Seclusion Aria

When the old have lived their lives
almost to the end, you will find

almost all their teeth are either gone
or worn down to nubs as touch-sensitive

as the old-time keys of the vintage
Royal Crown typewriter sitting on top

of one of your low bookshelves. This
is what you think when you get the picture

sent by text message of your eighty-six-
year-old mother; she is now at an elder

care home in Baguio, sitting in a wheelchair
in the garden with a pink throw around her

shoulders. Today is the the last day of March;
two weeks ago, April seemed like a a very

long way away, until the quarantine order
changed to June. There are still planes

that cross the skies, though their contrails
sketch a looser trellis with each passing day.

Overnight, ships and schools and cathedrals
have turned into hospitals. Now you can only

bear to watch reruns of shows like Downton
, and it no longer seems implausible

that the first floor of the wealthy family's
mansion is turned into an infirmary for

soldiers in the war. Who of them knew how long
it would last? Even the small army of hired

labor cooking and cleaning in the kitchens,
fitting out the horses and carriages and cars

could feel the world changing. How could you
have known how large this theatre of seclusion

would become, how it stretched from continent
to continent until the surfaces of every map

bristled with thousands of push-pin heads
signifying contagion? The old, as long as

they're alive, are not yet history. They want
to sit in the sunny garden and eat the breakfast

that the nurses bring, even if it takes a longer
time to chew and swallow. They want to raise both

hands as if conducting an orchestra and break
into song: some memory that's escaped confinement.

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