Not a Virus

Sculpture of anguished woman's head

In the time of Covid-19
I felt Pluto's power of destruction
and regeneration
in his guise as Hades, underworld king.

The toilet bright in the dark
where, aching, I lean my face, tight neck, closed eyes,
twisted stomach.
I loathe this. If this is Covid,
I could die.

Skin cold in sweat.
Ears ring.
Temples throb, obliterate thought.
Hands tremble gripping cold porcelain.
I fear I'm dying.

Waves of nausea
flowing, rising,
a wave higher, wider,
I want to die.

A wave huge, high as the throat ...
from Depth of Being,
a gagged howl ...

A splat of clear liquid.
That’s all. All done
but for numbed weakness,
lightness of being let go, if only temporarily.

I rub my face in my hands.
I'm okay. It was not a virus,
only the bad lime juice
in my gin and tonic.

But Hermes had a hand in it
and behind that, unseen, was Hades' clutch.

Not falling underground like Alice.
Not going deep enough into the dark
to meet the assorted denizens.
Not succumbing long enough to unseen arms
to learn whatever Persephone found out.

Slipping, blithe, impatient,
congratulating myself on my escape,
not considering my loss.

The vomit was clear this time.
I rinsed my mouth quickly.
No taste.
No stink of putrescence, ferment, rot.
No essence at all.

I explained it away as a virus or toxin.
Ignored the message
I was brought down, blind, to see.
Turned away from the treasure
I was voided to absorb.

I look now, plumbing a dark memory
in clear, morning light.
Not feeling anymore
whatever was there, unseen,
that waits.

Fleeting fear

The illustration: "... a fragment of a preliminary study for a large-scale marble sculpture ... depicting Pluto, the god of the underworld, dragging Proserpina away to be his wife ... conveys fleeting expressions of sadness, fear, and surprise, and would have interested sculptors learning to convey complex emotions."

Illustration courtesy The Cleveland Museum of Art. "Head of Proserpina." after Gian Lorenzo Bernini. (1650-1700). Terracotta study. "Handbook of the Cleveland Museum of Art/1978." John L. Severance Fund 1968.