Shelter in Place

By Kristin D'Agostino

PROMPT—During Covid-19 ...

Am I the only one who finds this phrase liberating? A tyranny of choices reduced to the lowest common denominator, a frosted cake cut in half, then in half again, and again until all that’s left is one manageable slice.


My body, a restless cat always pacing is forced to rest for the first time, an epitaph floating like a silent film caption over my head: She did not find, she created her own happy place.


For me it’s like someone just gave me one square of an endless rolling lawn and asked me to plant on it a vineyard, winding clusters of plum and gold that call me up, up like Jack’s beanstalk


closer toward dreams, showing me my ideas don’t need acres to grow, only inches, not weeks of sunlight or exotic soil, just the dim glow of a 75 watt light bulb in a familiar room.


Shelter in place to me is a challenge: If I can’t leave my country, my state, my house, what world can I create for myself? Like Aslan breathing life into Narnia, I conjure up an oak tree for shade, a lemonade to cool, a book to comfort


with words touching in paragraphs, that defy social distance, that step in line together without fear even as supermarket clerks count bodies like apples, placing them in cleanly spaced rows.


Shelter in place. To me it’s a call to root, and root I do, using my Covid check to buy a new couch, the first couch I’ve ever bought for the first place of my own in half a decade. It’s a teal couch, a vintage Chesterfield


with silver pins along the arms that sparkle like marquesite, a couch that invites a body not just to shelter, but to lounge like Rita Hayworth in a red dress on her belly, high heels kicked up, the way starlets lounged on the screen


before women traded in livelihoods for careers. Before Instagram and instant messages captured everyone’s deliciously idle moments and families started spreading out across the country, leaving each other in search of what? Adventure? Change? The American Dream?


Shelter in place. Another way to say build a nest. Gather up bits of colored string, all the precious things of past and present, weave them together, then crawl inside, button down the hatches and hunker down.


Shelter in Place. To me it’s a license to stretch out like a cat in a pool of sunlight, eyes closed. Not an order so much as a wish whispered between lovers in darkness God bless. Sleep tight. Sweet dreams.

 

Kristin is a poet, journalist and travel-lover living in Vermont. She fell in love during Covid and spent the first year of the pandemic in a state of confined bliss with her cat, her partner, a pile of books, and a game of Scrabble.