The hantavirus claimed 637 lives, aged 6 to 83, by 2013. -- CDC
Mass outbreaks are rare, confined
to environmental anomalies, periodic
bamboo flowering, increased rainfall.
The mice don’t die, just those they brush
against in sleep. If you sweep out
a nest, the virus rides air-borne, seizes
your throat. In California a friend looks
out at the Inyo Mountains, gurgling
snow-melt stream. He cleans out
his cabin, sloshes buckets of bleach
on table and chairs, contaminated
floors and cupboards. Already dust
from Owens Lake, toxic enough.
Alkaline salts sting his face in wind.
Near every bedstead he sets traps,
window, crack in floor, wonders
how he’ll do five weeks hence, onset
resembling flu. And now another
pretender hijacks the news. Coronavirus
plays hide-and-seek, no mouse to blame,
no spring to set. A simple sneeze
can do you in, a laugh, a shout, a grunt.
Before, we treated aching limbs
with mid-day rest, called fever down
with blue raspberry ice from Dairy Queen,
now closed. We sleep tossing coins,
tell friends how far we’ve fallen
through psyche’s trap door, how dry
the masked desert, somber dance
ahead, leave cabins to mice, not men.