Pandemic Prompts

Dear Friend by Emily Troia

“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity," wrote T.S. Eliot. For those who need an outlet for creativity during self-isolation and social distancing, Lit Cleveland is offering free writing challenges each week via our newsletter. The following piece is a response to the "This is not that kind of poem" prompt.

Dear Friend

by Emily Troia

Hello. I hope this finds you well
or at least you are now well
or at least are not upset
that I haven’t written since March
and that this is just words
scratched on an empty sheet.

I heard that you were sick
and your mother was sick and your
husband might have had it
but didn’t show any symptoms
other than deep sympathy.

Still, you locked your door
and hoped you had enough rice.

Would a note have helped you then?

I cannot say I have locked my door
but also cannot say I have smiled
at my neighbor for at least six weeks.

I heard your job was lost
but it is only temporary
or you hope it is just temporary

orI hope it is just temporary.

I’m enclosing a wanted ad
but, saying that here, I already know
it is not what you wanted.

Remember that time at the fair?

It was just us and those colossal balloons
designed to be punched over and over again.

We won them. I still recall
the cotton candy stuck to my chin
and my delight at shooting
a vicious stream of water into the mouth
of a screaming clown.

Itsmanic paint made us both laugh.

I’m also sending a picture from that day,
even though it is faded and seen better days.

Does it still make you laugh? Or does air get trapped
in your chest—a balloon,
punched again and again?

I told you a secret that day
but can’t remember which one it was
but can picture you
wrapping your pinky ‘round mine
giving me your best secret smile.

Friend, please think of me and smile
like we did back then,
when the billowing breeze
pulled yellow and blue cotton ‘round our knees

when floral patterns were sundresses
instead of blooming muzzles.

That’s all I have to report.

No, wait. I have something more
than these scratched words
staring up at you, asking you
to be okay. I do not know
if you are okay, but I am not okay.
And when did I forget how to say
I love you without rice and clowns?

I closed my eyes when they said
you were sick and have yet to open them.

Let me open them now
and see what I have said
and see how I can say it better.

You are loved. I am lonely.

We will be together again one day.