In Witness to A Pandemic Cleansing

Updated: Jan 20

Written by Sherre Vernon.

And then, the sadness came & so I braced

the falling shelves, broke free the cobwebs

from the doorframe. Traced my eyes from

heaven to floor. Until today, I felt nothing

different than before, heard maybe a little less

highway & electric buzz at a great distance beyond

my yard. I think of summer cicadas, my childhood

locusts, their paper shells earthgrown & burstforth—

my first glimpse of plague, misunderstood—

& a humming. How I find myself—these days—I sweep

the patio free of peppercorn & scrambling

beetles. I have never lived so close to fields, never

known the insistence of bees who hive themselves

into the walls—how many times—this compassion?

Holy God, I am trying to unlearn my childhood

fear of desert spiders, even as I see the fangpierce

rise on my daughter’s arm, even as I pray

for this lonesoul who chants a requiem—I cannot

look away, cannot unknow & every death is mine

to hold, mine to witness, every apology at the cracking

of a carapace—for the cleanpeace of our home—this—

for the smoothblush of tender skin—How can I forget—

out here, merciless & inevitable—I’ve traded so much

concrete for dandelion and wild mustard, exhausted citronella

& peppermint—All this death & I can’t keep my bones

from weeping, my voice from aching, my hand

from censering all we primal critters back, back—

back to the earth. How do the Buddhists do it

in the wild—keep what grows from surrendering

even to the knuckled harbinger of fear—

How have we closed our eyes to the death

work of our kind—as though broken and beheaded

statues will ever outscream all these bodies?

Sherre Vernon is a seeker of a mystical grammar and a recipient of the Parent-Writer Fellowship at The Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She has two award-winning chapbooks: "Green Ink Wings" (fiction) and "The Name is Perilous" (poetry). Readers describe Sherre’s work as heartbreaking, richly layered, lyrical, and intelligent. To read more of her work visit and tag her into conversation @sherrevernon.


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