Volume 32, Number 1


COVID pandemic, June 2020
Savannah, Georgia

The last time we met was at Olivia Stiffler’s readiing
at Flannery O’ Connor’s House. Your dark auburn hair,
flowing clothes. My black pencil skirt, tights, cashmere sweater.
October 21, 2018.

You smiled, came forward to a hug. How did you remember me
when the first time I saw you was when you were the speaker
at my writing group, center of rapt attention, freelance journalist,
first book coming out

Now we only see each other on Facebook,
I can’t see what you’re wearing.
You can’t see my Indian caftan.

Your posts on hanging together during social isolation
drifted into your loneliness at home, daughters long gone.
Now again you return to church, beaches, while others wilt
in the jail of social distance. Call it freedom to worship, assemble,
free of mask, free to hug, you’ll dodge the virus as best as you can.

You bring me back 180 years: Ezra Pound weeping for friends
dead in World War I trenches, fierce words against finance capitalists
who piled wealth by encouraging wars, taking Mussolini’s hand
to create a land in which a common man could have
his own vine, fig tree, piece of mind.

You and your friends at seventy, and everyone else around you.
Hospitals just a shadow in your life. Tell me, Beverly

will you hold onto your freedom if the virus finds you
then floats across to ones you hug at the end of service?
You won’t know who will die in the crowd

just like Ezra never saw an Italian dissenter swinging
at the end of a rope.

—Ujjvala Bagal-Rahn