The New World
It is said
that the native peoples
of what was to become Virginia
could not see for many days
the anchored ships
when they first appeared off shore,
until their brains learned
how to perceive
what they had never before conceived.
We, on the other hand,
did imagine this plague,
made movies predicting it,
and yet the notion
of a half-a-million dead, and counting,
was and is even now
as the those off-shore mirages were
to the Algonquins in 1607.
My people have been here before, though.
In Manhattan, in 1982,
I went to the first candlelight march
when AIDS-deaths topped 10,000,
and when we got back to the apartment
to see if it made the news,
my friend Paul turned to me and said:
“We’re all going to die.”
He did. I didn’t.
What beset me in the next decades
was more of a dizzied unbalancing,
the disorientation of unexpected survival.
So now in this pandemic place,
I know to expect strange and random thoughts
to show up in my head
like grave markers in a pop-up cemetery.
I look at all the masks
and wonder if when
we finally take them off,
will be have become invisible,
like those ships unseen
And when our lips
I fear we will
how to kiss.