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Notes from the American Epicenter: a Diary

By Jacqueline Johnson


This American president respects neither

Science nor Religion.

His only god is money.

Many of us in this America

will pay for generations

for his devout worship.



Twenty-three people traveling from Asia get off a plane at Kennedy.

They are allowed to leave the airport unscreened.

Told to quarantine at home.

Ten days later three members of the same family test positive.

Weeks later New Rochelle shuts down with a total quarantine.



N95 masks are now $561 dollars.



Target is the home supply universe.

Young Asians and Whites fill carts with

Clorox wipes, cold medicine and food.

A sister-woman with her daughter passes by

with a cart filled with Easter clothes.



I have already spent a week at work pretending my

cold is not a cold, muffled sneezes, head turning,

deep coughs into two layers of tissue.

I check for fever, sore throat, loss of smell.



I get the call not to return to the office.

Delton has tested positive while on vacation in Canada.

For ten days he will not see American soil.

Did we stand together a few inches between us?

Not a test anywhere in the city to be not taken.



Today the Mayor hints at closing the city.

I run to do the “oh shit” shopping.

Black elders, young Latinx and Whites fill the aisles.

No social distancing to be found.



My cousin Juanita says “Covid 19

has been here since December.

Ralph and I had terrible colds.

I’m sure we both had Covid.”



Today I learn my ninety-six year old cousin

has tested positive for Covid-19.

When I hear she has such a bad attitude,

she has refused the oxygen offered,

I know she will live. Only the most

ornery, independent, clear eyed ones live.



Last week another cousin lay deaf and dying.

Who knows why him? Versus some other burnished soul?

Was given an experimental drug and he recovered.

He returns home on a Sunday, by Thursday

his eighty-seven year old mother is gone.

My family is a handful of rice in the palms of God.



There is rumor of a test site a mile away from my home.



A day after the Pink moon

uncle Roy has followed his

wife into the other world.

She is less than seven days gone.

Some sixty-five years of marriage,

they are now inseparable ancestors.



Who knows amongst the millions of un-tested,

whose blood will one day

reveal the silver light of antibodies?



Chinese locals in Guangdong Province

masquerade fears of the Corona virus with racism.

Give one hour notices to their African tenants

whom roam the streets, carry their lives on top their heads.



Rona you knobby-headed bitch.

Succubus of bats.

Thief of lives.

Vicious virus, virulent across the planet.

When are you leaving?



Day one hundred and nineteen.

Still no Covid-19 tests available for the millions of us.



My neighbor’s son,

volleys across concrete

he jumps and lands and jumps again.

The sound of his skate board ricochets across the block.

Head bowed he dips and twists in the wind.

I treasure his play, delight in the joy still in him.



Zinc tablets, garlic, ginger

Vitamin C,

Herbal hex against the virus.



Praise the ancestors,

Joan Sandler

Cheryl A. Wall

David Driskell

Shirley Campbell

Sandra Lawson



Bus Drivers

Essential Workers








Jacqueline Johnson is a multi-disciplined artist creating in both writing and fiber arts. She is the author of two books of poetry: A Gathering of Mother Tongues (White Pine Press, 1998), winner of the Third Annual White Pine Press Poetry Award and A Woman’s Season, (Main Street Rag, 2015).