“Desolate” © Bonnie Matthews Brock


Plague: Easter 2020

Even though I know they are unrelated, every time I think
about the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building
in Oklahoma City, I’m reminded of my father’s death a little
more than a month later. My father, an overweight, lifelong
smoker, who had his first and second heart attacks at 42
and 49, respectively, celebrated his 57th (and final) birthday
11 Days after the bombing. I can’t forget our conversations

following this deplorable American terrorist act, his dismayed
reaction to such a horrific and unnecessary tragedy. He is
the same man who, after I came to his house on the morning
I said goodbye to my first close friend dying in the AIDS ward
of a Chicago hospital in 1989, managed to make a tasteless
and offensive AIDS joke that still reverberates, persistent
as an echo, all these years later. When my father died in May

1995, almost exactly six years after the death of my friend
Rolando, I tried connecting recent episodes as an explanation,
but the damage had been done long before. On the morning
of 9/11, after the second plane hit the World Trade Center
towers, one of the first things I said aloud was how relieved
I was that my father wasn’t here to witness this atrocity, too.
As the 25th anniversary of his death approaches, and the years

and events pile up like the rubble following a cataclysm,
I’m exceedingly grateful that he wasn’t alive to see the election
of Donald Trump. That he’s not here during the corona virus
pandemic. Frail as he was in his late 50s, I can’t imagine
the way that COVID-19 would have ravaged him in his early
80s. All these thoughts, rattle around my brain during the latest
plague, side-effects of quarantine and self-isolation. Meanwhile,

on this Easter Sunday, some pastors remain defiant, insisting
that religious freedom trumps the lives of parishioners, flinging
open the doors to mega-churches, hosting drive-in services
for the faithful, foolish and infected to worship. Will it be
any different in Republican ruled and scarred Oklahoma where
memories shrink faster than attention spans? The past is a ghost.
Eternally haunting the living. Death, like impeachment, is forever.

Gregg Shapiro is the author of seven books including the 2019 chapbooks, Sunshine State (NightBallet Press) and More Poems About Buildings and Food (Souvenir Spoon Books). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.

Bonnie Matthews Brock is a Florida-based photographer, as well as a school psychologist. Her images have been published in Ibbetson Street Press, The Somerville Times, and Oddball Magazine.