In 1982, Lynne Cawood Howard wrote the perfect coronavirus poem.
The Miner’s Son
My father died in his fortieth winter
when the black scars that were his lungs
gave in with one final breath.
Though I have not reached thirty,
I wake up coughing and hear the rattle in my chest.
My skin no longer washes clean,
the black lines run like rivers of coal-dust across my face.
My father wanted to die playing the fiddle.
Yet he knew the smooth, hard pick handle
long before he knew my mother,
and his thickened fingers could never grasp the bow,
My own hands tremble for hours.
Fingers, bent and red, twitch uncontrollably on the table,
forcing me to hold my fork in my fist like a child.
I remember my father at night
when I hear the scream of the train whistle,
his face twisted in pain, his cry reduced to a whisper.
I see my father on mornings
when the cardinal comes to rest in the dogwood–
red breast buried in the white blossom, singing.
When we first published this poem, Lynne had just completed an MFA at Wayne State University and was well on her way of writing a collection of poems. We have lost track of her. If you know her or know someone who might have heard of her, please send some smoke our way.