(a poem by Jessica O’ Brien written during the pandemic of 2021 after braving the hustle and bustle of Christmas time at Penneys)


i don’t remember the time before we were scared of each other’s fingertips

before eyes were the only indication of emotion

i remember coming home thoughtlessly 

now I am my unclean, infectious, red raw skin 

you would think i would’ve missed this 

yet standing here, surrounded, i feel infested 

and so my brain distances me from it

smoke fills my vision to distort the reality it cannot handle 

i think I’ll do my christmas shopping online this year 


but you can say you lived through it! 

i think that’s what people say now to make some sort of positive 

but honestly i would not have minded if this had been ancient history instead

if i was reading about this far off phenomenon 

from the safety of my classroom 

i would not have minded


knowing now that I will bring it with me always 

that it doesn’t fade

i lost my memory during lockdown but i can remember the emotions i felt during it 

if the disease didn’t kill me my brain would have 

coming out of it now and looking around 

seeing empty places once filled

how can i forget the loss

how can i forget my luck in having my grandparents every Friday 

every week is another week they are alive and well 

i will never see another week where i don’t thank the stars that they escaped it one time more


still I am human

i want to touch you

i long for the day i don’t flinch when you extend your hand 

a day when hugs don’t feel like a risk

when i don’t have to be afraid of my friends


(in the dark, we’re laughing on a shop corner

it is raining, and she spins me by the hands

we duck under the awning 

she rests her forehead to mine 

i cup her cheek, feel her skin on my hand

her eyelash brushing closed

dragon breath in the moonlight 

warm arms like a clasp)


i tie her around my neck for another day

she is what i continue(d) for

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