The sun is sliding off its track,
making its way
to a planet with more promise,

its once airbrushed dusks
are now indifferent middle grays–
Mondays, Thursdays.

Alone on my hill
my breath alarms me.
Did it sound like that, before?

I try to look up
to call to God
to get me out of here

but my eye falls like a spent balloon
to the glowing window
at the bottom of the hill.

She is bent over her phone,
hands on her head
as she considers the impossible–

the collapse passes under her nose:
Glowing tolls and tallies among
grinning hearts and hashtags.

She looks up.
I am still.
I want to wave.

She pauses.
I want to know
I am not a ghost

but she returns to her screen
hands propping her head again
like a Dali crutch.

I look to the North Star
but there is nowhere to go
and no one can read a sextant here.

– Teresa Kiplinger


I wrote this poem in the beginning of the 2020 pandemic as the virus arrived in the U.S. and statewide lockdowns took effect. As I embarked on a long period of isolation, I was preoccupied by the sudden fear of other people and a surreal sense of an oncoming existential threat. I stepped outside for a moment of fresh air and observed a neighbor through her window. As darkness fell, she sat hunched over her phone, probably in search of news – an activity that would become known as "doom scrolling." I was unsettled by an urge to wave at the stranger, feeling as though I might be a ghost, suffering a psychotic break, or stranded in a dream.

See the brooch I created that was inspired by this poem.

Photo: Tim Foster

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