Already Lepers by Deborah Dill

Deborah Dill writes poetry, memoir, non-fiction, and is a public health nurse, urban habitat gardener, and Straw Dog member living in Middlesex County. Her poems have been published in Compass Roads, Peregrine, and anthologies. Her memoir, Believe the Bird: An End of Life Love Story is looking for a publisher.

Already Lepers   

The wind pulls its blanket over your back,
Smooths the hair from your face,
Touches your cheek
With its cool, trembling hands.                            
            From How to Pray While the World Burns by Hila Ratzabi


The wind used to pull a blanket over my back

But now even the breeze is under suspicion.

Was that person far enough away so that their very breath—

Projected while singing, ragged while running


Or just regular—was that regular breathing person

Far enough away so that if they carried a virus 

In their nose, say, or their throat, 

It would not be carried on the wind to me? 


We smile as we pass, greet each other

As people might not have done before 

On the path I now jump from, into the woods, 

Leaving multiples of safe sixes between us. 


A chickadee sings its two-note phrase

Another answers in a tumbling slide of words.

We stop to watch them, one eye on a branch above

The other on the path before and behind.


Between two ponds aloud with frogs

My dear friend falters, one foot on a rock 

In a mucky stream, her courage disbelieving 

The distance safe between this footing and the next. 


Of course you can make it, I say, not wanting to reach out

My formerly sturdy, friendly, fearless hand

Looking around my own feet for a stick 

Hefty and long enough to maintain the space between.


Which I do find, and do reach out, holding my breath. 

I wonder, when this is over, if this is over –

and these things are precisely what is not known –  

How will we reconnect to the world of touch 


As safety, of community as succor, of presence, 

And by this I mean physical presence, a bare hand extended,

Fingers intertwined, pressed against the face, meals prepared, 

Shared right up next to each other, even a plate, tastes, 


Cups, utensils, certainly the air in the room 

Even if someone coughs, sneezes, laughs, sputters.

That world that is all we knew—or most of us knew, 

Were we not already lepers of some definition or other—


How will we welcome it back home?


March 21, middle of week 2