“Beyond the Event Horizon” by Brenda Nicholas

Reading by the author

At 318 days into COVID,
my toilet paper holder fell
off the wall, and I am too
to fix it. My daughter is too high
every day to practice driving
with her Learner’s Permit, thinks
there is nowhere to go, anyway,
and this is happening inside my house.
Outside, a black man stands at the intersection
of bad times and now. His tee shirt says
I AM on the front, and I hand him my only cash,
drive away and catch a glimpse of his back:
This kicks me in the tear ducts,
and I hope a miracle
turns my two dollars into enough.
It’s like we’re all in an Uber
lacking an engine, together,
and we have only our feet
to shuffle us through this space,
Flintstone-style, as we avoid one another’s
biohazard breath. A sneeze
is the new public shooting,
and progress is a black hole
hinging on flimsy masks blowing
in the “hurricane coming”
from tricky new virus variants
“found in pockets.” This latest headline
beams up from my lap
at another stoplight. I circle my fingers
around my jacket pocket’s abyss—
empty as answers we wait for—
and pray that black man’s shirt comes true.

Brenda Nicholas is an associate Professor of English at Temple College in Texas. Her work has appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Main Channel Voices, Red River Review, Illya’s Honey, Menacing Hedge, Snapdragon, The Helix Magazine, and other literary journals. Her chapbook Hari Om, Hurry Home is forthcoming at Finishing Line Press, and her full-length manuscript was selected as a semifinalist in the 2020 Philip Levine Book Prize.

Image: “Edith Piaf – April 2020” by D. Steenburg

Special Feature: F2020

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