For Thunder, Emotional Support Alpaca – by Tania Runyan

––Cedar Woods Assisted Living, COVID-19

Some of the residents wonder what they did wrong
to have dinner dropped off in their rooms,

butter pooling morosely on mashed potatoes
as the nurses hide their faces.

But you press your black, bemused snout to the windows
so that for a moment they can live abundantly.

A small woman reaches with trembling fingers,
as if weaving your breath to hers.

Another sweeps her knuckles mid air
as if dragging them through the blanket of your flanks.

It’s not so hard to imagine, when the rest of the real world
has fallen, a silver Andean fog descending

on a Michigan parking lot––yarn tassels swinging,
flutes on the wind. Or even that other life––

was it real?––when grandchildren fidgeted
in the sitting room and the local church strummed

“In the Garden” between pokeno and crafts.
One man wakes from a leaden nap

to find your lashes flitting through the blinds,
slides the window open to your underbitten grin.

You swivel your ears toward his laugh,
align your eyes with his as if he were the only

one left. Are they always? the man asks your owner.
Are they always so tender and loving?

But he already knows the answer, of course,
and though I am not alone, I am lonely.

So lonely, Thunder. I want to wipe my tears
with your ragged bangs and receive your devotion.

I want to believe in all the unforeseen faces
rising on the other side of the glass.

Tania RunyanTania Runyan is the author of the poetry collections What Will Soon Take Place, Second Sky, A Thousand Vessels, Simple Weight, and Delicious Air. Her guides How to Read a Poem, How to Write a Poem, and How to Write a Form Poem are used in classrooms across the country. Her poems have appeared in many publications, including Poetry, Image, Indiana Review, Atlanta Review, and The Christian Century. Tania was awarded an NEA Literature Fellowship in 2011.