Poem: ‘Our Son Comes Over’

David L. Ulin reflects on the joy and comfort of a family dinner in the midst of the pandemic.

shadows of people holding hands
Niall Majury

I never set out consciously to write a poem; either one appears or it does not. This one did, on a Tuesday morning when I was trying to construct a syllabus. One moment, I was considering class schedules and reading lists; the next, I was thinking about my son. He had stopped by for dinner the night before on his way home from work, and his visit had reminded me of all the vagaries of exposure and of love.

it’s the second week of
August and already I have
spent too much time with too many
people, inhaled their breath,
their flumes from the other side
of an outdoor table or within
an enclosed living room
what do vaccines mean
in the face of Delta
or Lambda or Omega
which will be
the variant that kills us all
what I mean is
there are crossroads in our future
although (of course) that is how it always is
and yet I don’t want to dwell
on that this evening, better to inhabit
the moment while it lingers
before we have to hide
ourselves away again
our boy stopping by
on his drive from work
for takeout dinner
my wife and I so thrilled to
visit with him you might think
we had discovered
a brand new source of joy
yes, there are crossroads in our future
trouble riding at our left shoulder
like a car coming up fast in the sideview
on a highway late at night
when you are somewhere
you have not been before
and the pavement is an empty river
and you feel lost
not knowing where to turn
which is the direction home
in a life where we are stalked by death
we are ever having to decide
so we sit at the table
with our son, our beloved
who has come over to see us
aware of the risk but also recognizing
that risk is (how could it be otherwise)
the only way of love•

This poem appears in the Winter 2022 issue of Alta Journal.
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