I wake up in a strange country
becoming familiar. At first,
nothing is different –
the day is well on its way
to ending as usual – a sunset
more or less beautiful.
My neighbor leaves for work,
the gravel crackling under his tires
before the engine groans
onto the frigid, salt-crusted road.

Then it occurs to me as a nightmare
in an idle moment is often remembered –
a sickness is running through
the hardened heart of every handshake, echoing
through the atrium of every conversation
its blue-veined death. Every kiss, every embrace,
could end in remorse. To think this is Christmas,
and it could get even worse.

The Crown is passed
from hope to hope
as we celebrate quietly
(and in fear if we are wise)
the birth of it, as if weaved
from the thorns in our sides
to wrap wreathlike around his head.

But salvation is for spring –
there’s winter ahead.

I have never been born again,
and wouldn’t dare in this time we’re in
take and pass the virus of communion,
but it seems Christ
is as born as ever –

realer now than flesh and blood.
He walks among the tired nurses
dressed in walls of disposable gowns,
within the machines we use to breathe
beyond what would have been our last
and the vaccines coming toward us
at the slowness of lightspeed,
the hem of the garment
we’d trample each other
to touch.

If this isn’t Christmas, then it is
an unusual day like any other – coffee and reflection
in the windows dimming as the light grows,
in the dark rectangles
of monitors and cell phones
the world’s tiresome problems
waiting. A surgical mask hangs
from a coat hook by the door.
Dinner will be more like
the Last Supper alone
if the only choices were scant leftovers.
I didn’t bother with decorations this year
and in the daylight my neighbor’s
look desperate and feeble.

A package has been waiting on my porch:
a new flag I had forgotten I ordered.
I go out in the brisk air
to take down the tattered one
and Google what to do with it.

Featured Image: Coronavirus crisis on the Earth, by Olga Nikitina.

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