I’m wary, now, of going out alone,
dear. What unnerves me more about train rides:
the virus, or the risk of being thrown
against the train car’s floor or seats or sides
by someone yelling hate, like what befell
a gray-haired man in my own neighborhood
three weeks ago, when fears had yet to swell
up to their present height? Back in the “good
old days,” I had at times already sensed
my cidery skin tone caused me to be read
as interloper: a girl made threats against
me at the laundromat because (she said)
my “smell” offended her—that was last fall—
and how could things not be worse now this virus
fuels people’s fervor to erect a wall
around the things they care about, desirous
of saving what they can when poverty,
inequity are menacing their children?
Days prior, as I hurried down the three
blocks stretched between a pair of clinic buildings,
I thought: might it protect me if I wore
my hospital I.D. outside my jacket,
displayed with ostentation? That might score
me some reprieve…but others would still lack it.
JENNA LE is a Minnesota-born daughter of Vietnamese refugees. She earned her B.A. in mathematics before obtaining her M.D. and has worked as a physician and educator in the Bronx, New York, and Lebanon, New Hampshire. She is the author of Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011) and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Indolent Books, 2017), a Second Place winner in the Elgin Awards. She was selected by Marilyn Nelson as winner of Poetry By The Sea’s inaugural sonnet competition and by Julie Kane as winner of Poetry By The Sea’s sonnet crown competition the following year. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in AGNI, Denver Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, and West Branch.
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