Denise's mother flip-flopped onto campus
in a white tennis skirt each afternoon.
Smoker's cough, sun-browned legs
heels a jigsaw of fissures. Her feet were a wonder
to my shade-grown, eight-year-old self.
Perhaps Denise's mother made a choice:
tennis over moisturizer and a pumice stone.
Perhaps in the hours between work
and ferrying Denise to gymnastics,
she had time for just one luxury.
In the months between March
and the relentless now, I became reacquainted
with my feet. Saw them emerge from boots
to meet air and driveway dirt.
Was the nail on my second toe always so thick?
Dozens of narrow fault lines
spread across my soles, and I was helpless
to stop them.
I always think that knowing should save me.
I knew about time and it happened anyway.
It was a place where anything was possible
I told someone yesterday, through my cotton face mask,
referring to my work with former gang members.
There was the guy who started
a solar panel installation company
with twenty men who called him boss
but other things were possible too:
relapse, suicide by cop,
the woman who had two babies in two years
and lost both to foster care.
Our days have a rhythm now:
cereal, Star Wars, visits from the girls
next door, more Star Wars, work
squeezed between the cracks,
always so much work.
Our lives are comprised of aftershocks
and a sense that we re/built all this on sand.
So much has changed, I said.
So little has changed, my partner said.
This is no one's fault and everyone's.
If pandemic then why not cancer?
Why not a shiny new job and a unicorn
extending her long neck toward us
flaring her wet nostrils, whispering,
I'm an endangered species and so are you.
There's a phrase that medical types use:
If you hear hoofbeats, it's probably horses, not zebras.
A migraine, not a brain tumor, but people
in rare disease groups post zebras as their avatars.
Black stripes like cracks in the hard white desert.