In Spite of SARS-CoV-2

Several Canada geese families made the pandemic bearable for Claudia and some of her neighbors at Sherwood Lake in Salinas. | Photo by Claudia Meléndez Salinas


By Claudia Meléndez Salinas

The sun rises in the east

at the appointed hour

spilling its golden goodness

over the hills

on my lake,

on the ducks and the coots and the cats

and the ailing neighbors wrapped in their coats

like burritos

hunched, brave, determined to stay limber

fit, sane

in this time of madness.

The Canada geese find a place to nest

among the spindly grasses and decorative rocks

mamma goose incubates

or is it poppa?

While poppa defends the nest

Or is it momma?

The goslings arrive

at the appointed time

after six or seven weeks of warmth

Five goslings will survive out of five laid eggs

unlike the mallards, who have no chance

among the cats and the seagulls and the hawks

one little momma defending twelve balls of down

has no chance

Two parents do make a difference, after all


An avian community flourishes at Sherwood Lake in Salinas; still, mallard ducklings often fall prey to cats and seagulls. | Photo by Claudia Meléndez Salinas

Before the sun rises in the east

a farmworker will peel off the blankets

that wrap her like a burrito

bleary eyed she kisses her kids

still warm in their beds.

At the appointed time

she’ll jump on the bus to the fields

where the lettuce or strawberry or broccoli awaits

Essential worker, she’s called

The type who’s needed, whose job can’t stop

cuz neither does the rent, or the car payment,

or the hunger pains

so off she goes

at the appointed hour

The bleary eyed heroine of the lettuce fields

Just as the sun is rising in the east

A paletero sets off on his daily quest

ring ring, ring ring

through the early morning light.

He begins pushing his magic white cart

at the appointed time

It’s sheltered with stickers

neapolitan, rainbow delight, chocolate covered bar,

It’s sheltering dreams

of a house for mom

of an iphone for Nayeli

of retirement in his old age

Are paleteros essential workers?

Could their work be done

remotely, behind a shield

could it be stopped?

And what about the rent? The electricity payments?

The hunger pains?

Can they wait for the pandemic to end?

The sun may be rising in the east

or setting in the west

or be at its highest point in the heavens

and a nurse is heading home

or heading to work

or to the store

at the appointed hour for sure

cuz theirs is a job that can’t be put off

or taken home

or delivered behind safety glass

It’s essential work to measure your heart beat

your temperature

to puncture your skin to administer fluids

and find a perfect spot for that shot.

Everyone needs healing

especially during a pandemic.


Two baby hummingbirds were born last spring in Claudia’s deck. | Photo by Claudia Meléndez Salinas

A hummingbird finds a suitable branch

in somebody’s tiny backyard

a wiry geranium near a fence

with three or four leaves to protect its nest

two eggs, 21 days

babies like frogs

resplendent in their minuteness

feathers like spindles eventually grow.

Soon they’re ready to fly on their own

And so they go,

at the appointed hour

to a branch next door

I come home for lunch

at the appointed hour

a daily date with my partner

with the cats and the geese,

and the hummingbirds when they’re here

with eggs and beans and burritos

and cream cheese

a date with a destiny we can’t escape

Which determines that we eat

That we breathe

Which demands we feel safe

Which pushes us to go on living

in spite of the dangers

melting polar caps

virus, famine, wars

life goes on

at the appointed hour

whether SARS-CoV-2

Lingers in the air or drops to the ground

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Claudia Meléndez Salinas

About Claudia Meléndez Salinas

Claudia Meléndez Salinas is an author, journalist, open water swimmer, and cat lover. | Claudia Meléndez Salinas es autora, periodista, nadadora de aguas abiertas, y aficionada a los gatos.