I Am Still Waiting to Leave the Cave
by Margaret Duda

I wish I knew if I imagined it.
Everyone was there, all the survivors
waiting to exit the dark cave
and walk out into the sunrise.

I swear it is the ending to a movie
I saw a long time ago or is it
something my mind created
to keep me sane in a pandemic?

It has been a long year
Without my husband, who died,
Without my family, who stayed away,
Without my friends, also at risk.

We called, we emailed and texted,
we zoomed, we followed friends
on social media, read books,
and wrote stories and poems.

I had groceries delivered
and left in my cluttered garage,
packages collected by UPS,
medications sent by Fed Ex.

Once a week I drove around town
to save my car battery for that day
when we can drive and visit again
without masks or social distancing.

I couldn’t have imagined it.
It was too real, people blinking
as they walked into the bright light
arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder.

I know it’s coming,
but I am still waiting
to hug family and friends
and feel human again.

PAINTING: Cave 126 by Elaine de Kooning (1986).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wake up every morning and, after a cup of coffee, head to my computer and try to work until noon. I do this because I need to write as much as I need to breathe. I am on the fifth and final draft of my immigrant family saga novel filled with stories of both sides of our family. I am the only one left who knows these stories, and I have to make sure that my grandchildren remember so they can pass the stories down to their children and grandchildren. I could not speak English until I was five years old, which might be the reason I have always loved words and writing poetry. The worst thing I ever did was tear a poem out of a book in our school library because I simply had to own those words. I even slept with that page under my pillow. To assuage my guilt, years later I anonymously sent a large donation to that library—but in a strange way, I think the poet would have been pleased.

nw portrait

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  A professional author, photographer, and jewelry designer, Margaret Duda has had her work published in The Kansas Quarterly, the Michigan Quarterly Review, Crosscurrents, The South Carolina Review, The Green River Review, The University Review, Fine Arts Discovery, The Green River Review, Venture, and Silver Birch Press. One of her short stories made the distinctive list of Best American Short Stories. She also had a play produced in Michigan, has had several books of nonfiction published, including Four Centuries of Silver and Traditional Chinese Toggles: Counterweights and Charmsand took travel photographs for the New York Times for 10 years. She lives in Pennsylvania, and is working on the final draft of an immigrant family saga novel set in a steel mill town from 1910 to 1920. She is also writing poetry to find a shred of sanity during this pandemic and hopes to write enough for a chapbook by the end of the year.