CATALYST

2020, I live like yesterday. The same spiraling
hum ringing in my ears from the moment I awaken. It’s inescapable,
the light streaming through cracks in the window
when mom forces them open, sickening stench wafting from the kitchen
trash can, dirty laundry piling up in a corner of the closet,
unwashed dishes still soiled with last night’s dinner.
noon already, noon already, noon already but
every day will be the same. I saw you
the times I blacked out only to be surrounded by white walls and
picket fences. I can feel the clock ticking in the gut of the earth,
but you leave me no choice but to ignore and live on, waiting to
survive.

2020, you make me feel sane. or insane. I can’t tell.
You surround me with the people who see me for who I truly am.
The ones who cradled me and breastfed me and taught me to act
human, human, human. What am I without social interaction? Death is only
a couple doors down. Family created me but you, 2020, have shaped me
into an isolated speck, the most fragile part of you because
I rely on you. But you can’t bear to see me suffer. You say
this is only a punishment for the immature who whine about nothing. Those
that are made of plastic and walk the streets, exposed. You should be scared of me;
How loudly I can scream before I realize it’s internal yet guttural.
How far I can run
until I’m lost in your woods again.

2020, you seduce me with your words. HandsUpDon’tShoot
YellowPerilSupportsBlackPower WhiteSilenceIsViolence NoJusticeNoPeace.
Just words. How they return home from school with nothing but
scraped knees and bruised foreheads, denied of their books by teachers,
because they are illiterate and the words are, and always will be, meaningless.
A zip code. The five digits that determine the value of a life. Did you, 2020, intend
for my life to be greater than hers? She, who was silenced when her vacant body
was pushed to the floor because of her identity—
zip code female, immigrant, BIPOC, low-income, uneducated. You ask questions,
and I’m searching for truth from a sea of answers. Who is to blame:
corporations, political polarization, systemic oppression, me?
I am nothing more than collateral damage.

2020, my youth is poisoned. Our legacy is stained at the hands
of sworn protectors of the law and a virus takes the breath away
from thousands of helpless corpses piled along heaven’s gate, while strangers
march for nail salons on Capitol Hill and justify pedophelia with being LGBTQ+,
ignoring the masses of weeping widows and orphans bowed at their feet.
You shocked me with injustices poking at privileged lenses as I paid
$150 for a used textbook, avoided eye contact with the 12-year-old cashier,
shifted when I speed-walked past the Black man taking an afternoon stroll,
felt the rhythm of your clock play a tempo in my chest.

2020, I fell asleep in your arms again,
used your heartbeat to match my own, your comforting embrace like those of
a childhood long forgotten.
But how many tick, tick, tick before the lullaby goes quiet? You refuse to answer,
only hold my head against your shoulder, and force me
to wait another day.

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