In Blackarmband City

Last weekend,
Some restless ghosts
followed me home from Antietam
Rode the highways on my Kia bumper.
Crowded into my house
Hung out on couch and floors
And kitchen counters
Commented on my cooking.

Extra cookies over here, please.
Gruel. This oatmeal tastes like gruel.
Ah. Sugar. Cover it all with sugar.
I remember the taste of sugar,
Stirred into my chicory
One sip and life is spreading through my body.
Ah, sugar.
What I miss most, is sugar.

Their buddies from Harper’s Ferry
Wandered in, unannounced.
We heard about the cookies, they said.
We heard about sugar.

Along with me
They watched the numbers on TV
The mounting numbers on TV,
Black armbands, they said
Black armbands for Covid dead.
Wear black armbands for all the dead.
Like our mothers did for us, when we were gone.
But hey. Can you
Pass them cookies over here?

We know these cookies.
They taste like home.
We know this place.
We know it well
House of Blackarmband.
Battle of Blackarmband.
City of Blackarmband.
How many more will come?
Time will tell.
Better get baking.

The cookies never seemed to disappear.
The cookies stayed intact.

Last night
I set out milk and those cookies
Like we used to do
As children
On Christmas Eve.
When we still believed
in Santa Claus.
When, In the morning, they were always gone.
Aha! Santa lives! We said:
Proof that Santa lives!

Last night
I set out milk and those cookies
On my fanciest plate
My grandma’s cookie plate
The one we filled for Santa.
And milk, cold milk,
in her cracked blue pitcher
The one we filled for Santa.

When I woke up this morning
The cookies were still there
The cookies stayed intact
The milk had seeped
Through glued-up cracks
Puddled on the countertop
And dripped onto the floor.
I almost slipped.

The ghosts were gone
They left a note
“We can no longer eat, but
We sure do miss the sugar.”
They left a gift.
A blackarmband
To remember them by.

All day long I heard the whispers

Coming from that blackarmband.
The rustling, louder
Than the murmurs on TV
The news-murmur on TV
They name the covid dead
By number.
With numbers.
No names.
Just numbers.
Numbers of the covid dead.

It seems that one last ghost
lingered on awhile
Followed me around
While I mopped up drying milk
And tossed the cookies to the birds
Who ate the crumbs
But left the chocolate chips.
She finally faded in the bright
Late afternoon of winter light.
But I could hear her voice
Throughout the night
And read her writing
In my dead tea leaves
And in the dead leaves on my lawn.

Don’t mourn for us. We’re gone.
She said.
We’ve lost our names. We’re numbers.
But if you must cry, then
Mourn instead
The innocents
Who have yet to join us down the road.
Who walk around today
Who bake cookies today
who do not know
That, come tomorrow,
(Or Christmas Day)
Or any day
(But soon)
They will not eat the cookies in the night.
To prove to their children
that Santa Claus exists.
They will be with us, instead,
somewhere down the road.

Who said
Who said: Do not break faith with those of us who died?
Or we will never sleep
In Flanders Field
Or Antietam
Or Arlington
Or Stacked In Air-Conditioned Trucks
Parked in rows on rows
In Blackarmband City
Stacked in rows and rows
In Blackarmband City.

Diana Hansen-Young Nov. 2020



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store