I Can Breathe
Amy J. Barry
I Can Breathe (4/15/20)
Tired of playing hopscotch on the sidewalk
on my daily walk these days.
Weaving on and off the street,
six degrees of separation,
when the other masked humans
don’t make the first move.
I’ve always been the courteous one.
Tired of being so conscious and self-conscious,
I wander into an ancient burial ground,
beckoning me with its modern sign:
Branford Center Cemetery - Founded 1645.
Finally, I can breathe.
I am the only living being here.
The other humans have been dead and buried
for 100, 200, 300 or more years.
No invisible coronavirus droplets to dodge.
No one to avoid making eye contact with
or to smile at or wave at… or not.
I meander the acres of greening early spring lawn,
studded with crumbling headstones
that struggle to remain upright
after so many years and so many storms.
It’s really quite beautiful here,
imbued with timely blossoming
cherry trees, magnolias, too.
Daffodils and tulips sprouting in clumps.
An apartment complex, aka “affordable housing”
abruptly abuts the cemetery.
Humans locked inside the cinderblock building
with its skimpy prison windows,
afraid to come out,
fixated on their blue screens
while I roam freely
around the ancient graves,
searching out the oldest tombstones,
the youngest dead, as young as six-months old.
Dead of smallpox, of influenza,
of diseases we found cures for,
vaccines for, centuries ago.
And to think it’s only been six weeks,
since our 21st-century lives came to a stunning standstill
and we can’t even find the means to bury our dead,
to properly mourn and honor their lives.
It is so peaceful here, so determined.
I can breathe.
January 17, 2023
Amy J. Barry of Stony Creek, Connecticut, has enjoyed a 35-year career as an editor, award-winning print journalist, opinion columnist, and arts and theater critic. She is also a certified expressive art and writing workshop leader, Hospice-trained bereavement support group facilitator, and author of A Child's Grief Journey, a picture book to help children cope with the death of a parent, endorsed by Education World. In more recent years, Amy has enthusiastically returned to her first love—writing poetry. She has completed two series of connected poems focused on her personal journeys through both the pandemic and her parent’s final years. To date, in addition to Unlimited Literature, her poems have been published by Poets Choice, and Other Worldly Women Press. More about Amy on her website: www.aimwrite-ct.net