Author Karrie Myers (photo illo by Stacy Morrison)

What Our Country Has Lost With Corona We’ve Lost Before

I wrote this poem in 2001, just days after 9/11, when I was 25 years old and living in Brooklyn. Reading it now, at 43, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am experiencing similar feelings of grief, anger, suspicion, confusion about what this means for our civil rights, and yes, fear of going to war once the dust settles (because let’s be honest, the U.S. cannot let ineptitude go unpunished, even when its our own). The reason I want to share this poem now is because I know that fear and turning a blind eye to injustice increased exponentially in the decade following 9/11, and I’m hoping that doesn’t happen this time around. 

“A Matter of Gray”

Questions have come to visit me
a life led carelessly is hard to organize
prioritize, re-schedule, pencil in

I spent those first days looking for clues, conducting my own 
unraveling global maps gone dusty 
to find the jagged, colored section with which to drop my rage
I placed a push-pin there like people do
when they have visited a place… or hope to
as if I had strolled there, eaten there, learned the local slang and bargained for souvenirs 
I imagined myself preparing to return back home to the U.S.
designer luggage in tow
hands waving, eyes smiling to the countrymen
as a silver boxcutter sliced its way 
down the center of my 

It is true, I think
what they say
about time healing all wounds
I try to take it Tuesday by Tuesday
that Tuesday being the first time
I stopped to remember Tuesdays at all
Loose in the streets of glossy eyed, traumatized Manhattan
armed with only the hope that I will have some compassion
Something left
when our wrath creeps its way across the Atlantic
I hope that I will not turn a blind and propagandized eye to
whatever happens, in whatever way it happens, to whomever it happens to
when it all comes falling
I can only hope because it is too fresh, this wound
so hideously scarred am I
are we
what I eat, what I wear, what I say
matter little and less with each passing day
nothing left here is soft or distinctly me 
I have traded that in for American fury
I have traded it all for the images on TV
and I will not see my real self anytime soon.

if I promise them
the people
the ghosts who walk my bedroom at night, riddled with the anguish of premature death
if I promise them it will not have been in vain
if I assure them all will be sacrificed so that they may wander avenged
if I swear to them I’ve learned
I get it 
I understand now
my days are numbered
have always been numbered
and with this knowledge each hour will become a bittersweet instant
if I show them
this litany of questions will cease
or rather
I will just cease to ask them.
because there are small gifts here, left under the tree
if we dig down deep enough to find them
they are here
golden and precious 
if only a few.

no one is wrong and no one is right
it is and always will be 
a matter of gray
now the trivial fights
the petty concerns
seem strangely dreamlike to me, as I take it slow
Tuesday by Tuesday
vowing to stop and treasure this day
until my last one is spent
and I am called to join those who have already gone.

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