Elizabeth Elliott

Elizabeth Elliott is a storyteller. Writing is the one time she knows she can hear herself within the chaos of the world. These poems reflect on the disruption and reality of COVID-19. As a queer woman of color, she hopes these poems connect with others.

On Hold

Her lips were red.
I watched as she
slowly licked them,
and the stains continued to rest upon them.
No smudges or movement.
She drew attention to her
words with bright lips.
She couldn't help but smile
into the mirror
at the vibrant beauty.
They were her first defense
to call herself into existence.
The mask now covers her mouth,
there is no use for the red lipstick
her first love now resigned
red dried out and turned brown.
To be lost and unused.
She wonders if there will be a time
again she marks her lips
in red and speak in boldness.
Her world now muted
as she lets silence wash over her.
Hold my hand,
she wants to tell me as we
stay walking apart.
Silence fills the
space of the request and
disappointment washes over.
Another thing that cannot be.
She licks her lips, it's a habit she just
can't break, slow and with a pop
from puckering. Wondering what
strength will help her mouth
move once again.

Tell Me I’m Dreaming

I. The colors or "stars" that you see
when you rub your eyes have a name;
They are phosphenes.
You see them a few seconds
and then the next they disappear
when you open your eyes.

The first sign of change
was a tidal wave rushing over,
and we tried to close our eyes to
the closures and cancellations
of everything. Waiting
for them to be rescheduled.

The first of many racist comments
at you, friends or loved ones
or you might be the one directing hate.
You all long for things to go back.
To open your eyes and wake up

To find this was all just a bad
dream instead of a nightmare.
This is a reality we just can't shake
free.

When did you rub your eyes?
And ask yourself if this was real.
That this is not just a moment
or are you still closing your eyes?
Denying the truth of the mask
on your face. The echoing of
mask up and stay six feet apart
heard everywhere. Stay safe
becoming a haunting sound.

This is not "normal"
with so many more changes
but this is our reality.
Nothing is the same anymore
but not everything is lost.
I tell myself. Fear, worry, doubt flee
when I think about her.
And to wait for an end is sleepless
nights unready for the daytime.

II. Love in the time of Corona
is disorienting. It's feeling freed
from the same slow rhythms of
each day. It's picking up the phone
and texting her. It's late night
Zoom calls until the early hours
of the morning saying good morning
instead of goodnight. Then barely having
the energy to close my laptop and curl
into bed but still holding her smile
in my mind as I hit the pillow.

When either of us frozen on screen
It was a half-blink mid-sentence state.
A half-terror and half-amusement
From the screen freeze. Frantic
Was it my internet or hers?
Waiting for any reconnection
And then picking up where we left off.

It's missing small inflections
the signs or sharp intake of air,
the wink of an eye, half-closed eyes.
In some of the hardest moments
I've watched her cry unable to be there
to hold and console her and
it's crying wishing she were there with me.
I want to reach out and touch her
but I can't across the screen.

Safety is staying six feet apart.
We could only imagine the warmth
of each other's touch because we have
families to think about. Neither of us
would risk what we can't control so
from hundreds to only a dozen miles away
I still could only capture kisses over the call in my hands
instead of on my lips.

I direct my eyes to the sky waiting for
The forced space between her and me to disappear
without even holding her hand
I know her so well and it's disorienting.
I close my eyes against the bright sky

and I know I'm not dreaming.