For all the birthdays
I count the velitas in rows of five
I’m always adding another year
28 and a ha – 29
last year we went out to a local market
ate individual slices of vegan cake that stuck to the roof of my mouth
I miss celebrating others’ birthdays
I miss seeing all my cousins and their babies grow up
how we huddle around when we hear CAKE
serenading, queremos pastel, pastel, pastel
I miss getting my face smashed into a cake
that’s how you know you’re loved
because while people laugh
there’s always someone there to tenderly clean you up
— Anatalia Vallez (Santa Ana, California)
* * *
It mostly affects the elderly
I work at an assisted living facility in the small town in which I attend college. I have had to move back home, which is approximately two hours away, meaning that I won’t get to see any of my residents for the next six months due to the virus. They are the most vulnerable to this virus. I hope every day that they will all be there when this is over and that I will see them all again. I miss you.
— Lolis Vasquez (Worthington, Minnesota)
* * *
The Roller Coaster of COVID-19
Waves of feelings, up and down. Breathe, think about breath, then think about how COVID attacks the lungs. Go outside and enjoy nature, could the virus be on the bottom of my shoes? Enjoy my family, what would I do if they became ill? Up, down, all day long on a roller coaster of emotion. I am forced to relinquish the illusion of a stable ride. I have always been traveling on this wild one. With COVID, though, I can’t lie to myself and pretend that I am the one running the ride.
— Sarah Pasela (Big Lake, Minnesota)
* * *
It’s summertime and the cat’s pink paws are turning black. Lentigo, says Google. The spots will spread over time. I wonder if the cat notices. These spots are as unsightly and asymmetrical as our most tender bruises: that thing I wish I’d never said, your secret I couldn’t keep. It is the unrelenting stillness of this time that is most unsettling – there is, at last, nowhere to hide from the self. The comforts of modern life (yoga studios, trinket shops) dutifully obscured the truest things we will ever know: who we are, alone at night, our paw spots spreading insidiously, imperceptibly.
— Stephanie Nicolard (Los Angeles, California)
This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.