“After ‘Story’ by Richard Blanco” by Stephanie Shafran

Stephanie Shafran, a Northampton Straw Dog member, has published poetry and prose in journals and anthologies. Her chapbook, Awakening, was published in April, just as the coronavirus asserted itself and changed lives forever. A team member on this Project, Stephanie appreciated the opportunity to feel connected to a writing community during a period of profound isolation.


“After ‘Story’ by Richard Blanco”

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
– Naomi Shihab-Nye

…say the sore throat nagging at you last night simply resulted from chasing your grandson around his dusty driveway for two hours yesterday morning,
…say your recently neutered taste buds just collapsed under the weight of your anxiety and Zinc-laden tongue after sucking on lozenges every two hours,
…say my vice-like headache in tandem with your departure for the clinic’s testing tent was nothing more than a psychosomatic duet,
…say the stultifying air of breezes trapped behind curtains pulled tight accounted for my sweat-soaked forehead upon awakening,
…say the zigzag pattern of my symptoms meant that only the lightest of viral loads rummaged through my blood vessels before collapsing in exhaustion and defeat,
…say tomorrow morning’s first sip of juice tickles your taste buds with its citrus zing,
…say by Sunday we find ourselves pedaling easily up the hill by the jetty where I learned to swim as a girl,
…say this double-crossing rehearsal in dread leaves us sighing with relief,
…then what will become of your needling dread — lungs gone awry, breath a gasping prisoner to a ventilator?
…then, instead of sniping by habit first thing in the morning, will I remember to adhere to the note I’ve affixed on the bathroom mirror “be nice”?
…then will the echo of that squabble I instigated stop ringing so loudly in my ears?
…then, your hand squeezing mine, might we wade step-by-step into the swirling waters of intimacy?