Borrowed Lines

Betsy Jones

Say we never leave our house again
Say we continue to mask and sanitize and worry
Say we plan our shopping trips like conquering generals

Say the tightness in my chest isn’t panic
but a respiratory infection
Say the dining room table remains my office,
no longer a place for
full plates and
empty glasses and
shared stories

Say we keep making bread and slow-simmered sauce
Say we take afternoon walks and drinks on the porch
Say we sleep in and take naps and stay up too late

Say we never move to Birmingham,
never fix your family’s house
Say we forget our dreams of new lives
of old neighborhoods turned hip
of Venezuelan food trucks or Indian kabobs
of day drinking in Avondale
of winter mornings at the bookstore

Say we never meet our niece
Say we collect and share our milestones on Zoom and Facebook
Say we delay taking your dad to Greece (for yet another year)

Say we never watch a movie in a dark theater,
never watch a play or concert or comedy show
Say we never go back to the beach,
white sand and salt waves and sweaty beer cans gone
Say we watch the world end from our couch,
from the end of our bed
not with a bang but with a whimper

Say we never buy a house, never root this nomadic half-life
Say we never have kids, never adopt or foster
Say we spend the next decade and the next one after that, just us

Say, It doesn’t matter. Say, That would be
enough. Say you’d still want this: us alive,
right here, feeling lucky.

Inspiration: “The Conditional” by Ada Limón, (the last stanza in italics are her words)


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Bridge the Distance: An Oral History of COVID-19 in Poems Copyright © 2021 by Betsy Jones is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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