Excerpts from Volume Nine, 2022
from Katharyn Howd Machan's Interview After the Pandemic
How many masks did you stitch with strong thread?
One, first. Then two. Three. More.
Then some for all my neighbors.
How often did you soap and rinse your hands?
I sang “The Farmer in the Dell” two thousand times.
Did your washing machine break down?
My shirts are paler. My pants wore thin.
And shoes! They made the dryer tremble.
When did you last embrace a friend?
I learned to touch by pressing keys.
People shrank to squares of Zoom.
from Sam Sherman's Vignette: Tour of Duty (1960s)
He brought it back with him. Not like a souvenir, with intention, packed in his duffel with the clothes that forever held the smell of fear and exhausted confusion in all their folds and seams and worn places—it infiltrated all his seams and folds, and especially the worn places, until it insinuated itself invisibly into every cell, every memory, every dream.
He didn’t know he had brought it back, like dried mud on the soles of his worn boots, staining the leather, sticking even when it seemed dry as dust that should brush off with the application of stiff bristles and some elbow grease, the grit sticking stubbornly to the stitches almost as though he could feel it between his teeth. Jaw muscles clench as he grinds the grit, feeling it, hearing it in the bones of his skull—the brush’s hissing rhythm, thwap against the leather, hands gripping tight to hold on to the boot and the brush so they don’t fly off the face of the earth, spinning away crazily into who-knows-where. He closes his eyes tight against it all, trying hard to hold to the face of the earth so he doesn’t spin away too.
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