How Not To Make a Scene in a Time of Pandemic

Debra Kang Dean

Put two people in a bar—well, no, not there. Make it a small room. Are they facing each other, or are their backs turned? If they’re facing each other, what’s on their faces? Is it a yin-yang kind of thing, one smile, one frown? Maybe one set of lips flatlined below eyes angled floorward? If their backs are turned, maybe add a black cat, like at Halloween—you know, back hunched, a hackled body. Except in the air, upright. Carefully consider where the cat’s tail is—one wrong detail, and it’s game over, dude. Incidentally, aren’t cats’ tails a marvel? like a fifth hand—third if you’re strictly anthropocentric, shame on you! I saw a video of a cat released from ten feet up, probably even higher—just seeing anything without one limb on the ground could, on any given day, trigger my acrophobia. Anyway, that cat’s tail, never mind its spine! whirled like a propeller in slow-mo—well, not really. I just said that to make it cartoonish because I’m talking about a real cat here. And I LOVE cats. DON’T MESS WITH REAL CATS.

So where was I? Just put two people in a room. Anything can happen. The one thing I’d suggest, though, is that they not be hugging, much less kissing; it’s all downhill from there. Gravity, you know. Unless, of course, they’re cats.


Debra Kang Dean’s most recent book, Totem: America (Tiger Bark, 2018), was shortlisted for the 2020 Indiana Authors Award in Poetry. Her poem “The Wave” is forthcoming in They Rise Like a Wave: An Anthology of Asian American Women Poets. She is on the poetry faculty of Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing.

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