Scoundrel Time

Three Poems by Jill McDonough

Above Boston


From the air you could see everything—my neighborhood,
probably my house. The T, the flat expanse of Stop
and Shop, the new condos in what was the Catholic Church.
MIT’s round dome; long shadows on the beaches of Revere.
The little plane from Provincetown whined like a mosquito
in your ear, except you’re inside the mosquito, banking
soft and winding down. Curve of Carson Beach
and the whitecaps curling toward it, shadows of the big
planes overhead, white wake of the fast ferry down below.
93 glittering with traffic you were smug to not be in, rainbow
stripes sudden on the gas tank, restaurants along the harbor
all open for business, everybody busy down below.




There Was a Lot of Stuff to Do


And so I did it. Stuff needs doing! You just
have to do your stuff. I had to sit down some
cool place quiet and do it: emails, cut
a few lines off the revised syllabus and run
it past the committee co-chairs before we meet.
I had to reply to all the bullet points
by COB Friday, but first I needed
to see what’s COB, and keep rags moist
with the CDC-provided recipe
for bleach solution. Wipe down my phone, doorknobs,
mail, shoes. Fill out the OneForm, submit receipts
with the W9 and the invoice, the Terra Dotta
pdf. Record me saying Oh, hello;
I didn’t see you there, upload the video.




Ponkapoag Pond


Now we walk around outside instead of watching Netflix
on a treadmill at the gym. In the new uncertainty we know
so much more about our parks, our least-busy streets, best
ways to make a mask out of a t-shirt, an old sundress. We try
to go further, take a drive as a little treat, a trip to the suburbs’
leafy lanes and fat-roll ranches. The Ponkapoag Pond
parking lots are full, so we park on a side street, put on
our home-sewn masks to walk around the water
social-distancing style. We can see the water; we’re
so close. But a woman runs out of her mid-century muffin-top
to yell that we can’t park in the wide expanse of fresh-asphalt
empty public road in front of her stupid house, calms down
only when she sees we are middle-aged white women like her,
waving and calling out Thank you! and Sorry! Back in the car
I’m frustrated enough to cry, to mutter Fucken Ponkapoag
Pond bitch under my mask, so she doesn’t know. I start
laughing—first at myself and then darkly at race, American
myths of freedom, scarcity. So we fuck off back to the city
where we belong, walk the neighborhood, cross the Orange Line
tracks to Franklin Park, wave to city ladies on shady stoops
who say I like your mask and Have a good day, happy to talk
to us, to anyone. One shrieks HI! and then makes fun of herself,
saying, I’m like, HI, ANYBODY! Cheerful! Making the best
of things. Big-hearted. Unlike me. Unlike that pinched-face
bitch in her ugly house at Ponkapoag Pond.





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Boston from the Air