VIRUS by Eileen Gloster

Eileen Gloster teaches second grade in her hometown of North Adams, Massachusetts. She is a former owner of Papyri Books, where she hosted readings and open mics. Her poetry has been published in local journals. Grateful for this opportunity and incentive, she recently joined Straw Dog Writers Guild.


Safe, alone, I kneel
in child’s pose. Exhale.
Inhale. Hold.
Let everything out.
My breath, suddenly suspect,
in the empty air.

Our eyes do all the work now.
At the grocery, trapped,
I glance over and down.
My blue eyes ask. Her old ones soften.
I assume consent.
Breathe gently as I pass,
making dangerous
this space between red-taped lines.

The reverend and rabbi pray.
The young Black woman
shuts her eyes and speaks
more names than her years.
Tamir Rice. George Floyd. Sandra Bland.
No justice, yet she tells us
to pass the peace, says,
Look at your neighbor, says,
See the eyes that have cried.
So we look. Flash signs of peace,
press palms together.
Ready ourselves.

Otha starts his drum.
Steady, insistent:
three fast, two slow;
three fast, two slow.
Together, we breathe.
Together. We breathe.
Told to chant softly
behind our masks.
So as not to spread
this virus.

We march down Columbus to the park
and the drumming finally stops.
Kneel as it starts once more.
Now, so
Eight muffled blows
one long minute at a time.

Then faster,
the drum, our hearts
beat 46 more
and we rise
to do the work

because we can
Inhale. Exhale.
Take everything
in. Hold.
Our suspect breath.