This Is Not a Drill or Maybe It Is

Literature

This Is Not a Drill or Maybe It Is


You Take a Covid Test Then Take a Picture

of your covid test then take two subways
to work. You turn your time card, take 
your mask off to drink tea. You take 
attendance and teach The Poet X. 
You teach The Joy Luck Club. You cross 
your fingers for each student dancing in the hall.
You learn new names. You memorize new pronouns. 
You wonder if your cancer will return.
You taught some of these kids on Zoom.
You saw their faces then. They sat 
in folding chairs in front of bunk beds. 
Now they’re wearing masks. 
Your eyes look at their eyes. 
Your life is recognizable, unrecognizable.
You grade four papers, then another four,
press two for Cantonese translation, 
update your Google slides. You stand outside 
in chilly columns as they sweep your school
for bombs, holding only folders to your chest. 
All clear. You walk the six flights 
back to class. You give your students extra points 
if they don’t check their cell phones
when they finish workshopping their drafts. 
You walk between the groups and say “Good job
just spacing out!” and mean it. They laugh. 
Nobody knows which lockdown drills are real. 
You take two subways home and pick 
your own kids up from after school -
your living, vibrant kids. Your son sits on the floor
to play with beads. Your daughter hates being alone. 
Your wife is on the F train now and has a cough. 
Your life is recognizable, unrecognizable. 
You do not know if it will ever be
better or worse than this.

Nina is Wonderful!

I prop my phone against the ketchup 
so we can all see Nana’s face, her short hair
white in Key West sun, my two kids at the table, 
the baby buckled in, the big kid reaching 
jammy hands out towards my screen.
Between their shrieking, Nana tells me
her friend Janet used to say “Nina is wonderful!” 
each time her toddler daughter Nina spilled juice,
sassed back, or sat her dressed-up self down in the bath,
new party shoes and all. I think of this sometimes
when Mia grits her teeth and mumbles “Never”
when I ask her to put on her socks. Mia, 
four years old in a track suit jumping couch to couch 
while Leo licks crayons beside her. 
Nina is wonderful, now thirty-plus in Denver 
doing something with philanthropy,
and Mia is wonderful, and Leo, too,
though he won’t wear his coat. And surely my wife 
and I are wonderful as we haul two full car seats
and a stroller through the airport 
several times a year, caravanning up the terminal
towards the loving arms of grandparents,
and what could be more wonderful than that?
Oh Mother Goddess, oh Nana and Abuela,
oh lifelong friends like Janet, oh women 
who’ve schlepped any children anywhere,
please help me to survive these years 
of ear drops and sippy cups,
this age of so much wonder.

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