“Happy Birthday Twice”, a Pandemitime Poem and Three Images By Lynne Sachs

November 30, 2020
By Robert Fredkenter

“Happy Birthday Twice” – A Pandemitime Poem

October 4, 2020

Stretched Time 
Maya and Noa home
our two daughters in their beds
Here there all at once. Child and adult.
Temporal inversions.

Inside this terrifying middle
eating Mark’s slow dinners slowly
Warm bread, just ripe fruit
delivered by a woman with her own daughters
sleeping in their own beds.

Revisiting each day of an opening act
March 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Friday the 13th
Where I was intending to be and where I was.

Narrative of an unwinding.
The city is ours.
The city owns us.
56 days in captivity so far.
My father calls it the Velcro padlock.
the only real authority —
when to stay and when to go.

Pages I’ve read as a measure of time
almonds eaten,
cleaning surfaces
cleaning again
bleach and more bleach

Masks – to wear or not to wear?
to protect me.
to protect you.
Anger at T.
Anger at the mayor.

Watching “Tiger King” and flattening the curve
social distancing and comorbidity
Pod and PPE
Fauci and Floyd.

I would walk from A –
call it home –
to B
then to C and D
all the way to Z.
Stop and stop again
in a zig
back in a zag
a diagonal
a curve
I used my feet
road on elevators
shook hands
You too remember
the long ago here.

We imbibe together.
Family Zooms.
Passover in four different states.
With Mom, sister Dana, brother Ira,
with everyone
but without
No with in space, only time.

Moving my body at home
bra becomes braless.

Hospitals with others.
Hospitals without beds.
Hospitals with 1000s of beds, all full.
Fear of going in
with you.
With me inside.

Ruthless flossing.

Fighting about something that happened six years ago.
Caring about everything
knowing that only one thing matters.
Dreaming like a film.
A film like a dream.
76 days in captivity and counting.

Going for a walk with a friend but without her.
Talking like a crazy person and wondering if I am.
Being with being there.
Being here only.
Not knowing where you’re here is.
Forgetting my mask and feeling ashamed.
Running home.
Looking a stranger in the face
saying hello loudly
droplets on my glasses
the fog of it all.

Hand sanitizer
So raw it hurts.
No need for more.
where to go.

Needing to imagine NYC as it is
as it was
even while I am here.
People worrying about me.

Singing “Happy Birthday” twice
under warm water.

Delivering food to a 65-year old friend I thought would starve.
Delivering food to a 90-year old friend who later died.
Our time together
counting and recounting the seconds I was in his house,
dreaded time,
minutes or seconds
count and recount.
He went to the hospital and never came home,
two months alone
Jim died of loneliness
at least in my mind.

People of color become surrogate shoppers.

Andrew Cuomo reading mortality and hospital statistics every day at 11:30 am.
Giving $50 tip to our UPS delivery person, Edison.
Feeling good
About me.

Hearing from a crazy old boyfriend who is worried about me.

7 PM noise parties
celebrating the workers, the frontliners
the ones who took the risks
We whistle and hoot
from deep within our mouths
60 seconds
of anger and anxiety in unison with our neighbors
then we four turn around,
180 degrees
sit together for a meal
Talk of our day as if something and nothing can happen all at once.

I don’t miss a meal made in a kitchen I can’t see.
Nothing tastes good in a plastic box.
How I relish Mark’s food
savory and sweet
made hot
just a few feet from our cat’s breakfast and her day-old bowl of water.
Part of our hermetic now.
Part of our daunting.

Looking for a place to pee
I rush home from Greenwood cemetery
preferring not to die

Saturday August 15
Our pod fragments –
Abandoned artificial routines.
I listen for the echo from April and May.
Strange longing for the solitude and the ache.

Less and less in the weather
more weathered
more aware of the weather
Spinning umbrella-less in the rain.

In a city on a lockdown,
doors never locked.
Nowhere to walk
And yet walking every day to somewhere not far from here.
In circles that resemble city blocks.
Tethered by the distance it takes to run home.

Nothing grows so fast
so boldly
as the Morning Glory vine
these late summer days.
I weave its wayward shoots
through the bars of our old wrought iron fence.