To My Students in the Time of the Novel Coronavirus by Ann E. Wallace

To My Students in the Time of the Novel Coronavirus

I know you are struggling, that you had
already fought and kicked to make it
to spring break, to the week when we would
all come up for air before the final push
of a hard semester. But break week this year
was a last gasp, right before our class was sliced
in two—into before, into after,
when the fragile balance of everything
you were holding together, while holding
your breath, shattered, as if a cat had walked
across the shelf where your most precious
pieces were perched and casually swatted them
one by one, to the floor. We are stuck here
frozen, staring at the glassy shards,
knowing we cannot scoop the thousand
pieces into our hands and mold them back
into January or February, when life was sharp
and fragile but not broken.

I know you are struggling, and though I will
not tell you this, I know you will continue
to struggle. So much has shattered.

But I will not tell you because you are
surrounded by shimmering dust
that reflects off your face in ways
that we could not see before. And for every
piece of you that has broken, a new angle
becomes visible. And what I know
is that you are present and fighting,
and that though you are struggling,
you will not be broken.

by Ann E. Wallace

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Editor’s Note: The repetition of words and images in this poem emphasizes the difficult and frustrating nature of struggle when the crisis is long and seemingly endless.