Chuck Wachtel

Sheltering In Place

I must say, that the peace the spirit needs is peace
not lack of war, but fierce continual flame.
—Muriel Rukeyser

And it’s only here and
now that we can make up
for lost time while the meter
is running and everything
is on hold

—Lewis Warsh, 11/9/1944 -11/15/2020,
for whom this poem is written


I cannot feel it in here, but the air rises,
gently, perhaps pushed by the exhaled breaths
of my daughter, sitting on the floor beside
the kitchen table, brushing the cat.

Are you getting used to it? Does the phrase apply?
Is there time, or some other means by which one thing
becomes another thing? Lewis, I miss
the substance of your presence. I am reading,

for the second time this morning, these
two sentences, written a hundred and ten years ago,
one right after the other, by Franz Kafka: “When
the breakfast noise dies down to the left of me,

the lunch noise starts up on the right.
Everywhere doors are being opened as if people
wanted to come crashing through the walls.”
And now, one after another, two light-gray, loosely-bound

clumps of cat hair skitter like tumbleweeds across
the plain of toast crumbs scattered on the plate
in front of the chair across from mine
where my daughter just had her breakfast, and now,

Lewis, I must say… it’s so quiet here, in this room
where we try to continue being who we still, mostly,
are: I want you here, with us, still sheltering in place
for the entire moment we hover in the serene eye

of this raging storm, until the witless idiot
once again begins pounding the wall on one side,
insisting his will is our will, while the plague starts in
whispering its toxic secrets against the other.

Chuck Wachtel is the author of the novels Joe The Engineer, The Gates, and 3/03; a collection of stories and novellas, Because We Are Here; and five collections of poems and short prose, most recently The Coriolis Effect and What Happens to Me. He lives in NYC, and is retired from, though still occasionally teaching in, the creative writing program at NYU.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis ( is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit ( and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.