Now, my existence has been debated for years
But for now, you can call me Galileo –
Because I’m punching down the stars to the land
– from “New Disease Streets”

The year didn’t start this way. We weren’t always in a pandemic. We weren’t always confined to whoever we were and were with when this whole thing started. This disease – whatever you consider your disease – will be felt far into the future. It is part of you. It is part of your children. It is part of everything in windows and mirrors.

We’ve spent 2020 in masks – both figuratively and literally. We’ve tried to hide and muzzle the words we’ve said, the people with whom we’ve spent time, ourselves. David O’Nan’s New Disease Streets treats 2020 as cancer, as sadness, as an attempt to reclaim the self beyond all odds in this crazy new world. It’s the way we “turn our bodies into quilts / Stitching our skin to the dirt.” We are a constant patchwork of see-through fabric with one stitch that just won’t stick.

O’Nan reminds us of the temptations of losing ourselves in our own disease. But he also reminds us that it’s going to be okay. We are going to move into 2021. We are going to rid ourselves of what ails us. We can tame our wildfires. We can settle our nerves. While this disease will carry us into the future, we learn, we adapt, we maneuver through the sadness and sickness and claustrophobia of the present day.

New Disease Streets isn’t going to calm your senses or negate your fears about the current state of the world, but it will remind you that even when all the stars are punched from the sky, there will continue to be a guiding light – even if it’s only peeking through holes in your quilt.

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