March Madness 2020

Written by Cathy Warner for the collection: 'Life in the time of #COVID'


This year there was no lion.

You came calling with striped camellias bushed twelve feet tall in my yard and a trip to Costco where I flitted carefree in the crowded optical department from frame to frame fingers all over my face to find a fit.

None of us able to see ahead clearly.

You lambed in on a bland gray blanket clouds cuddling the creative writing class I led by a gas fire in a swanky apartment complex’s common room before caution closed it down.

In your early days I stayed overnight with my best friend navigating her second year of widowhood. Wedding ring dangling from a chain around her neck, she welcomed my company with comfort congee as we shared her Chinese soup, stories, and silent prayer.

In the clear-eyed morning she griddled gluten-free pancakes just for me. And later we trundled through her garden trimming trees with tools I loaned and have yet to retrieve.

This thirty-first morning as you begin taking leave the once brilliant camellias have dulled. They’re falling— faded brown and burnt edged— in heaps I let lie.

On this your last day, I woke to spy nine seals crowded on a floating dock in the bay. Their kept company forbidden and reckless to our virus-fearing eyes.

We now hold our breath at even the thought of contact, swiveling our grocery carts shelf-ward should another human appear in our Safeway aisle.

Before you left, I sat at the table alone, choking down headlines along with almond-sprinkled oatmeal.

Three quarters of a 60 member choir infected, two dead, simply from singing together when no one seemed sick. Can nothing bring joy without sorrow?

I looked down to sever a slice of grapefruit sticky juice spurting on my new lenses. I blinked and the seals had disappeared leaving nothing to mark their departure not even a ring.


Cathy Warner is a writer, teacher, editor, home renovator, and real estate broker in Western Washington. Author of two books of poetry 'Home By Another Road', and 'Burnt Offerings', her fiction, memoir, and essays have appeared in 'Under the Sun', 'The Other Journal', 'So To Speak', 'Water~Stone', and the blogs of 'Ruminate', 'Relief', and 'Image', among others. Recipient of the 'Steinbeck' and 'SuRaa' fiction awards, Cathy has been nominated for the 'Pushcart Prize' and 'Best American Essays'. Find her at cathywarner.com.

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