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Ode to Stopping: Poem by Jean Prokott

May 21, 2020

Today’s offering, "Ode to Stopping," written by Rochester resident Jean Prokott, is relatable in many ways, because who among us hasn’t ignored some kind of “check engine light” or brake pad wear because we didn’t know what to do about it or didn’t have time to investigate it? This parallels easily with COVID- we saw the warning signs, we knew something like this might happen, but we couldn’t be bothered to slow down and take inventory. There are valuable lessons in this pandemic to take heed of what nature is telling us and to make changes- now. Jean Prokott has poetry published or forthcoming in Arts & Letters, Anomaly, RHINO, and Quarterly West, among others; she is a recipient of an AWP Intro Journals Award, a recipient of the Joan Ramseyer Poetry Award, a finalist for the RHINO Founder’s Prize, and a finalist for the Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Prize. Accompanying her poem is an oil on canvas painting titled “Transience” by Suk Yin Chan-Colenbrander MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine.

Transience painting
“Transience” by Suk Yin Chan-Colenbrander, MD

By: Jean Prokott

the Subaru is on its tiptoes, and my husband pries
the brake pads off the rotor.

he brings them to me—shows how I’ve worn them
to the metal, how I’ve ignored their guttural anger

of stopping. it’s cold this pandemic, and I’m very interested
in staying inside. we’ve been warned to bring in
the newly-planted herbs, and I see the cilantro agrees,
closes into itself like a long-dead spider.

the worn pad forms the pattern of Saturn’s rings. I might
live in those rings, travel the superhighway around a cell
to protect it, gain speed with each lap, create a shield
from my endurance. human beings everywhere

believe many things are obviously untrue:
the brakes will work every time, we’re not vulnerable
to a virus, it’s not necessary to check oneself

for wear. I’m embarrassed I ignored the signs
for so long. I never learned slowing down starts
with friction and requires a tremendous amount of heat.