Queen's Quarterly

Queen's Quarterly
Queen's Quarterly

Trip to the Delmar Post Office, March 17, 2020

Phyllis Hillinger

             Loose money ready in pocket, flat rate box pre-addressed,
I wait for cars to leave the parking lot then suit up:
            hat hitched down to eyebrows, glasses on,

                        surgical mask over nose and mouth, jacket zipped to chin,
blue nitrile gloves tight. Protection complete.
            Selfie snapped for history. And kids.

                        Backwards, push door open, other rule-breakers inside.
Six feet between us, I stand silent, stare at The Indian Ladder
            WPA mural – folks climb Helderberg Escarpment in simpler times.

                        “I’m not sick. Just old,” I tell clerk who checks my box to California.
Gloved finger hits nothing hazardous, not first class, OK on the touch machine.
            I pay, pinch the printed receipt like poison.

                        Glasses fog, face sweats, I can’t leave fast enough.
On outside steps, I rip off mask, breathe. Glove grazes cheek.
            Panic pulls confidence and gloves inside out.

                        Home, I stash sneakers in garage, coat and hat in washer,
eyeglasses in the sink. Wash my hands and face with warm soapy water.
            Contemplate the future. Looking for comfort in chai tea,

                        I listen to news – deaths rising, DOW falling, borders closing,
And then I remember what the public health official said:
            Wash for two “Happy Birthdays” not one.


Professionally, Phyllis Hillinger worked as an educational writer and editor for not-for-profit organizations in upstate New York. She is a member of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild, and her poems and memoir pieces are published in anthologies and heard on National Public Radio. She writes with the Evergreen Poets Workshop, and is an avid reader, traveller, sailor, and sandcastle builder.