COVID Subnivean

By Adrie Kusserow

November 28, 2022

COVID Subnivean

Northeast Kingdom, Vermont

Ground frozen, mice and voles on lockdown below, still they skitter beneath, not even the fox dares to dive into the snow taut with a glassy sheath of ice. The Barred owls, too, are starving, crouched near birdfeeders in broad daylight. This morning, I spot a huge one huddled in the gangly clutch of our plum tree, tucked deep into its speckled feathers. I tiptoe up. No matter how close, it doesn’t budge, watching me, but lapsing into sleep, grunting as it dozes off in a dopey hunger trance. I dangle lunch meats in front of its beak, in nearby branches. Nothing. Only the tree now with its savage flags of flesh. When the owl flies off, a great longing swells in its wake, so I pace the house, restless, the bodies of loved ones always just behind the slick screen. I Zoom my elderly mother, there, but just out of reach. She doesn’t know how to enlarge her screen, I can’t see you, I think she says, but she doesn’t know her mute button is on. She’s confused, fumbling with her laptop keys, lost in the maze of internet logic that makes her feel dumb. Frustrated, she claws the screen as if trapped under ice, subnivean. I want to swoop down, clutch her with my tender hooks. I want to hear her gasp. I want to help her breathe.


Adrie Kusserow is Professor of Anthropology at St. Michael’s College in Vermont. She is the author of two books of poetry (BOA Editions, Ltd) and her book of creative nonfiction entitled THE TRAUMA MANTRAS is forthcoming with Duke University Press.

Image by Aaron J Hill courtesy of Pexels

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