Stephen Priest

The Heart of the Outbreak

The ambulance siren’s
the crow and the lullaby.
And every hour,
the church bell,
the church bell.
I wash my hands.
I wash my hands.
I spray the doorknob
and floor with 409.
I wash the 409.
I wash the soap.
I go for a walk,
it’s seedtime spring,
wan-sun-warmed air,
but around every corner
is someone
and every someone’s
a hospitable threat.
I write to the person I love.
It’s easier to write
to people you love now
because technology;
it isn’t any easier
to be alone.
In Ireland,
a country a friend
from 1998
called “third-world”
because of its boggy
internet, a country I hope
to be homesick in again;
in Ireland,
in the liminal drizzles
of history, when plagues
were greater and more arcane,
monks sheltered
in man-sized, deserted beehives,
with nettles for beds
and maybe a rooster for a friend.
Next year, in a decade,
friends, no friends,
I’ll walk into those beehives
again. I have to believe.

Stephen Priest grew up in Dayton, OH and now lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY. His poems (sometimes under the pseudonym Gergen Manstoff) have appeared in 32 Poems, The Agriculture Reader, Birmingham Poetry Review, Barrow Street, cellpoems, Juked, Subtropics, and other publications. His unpublished first manuscript has been a semi-finalist, runner-up, or finalist for a number of book awards.