Navel Gazing

Navel Gazing

For 18 years, life has nourished him
with encouragement. In sunny classrooms,
he’s learned to sit crisscross applesauce.
Stack alphabet blocks into scaffolding
for paragraphs and propositions, equations
which always balance out in the end.

In hidden stairwells, he’s mastered darker arts.
Discovered how to inhabit the vitreous cool
imparted by smoky bongs.
Explored the curved, lush bodies of red-lipped girls
like an uncontrolled burn.

At 18, he’s pumped up, primed to star
in the come- and-go fantasies of adulthood,
looping endlessly across his synapses.

Until the pandemic hits pause,
dangles him limply, unstretchable inches
from childhood’s comfort.

Falling into futility, he spends enraged days slipping
between shadow selves, battling online monsters,
unable to face off against the seething specters
eating away from within: depression, anger.

to heed social media’s siren calls
to mingle among the cocksure, cocktailed masses
and microbes, willing to dance and drink tonight away.
Willing to risk becoming a hungover statistic
in tomorrow’s outbreak cluster.


How difficult it is for teens and young adults to put up with the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic.

About the Artist

Jean Hackett,  Allegheny County
Published:  January 7, 2021