The Taste of Fear

ann e. wallace

You want to know what fear
looks like? Then look
into my eyes, or imagine you can
as I sit alone in my home for the 33rd
day, as I read the final post
of a friend looking forward
to the birth of a grandchild,
a friend whose body four days
later is resting in the makeshift
morgue full and overflowing
outside the hospital with the ER
that I do not want to visit, that I
actively work to avoid,
as if visit is the right word
anyway for a trip to the ER
when one has COVID. No,
one rushes to the ER, subjects
oneself, plunges into the world
of infection—covering one’s face
and holding one’s metaphorical
breath—because real breath
is not something anyone
would dare to hold right now—
Instead, I swallow buckets of air,
feel it fill my lungs, and release,
counting one…two…three..
four beats. Up to seven if I am
feeling rich.

That fear you cannot see?
I taste it on the long exhale.


Ann E. Wallace is a poet who lives in Jersey City, New Jersey. Her poetry collection, Counting by Sevens, is available from Main Street Rag (2019), and she has published poems in numerous journals including Stirring, Mom Egg Review, Wordgathering, Riggwelter, and Snapdragon. Her work can be found at and on Twitter @annwlace409.