Damn it, of course here we go, once again Forced to learn love. The checker, given no Mask by the drugstore, asked if she’ll drop to Three days–cuts at store, not headquarters– Says yes quick, long ago taught lesson one: less Beats none. Now her daughter gets no Easter Dress, so she’ll buy her some bauble. But– can’t make the rent? Unthinkable. And for The unthinkable, who pays the cost, Frost Knew: “Home is the place where, when you Have to go there, they have to take you In.” Grandma won’t complain, though Uncle’s Kids crowd her three rooms–now more, Rolled up in blankets bedtime on the floor. The food of love–soup, pasta, beans–love Thins: the broth, the sauce–and knows its Long division, one fries split five ways. Lunchtime, the checker fights the urge to lift A ramen. In line, some take care to keep The safe six feet. But scoffers violate the space, Raised by no gentle dad who taught affection Mandates mutual protection. Besides, what’s due A stranger? When the checker says, “Just one,” Those, rich or poor, brought up to snatch, snap Back. The rest walk weary with a small sack to Their car, relieved they’ve passed today’s test Of civility, since it will remind them who they Are. Store parking lot, pre-dawn, some wait for Toilet paper, not for them–old man for old Woman, old woman for neighbor who can’t Leave home: her son’s not right. School’s Shut, forever? Eyes glazed, some kids click “Lessons,” then click games all day. Others, Sat down by their parents at the table, learn They mean it: Read. Write. For love is a stern Taskmaster. The mother who can barely read Herself watches they day’s fear drain out from Her daughter’s face–the girl curled up inside A Wrinkle In Time–glad there’s a shelter for Her child she never had. Later, a newfound Pleasure: they go walk, sun warm on neck, Trees overhead a pink-white blur, air’s Clarity not yet destroyed. But–the river, dirty–not safe for the boys to Fish. Harder and harder to believe In a “country” that poisons itself, where Though you work two jobs, all doors Stay shut. Great-Grandma kept A photograph of Roosevelt. How had that Felt? A stranger to him, yet he saved Her home. Left on its own, love will Contract to those familiar. How Expand? Sickness, communal–but The cure? Down at Mercy, doctors, Nurses, janitors, and aides on their Stoic rounds all want to help, despite The risk. But first you have to make it Past the desk. Painkillers, cough Syrup, whiskey, cheap brands, The checker rings up at the drugstore Register, shifting feet from right To left as hours pass. Eyeing The Easter sale display, a little girl Picks out a crown with bunny ears. Her mother starts to say yes, then Says no. The girl sees the look She often sees these days, and Makes no fuss. The line grows Longer, slower. The checker Rubs her nose. Always, late Afternoons, a silence Falls. She hands each Customer a coupon and Receipt. She says, “Stay well.” She prays For her three days.