Pandemic Graduation (May 2020)

by Shannon Donaghy

My college graduation arrives in a box
and I take it upstairs with me to my new apartment
along with a new litter box and different litter
because my cat is picky
and, as such, shit all over my carpet. So, me,
the new cat bathroom, and
my graduation go upstairs together,
all of us in boxes.

I sink to the floor, close to where my cat shit earlier,
and I open my graduation and I mourn for a moment.
All of the new things I am tasked with getting used to
swarm around me, land on my shoulders,
ask me to ignore the moments – past tense –
that deserve fanfare.
Here is a list of things I don’t know:
How a vaccine gets approved by the FDA.
How people can hear scientific fact
and, like it’s a boot cut jean or a new hairstyle,
decide that it just isn’t right for them.
How Atlas holds up the sky every goddamn day
(it would be so easy to let go).
How any of us can function at all, given the circumstances.
How my graduation knew my new address
and made it to my apartment, despite our strained relationship,
the unspoken and unfinished thing sitting between us,
making both of us decidedly unreal.
How my cat knew to imitate the theme of my day.

Here is a list of things I do know:
The sun will rise tomorrow, in the east, like it always does.
My cat probably will not shit on the floor again.
We are not all in the same boat,
we are all in the same storm. I am lucky to have the boat I have.
Even so, I am still allowed to be bothered by the rain.
Celebration does not have to look like
a cap and a gown on a person.
I have still graduated and received a degree,
even if my graduation sits in a little brown box
in the back of my closet to collect dust and age, maybe forever.

Shannon Donaghy is a queer poet and writer from South Jersey, currently residing in Philadelphia. She is a book publicist and has the pleasure of working with authors and books from all genres. Her poetry can be found in Plum Tree Tavern, Red Cedar Review, The Normal Review, and more. When she is not reading, writing, or writing about reading, she enjoys hiking, painting, and wood burning. Sabiyha Prince is an anthropologist, artist, and author based in Washington, DC.  Her books and essays explore urban change and African American culture, and her paintings and photo collages grapple with memory, identity, kinship and inequality.