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Our Eyes Say, Thank You
by Cristina M. R. Norcross

We speak with our eyes now.
Cloth covers the curve of a smile.
I sit in my car and hear the sound of
a rattling cart’s wheels on pavement.
A muffled thank you seems too small.

Food is essential.
The heroes who bring us food are essential.
Masked crusaders bring eggs, milk, bread, and hope—
the reassurance of a full fridge.
My order pick-up and mask wearing
takes only minutes,
but this kind worker will be here for hours.
A muffled thank you seems too small.

Words feel insufficient.
“Thank you for being on the front lines,” I say.
After finding a regular schedule, I notice
that the same, patient man
brings the cart out on Wednesdays.
We smile with eyes that know nothing
except what today holds.
He shares that he just moved here from California.
Just as I am about to apologize for COVID,
I realize that it is everywhere,
not just my state.
My Wednesday helper asks me about
the craft beer I ordered for my husband
and mentions the mystery of how cars show up all at once.
There is more socializing in this short exchange
than there used to be at the register.
The need for human connection is greater now.
A muffled thank you seems too small.

There is nowhere to go but home.
Thankfulness wells up within.
In that final look,
I let my eyes speak for me.

Photo by Vera Davidova on Unsplash

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For many weeks, at the beginning of quarantine, I chose to order groceries online and simply do a curbside pick-up from our local grocery store.  There were too many unknowns, and this felt like the safest option.  I remember feeling overwhelmed with thankfulness for those who were doing this job.  I still feel the same thankfulness wearing my mask at the check-out.  Someone is willing to risk being inside a building to work, so that others can get the groceries they need for their families.  These masked heroes have families, too.  How will our muffled mask thank-yous ever be enough?  I don’t have a photo of myself with the Wednesday grocery clerk, but I did write a heartfelt letter to the grocery store thanking them for providing the curbside service and thanking the whole staff for their courage.  Perhaps, they put the card up in the break room for people to read.  I hope against hope that my written words said as much as my eyes did.

Photo by Sarah Pflug, used by permission. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cristina M. R. Norcross is the author of eight poetry collections and the founding editor of Blue Heron Review (2013-2020).  Her latest book is Beauty in the Broken Places (Kelsay Books, 2019). Other collections include Amnesia and Awakenings (Local Gems Press, 2016) and Still Life Stories (Kelsay Books, 2016). Her work appears in numerous print anthologies and journals.  She has helped organize community art and poetry projects, has led workshops, and has also hosted many open mic poetry readings. She is the co-founder of Random Acts of Poetry and Art Day (celebrated annually on February 20th).  Visit her at cristinanorcross.com. and on Twitter and Instagram.