Every time I turned around, someone told me my footing was off. That my feet, firmly planted or otherwise, were in question. It began as a joke that I began playing with myself, to identify people by the crinkle of skin around their hyper focused eyes. I was levitating inches above the ground when I wanted nothing more than to be tethered to space and time. Stability was the fairytale I told myself in the Before Times. Everything became a hunt for clues. When I spotted a black moth in the garden of a neighbor to whom I no longer speak, I deemed it inauspicious at the time, but was willing to reconsider. I’d heard about zoonotic spillovers and expected to sprout wings sometime in the future. Hospital beds on wheels everywhere populated with alarming regularity, while those who ministered to the sick cried into heavily veined hands and lit cigarettes near oxygen tanks. I nourished my immune system with pink tomatoes and square beans, a sure sign that Mother Nature had a tender heart, but was regrettably out of miracles. My reluctant left foot dragged behind me, leaving my right foot bereft. We can never take all of us with us. Something is always left behind. I still cupped my ear to every conversation, listening for the culmination of who or what, in the end, might throw us a line, pulling us to a heaving and sympathetic bosom.
Michelle Reale is the author of several collections of poetry and the founding and managing editor of The Red Fern Review as well as Ovunque Siamo: New Italian American Writing.