Social Distancing by Diane Averill

Social Distancing

The face of a news anchor on my big-screen TV
turns emoji-sad. “And now we’ll focus on “The Homeless Problem.”
An earnest young reporter in a Patagonia jacket appears on the screen while
A blood-red geranium petal falls,
floats from my window box to the concrete below
as I look down at him from my sixth-floor condo.
He tells viewers that more and more people appear each day,
making it sound like a magic trick.

A shadow steps out of a blue tarp tent
right behind him.
A woman curled on a curb cries under shifty clouds.
The reporter zooms in to ask her why.
“I was raped one night and am afraid to go to sleep.”
He nods sympathetically then turns away,
showing us three men fighting with sticks
and I know this happens every day.

Avoiding them,
he sweeps along the concrete, showing the detritus of human tragedy:
used needles, Styrofoam plates and cups. Such a public nuisance.
People sit crowded around eating from brown paper bags
given to them by shelters where they no longer are able
to eat or shower inside. He shakes his head in dismay.

I slide under my flowered comforter,
click the remote: blank screen.
I don’t know if I’ll get my old job back,
or what is coming next,
so I count my Gratitudes one more time.


Diane Averill’s first book, Branches Doubled Over With Fruit, (University of Florida Press) was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award as was her second book, Beautiful Obstacles, (Blue Light Press). Her latest book is Among Pearls Hatching, (Dancing Moon Press). In addition, she has had three chapbooks published. Her work appears in many literary magazines and anthologies. In 2009 Beautiful Obstacles and her chapbook, For All That Remains, were chosen as part of a list of the best 150 best books in Oregon. She has also won an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship. Diane is a graduate of the M.F.A program at the University of Oregon, where she won the annual award for the best poem by a graduate student. She taught in the English Department of Clackamas Community College from 1991 until her retirement in 2010.

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