for Karen Taylor

We cannot feel microbes in the palms of our hands
or hear nanoseconds—we can see the laser slice wind. But 
how it shaves beards remains mysterious.

This talk of science & biologicals & viral crowns  
make old mean men crawl into bowls of cotton 
waiting to be plucked at some point
by cadaver slaves humming Tin Pan Alley tunes.  

What’s a pandemic
but one more mortality wake up call. Tongue dulled by wine salted
and cabbage stews happily forgotten. Buffed shoes shining, not worn.
No more the perfect Windsor Knot because the definition for knot
has swerved from necks to bandages.

If ever we could color the subatomic particles and smash them up
would they look like a Ken Tisa Quarantine Drawing—how that 
could brighten the feet step by step in August air. The summer

feels like a heavy cough that starts in the chest, lingers
until it exhausts patience and runs up through the throat
out into the embracing air carrying all manner of microbes, some

of which or what could possibly infect a city or laugh pyrotechnic
4 p.m. along with feral snarls and cheap guns shooting, poor man
Mercy walks down a different block.

Copyright © 2022 by Patricia Spears Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 20, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.