Pandemonium by Susan Kelly

I tried not to sneeze,
I held my nose with my blue, nitrile gloved hand
and my face grew pink and patchy purple,
my over-long fringe matted against my damp forehead
as salty droplets hung in the air
and stung my already sore, streaming eyes,
the heat generated under my mask
cocooned me in an oven-like state.The violence of the sneeze almost brought the house down,
it ripped the elastic from my left ear,
almost Van Goughing me
and then the coughing started
two meters became ten
as fellow diners stared at their lasagnes,
fearful of a side of Covid.
I was alone with my symtoms,

Vertigo kicked in then,
the loose crystals in my good ear jangled around
the café tilted everywhich way
until my stomach couldn’t stomach it,
it was a shame the mask had fallen sideways.
I laid my palms flat on the table and closed my eyes
which was a bad idea,
dizzy with the thought of it all
I worried if I’d sanitised my gloves since the last time I’d done it?

The waitress asked for my contact details,
I might have said I was otherwise inclined
if I had been inclined and if she had stuck around
but she left quickly,
slipping the bill on the very edge of the table.
I rooted in my bag for an antihistamine
and when my bout of hay fever subsided
I paid up and left them all reeling.

Susan Kelly is from Westport, Co Mayo. Her work has appeared in Cyphers, Poetry Ireland Review, The Stony Thursday Book, Crannóg, Revival, Abridged, The London Magazine, Boyne Berries, The Weary Blues, Burning Bush 2, and was short-listed for the Writing Spirit Award 2010. She was a featured reader at Over the Edge in Galway 2011, shortlisted for the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year 2013 and longlisted for the 2014 WOW award. Featured poet on Poethead and commended for Fool for Poetry Nov 2019.

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