While I Wrote this Villanelle, the U.S. Death Toll Rose from 400 Thousand to 425

by Andrea Clark


Give us back all these lives
Such suffering we cannot brook
Give us back the earth, the sea, the skies

Find us paper products in ample supply
Return our borrowed library books
Give us back all these lives

We still go out for a drive
No longer linger in restaurant nooks
Getting back to the earth, the sea, the skies

We accept in exchange four ones for a five
But this bargain for a bribe you mistook
Give us back all these lives

And we’ll surrender what keeps us alive
We too have little time–just look
Give us back to the earth, the sea, the skies

Who decides who shall survive?
Our faith fundamentally shook
If you won’t give back all these lives
at least give back the earth, the sea, the skies



Andrea Clark lives in Oakland and is a low-residency MFA student at Dominican University of California. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Cathexis Northwest Press and Dark Moon Lilith. Her poem, “Tongues Not Welcome,” was a semifinalist for the 2020 Jane Underwood Poetry Prize. Jim Baron is the owner, with his wife Liz, of the Dallas-based Blue Mesa Grill restaurants and TNT/Tacos and Tequila. He’s been a surf bum all his life, with his late brother Bob and younger brother Dan. He spends a couple hours every day painting water colors, and happiness for him is being on the beach with Liz, Kate, Zak, Ian, and Lola, the labradoodle, who runs the show.