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Four Friends and a Virus

The day they got wind of the virus,

Four friends sat in a café

Overlooking the ice rink at Rockefeller Center.

Though rumors outpaced plans,

It was already too late to think the new predator frivolous.

And the question came up,

“What do you make of this?”

Each offered a response.

The first said she would continue as usual,

With full trust in the economy and her country,

And, yes, people would die as they did in previous wars,

and it would be hard, the way wars are hard,

but in the end, you can’t kill the American spirit.

“We will find a way.”

The second talked about prayer, and

How he hoped the One God did not visit this virus

Upon the earth as retribution for

Waywardness and hedonism,

The calling cards of the ungrateful.

“I will pray,” he pledged, “that we awaken from

Our godless slumber, and heed the

Voice of Death that slyly steals

The minutes, hours and days

Of those who lose perspective.

Clearly and divinely, he said, this would be

A time of reckoning.

The third shook his head in disapproval,

Proclaiming the god of vengeance a fiction.

He vowed his allegiance to science,

Where brilliant minds dissect data,

And the frenzied noises

Of presidents and pundits are

Quieted by “the latest available facts” about

Immune responses and algorithms,

And why we shouldn’t touch bats with human hands.

“Scientists study, the rest of us guess,” he concluded.

“I put my faith in reason and technology.”

The fourth friend stared straight ahead,

Confessing to not knowing much at all,

her lack of discernible opinion reinforcing

A litany of doubts.

“I don’t even know myself … how will I

Know what to do about the virus?”

She admitted she feared that when any expert’s facts

confront another expert‘s facts,

they often disagree, and she gets confused.

And she couldn’t understand why God would punish

An entire population

For the moral vacancy of a few.

In similar fashion, patriotism seemed insufficient and provincial,

Given that people of every stripe and place faced the same beast.

Broadening her view, the Doubter

recounted her time as

An exchange student in Montenegro,

Where she met a Sufi who stirred his tea

Saying this is how the world works, around and around,

And no matter what, it becomes still and clear,

You just have to wait.

She muddled about how she had been wrong about

What once seemed as clear as steeping tea,

And how she didn’t believe now that anyone knew enough,

Or could learn fast enough,

To be able to outsmart as complex a foe

As a ubiquitous global virus.

The three others looked at her dumbfounded,

And didn’t know how to speak their thoughts.

So they said nothing,

And all went their separate ways,


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