Vaccine Tango with the Red Red Rose

by Meghan Sterling

In the dream, Covid like a maraschino cherry in my arm,

traveling down veins full of syrup, red as iron, red as

a bead in my ear. You shook with rage in the driver’s seat,

almost collided with a woman asking for change. No one

was wearing a mask anywhere, not in the library at my

book signing, not at the vaccine clinic, not on the street

thronging with basket weavers. The Bandaid on my arm

was holding in my sickness like stage fright. Swallow

and step onto the stage. Covid was making me bold,

the way it bounced around inside my body

like a game of Arkanoid, bounce off the paddle, rebound

to the other cell wall. Red spikes like a Rambutan, o

that soft white center like sinking one’s teeth into an eyeball.

You weren’t laughing, hated my book, my squirming cells,

the virus a stone in my throat, a cherry lozenge swallowed

and caught on the uvula, swinging like a punching bag in those old

loony tunes. Covid tap dancing around just under my skin

like a bug under a rug, as you railed and wept, ending our marriage.

Meanwhile, Covid peeked out from behind my red-rimmed eyes

and snickered. Meanwhile, Covid rolled its round hairy body as if

my body was a ball pit, lunging from edge to edge with the glee

of a kid at Chucky Cheese.  

Meghan Sterling lives in Portland, Maine with her family. Her work has been published in Rattle, Cider Press Review, Inflectionist Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Driftwood Press, Sky Island Journal, Literary Mama and others. She is Associate Poetry Editor of the Maine Review, a Dibner Fellow at the 2020 Black Fly Writer’s Retreat, and a Hewnoaks Artist Colony Resident in 2019 and 2021. Her collection These Few Seeds is forthcoming from Terrapin Books in April, 2021. Sally Lelong is a visual storyteller working in a variety of media that lend themselves to use in a conceptual framework. She lives and works in New York, and routinely exhibits her work in a variety of settings from print to thematic installations to street art.

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