that gave me nightmares
or maybe it was the giant hole
in the logic of importing butter
from New Zealand
or the giant hole in the ozone—
wait, isn’t that healing? Didn’t we do
one thing right? I don’t miss hairspray.
Or maybe it was the giant gap
between me and the suffering
and yet I am still suffering,
still count myself among them,
paper cuts versus daggers,
but I woke up dreaming of three sick children
and me sure I’d gotten the virus from them
as I cleaned up their puke and fed them
from what I could find in their messy home
and I can’t shake the kids from my awareness
all the kids, all hurting
more because of lockdowns
more because of suffering
more because hurting people hurt more people
and it hits me that karma is just another word for tough luck
another way to wash one’s hands of helping
but what can I do? I’m sitting in a meadow of wildflowers
writing this on my new-model phone
with organic sunscreen on my face
and no one trying to make me suffer
just because they’re suffering,
although I’m pretty good at doing that to myself
but that’s small potatoes
baby ones
that would taste divine smothered in butter from grass-fed cows
flown here from a country that got the pandemic right
and is led by a brilliant woman.
I also dreamt of gifts and winning money
that I would likely spend on myself
the way I bought a $200 sweater last month
the exact colour of a distant sky oh
there is likely little hope for me
I can turn the radio off when the annoying songs come on
and although they haunt me for the rest of the day
if this is all the haunting that today offers up
then I can only call it lucky
although I also mean ridiculous
and unfair.
I just need someone to tell me what to do and I’ll do it
but even before I tap out these words
I know they’re a pretty little lie.
Pretty wildflowers. I take a picture.
On my way home I pass a nest
of tent caterpillars and leave the camera alone.


Julie Paul is the author of three short fiction collections and one poetry collection, The Rules of the Kingdom (2017 MQUP), which was shortlisted for both the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. She lives in Victoria BC.