Pandemic by Nils Michals

Everyone was worried and looking at everybody else in a new way. Some tabulated their hand-wringing in color-coded diagrams. Some unearthed glue guns, willed sea glass into zoetropes for barbies framed behind dreamhouse windows. Others divested: financially, emotionally. No one knew precisely what was happening at that very moment inside their own bodies, which made the clouds do this tricky thing, something the man fell for over and over again. The woman? Well, we’ll get to that. For the time being everyone’s favorite characters were back, albeit in a medieval way, and by that we mean plows and trepanning and heretofore unseen applications of burlap. What else is there to do when every news story is a lung on fire? No one bothered telling the birds, or children for that matter, who rioted freely up and down hallways. The noise or silence was deafening, depending. For example, every silence had the man on the verge of sobbing, and then some asshole’s air drill broke it like the world’s worst passing of Thanksgiving gas. The whole country tried to replace what it was feeling with an episode of Laverne & Shirley, but the laugh track was slightly off and it really wasn’t that funny anyway now that people were dying. The poor just kept working under the assumption they’d be fucked regardless. The real problem was that bodies didn’t understand where they began, where they ended, which made us all pay attention a little more to the small negotiations therein: the light, or absence thereof, the surfaces of objects, a breath into the air. The air. The air, of course, which could no longer be trusted.
Nils Michals is the author of three full length collections of poetry, the most recent of which, Gembox, won the 2018 Washington Prize from The Word Works. Previous collections include Come Down to Earth (Bauhan, 2014) and Lure (Pleiades, 2004). A letterpress chapbook, Room, is also forthcoming from Sting and Honey Press. He teaches at West Valley College and lives in Santa Cruz, CA.