“I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible health care personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you.”  (Mike Pence, on why he didn’t wear a mask to the Mao Clinic.)

That’s me, walking down Summer

Street, headed for Richmond

Street, dressed for a pandemic,

only my eyes to see and be seen:

61 year old white woman eyes.

It’s one of those almost-Spring days, trees

Daring to blossom, sky clear blue,

Bright, but chilly enough to warrant

This coat, this hood, these gloves. The streets

Empty and wide, I feel like an explorer in a new land,

Pandemic land, where viruses can lurk anywhere,

even on daffodil petals.

Barely a block to go and I see

him, having just turned or crossed;

nevertheless, he’s bearing down

on me.  Hands deep in pockets, mask

high, just inches from his hood.

Only eyes to see and be seen:

30 – 40 year old black man eyes.

I recognize a fearful voice, mumbling

in the back of my head:

It’s time to cross, it says, though to cross

the road will take me out

of my way.  I resist it.  I maintain my course.

He’s about my height.  Not quite

as spare.  His mask is black, and

mine is white. As we approach each other

I recognize fear. Fear in his eyes.  Fear of

me. Fear of all the things he thinks I see

when I see a man who looks like him.

Fear of all the things he knows

a woman who looks like me has the power to do.


The things he fears frighten me, too; they repulse me.  I want to smile and say hello.


I summon up a smile, will it into my eyes

and face him, for those seconds it takes me

to pass him.  All I can see is his anxiety,

diminishing.  His eyes grow calm,

his shoulders slack, we share

a nod of gratitude, even

companionship, and then

we both continue on our way.




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