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Life in the Time of Corona

The Myrtle

Karen McAferty Morris

Karen McAferty Morris is Poetry Editor of the National League of American Pen Women’s magazine The Pen Woman. Her chapbook Elemental was published in April 2018, followed by Confluence in May 2020, both of which were awarded first place in the NLAPW's Vinnie Ream Competition in Poetry.

The three of them grew up together like cousins,

the pine, live oak, and myrtle, planted in a cluster

filling the sky and shading the path down to the dock

and little bayou, and I loved how the myrtle’s three trunks

rose and leaned out fluttering slender pointed-leaved branches

like someone lifting arms to show the view.

Cut off from gatherings, galleries, restaurants, and shops

during quarantine, we encamped on the back porch

through the mild, breezy weekend afternoons, savoring

good wine and soft blues, observing the birds and changing tides,

discussing current events, reminiscing, making and adjusting

plans, watching the sun set. With just the two of us,

the focus was on each other, like sunlight through a skylight,

a pure brightness. We know we are among the lucky ones.

We won’t be seeing Lake Como this summer after all,

or Copenhagen. Others have lost their lives, livelihoods, still

labor in dangerous circumstances to heal, connect, and nourish.

The myrtle had died slowly over the last few years.

Its blanched, bare branches looked pitiful, an affront

to its former beauty. I finally admitted it was time. In an hour

it was gone, pieces thudding down hard except when prickly

vines threading through its branches into the other trees

made us pull hard, like they were trying to hold on.

The sky was emptier, but the view more open. Lush new

stems were rising thick from the ground near the old trunks,

promises of fragrant blossoms some year, some spring.

A relief, a balm, to think once again we’ll see the myrtle

rise strong, the tree planted on Aphrodite’s temple grounds,

and in Isaiah the one prophesized to replace the briar.

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