 80 young people
played volleyball breathing mask-
we could almost feel the viral seeds
flying weightless in the careless
today wetness clogs the places
between limbs new winds
at the stoplight the sign for modular
furniture barely shows through the
a blur of 80 swallows ejects from an alder
like a spirit quitting a
Scott Ferry helps our Veterans heal as a RN. He has recent work in Panoply, The American Journal of Poetry, and Cultural Weekly, among others. He is a co-editor of Gleam: Journal of the Cadralor. His second book Mr. Rogers kills fruit flies was published in Fall 2020 by Main St. Rag.