Mi Shebeirach for Miami; or, Magic City Lockdown

a poem by Jen Karetnick

Where the causeways inchworm through
Biscayne Bay, peaking like breath, we gaze
at the backdrop of blue, a hue as difficult

to replicate as first love, at the cityscapes
jittery with light, at the light itself, almost
a physical body to embrace, it has such

lurid shape. We speed in the company
of pelicans, flying in triads, and wind-resistant
anhinga, wings outstretched in karate stances

as they settle on electrical poles and scrub pines,
with our torsos likewise thrust from sun roofs
to snap selfies for Instagram, in convertibles

even when the clouds break like screens, raindrops
streaming parallel over our heads, toward velvety
bolts of beaches where we pose like palm trees

at sunrise, nightclubs where we drink from communal
bottles as if in prayer, restaurants with dishes
so rich we can take only so many bites.

Miami demands from us such appetite. Until
hurricanes. Disease. Poverty. It’s a refrain that kills
more than pleasure. It repeats to empty the streets,

stalls the cruise ships in port. Now just shadows
wave from cabin balconies. But we can weather
even unfamiliar storms with the right kind

of distance. If we sit with the sick and dying
in our thoughts. If we help each other with
the recovery of all that we keep losing. If we allow

ourselves the breaking so that we return tested
and rebuilt, to drive again these oceanic veins
leading back to the chambered, vivid heart.