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The Clerk

Imagine being nineteen again,
still pimply and awkward,
parroting a script
from behind a plexiglass wall:
Phone number, please, you say,
and imagine her fingers,
typing one in. You hear the click,
clicking of keys on the keypad,
music of the dead,
you think, you’re dying.

The Enforcer

You’re maybe a hundred pounds,
just a little thing, whose mask
covers two thirds your fragile face,
and they buried you at the door,
the enforcer, instructed to say—
This door, not that, and arrows,
follow them, follow them,
do like I do, with this cover,
my voice smothered, my soul—

Wrong Way

I’m sure I was just standing there,
leaning over my cart, watching
my daughter shop for cards,
when I heard her voice—
not the enforcer,
but a fellow peruser, like me,
another blank face, masked,
breathless, breathlessly,
you’re going the wrong way,
she said, you’re not following
the arrows, she said,
and her bony, dead finger
pointed down along the ground.
I followed it, and sure enough,
she was right about me:
Rule breaker, careless
spreader of germs.
The shame, the shame,
she would have me feel,
for facing the wrong way,

New Normal

Fuck that. My latest mantra. Fuck that
and fuck that, too.
Even as I do it.
Where’s the humanity in this?
I want to scream.
But who would hear me?
We’re too busy saving lives
by not living, buttressed
as we are behind masks,
She doesn’t even realize I’m not smiling,
Or, does she? Maybe there’s something
of, fuck this shit, in my eyes,
the only part of me she can see,
if she tries to see, but she doesn’t.

The mask isn’t merely the covering
for a mouth, a nose, —
it’s blanket, too, as in a morgue.
Covering the dead. And I know,
my time is coming soon enough,
but I’m not dead yet, covered as I am,
prepared for burial.
Yet, still pounding on coffins,
trying to pull back the heavy veil,
cursing my heart away,

fuck! Someone help us!

–into the emptiness.