Ode to COVID-19

by Sarah Lilius

We wait for the apocalypse because the new human condition keeps us up at night. 
I stockpile food from three different sources for when the quarantine is set.
When I wake in the depth of early morning, there is a hum of the motor that keeps us alive.
Once I saw the massive green metal box that houses the engine, the important secret.
Men in suits everywhere are dropping down sewer grates.
They stopped killing chickens, for now.
I hear that in the country you can see the orange haze over the city existing like a net.
I constantly clean my hands, 20 seconds each time, then sanitize like some fool.
Soap and sanitizers run low and celebrities start falling ill.
It won’t be long after Hollywood caves into the Earth.
The soldiers don’t bang on doors, they stand around thinking about donuts.
Everyone coughs enough to make a new pop song.
I heard Taylor Swift is still alive and available.
The fires haven’t started but all of the Pizza Huts are closing without further notice.
Spring still pushes the world into weather patterns we need to feel human again.
Emails roll in that everything is closing, everywhere is cautious.
Airborne, it will find us waiting in line at Target where only two lines are open.
I tried to buy a thermometer at the store, but they were sold out.
I tried to buy a thermometer online, but the internet sold out.
The thermometer factories explode and now they’re sold out.
Our fevers are detected from the touch of a hand against a burning forehead.
This is where the fire starts.

Sarah Lilius is the author of five chapbooks including GIRL (dancing girl press, 2017) and the forthcoming Traffic Girl (Ghost City Press, 2020). Publication credits include the Denver Quarterly, Court Green, Tinderbox, Fourteen Hills, Boulevard and forthcoming in the Massachusetts Review. She lives in Arlington, VA with her husband and two sons. Illustration: “Santorio Sanctorius Thermometer Burn in COVID Times” by Karyn Kloumann, , founder of an award-winning indie press, Nauset Press.The balloon shows a woodcut of the first iteration of a thermometer, created by Santorio Santori (1561–1636).