Saturday, July 31, 2021

In London during the War by Rick Christiansen

In London during the War—
The sound of dripping syrup methodically tapping a tattoo on the shelf below,
from a can of peaches pierced by bomb shrapnel 
while sitting on a London apartment shelf 
during the blitz.

In our plague year—

The sound of an ICU respirator 
wheezing to a stop 
after the code has been called.  
Time of death marked by the patient’s cell phone 
now unplugged and placed in the bag for her children.

This Plague year has changed us all.  
Time speeding up and slowing down to the rhythms of serotonin.  
Anxiety creating brilliant focused experience 
like a microscope being dialed in to the cellular level.  
They say that in London during the war, 
people felt more alive. 
The Spector of sudden death from the sky 
made them love faster, drink longer, fuck harder.

In our Plague year— 
We endure the Spector of slow death.  
Not from the sky, but from the air.

Droplets like shrapnel piercing the lungs/slowly stealing breath away.  
We only grow heavier.  
Eating and watching and hiding from the miasma.

They say that in London during the War, 
people died alone trapped in the wreckage of bombed buildings.  
In our Plague year— 
people die alone trapped in hospital beds.  
Tethered to machines instead of family.  
Each breath more shallow than the last, until the ragged sound stops.  

They say that in London during the War, 
each morning people would emerge blinking.  
Wearing masks against the dust and smoke.  
Marking the demise of another shop or restaurant to bomb or fire 
as they navigated the minimums of life.  

    Picking up a prescription.  
    Trying to find milk or toilet paper.  

Because children are still thirsty 
and we must shit until we die.  

Wandering for items that would fill the hole 
of uncertainty and named fear.  

The anonymity of masked travel.  
    Making the eyes do all of the work of the face.  
    Trying to connect through fabric and fear.  

In our Plague year—
It is the same.

They say that in London during the War,
 everyone pulled together.  
They had the connection of a shared enemy.  

In our Plague year—
we are denied that connection.  
False news and finger pointing make us misdirect our resolve
away from shared purpose. 
Toward disconnecting conspiracy and suspicion. 

They say that in London during the War,
Everyone became stronger.

In our Plague year—

Rick Christiansen has been a stand-up comic, an actor, director of the improvisational comedy group, The Underground, and a corporate executive.  His work can be found in the archives of Oddball Magazine, Muddy River Poetry Review and other publications. He has poems forthcoming in Dumpster Fire Press and his poem “Killing Bob Dylan” has been selected for a Fall 2021 anthology by Alien Buddha Press. He is a member of the St. Louis Writers Guild. Rick lives in Missouri near his eight grandchildren and with his basset hound Annie. 


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