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Erin Renee Wahl


I am silent.


Because I live alone, besides a jaded parakeet named Pickles, and so my life has been varying degrees of silence for a while now. COVID-19 hasn’t changed things that much, and sometimes I worry that the real danger is in the spread of silence into my physical body. My muscles ache with no touch to soothe them, the cords in my throat yearn to scream, my laugh is cut short, my palms smack on a counter and make me jump. My body shakes as the train passes by just down the street. The silence is its own virus, spilling over into my flesh like quick-dry cement.

I am afraid.


I am afraid because of the silence, and in spite of all the things I am not allowing myself to say. I work as a librarian and the silence, born of lack of questions, is where the terror stems from: Why isn’t anyone asking me anything? The lack makes me wonder about all the people who have questions. I can help them find answers. I am silent but I have answers.

I type to Nicole: “I'm trusting that if it's a piece of swamp garbage you won't publish it so I'm not embarrassed. Save me from myself.” Nicole assures me: “It won’t be swamp garbage.”

People always ask me questions. But no one is asking questions right now and I am afraid of what we don’t know we don’t know.

I am a seed.


I am curled like a germ; folded up before the slow unravel. Silence and fear aside: aren’t I mostly safe? Cradled in my home, my kernel, I craft micro environments to house me. I know my house now like I never have before. I see its spaces in new ways. I am rippling. I feel like I am somehow about to grow, but I am too green to know how I will exist when I unravel, and how painful and sparkling the growing will be when it moves through me.

Maybe this world is my breakfast.


This evening I will walk on the crust of the desert, at a social distance to two people I love. Each of us is in different phases of reorganizing our environments: one moving for a job, one writing a dissertation, one settling in place (for now). These women are two pieces of my community here, and we are so far apart together. We will watch the sun melt over the landscape; butter on toast. Tomorrow it will reach up over the jagged peaks of the Organ Mountains, whole again; a fresh yolk.

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All images other than author photos and artist artwork ©Matthew Batt 2020