Tonight’s poem comes from my friend Melissa Huckabay.
There are so many things I miss from before the pandemic, but chief among these is Saturday morning writing dates at Panera. This tradition started at least a decade ago with my friend Sarah Warburton, and this practice expanded to include more people who came for a period of time before moving on to other things. Now it’s all done remotely, sprinting together and checking in with each other online. Although we no longer live in the same state, Sarah is still one of the most frequent Saturday morning writers. Melissa is one of those friends who joined the Panera group, and she soon became a real mainstay of the experience.
After the pandemic was well underway, Melissa moved away to attend a graduate program, but we still write together remotely now and then. I miss many things about life before covid, but definitely getting together in person on Saturday mornings is high on the list. We’ll get back there.
Thinking about life before all of this sometimes puts me in a nostalgic mood, but I also know that life after covid is managed can be just as good, even though it will be different. And all of this reminds me of one of Melissa’s poems, shared here tonight.
What Safety Felt Like at Eight Years Old
A row of pictures hung on my grandparents’ wall.
The owl with plaintive eyes watching,
a little girl holding a flower over her head,
the worn plaque with the Serenity Prayer
and an Irish Benediction.
At breakfast I would study the pictures, one at a time,
a tiny army of benevolent reassurances
that cast the room in a golden glow.
My grandmother made biscuits with honey,
and the sweet warmth trickled down my throat
softly, like the footfalls of a deer
or the morning song of the doves
that gathered on the backyard fence.
Light streamed in from the glass patio doors
while pale, yellow lamps added
their steady gleam from the den.
In the quiet, hearing only doves
and the clink of forks at the kitchen table,
I sat and watched the pictures, knowing me,
a regiment of protection against the outside.
Melissa Huckabay is a poet and multi-genre writer whose work has appeared in Defunkt Magazine, The Remembered Arts Journal, and The Inkling. Her short fiction won the 2019 Spider’s Web Flash Fiction Prize from Spider Road Press, and her short plays have been produced at several stages in Houston. A former high school teacher, Melissa is a first-year MFA candidate in poetry at Texas State University.