The Meaning of Essential

A few months
or decades ago,
I read an article
about skin-care essentials

and spring fashion essentials,
and I don't think any
of those things
were on my quarantine list.

Like haircuts
or paychecks
or dining out
or hugs.

Like traffic
and face masks
and personal protective equipment
and hydroxychloroquine.

And Easter church
on my computer
And final goodbyes
via Zoom.

Beer and wine
and scotch and vodka
and even marijuana
and methadone

And gym workouts
and school
and college
and graduation

and baseball
and concerts
and Prom
and a deep, deep breath.

Too close
too far
too alone
too crowded

too many
not enough
too tired
too dead.

Some quarantine
in the Hamptons with nannies
in a bedroom for six
in a squat toilet for ten thousand.

Rescue breathing
in the ICU.
Home alone and afraid.
Working too much or too little.

The only essential
we have left
is the fleeting air in our lungs
the life in our blood,

the truth that we whisper:
are we living or dying,
inching closer to the tomb,
and gasping for resurrection.


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