Watching the ISS go over during the Covid-19 pandemic – Cheryl Pearson

Watching the ISS go over during the Covid-19 pandemic

I miss the threat of the red button.
The cold thrill of a lump in the breast.
We pine for toilet roll, jarred tomatoes.
The news dooms us, but we are compelled
to watch the tickertape. Politicians.
Death rates. Nurses weeping
into their scrubs. At night we memorise
the ceilings, worry forward: I bury
my mother a dozen times a week. And
yet, there are moments of sweetness.
Last night we dressed, coats over
pyjamas, went outside to the park
at the back. The space station
would be going over; we wanted
to look at the stars. Not essential. But
yes, essential. We hadn’t been out,
we needed to see something marvellous.
We stood and stared. The hammock moon
was luminous. Uncountable stars.
Then there it was – sharp as a scratch.
It followed the wavering line of my finger,
slender clock hand, absolutely dutiful.
The air was cold. The quiet loud.
We breathed into it, held up our phones.
Who reached for whose hand first?
I can’t remember. Only that we
were locked together. A latched gate.
Watching the world go on above us.
We could stay a lamb. A virus. Instead
we made a ballroom of our chests.

Cheryl Pearson is the author of ‘Oysterlight’ (Pindrop Press) and ‘Menagerie’ (The Emma Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in publications including The Guardian, Mslexia, and The Moth, and she has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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