ON SOCIAL DISTANCING

   
    
isn’t social distancing
what we’ve been practicing
all along?
sheltering in place
inside our six-foot radii of
us                     them

we install barbed-wire words
unfriend childhood friends
block uncles
ghost lovers

we box up students
by date of birth
classroom by classroom
wall grandparents
and their war-tested wisdom
in “homes”

we construct prisons
more prisons
cages

we drone our brothers and sisters
from such distance
we no longer have to face
ourselves
in the whites of their eyes

haven’t we gerrymandered
and ghettoed ourselves already
species by disappearing species?

so this is what it takes
a .125 micron particle
to reveal how countries are illusions
how a Wuhan doctor’s body
is a Daegu teacher’s body
is a Tehranian mother’s body
is a Venetian shopkeeper’s body
is a Kirkland grandpa’s body
is my body

it takes a microorganism 500 times smaller
than the diameter of a human hair
to infect us with this truth
that borders cannot keep us
from each other
and separation has always been
our sickness

so here we are
mouths behind facemasks
smiling with our eyes
hands pressing hands through glass
reaching across quarantines
through airwaves and screens

the way sunlight streams
through the only pinhole in a wall
a California poppy oranges
through cement
water empties itself of a vase
through a hairline crack
without struggle
and because struggle
hope spreads
like a virus
or an Italian aria balcony to balcony

Creative Commons License
On Social Distancing by Jacki Rigoni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Music: The Things That Keep Us Here by Scott Buckley
Music promoted by free stock music
Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

JACKI RIGONI is the current Poet Laureate of Belmont, California. She has an M.A. in English from UC Berkeley and is a credentialed teacher. A finalist for the 2018 Francine Ringold Award for New Writers, Jacki’s poems appear in Nimrod International Journal, Moon City Review, and Poems-For-All, as well as anthologies. Her poetry collection, Seven Skirts, is forthcoming in fall 2020 by Paloma Press. 

Author’s note: “Something about the whole phrase ‘social distancing,’ which was just added to the dictionary in March, disturbed me. It got me thinking about how much social distancing we were doing already before the pandemic without having a name for it. Ironically, it also made me aware of how much we humans strive for social connecting.”

Link to Table of Contents.