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What the Sheltering Do

By Lana Hechtman Ayers

PROMPT—During Covid-19 ...

Inspired by Marie Howe & for my brother Alan, Red Cross EMT at the World Trade Center who died of a 9/11-related illness Brother, my freezer—arctic— resembles the old snow forts we built in childhood, and hot water does no good, making a flood and more ice. There is no repairman to call in this time of sheltering in place. This isn’t the everyday we dreamed of.

For weeks now, staring at faces on screens—tv, phone, laptop— I’m recalling being seated across from you at the coffee shop, your hair gleaming in a shaft of sun, your laughter cutting through the din of conversation and piped-in tunes. I stay home now to make my own brew. This is what those of us who want to live do. We cleave in place, cleave from one another to flatten the curve. This is how the ordinary serve. I didn’t want you to leave—that fateful day— or ever.

It’s nearly summer here, bright with bloom— pink blossoms and green leaves erasing all memory of winter’s blahs and grays but winter’s cold remains. My heater believes the calendar that proclaims spring and refuses to come up. I shiver wearing several sweaters. No repairman to call.

Turnips are all I eat for the fifth night this week because the market is out of everything, and facial tissues are what I use as toilet paper. This is what those of us who want to live do.

You had no choice in being here or not. Terrorist disease took you from us. This is not the everyday life we dreamed of. True, mine are ordinary griefs— broken appliances, whatever the store is out of this week— but as my washing machine refuses to spin, I'm gripped with a sadness so deep for what might have been if you hadn’t left us before this global pandemic, you who manned the front lines on 9-11 saving lives.

Despite the new great losses your heart would endure, you’d rescue so many more. You, brother, would as surely be a hero now as then. I honor you. I will always honor you.


Lana Hechtman Ayers makes her home in an Oregon, USA town of more cows than people. She holds MFAs in Poetry and Writing Popular Fiction, as well as degrees in Mathematics and Psychology. Her work appears in numerous print and online literary journals, as well as in her nine poetry collections and a romantic time travel novel. You can read more of her work at:


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